“What is Preaching?” by Ian Hamilton

I have been privileged to meet Ian Hamilton. He is a godly man, a gifted writer, and an excellent speaker. He is gracious as well. One of my favorite parts of Ian Hamilton is his prayers. However, in the monthly Banner of Truth Magazine, Mr. Hamilton asks and answers the question, “What is preaching?”

Of course, in these days, everyone has a variety of opinions on what preaching is. Hamilton offers five clarifications, based upon 2 Timothy 4:2, that I believe are helpful and needed.

“FIRST, PAUL HIGHLIGHTS THE ESSENTIAL CONTENT OF PREACHING”


Hamilton writes, “Many Christians are languishing spiritually because they are being starved of the teaching that alone can build them up in their most holy faith.” (2) This almost seems axiomatic, but sadly, it is not. Preaching is not about our lives, it is about Scripture’s implications for our lives. Preaching is not about stories, it is about the Story. Preaching must stem from God’s Word.

“SECOND, PAUL HIGHLIGHTS THE URGENT NATURE OF PREACHING”


Preaching should be urgent, because it is an eternal life-or-death matter. If people are to hear the Gospel, it must be preached with urgency. It is not story time with the preacher. It is preaching Christ, and Him crucified. Again, Hamilton offers stinging words, “Humour that is designed to put the hearers at their ease and placard the personality of the preacher should be avoided like the plague!” (5)

“THIRD, WHOEVER THEN IS CALLED, LIKE TIMOTHY, TO PREACH THE WORD IS TO DO SO NOT CASUALLY, FLIPPANTLY, DISPASSIONATELY


There is an inherent importance in preaching. If you were to browse through some of the more popular preachers today, you would find the exact opposite of this. Preachers will do all sorts of acrobatics and theatrics to help “bring home the message.” But this flippant manner demeans the glorious Gospel message.

“FOURTH, PAUL HIGHLIGHTS THE PRESSING PASTORAL APPLICATION THAT LIES AT THE HEART OF AUTHENTIC GOSPEL PREACHING”


Hamilton clarifies, “The ultimate aim in preaching the word is not merely to inform and educate the hearers’ minds, but to see their lives transformed increasingly into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29, God’s ultimate purpose for his people.” (5)

Fifth (?) “IT IS ONLY TOO EASY TO BE DISTRACTED AND DIVERTED FROM THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY” (7)


I put a question mark on this one because it was not as clear. However, the point deserves to be included here due to its emphasis. The preacher’s work is ministry, and more than helping the homeless, meeting with people in the community, and other such duties, the preacher is first and foremost, a preacher.

Excerpts from The Banner of Truth Magazine, June 2018

I would encourage you to subscribe to The Banner of Truth magazine. This June 2018 edition is marvelous (as are all of them).

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Helpful Resources for Longevity in Ministry

I have only been in ministry for a few years, but I am extremely blessed to have been connected with some helpful resources. Maybe you have been in ministry for many years, but you are experiencing difficult times. Or, like me, you have been in for 5-10 years. You may even be heading toward the ministry. Either way, we can all use these encouraging resources. Like piling wood for the cold months, stock pile these resources to keep your souls hot and your churches on fire.

9 Marks


9 Marks is a wonderful ministry with a variety of resources. Mark Dever has been working to help reform the church for over twenty years. His work, along with many other faithful men and women, has provided an abundance of resources (many of them free) dealing with a plethora of ministry issues.

One message, in particular, is Pray for Slow Growth, by Aaron Menikoff. In it he deals with reasons pastors and church leaders should actually pray for slow growth. If you are more of a reader, here is the article.

Desiring God


Much like 9 Marks, Desiring God, began by John Piper, is filled with many sermons, lectures, e-books, and articles. Each sermon contains a full-transcript, which allows easier consumption of more difficult concepts.

Banner of Truth


The Banner of Truth Trust is a wonderful provider of biblical books. I have yet to purchase a book from the Trust that is not worth its weight in gold (and I do mean this literally). In addition to providing excellent resources, they also host an annual conference (in the US) for the west and east coasts, respectively. I have been to two of them, and I always leave spiritually refreshed, challenged, and with an arm full of books!

 

There are numerous other resources that are available, and many of them are free. I am thankful that God provides such wisdom through gift men and women. May they be a blessing and encouragement to you.

3 Encouragements from God’s Sovereignty

Doctrine leads to practice. This is a truth that many in the church today have apparently forgotten. I have been sitting with fellow church members from various congregations who informed me that doctrine is boring, lifeless, and impractical. Like decorative pillows that are taken off before bed and placed back upon waking, people see doctrine in the same light.

