LORD, SHOW ME MYSELF AND SHOW ME MY SAVIOR!

The following post is from a piece written by Matthew Mead in his book, The Almost Christian, 1661 on The Unchangeable Method of God in dealing with sinners and drawing them to Himself in Christ.  Be blessed!

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32. That is—such as see themselves as sinners, and thereby in a lost condition.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

God will have the soul truly sensible of the bitterness of sin—before it shall taste the sweetness of mercy.  The plough of conviction must go deep, and make deep furrows in the heart, before God will sow the precious seed of grace there—so that it may have depth of earth to grow in. Continue reading “LORD, SHOW ME MYSELF AND SHOW ME MY SAVIOR!”

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners[1] – A Book Review

John Bunyan is best known around the globe for his classic work, Pilgrim’s Progress ($0.99 on Amazon Kindle) which is deservingly the most popular and influential book in Christendom (aside from the Bible).  However, a sad consequence of this, is the fact that Bunyan’s other works have been greatly eclipsed by the popularity that Pilgrim’s Progress has enjoyed over the centuries.  Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography) is one such work.  In my view this book (just like Pilgrim’s Progress) is a must-read for all Christians.

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (FREE on Amazon Kindle) gives the reader some insight into the life abandoned to the saving and sanctifying grace of God.  One is impressed by the graciousness of the grace of God and how He relentlessly pursues His children.  In this autobiography, Bunyan does what should be natural for every child of God.  He sincerely diminishes himself and gratefully magnifies the grace of God reminiscent of John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  One cannot help but see 1 Timothy 1:15 written all over his life.

Bunyan is not ashamed to talk of his former life of sin and rebellion against God, but he does not celebrate it.  On the contrary, he mourns and grieves over that and reaches for grace of God for his soul’s salvation, sanctification and solace.  He clings to the LORD even as He clings to him.  I personally find Bunyan’s view of sin very convicting.  I am ashamed that I do not loathe my sin as I should.  Bunyan saw sin for what it really is, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of the Law of God” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q & A 14).  Sin is a direct offense against the holy God!  I wonder if this is your view of sin.  May the Lord be merciful to us!

Another thing that stands out in Bunyan’s life after he became a Christian is the account of his spiritual struggles.  He struggled so much with getting assurance of his salvation.  While some have dismissed this as merely a result of too much introspection, I think it is an indictment on all of us in the Church of Jesus Christ today.  While we may have a high view of God and of the efficacy and sufficiency of His grace, we have a low view of sin.  As a result, our thoughts and lives are often in danger of gravitating towards and bordering on antinominianism.

However, the Lord graciously minister’s to Bunyan’s need for assurance through His holy Word as He always does.  In Bunyan’s life, this came through the instrumentation of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians.  Regarding this, Bunyan writes:

The God in whose hands are all our days and ways one day brought into my possession a book by Martin Luther.  It was his commentary on Galatians.  It was so old that, if so much as turned it over, it was ready to fall to pieces.  I was so pleased that such an old book had fallen into my hands that when just a few pages into it, I found my condition so comprehensively described by Luther’s experience, it was as if his book had been written from my own heart (p. 72-73).

He further writes, “apart from the Holy Bible, I consider this commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther to be the best of all the books that I have ever seen for a wounded conscience” (p. 73).

Reading Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners will truly open your eyes to the depth of your sin and the immeasurable greatness and abundance of the saving, sanctifying and comforting grace of God through Jesus Christ.  You will better understand what Paul understood when he wrote, “It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).  I am yet to come across another autobiography of the soul-searching, soul-nourishing candor and stature as Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.  I hope that you will get your own copy soon (if you don’t already have one) and that you will read and re-read this wonderful story of the abounding grace of God in the life of John Bunyan.

For those who may be interested to delve into Bunyan’s other writings, I recommend The Complete Works of John Bunyan, published by the Banner of Truth Trust (ASIN:  B0007F9CPM).  Soli deo Gloria!


[1] Bunyan, John, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Evangelical Press, Auburn, 2000

What Constitutes Saving Faith? Part 1

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q & A 86).

