The Storm Killed My Idols

The storm is a gift. This was the thought that was running through my mind as wave after wave crashed upon me. In part because I knew it was true and partly because I hoped it was true. When the skies turned dark they caught me off guard. I found myself lost in confusion as every bit of my weakness was exposed, but that was only a portion of the battle.

As the tempest raged against me from the outside, something else started happening on the inside. My flesh began to rebel. It had been active for years, as I now realize, but it started to let me know that it was upset. As I entered one of the darkest times of my life, my sinfulness began to rear its head in ways I could have never imagined. It was showing me its power.

I never really saw myself as someone who longed for or loved the things of the world, but the minute the pleasures were no longer available, a passion for them stirred in my soul.  The fact that they were no longer at my disposal caused a despondency in my spirit that made me feel ill. I thought, “What if all those days of pleasure are gone? I can’t live without them, they are part of what makes me who I am.” The notion that they were no longer mine was more than I could handle.

It was here that I realized the conflict between flesh and Spirit was clashing within me in a battle more fierce than I could ever remember.  The problem is, when you already feel you are spinning out of control because of the circumstances in which you find yourself, this type of inner conflict brings your sinfulness to the surface compounding the trial. Once once my sinfulness was added to the mix, I was devastated. I had nothing left: everything I thought I was standing on was systematically dislodged from beneath me. I don’t think I could have plummeted any lower.

This, however, was exactly were I needed to be. When the conflict between flesh and Spirit heightens within us, it is more often a sign of spiritual progress than decline. When the Lord sends us troubles that are designed to mold us to His image, the first thing we tend to notice is how far we fall short.  In other words, sanctified affliction seldom seems sanctified because the Lord is drawing the dross to the surface, but never forget, He is drawing it to the surface to wipe it away.

A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” This may not sit well with many in the church today, but it is important to remember that God is more concerned with our spiritual growth than our worldly prosperity, and often He will sacrifice the latter to promote the former.

Even the disciples, who had seen Christ perform many miracles, didn’t marvel until it was their own boat that was at stake. We tend see Christ’s power to calm the storm as interesting until it is our life that is on is on the line, then it becomes imperative. Our Savior is not looking for people who admire His power from a distance, His children are the ones who know their very lives depend upon Him. Though everything I thought could support me crumbled beneath me, when it had all been destroyed, I found myself standing on the Rock of Christ Jesus. In an act of God’s grace, the storm killed my idols.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. – Proverbs 17:3

D. Eaton

Either God Must Punish Sin or There is No Need for Forgiveness

Why did Jesus have to die? Many object to the fact that Christ had to be put to death and that blood had to be shed for the remission of sins (Matt 26:28). They believe this is unbecoming of God. Others believe that if we as humans can forgive each other without punishment and God cannot, then humans are more kind and forgiving than God.*

We hear these arguments coming from people who think they need to protect God from the doctrine of penal substitution. Besides their lack of understanding scripture, these arguments escape reason. They escape reason because the same people who make these arguments then go on to make distinctions between good and evil and preach moral living.

Why should man be moral? Why is it wrong to be immoral? These are the questions Anselm raised when dealing with the necessity of Christ’s death. He then went on to lay out the following argument:

  • To remit sin without satisfaction or adjustment is not to punish it.
  • And if sin needs no adjustment or punishment, then the one who sins is no different before God than the one who does not sin.
  • And if there is no adjustment that needs to be made before God, then what needs to be forgiven?
  • Following this logic there is no reason for forgiveness at all because to be unrighteous or righteous makes no difference before God.
  • Therefore, it is unbecoming of God not to punish sin because it would make evil and good equal in His sight.
  • Since this cannot be the case, then God must punish sin.

The idea that God can forgive sin without requiring its just punishment leads us to another conundrum. If it is true that God does not need to justly punish sin, then anyone He sends to hell would be sent there arbitrarily and not out of necessity. Of course, that would be reprehensible which is why many who reject penal substitution eventually become universalists (the idea, contrary to scripture, that no one will go to hell).

The wages of sin is death according to scripture (Rom. 6:23). For God to offer forgiveness, the satisfaction of these wages must be met. This is what the cross is all about. Christ bore upon Himself the sins of all those who come to Him through faith. It necessarily had to happen in order for God to be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Him (Rom. 3:26).

