The Problem with Commonplace Religion

We live in a culture that is saturated with Christian sentiment. Even secularism attempts to use the name of Jesus to get what it wants. This is clearly seen when a political figure who has no fear of God quotes scripture or uses a biblical illustration.

We see it in many of the popular manifestations cultural “Christianity” It is a thin veneer without any substance. It has rejected the word of God as its authority, and it has put self on the throne. This is greatest problem with commonplace religion.

For the man or woman rooted in scripture, it does not take much to see behind the façade. This type of religiosity is covered in references to self. Personal experience, feelings, self-esteem, and self-referential misuses of the words “love” and “justice”, litter its linguistic canon.

They want a utopia, and they think they can can usher it in through political power. What they are looking for is happiness, and the they think they can find it in earthly pleasure. They are looking for glory and they think they can find it in riches and popularity. The problem is that satisfaction will never be theirs because they are looking for it in themselves and in the things of this world.

When Jesus said, take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me, he was not inviting us to a life of misery. He was calling us out of ourselves to the greatest campaign in which mankind can ever be involved: knowing God. There is no greater glory and there is no greater joy, but we must root our life in his truth. If we aim at anything less than God himself, we have settled for lesser things because there is nothing greater than God.

The problem is that the way to find this glory and joy in God is to do the exact opposite of what you think you should do. It is like being submerged under a waterfall struggling for air. The most natural thing to do is to try to swim to the surface, but you will never get there because the crashing water will keep pushing you under. The right thing to do in that moment is swim down. It is only by swimming down that the water will spit you out down stream. This counter-intuitive nature is the same in the Christian life. If you are looking for true joy, he must increase, and we must decrease.

All the world, including commonplace religion, is swimming up. It is trying to make itself righteous and find its glory in itself, but we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The only hope for us is Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. We must stop trying to justify ourselves. We need to admit our depravity instead of trying to hide it, and come to Him in faith. Only when we bring our sins to him, instead of our good works, will his sacrifice on the cross satisfy the wrath of God for our sins, and will his righteousness be counted as ours. This is the first counter-intuitive, but there are many more that fill the Christian life.

It is in our weakness that he becomes strong. In Jesus, the last will become first. The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. Love your enemies. It is more blessed to give than receive. Blessed are those who mourn. Lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth. The meek will inherit the earth. Life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Blessed are those who suffer for Christ’s sake. Walk by faith, not by sight.

In the words of Adoniram Judson, “I beg you, not to rest contented with the commonplace religion that is now so prevalent.” It will lead you to fear those who can kill the body and take away your earthly pleasures, and it will tell you to neglect him who can destroy body and soul in hell. Take heed to the words of Jesus, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).

-D. Eaton

Fresh Courage for Your Soul

After a little while — you will see Me! – John 16:17

Those sweet tender words, “After a little while,” have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious comfort to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God’s poor children carry the pains and hardships of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the oppressive care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty “oil” from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! “After a little while — you will see Me!” says your blessed Master, “for I am going to prepare a place for you!”

Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious change! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and there a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!

I sometimes go into a sick room where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic shut-ins may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, “After a little while — you will see Me!” It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, “I am sick;” neither shall there be any more pain.

Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are hurting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or aching under adversity, or bleeding under sharp sorrows. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. “After a little while — you will see Me!” The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!

“A few more struggles here,
A few more conflicts more,
A little while of toils and tears —
Then we shall weep no more!”

May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!

-Theodore Cuyler

For My Friend Diagnosed with Cancer

Stage four pancreatic cancer. Those words knocked the wind out of all of our lungs. As I ponder this diagnosis, the first thing I want you to know is that you are loved. Not only by the countless people who have been blessed by you, myself included, but by our Savior himself. Though the news shocked us all, it did not catch him off guard.

As I process this, I wanted to take some time to write to you, but why did I choose to do it here? It is for two reasons. First, I know you, and you do not want to this to be about you. You want to point people to the Lord of glory. The second reason flows from the first. Those of us who love you are all grappling with this devastating blow, and we need time to reflect on God’s good plan in all of this. If the Lord could bless me through the process, perhaps he bless others as well. Including people who do not know you, but are dealing with similar situations in their lives.

