Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

William Gurnall notes the importance of our armor being the armor of God. He writes, “The Christian’s armour [sic] must be amour [sic] of God in regard to its make and constitution.” (Gurnall, 54)

To apply it to a different thought: make sure your godliness has God in it. It is easy to focus on armor in a generic sense, but Christians must remember that, in the midst of war, our armor is to be the armor of God.

It is easy to seek for substitutes. Think of vitamins. We need fruits and vegetables to have a balanced diet. However, many of us assume that if we take a multivitamin, or some green powder, we can forgo that serving of cabbage or broccoli. In other words, we search for substitutes in place of the main focus. Gurnall describes our present day situation, “There is abundance of false ware put off now-a-days; little good armour [sic] worn by the multitude of professors.” (Gurnall, 54) It is always amazing to me when I consider William Gurnall lived from 1616-1679 and how apt his words are for us today.

So, how does this look today? We look to books (Christian, secular, or otherwise). We listen to podcasts. We go to conferences. We enjoy friendships. While many of these things are good and helpful (I do all!), they are not replacements for our most important relationship: our relationship with God. That same principle applies to our battle with spiritual matters. Gurnall wonderfully reminds us that we must put on the armor of God. Our focus must be, in an ever-growing way, on God. 

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 3)

Thomas Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer provides a rich feast for the believer. As I am reading this, I am amazed at the depth of this simple prayer (simple in the sense that it is short, taking only five verses).

Concerning Christ’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (see Matthew 6:11, KJV), Manton offers six ways to keep our contentment in check. The first two can be examined here and here.

Manton writes, “God knows what proportion is best for us; he is a God of judgment, and knows what is most convenient for us, for he is a wise God.” (Manton, Works Volume 1, 164)

I find in this statement several thoughts of importance. And, as Manton encourages us, these should generate contentment on our part.

A RIGHT VIEW OF GOD

The first aspect that pops out to me is that this phrase gives a right view of God. When we consider the prayer for daily bread (read: needs), we realize that we are desperate upon the goodness of God. It presents God as the giver, the maintainer of all that is needed for life.

Additionally, it also instructs us that God is a wise giver. Manton says “he is a God of judgment” and “He is a wise God.” That is, like a parent knowing that candy before dinner will spoil the appetite, increasing blessing may spoil our contentment, skew our value system, or cause us to become gluttonous (not only in relation to food, but to comfort, ease, etc.). God is a wise God. He can discern what physical blessing to bestow as well as its affect on our spiritual health.

For example, in Deuteronomy 8:1-20, there is a contrast between the blessing of the LORD (see 8:1-10) with the warning against assuming personal responsibility for God’s physical blessing (8:11-20, particularly 17). God knows what you and I can handle. We learn this from the Lord’s Prayer.

A RIGHT VIEW OF SELF

Wee submit to the righteous, good, and wise judgment of God as we pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer. We acknowledge God’s goodness. We trust His wise judgments. We realize that He is God and we are not. That is, we develop a right view of ourselves.

We learn our limits through this prayer. Ultimately, God holds our breath in His hands (see Daniel 5:23). We can plan and prepare for the future, but we have no idea what it holds. We can work to gain financial increase, but it is not in our power to procure it. We hope the crop comes in, we hope we will have our jobs in the future, we try to get more money, but we are reminded, and rather quickly I may add, that we are completely powerless. We trust in God to provide our necessities. While we work and live responsibly, ultimately we realize that we are finite, dependent (and desperately so) human beings.

A RIGHT VIEW OF THINGS

The last aspect of this prayer that I see is that it provides us with a right view of things. I am guilty of saying, “I need _________.” In my mind, if I could have _________, all would be well. However, what this Prayer teaches us is that we if we need it (the very thought of daily bread), then our God will provide it.

The negative side of this is true as well. If we do not have something we think we need, then our view of things, material possessions, is off kilter. Our value of physical stuff needs to be readjusted. Praying this prayer helps realign our view of things from a self-focused, material-valued view to a biblical view.

 

Manton beautifully reminds us, “It is the shepherd must choose the pasture, not the sheep. Leave it to God to give you that which sis convenient and suitable to your condition of life.” (Manton, Works Volume 1, 164)

Let this part of the Lord’s Prayer help you develop and maintain a right view of God, self, and stuff. To God be the glory.