Every sin will receive its just recompense. Either we will pay for it ourselves, or, through faith, we will accept His payment upon the cross on our behalf.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4

-D. Eaton

*Even we cannot forgive each other without a cost being paid. If you break my lamp on purpose, and I say, “I forgive you,” some one has to pay for the new lamp. If I slander your good name, and you say, “I forgive you,” there is still a cost. Either you will bear the damage I have done to your reputation, or, if I go to all your friends and tell them I slandered, I will bear a loss of my own reputation. More importantly, even those sins against each other are sins against God for which either we will pay or Christ will bear in our place. Even among each other, sin always has a cost.

Anchored to the Distant Shore

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

Even as Christians, the greatest storm we face is the sin that rages in us. It crouches at our door, its desire is for us, and its only fruit is destruction. It threatens to sear our consciences, hinder our prayers, and even cause our love for Christ to grow cold. But even when we fail, and some of these things begin to be seen in our lives, let us never forget that our God will have compassion on His children. He delights in mercy, He will turn again to us to subdue our iniquities, and cast’s our sins to the depths of the sea.

Do you see dear believer what hope is found in this Scripture? God is not looking to help you because you have been perfect and you deserve to be helped. He desires to pardon your iniquity. He knows you have sinned and need to be delivered. He has placed the wrath that your sins deserve on Christ your substitution. And though your sinful heart still threatens to toss you where it will, like a lost vessel on an angry sea, our God anchors you with a strong and secure hope.

Grab hold of Christ who is that hope. Like an anchor securing a ship on a stormy sea has plunged beneath the veil of the water and cannot be seen, so Christ has entered within the veil; where he has gone as a forerunner on your behalf (Heb. 6:17). And though we cannot see Him at this moment, the hope he has given us is like a secure chain anchored to the throne of God, which is pulling us home through the tumultuous sea.

As the storms grow stronger, by His grace He strengthens our hold upon this hope, as we learn that nothing else can save us. The tighter we hold to our hope, the more tight the line between us and our true home becomes, until we can feel it pulling us homeward.

Though the storms of sin surround, take heart that your sins have been removed, and you are anchored to the distant shore through Christ. Fear not, for no surer hope has ever been tested, and as your love for this world slowly weakens, you will notice the chain between you and your true home has become that much shorter. When you see this, you will know He has turned to you, and is having compassion upon you, because this is work that only He can do.

Let us end with a short verse by Charles Spurgeon, who inspired most of the content of this devotion.

Let the winds blow, and billows roll,
Hope is the anchor of my soul.
But can I by so slight a tie,
And unseen hope, on God rely?
Steadfast and sure, it cannot fail,
It enters deep within the veil,
It fastens on a land unknown,
And moors me to my Father’s throne.

D. Eaton

5 Blessings of Suffering – Thomas Watson

“God disciplines us for our profit.” -Hebrews 12:10

What profit is in affliction? Afflictions are disciplinary. Afflictions teach us—they are the school of the cross.

Affliction shows us more of our own hearts.

Water in a glass looks clear—but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. Just so, when God sets us upon the fire—corruption boils up which we did not discern before. Sharp afflictions are to the soul, as a soaking rain to the house; we do not know that there are holes in the roof until the shower comes—but then we see it drop down here and there. Just so, we do not know what unmortified lusts are in the soul, until the storm of affliction comes—then the hidden evils of the heart come dropping down in many places. Affliction is a sacred eye-salve, it clears our eyesight. Thus the rod gives wisdom.

Affliction quickens the spirit of prayer.

Jonah was asleep in the ship—but at prayer in the whale’s belly. Perhaps in a time of health and prosperity we prayed in a cold and formal manner, we put no coals to the incense. Then God sends some affliction or other—to stir us up to take hold of Him. “They poured out a prayer—when Your chastening was upon them.” Isaiah 26:16. In times of trouble we pray feelingly and fervently.

Affliction is a means to purge out our sins.

Affliction cures the pestilence of pride—and the fever of lust. Affliction is God’s file—to scrub off our rust. Affliction is God’s flail—to thresh off our husks. The water of affliction is not to drown us—but to wash off our spots.

Affliction is a means to wean us from the world.

The world often proves, not only a spider’s web—but a cockatrice egg. Corrupting worldly things, are great enchantments. They hinder us in our passage to heaven. Affliction sounds a retreat, to call us off the immoderate pursuit of earthly things. When two things are frozen together—the best way to separate them is by fire; so, when the heart and the world are together—God has no better way to separate them than by the fire of affliction.