I have also heard people, including pastors, say that theology and doctrine do not really matter. This, according to Scripture, is absurd. For the sake of space, we will simply look at one example. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul writes, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (ESV) Jesus is Lord is a doctrinal statement. Of course, there are contextual issues that are involved with Paul’s mentioning of this, but it illustrates that without doctrine, we have nothing.

Theology proper (that which focuses on God) tells us that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. This information is gleaned from the sacred Scriptures. But this information, or doctrine, has profound implications. If God has all-power, there is no problem that you and I will face that He is unable to address. If God is omniscient, then there is nothing of which God does not have full and exact knowledge. If God is omnipresent, then you and I are never truly alone.

Doctrine leads to practice. And doctrine is practical. God’s sovereignty is blissfully practical. I want to focus on three ways, and I hope this accomplishes two goals:

  1. To increase your desire to learn the doctrines of the Bible
  2. To increase your awareness of the practicality of doctrine

 

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY MEANS THAT NOTHING HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT


Now, this has enormous applications, some that are easy to believe and some that, beyond God’s grace, are incomprehensible.

The psalmist declares,

Our God is in the heavens;

he does all that he please. (Psalm 115:3, ESV)

There is so much more the Scriptures say about God’s sovereignty. Check out this free resource at Monergism.

This verse, along with other Scripture, teaches us that God is in control of every particle of creation, orchestrating all things for His glory and the believer’s good (Romans 8:28). John Calvin states, “Not even a drop of rain falls without His express command.” (Calvin, Institutes)

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

On Monday morning when your alarm clock fails to go off, God is in control. When your child breaks in the middle of the bike path causing you to bang your knee in an effort not to run him over, God is in control. When you sit through the stop light, again, God is in control. When the doctor brings you bad news, God is in control. 

The beautiful part of God’s sovereignty, however, is not just that nothing happens by accident.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IS DISPLAYED BY THE MOST GRACIOUS BEING


That God is sovereign is sweetly displayed throughout all of Scripture. That God is also a gracious and good God is also displayed. John records of God, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, ESV) Moses beautifully describes God as

“…a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6, ESV)

If God were just sovereign, we might have reason to fear. For a human example, if Adolf Hitler had unlimited power, imagine what destruction he would reign all over the earth. And if God were sovereign, but also evil, we would be in unimaginable trouble. But God is kind, He is gracious, He abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness.

This means that on Monday morning when your alarm clock fails to go off, God is gracious. Perhaps He is preventing you from leaving on time, avoiding a fatal accident. When your child breaks in the middle of the bike path causing you to bang your knee in an effort not to run him over, God is gracious. Perhaps God is allowing this instance to come into your life in order to conform you into the image of His most patient Son, Jesus Christ. When you sit through the stop light, again, God is gracious. Maybe God knows that a certain song that will speak truth and encouragement into your life will come on before you get to school. When the doctor brings you bad news, God is gracious. It is possible that God knows that the only way you can grow closer to Him is to work through that medical issue.

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Flowers offer a beautiful display of God’s goodness. He could have made flowers unpleasing to the eyes, unpleasant to the nose, and unhelpful to the bees. But the variety, beautiful, and intricacies of the flowers are only one display of His sovereign goodness.

Do you see just how awesome doctrine is? This can transform your life! That nothing happens by accident, and that all things are orchestrated by the most benevolent Being have enormous implications. But there is one final point that I want to draw out from this doctrine.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY MEANS THAT, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE MOST UNIMAGINABLE PAIN, GOD IS STILL SOVEREIGN


I must admit, that I have had a great life. God has been so good to me. I grew up in a loving family. I married the most amazing woman in the history of our planet. I have three of the most precious children in the world. And I was born in Texas.

A few years ago my wife and I happily found out we were pregnant. However, upon our first visit, our little baby was measuring smaller than the baby should have been. The doctor informed us that this does not mean that something is wrong, but she also mentioned that it was not good.

At the next appointment, the doctor informed us that the baby would not make it to full term. We were devastated. At this point, we had two healthy children, and the idea that we might lose a baby had never entered into our minds. You can imagine the questions that raced through our minds. How could God let this happen? Why is God doing this to us? We love our children, doesn’t He know that we will take Good care of that baby?

