And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. – Genesis 22-13
As Isaac watched the knife which was lifted by his father be plunged into the ram that had been caught in the thicket, what could have been going through his mind? As he watched as the altar was set ablaze to finish the burnt offering, the thought of his replacement must have astonished him.
Only moments early Issac had been bound and laying on the altar. Not only him but the future existence of the children of God. As he watched his replacement, he watched for us all as God shows him that there is one who will come to bear our scorn.
The ram clearly being a shadow of Christ who was to come, finds us tied upon the altar of the wrath of God. We were bound in the sense that we loved our sin and wanted to continue in it. As it is with all those who are under the law, the dagger of God’s justice was raised above us, waiting until His sovereign and unstoppable hand plunged it down.
Yet while we were still sinners, fighting against His authority and grace, He began to untie us. Our hearts of stone He began to soften as we lay in defiance of Him. With the hammer of His word, He then destroyed the bonds of false philosophies and empty arguments which held us captive, and He continued His work until we, being freed, crawled off the altar. As we stood in astonishment, God Himself, in Christ, crawled upon the altar, freely, without bonds. He lay there perfectly still, as God the Father plunged the dagger of His justice upon His only Son.
By faith, the children of God look on in amazement as we claim the merits of His blood. We are entirely undone by the fact that all of this has been done for us. Had God left us upon the altar to strike us with His justice, He would have been perfect in His holiness and impeccable in His goodness, but He did not do it. He sent a substitute. Not because we were worthy, but because He loves us as the Father loves the Son; eternally without beginning and without end.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. – James 5:13
Humility, faith, repentance, heavenly-mindedness, and self-denial are the heart-quieting graces, and prayer is the heart-quieting duty. He that has not learned to pray, will not learn to be content. There must be a good striving with God in prayer, or there will be a striving against discontent. Are you afflicted? Pray (James 5:13). Do you meet with crosses? Pray. Does your estate decay, your family die, or is the body consumed by pain and sickness? Pray. The best way to be content in every state is to pray in every state. We study this hard lesson best upon our knees.
Prayer furthers contentment:
1. By giving vent to the mind under trouble. Full vessels are app to burst! Prayer is the best vent. We can go to God and pour out our hearts before him, and a heart ready to break is now greatly relieved. Hannah prayed, and wasn’t sad anymore (1 Samuel 1:18).
2. By obtaining grace and strength from God that enables contentment. He that stills the sea when it rages can also still the soul in all its passions and discontent. The calming of an inward storm is a thing that is in every way as marvelous as Christ calming the storm (Matthew 8:24-27). Paul was content ‘through Christ who strengthen him!’ This was a supernatural quietness of his mind.
If you desire to be content in every condition, then go to God often and beg for it from him. Say, ‘Lord, I am beside myself, and have a discontented heart that is ready upon every cross to fret against you. This is my burden: I cannot get the victory over my passion, I cannot bring myself to a calm, submissive frame. Blessed God, do help me through the power of your grace to have a contented mind in me! Oh, do but pray thus, and in due time God will give you what you pray for!
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7
It seems your time has finally arrived. You knew it was inevitable, but it never seemed real until now. All signs are indicating that your appointed time to go home will be here soon. Never before have your days seemed as precious to you as they do now. As you walk the road ahead, get ready because the Lord will be walking with you in ways you never imagined. You do not walk alone.
As you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, remember who you are. You are a child of God, and his Spirit is living in you. You have the Spirit of Power dwelling in you, not fear. No matter how weak your body may become during this ordeal, it is not your strength that needs to be at work, it will be his strength.
In Christ, he will give you all that you 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, there will be a great supply. 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.
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 remember in this regard. First, he loves you. In times like this, Satan will bring every sin to remembrance. He will tell you, you deserve this and more. He will tell you God has abandoned you. When he says this, he is only half-right. Our sins deserve so much worse than we will ever experience, but Jesus has not abandoned us.
Christ’s love for us is so great that he took every one of our 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 to expect with the Spirit of Love, is that the love of God will be 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 love is a result of the same Holy Spirit that gives you power.
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, self-reliance, 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 self 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. 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. It will be this spiritual insight that will be the most Christ-exalting gift you will be able to share with others who are still bound to the things of this world. 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.
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. This will be your final fight of faith, and he will make sure you are victorious because of his children, he will not lose one of them. You will soon be in the presence of your king who loves you dearly.