Affliction is a means to purify us.

It works us up to further degrees of sanctity. “God disciplines us for our profit—that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10. The vessels of mercy are the brighter for scouring. As you pour water on your linen when you would whiten it—so God pours the waters of affliction upon us to whiten our souls. Afflictions are in themselves bitter—but they bring forth the sweet fruits of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11.

-Thomas Watson

No Sin of Man Can Diminish the Perfections of God

Futility. That is what every attempt at rebellion against God entails. Every railing of sin, every shaking of the fist in His face, results in the same thing. Nothing. We serve an unchanging God and nothing can diminish His perfections.

For I, the LORD, do not change. – Malachi 3:6

Thomas Brooks once said, “If it could be carried by votes, God would be voted out of the world; for the language of the carnal heart is, “Leave us alone! We have no desire to know Your ways!” (Job 21:14).”

We live in a society that attempts to determine its own truth and morality. They vote in and enact many laws that call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Yet, truth and morality will never be established by popular vote. All of the world’s statutes that celebrate sin and punish good will never alter the word of God.

The counsel of the LORD stands forever. – Psalm 33:11

The doctrine of God’s immutability should do two things for the believer. First it should leave us in awestruck wonder since it so far beyond our full comprehension. The second thing it should do is comfort us. Just as no sin can diminish His perfections, neither can our excellencies increase them.

With this knowledge all believers can let out a huge sigh of relief. We sometimes live as if the existence of God is up to us. We sometimes feel like we must be His protector. We are not God, and living like He is dependent upon us is exhausting. He has called us to find our rest in Him, not for Him to find His rest in us.

The best thing we can do is point people to the place where his excellencies are most clearly seen: the word of God. Too often we feel that we must be creative and come up with something new in order for the Lord to be known. All the while, we neglect the revelation He has given of Himself: scripture.

If you are in Christ Jesus, you are as secure as His being. He alone is the rock of our Salvation that will never be moved (Psalm 62:6). May we point the world to His perfections through His word with a confidence that is not derived from our abilities, but in His immutable splendor.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

-D. Eaton

Lay Your Sin-Soiled Hands on the Head of Jesus

Our sin is staggeringly heinous! We are finite beings who have sinned against an infinite God. This means each of our transgressions, and we have many, are worthy of infinite wrath. We are prone to wander, and even as believers, we have defiled ourselves more recently than we would like to admit.

John Owen once said, speaking to Christians,

“Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.”

There were likely several times this week that we put the knife to our throat, drank the poison, and destroyed just a little bit of ourselves.

Thomas Brooks once pointed out,

“As sinful commissions will stab the soul; so sinful omissions will starve the soul.”

And we have stabbed and starved our souls, for even though we have not fallen at every temptation, we have failed in both sinful commissions and sinful omissions. Some of us are reading this today, even as Christians, and we are bleeding to death. We are spiritually prostrate on the ground, weak and malnourished.

How do we stop the hemorrhage? The same cure that saved our soul, is the same cure that heals us daily. In Faith, we must lay our hands on the head of Jesus.

Under the old covenant, there were many ceremonial laws which were a shadow of how Jesus would eventually save us. Several of them, including the bull offering, required that the people lay their hands on the head of the animal before it was killed.

In the case of sin, Leviticus 1:4 tells us,

“He [the sinner] shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”

This, laying of the hand, was a picture of their sins being transferred to the animal, and the animal would be sacrificed in their place. When we came to faith, we laid our hands on the head of Jesus.

Every filthy transgression, willful and unintentional, that filled our soul with darkness, made our hands foul. All the soul-poisoning fallout, that severed and abused our peace with God and peace within, made our hands repulsively unclean. It was in this sinful condition that our pure and unblemished Savior said, “Lay your sin-soiled hands on my head.” Then, through the Holy Spirit’s work, He took them and placed them there Himself, for we did not have the strength. He then took our defilement to the cross and paid it all: washing us clean.

If you find yourself in a similar condition today because you have wandered from His side, and you have taken hold of temptation and inflicted yourself with many wounds. Or if you have starved yourself by not attending to the things of God, He is reminding you, right now, to find your healing in Him.

Before this moment, you may not have had the strength to move, but if as you read this, you find your heart stirring with godly sorrow, along with a desire to wash under the cleansing fount, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has come down to where you are. He has taken your hands and positioned them on His head, and He is saying to you, “Give me your filth and be clean, then go and sin no more. I love you and want you to walk with me.”

