Falling away!

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.1 John 2:19 N.I.V

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’Matthew 7:23

The evangelical church at the timing of writing this article is very concerned over the number of young people leaving the church. It seems that despite the church’s bending over backwards to be appealing to them they still drift away.https://i0.wp.com/www.transitionalleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/walking-away.jpg

(We may differentiate between turning away from Christ and leaving the church, but a churchless Christianity is a sorry situation.)

There are various reasons for people departing from the faith. The main one being the love of sin and this world, displacing any pretence of love for Christ.

Also it is sad to say that the church in its effort to get people in and appeal to the masses, has resorted to a watered down and sugar coated gospel that does not confront them with their sin and which does not exhort people to count the cost of following Christ. They supplement this with shallow and superficial worship styles which have little resemblance to the corporate worship of the “Body of Christ” in times past.

The church looks at the raised hand, a signature on a piece of paper, or a recited confession of faith instead of seeking a sound conversion and a changed life as a result of sound and full preaching of the Word of God.

The visible church has no on to blame but itself, if by using carnal and worldly methods they produce carnal and worldly Christians who fall away back into the world (because they most probably never left it).

I dare say that the result of any soul searching the church does will mean more attempts to make the worship services more exciting and “relevant” and “contemporary”. It will make the preaching of the gospel, if there is any, more appealing to the spirit of the times and the perceived needs of the attendees instead of the true desire to worship God and the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaim His Truth.

I have no doubt it will mean the music will be a lot louder.

Unreal professors of Christianity will always fall away. What is horrible, is when the professing Church falls away from the preaching of the unadulterated gospel “once delivered to the saints”…

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Falling away!

Here come the Assyrians!

One of the most feared “super powers” in the Old Testament was the Assyrian empire embodied by the great city of Nineveh. For ruthlessness and cruelty in war and the treatment of captives they earned a well deserved and horrific reputation.

Yet in the providence of God, as seen in the second chapter of Nahum, they were soon to come to the end of their chain.https://i0.wp.com/lparchive.org/An-Egyptian-in-Scotland/Update%204/eis54.jpeg

Many countries fell before them and Judah looked certain to be next, but God had other plans. They who had rejoiced in the plunder would themselves be plundered. The mighty Assyrian empire would be payed back in its own coin and disappear into oblivion and shame.

For many, God’s work in providence is a great and perplexing deep. The Assyrians were followed by the Babylonians, the Babylonians by the Medo-Persians and so on and so forth through history. For every time of Blessing there was a time of trouble and trembling.

It does seem that God uses the “carrot and the stick” to bring His people into line. He gives great and precious promises to obedience and sometimes needs to send the Black dogs of sorrow and strife to bring His people back from their sinful wanderings and errors.

Lest we relegate this method of God’s working to Old Testament times, we should look at the history of the church up till the present day. How many great persecutions of the Church were there in the past and still happening today?

Trials and tribulations are necessary to purify the church from worldliness and doctrinal error. The professing people of God often lapse into a merely nominal Christianity marked by an attitude of just going through the motions.

The preaching of the Word gets replaced by gaudy ceremony and superstition or a sensual flesh pleasing worship devoid of substance.

The intercessory priesthood of Christ replaced by the money grubbing intercession of priests, angels and saints or as we see today a quid pro quo relationship with God.

How quickly is the synagogue of Satan foisted on ignorant people in place of the body of Christ?

Viewing much of the visible church at this time we are certainly due for a Divine wakeup call because of our prevailing love of ease and pleasure and selfishness, while the cause of God and truth languishes throughout the world.

I fear there may be some modern day “Assyrians” on the horizon. Yet we know that those who are true to Christ and are saints indeed will be preserved in life and death through His unfailing love.

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“Many have passed the rocks of gross sins – who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.”

– William Secker

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Someone asked George Whitefield whether he thought to see John Wesley in Heaven. Whitefield replied ” I do not think we will”. The man turned away thinking he recieved the reply he wanted. Whitefield continuedImage result for george whitefield

“The reason we will not see John Wesley in Heaven is because you and I will be so far away from Christ’s throne and he will be so near it ,that he will be lost in the radiance of Christ”.

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Here come the Assyrians!

Who’s pulling the Strings?

When I was little, my favourite TV shows were two British “ marionette “ shows, “Andy Pandy” and the “Flower pot” men.Image result for andy pandy waving goodbye These dolls, with strings attached, existed in an age without computer generated animation.

Today they would appear naïve and amateuristic, yet to a small child they were entrancing. The  Puppet-eers were able to impart a convincing semblance of life to these inanimate dolls.Image result for andy pandy waving goodbye

In fact the memory of “Andy Pandy”,”Teddy” and “Looby Loo” waving goodbye at the end of the show still brings a tear to my eye.https://alan001946.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/flower-pot-men.jpg?w=660

There is an idea current in the minds of Christians that if they can reach some high spiritual state and empty themselves and by placing their brains into neutral, that God will enter in take control, much like the puppeteer controls the puppet. Is this really the case?