I thank the Lord for yet another opportunity to consider with you the important truths taught us in His Word on the gospel.  Today (as promised yesterday), I plan to discuss the question:  “What is saving faith?”   While I will not be able to discuss this subject exhaustively, I do hope however that I will be able to do so sufficiently with the Lord’s help.

Common Faith vs Saving Faith:  Before going any further, I would like to point out an important distinction which is implied in the question that I seek to discuss – namely, the distinction between common faith and saving faith.  The very fact that we can ask this question suggests to us that there is a kind of faith which is not saving otherwise the question would be redundant and senseless.  If all faith is saving, then there is no need to talk about “saving faith.”  But the fact of the matter is that not all faith is saving.  Therefore, it is very important that we delineate and distill the distinction between common and saving faith, as best as we can, under the faithful guidance of the Holy Scriptures.

Common faith is natural and dead.  It does nothing for sinners and offers nothing to them.  Saving faith however is supernatural and alive.  It saves sinners by graciously offering them Jesus Christ through the gospel.  Each one of us needs to stop and examine ourselves to see whether we have common or saving faith.  Any cursory reading of the Scriptures warns us of the danger and deception of common faith.  We read of many who “believed” but had no saving faith.  Consider King Agrippa in Acts 26; or the hearers whom Christ compares to the rock in the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:6; or the multitudes who believed in the Name of Jesus when they saw the miracles which he performed in John 2:23, etc.  Although it could be rightly said that these “believed,” the Bible says that “Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24).

Saving faith is different from common faith both in its nature and essence.  According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel” (Q & A 86).  What a helpful definition and summary of what the Scriptures teach on saving faith!  A close examination of the teaching of Scripture suggests to at least the following five things about saving faith:

Firstly, saving faith is intended for God’s elect.  The LORD God has ordained from all eternity those who will be saved “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:1-14).  These are the true subjects of saving faith.  All of God’s elect have been chosen by God in Christ from the foundation of the world.  Therefore, these will come to Him and find life in Jesus’ Name (Acts 13:48; John 6:37).

Secondly, saving faith is invoked by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works this faith in the hearts of God’s elect.  The Bible tells us that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Saving faith is “the gift of God” given to those who were once spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Paul calls the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of faith” in 2 Corinthians 4:13.

Thirdly, saving faith is inspired by the Word of God.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  The Word read or preached is by God’s appointment, the chief means by the Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of His elect.  He uses the Word to draw sinners to Himself for their salvation.  A classic example of how this happens is recorded for us in Acts 16:14 concerning Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”  This was most definitely the work of the Holy Spirit.

Fourthly, saving faith inclines one’s heart toward Christ.  Saving faith is Christ-centered.  It supernaturally bends one’s heart Christ-ward.  By His Spirit, through the Word, the Lord God is pleased to open the eyes of His elect to His glory in Jesus Christ and He becomes their singular delight and passion.  “…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

Fifthly, saving faith initiates a lasting spiritual transformation in the life of the believer.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  Also in Hebrews 12:14 we read, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Saving faith will necessarily and gradually produce holiness in the life of the believer.  “You shall be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; Matthew 5:44; 1 Peter 1:16).  Ephesians 1:4 tells us that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…”  I like what William Gurnall says on this:

Mark, not because He foresaw that they would be of themselves holy, but that they should be holy; this was that God resolved He would make them to be.  Consider it is not necessary that thou shouldst be rich; but it is necessary thou shouldst be holy, if thou meanest to be happy.  You may travel to heaven with never a penny in your purse, but not without holiness in your heart and life also.

AMEN!

Please look out for Part 2 of “What Constitutes Saving Faith?” tomorrow, Lord willing!  Resting in Christ!

“Not Ashamed of the Gospel”

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

Over the next few days, I would like to focus our discussion on the gospel.  A few days ago, I posted some videos by John PiperMichael Horton, and Jefferson Bethke talking about this very important subject.  I encourage you to revisit them if you haven’t already or if you simply don’t have enough time to read this blog.  But I hope that you will take some time to consider with me Paul’s words recorded for us in Romans 1:16-17.