I find almost invariably when people come to me in a state of spiritual depression, that they are depressed because they do not know the faith as they should. They say: “I am such a miserable sinner, you do not know what I have been or what I have done.” Why do they say that to me? They do so because they have never understood what Jesus meant when He said: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The very thing they are saying in self-condemnation is the very thing that gives them the right to come to Him and be certain that He will receive them. Where there is a failure to learn and believe these things, faith is weak. So strong faith means to know them.
I am constantly having to say these things. I am constantly having to write them. I had to write a long letter on this very point to a man I had never seen. The poor man was miserable and held in bondage. Why? Because he did not see that Christ is the friend of publicans and sinners and that He came to die for such people. He was not clear about the Person, he was not clear about the work of this blessed Person. His faith was weak and the doubts where there because of that. There are many who go through life miserable and unhappy because thy do not truly understand these things. If only they did understand them they would find that their self-condemnation in itself is an earnest of their repentance and the way to their ultimate release.
In other words, the great antidote to spiritual depression is the knowledge of Biblical doctrine, Christian doctrine. Not having the feelings worked up in meetings, but knowing the principles of the faith, knowing and understanding the doctrines. That is the biblical way, that is Christ’s own way as it is also the way of the apostles.
The antidote to depression is to have a knowledge of him, and you find that in His Word. You must take the trouble to learn it. It is difficult work, but you have to study it and give yourselves to it. The tragedy of the hour, it seems to me, is that people are far too dependent for their happiness upon [experiences]. This has been the trouble for many years in the Christian Church, and that is why so many are miserable.
Their knowledge of the Truth is defective. That, you remember, is what our Lord said to certain people who had suddenly believed on Him. He said: “If you continue in My word then are you My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Free from doubts or fears, free from depression, free from things that get you down. It is the truth that frees–the truth about Him, in His Person , in His word, in His offices, Christ as he is.
Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Ever-living One! I died — but see, I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead). – Revelation 1:17-18
If death is in our cup, that cup has been put into our hands at the time fixed by unerring wisdom and infinite love! When it is affirmed that Jesus holds “the key of death,” it is plainly implied that none can pass out of this present world without His appointment. And, more generally, that He is lord of the living not less than of the dead, and has a thorough control over everything that can in any way affect the lives of men. An absolute power over death, necessarily presupposes a corresponding power over life and its affairs. And it is by the exercise of His providence in sustaining life that He fulfills His purpose as to the time and mode of their departure hence.
Has the Redeemer the keys of death? Then this should mitigate the anxiety which often preys upon the mind when we look forward into the future, and contemplate the prospect of our own death. We should remember, that as the Redeemer alone has the keys of death. Nothing can happen to send us forth from the world before the time which He has appointed for our departure. Neither man nor devils can abridge the term of probation assigned to us by our gracious Master. Nor, until He is pleased to call us away, shall any power on earth or in Hell prevail against us. The Redeemer is possessed of absolute power over the course of our lives on earth and over the time and manner of our departure out of the world.
No accident, no hostile violence, no insidious snare, no dark conspiracy — can touch our life but by His command. And surely, when we reflect on the numerous dangers to which human life is exposed, the frailty of our frame, the diseases to which it is subject, our constant exposure to fatal accidents, the malice of open or concealed enemies, it must be consolatory to know, that the key of Death is in the Savior’s hands, and that, come what may, we cannot be forced out of the world, until He opens the door and bids us to come to Him.
More especially, when we are visited with disease, and threatened with a speedy termination of life, the Savior’s power over the keys of death should repress or assuage those violent anxieties as to the probability of death or of recovery, and those disquieting speculations as to the outcome of disease, and the mode of its treatment. For disease cannot kill, nor can medicine cure — without the appointment of Him who holds in His own hands the keys of life and of death! And if He has fixed the outcome of this disease, then why should we be anxious?
If the door of death is opening for our departure, it is because the tender Savior, whom we love and trust, is summoning us to be forever with Him!
Shall we, then, rebel against His appointment? Shall we doubt the love and wisdom of His determination? Or, as ignorant as we are of what is before us in this world, and of what really concerns our best interests, can we entertain the wish, that the power of determining the time of our death were wrested out of His hands and placed in our own?