It was a difficult time in our life. But God was gracious to us. He provided comfort in a way that exceeds our comprehension. The truth of Romans 8:28 was a constant retreat from the devastation. Consider some of the most encouraging words penned by Paul,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

This verse teaches us that God works all things for good. It does not say that we will understand how it works for good. One account I constantly returned to was Joseph’s life. Imagine the questions he must have had. Sold by his brothers, lied about and punished for a sin he never committed, Joseph must have constantly asked God why? But when you read Joseph’s summary, Joseph’s belief in the sovereignty of God was a rock of comfort. Joseph tells his brothers,

Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:19-20)

Joseph did not know why he was going through what he did. But his belief in the sovereignty of God voided his need to know why because he knew Who. Perhaps you are in the midst of a suffering that many people cannot fathom. Dive into the deep love and sovereignty of God. You may never know why, but you can rest in Him. God’s truth is foundation upon which we can rest.

CONCLUSION


Doctrine leads to practice. It changes the way we think, speak, and live. God’s sovereignty is a doctrine in the Scriptures. Search them, learn about God’s control of everything. Meditate on the truth that God is a good God. And resolve to trust God more than your desire to know why. Doctrine leads to practice. And the doctrine of God’s sovereignty leads to a peace that passes our understanding.

3 Ways to Know You Love God’s Will

How do I know that I love God’s will? Or, to put it in a Puritan way, How do I know I am affected by God’s will? You can look here for a finer look at affections. However, I am sure that most Christians have asked this question at one point in their life.

How do you know that you love God’s will? Certainly, there are some relatively easy ways to see this. Do you love waking up with anticipation of reading God’s Word? Do you long for time away from others to pray and commune with your Heavenly Father? Do you thrive in serving others?

Think about a job you have had. I was blessed to work at Walmart for seven years. I enjoyed certain people at work. I liked certain tasks. But I would never say I enjoyed job, or that I loved my job. Now, when it comes to lifting weights, I love lifting weights. As you read this, you, no doubt, know the difference between the two. This is an excellent example of how we should feel about God’s will and how we often truly feel.

These are ways in which we can see that we love God and His will for our lives. Thomas Manton, however, offers three ways that I think will be beneficial for us.

“WHEN GOD’S WILL IS REASON ENOUGH FOR WHAT HE HATH REQUIRED OF US; WHEN A MAN IS SO SENSIBLE OF GOD’S WILL THAT THIS IS INSTEAD OF ALL REASONS.” (Manton, Works, 137)

Manton writes, “Obedience is never right but when it is done upon the mere sight of God’s will.” (Manton, Works, 137) That is, we obey because of Who’s will we are following. When we are children, our parents ask us to do something, and we do it. Likewise, I expect my own children to listen and obey when I instruct them to complete a task. Additionally, the supervisor at work expects her employees to follow through with her instructions. These are God-ordained roles for human beings to follow. (See Ephesians 5:22-6:9 for a biblical treatment of this.)

These roles (husband-wife, parents-child, supervisor-worker, government-citizens) serve to illustrate the ultimate role: God-human beings. God is our Creator, and it is our duty and privilege to obey and execute His will. When we follow God’s commands because it is God who commanded, we are cultivating affections for His will.

“WHEN A MAN IS VERY INQUISITIVE TO KNOW WHAT IS THE WILL OF HS HEAVENLY FATHER.” (Manton, Works, 137)

This is one evidence that we are becoming more affectionate of God’s will. Do we have an eagerness to know what God’s will is? When the thought of personal finances comes into our heads, do we seek to know what God expects of us in relation to our money? Do parents seek to raise their children in accordance with God’s will?

Manton notes, “When he doth not only practise what he knows, but searcheth that he may know more: Rom. xii. 2, ‘That ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Manton, Works, 137) He further clarifies, “When a man is desirous to know the whole will of God, not for curiosity but for practice, that he might do it.” (Manton, Works, 37)

I find myself guilty of seeking to know about God rather than to know God truly. The same danger lies hidden in the tall grass of God’s will. We are apt to what to know God’s will, not to actually practice it, but to use it as a tool of judgment on others. Or, we use it to make ourselves feel better. “Oh, I am doing _______, and they are violating God’s will by doing that” we remark to ourselves. But when we are truly affectionate towards our Heavenly Father’s will, we will be eager to know God’s will for every area of our lives.

“HEREBY MAY YOU KNOW YOUR AFFECTION TO GOD’S WILL, BY KEEPING YOURSELVES FROM YOUR SINS.” (Manton, Works, 138)

This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. This, in my estimation, is the greatest tool in diagnosing our affections toward the will of God. This is also, in my experience, the most painful tool.

Think about the dentist. His patient comes in to his office. After the exam, the dentist fills in two cavities. A few months pass, and the patient returns. The dentist performs the examinations, finds two more cavities, and fills them. About six months pass, and the same routine occurs. Now, the dentist may simply continue to fill the cavities. Or, the dentist may seek to address the root cause (no pun intended). Through a series of questions, the dentist discovers that his patient has never learned the proper routine for dental health (this illustration is only for visual purposes. You may take great care of your teeth and still routinely get cavities. If so, I am sorry! I am in the same boat). The dentist’s treatment plan now includes the ways to care for the teeth and gums.