If we look at the Holy Spirits’ work in inspiring the writers of the various books of the Bible, we find it hard to believe that the works they produced were done in this manner.

While the books of the Bible give clear evidence of Divine handiwork they also show the hand of human authorship with individual style and characteristics.

Paul does not write like John, Isaiah is not an earlier version of Jeremiah etc.

We see people clearly used of God yet not losing themselves in the process.

The Apostle Paul when reluctantly recounting His experience of exaltation to third heaven,  where he saw and heard things he could not describe or understand, gives clear evidence that his mind was still functioning, although it was out of its depth.

Our age in the church is full of people seeking these heightened spiritual experiences, and very often as a result of leaving their minds  and understandings behind, are fooled by Satan’ counterfeits.

Whatever way God reveals himself to a follower of Christ, it is not like a marionette, but is in us and through us and with us.

We are made willing “in the day of his power”.

Also God’s Holy Spirit never acts contrary to the Word of God which He himself inspired. He cannot contradict himself.

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Thomas Manton Quote

Who’s pulling the Strings?

Without a Trace???

“Of this blessed man, let this just praise be given. Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.”Isaac Walton( author of the Compleat Angler) writing of Sibbes.

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) was a famous Anglican Puritan.  When James Nicholls asked Alexander B. Grosart to edit his sermons and writings for an edition in the 19 century, Grosart searched for materials to write a short biography of this remarkable man.

Unfortunately, He wrote very little about himself and his contempories did not see it necessary to write any sort of account of his life.

So Alexander Grosart sifted the records of the time and mentions in other works etc. to piece together a short account of Sibbe’s life and times.

Maybe if one is famous, a person will leave a mark on history, and there will be some record of their life and times. For most however all that is left is a date of birth and death and maybe the name of his wife and children. Some people disappear from history as if they never existed.

For most of us, the mark we leave on history is negligible and no one would take the time to research or learn about us.

Perhaps our case is that of the old saw, “Where he’s gone and how he fares, nobody knows and nobody cares.”

Yet for the believer, he is never lost from the memory of Christ. Every member of his flock, no matter how insignificant to the world, is in His gaze.

The unmarked grave, the ashes of the martyr’s fire and the depths of the sea cannot hide the earthly remains of the member of Christ’s body.

The great Resurrection will vindicate the fact that many great and famous people, whom crowds idolized and were long remembered, will not be counted as highly as the poorest and humblest believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Forsaking all.

Putting ourselves in the position of a devout Jew in the time of Jesus, we can only imagine what was involved in espousing this self appointed Rabbi from Nazareth and what it meant in day to day existence. (The Jews of today still have the same difficulty).

For the rank and file of the people it was easy to be carried along by the crowded throng that was enraptured by Christ’s parables and astounded by his unique and undeniable miracles.

For all of what they saw and heard ,it was still possible for many to avoid giving to much thought to the implications of who Christ was and the object of his earthly ministry.

As long as there was a chance that he would get rid of the Romans and they could get a free feed and maybe some physical healing they stayed on the “band wagon”.

The minute Jesus taught things which did not accord with their hopes and world view then they began to have second thoughts and walked no longer with  him. The time of wine and roses was well and truly over.

The arrest and crucifixion confirmed them in the wisdom of getting out while the getting was good.

For the more devout among them, came the discovery that following and believing in Jesus was to mean a departure from much of what made the Jews who they were as a people. There was going to be a real diverging of the ways and although it took a while to happen it was already in the process.

It meant separation from friends and relatives, rethinking what the Rabbis and scribes drummed into them and revering Jesus and trusting His word more than that of the Pharisees. It meant the Temple which was the centre of Jewish life was to be so no longer for the believer in Jesus, and that the sacrificial system was not the divine remedy for sin and guilt anymore.

Christ himself was to become all  the temple represented.

For the Jew this was a heart rending ordeal and paradigm shift.

If anyone has doubts that it takes nothing less than the power of God to renew the heart and convert the soul, imagine what a drastic change had to be brought about before your devout synagogue and temple going, patriotic Jew became a humble ,gentile accepting, worshipper of Jesus Christ.

We of this day and age may have different difficulties and prejudices to overcome and yet it still takes nothing less than a new heart and a divinely renewed mind to come to faith in Christ. This does not excuse us however from urgently seeking God by his Holy Spirit to work the power of the “New Birth” and grace to repent from sin and plant faith into our hearts.

To Him alone be the glory.

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Whenever heaven has been opened to the view of man, its inhabitants have been seen with their faces veiled and bowing before the throne of God. And all acceptable worship upon earth proceeds from the humble and contrite, who tremble at His Word. (Charles Hodge “The way of life”.)