True, we may have many ties that attach us to this world. We may be young, and, with the optimistic hope of youth, may cleave to life. We may be prosperous, and surrounded with many comforts. We may have a young and engaging family, whom we are loath to leave behind us to the cold charities of the world. We may have many dependents on our industry or bounty, who will bitterly lament our loss. But do we imagine that these considerations are not known to the Redeemer, or that He has not weighed them all? And if, notwithstanding, it is His will to summon us home, are we not prepared to yield up our faulty judgment to his unerring wisdom?
The duration of each man’s existence on earth is determined by the Redeemer. It belongs to Him to appoint a longer or shorter period to each, as He wills. And in doing so, we have reason to be satisfied, that He determines according to the dictates of His infallible wisdom, although the reasons of His procedure must necessarily be to us, for the present, inscrutable.
We cannot tell why one dies in infancy, another in childhood, a third in the prime of manly vigor, and a fourth reserved to the period of old age. But suffice it for us, that this happens not by chance, neither is it the result of caprice or carelessness, but flows from that unerring wisdom, whose counsels are formed on a view of all possible relations and consequences. The power of death being in the hands of the Redeemer, the duration of human life is, in every instance, determined by Him. And none, therefore, ought to entertain the thought, either that death is, in one case, unduly premature, or, in another, unduly delayed. None live, either for a longer or for a shorter period, than infinite wisdom has assigned to them. Reason teaches, that to His appointment we must submit, however unwilling, it being irresistible, and far beyond our control. So, as Christians, we should learn to acquiesce in it cheerfully, as the appointment of one who cannot err.
I am somewhat baffled by the fact that cursing cancer has become a thing. Do not get me wrong, cancer is a terrible product of the fall, and it is a natural evil that deserves our contempt. I am not surprised by the fact that so many people want to voice their hatred for it; especially if they have lost a loved one or are fighting the disease themselves. However, what is the motivation for people who usually conduct themselves with a sense of dignity to fasten an expletive to the window of their car in hopes to defeat the disease?
Cursing is becoming more and more mainstream, so the rise of its use in this context is not surprising. When I say I am baffled, I am not talking about people who’s language is regularly laced with vulgarity. When they do it, they are doing nothing out of character. I am interested in those for whom cursing is not the norm, but when it comes to cancer, they feel it is the appropriate thing to do. What inner reasoning drives that? It is as if cancer is such a blight that it demands them to step out of their usual decorum. What amuses me the most is that when they put the sticker on their car, in many cases, they still refuse to spell out the full curse word. They simply put the “F,” or they replace the “u” with another symbol like a skull and crossbones. It is as if they are saying, the evil of cancer deserves this, but not to the point where I can actually spell it out.
Cursing really only has one pragmatic use. The act of being boorish has a way of waking people up when they have stopped paying attention. In the case of cancer, when we are not alert to its evils, using a swear word does have the effect of making people snap out of it and take notice. For the first few people who cursed cancer, they may have received their desired effect. The problem is that it only works for a short time. After it becomes common, that utility is no longer viable, and we find people driving around with vulgarities on their car that fail to deliver. This is a major problem when profanity in general becomes common; it becomes meaningless. Of course, some people will continue to use it as a shibboleth to distinguish themselves as part of a specific tribe or group.
As Christians, I believe how we communicate is of the utmost importance, and using the Lord’s name in vain is always off limits. However, when it comes to slang, the rules are not as hard and fast. Outside of using the Lord’s name in vain, profanity unusually involves one of three modes. The first is taking something that is vulgar and applying it to things that are not. Scatological terms come to mind here. The other form is taking something that is not necessarily crude, like the term used for a female dog or donkey and applying it to a human or something else. Both are attempts to degrade or shock. The third usually involves using obscenities as an expression of fear, wonder, or some other emotion.
When it comes to cancer, using a word that denotes violent sexual activity to express disdain seems to degrade the communicator more than the disease to which it is being applied. There are times when words that highlight violent sexual activity are appropriate. Rape should be called rape when that is what it is. I will leave it to your Christian liberty to determine if you think it is ever appropriate to use the other word, but in the case of both words, intentionally misusing them reveals more about our lack of character than the thing we desire to demean. It is almost as if we are allowing cancer to win twice. Not only has it hurt us, or those we love, but we are allowing its pain to settle so deeply into our soul that it causes us to act in a way that also decays our virtue. If we want to express righteous indignation, it seems counter-intuitive to use profanity.