“Not Ashamed of the Gospel” – Paul begins verse 16 by making this bold statement that he is “not ashamed of the gospel.”  O, how we need such courage and bravery today.  It is a terrible blight in our day that there are not enough men whose backbones are strong enough to stand up for anything.  There are not enough men who are bold enough to stand up for their convictions regardless of the cost!  That’s tragic!  Paul was a different kind of man.  It is worth noting that he was writing these words from Rome where he had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel before his death!  Even though he knew that this bold statement would be considered outrageous by many in his day and that it would get him into further trouble, nothing could stop him from declaring his position on the gospel.  He was unstoppable!  He was the kind of person who would just make his opponents mad!  They couldn’t silence him!  For as long as he could breathe, he was determined to make this gospel known to the nations!

A Bold Statement:  The gospel “is the power of God for salvation!”  Here is the crux of the matter!  The reason Paul was so bold and unstoppable with respect to the gospel was because he so believed that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” for all men (Jews and Gentiles alike).  Paul had been given this conviction by the Holy Spirit.  He once was lost but now was found.  Once, he was blind to the glories of the gospel and its liberating power through Jesus Christ.  But now he could see because the Lord was pleased to remove the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:1-19).  He personally experienced this very truth – that the gospel is indeed the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (emphasis added). 

A Sincere Confession:  Some background to Paul’s life as a Jew would be helpful here because for him as a Jew, this was not only a bold statement.  It was also a sincere confession.  As a Jew, he had been taught that his salvation rested in his personal obedience to the Torah and all its stipulations as set forth at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19).  He once considered himself “blameless” with respect to “righteousness under the law” (Philippians 3:6).  Paul, with permission from the Jewish high priest, was determined to persecute Christians.  Any good Jew, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for sinners, was a “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:22).  Anyone who endeavored to preach this gospel was not only weak but also a great enemy to the entire Jewish establishment.  But when Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he was radically changed and by the grace of God, he wholeheartedly embraced the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for himself!

First, the focus of his life changed!  From that point on, he learned to “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).  From a purely legalistic, moral and physical perspective, Paul had more than enough reasons to boast (glory) in the flesh.  Yet, he considered all that “loss for the sake of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:7).   In verse 8 of Philippians 3, Paul refers to this as “refuse” or “dung!”  That’s how disgusted he was with his own righteousness according to the law?  Why?  Was it because the law is bad?  Of course not!  In Romans 7, Paul himself makes a very strong defense of the law.  No!  It was not because Paul thought that the law was bad.  Rather, it was because Paul had discovered that his “righteousness according to the law” was like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before God.  He realized that all those “good things” (i.e. his Jewish descent and his adherence to the law), were not good enough to commend him before God for salvation (Philippians 3:1-14).

Secondly, the passion of His life changed!  He was willing even to suffer for the sake of this gospel.  He was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ had now become the singular passion of his life as he himself writes in Philippians 3:8-9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (emphasis added).  That was Paul’s confession as a changed Jew!  Praise be to the Lord for that!

So when Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17, he knows exactly what he is talking about because he was personally a beneficiary of this wonderful gospel of God’s grace.  He wants to tell us that God has put His saving power in His gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and not anywhere else!  Thus, we may safely conclude that salvation does not, cannot and will not come to us (as sinful creatures) through any other way but through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which tells us that nothing in us or about us can commend us before God for salvation.  Even our very best deeds, are “like filthy rags” before God, yes “dung” – so ugly, worthless and disgusting!  But thanks be to God that that’s not the end of the story!

“The Just Shall Live By Faith”- By trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given a new (yes, a REAL) righteousness, a “righteousness from God!”  Paul writes, “For in it (in the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (parenthesis added) – Romans 1:17.  In other words, this gospel announces to us that a new kind of righteousness which does not depend on us but on God Himself is being offered to sinners like you and me!  This gospel announces to us release from bondage to the law.  This gospel calls us to trust God for our salvation.  This gospel offers us salvation by faith alone in Christ alone!  This gospel is the world’s best news!  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)!   We need to hear and believe it as does every person on the face of the earth!  As it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  It’s only by trusting in Jesus Christ that one is saved from sin and from the eternal wrath of God.  That’s why the gospel also called “Good News!”  Praise the Lord through Jesus Christ!

In my next post, I plan to move our discussion on this important subject along.  Lord willing, I shall attempt to answer the question, “What Constitutes Saving Faith?”

Rejoicing in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!  I pray that you are too!  See you tomorrow, God willing!