“No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. There is no calm more deep than that which follows a storm. Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers.
After killing the lion–we eat the honey;
after climbing the Hill Difficulty–we sit down in the arbor to rest;
after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life.
Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them “afterwards.” It is peace, sweet, deep peace–which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls.
See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are “afterwards” good things–harsh ploughings–yielding joyful harvests. Even now . . .
he grows rich by his losses,
he rises by his falls,
he lives by dying, and
he becomes full by being emptied.
If, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life–what shall be the full vintage of joy “afterwards” in Heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world’s days–what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun–what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon–how sweetly will he sing in Heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires–how will he extol Him before the eternal throne! If evil is good to him now–what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then?
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, `My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.” By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge….You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.
The covenant of redemption is the theological term for the agreement that was made between the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in how they were going to redeem for themselves the elect. This covenant is not mentioned by name in scripture but it is clearly implied that an agreement had been made between the Godhead. Much like the term Trinity does not appear in scripture but the concept is clearly seen. Here is a quote by Charles Hodge explaining where this idea can be seen in scripture…
“In Psalm 40, expounded by the Apostle as referring to the Messiah, it is said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will,” i.e., to execute thy purpose, to carry out thy plan. “By the which will,” says the Apostle (Heb.10.10), ”we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Christ came, therefore, in execution of a purpose of God, to fulfil a work which had been assigned Him. He, therefore, in John 17.4, says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” This was said at the close of his earthly course. At its beginning, when yet a child, He said to his parents, ” Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2.49.) Our lord speaks of Himself, and is spoken of as sent into the world. He says that as the Father had sent Him into the world, even so had He sent his disciples into the world. (John 17.18). “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” (Gal. 4.4). “God sent his only begotten Son into the world.” (1 John 4.9). God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Verse 10.) -Charles Hodge-
Below is a transcript from a Spurgeon sermon where he describes this covenant and then wonders what it would have been like to be to hear this covenant being made.
“Now, in this covenant of grace, we must first of all observe the high contracting parties between whom it was made. The covenant of grace was made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity.”
“I cannot tell you it in the glorious celestial tongue in which it was written: I am fain to bring it down to the speech which suits the ear of flesh, and to the heart of the mortal. Thus, I say, run the covenant, in ones like these:”
“I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto my only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by him washed from sin, by him preserved, and kept, and led, and by him, at last, presented before my throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of my eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make my sons and daughters, and these shall reign with me through Christ eternally.” Thus run that glorious side of the covenant. The Holy Spirit also, as one of the high contracting parties on this side of the covenant, gave his declaration, “I hereby covenant,” saith he, “that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless.” This was the one side of the covenant, which is at this very day being fulfilled and scrupulously kept. As for the other side of the covenant this was the part of it, engaged and covenanted by Christ. He thus declared, and covenanted with his Father: “My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for my people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all my people. Thou shalt exact their debts on me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by my stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered.I will endure the curse of thy law, and all the vials of thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon my head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at thy right hand; and I will make myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by thy blood, thou hast constituted me the shepherd—I will bring every one safe to thee at last.”
Imagine, that for all who believe, our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life since before the foundations of the world. The Triune God has covenanted to save us, and who can stay His hand. This is eternal security.
“There brake He the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle.” –Psalm 76:3
Our Redeemer’s glorious cry of “It is finished,” was the death-knell of all the adversaries of His people, the breaking of “the bow and the battle.” Behold the hero of Golgotha using His cross as an anvil, and His woes as a hammer, dashing to shivers bundle after bundle of our sins, those poisoned “arrows of the bow”; trampling on every indictment, and destroying every accusation. What glorious blows the mighty Breaker gives with a hammer far more ponderous than the fabled weapon of Thor! How the diabolical darts fly to fragments, and the infernal bucklers are broken like potters’ vessels! Behold, He draws from its sheath of hellish workmanship the dread sword of Satanic power! He snaps it across His knee, as a man breaks the dry wood of a fagot, and casts it into the fire.
Beloved, no sin of a believer can now be an arrow mortally to wound him, no condemnation can now be a sword to kill him, for the punishment of our sin was borne by Christ, a full atonement was made for all our iniquities by our blessed Substitute and Surety. Who now accuseth? Who now condemneth? Christ hath died, yea rather, hath risen again. Jesus has emptied the quivers of hell, has quenched every fiery dart, and broken off the head of every arrow of wrath; the ground is strewn with the splinters and relics of the weapons of hell’s warfare, which are only visible to us to remind us of our former danger, and of our great deliverance. Sin hath no more dominion over us. Jesus has made an end of it, and put it away forever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end. Talk ye of all the wondrous works of the Lord, ye who make mention of His name, keep not silence, neither by day, nor when the sun goeth to his rest. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Charles Spurgeon once said of John Bunyon “prick John Bunyan…he will bleed Bible.” I am currently reading through Pilgrims Progress for my umpteenth time, and, as always, I am amazed at how many nods to verses of scripture can be found on every page. So with that in mind here is the opening paragraph from when Christian meets Faithful. How many bible verses can you find alluded to in this passage?
