Repentance is the tear of love, dropping from the eye of faith, when it fixes on Christ Crucified.
Repentance begins in the humiliation of the heart, and ends in the reformation of the heart and of the life. Sincere repentance is never too late, but late repentance is seldom sincere. The thief on the cross repented, and was pardoned in the last hour of his life. We have one such instance in scripture–that none might despair; and only one–that none might presume.
Still, however, the probability that apparent repentance which comes at a dying hour will be genuine, is very small. The following fact will furnish an affecting illustration of this sentiment, and a solemn warning against the too common delusion of deferring the work of repentance to a dying bed:
The faithful and laborious clergyman of a very large and populous parish had been accustomed, for a long series of years, to preserve notes of his visits to the afflicted, with remarks on the outcome of their affliction, whether life or death, and of the subsequent conduct of those who recovered.
He stated, that, during forty years, he had visited more than two thousand people apparently drawing near to death, and who revealed such signs of penitence as would have led him to indulge a good hope of their eternal safety if they had died at that moment.
When they were restored to life and health–he eagerly watched if they should bring forth fruits fit for repentance. But alas! of the some two thousand death-bed professions, only two people manifested an abiding and saving change! The rest, when the terrors of eternity ceased to be in immediate prospect, forgot their pious impressions and their solemn vows, and returned with new avidity to their former worldly-mindedness and sinful pursuits.
-Gorham Abbott, 1833
“Forgodly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death!” 2 Corinthians 7:10
“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” Luke 22:24
We see in this passage how firmly pride and love of preeminence can stick to the hearts of Christian men. The strife was one which had been rebuked by our Lord on a former occasion. The Lord’s Supper which the disciples had just been receiving, and the circumstances under which they were assembled–made the strife particularly inappropriate.
And yet at this very season, the last quiet time they could spend with their Master before His death, this little flock begins to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest!
Such is the heart of man–ever weak, ever prideful, ever ready, even at its best times, to turn aside to what is evil!
The sin before us is a very old one. Ambition, self-esteem, and self-conceit–lie deep at the bottom of all men’s hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected! Thousands imagine that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves. Few indeed can be found who rejoice heartily in another’s promotion over themselves.
If we make any profession of serving Christ, then let us live on our guard against this great evil. The harm that it has done to the Church of Christ, is far beyond calculation. Let us learn to take pleasure in the prosperity of others, and to be content with the lowest place for ourselves. The rule given to the Philippians should be often before our eyes, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” The example of John the Baptist is a bright instance of the spirit at which we should aim. He said of our Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
We first looked at J.I. Packers description of the Restless Experientialists. Now we move on to the entrenched intellectualist. May we avoid both extremes.
“Think now of the entrenched intellectualists in the evangelical world: a second familiar breed, though not as common as the previous type. Some of them seem to be victims of an insecure temperament and inferiority feelings, others to be reacting out of pride or pain against the zaniness of experientialism as they perceived it, but whatever the source of their syndrome the behavior-pattern in which they express it is distinctive and characteristic. Constantly they present themselves as rigid, argumentative, critical Christians, champions of God’s truth for whom orthodoxy is all. Upholding and defending their own view of that truth. Whether Calvinist or Arminian, dispensational or Pentecostal, national church reformist or Free Church separatist, or whatever it might be, is their leading interest, and they invest themselves unstintingly in this task. There is little warmth about them; relationally they are remote; experiences do not mean much to them; winning the battle for mental correctness is their one great purpose. They see, truly enough, that in our anti-rational, feeling-oriented, instant-gratification culture conceptual knowledge of divine things is undervalued, and they seek with passion to right the balance at this point. They understand the priority of the intellect well; the trouble is that intellectualism, expressing itself in endless campaigns for their own brand of right thinking, is almost if not quite all that they can offer, for it is almost if not quite all they have.”
In the next two posts I would like to quote J.I. Packer speaking of two different kinds of Christians we find in the church today because he does such a good job describing their key characteristics. They are two sides of a spectrum and both are problematic. My hope is that by looking at these, we might examine ourselves to see if we lean too heavily to one side or the other and find the balance that is found in the word of God.
“Those whom I call restless experientialists are a familiar breed, so much so that observers are sometimes tempted to define evangelicalism in terms of them. Their outlook is one of casual haphazardness and fretful impatience, of grasping after novelties, entertainments, and ‘highs’, and of valuing strong feelings above deep thoughts. They have little taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplined meditation, and unspectacular hard work in their callings and their prayers. They conceive the Christian life as one of exciting extraordinary experiences rather than of resolute rational righteousness. They dwell continually on the themes of joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction, and rest of soul with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7, the fight of faith of Psalm 73, or the ‘lows’ of psalms 42, 88, and 102. Through their influence the spontaneous jollity of the simple extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living, while saints of less sanguine and more complex temperament get driven almost to distraction because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner. In their restlessness these exuberant ones become uncritically credulous, reasoning that the more odd and striking an experience the more divine, supernatural, and spiritual it must be, and they scarcely give the scriptural virtue of steadiness a thought.”
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.
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.
Christ, 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.