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You can purchase Thomas Manton’s Works from the Banner of Truth Trust here.

8 Prayers for God’s Word (Psalm 119:33-40)

Last night I preached through Psalm 119:33-40 in our church. I have been working through this psalm since I began in December. It is a remarkable psalm, exclusively focusing on God’s Word.

As I studied this particular passage, I was impressed with the psalmist’s desire to see God work in his life. There are eight different prayers offered by the psalmist, all showing a desire to know God through His Word better.

I am reproducing my sermon notes here without editing them for grammar or structure. I would encourage you to work through these prayers in your own private reading of Scripture, as well as your corporate consumption of Scripture. And, as always, to God be the glory.

THE SERMON

We approach our next passage of Psalm 119, verses 33-40, and we see the continued love for and dependence on God’s Word.
The Psalmist is teaching is through song, that God’s Word is completely sufficient for our doctrine (what we believe) and our lives (how we live). By this I mean that God’s Word always provide the right answer to every question, every problem, every crisis, and every issue we as believers face today. We must understand and believe this, for this is the very teaching of Psalm 119.
Our section this evening, then, focuses on eight prayers. That is, these are eight positions to take when dealing with God’s Word. So often we focus on our own personal study and devotional time. That is, we tend to view God’s Word from a very individualistic perspective. I certainly do not mean to demean that, or to say that these prayers do not address personal Bible consumption. However, I think it is important that we broaden our views of these eight prayers to include corporate worship as well. That is, how can I apply these verses to my church’s life, my brother’s and sister’s life, in a way that reflects the Psalmist’s desire to bring every aspect of his life under the authority of God’s Word.
I. Prayer for Practical Understanding- vs. 33
The first prayer the Psalmist offers is a prayer for practical understanding. He asks God to “teach me.” He asked God to teach Him, to order God’s Word in a way that he would understand and be able to keep it to the end.
One of our prayers as we approach the private and corporate consumption of Scripture is for practical understanding. Sometimes we have a hard time connecting God’s Word to daily life, do we not? I know that I have to work at it. I remember growing up and reading through the Bible and thinking, “What does this have to do with my life?” However, the Psalmist prays for practical understanding. He does not simply want to know the background, the wording, etc., he wants to know how it applies to his life so he can live it all the way to the end. He wants to “keep” it, guarding it like walls and towers protect the city. He wanted God’s Word to protect his life and doctrine all the way to the end, to the reward.
We must pray for practical understanding. Due to our own intellectual limitations, our own struggles and blindness from sin, and the disconnect between life in the Ancient Near East and life today, we desperately need God’s help for understanding the practical applications of God’s Word.
This is the child asking the parent, “Why?” For those of you with children, you know that are incredible at asking questions. “What is that daddy?” “Well, that is a guardrail.” “What does it do?” “Well, it keeps cars from running off the road.” “Why?” The questions go on and on, but children think in concrete terms, they want to know why things work. They want practical application. And we should follow their example, and pray for practical understanding.
II. Prayer for Discernment in Understanding- vs. 34
The second prayer the Psalmist offers concerns discernment in understanding. The Psalmist wants to understand the details of God’s Word. This prayer focuses on a perceptiveness, a skill at understanding.
Think about the difference between a mechanic and a do-it-yourself guy. My first car was a 1994 Toyota Tercel (ironically, another small car). I learned to change my oil, my brake pads, my alternator, and a few other items. I could rotate my tires and I even took apart the stereo system (with the help of my brother). However, there is a vast difference between my understanding of cars and my friend Jeremy’s understanding. That guy could listen to the car and tell you exactly what was wrong with it.
The Psalmist is desiring that type of discernment. He wants to look at God’s Word and know exactly what is going on and how to apply it. He always connects doctrine (understanding of Scripture) with life (“Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart”).
One way that we can help further our own discernment in Scripture is simply learning the backgrounds and times of the books. Understanding the time in which certain letters were given (or prophecies preached) will greatly enhance your discernment of Scripture. We want discernment to know how to apply the Scriptures to our lives, and our goal is to observe it with our whole heart. That is, guard it, a term that is used consistently in connection with God’s Word.
III. Prayer for Desire to Understand- vs. 35
The word translated “make me walk” gives the idea of a pattern of desire. That is, grant me a consistent desire to follow Your Word.