Unfortunately, we are often like the patient. We attempt to fill in the cavities of sins in our lives without devoting the necessary time, and often intense pain, to the root cause. Manton paints a marvelous picture,

“There is an iniquity that we may call ours, upon which the will is most passionately addicted; be it worldliness, sensuality,  inordinate desire of reputation and respect with men. Now, when we are plucking out our right eye, and cutting off our right hand, Mat. v. 29–when we are mortifying and subduing our lusts–when we can deny ourselves in those things to which the heart is most wedded, that is a sign of compliance with the will of God.” (Manton, Works, 138)

Upon reading those statements, you may immediately call to mind a specific sin. Perhaps that sin spreads into other areas of your life. And to this point you have addressed the peripheral sins without attacking the heart. You may have never thought about this. With this understanding, ask God to open your eyes to the root cause. Then, at the exhortation of our Lord Jesus Christ, cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye (this is graphic language to describe the seriousness and viciousness with which we must attack sin, not a direct command to physically remove body parts). When we wage war on our sins, we are showing affection for God. We are showing God that we love His will more than the pleasures that come from our sin.

EXAMINING OURSELVES

So, how affectionate to God’s will are you? Are you strong in some areas and weaker in others? Has God revealed a certain sin that is stealing away your affections?

Brothers and sisters, we must pray that God change our affections. He has the power and authority. His Word and Spirit are sufficient to help us grow more affectionate to His will!

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I highly recommend you purchase Thomas Manton’s works from the Banner of Truth Trust.

Check out Manton’s other works:

Manton’s Five Steps to Help You Do God’s Will

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

Seven Ways We Are Not Affected By the Will of God

 

Continuing his exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Manton offers seven ways in which we may not be affected to God’s will as we should.

Now, some of you may read the word affected and wonder how this applies? In the Puritan days, the word affected carried a different connotation. Jonathan Edwards comments on the idea of affections, writing, “The will, and the affections of the soul, are not two faculties; the affections are not essentially distinct from the will, nor do they differ from the mere actings of the will and inclination, but only in the liveliness and sensibility of exercise. .. what are commonly called affections are not essentially different from them, but only in the degree and manner of exercise. In every act of the will whatsoever, the soul likes or dislikes, is either inclined or disinclined to what is in view.”[1]

This is the idea that Manton is discussing with regard to our relationship to God’s will. He offers this with the goal of self-examination. In other words, how do I measure up to the following points?

“WE PRETEND TO DO GOD’S WILL IN GENERAL, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO PARTICULARS WE STICK AT IT”[2]

Manton’s first point is that we tend to do God’s will in general, but not in specifics. We, as a whole, do not go around and murder one another. In this sense, we are doing God’s will. However, when we have a disagreement with someone, we may not seek restoration. We may even actively seek out their hurt. Or, we may secretly speak evil of them. We comfort ourselves in obeying God’s will (not murdering), but we betray God’s will by holding grudges. Or, as Manton puts it, “We will do the will of God in general, but when it comes to cross our lusts and private inclinations, these make us grudge at it, and shrink back again.”[3]

Are we guilty of this? Do we generally follow God’s will, but secretly keep hold of our own?

“SOME COMMEND AND APPROVE THE WILL OF GOD, AND TALK OF IT, BUT DO NOT PRACTISE IT”[4]

“Practice what you preach!” we quickly tell others who say one thing and do another. Children are exasperated when parents tell them not to perform a certain action and then turn around and do it themselves. This form of hypocrisy is particular harmful to the Christian. For if the Christian says we should follow God’s will, but does not follow it herself, how can the light of Christ shine to the dark world?

Christian, what do your affections reveal to you? Do you speak of doing God’s will, but fail to execute? Let us take heed to James exhortation, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”[5]

“FOR THE PRESENT, WHILE WE ARE IN A GOOD HUMOUR, WHEN OUR LUSTS LIE LOW, WHEN THE HEART IS WARM UNDER THE IMPULSIONS OF A PRESENT CONVICTION OR PERSUASION, MEN HAVE HIGH THOUGHTS OF DOING THE WILL OF GOD”

What Manton is saying here is that when things are going well we tend to have more concentrated views of God’s will. For instance, if a girl receives a loving letter from her boyfriend, she thinks highly of him, feels closer to him, and spends more energy to communicate her feelings. But Manton makes the point of distinction even clearer, “There are several acts of our wills; there is consent, choice, intention, and prosecution. It is not enough to consent: these things may be extorted from us by moral persuasion; but there must be a serious choice, an invincible resolution, such an intention as is prosecuted with all manner of industry and serious endeavours, whatever disappointments we meet with from God and men.”[6]

In other words, thoughts should lead to action. We can think highly of God’s will, but until we make a conscious effort to do His will it is pointless and fruitless. I can tell my wife that she is the only lady for me, but if I never show her that I love her, then I must not love her. How much more should I show God that I am affected by His will than to obey His laws, change my ways, and seek His face in every moment of my life?