Perhaps this post is less about cursing and more about our cultural context. The real determination of whether there is any problem with vulgarity comes down to what we think it means to be human and to have dignity. I am aware that many, maybe even most, people who read this post will think this is the ridiculous pontification of a prude. The worldview of many is secularism which fails to establish a real basis for profanity. The biggest problem with this failure is that a worldview that is unable establish curses can have no real foundation for blessings either. When you lose one, you lose the other, and that is a major step backwards when it comes to human dignity.
Am I overthinking this? Maybe, but as Jesus said, it is not what goes into our mouth, but what come out of our mouth that defiles us (Matthew 15:11). In light of those words, a closer look never hurts.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells. – Romans 7:18
The depravity of our fallen nature is, and will be, universally and always felt during our present earthly state. It insinuates into, and mixes with all our thoughts, and all our actions. It is inseparable from us, as the shadow from our bodies when the sun shines upon us.
The holiness of a Christian does not consist in a deliverance from our sin nature, but in being sensible of it, striving against it, and being humbled under it; and taking occasion from thence to admire our Savior, and rejoice in Him as our complete righteousness and sanctification.
The grace of God puts a great deal into the heart, but it takes nothing out. Nature and grace, flesh and spirit, will antagonize each other to the end of life. Therefore the life of a believer, while in the body, is a continual state of warfare.
The apostle felt a law in his members warring against the law of his mind. He would do good, but evil was present with him. He groaned, being burdened.
When we first set out, we hope to be spiritually rich–but the Lord’s purpose is to make us sensible of our extreme poverty. We wish to be something–but He is teaching us that we are nothing.
When indeed we are willing to be nothing, that He may be all in all, in us and for us–then I think we reach the very acme of holiness. Then, while we feel that we have no sufficiency of ourselves, we shall be enabled to do all things that occur in the line of duty, through Him strengthening us.
The following is a guest post written by my daughter, Christine Eaton.
“I feel a loneliness for my Creator that pulls me like a migratory bird in the Fall.” -Rebecca Reynolds
If fall were a person, she’d be an introverted poet and artist. She steps out of summer shyly, never quite sure if the world is ready for her yet. As she paints the leaves red and strips down the trees, and as the carved jack o’ lantern sitting out on the neighbor’s front porch grows mold and curls in on itself, she reminds us that there is death, but for those who know, there is more than that.
Through the moments she creates, the cuddling with a lover under a blanket, the communion with family over meals, and the satisfaction of sitting alone with a book while the room fills with the aroma of freshly baked pumpkin bread, she awakens a nostalgia we have kept in the most reserved parts of ourselves. We feel separated from something we have not yet fully known. But we know that separation is due to the death that fall keeps revealing to us. As she touches us in this way, we ache. We feel that our deepest desires lie in a longing for something more; an intimacy that nothing in the world can ever satisfy.
Well-made poetry and art, the kind we must sit back and call beautiful or sublime, is able to show us in small glimpses this idea of light and this glorious intimacy for which we are longing. Fall’s work is just that, for while she shows us death, she also shows us this light (like any good poet). Since the medium fall paints and writes with is the form of nature, we can be assured that while she is groaning, with an anguish like our own, under the weight of death, she is pointing us to her Creator.
For the ones who know her Creator, let fall remind you through that ache you feel in your bones, that we are made for something more. We long for that deep communion and intimacy with Him. We are made for heaven, and let us be assured that one day, we will stand as a bride and that ache will be replaced with glory, death will be undone, and everything sad will come untrue.
The following is a challenging thought from J.C. Ryle for those who profess to be Christians but reject the doctrine of hell.
There is but one point to be settled, “What does the Word of God teach?” Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell is real and true. Hell is as true as Heaven, as true as the fact that Christ died upon the cross.
Disbelieve Hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in the Scripture. Disbelieve Hell, and you may as well throw your Bible away at once! From “no Hell” to “no God” is but a series of steps!
Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell will have inhabitants. If I never spoke of Hell, I would think I had kept back something that was profitable, and would look on myself as an accomplice of the devil!
A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men everywhere are telling us, “that God is too merciful to punish souls forever–that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly will sooner or later be saved.” We are to embrace what is called “kinder theology,” and treat Hell as a pagan fable.
This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God–His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of Hell. If words mean anything, there is such a place as Hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, then most people will be cast into it. The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners–also teaches that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin and refuse the salvation He has provided.
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.
Blessed are those who suffer for Christ’s sake.
Walk by faith, not by sight.
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.
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).