I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. – Isaiah 44:22
Sins Like Clouds
Attentively observe the instructive similitude: our sins are like a cloud. As clouds are of many shapes and shades, so are our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun, and darken the landscape beneath, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face, and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earth-born things, and rise from the miry places of our nature; and when so collected that their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Alas! that, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers, but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. O ye black clouds of sin, how can it be fair weather with our souls while ye remain?
The Clouds Blotted Out
Let our joyful eye dwell upon the notable act of divine mercy–“blotting out.” God himself appears upon the scene, and in divine benignity, instead of manifesting his anger, reveals his grace: he at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once for all. Against the justified man no sin remains, the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.
Return to the Lord
Practically let us obey the gracious command, “return unto me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If we have been forgiven all our sins, let no legal fear withhold us from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. To the greatest possible nearness of communion with the Lord, let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, strive mightily to return. O Lord, this night restore us!
The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. – Psalm 118:6
What can illness do to the Christian? Is it not in the sovereign hands of the Lord? Every pain and every distress is under the supreme authority of our God. Even if Satan and his legions are involved, they are only permitted to go as far as His hand allows, and He could reverse their work in an instant if he decided to do so. Even if the illness is due to sinful choices, is not Jesus the forgiver of sins and restorer?
If we face any illness, no matter the cause, God does not cease to be in control. Did He know this was coming? Does He have the power to stop it? Most certainly. The logic that flows from these two truths is that God is the final decision-maker for everything that comes against us.
What, then, can illness do to us if it is under the providence of God? It can afflict, but not crush. It can perplex, but cannot drive us to despair. It can even strike down, but it cannot destroy.
On the contrary, sickness, sovereignly wielded like a scalpel in the hand of our good God, can only heal us. For all things work together for those that love Him (Rom. 8:28), and disease certainly does not fall outside the category of “all things.” By it, He weans us from the passing treasure of this world, and He teaches us to redeem the time. In all of it, He is spurring us on to holiness, and holiness is where we will find our true happiness.
Lord, we resign ourselves to your perfect will. We will fight for our health because your word tells us our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and anyone who destroys the temple will also be destroyed (1 Cor. 3:16-17). However, we leave the results of our fight in your hands because we know that even if the outward man is wasting away, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
We will not look on the things that are seen but the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). In this way, we will not lose hope, and we will find peace in the pain, deliverance in the distress, and healing in the hurt.
Whatever trials you have, my dear brother, Christ is all in all to meet them. Are you poor? He will make you rich in your poverty by His consoling presence. Are you sick? He will make your bed in your sickness, and so will make your sick-bed better than the walks of health. Are you persecuted? If it is for His sake, you may even leap for joy. Are you oppressed? Remember how He also was oppressed and afflicted; and you will have fellowship with Him in his sufferings.
Amidst all the vicissitudes of this present life, Christ is all that the believer needs to bear him up, and bear him through. No wave can sink the man who clings to this life-buoy; he shall swim to glory on it! Jesus is all I need!
the living water to quench my thirst,
the heavenly bread to satisfy my hunger,
the snow-white robe to cover me,
the sure refuge in times of trouble,
the happy home of my soul,
my food and my medicine,
my solace and my song,
my light and my delight.
The believer can say, “Christ is mine!” No emperor is half as rich as the beggar that has Christ! He who has Christ, being a pauper, has all things. And he who has not Christ, possessing a thousand worlds, possesses nothing for real happiness and joy!
Oh, the blessedness of the man who can say, “Christ is mine!”
Burning indignation grips me, because of the wicked who have forsaken Your law. -Psalm 119:53
My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David’s cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed by all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel’s vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem.
It cannot but grieve gracious souls, to see what pains men take to go to Hell! Christians know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze! Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God’s holy law, which it is to every man’s highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society! Sin in others horrifies a believer, for it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”
Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity–the nails and spear. How can a believer behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart–do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, and the just God will have it–or repay His adversary to his face!
An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin’s fooleries–lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your enemy, and your Lord’s enemy–view it with detestation, for only so can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.
The following is a letter of John Newton to his 14 year old adopted daughter.
My Dear Betsy,
Sometimes, when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them—I have some painful feelings for you!
The other day I was at the harbor, and saw a ship launched; she slipped easily into the water; the people on board cheered; the ship looked clean and mirthful, she was freshly painted, and her colors flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity, “Poor ship!” I thought, “you are now in port and in safety; but before long you must go into the wild sea! Who can tell what storms you may meet with hereafter, and to what hazards you may be exposed! How weather-beaten you may be before you return to port again, or perhaps you may not return at all!”
Then my thoughts turned from the ship to my dear Betsy. The ship seemed to be an emblem of your present state, you are now, as it were, in a safe harbor; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance! But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command! There is hardly a day passes, in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care, I know you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers by which you might otherwise suffer and bring you, at last, safely to the haven of His eternal rest!
I hope you will seek Him while you are young—then you will be happy, and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this! Though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters, unless you love Him, and live in His fear and favor, you would be quite miserable! I think it would nearly break my heart; for, next to your dear mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you! But the Lord gave you to me and many a time upon my knees, I have given you back to Him. Therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall be His!
I am, with great tenderness, my dear child, Your very affectionate father
I understand something of your warfare. Paul describes his own case in few words, “Conflicts on the outside, fears on the inside.” Does not this comprehend all you would say? And how are you to know experimentally, either your own weakness, or the power, wisdom and grace of God, seasonably and sufficiently afforded, but by frequent and various trials? How are the graces of patience, resignation, meekness and faith, to be discovered and increased, but by the exercise of trials?