“WE HAVE MANY TIMES A SEEMING AWE UPON THE CONSCIENCE, AND SO ARE URGED TO DO GOD’S WILL, YET THE HEART IS AVERSE FROM GOD ALL THE WHILE; THEREFORE THEY STRIVE TO BRING GOD’S WILL AND THEIRS TOGETHER, TO COMPROMISE THE DIFFERENCE”[7]

We are all guilty of this at one point in our lives. We claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, to submit our lives to Him Who is the King of kings and Lord of Gods We offer our allegiance to Him. And yet, there is a battle. As Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”[8]

Manton states, “In many cases we are thus divided between our own affections and God’s will, between our interests and the will of God.”[9] This is not to say that we will never have any different interests. To have hobbies and such is not, in and of itself, sin.[10] However, we are too often guilty of allowing those hobbies and interests to receive our affections against God’s will.

For example, I enjoy watching hockey. I especially enjoy it when the Dallas Stars are playing. I enjoy it even more when they win. I approach games with excitement and eagerness. Now the question I must ask myself is, “Do I approach God’s Word the same way?” Do I, with eager anticipation, look for ways to do God’s will? This helps us see how our affections are toward God’s will. If we pray like our Lord, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”[11]

“A WISH THAT WE WERE BROUGHT UNDER THE POWER OF IT, AS HE THAT STRETCHED HIMSELF UPON HIS BED, AND SAID, OH, THAT THIS WERE TO LABOUR!”[12]

Similar to the previous mistakes we can make, Manton is discussing desire. He goes on to write, “They have a wish, but not a volition, not a serious desire; and sometimes they may draw it out to a cold prayer that God would make them better.”[13] Oh, how often I am guilty of this! How often have I prayed, “God help me overcome _________,” and leave it at that prayer. I fail to engage in serious war with the sin, and thus I am simply wishing for God’s will.

“HALVING THE WILL OF GOD; AS IN MANY CASES MANY WILL DO PART OF THE WILL OF GOD, BUT NOT ALL, THEY COME NOT FULLY UP TO THE MIND OF GOD”[14]

This is the idea that as long as our sins are little and our execution of God’s will much, we are fine. This betrays a biblical view of sin, however. Manton offers this stinging remark,

“No sin is little which is committed against a great God.”[15]

Meditate on the greatness, on the holiness, of God, and you will never think lightly of sin.

“A LOATHNESS TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD, TO SEARCH AND INQUIRE INTO IT, ARGUETH DECEIT, AND THAT WE ARE LOATH TO COME UNDER THE POWER OF IT”[16]

We are, at times, very clear on what God’s will is for us, and yet we simply do not pursue it. It is like the older gentleman who was raised in a godly home. The Scriptures were read every night, the family prayed together. This man knew where to find truth, but because God’s will conflicted with his life, he loathed it.

Does your heart loath God’s will? Is there any part of the commands of God that you do not love? That reveals our affections, and we must learn to cultivate our affections to love, cherish, and execute God’s most gracious will.

CONCLUSION

So, how did you do? Are your affections geared to the will of God? Or, has your own will replaced His? May we, as we pray, “Your will be done,” mean it genuinely.[17]

 

Thomas Manton’s Collected Works can be published through the Banner of Truth Trust.

Also, check out these two helps from Manton’s other thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer:

Manton’s Five Steps to Help You Do God’s Will

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

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[1] J. Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000) 237, as quoted in Sam Williams, “Toward a Theology of Emotion,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, volume 7, no. 4 (Winter, 2003), 58-72.

[2] Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 134.

[3] Manton, Works, 134.

[4] Ibid.

[5] James 1:22, ESV.

[6] Manton, Works, 135.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Galatians 5:17, ESV.

[9] Manton, Works, 135.

[10] The exception, of course, would be if that hobby violated God’s law. Then it would be sin.

[11] Matthew 6:10, ESV.

[12] Manton, Works, 135.

[13] Ibid., 135-136.

[14] Ibid., 136.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] See Matthew 6:10, ESV.

