Those who teach works must be added to faith as a condition for salvation can never tell you when you have done enough. This fact alone exposes the reason why you will never find assurance of salvation in their systems. The problems with believing our right standing before God is a result of Christ’s work plus our merit are innumerable and damning, but the inability of its proponents to answer the question, “How much work is enough?” exposes its corrupting effect on the hearts of those that adhere to it.
The reason why I refer to it as a corrupting effect is that there are only two possible responses to imbibing this theology and neither are edifying. The first is bondage to pride. Someone who is blind to their sinfulness will begin to rejoice in their goodness. After all, they are contributing some merit to their salvation. Jesus has not done it all, so there is room for boasting. To do this, they must either under-estimate their sinfulness or lower God’s righteous standard. The second response is bondage to constant anxiety. Anyone awake to his or her corruption will tend in this direction. They will strive and struggle but will never find themselves able to rest in Christ because, as long as they live, Christ’s work will never be sufficient, and their work will never be complete.
Works do play a role in salvation, but they are the result of our salvation in Jesus, not the cause of it. When we stand before the Lord, there is only one to whom we will point for our acceptance before God, and that is Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the law that we could not, he paid our debt on the cross, and he credits his righteousness to us. We will never point to ourselves. Remember, even the Pharisee gave God the credit for his assumed righteousness and all the works he did, yet he walked away unjustified (Luke 18-9-14). When we point to ourselves in any way, we point to our own condemnation. It is only when we beat our breast like the tax collector and look outside of ourselves to Jesus Christ that we find the righteousness we need.
There is no “It is finished” in faith plus works theological systems, and because of that, there is only bondage. If we want to be free in Christ, we must reject the notion that our righteousness is anything other than Christ’s perfect righteousness accounted as ours. We are justified by faith apart from works of the law (Romans 3:28). Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28).”
The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter. He must “fight.”
With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians. Wretched indeed is that man’s idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy. He who is never satisfied unless he is engaged in some strife between church and church, chapel and chapel, sect and sect, party and party, knows nothing yet as he ought to know. Never is the cause of sin so helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarreling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.
No, indeed! The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and was not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.
He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.” “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.” “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? .… They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” “Mortify your members which are upon the earth” (1 Cor. ix. 27; Rom. vii. 23, 24; Gal. v. 24; Coloss. iii. 5).
He must fight the world.The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “The world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world.” “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” “Be not conformed to this world” (James iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15; Gal. vi. 4; 1 John v. 4; Rom. xii. 2).
He must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out ail our ways. A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labors night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved. But “this kind goeth not out” but by watching and praying, and putting on the whole armour of God. The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle. (Job i. 7; 1 Peter v. 8; John viii. 44; Luke xxii. 31; Ephes. vi. 11).
Reader, perhaps you think these statements too strong. You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colours too thickly. You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women in England may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you that I have something to say on God’s behalf. Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.” This Christian warfare is no light matter. Give me your attention and consider what I say.
What saith the Scripture? “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. .… Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” “Labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.” “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” “War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim. ii. 8; Ephes. vi. 11-13; Luke xiii. 24; John vi. 27; Matt. x. 84; Luke xxii. 36; 1 Cor. xvi. 18; 1 Tim. i. 18, 19). Words such as these appear to me clear, plain and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is, that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare.
When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment! – John 16:8
The Holy Spirit is the only effectual reformer of the world! If He is absent, legislators may make laws against crime; philosophers may reason against vice; ministers may preach against sin; conscience may remonstrate against evil; the divine law may prescribe, and threaten Hell; the gospel may invite, and allure to Heaven; but all will be in vain!
The strongest arguments, the most melting entreaties, the most alarming denunciations from God and man, enforced with the highest authority, or the most compassionate tears, all will have no effect, all will not effectually reclaim one sinner, nor gain one sincere convert to righteousness!
Paul, Apollos, and Peter, with all their apostolic abilities, can do nothing, without the Holy Spirit. Paul may plant the seed, and Apollos may water it; but God alone can make it grow! “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow!” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7)
Never will peace and harmony be established in this jangling world until this Divine Agent takes the work in hand. It is He alone, who can melt down the obstinate hearts of men into love and peace! It is He alone, who can soften their rugged and savage tempers, and transform them into mutual benevolence!