When we are hit with news like a cancer diagnosis, the enemy immediately tempts us to despair. Fear of what is before us begins to overwhelm. In light of that, it is important for us to remember that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear; he has given us a spirit of power (2 Tim. 1:7). This will be crucial for us to remember in the coming days.

No matter how weak we are in our natural selves, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Remember who you are. You are a child of God, and his Spirit is living in you. Think about that for a moment. You have the Spirit of Power dwelling in you. No matter how weak your body may become during this ordeal, or ours as we suffer with you, it is not your strength that needs to be at work, it will be his strength.

In Christ, he will give us all that we need to face even the most difficult challenges of our lives. In your entire Christian walk, you may have never experienced the Holy Spirit’s power to the extent that you are going to need it in the coming days, but that is because you have never faced anything this daunting. Our Lord does not give us his power before we need it, but when there is a great demand, his supply will meet it. His strength is made perfect in weakness. Though there are a million things you may dread in the days ahead, you have this to look forward to; the power of God will be at work in you in ways you have only dreamed.

May we all rely on his power during this time, but the Spirit of Power is not all he has given us. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Love as well. There are two things to encourage us in this regard. First, he loves us. In times like this, Satan will bring every sin to remembrance. He will tell us we deserve this and more. He will tell us God has abandoned us. When he says this, he is only half-right. Our sins deserve so much worse than we will ever experience, but he has not abandoned us. Christ’s love for us is so great that he took every one of our wretched sins and bore the punishment on the cross. Through faith, the cup of his wrath is empty because he drank all of it. The bow of his anger is at rest because the Father took the arrows we deserved and pointed them at his Son and let them fly. His love is overwhelming. There is not a single drop of God’s wrath in what you are facing. It is only his love that is at work toward you, and his Spirit of Love in you will press this home as you need it.

The second thing we experience with the Spirit of Love, is that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts. That means, not only does he love us, but he is our first love as well. You love him and you love others. This has always been evident in your life. This love is a result of the same Holy Spirit that gives you power. He is a Spirit of Love. This love will serve you well in the coming days. First and foremost, the Holy Spirit will use it to keep you from despair. As Martyn Lloyd Jones points out. Despair and depression are the result of self: self-pity, self-concern, etc. What you can expect as the Holy Spirit works in you during this time is that your love for him and others will grow tremendously. There will be many tears because your love will be so strong, but it will be an outward focused love which is God’s way of conquering discouragement during this time.

He has not only given you a spirit of power and of love, but also of a sound mind. This is another aspect of the Spirit dwelling in you that is going to lift your head during this time; a spiritually sound mind. The natural man does not have this. He cannot see beyond this life. Our prayer is that the Lord will heal you and that we have many more years together, but crossing the Jordan, whenever that happens, is not the end of our story. It is only the beginning. Eternity awaits all believers. What we experience in this life is only the introduction to our stories, and the most glorious part has yet to be told.

The Holy Spirit will be writing eternity on your heart in ways you have never thought possible. I am sure you are already beginning to experience it. It will be this spiritual insight that will be the most Christ-exalting gift of God you will be able to share with others who are still bound to the things of this world, and it will be powerful. However, this will not be without opposition. At times like this, the enemy will come to you and remind you of how we failed to redeem the time in the past, but the Lord will restore the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). This blazing bright eternal perspective he will give you will be a means to multiply the fruit in your life which will more than recover any lost time.

My heart breaks with you and your family as you face this. The sorrow will be great and the difficulty beyond imagination, but as you are in the valley of trouble, he will speak tenderly to you (Hosea 2:14). He has filled you with his Spirit who is infinitely greater than anything in front of you. Get ready because, in this darkness, you are about to see the brilliance of Christ’s glorious light and love like never before. He is a good Shepherd and we can trust him wherever he calls us to walk.

I love you,

D. Eaton

Is Discouragement Always an Enemy?

How do you live with discouragement? Every attempt to remove yourself from the trial fails. Even the normal days are not good; they are only manageable. When people look at you, they see courage, but you know it is nothing but a stiff upper lip. The last thing you want to do is burden them more than you have to.

The problem is that every setback brings you a little lower. It has become so much of a pattern that when you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, you refuse to let it lift your spirit because it has let you down so many times in the past.