Manton’s Five Steps to Help You Do God’s Will

KNOWING AND DOING GOD’S WILL

There is always a desire, among Christians, to do God’s will. When God rebirths a sinner, he changes into a “new creation,” and his desire is to do the will of God (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Psalm 40:8, ESV).

Christians want to please God, but sometimes we may not know how. It could be:

  • We have not devoted enough time to seek God’s will
  • We have not been in a discipleship relationship and have not learned how to know God’s will
  • We have unconfessed sin that is preventing us from seeing God’s will

Undoubtedly, the list could be expanded. Our point is not to focus on why we do not know God’s will, but how.

MANTON’S EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 6:10

In his work on the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Manton delves into the goldmine of Scripture to draw out the implications of Christ’s request, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, ESV).

As we pray this prayer, we are acknowledging two things:

  1. That we desire to see God’s will performed on earth (and in our own lives) as it is in heaven.
  2. That God has a will for our lives.

Then Manton offers several “directions” to help us do the will of God.

“THERE MUST BE SOME SOLEMN TIME OF RESIGNING AND GIVING UP THY WILL TO HIM”

(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 132)

Manton begins where we all must: resigning our will to our Lord and Master. This does not imply that we will never seek our own will. However, if our lives are not characterized by submission to God’s will. Manton goes on to write, “There will be a time when you will solemnly give up the keys of your own hearts to God, and bid him come and enter.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 132-133) If we are to know God’s will, we must submit to it and trust Him beforehand.

Look through the references cited by Mr. Manton: Romans 12:1; Acts 9:6; Matthew 11:28.

“WHEN YOU GIVE UP YOURSELVES TO GOD, IT MUST BE WITHOUT BOUNDS AND RESERVATIONS”

(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 133)

When we want to know God’s will, we cannot withhold certain areas of our lives. We cannot say to God, “Here is my life, but do not take away my comfort in _____________.” This is not submission. We cannot tell God, “I will follow you, but please leave ______________ alone.” Again, this is not submission. As Manton succinctly puts it, “We should so perfectly obey, as if we had no will of our own, not reserving a property in anything.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 133)

Then he makes an excellent point,

“The least sin reserved is a pledge of the devil’s interest and right in us.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 133)

This brings to focus the heart of the issue. Any areas of our lives that we are unwilling to submit to the gracious and sovereign God is sin. If we are to do God’s will, every fiber of our being must be in submission.

GOD’S WILL REVEALED EXPRESSLY IN SCRIPTURE

There are some truths in Scripture that God has revealed to which Christians should pay special heed. There are a few offered by Manton:

  1. “repentance and turning from sin” (see Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9
  2. “the work of faith, believing in Christ” (see John 6:29; 1 John 3:23)
  3. “repent, believe, and return to him” (Psalm 32:5; Luke 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3)
  4. “obedience to magistrates, parents, masters” (1 Peter 2:15
  5. “observe Providences” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I would encourage you to look up the above Scriptures. Pray through them. Ask that God will open your eyes to opportunities to share the Gospel and preach repentance. Meditate on the glorious truths, that God would desire the repentance of sinners, that God will provide us with marks of His sovereign work in our lives and in the world. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but it is a good foundation upon which to build your view, understanding, and work in the will of God.

“WE SHOULD BE WILLING TO OBEY GOD, WHATEVER IT COST US”

(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

This is hard, is it not? When I read this, and really think about the implications, I am scarred. What if it is God’s will that my little girl be taken at a young age? What if God’s will is that I be a paraplegic? The “what ifs” are endless. But they betray a failure to trust God and His goodness.

One of the greatest aspects of God is that He always does what is best. Consider Romans 8:28. This verse is often quoted to those who are hurting, and honestly rightfully so. It is bursting with God’s gracious love and care. Paul writes,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

All things work for God to those who love God. This truth is lived out by Joseph. His brothers betray him and sell him into slavery (Genesis 37:12-36). He obeys God’s will and ends up punished (from a human perspective) while enslaved (Genesis 39). At this point in his life, Joseph must have wrestled with God’s working in his life. Remember, he did not have Romans 8:28 to flee when hurting and doubting God’s love and grace. When we consider the goodness and graciousness of God, does it make any sense not to obey Him, regardless of the cost?

