Guided by Gurnall: Part Twelve

William Gurnall, following the consistent practice of Puritan preachers, offers a doctrine first and then provides several reasons for the doctrine.

As we have journeyed through The Christian In Complete Armour, we have learned much about the armor of God. In this section, Gurnall offers the following doctrine:

It is not enough to have grace, but this grace must be kept in exercise. (Gurnall, 63-64)

In this “fourth branch,” Gurnall is discussing the “put on” aspect of the armor of God. In Ephesians 6:11, Paul commands the believer, “Put on the armor of God…” (ESV) As Gurnall notes, “It is one thing to have armour in the house, and another thing to have it buckled on; to have grace in the principle, and grace in the act.” (Gurnall, 63)

 

This armor is to be used, as Gurnall mentions. Noting the lifelong excursion of spiritual war, Gurnall informs the believer that “Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together; then, indeed, will be no need of watch and ward, shield or helmet.” (Gurnall, 64)

 

“FIRST. CHRIST COMMANDS US TO HAVE OUR ARMOUR ON, OUR GRACE IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 63)

 

What Gurnall is telling us is that we must be busy about the work God has given us to do. We must endeavor to follow Peter’s pattern in 2 Peter 1:3-11. Peter remarks on this need for growth by describing our state, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8, ESV)

 

The spiritual disciplines are a must for the believer. In my brief ministerial experience, many Christians complain of defeat in the face of temptation, struggles with sinful thoughts, and joyless living. When I ask them how their time with God has been, I come to find out that it is almost non-existent.

 

How can you increase your growth? There are two helpful resources I would recommend. First, Dr. Jim Berg’s book Changed Into His Image: God’s Plan for Transforming Your Life is an excellent work with an accompanying study guide. This book provides a treatment of the Christian life with practical applications. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Second, Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life. As with Dr. Berg’s book, Spiritual Disciplines has a study guide. Whitney offers a treatment of the various spiritual disciplines (such as Scripture intake, prayer, fasting, etc.).

 

Put on your armor, Christian, and exercise the grace that has been given to you!

 

“SECOND. SATAN’S ADVANTAGE IS GREAT WHEN GRACE IS NOT IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 64)

It is easier, says Gurnall, for Satan to trip you up when you are not growing in grace (i.e., wearing the armor of God). Consider an athlete. The individual trains and enhances their skill in the sport in which they compete. However, when the individual fails to train with consistent intensity, they fail at the sport. Likewise, when Christians fail to grow in grace, Satan is granted easy access to further harm you and help you sin.

 

The devil and forces of evil are given the upper hand when the Christian fails to practice his or her grace. How many dear brothers and sisters pack the pews on Sundays as defeated by the great adversary of our souls because of inactivity!

 

“THIRD. BECAUSE IT IS SO AWKY A BUSINESS, AND HARD A WORK, TO RECOVER THE ACTIVITY OF GRACE ONCE LOST, AND TO REVIVE A DUTY IN DISUSE.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

Remember, Gurnall is discussing the need to use the armor, not to simply own it. It is easy, reasons Gurnall, to maintain and grow in grace then it is to restart it. Now, we must take caution here and not that Gurnall is not discussing a Christian’s loss of his or her salvation. It is eternal redemption. However, he is not wrong in this sentiment.

 

Consider his elaboration, “The longer a soul hath neglected duty, the more ado there is to get it take up; partly, through shame, the soul having played truant, now know not how to look God in the face; and partly, from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

It is easier to maintain a car through consistent oil changes, tune-ups, and gas refills than it is to leave it idle for years. Most of the car’s operating systems would need to be replaced and fixed before operable. Christian, maintain your vehicle! Daily intake the Word of God and pray, attend church services with your fellow brothers and sisters, nourish your should through the spiritual disciplines. Neglect not your armor!

 

“FOURTH. WE MUST KEEP GRACE IN EXERCISE IN RESPECT OF OTHERS OUR FELLOW-SOLDIERS.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

Here Gurnall discusses one of the most important aspects, though often neglected, of the Christian life. Christianity involves a community, or fellowship, to use the biblical word (see 1 John 1:3, for example). We were meant to live together.

 

Though we are currently in social distancing due to the coronavirus, Christians were never meant to live the Christian life alone. We need each other. And one of the many responsibilities that you have to your brothers and sisters (and indeed all of us) is for the benefit of them.

 

We don our armor for them. Gurnall notes, “Thus, Christian, thou art to be helpful to thy fellow-brethren , who have not that settlement of peace in their spirit as thyself, not that measure of grace or comfort.” (Gurnall, 66)

 

In other words, Christians need you to live the Christian life to encourage them to continue pressing on! One of the most encouraging ministers I know is John MacArthur. He has pastored his church for fifty years. He is committed to the expository preaching of God’s Word. And for fifty years he has opened the Scriptures and expounded upon them, living in and among his people. They have observed his doctrine and his way of life, and he is still their pastor. His faithfulness is a challenge to me!

 

You never know what encouragement you offer to your fellow brothers and sisters. Thus, we must for their sake and ours, don the armor of God.

 

CONCLUSION

 

God has given us armor to wear, not to collect dust. Likewise, He has provided the sacred Scriptures to help our knowledge of Him increase, to provide guidance for our lives as we grow in godliness. Are we putting it to good use? Are we donning our armor daily? Or, are we neglecting the state of our souls?

 

Brothers and sisters let us consider the words of Gurnall solemnly. Let us, therefore, put on the whole armor of God.

 

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For more guidance from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

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

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

In expositing Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall seeks to distill every ounce of truth from the mines of spiritual warfare. It is a tremendous work, both in its length and in its content.

In the present section, Gurnall is describing the need for the whole armor of God (see Eph. 6:11). Up to this point, he has made mention of the need for the armor, what the armor consists of, and why the Christian must bear it.