You know you must fight, but the desire and will to do so has been beaten lifeless by the enemy. You had the courage once, but it has been taken from you. So what do you do now? Do you allow the misery to take over? Do you resign yourself to it? Clearly, the answer has to be, no, but what do you do?

It is at this point you find your will exhausted, and that is probably a good thing because perhaps the battle is not yours to fight. Or perhaps you have been fighting the wrong battle. The first thing we must begin to realize is that, in at least one sense, discouragement is not always the enemy. Maybe, just maybe, it is a tool in the hands of our loving God to do us good. Bear with me for a minute.

Our God is sovereign. He is not simply trying to manage the chaos of this world. He is in complete control of it. His sovereignty becomes clear when we ask two questions of any hardship. Did God know this was going to happen, and could he have stopped it?  If we answer no to either of these questions, we truly are in trouble because God has ceased to be God, and something else is mastering him. This, of course, can never be because there is nothing beyond God’s knowledge or power. Being God means he knew you would face this and that you would respond to this trouble with discouragement, so dismay was part of his plan. I know this is the hardest part of the pill to swallow, so let me elaborate for a minute because the payoff will be worth it, and without this pill, experiencing disappointment will be unbearable.

The most significant objection people have with the conclusion drawn from the fact that God knows what is happening to us and could stop it, and that discouragement was part of his plan, lies in the fact that discouragement is often a sin. If God’s plan for us was to reach a point of discouragement, doesn’t that mean that God is causing us to sin?

The problem is that this way of thinking is too simplistic. The disconnect is in failing to realize that we are already sinful. The fact that the Lord allows us to face situations that draws our dross to the surface, in no way makes him the author of our sin. This understanding lines up perfectly with scripture. We are humanly responsible for our sin, and God is completely sovereign. We cannot deny either of these truths if we wish to remain biblical.

If you are God’s child, and he has brought you to a low point, he’s doing it because he loves you. There is something he wants to do with this discouragement in your life, and ultimately, like all dross drawn to the surface, he will wipe it away.

The first thing we need to do when discouragement hits is to ask ourselves why we are demoralized. Discouragement is almost always tied to the things of the world. Our hearts cling to them, and when hardship hits, they start to falter. Dismay almost always involves the removal of some earthly pleasure. We have placed our hope and trust in some aspect of the world.

Homes, cars, jobs, human relationships, health, quality of life, or even mortal life itself; discouragement is always the result of losing, or the threat of losing, one or more of these. But even as these begin to show weakness, God has not failed us. Knowing that God has not failed us, and we are still dismayed should be an indication that we have misplaced our trust.

This revelation of misplaced trust may be the the first blessing the Lord is bringing to us. He is going to use it to set us more firmly upon the rock of Christ Jesus. When we find ourselves discouraged, we are not to resign ourselves to it. We are to change the way we see it. Instead of trying to will our way out of it, we should ask the Lord what blessing he is giving us through it. The most significant blessing will always be increased faith.

Scripture tells us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Pet. 1:6).” There are two things we need to see in this verse to help us. First, we need to realize that this happens after we have received the gospel. That is what “in this you greatly rejoice” means. We rejoice in the gospel. This verse is talking to believers, and the trial taking place is happening to Christians. The second point is that it says you have been “grieved” by the trials. One version says, “distressed,” and another refers to it as “heaviness.” The point of all these synonyms is that these are trials you will feel. These are not merely outward trials you will float through on a spiritual cloud. They are trials that will hurt your heart; they will bring you low. Dare I say, “discourage” you. And as the passage indicates, if they hit us, they are necessary.

There is a reason for this adversity. It is not pointless. The passage continues, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be tested,” and that faith is worth more than gold. It is worth more than any earthly possession because faith is our trust in God, and he is purifying it. The result of this is the praise and glory of God (1 Pet. 1:7).

Even when our health fails and we find our quality-of-life slipping, we must remember that even though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This continued renewal in the face of hardship is why we do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:17).

How do we not lose heart? The scripture tells us, “by looking not to the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen.” For the things that are not seen are eternal, and everything else is passing (2 Cor. 4:18). If the things of Earth are not letting you down yet, they will.