It is He alone, who can quench those lusts that set the world on fire, and implant the opposite virtues and graces. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, are mentioned by Paul, as the fruit of the Spirit, because the Spirit alone is the author of them. And if these dispositions were predominant in the world, what a serene, calm, peaceful region would it be, undisturbed with the hurricanes of human passions!
Oh, how much do we need the influence of the blessed Spirit to break the heart of stone, to enlighten the dark mind, and to comfort the desponding soul!
We have history’s greatest sermons at our fingertips. I have recently discovered a new edifying podcast called Revived Thoughts. I was able to connect with Troy Frasier, one of the men who produce the content, and I asked him if he would be willing to write a guest post to let us know what Revived Thoughts is all about, and he graciously agreed.
Most people serious about their faith are familiar with some of the great theologians of the past. It’s not uncommon to hear a quote by Charles Spurgeon dropped in a sermon. Or maybe you have seen a quote go by on your social media of Jonathan Edwards or Martin Luther. These men continue to inspire us, and their books continue to be read by those seeking insights into their faith.
One thing we often forget is that before they were famous theologians they were preachers. To their congregants, they were often tender-hearted pastors who preached a passionate and accessible Gospel on how to live out the theology that they expressed in their books. It was there that their thoughts met real world-application.
Today it is not uncommon for Christians to listen to sermons from preachers all over the country. Sermons by pastors that have made names for themselves such as John Piper, Francis Chan, or John MacArthur. Before the age of podcasting and live streaming, preachers could be heard on the radio. Famous names like Leonard Ravenhill and Billy Sunday could be heard by tuning the dial. Through technology, these radio evangelists had replaced the original way of finding out what was preached: reading the sermon.
We have sermons going all the way back to the doorstep of the Apostles, with 2 Clement possibly preached within just a few years of John the Apostle’s death, all the way up to the mid-1900’s that were written down. Yet all these sermons, filled with magnificent truth, have been forgotten. They have been left on bookshelves to collect dust, and with them, the stories of the amazing preachers that delivered them.
When I was a teacher at a Christian school, I asked the middle school students to name any famous Christians they could think of. They named “Martin Luther King,” “Malcolm X,” “Mother Theresa,” and “Ghandi.” Now, besides the fact that half of that list is not even Christian, it shows a complete lack of awareness of Christian history. Of course, I may have had a bad survey sample, but I think it is also true that most Christians in the west hardly know how they got here. They may have a distorted memory from High School about the Reformation and Martin Luther nailing theses. They may know of some Puritan names, but they usually have little understanding of the lives of each of these men and how many of them interacted with each other. What were they up against? How was their family life? What great historical events did they experience, and how did that change their perspectives?
We are missing incredible testimonies and assurances of our faith! Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Andrew Gray, and so many other Puritans spent time in prison for their faith. They were told not to gather, yet they did it in secret and in barns in the woods. They show us a church that can grow and flourish despite cruel persecution and that can still be well-read through it all.
John Wycliffe lived through the Black Death. When he watched 60% of his village, people who looked healthy but were the sickest they had ever been drop dead a day later, he turned to God’s Word. When Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai during the start of the Taiping Rebellion, the fourth bloodiest event in human history, and saw the city on fire he stayed and created one of the biggest missionary organizations in Christian history.
These men were more than just scholars. They were people with lives that shine the glory of God. Even with their flaws, we see the amazing glory of God using broken individuals to accomplish incredible purposes.
These men were pastors. They preached and loved their congregations and labored week after week on sermons. Sermons that we have put aside, but technology is bringing them back to life! Their biographies and the best research on who these men were is now readily available online. Internet libraries have placed all their old catalogues within reach again, including books which contain these old sermons. Speakers from around the world can record these sermons and send them out to be published alongside the biographies of these great people of God.
You can download all of these sermons and biographies with the simple click of a button. Technology, the very thing that buried these incredible preachers of the past, is now bringing them back. Revived Thoughts is a podcast that exists to bring history’s greatest sermons back to life! Each Thursday, we publish a new sermon by a different preacher, and we also give you their back-story. We have released over 60 sermons by men ranging all across history. Not just those that you have heard of, but probably some that you’re unfamiliar with. We hope these sermons will all encourage you in your walk with God.
