18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. Genesis 26:18
D.Martin Lloyd Jones uses this verse to illustrate the constant task facing Christians and the Church.
Isaac has little recorded about him in the book of Genesis. It seems he spent most of his time covering much the same ground and making the same mistakes as his father before him.
Abraham, his father had dug several wells for his vast flocks: after his death, the Philistines had come along and stopped up these wells with all sorts of rubbish.
Lloyd Jones uses this as an illustration of what happens to the visible church over the course of history.
How many false doctrines have been foisted onto the church as a result of modern Philistines throwing plausible and flesh-pleasing rubbish into the wells of spiritual truth and doctrine?
It is not just the Roman Catholics and their imitators with their mountains of unscriptural and dubious traditions and dogmas.
It is also the modern evangelical trying to repair the decline in church attendance with the landfill of worldly marketing methods, hype and glitz.
The substituting of the fizzy soft drink of unscriptural teaching for the “water of life”.
To unstop the wells of God’s truth and pour them forth to thirsty men and women, boys and girls, is a constant task for God’s people in this world where error and its peddlers are springing up everywhere.
The problem is that so many in the church know nothing more than the rank water which comes from the cracked cisterns that pervade much of the church today.
Many have no real thirst for the water that Jesus promises will “well up” within those who believe in Him.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
We need to pray for a real thirst for this water in our souls, and do our part to dig away the dirt which keeps us from it.
“Where the saints have trod”.
We also see that Isaac was no innovator; rather he was content to carry on in the same way and follow the same trails blazed out by his father before him.
It is true times change and sometimes we may find better ways to do things. However, in matters of faith, Christian doctrine and practice we have the way laid out before us.
We have God’s Word, Christ’s teaching and example to follow. We have the message of the Cross and salvation to proclaim and Christ-like living to exemplify.
To deviate from these fundamentals by watering them down and laying them aside shows we are not walking in the path the true saints of God have trod down through the ages and which our Saviour walked and marked out for us.
When we can see no continuation or resemblance between ourselves and the saints of God down through the ages we may well conclude we have gone astray.
Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16
Many of God’s ancient people would not walk in His way and many today are looking for short cuts which end up somewhere else. If we truly seek for it God will help us find it.
God says to us of the true and scriptural way.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Jeremiah 30:21 E.S.V
How we speak?
Among those things required in the Children of God is found the call to govern and modify our speech.
“4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”. Ephesians 5: 4
While we may be scrupulous in avoiding major sexual sins and behaviors, we can allow ourselves latitude in thought and speech. We little know how defiling our thoughts and speech may be to ourselves and others.
Spiritually speaking we all carry dynamite around with us. Our own physical desires and lusts if indulged can carry us we know not where if left to their own devices. It takes very little to set them off even if it be an unguarded word.
We are not aided by living in a world and society that sees no harm in sexual innuendo and immodest behavior and dress.
If we regard such things as peccadilloes and venial sins we can find ourselves opening the way for other unclean indulgences.
Whatever our view of these things, the apostle here takes a very serious view of the way we must speak and act. Negatively He calls upon us to avoid all such talking and jesting, while positively he commands us to substitute thanksgiving to God and by implication such like wholesome speech.
Were the average Christian so scrupulous in watching over his conversation, surely they would convict others and testify to the importance in his life of being obedient to Christ’s commands.
The life of God in the soul of man;
Is the title of a small work by Henry Scougal (1650-1677) . It deals with the true nature of Christianity and shows that it is not merely a matter of human effort or discipline but the result of the Holy Spirit’s entering into the soul of man, renewing every part and working through him.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 N.I.V.
The Christian life has been well described as a life of union and communion.
The “born again” believer has union with the living Christ and walks in newness of life.
While our fleshly sinful nature remains and still strives for mastery, we find a new principle within us, drawing us to follow Christ and walk in His ways: indeed we are being created anew.
Yes we stumble and fall, and sometimes we yield to the old sinful ways but they have lost their charms and we, like the prodigal son, long to return to fellowship with our Saviour.