How do you live with discouragement? You allow it to do the work God intended it to do when he sent it to you. You let it turn your eyes away from this world, and be renewed spiritually. All of this will end in the glory of God, which is the chief end of man. This is where our true enjoyment will be found, and that enjoyment is eternal with a weight of glory that cannot compare to the heaviness you are facing now. Let the dross rise to the surface, look to the things unseen, and your loving Father will begin to wipe it away even if the trial remains.

-D. Eaton

Our Great Delusion

Whosoever drinks of this water — shall thirst again! – John 4:13

There is no delusion more prevalent, or more difficult to remove from the minds of men — than the imagined power which this world possesses to confer solid good or substantial enjoyment on its devotees. Their life is one unceasing struggle for some object or attainment which lies at a distance from them. They are fighting their way to an exhausting prominence of wealth or of distinction — or running with eager desire after some station of imagined delight, or imagined rest — on this side of death.

And it is the part of Christian wisdom: to mark the contrast which exists between the activity of the pursuit in the ways of human ambition — and the utter vanity of its completion; to observe how, in the career of restless and aspiring man, he is ever experiencing that to be tasteless, on which, while beyond his reach — he had lavished his fondest and most devoted energies!

When we thus see that the life of man in the world is spent in vanity — and goes out in darkness — we may say of all the wayward children of humanity, “Surely man walks in a vain show, surely he vexes himself in vain!” Psalm 39:6

But these objections on that waste of strength and of exertion, which is provoked by the mere devotees of this world, are not applicable merely to the pursuits of general humanity — they frequently apply to the pursuits of professing Christians!

-Thomas Chalmers, 1826

The Years the Locust has Eaten

I hope you are finally sick of it. If you find yourself in a period of spiritual stagnation, I pray you have had enough of its emptiness. It can happen subtlety over time. One day you are walking close to the Lord and a period of time later you find yourself devastated by his absence. What makes it worse is the realization that he did not leave us; we left him.

Our hearts started looking to the things of the world for satisfaction. Our gracious Father had blessed us and sent us gifts of his kindness. He gave us health, employment, shelter, food, and transportation, and all of these were good. In his presence, they satisfied the needs he intended them to fulfill, but our hearts started to turn.

It was subtle but significant. We started to love the gifts more than the Giver. We saw the pleasure they provided and wanted more. As we desired to be filled, we turned to the treasures of the world, and before long, when the choice presented itself, we neglected our God and ran after riches. Our hearts were bound.

The locusts of our spiritual life began to have their fill. Our time of prayer turned into time spent binge-watching television shows while lounging on a soft couch. Time spent in scripture was eaten up by social media feeds on shiny new devices. Our minds, which used to have a spiritual focus, began to be consumed with how to find greater and greater personal peace and affluence. Our minds were trained on how to acquire nicer houses, more luxurious cars, and more financial security in case of a downturn. We began to combat time with physical fitness. We used to trust in the name of the Lord our God, but now we trust in retirement plans and the best medical insurance money can afford. All these locusts dined on the fiber of our spiritual lives. Its fruit was devoured, the grain destroyed, and the oil diminished.

Yet, praise God, while we sat in spiritual stagnation, the Lord sent us locusts of his own. He sent locust to eat what was pulling our hearts away from him. Our health began to hesitate, our vocations began to vacillate, and our security began to stammer. All of the things we thought could fill us began to reveal themselves as sinking sand.

Then the revelation struck, we are not the person of God we used to be. Though we may still go through the typical Christian motions at church and abroad, our hearts are far from Him. He has stripped us bare, and we now stand naked before him.

We look back over the past several months, or years, and we realize we have squandered them. Yet, even now, declares the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart. Come to me with your fasting, your weeping, and your mourning.” He calls us to rend our hearts before him and return for he is gracious, merciful, and slow to anger (Joel 2:12-13).

Come home, dear child. You have had your fill of what the locusts can award. Come to the Lord, and he will have pity on you. He will send you spiritual grain, wine, and oil. You will be satisfied (Joel 2:19). He will give you early rain, and times of refreshing, but as you return, opposition will appear.

As you return to your Lord, the enemy will rear his head and say, “You might go home, but the years you have wasted are mine. The seeds of sinfulness you planted will continue to produce fruit. There is nothing you can do to get those years back.” Instead of serving God storing up treasures in heaven, you gave them to the prince and the power of the air storing up treasures on earth which moth and rust destroyed and thieves broke in and stole.