“FOR THE GREATEST GOOD THAT POSSIBLY CAN COME OF IT, WE SHOULD NOT CROSS GOD’S REVEALED WILL”

(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

What Manton is saying here is that we should never sin, regardless of the “good” that can happen. He states, “If one lie could save the world, we were not to do it, for the least evil is not to be done contrary to God’s will, though the greatest good come of it.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

Read that again. That is a powerful, and extremely biblical, statement. We must never sin, regardless of the possible “positive” outcomes. It is such a serious matter, that even if it were possible that one lie could bring about the salvation of every human being currently in existence, we must never do it. “We must never do evil that good may come thereof: Rom. iii. 8.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

SUMMARY

So, Christian, you want to do God’s will and do not know how? Consider the following steps offered by Thomas Manton:

  • Solemnly commit your life to God’s will
  • Submit to God’s will without reservation
  • Devote time to studying God’s revealed will in the Scriptures
  • Obey God’s will regardless of the cost (personal and otherwise)
  • Never do evil in order to accomplish good

We serve a gloriously good God, sovereign over every particle in the known and unknown universe, visible and invisible, who is working all things for our good and His glory. How could we not unreservedly submit to Him? Brothers and sisters, let us do the will of God.

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

A Brief Recap of Gurnall’s Work

William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armour, is a monumental work. The Banner of Truth’s edition totals six hundred,  double-columned pages. It covers Ephesians 6:10-20. That’s right, you read that correctly. Six hundred, double-columned pages for ten verses of Scripture. Such is the depth of Scripture, a bottomless chasm of truth and life. It also illustrates the capacity of God’s saints to provide excellent expositions of Scripture for the sheep.

Objections to the Power of God in the Believer’s Life

After discussing a doctrine, its evidences, and its applications, Gurnall then begins to answer this objection,

O but, saith some disconsolate Christian, I have prayed again and again for strength against such a corruption, and to this day my hands are weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are so strong, that I am ready to say, All the preachers do but flatter me, that do pour their oil of comfort upon my head, and tell me I shall at last get the conquest of these mine enemies, and see that joyful day wherein with David, I shall sing to the Lord, for delivering me out of the hands of all mine enemies. I have prayed for strength for such a duty, and find it come off as weakly and dead-heartedly [sic] as before. If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me? (Gurnall, 37)

Gurnall’s objection is a call for help when there seems to be no help. It is a hopeless cry, one that seems to go unanswered. The hypothetical objection declares the preacher’s declaration that he will go onto victory seems to be a mockery.

Surely, if you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have found yourself in this very position. You have a particular sin that seems to trip you up constantly. You have begged and pleaded with God to provide a way out, but the prayer always seem to go unanswered.

We find ourselves crying out, “If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?

Gurnall’s Third Answer

Gurnall’s third answer is wonderful. To this objection he replies,

If after long waiting for strength from God, it be as thou complainest [i.e., your prayers for deliverance are unanswered], inquire whether the το κατεχοις, that which hinders, be not found in thyself. (Gurnall, 40,emphasis his)

What Gurnall is saying is, that in the midst of unanswered prayers for deliverance, examine whether or not you are not found thankful. He goes on to elaborate ways in which we can display thanklessness with incredible lucidity. However, his second reply is what stood out to me today. He writes,

Art thou weak? Bless God thou hast life. Dost thou through feebleness often fail in duty, and fall into temptation? Mourn in the sense of these; yet bless God that thou dost not live in a total neglect of duty, out of a profane contempt thereof, and that instead of falling through weakness, thou dost not lie in the mire of sin through the wickedness of thy heart. The unthankful soul may thank itself it thrives no better. (Gurnall, 41)

Gurnall is saying that, even in the midst of the trials faced as a result of failures to resist temptation and to employ our efforts in duty, we can be thankful.

Gurnall’s Encouragement to Thankfulness

This is an incredible point. Gurnall is focusing on God’s work even in the midst of our failures. Perhaps you have met with failure after failure. That one sin may have tripped you up for the six-hundredth time. While not ignoring the need for sanctification and growth in holiness over that sin, you can rejoice that God is working in your heart and life. You can rejoice that, though you have fallen again, God is at work in other areas of your life. You can take joy in the fact that you do not “lie in the mire of sin through the wickedness of thy heart.” (Gurnall, 41)

This should encourage us! While we certainly mourn, as Gurnall remarks, over our sins, we do not mourn without hope. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10, ESV)

Rejoice, then, that even in the midst of failure you can be thankful!

Guided by Gurnall

For previous posts, see below:

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus offers what has been deemed as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is a marvelous prayer, one that every saint of God should work to memorize. Many works have been written on this wonderful prayer, but the one I am currently working through is Thomas Manton’s “An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer” printed by the Banner of Truth.