“O, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!” -1 Chronicles 16:34
The annual Thanksgiving Day in America, has grown to be a national festival. It is a day of rejoicing. It summons all the people to gratitude. It is fitting that a people who have received untold blessings, should set apart one day on which all should recall their mercies, think of God as the Giver of all and express their grateful feelings in words of praise.
But it is not intended that the other three hundred and sixty four days shall be empty of thanksgiving, because one is named as an especial day of rejoicing. We cannot crowd into any one day—all the thanks of a year. Indeed, on no one day can we be grateful for another day. No one person can give thanks for a whole company of people. So no one day can give thanks for any but itself. All the days should be thanksgiving days. Any that is not, lacks something, and stands as imperfect days in the calendar. We are told that we may count that day lost in which we do no kindness to anyone. In like manner may be set down as a lost day that one in which no songs of gratitude rises from our hearts and lips to God.
Anybody can be thankful on one day of the year. At least it ought to be possible for even the most gloomy and pessimistic person to rouse up to grateful feeling, on the high tide of an annual Thanksgiving day. No doubt it is something to pipe even one little song in a whole year of discontent and complaining—the kind of living with which some people fill their years. God must be pleased to have some people grateful even for a few moments in a long period of time, and to hear them sing even once in a year. But that is not the way He would have us live. The ideal life is one that is always thankful, not only for a little moment on a particularly fine day. “Praise is lovely,” that is, beautiful—beautiful to God. The life which pleases Him is the one which always rejoices.
Nowhere in the Bible can we find either ingratitude or joylessness commanded or commended. All ungrateful feelings and dispositions are condemned. A great deal is said in disapproval of murmuring, discontent, worrying, and all forms of ingratitude. Again and again we are taught that joy is the keynote of a true life. It is not enough to rejoice when the sun shines, when all things are going well with us, when we are in the midst of prosperity; we are to rejoice as well when clouds hide the blue sky, when our circumstances seem to be adverse, or when we are passing through sufferings.
In one of the Psalms, the writer says: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” He had learned to sing in the hours of pain—as well as in the times of gladness. That is the way the Christian should live—nothing should hush his song or choke the voice of thanksgiving and praise.
The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.
Likewise, one who has been full of miserable discontents, utterly lacking in gratitude, gets a new Divine impulse, and one day is really grateful for a few moments. The impulse comes again, and again he let his life flow toward gratitude. Persisting in the disposition, his heart returns again and again to its gladness, until by and by it has been lured altogether away from the old beaten paths of discontent, discouragement, and unhappiness, and runs always in the ways of thanksgiving.
If we find that we have been leaving thanksgiving out of our lives, if we have been allowing ourselves to grumble instead of praise, if we have indulged in unhappiness instead of in gladness—we should instantly set about the breaking of a new path, a thanksgiving path. It will not be easy at first, for gloomy dispositions when long indulged persist in staying in our lives. But they can be conquered, and we should not pause in our effort until we have trained ourselves entirely away from everything that is cheerless and ungrateful, into the ways of joy and song.
There are many encouragements to a life of thanksgiving. For one thing, it makes life much happier. The person who indulges in fretting and complaining—is missing much that is loveliest, both in character and in experience. The tendency of such a life is toward gloom and depression, and these qualities in the heart soon show themselves on the face and in the manner. Light is the emblem of a beautiful life—but ingratitude is darkness rather than light. If we would be happy—we must train ourselves to be grateful. Ingratitude makes life dreary for us.
Another reason for cultivating the thanksgiving spirit, is because of its influence on others. Nobody loves a sullen person. We are exhorted to think of “whatever things are lovely,” and cheerlessness is not lovely. If we would have people like us, if we would attract them to us and have good influence over them—we must cultivate happiness in all our expressions. There are many people who have formed the habit of unhappiness. They may be good and honest—but they have not learned the lesson of gladness. And they are not helpful people. They are not diffusers of joy.
We are as responsible for our faces—as we are for our dispositions. If we go about with gloom on our countenances, we will cast shadows over others and make life harder for them. No one can be a real blessing to others, until he has mastered his gloom and has attained the thanksgiving face. No one can be of very much help to others, if he carries discontent and anxiety on his countenance. We owe it to our friends, therefore, as well as to ourselves, to form the habit of thanksgiving.
There are those who have learned this lesson so well, that wherever they go they make happiness. Their lives are blessings.
It ought not to be hard to train one’s self to be grateful. There would seem to be reason enough in every life, for continual thanksgiving. True, there are days when things may seem to go wrong—but it is only in the seeming. There is not doubt that all our circumstances bring blessings, which we may have if we will. The hardest experience of any day, enfolds in it, a gift from God—if only we receive it in faith and love. We think of the sunny days as being good days, and we call unpleasant weather bad. But if we understood it, we would know that God sends to the earth just as rich blessings in His clouds—as He does in His sunshine. The clouds bring rain, and after the rain all nature appears clothed in fresh beauty. A simple, childlike faith sees God in everything, and is ready always to give cheerful thanks, even when the reason for the thanksgiving may not be apparent.