When the enemy tells you this, know he is right. Nothing you can do can redeem lost time, but what is impossible with man is possible with God. Our Father says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).

Our Savior does not work in the economy of this world. Though you wasted many years in the service of worldliness, if you return to the Lord with all your heart, he can make your latter days more spiritually fruitful when taken together than the years you wasted.

As an example, if you are up in years, fighting a terminal illness with one year left to live, and you spent the past 15 years frittering away your life, if you give your heart entirely to the Lord, he can take your final year of life and produce 16 years or more of spiritual fruit. Yes, even if you are laid up in a sick bed. Never forget how the testimony of the thief on the cross has called thousands home.

A dear friend pointed out that even if while you were raising your children you were not walking with the Lord, and they followed your example, Christ can still call them home and train them up in way they should go. All is not lost.

Finally, let us never forget that the Lord has a way of harvesting fruit from your life even after you have gone on home to be with him. Think of the lives of many of the faltering saints in scripture; David, Peter, Samson, or Solomon. Though all of these had significant failings, the lord is still blessing us through the witness they left behind.

Return to Jesus. You shall eat in plenty, be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God. You shall know that God is in your midst, and that is what you have been missing. He is the Lord your God and there is no one else. You shall never be put to shame (Joel 2:26-27).

If you find yourself spiritually barren because the locusts are eating their fill, I hope you have had enough. It is time to come home.

-D. Eaton

Let Your Sins Be Strong

We all have a tendency to minimize our sinfulness. We look at the wrongs we have done, and we do everything we can to try and justify our actions. Doing this, however, fails to take full ownership of our sins. Many times, as Christians, we admit that we need forgiveness, but we still don’t like to admit the fact that our sins are utterly deplorable. We like to talk about sin and forgiveness, but we do not like to admit that we are truly sinners. Deep down we think, “surely we are not like many other people who are real sinners.” Thinking like this, however, makes us like the Pharisee, who scoffed at the tax collector–utterly in denial of the reality of his own sin.

Martin Luther once wrote a letter to Melanchthon entitled, Let Your Sins Be Strong where he addresses several different topics, including the tendency to downplay our sins. Luther says, “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”

We must stop trying to diminish the sin we have committed in order to maintain dignity. We must let them be strong, and look at them in all their wretchedness. We must see our sins as they mock God and refuse to obey Him in all His Holiness. Taking ownership of our sins is the only way we can bring what is ours to Him and say, “I need you to bear my punishment for these. There is nothing anyone can do to atone for these sins. Jesus, you are the only one.” His response to this request is, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” Thanks to the cross, there is no sin that is able to separate us from His love, for His sacrifice is fully sufficient.

Today, let us consider the words of Martin Luther: “Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.” Let us not try to justify our sins, for self-justification warrants nothing but death, but against Christ’s justifying blood, no sin can prevail.

My sins are mine I know them well
They mock at God and damn to hell
But by His blood, I am set free,
He paid my debt at Calvary.

God, be merciful to me, the sinner! – Luke 18:13

D. Eaton

5 Truths About Your Battle with Sin You Hate to Admit

If you are a Christian, you battle with sin. It is not necessary for me to list examples of the struggles with the flesh you may have. The minute you read the title of this post, you most likely had a specific struggle in mind. You have within you both flesh and Spirit, and the two are contrary to one another. Knowing this, however, does not mean the fight will easy or that you have it all under control. Here are five truths about your fight with sin you hate to admit.

1. Some battle scars are more recent than you are comfortable acknowledging.

As Christians, we are quick to acknowledge our struggles with sin, but we prefer to talk about the battles of the past. The ones where we have seen significant victory. The problem is, you have recent battle wounds as well. The fact that the battle is on-going is not something you like to broadcast to the world.

2. You sometimes try to get as close to the flame as possible without getting burned.

No matter how much you despise the sin that so easily besets you, you still find yourself wanting to get as close to the fire as possible. You think, “I will only allow myself this much room and will draw the line here.” The problem is that every time you get close to the line, it seems to move just a little further. This tendency to push boundaries has left you, on more than one occasion, beating yourself up over going too far.

