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

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.

Wayward Christian: The Lord Wants you to Come Home

“Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”–Jeremiah. 3:1

Could there be a more touching “Thus says the Lord” than this? The voice of Jesus, as it echoed over the mountains and along the valleys of our unregenerate distance from God, seeking and finding and bringing us home, was inexpressibly sweet and irresistibly gracious. But, to hear that same voice, after our many wanderings, our repeated relapses, our sad backslidings, still seeking, still inviting, still imploring us to return, though we had “played the harlot with many lovers,” oh, there is music in that voice such as the heavenly minstrelsy must bend their ear to catch.

My soul, you are “bent upon backsliding, even as a backsliding heifer.” Your heart is as a broken bow, treacherous to the arrow fixed upon the string, and ready for its flight. Your purposes of good formed, but thwarted; resolutions of amendment made, but broken; plans of usefulness laid, but frustrated; prayers for grace offered, but forgotten; desires and aspirations after God sent up, but, through a deceitful and wicked heart, dissolving into air. Oh! how many and aggravated have your backslidings from God been–backslidings in heart, backslidings in deed–secret wanderings, open wanderings. You have “left your first love,” have “forgotten your resting-place;” and, straying from the cross, have gone back to walk no more with Jesus. Truly, your “heart is like a deceitful bow.”

But, has the Lord, by some gentle movement of His grace, or by some solemn event of His providence, aroused, overtaken, arrested you? Has He set a hedge around your path, that you could not find your lovers, bringing you to reflection, to penitence, to prayer? Then, listen, O my soul, to the gracious words of your “first husband;” “Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”

Spiritual restoration implies a spiritual re-conversion. In this sense we are to interpret our Lord’s words to His fallen apostle Peter–“When you are converted, strengthen your brethren,”–that is, when you are restored, recovered, turned back again, employ your restored grace, the experience you have derived, and the lessons you have learned by your fall and recovery, in strengthening your weak brethren–in warning and exhorting, in restoring and comforting those who have been alike tempted, and have alike fallen.

There is something very expressive, tender, and touching in the word–“Again.” “Yet return again.” It sounds like the “forgiveness of seventy times seven.” Lord! I have wandered from You times without number–“Yet return again.” Lord! I have so often sinned and repented–“Yet return again.” Lord! You have received and forgiven me more than seventy times seven–“Yet return again.” Lord! I come confessing the same sins, deploring the same backslidings, acknowledging the same self-will and base ingratitude–“Yet return again to me, says the Lord.” Then, Lord! I come with weeping, and mourning, and confession, since Your tenderness, grace, and changeless love, and outstretched hand bid me.

“Return to Me.” My soul, rest not until you rest in Jesus. Let nothing come between your returning heart and your advancing, loving, forgiving Father. There is no true return of a backsliding believer but that which takes him past his repentance, past his tears, past his confessions, past his amendments, past his minister, and brings him at once close to Christ. There is no healing of the hurt, no binding up of the wound, no cleansing, no peace, no comfort, no joy, but as the soul comes to the blood, and nestles once more within the very heart of Jesus. “Return unto ME.”

-Octavius Winslow

You Cannot Satisfy Sin By Sinning – John Owen

Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

The general nature of indwelling sin is that it is always at enmity with us. There can be no terms of peace. It must be abolished and destroyed, every part and parcel of it. Every drop of poison is poison, and will kill; and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn. We can admit no terms of peace or compromise. It is in vain to have any expectation of rest from lust, except by its death. Some, in the troubling of their corruptions, seek for quietness and laboring to satisfy them. This is to douse a fire with oil. Casting wood into the fire will not satisfy it, but increase it: so it is with seeking to satisfy sin by sinning, it only inflames and increases it. You cannot bargain with fire to take only so much of your house; you have no way to quench it. It is so with indwelling sin. Sin opposes duty, and temps us to unbelief, because of its enmity toward God. Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God. The great means to prevent the fruits and effects of this enmity is to constantly keep the soul in a universally holy frame. As we are directed to ‘watch unto prayer’ (1 Peter 4:7 KJV ), So watching every duty. Whatever good we have to do, and we find evil present with us, we must prevent it from parlaying with the soul. We must prevent its insinuating poison into the mind and affections. Be sure you are not worn out by its persistence, nor driven from your hold by its importunity. Do not faint by its opposition. It is so dangerous when the soul gives over in part or in whole, either by being wearied in the battle of sin against holy duties or wearied of communion with God. Labor to possess a mind of the beauty and excellence of spiritual things – obedience, and communion with God – so that they may be presented lovely and desirable to the soul and this cursed enmity of sin will thus be weakened.

-John Owen

Sin, Sorrow, and the Joy of Christmas

The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year.  Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart.  Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are events that should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.

simon-zachrisson-483181-unsplash

If this was where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise?  Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.

evelyn-46598-unsplashChrist, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation.  Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas