God’s Mercy and Our Daily Bread

Thomas Manton’s An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer has been a remarkable work. My soul has been filled, my heart has been challenged, and my joy has been stirred. The depth to which the Lord’s Prayer can be plumbed is, in my estimation, unimaginable.

Yet Thomas Manton has performed a wonderful work by presenting one more beautiful facet of the Lord’s Prayer. It comes on the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11, NASB)

Though his treatment of this verse spans seventeen pages, I found one point particular spectacular. Manton writes,

Ps. cxxxvi. 25, you have there the story of the notable effects of God’s mercy, and he concludes it thus: ‘Who giveth food to all flesh; for his mercy endureth forever.’ Mark, the psalmist doth not only ascribe those mighty victories, those glorious instances of his love and power, to his unchangeable mercy, but our daily bread. In eminent deliverances of the church we will acknowledge mercy; yea, but we should do it in every bit of meat we eat, for the same reason is rendered all along.

….It is not only mercy which gives us Christ, and slavation by Christ, and all those glorious deliverances and triumphs over the enemies of the church; but it is mercy which furnisheth our tables, it is mercy that we taste with our mouths and wear at our backs.

(Thomas Manton, Works, Volume 1, 154-155)

I just read that Psalm this morning in my private reading. What powerful thoughts! Every time we pray for God’s provision for our daily sustenance, it is because His mercy endures forever.

What a glorious thought! Have you contemplated this truth today? Do you realize that everything you have been gifted is all because of God’s mercy and provision? Imagine how different our lives would be if we, like Jesus instructed us to, prayed “Give us this day our daily bread.”

 

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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.

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Gurnall asks the question, “If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?” (37)

Gurnall, in his second response, delivers the following encouragement:

Christian, candidly interpret God’s dealings with thee….Now take heed of charging God foolishly, as if God were not what he promiseth; this were to give that to Satan which he is all this while gaping for. It is more becoming the dutiful disposition of a child, when he hath not presently what he writes for to his father, to say, My father is wiser than I. His wisdom will prompt him what and when to send to me, and his fatherly affections to me his child will neither suffer him to deny anything that is good, or slip the time that is seasonable. Christian, thy heavenly Father hath gracious ends that hold his hand at present, or else thou hadst ere this heard from him. (39)

What gloriously encouraging words! I am sure that we have all been at a point in our lives in which it seems as if heaven has been emptied of God’s presence. The pain can become so overwhelming that the internal screams seem to drown out any semblance of the comfort of God.

Perhaps we find ourselves in the same predicament as Job. Job says, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3, ESV) He later declares, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him,  he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.” (Job 23:8-9, ESV)

God begins to speak to Job concerning His might, wisdom, and grandeur. (Job 38-41) God never offers the reasons why Job experienced the sufferings he endured. Many times, we are not privy to the reasons why God allows us to suffer. But before we begin to question God or doubt His goodness, let us heed Gurnall’s advice and trust our Heavenly Father.

Catch up on our series 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

Cotton Mather: Directions For A Candidate Of The Ministry

This month I celebrated my 34th birthday. My in-laws gave me four books for my birthday. They have been tremendous blessings already!

The first of the four that I read was Cotton Mather’s Directions For A Candidate of the Ministry, edited by Nate Pickowicz.

The first time I ever heard this book mentioned was in a message by John MacArthur on 1 Timothy. He quotes, at length, part of the introduction to the book written by John Ryland. The quote changed my perspective on the gloriousness of the pastoral ministry and the remarkable privilege God has given pastors all over the world.

Ryland describes the wonders when he writes,

“The office of the Christian Ministry, rightly understood, is he most honorable and important that nay man in the whole world can sustain; and it will be one of the wonders and employments of eternity, to consider the reasons, why the wisdom and goodness of God assigned this office to imperfect and guilty man!” (Mather, 23)

Brother pastors, do you feel the enormous weight that falls upon our shoulders? Have you considered the remarkable wonder that God called us, sinful though we are, to be His spokesmen?

Not only is the calling remarkable, but the work of the pastor is unrivaled. Ryland continues,

“The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher are: to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men; to display in the most lively colors, and to proclaim in the clearest language, the wonderful perfections, offices, and grace of the Son of God; and to attract the souls of men into a state of everlasting friendship with Him.” (Mather, 23-24)

When MacArthur read this quote, I was weeping. That God should call me to such a high and lofty office is beyond my ability to comprehend. Were it not for His salvation and sanctification, I would immediately run from the task. Yet, I was compelled to read more of Cotton Mather’s work. If the introduction to the book is this profound and soul-stirring, what would the rest do?