3. You sometimes wonder why you are drawn to the very thing you despise.

Every time you are deceived by the deceitfulness of sin, you wonder how, at times, you desire the very thing you hate. Like Paul, you cry out, “who will save me from this body of death?” Even when you want to do right, evil is close at hand. You know that the problem with temptation is you because deep down you still have desires that war against your soul.

4. When it comes to your growth in godliness, you thought you would be further along than you are now.

You often think back to the many times you swore it was the last time, and you set out to grow in godliness. If you have been a Christian for a long time now, you remember looking forward to this time in your life with great anticipation. You imagined you would have experienced greater sanctification than you have.

5. You wonder if you are the only one; certainly there are other Christians out there who have risen above this.

You occasionally look at other Christians and think, surely they don’t have to war with sin the way I do. They seem to be the picture of piety. When you look at them from the outside, you think, “certainly their heart does not struggle like mine.” You may even hear from someone who claims, contrary to scripture, to have stopped sinning, and you think, maybe it is true. Maybe it is just me.

What you need to know

1. You are not an anomaly because being a Christian means battling sin.

This fight is something we all face, and warfare never happens without a few wounds. The fact that sanctification is a process that will not be completed this side of eternity means that every believer, no matter how sanctified they are, still has unsanctified areas in their life. In fact, the closer you walk with Jesus, the more aware of the battle you will become. The problem is not when you feel the conflict, the problem is during those times when you do not. John Newton once asked the Lord that he might grow and found that these inward trials were part of the growth process. Temptation will continue to come as long as you live, and it can be difficult to resist, but our standing in Christ is not shaken because we encounter temptation. As John Owen once said, “When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.”

2. You are not alone because Jesus is with you.

Christ did not go to the cross to atone for your sin and bring you forgiveness to leave you to yourself to see if you could hack it. He called you, and He will keep you. Even when He sends His rod of correction, it is His love that is dealing with you, not His wrath. His wrath was satisfied on the cross. He is faithful and just to complete the work He has begun in you. You can look back and see victories over sin in your life, and you will continue to see more. Stay close to our Savior, hide His word in your heart, and pray without ceasing. He has promised to be with you, even to the end of the age.

3. The enemy will continue to accuse you, but there is no condemnation in Christ.

The enemy will frequently tell you that you are not worthy of being a Christian. Never go for the bait because what he wants you to do at that moment is to begin to justify yourself. The minute you start listing off all your good qualities and victories over sin, he will have you right where he wants you. There are clearly victories you have experienced in Christ, and you are right to rejoice in them, but they do not make you worthy to be a Christian. When Satan tells you, you are not worthy to be a Christian; the correct response is to agree with him. Of course I am not worthy to be a Christian, no one is. I was not worthy in the past, I am not worthy now, and I will not be worthy in the future, but Jesus is worthy, and my worth is found in Him. I am counted righteous in Him. And if you ever start to believe the lie that you may have fallen beyond forgiveness, here is something you can do to snap you back into reality. Picture Jesus dying on the cross and imagine yourself walking up to Him, and try to tell Him He didn’t do enough to atone for your sins.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

D. Eaton

How to Lose Your Freedom in Christ

Eternally freed from sin, as one with Jesus; what a liberty! What a freedom! It is so, and so forever—it cannot be undone. “Wonder, O heavens! be astonished, O earth.” I myself do wonder, with great admiration, at the glorious blast of the jubilee trumpet, which has just reached my ear, and touched my heart. It was the voice of my Beloved, which said, “You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you.” Free from sin, being dead with Christ to it, “In that He died, He died unto sin once” (Rom. 6:10), and we died to it in Him—free from sin, in being risen with Him, to live unto God forever.

Paul knew this freedom (Rom. 6:7). Rom. 8:1, 2: “There is therefore no condemnation [then there can be no sin, for where sin is, condemnation is] to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh—but after the Spirit.” John knew it (1 John 4:17) “As He is, so are we in this world”—that is, must be perfect, and without sin; not in our nature-self—but in Christ, and in that which is born of God and sins not (3:9).