This is a prayer for desire. There are times in which we need increased desire. While we have been changed, we are still being changed. Consider 2 Corinthians 3:18. We are being transformed. That is, there are still vestiges of sin in our lives. We are freed from the power of sin but not the presence of sin. Thus, there are times in which we do not desire to know and follow God’s Word.
Think of the song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. The third verse gives us the Psalmist’s desire, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”
As we approach God’s Word, we need to consistently pray that God will increase our desire to know and follow His Word. And as God answers that prayer, we will delight in it. That is, we will find great pleasure, delight, and satisfaction in it.
IV. Prayer for Direction toward God’s Truth- vs. 36
The next prayer focuses on direction. He says, “Incline my heart.” That is, change the direction of my heart. Now, this is very similar to the idea found in the last verse. The Psalmist prays for a pattern of desire. Now, he is asking God to turn his path to God’s testimonies.
The second phrase helps us understand the prayer better, because the Psalmist connects a turning to God’s Word as a turning away from covetousness. There is always a remove the old and put on the new idea found in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament it was always forsake the false idols and worship the true God. In the New Testament, particularly the epistles, we see the encouragement to remove the ways of the flesh and to put on the ways of the Spirit.
This desire involves a change in direction. I don’t know if many of you remember the cheap dollar store toys with the little marble and the goal is to get it from point a to point b. Though the marble was enclosed in a small glass or plastic case, you could still move it by tilting the toy. That is the idea behind this prayer. God, tilt me toward Your testimonies and away from covetousness, away from sin.
V. Prayer for Priority in Values- vs. 37
I say this is a prayer for priority because, the Psalmist calls for God’s help in avoiding looking at worthless things. He wanted his priorities to change, to be kept according to God’s Word.
We all have things that we enjoy, that we focus on. Perhaps it is a sports team, a hobby, a genre of literature. However, there are some pointless things we get involved in that are not directly related to sin but are, as the Scriptures state, worthless. They are vain. I won’t attempt to make assertions from this specifically, however, the Psalmist prayers for priority in values. He wants to make sure that his life is not focused on worthless, vain things. Christians today desperately need this prayer for priority. I look at my own life and the use of my time and I wonder at the grace of God.
VI. Prayer for a Foundation in God’s Word- vs. 38
The word used for establish gives the impression of completeness, of a foundation, something upon which structures or people can stand. It is solid, unwavering.
We need to pray for a solid foundation in God’s Word. That is, God’s Word needs to shape how we think, how we speak, and how we live. That is all connected with the phrase “who is devoted to fearing you.” When you fear God you believe the right things, say the right things, and do the right things. It is a solid foundation from which the believer can live a God-glorifying life.
VII. Prayer for Sovereign Protection- vs. 39
The seventh prayer from the Psalmist concerns His concern about how his lifestyle will affect the testimony of God. I love the way Matthew Henry puts it, “David prays against reproach, as before, v. 22. David was conscious to himself that he had done that which might give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, which would blemish his own reputation and turn to the dishonour [sic] of his family; now he prays that God, would has all men’s hearts and tongues in his hands, would be pleased to prevent this…” [Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On the Whole Bible Volume 3: Job to Song of Solomon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), 567.]
As we read Scripture and seek to apply it to our lives, we know we will fail. We have already mentioned that. However, one prayer we can say together is that God would sovereign protect us. This is no different than the Lord’s Prayer when Christ prays, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)
VIII. Prayer for Revival- vs. 40
This verse is different than the rest. Up to this point, all the prayers are at the beginning of the verse. However, as we come to a close on this section, we find the prayer at the second half of the verse.
The psalmist is basing his prayer for revival on his love for God’s precepts. The word for long is only used twice in the Bible, and it gives the idea for an ever increasing love.
I think one of the best ways to picture this is the love between a husband and wife. It grows throughout the years. Or the love between a child and parents. It increases as the child grows into maturity.
And as the love increases, it intensifies. Returning to Matthew Henry, he says “Tastes of the sweetness of God’s precepts will but set us a longing after a more intimate acquaintance with them.” That is, the more we long for God’s truth the sweeter and more desirable it will be. Because the Psalmist has this ever-increasing desire, he prays for revival, for life.
These eight prayers are excellent prayers to pray routinely, not only for our own private time with God, but also in our corporate time together. That is, we can pray for those in our church these very prayers.