I began searching for the work and came up disappointed. I had failed through numerous searches. I gave up. Through the course of events I began receiving a catalog from Reformation and Heritage Books. In that magazine I saw many books that I would love to digest. One thing led to another, and I eventually found Mather’s book! I could not believe it. So, when my mother-in-law asked for birthday ideas, I immediately passed this along.

The book exceeded all my expectations. It would be an exaggeration to say every page was gold, but it would not be too far off to say that at least every other page is gold.

I do not want to offer a full review, but I do want to highlight a few of the points that stirred my affections for God and excited my heart for the work.

Cotton’s second chapter is titled, “The True End of Life.” The true end of life, as biblically stated, is to glorify God. I have read a dozen books or so on ministry, and few if any begin with the glory of God.[1] Mather’s work builds off the wonderful privilege of human beings to glorify their Creator. He prays,

“May my life be such a continual homage to the Glorious GOD, as He may through His Christ look down with delight upon.” (Mather, 42)

He offers several questions with which the minister may poke and prod his own heart and soul on pages 48-51. I am to glorify God in my reading, my exegetical work, my prayers, my visits, etc. There is nothing more essential to do than to glorify God. It is, as the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “the whole duty of man.”

The rest of the book builds from this theological foundation, offering practical advice on reading, studying, language acquisition and retention, how to read Scripture, how to read works of theology, personal health and well being, and even general rules with which to govern one’s life.

I recommend this book heartily. As of yet, it is one of the most profound works on the office of the minister that I have read. Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is on the same field in terms of sheer brilliance and digestibility. If you are a minister, purchase this gem and live it out. If you know of a pastor, buy this book for them. It will be a blessing to their soul, and will only provide you richer foods upon which you will eagerly dine.

No matter what you do, may God be glorified!

[1] One exception would be John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. The second chapter addresses God’s glory.

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

It has been over four months since my last post concerning Gurnall’s exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20. These last few months have been packed, with an increased workload at church and the addition of a little baby, I have had my hands full!

Today I was afforded a little time during my lunch hour to pick up Gurnall’s gargantuan book (it is 600 pages!). William Gurnall is discussing the phrase, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” He is commenting on the saints’ use of this doctrine for practical life. His first use is, “Is the almighty power of God engaged for the saints’ defence [sic]?” (Gurnall, 33) His last comment is worth repeating, and more than that, worth your meditation.

God so loves his saints, that he makes nothing to give whole nations for their ransom. He ripped open the very womb of Egypt, to save the life of Israel his child, Is. xliii. 3. (Gurnall, 34)

What an incredible thought! More than this, however, is the glorious truth that God sent His only Son (see John 3:16 and 1 John 4:9). Having a son of my own, I cannot imagine trading his life for the life of anyone. More than this, God gave His Son for us, while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). That is, we were actively rebelling against God when His grace saved us (see Ephesians 2:1-3, 4-8).

This almighty power, then, is a gift of God to be used for our spiritual warfare. Think about that today!

 

 

For more from this series, see:

 

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

I wanted to share a few gems in my reading of Gurnall. In this section, Gurnall is working through the doctrine that we should “strongly believe that this almighty power of God is theirs, that is, [is] engaged for their defence and help, so as to make use of it in all straits and temptations.” (Gurnall, 28) It is based on the verse, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10, KJV)

Enjoy these challenging thoughts:

“This goodly fabric of heaven and earth had not been built, but as a stage whereon he would in time act what he decreed in heaven of old, concerning the saving of thee, and a few more of his elect.” (Gurnall, 29)

I love the phrase “this goodly fabric of heaven and earth” and how Gurnall uses it as a display to the magnificent grace of God in salvation.

Here’s another one:

He that was willing to expend his Son’s blood to gain them, will not deny his power to keep them. (Gurnall, 29)

Perhaps you are struggling with assurance. You may be battling temptation after temptation, wondering how a Christian could struggle so mightily with such wickedness. Yet, if you have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ then you are securely kept by the blood of Jesus Christ. Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

The final quote is a prayer offered to God. Use it to draw your heart closer to the glorious God:

“How much less will God yield up a soul unto its enemy when it takes sanctuary in his name, saying, ‘Lord, I am hunted with such a temptation, dogged with such a lust, either thou must pardon it, or I am damned; mortify it, or I shall be a slave to it; take me into the bosom of thy love, for Christ’s sake; castle me in the arms of thy everlasting strength, it is in thy power to save me from, or give me up into, the hands of my enemy. I have no confidence in myself or any other: into they hands I commit my cause, my life, and rely on thee.'” (Gurnall, 30)