Why, then, do I so often feel myself a transgressor? Because I build again, by my legality, what I had destroyed by faith, namely, justification by my own doings; and thus make myself a transgressor (Gal. 2:18). This is not walking after the Spirit—but after the flesh, and it tends to bondage. The Spirit points to Christ–the flesh leans to self. In Christ we have perfection, without spot, in which we can lift up our head with joy; in self we have spots and no perfection, which must needs make us ashamed!

-Ruth Bryan (1805-1860)

The Christian Civil War

An awful thing has happened. I was traveling, when, during the night, some of the wicked men of Benjamin arose and came after me with the intent to kill me. They raped and killed my concubine, so I divided up her body parts and sent them to the rest of the people of God so they would know what evil has taken place (Judges 20:3-6 Paraphrased).

In the child of God there is a civil war raging. There is flesh and there is spirit. There is the new nature and there is the remaining indwelling sin, and like Israel’s first civil war, drastic action must be taken. As John Owen once said, “Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes.”

The first thing we must do is recognize the evil for what it is. When the Levite learned of the sinfulness at work in Israel, he did not partition it off as something that could be tolerated if they would simply keep it quarantined. He saw it for what it was, and he knew it needed to be killed.

One of the most dangerous aspects of sin is its deceitfulness. It is always trying to convince us that it is not that bad, and we can simply section off our lives and still be happy and spiritually healthy. This is not the case. There is no quarantine that can keep our sinfulness from poisoning every other aspect of our spiritual life. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. We must put it to death.

Once we see the danger, we must take action to kill it. Just as the Levite took drastic action to notify all of Israel of the danger, we too must make sure to sound the alarms. Not only within ourselves, but also to our fellow believers. God has not called us to fight alone. You need to find a band of trustworthy brothers and sisters in Christ to whom you can confide and find help. The purpose of this alliance is to gather strength to kill the enemy. So all the Israelites got together and united as one against the city (Judges 20:11).

Our hope is that this will be an easy war, and our flesh will simply lay down its arms, but this is never the case. As we begin to take this action against our iniquity, our sinfulness will also fortify itself. At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred able young men (Judges 20:15). The strength of the emeny will gather, and there will be causalities in this battle.

The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day (Judges 20:20-21).

When we face a loss like this, we realize how daunting the enemy truly is, and we wonder if we should continue. The bloody nature of the fight rightfully leads us to the Lord to see if we should go up once again. The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they inquired of the Lord. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?” The Lord answered, “Go up against them” (Judges 20:23).

This will always be the Lord’s response when it comes to fighting our indwelling sin. Yes, you are to fight. This command of God to go up against our sin can often lead us to assume the next battle will be easy and the victory painless because he told us to contend. This, however, should not be assumed. The Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day.  This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords (Judges 20:24-25).

Why would the Lord do that? Why would he tell us to go fight and then let us lose the battle? I believe Israel’s response to the defeat gives us the answer. Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord (Judges 20:24-25).

As we contend with our sinfulness, we will be bloodied and bruised. Maybe you are there now. You have been fighting for some time with no success. The only proper response is to draw up under the wing of your God. As we lose battles, we begin to learn the most important lesson. This battle cannot be won in our own strength.

Much like when God wrestled with Jacob, the contest was not about Jacob getting something out of God, it was about God getting something out of Jacob. One of the most important aspects of that event is that Jacob, when he realized he could not win, went from contending against God at the beginning of the match, to clinging to Him at the end. This is exactly what our failures in our battle with sin should do to us. It should drive us closer to our Lord and cause us to cling more tightly to him.

Know this, this civil war of flesh and Spirit will rage until the day we die, but there will be victories as we lean more and more on God. We may be hesitant to continue the fight, but as you trust less and less in your own power and might and trust more and more in his Spirit, ask Him again if you should fight.

They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?” The Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands” (Judges 20:28). The more we know that the battle belongs to the Lord, the more he will give the enemy into our hands. He will use our hand, but it will be his power that is at work.

So how do we begin to fight? How does the Lord direct us to march? “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?” The Lord replied, “Judah shall go first” (Judges 20:18). Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah. Though we will win some and lose some, there is only one way in which we should march. Advance with Jesus in the lead. He is our forgiveness and righteousness. If he is our head, then our ultimate victory is assured even if we lose some battles.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:2

-D. Eaton