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Without a Trace???

The Avenging God!

The Description of God painted by the Prophet Nahum in the first chapter of his prophecy is one that we constantly need to be reminded of in this day and age. Whereas He is almost universally proclaimed solely as a God of love, we need to be reminded that He is also a God to whom judgment belongs.

We have gone a long way to throw a wall between God as revealed in the Old Testament and God as He is in the New. No such wall will ever stand with the truth. He is the same in every age and eternally.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
    the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
    and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Nahum 1:2-3 E.S.V

The Lord God knows nothing of the petty jealousy that blights the relationships of sinful men. Rather His jealousy is for the honour and glory of his holy name, the welfare of His chosen people and just retribution against those who would strike at Him through them.

The fact that God has wrath and takes vengeance on wrongdoers and persecutors does not negate but rather illuminate His love, firstly, showing it to be a love of justice motivated by Holiness and secondly a love of mercy shown to all who genuinely seek it and are undeserving of it.

The fact that God’s vengeance is slow reveals both its mercifulness and its terror. It gives the opportunity for consideration and repentance but makes it more terrible when it finally falls.

The Lord’s anger is no impotent threat but is backed by infinite power. The unrepentant guilty will not escape judgment, neither here or hereafter, as all creation is under God’s Lordship and control ,to use both to bless and to curse.

Who would be foolish enough to be God’s adversary?

Who can stand before his indignation?
    Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
    and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. Nahum 1:6 E.S.V

As it was then so it is now, many would defy God and scoff at His chosen people. They boast of their knowledge and power compared with the seeming feebleness of people of God. However every earthquake or volcanic eruption should remind them that power belongs to God alone and He will aid and rescue His people in their extremity.

The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
    But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries, [a]
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness. Nahum 1:7-8

Like the cloud described in Exodus 14:20 The Word of God has a dark side to His enemies and a gloriously bright side towards His own people. To them He is a mighty fortress giving security come what may. His eye looks with contempt on those who would oppose Him, but He looks upon His chosen with nothing but tenderness and Fatherly care.

The same Warrior who will fully and finally overthrow His enemies will defend and deliver the Church of the firstborn.

No matter how carefully and cunningly they plot, no matter how many they gather together, God will prevail and bring their work to nothing. Those who would enslave the people of God and replace Him with vile nothings will be utterly cut off.

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off.Nahum 1: 15

For the people of God, His victory is good news and lasting peace.

With the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the promise is sent to the entire world that they who will come to Him as Lord and Saviour, even though they were in the past his enemies, may partake in the peace and victory promised.

Beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring such good news.

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Image result for burkitt commentatorWilliam Burkitt 1650-1703

Spurgeon says of William Burkitt the Bible commentator, whom he read as a young man, that while he no longer valued his work as highly, yet he would have been sorry not to have had his acquaintance through his work.

It is true that as we grow older and more mature in our Christian life that we sometimes part ways with the authors and guides we read and admired in our youth. Our views change and they no longer speak to us as once they did.

In my own case I was an avid reader of people like Watchman Nee and F.B. Meyer and various others but now seldom refer to or read them. Despite this I would have been sorry to have missed my period of reading their works.

Where I found them in error, I sought other sounder authors: What was useful and helpful I remain grateful for.

In whatever ways we have changed over the years in the words of Hebrews 6: 1 “Let us go on.”

The Avenging God!

The Great Hunger!

(This is not intended to be an in depth study of this period but merely a brief description of a terrible time in long sad history)

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I have begun to read a book on the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s.

The condition of Ireland was very bad even before the famine began.

The only resource the people had, was the land and the easiest thing to grow on the wide variety of soil types in Ireland, was the potato of which they only grew one variety.

Irish manufacturing was being overwhelmed by cheap English imports. The fishing industry was so poor they could not afford the salt for preserving the fish.

Most poor Irish were tenants at the will and whim of their landlords. Any money they spent to improve their land benefited the land owners rather than themselves.

Families to help their children gave them portions of their land and the result was small parcels of land which were to all intents and purposes unviable. To squeeze more rents landlords used middlemen to raise more and more rent from smaller and smaller pieces of land.

Some people rented many such portions but they were so far apart from each other that utilizing them profitably was nigh impossible.

The worst problem was what was called “the hanging gale”, these meant payments of rents were suspended for six months or so by the landlord and very often when the time came the tenant had no money to pay it and his farm was taken off him.

With the failure of the potato crop, the British government brought maize from the United States to feed those facing starvation. Unfortunately it was slow getting to them. The majority of poor people in Ireland subsisted on Potatoes not bread. There was virtually no capability to mill the maize. Only those suffering directly as result of the potato blight were entitled to the meager government help. No allowance was made for the grinding poverty already rampant.