Indeed, we shall some day see that many of the richest and best blessings of our lives, have come to us through experiences and circumstances which to us seemed adverse, and from which we shrank. There is an old promise which says that to those who love God—all things work together for their good. All we have to make sure of—is that we keep ourselves in the love of God. If we do this, everything which comes to us will bring its enriching in some way, and out of the painful things—our lives we will gather the best blessings and the deepest joys.
We shall not have many miles at the most—of the rough, steep road. In a few years we shall have gone over it all, and shall have come out into a place where there shall be nothing to vex or disturb us. And such gladness waits for us, such blessing, that one hour there—will make us forget all the sorrow and pain and toil of the way!
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” – Henry Ward Beecher
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” – A.W. Tozer
“Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.” – Jerry Bridges
“Ingratitude is the sepulcher of love.” -Unknown
“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord ” – John MacArthur
Gratitude to God makes even a temporal blessing a taste of heaven. -Unknown
“An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“When thou has truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent. But little time will then remain for murmur or lament.” -Hannah More
“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” – Henry Ward
“Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” -Matthew Henry (when he was robbed)
Ingratitude is never comely. The life that is always thankful is winsome, ever a joy to all who know it. -J.R. Miller
God is in control and therefore in everything I can give thanks. -Kay Arthur
“The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life. -Robert Louis Stevenson
“See that you do not forget what you were before, lest you take for granted that grace and mercy you received from God and forget to express your gratitude each day.” -Martin Luther
To increase in happiness in Christ’s service, labor every year to be more thankful. -J.C Ryle
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays the most or fasts the most, it is not he who lives the most, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” – William Law
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. -Psalm 107:8-9
Something seemed off from the beginning. There were four of us lined up in the back of the church to help serve the Lord’s Supper. Our church is not large, so I was surprised that I did not really know the other three. I recognized them, and I knew they were members of either the youth or college group, but I could not place them.
The music began, and we started walking down the center aisle toward the pastor who was leading the service. We walked passed approximately 100 people sitting on each side of us and reached the table. The pastor proceeded with the service and handed us the elements to distribute. This was all standard fare. There would be two of us for each side of the congregation. I took the plate of bread and started down to the first row on the south side, and my partner was already missing.
I managed to make the first couple rows work by myself, thanks to accommodating church-goers. That is when I looked to the back, and my fellow server was at the last row. He handed all the elements in the trays to them and walked out leaving the congregation on our side of the church to pass around the bread and cups themselves. I proceeded to serve at the front of the church while congregants at the back continued to pass the plates through the pews working their way forward.
By the time I was at the middle of the church, most of the bread was gone, and I saw some people even sharing their own tiny cups. The other two servers did slightly better, but it was all done without reverence. I was livid. Every passion of disgust and anger in by body was turned up to ten.
When I had finished attempting to salvage the situation, and my job was done, I went to look for them. I found them sitting on the counter in the bathroom laughing and clowning around. You can bet that I laid into them with every theological argument for the importance and seriousness of the Lord’s table that has ever been made. It was all at a fever pitch, and their indifference only lengthened the lecture. In the end, I had dispensed the facts just like the elements of communion. Everything I said was true, but my anger had made a mess of it.
After a few minutes of cooling down, I went to find them to apologize for my rage, but I also wanted to reiterate what a blessing the Lord ’s Table is to us as believers. I could only find one of them, and I saw pain in his eyes. It was the pain of longing that comes from wanting to be loved and have someone be proud of him, and he had partially hidden it behind a mask of unfazed rebellion. My heart began to break.
I told him, I was sorry for the anger in my tone, but I still believed every word I had said. He said his grandmother had asked him what had happened, and he told her, “Doug is way too serious to do any good in this church, just like you had said.” I immediately felt a tinge of offense at the thought that his grandmother had said that about me, but I also knew that this was his way of striking back. That is also when the knowledge that his parents had abandoned him came flooding back to me from somewhere in the recesses of my mind.
I knew I had done right and wrong all at the same time, so I launched into my second discourse. I let him know that I realized I had said some hard things to him, and biggest problem is that he did not know me enough to know that I only wanted what is best for him. Hard words rarely ever carry any weight unless you know they are given to you from a heart of love. So, I spent a few minutes getting to know him. It was a rough morning, but when it was all said and done, we had been through something difficult together. All the ice had been broken, and we were able to speak candidly with each other; without masks.
That is when I felt the pillow on the side of my face. My bleary eyes began to open, and I saw the clock reading 2:23 p.m. My Sunday afternoon nap had come to an end. As I lay there enjoying the breeze of the ceiling fan on my skin, still feeling the passion stirring in my soul from the events of the dream, I thought, “Maybe I was a little too focused on the wrong details of communion.”
You may know a sheep from a swine, when both have fallen into the same mire, and are, in fact, so bemired, that neither by coat nor color can the one be distinguished from the other.
How then distinguish them? Nothing more easy!
The sheep, a type of the godly, strives and struggles to get out of the muck.
But the swine, in circumstances agreeable to its nature, wallows in the filth.
What the true proverb says has happened to them: The dog returns to its own vomit, and the swine, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire. – 2 Peter 2:22
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:22- 25
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.