Check us out by subscribing to us on any podcast player or by going to our website, “Revived Thoughts.” We also run a sister podcast Revived Devos that takes devotionals from 7 great men of God and deliver them to you in 2-3 minute bite sized listens every single day.
Your frequent afflictions are His sweet lessons. It is the proper work of the grace of Jesus to humble the proud sinner, to make him and to keep him sensible of his needs, convinced always that he has not any good of his own and cannot possibly of himself obtain any but what he must be receiving every moment out of the fullness of Jesus.
All providences, sicknesses, losses, successes, are only so far blessings, as they lead us more out of ourselves, into the fullness of Jesus.
The Lord having appointed you for His heavenly kingdom, has also appointed all the steps which are to lead you there. Your every affliction is in the covenant. Your sicknesses, your failings, your disappointments, there is not one thing that thwarts your will, that is not in God’s will. Nothing can befall you but what is divinely ordered, contrived for you by infinite wisdom, brought upon you by infinite love!
Oh, for eyes to see, for a heart to receive all God’s dealings with you in this covenant view. How sweet would be your many trials, if you found them all appointed and managed for you by the best of friends! Learn to receive them thus.
To the care of His dear loving heart I commend you and yours,
When the Spirit would glorify Jesus, He humbles you.
When He would glorify His fullness, He makes you feel your emptiness.
When He would bring you to rely on His strength, He convinces you of your weakness.
When He would magnify the comforts of Jesus, He makes you sensible of your misery.
When He would fix your heart on His Heaven, He makes you feel your deserved Hell.
When He would exalt His righteousness, you find that you are a poor, miserable sinner.
My friend, let nothing keep you from Jesus. Whatever you need, whatever you feel is wrong with you, may it bring you to the Savior’s fullness! Oh, that all things may help forward your acquaintance with Him, I except nothing, neither sin nor sorrow! I would carry all to Him as one great lump of sin, and receive all from Him, as the only storehouse of good for wretched sinners.
In this communion I desire to grow; for this I desire to live. Oh, that you and I may learn it more, and every day get nearer fellowship with our sweet Jesus, growing up into Him in all things.
You gave me health to use in your service, but I misused it to a wholly secular use. Now you have sent me a sickness for my correction. O let me not use this likewise to provoke you, by my impatience. I abused my health, and you have rightly dealt with me. O keep me now from abusing that also. And since the corruption of my nature distorts your favors to me, grant, O my God, that your all-prevailing grace may render your chastenings to be beneficial. If my heart has been in love with the world when I was in robust health, destroy my vigor to promote my salvation. Whether it be by weakness of or by zeal for your love, render me incapable of enjoying the worldly idols, that my delight may be only in you.
Blaise Pascal – A Prayer He Prayed During A Time of Sickness
Christianity has thus passed through many stages of its earthly life, and yet has hardly reached the period of full manhood in Christ Jesus. During this long succession of centuries it has outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman empire, fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within, the barbarian invasion, the confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the shock of infidelity, the ravages of revolution, the attacks of enemies and the errors of friends, the rise and fall of proud kingdoms, empires, and republics, philosophical systems, and social organizations without number. And, behold, it still lives, and lives in greater strength and wider extent than ever; controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world; marching over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, ever forward and onward; spreading silently its heavenly blessings from generation to generation, and from country to country, to the ends of the earth.
It can never die; it will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself. Single denominations and sects, human forms of doctrine, government, and worship, after having served their purpose, may disappear and go the way of all flesh; but the Church Universal of Christ, in her divine life and substance, is too strong for the gates of hell. She will only exchange her earthly garments for the festal dress of the Lamb’s Bride, and rise from the state of humiliation to the state of exaltation and glory. Then at the coming of Christ she will reap the final harvest of history, and as the church triumphant in heaven celebrate and enjoy the eternal sabbath of holiness and peace. This will be the endless end of history, as it was foreshadowed already at the beginning of its course in the holy rest of God after the completion of his work of creation.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.