Most of the Government’s other measures were totally inadequate.

They had tried to treat the potato tuber chemically so that it could be used but nothing worked and they so the whole potato crop ended up as a slimy mush.

Another controversy was that Ireland still exported food while its people starved to death this caused more bitterness ever after.

This is to be balanced by the fact that most of the common people had no idea how or means to cook the foodstuffs that Ireland exported, living conditions were so primitive at the time. Pamphlets had to be distributed to show how to cook the Maize that was distributed.

The result of all this was the worst famine in Irish history, deaths and mass immigration to the U.S. and other parts of the world and certainly Australia.

While I have no sympathy with Roman Catholicism and its bigotry and superstition, I would not wish this terrible suffering on anyone.

I myself have an Irish ancestor born in 1825, who may have fled to Australia because of this famine.

The estimates as to the death toll vary considerably but may be about one million, both from starvation or disease.

Starvation and the diseases which attend it are still common, especially in Africa. We who have more than enough to eat and waste so much cannot conceive of such terrible want.

The Christian should always be concerned for the physical well-being of others. We should do what we can to help others in dire circumstances.

However well fed and healthy the body, it will fail at last and perish, the human soul will not,  it is a greater concern that the soul of man be delivered from the deserved consequences of its sin and brought to a saving knowledge and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Christian’s sustenance is by feeding on Christ by faith and The Word of God.These two things are inseparable and support our spiritual health and growth. Faith comes by the Word and grows as a result.

The worst thing that can happen is there to be a famine of preaching and reading the Word. We become stunted and gaunt if we do not receive constant supplies of our spiritual food.

This can happen when the Word is processed to become more palatable and becomes akin to white bread, we can live on it but a great deal of its nutritional value is lost.

Worst still when the Word of God is not read or preached at all and we starve spiritually.

We can also starve ourselves by neglecting reading the Bible and sound and helpful books.

We become fastidious or unable to digest wholesome food and subsist on the equivalent of “junk food”.

We must avail ourselves of God’s provision for us while we have it because the day may come when it will be in short supply.

By study of the Word and prayer we draw near to He who is the Bread of life.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 6:36

Are we as believers hungry for Christ the Bread of Life?

 

A Reasonable Conclusion!

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

If Jesus had compassion on them, the chances are if YOU come to Him He will have compassion on you!

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The Great Hunger!

The land of the Pharaohs.

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Whether it is a film or documentary about Egypt there has always been a fascination with things Egyptian and its history.

They were advanced in Science, mathematics, astronomy and of course architecture. On the other hand they worshipped abominable things and had a ridiculous number of bizarre gods. They believed in an afterlife but it was little better than this one except for the exceeding rich.

Whether it is going back to the “pyramid power” in the seventies or the ankhs, mini Sarcophagi or other imitation artifacts, the “New Age” has grasped with enthusiasm the false mysticism that attaches itself to all things Egyptian.

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What has the God of the Bible to say about all this? The fact is He said it all in the first few chapters of the Book of Exodus. In Exodus chapters 7 to 14  God attacks and defeats the so called gods of Egypt on their home ground. Whether it is the great river Nile or the lowly, creepy crawly, creatures they worshipped, they discover time after time that the mastery of creation and life and death belongs solely to the God of Israel, who is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God vindicated his lordship and sole claim to worship when the firstborn of Egypt were slain while the firstborn of Israel were untouched and when the mighty host of Pharaoh perished in the Red sea.

So when you see Egyptian decorations around the place remember that the god’s of the nations are naught and not worthy of comparison with our great God and Saviour.

C.H. Spurgeon and  Bishop J.C.Ryle

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“I am not a bit ashamed to say that I often read the sermons of Mr. Spurgeon . Mr Spurgeon can preach most ably, and he proves it by keeping his enormous congregation together. We ought always to examine and analyze sermons which draw people together. Now when you read Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons note how clearly and perspicuously he divides a sermon, and fills each division with beautiful and simple ideas. How easily you grasp his meaning! How thoroughly he brings before you certain great truths, that hang to you like hooks of steel, and which, once planted in your memory, you never forget.” cited Simplicity in Preaching by Bishop J.C. Ryle

 

Spurgeon for his part said of Ryle;”There is good Mr. Ryle, an indefatigable Tractarian, who hates Romish Tractarianism, and preaches the gospel thoroughly and there are many, like him the excellent of the earth, distinguished for piety, who would be an honor to any denomination of Christians: a believer in Jesus feels much comfort in such company;”https://i1.wp.com/www.tracts.ukgo.com/images/ryle18.png

Though from very different churches, they recognized in each other the fellowship which in Christ Jesus is between all true believers.These two men stood almost alone against the respective spiritual decline and apostasy of much of their denominations. Would that were more men like them now.

The land of the Pharaohs.