Jesus says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (ESV)

Commenting on this, Manton describes the goodness of God’s commandments,

Nothing God commandeth but what is agreeable to his own nature, and what is suited to our benefit. It is no burden to live justly, soberly, and holily in communion with God; it is not a burden, but a great advantage.The yoke of Christ is a bountiful yoke. Our service and duty hath its own reward in the very mouth and bosom of it. It is no great wrong to us to govern our affections, to live soberly, chastely and in the exercise of holy services; here is nothing but what raiseth and sublimates the nature of man. (Manton, Volume 1, page 130)

Think about what Manton (and Scripture) is saying. God’s will is bound by God’s character. He is infinitely good. His grace overcomes the greatest of sins. His boundless love covers, through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, all the sins of His people. He works everything for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). This, in turn, extends to His commandments.

Do we view God’s commandments in this way? Or, like children, do we see our Heavenly Father’s commandments as prevention to our fun and delight. Let us renew our minds (Romans 12:2), through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit and the all-sufficient Word of God, to see the commands of God as they are: good.

Consider just a brush through Psalm 119:

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

This is just four verses from Psalm 119 that describe the goodness of God’s commandments. There are sixty-five other books in the Bible that, directly or indirectly, describe and pontificate on the beauties and benevolences of God’s commandments.

How about you, Christian? Have you fallen into a disdainful view of God’s gloriously good commandments? Have you seen them as burdens, as barriers between you and your enjoyment? Seek God’s help to cultivate a biblical, God-honoring view of His rules for our lives. Let your heart soar to the heights in worship that our Sovereign God would provide the commands to live life that is most fulfilling for us and most glorifying for Him.

Perhaps you are not a Christian. Maybe you view God’s commandments as horrendous. You also may have developed a negative view of God’s Words. Can I implore you to seek His truth? May the Holy Spirit open your eyes and grant you repentance (a forsaking) of your sins and grant you faith (or belief) to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. May His grace allow you to see the wonders of His Word and the goodness of His commandments.

And may it all bring glory to God’s hallowed Name.

Wise Words from Augustine

I am reading through Augustine’s City of God for the next few months. I came across this helpful statement in book V. Augustine is discussing the development and might of the Roman Empire. Specifically, he is delving into the question of how the Romans became so powerful. In his discussion, he brings up to common reasons for why events and such turn out the way that they do: fate and chance. Concerning fate, he writes, “If anyone attributes them to fate because he uses the term ‘fate’ to mean the will or power of God, let him keep to this judgment but correct his language.” (City of God, 187)

There are several important points on which to focus our attention.

  1. He acknowledges that, at times, our language may be accurate theologically, but not linguistically.

    Here Augustine recognizes that there are times in which language is accurate theologically but not linguistically. He goes on to clarify, “For when men hear this word as it is used in ordinary speech, they understand it to mean nothing other than the force exerted by the position of the stars when anyone is born or conceived.” (City of God, 187) So, for example, it is theologically accurate to say that Jesus is like us. However, it may be difficult to say the same thing linguistically. For example, when most people here that phrase, they may assume that means Jesus is only human, not divine.

  2. He reminds us that our language must be accurate in our own context.

    Augustine notes, “Some distinguish this from the will of God [that is, fate], while others affirm that it indeed depends upon His will.” (City of God, 187) Augustine shows that language means different things to different people. Even when using biblical language, it is important for us to consider our context. We can see an example of this in Acts 17:22-31. Paul worked within the understanding of the people of Athens to communicate Gospel truth. He was also careful in what he did not say.

Language is important. How we communicate as Christians, especially in matters related to our sovereign God, are of inestimable importance. So, think theologically, express it accurately, and may God be glorified.

(Image Credit: By Fra Angelico and workshop – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1022879)

“Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”: A Prayer

I began rereading John Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical MinistryThere are several books that I work through regularly (Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is highest on the list). Each book stirs up a different flame of passion, a great awareness of personal sin, and a earnest desire to be the kind of pastor that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of each chapter, Piper offers a prayer that accompanies the topic. For today’s reading, I was deeply moved by it. I hope that it provides you, pastor or not, with a greater desire to know our sovereign and holy God.

Piper prays,

God, delivery us from the professionalizers! Deliver us from the ‘low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us.’ (Bounds, 1972) God, give us tears for our sins. Forgive us for being so shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy verities, so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation. Restore to us the childlike joy of our salvation. Frighten us with the awesome holiness and power of Him who can cast both soul and body into hell (Matt. 10:28). Cause us to hold to the cross with fear and trembling as our hope-filled and offensive tree of life. Grant us nothing, absolutely nothing, the way the world views it. May Christ be all in all (Col. 3:11).

Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord.

Humble us, O God, under Your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ. In His awesome name. Amen. (Piper, 4)

Brother pastors, let us resolve to ever be in this prayer!