-D. Eaton

I Will Heal Your Backslidings

“I will heal your backslidings.”Hosea 14:4

Wandering again! And has He not left me to perish? Stumbling and straying on the dark mountains, away from the Shepherd’s eye and the Shepherd’s fold, shall He not leave the erring wanderer to the fruit of his own ways, and his truant heart to go hopelessly onward in its career of guilty estrangement? “My thoughts,” says God, “are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” Man would say, “Go, perish! ungrateful apostate!” God says, “Return, O backsliding children!” The Shepherd will not, cannot allow those sheep to perish which He has purchased with His own blood! How wondrous His forbearance towards it!—tracking its guilty steps, and ceasing not the pursuit until He lays the wanderer on His shoulders, and returns with it to His fold rejoicing! My soul! why increase by farther departures your own distance from the fold?—why lengthen the dreary road your gracious Shepherd has to traverse in bringing you back? Do not delay your return! Do not provoke His patience any longer! Do not venture farther on forbidden ground! He waits with outstretched arms to welcome you once more to His bosom. Be humble for the past, trust Him for the future. Think of your former backslidings, and tremble—think of His patience, and be filled with holy gratitude; think of His promised grace, “and take courage.”

-John MacDuff – 1849

Listen for the Song of the Saints

Their snarls penetrated my ears with every evading stride. Every breath I took was weighted by the awareness that they were close behind. I had entered at the narrow gate, but somehow they had managed to follow me onto the path. I could hear their taunts, and every one of their footsteps were like the sound of a war drum. There are days when they are far away. During those times, I feel the warm breeze of the Celestial City beckoning me homeward, but even then I know they are lying in wait. Their pursuit often leaves me anxious and exhausted.

I didn’t think they would be able to follow me onto the narrow path, but somehow they made their way onto the road. When I entered the narrow way, under the shadow of the cross, my sins were forgiven. He had delivered me from the slavery of sin that held me captive. Since He had open the way and called me in, I thought, at that point, I would be out of the reach of my enemies, yet they pursue me daily.

Every time I fall, the enemy shouts from behind, “You do not belong on this path! You belong to us, and we will catch and destroy you!” I have learned the names of some of them, but others I am still trying to figure out. There are two who give chase named Shame and Regret. They often disguise themselves as messengers of the king. They tell me that, since my heart is prone to wander, the King prefers that I stay out of sight. That is Shame’s greatest strategy. He convinces us that we need to hide. He does this to keep us from finding the assistance that is available in the congregation of the saints, and he works closely with regret to keep us from approaching the Throne of Grace. 

Many other enemies desire to sink their teeth into me as well, like sickness and sorrow, sin and sadness, and the final enemy death who boasts of his many conquests. However, in those moments when I am running scared, I have learned that there is a song being sung. It is a song of the past as well as a song of the future, and I must tune my heart into its melody.

The first time I heard it was at a time when I thought all was lost. The enemy had convinced me that I was a trespasser on the narrow way, and their presence was the proof. They told me that Lord had allowed them access to remove me from His sacred passage. I heard them chanting as they chased, “Our desire will have its fill. Our sword is in our hand. We will destroy (Exodus 15:9).”

Their tune, however, was soon drowned out by the song of the saints. The great cloud of witnesses sang, “The Lord is a man of war. Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy (Exodus 15:3,6).” This refrain gave me immediate comfort. Then another line stood out and gave me the perspective I needed. It recounted, “Pharoah’s chariots and his host He cast into the sea.” It continued, “The floods covered them: they went down into the depths like a stone (Exodus 14:4-5).”

The song I was hearing was the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18). At that point, it all fell into place. God had set the people free from their slavery in Egypt, and He had made a way of salvation by parting the Red Sea. He then allowed their enemies to pursue them into the way of escape for the very purpose of destroying them.

You and I have entered the narrow path. At the entrance of that gate, we found salvation where there is no accusation or separation, but there is a path we must walk between the door of salvation and the gates of the Celestial City. Do not be dismayed by the fact that there are enemies still pursuing you. Regret and shame, fear and anxiety, the troubles of a fallen world, and even death itself, will never make it to the other side, but you will.