“As Christian went on his way, he came to a hill which was cast up on purpose that pilgrims might see before them. Up Christian went; and looking forward, he saw Faithful before him upon his journey. Then said Christian aloud, “Ho, ho! So-ho! stay, and I will be your companion.” At that Faithful looked behind him, and Christian cried again, “Stay, stay, till I come up to you.” But Faithful answered, “No, I am fleeing for my life, and the avenger of blood is behind me.” At this Christian was somewhat moved; and putting forth all his strength, he quickly got up with Faithful, and outran him: so the last was first. Then did Christian boastfully smile, because he had gotten in front of his brother; but, not taking good heed to his feet, he suddenly stumbled and fell, and could not rise again until Faithful came up to help him.”
This morning I had the privilege of preaching at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. The title of the sermon was “Looking on Things Unseen.” The focus of the message was on the importance of being spiritually minded.
The sermon has four main parts.
Why This Sermon? – It is here that I tell a little about a recent experience and why I believe this sermon was needed.
What Does it Mean to be Spiritually-Minded? – Here we look at the topic scripturally and lay out a few definitions and thoughts about the topic.
Are We Spiritually-Minded? This is the self-examination. We put ourselves to four tests to see if we are truly looking on things unseen.
Final Instructions – This is the shortest of the sections, and we quickly cover a list of 10 things we need to remember to be spiritually-minded.
You can download the sermon here, or you can listen to the audio through the Youtube video below.
I am of the opinion that the way many Christians are responding to the so-called war on Christmas is wrong. We live in a time when many people, organizations, and business will not publicly say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend someone. Likewise, many of the traditional decorations and songs will no longer see the light of day. Starbucks even has the audacity to fail to decorate their coffee cups to our liking. This has prompted many people to say that there is a war on Christmas.
What many Christians don’t realize is that the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, also had a war on Christmas.
“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).”
Since I refuse to be taken in by the in the genetic fallacy, I would strongly disagree with the conclusion some might derive from this that it is sinful to celebrate Christmas because of its origins, but we must agree that it is not a holiday mandated by Scripture. So my questions for those who believe that there is a war on Christmas would be, “Would you consider Spurgeon part of the war on Christmas if he were alive today because he certainly would not say, Merry Christmas?” Or is he a man with Christian liberty exercising his conscience?
The point of those questions is this, just because some people will not say Merry Christmas, or decorate their businesses the way we want, does not mean there is a war on Christmas that we must hold at bay.
I bring up the Spurgeon quote only to prime the pump and get us thinking. I believe there is a more direct problem with the way many Christians respond to the “war on Christmas.”
Building on the premise laid out by Spurgeon that there is no biblical mandate that we celebrate a holiday called Christmas in December, we, therefore, have no biblical foundation to require anyone to celebrate Christmas, not even other Christians. If it has no biblical basis, then it is a tradition of men. Some non-biblical traditions of men are good, and some are bad, but they all become evil if we make them a requirement to be a Christian in good standing.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
Now some may protest and say, but we are not saying they need to celebrate it to be good Christians, and you said some traditions are good. All we are saying is that it is a good tradition that should not be under attack, and stores should not be so worried about offending people. They should say “Merry Christmas” because that is what holiday it is. To that, I would say, I understand the sentiment. Political correctness has run amuck, but is the Christmas holiday the hill upon which we really want to take a stand?
The foundational problem with political correctness is that it trades truth for falsehood to avoid offense, but what exactly is the reality of the Christmas holiday that they are violating. What holiday truths need to be pressed upon those who refuse to celebrate it or are trying to avoid offense? Santa, elves, reindeer, decorated trees, the Christmas spirit?
There are wonderful truths of the birth of Christ that every Christian should broadcast to the world, even if it is illegal to do so and lands us in jail, but we do not need to convolute those truths with the traditions of the holiday. Doing so does more damage than good.
Until I hear better reasons why we should fight the “war on Christmas,” my conclusion is this, as much as I love and celebrate Christmas every year, it is not a holiday required by the word of God. Christians should not require other Christians, and certainly not non-Christians, to celebrate it.