The Lord has chosen, called, and armed us for the fight! Shall we wish to be excused from the battle? Shall we not rather rejoice that we have the honor to appear in such a cause, under such a Captain, such a banner and in such a company?
God has graciously provided: a complete suit of armor, formidable weapons, precious balm to heal us—if we receive a wound, and precious cordials to revive us—when we are in danger of fainting!
Further, we are assured of the victory beforehand! O what a crown of glory is prepared for every conqueror, which Jesus, the righteous Judge, the gracious Savior—shall place upon every faithful head with His own hand!
So let us not be weary and faint, for in due season we shall reap! The time is short! In a little while, the struggle of indwelling sin, and all the conflicts surrounding us, shall be known no more!
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life! -Revelation 2:10
The following is Henry Scudder’s reasoning from Scripture as to why Sunday is a day set apart for the Lord. What are your thoughts?
Put a difference between this and the other six days, even as you put a difference between the bread and wine in the sacrament, and that which is for common use. And that because it is set apart for Holy use, by divine institution. For as the seventh day, from the beginning of the creation, until the day of Christ’s blessed resurrection; so our Lord’s day which is the day of the resurrection, is by divine institution moral.
Now it appears, that it was the will of our Lord and Savior Christ, that we should, since his resurrection, keep for our Sabbath that first day of the week; forasmuch as he arose on that day, (John 20:1-19), and appeared divers times on this our Lord’s day to his disciples before his ascension; and did on this day, being the day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:1-4), fill his disciples with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, then being assembled together; all which gives a pre-eminence to this day, and a probability to the point.
But inasmuch as the apostles, (1 Cor. 11:1) who followed Christ, and delivered nothing but what they received from Christ, (1 Cor. 11:23 and 14:37), did observe this day as the Sabbath, (1 Cor. 16:1-2); what can this argue but a divine institution of this day? The apostle Paul might have chosen any other day, for the people to assemble to hear the word, and receive the sacrament: but they assembled to receive the sacrament, and to hear the word, upon the first day of the week, which is our Lord’s day, (Acts 20:6-7). Now the approved practice of the apostles, and of the church with them, recorded in Scripture, carries with it the force of a precept.
Moreover, the Spirit of God honors this day with the title of the Lord’s day, (Rev. 1:10) as he does the communion Supper of the Lord, (1 Cor. 10:21 and 21:20). What does this argue but as they both have reference to Christ, so they are both appointed by Christ.
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. – Matthew 12:31
What exactly is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? There are a three basic views. The first view is that it is something that could only be done while Christ was on the earth. From this view, this sin involved seeing the miracles Christ was working through the Holy Spirit and calling them evil, but since Christ is no longer on the earth, this sin can no longer be committed. Many great men and women of the faith have held this position so it is clearly within the pale of orthodoxy. The problem, as I see it, stems from the fact that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not against Christ, it is against the Holy Spirit. One of the greatest works of the Spirit is to reveal that Jesus is the Son of God. He has not ceased in doing this work and his work can still be blasphemed.
The second view is also held by many, and it considers blasphemy of Holy Spirit rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work until death. In other words, to never come to faith in Christ. This seems reasonable because that is unforgivable. I believe rejecting Jesus until death is an outworking of blasphemy of Holy Spirit as I will explain below, but this view seems to leave out the fact that blasphemy is a sin of communication. That is the thrust of the sin, and to ignore that seems to miss the mark.
A Third view holds that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a sin of communication. It is a known, malicious, speaking of the works of the Holy Spirit as evil. It can still happen today, but it cannot be committed ignorantly. What this means is that there must be a mental assent, or a full knowledge, that the Holy Spirit is the one doing the work, but in an attempt to suppress that truth in unrighteousness, the person blasphemes by calling it a work of evil.
One of the reasons many believe this sin cannot be committed unknowingly is because it is often linked with the sin found in Hebrews Chapter 6. In that passage, the person has been enlightened to the truth, and has even partaken in the Holy Spirit’s work; though not salvifically. They know and understand the truth and still reject Christ. In rejecting Christ they are rejecting the Holy Spirit who testifies of Him. The person who does such a thing is said to have crucified Christ afresh, and that it is impossible to renew such a one to repentance (Heb. 6:6). Since the scripture tells us that all sin is forgiven of men except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and the sin committed in Hebrews 6 also seems to be unforgivable, there seems to be a good reason to link the two.
So how do Bible expositors link blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to being a continuous ultimate denial of the grace of God? They do this by looking at Jesus’ words which shows us that this blasphemy is ultimately a sin that flows from the heart. Jesus says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” This sin flows from a heart that is so hard toward the things of God that it will never repent, and God in his purposes has turned them over to this hardness and leaves them there.
The sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit has caused many people trouble and fear. They wonder after reading about it if they have committed it. If this is you, and your concern stems from a heart that desires to be right with the Lord, then you have not committed it. If a person’s heart is sensitive to the truths of God, then they are not guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The person who’s heart is as hard as those who blaspheme the Spirit would not be concerned about being right with the Lord. They would despise Him.
Another aspect of this sin is that those who have been saved cannot commit it. In Hebrews 6 the author says to his audience of believers that he did not expect them to fall away and crucify Christ afresh. Instead he expected to see from them things that “accompany salvation.” From the context, perseverance seems is one of those things that will accompany salvation. So a Christian is unable to commit this sin for we are kept by the power of God through faith.
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.