One day shame and regret will be no more. Even now they have lost their power. To believe that a life of self-punishment and shame is required for us to be right with God is to believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. That is a lie of the enemy. There is complete freedom in Jesus. The reason they are unable to hurt us now is that He has disarmed them and put them to open shame (Colossians 2:15). Our sin is what gave them their power, but He has canceled our debt (Colossians 2:14). Even death has lost its sting in His resurrection.

Though these enemies may get the best of us from time to time, they will all fail because our Lord is triumphant. Their pursuit of us into the King’s domain will be their destruction. As I mentioned earlier, this is a song of the past as well as a song of the future. This song will be sung again when the Lord returns to set all things right (Revelation 15:3). Listen to the song and keep marching heavenward. “The Lord will lead us with His steadfast love, the people whom He has redeemed. He will guide us by His strength into His holy abode” (Exodus 15: 13).

Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea. – Exodus 15:21

Doug Eaton

12 Things God Does for the Believer

Do you love Me?” – John 21:17

Does not Jesus in thus appealing to me, in effect say:

  • For you, I left the realms of glory, and the adoration of ten thousand times ten thousand holy ones!
  • For you, I became incarnate, took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
  • For you, I obeyed the law and wrought a perfect righteousness for your justification.
  • For you, I endured the cross, and despised the shame.
  • For you, I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to those who plucked off the hair.
  • For you, I endured the crown of thorns and gave My hands and My feet to be nailed to the tree.
  • For you, I shed My blood, and laid down My life!
  • I loved you with a love of pity and compassion—when you were dead in trespasses and sins!
  • I opened your eyes, revealed to you your sinfulness and guilt, and awakened your cry for mercy.
  • I sought you in your wanderings—and found you!
  • I brought you up out of the horrible pit, and miry clay—and set your feet upon the rock.
  • I have loved you with an everlasting love—and therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!

-Unknown Puritan Author-

Times of Refreshing

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. -Acts 3:19

Has your life grown dim and stale because you are no longer walking closely with the Lord? Our God is so gracious that even after we have rebelled against him, he not only wipes out our sins, but he also goes on to give us times of refreshing. This phrase, “times of refreshing,” encompasses quite a bit, including the return of our Lord, but it also seems to include a sense of spiritual refreshment that comes to the individual believer. Think back to when you first came to know the Lord. The burden of your sin was heavy upon you as you felt the curse and judgment it demanded. Then someone pointed you to Christ, and through faith, your sins were washed away. Then, do you remember what followed? Do you remember being refreshed as the Joy of the Lord became your strength? The world was just a little brighter, the mountains where a bit more majestic, and the burdens of the world seemed lighter, because you knew nothing could separate you from his love.

What we experienced during these times was the Holy Spirit’s work, as he bore witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). As Paul told us, even if the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16) because even in this fallen world, the Spirit has been given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 5:5). As he works in our lives, our spirits are refreshed knowing that our sins can no longer condemn us because of Christ’s work, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when this life is through.

There are, however, times in the believer’s life when this refreshing may fade. If we begin to turn our focus to the things of this world, whether its vanities or trials, there is an intimacy with Christ that can be lost; much like when Peter was walking on the water and turned his eyes away from Jesus. Maybe you are finding yourself in that place right now. Something has caught your eye that is luring you away from the Lord and seeking first the kingdom of God is no longer your main desire. Maybe the straight and narrow is not as appealing to you anymore because some lesser light has stolen your heart as it offers you more than it can actually provide. The problem with this is that you are being tempted by your own evil desires, and when it is conceived it will give birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death (James 1:15). As this process is taking place the Holy Spirit grieves within you, and there can be a dimness that can come back to your eyes as you once again try to shoulder the weight of this world without Christ’s abiding presence. So much so, that at times you can begin to wonder if you were ever a child of God to begin with.

It is at this point, that the enemy begins to mock you for taking the bait, and begins to tell you that you’ve gone too far and that you have never been his child. But the Spirit of God, who has never left you, has many ways of stirring you to a remembrance of the times of refreshing you once had. He moves you to recall the former times for at least two reasons. First, to remind you that you are his child and give you strength as you deal with the sin in which you now find yourself entangled, and second, to call you to repentance because the times of refreshing can be experienced again.

If you find yourself in this situation, and the joy of your salvation has been eclipsed by the cares and sins of this life, remember the times you once had with your Savior. By doing so you can be confirmed that you are his child, and you will hear the call to repentance saying, come back to your First Love, and as you “draw near to me and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And if you have never come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, you too can have your sins wiped out, that times of refreshing may come.