The Christian also lives a life of communion with Christ.
There is no doubt that this communion is mysterious but it is no less real.
We hear Him speak through the Word, we see Him act through our obedience to His will and we know His presence through the help and guidance we receive day by day.
Even when we are blinded by worldly cares and anxieties or crippled by besetting fears we know that he abides with us still “ , because even “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13
To some this may seem “airy fairy” and self delusional but the mere fact of our seeking His face and believing and trusting in Him is evidence of God’s power within us.
The worldly wise sinner knows nothing of this. God is not in all his thoughts. He has not the slightest desire to know God or His ways. He has no desire for holiness and would indulge in sin to the full if not restrained by shame and fear of what his fellows would think.
To be a “Christian” runs counter to everything a man is in bondage to sin. For the Christ-less sinner, SELF is well and truly on the throne.
Man it is true, may sometimes deny and sacrifice self for lesser reasons but only a Christian can walk the path of self denial and holiness out of love for his God and Saviour. Only the Believer can cast away his self reliance and come to depend on Christ’s indwelling power.
Some may delude themselves as to the reality of the Divine indwelling within themselves. They do not bear the fruit that this indwelling inevitably brings forth. We should all examine ourselves as to this.
There is however the other extreme: that we come to the point in our lives, when we are at such a low spiritual ebb, in the midst of which, we see no evidence of the work of God within us at all.
The Puritans used to compare some Christian’s experience to a spark in the midst of the ocean.
To all intents and purposes, the spark cannot survive in the sea, it is under constant threat of being quenched yet there it is, feeble maybe but still glowing away.
Bunyan illustrated it by a man pouring water on a fire yet despite his efforts the fire blazes away. The pilgrim is taken behind the wall and another man is secretly pouring oil on the fire to keep it alive. The object lesson is that any spark of true spiritual life within us, despite everything in the World seeking to extinguish it, remains because God is keeping it alive and will cause it to burst into flame once more.
The Christian lives a life unlike anyone else in the World. Only he lives in harmony with the Creator of all things and knows God as his heavenly Father and Christ as Lord and friend.
So to my unbelieving reader I say ,if you would know life, know Christ.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. John 17:3 E.S.V.
Settling on the lees!
In Old Testament “speak” one of the usual illustrations of settling down and remaining undisturbed in spiritual life was to say that people were “settling on their lees”. Apparently because wine has amounts of sediment suspended in it, if it is left unused this sediment settles to the bottom and becomes the dregs. The implication is that this sedimentation does nothing for the flavor of the wine.
“And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with lamps; and I will punish the men that are settled on their lees, that say in their heart, Jehovah will not do good, neither will he do evil”. Zephaniah 1:12 A.S.V.
The Christian, if left undisturbed by what the Puritans called “the searching ministry of the Word” has a tendency to become complacent and self satisfied with his progress and spiritual state. When all is going along nicely the tendency is to lay back and enjoy the peace and quiet.
As I have mentioned before, everything in this modern world has the effect of sending the believer to sleep with regards to his spiritual state. We are also distracted by other concerns and interests so that we do not apply ourselves to the one thing needful.
This complacent state of being is one of the reasons why the state of Christianity is so low in the western world.
The cause of God in the World is from a human point of view lagging and declining because the average Christian is apathetic to holiness and the furtherance of the Kingdom by comparison to his interest in his own concerns and pleasures.
As also mentioned before, by comparison the zeal of the false Christian cults and fanatics from other religions leaves the average Christian believer in the shade.
True the cause of God will not fail in its purpose yet when you and I fail to serve and obey God to the utmost of our ability; we miss the blessing and suffer the decline which comes from our lack of zeal and effort.
The bold and faithful preaching of the Word of God was always the divine remedy for complacency and apathy in the people of God. The minister of the Word has a terrible responsibility if He fails in this duty. The hearer of the Word also must be open and willing to let the Word search and try him.
The desperate need of our times is for a revival of true scriptural zeal in the body of Christ to proclaim the gospel of Christ to a sinful world and revive the languishing Church.