Now Gurnall focuses on the extent of the armor or the completeness of it. He discusses it in a “threefold respect.” (Gurnall, 58) These are:

  • “FIRST. He must be armed in every part cap-a-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and senses of the other, not any part left naked.” (Gurnall, 58)
  • “SECOND. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God.” (Gurnall, 58)
  • “THIRD. The entireness of the saint’s armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint’s furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece.” (Gurnall, 83)

These are excellent points that well deserve our attention. We will examine these briefly.

“FIRST. He must be armed in every part cap-a-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and senses of the other, not any part left naked.” (Gurnall, 58)

In other words, the whole armor involves the whole body. Every inch must be protected in order to wage war against the enemy of our souls. Gurnall remarks, “Our enemies are on every side, and so must our armour be.” (Gurnall, 58)

He notes several examples of individuals in the Scripture who had one area unprotected. Ahab was killed with a small dart. “Eve looked but on the tree, and a poisonous dart struck her to the heart,” write Gurnall. (Gurnall, 58)

Are we not as prone to sin as they? Must we not bear the whole armor of God, and ensure every part of our bodies are covered and protected from the attacks of the devil? How foolish we are to think that we are more than capable of handling an enemy who has practiced wickedness almost as long as time has existed! How arrogant and haughty are we that we believe we can do what the powerful angel Michael could not! (Jude 9)

Brothers and sisters, let us put on the whole armor of God.

“SECOND. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God.” (Gurnall, 58)

Continuing on, Gurunall comments on the need to build upon the armor of God. That is, the need to develop the graces with which God has lavished upon the believer. He spends the majority of this section in 2 Peter 1:5-7, which reads:

5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Gurnall notes how the Scriptures describe the increasing effect of growing in grace. In putting on the whole armor, the Christian must not leave one piece off. He provides a brief exposition of that passage (a marvelous one) and then applies it to the understanding of the Christian’s armor. Each piece, each grace, if you will, must be donned. The enemies of our soul are many, multi-talented and intrinsically evil. As we put on this armor, we must put all of it on. We must don the graces of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to stand against the attacks of the slithering serpent.

“THIRD. The entireness of the saint’s armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint’s furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece.” (Gurnall, 83)

The final item Gurnall discusses concerns the sharpening of the tools, the increasing of their effectiveness. The blade of the knight must be continually sharpened in order to maintain its effectiveness in battle. Likewise, the Christian’s armor must be maintained.

Gurnall describes the situation,

“The Christian had need have an armourer’s shop at hand to make up his loss, and that speedily, for Satan is most like to fall on when the Christian is least prepared to receive his charge.” (Gurnall, 61)

The Christian’s armor must be at the ready at all times, for the devil is a tireless enemy. Therefore the Christian must be about the protection and development of his armor. This is due to the nature of grace, “Because grace is subject to decays,” remarks Gurnall. (Gurnall, 61)

We are in the work of sanctification, daily becoming more like Jesus Christ, which necessarily involves the armor of God.

Concluding Thoughts

How is your armor, Christian? Are you wearing all the armor of God? Are you and I constantly building upon the faith, as described by our brother Peter? Are we watching our armor, ensuring it is equipped and maintained?

As I read this section, I was reminded of the fierceness of the battle. Christians, we need to remember that our adversary is walking around looking for people to devour. Therefore, let us put on the whole armor of God.

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

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

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

In my reading of William Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour, I came across a wonderful, soul-nourishing section. It reminded me of my children and the constant question they ask, “Why?” They ask this question for almost everything I tell them. “That ant is a fire ant.” “Why?” “God clean your room.” “Why?” “I love you!” “Why?”

Any parent, or any individual who has ever worked with children, particularly young children, know this experience. Yet, in Gurnall’s discussion on the need for the armor of God, he anticipates that why question. Why does the armor have to be God’s armor? 

There are several important reasons why the armor must be God’s armor. Gurnall offers some helpful insights as they relate to the main issue, false armors.

False armors

The helpful insight Gurnall gives is in relation to what he calls “false ware.” (Gurnall, 54) He writes,

“It is Satan’s after-game he plays, if he cannot please the sinner with his naked state of profaneness, to put him off with something like grace, some flighty stuff, that shall neither do him good, nor Satan hurt.” (Gurnall, 54)

When asked why we need God’s armor, we must remember that the enemy of our soul, Satan, would love to see us take comfort from false armors. It may provide a sense of security, but offers no protection. Think of many individuals who work for their salvation. The good deeds they engage in provide a sense of comfort, but ultimately they will leave the individual under the just wrath of God if there is no repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Gurnall makes this clear,

“Pray they must, but little care how it be performed. Believe in God? yes, they hope they are not infidels. But what [the armour] is, how they came by it, or whether it will hold in an evil day, this never was put to the question in their hearts.” (Gurnall, 55)

False Security

That false armor, whatever it may be, leads to false security. This is a dangerous place to be. Imagine being on the highest mountain, on the very top you can see only great distances between yourself and the ground. Your head becomes light with the enormous height. This is the predicament of false armors. You may feel secure because of your expert training, monumental experience, and superb equipment, but this is a false security. One misstep and you will plummet to your death. Gurnall notes the direness of the situation,

“O how hard is it to persaude such a one to light, and hold Christ stirrup, while he and his duties are made Christ’s footstool.” (Gurnall, 55)

There is another aspect of this security, and that involves the condemnation of the one trusting in armor other than that of God’s. Gurnall remarks on the sad situation of those who reject the armor of God,

“None sink so far into hell as those that come nearest heaven, because they fall from the greatest height.” (Gurnall, 55)

So many individuals seem to be Christian. They “made a decision at camp” or “they trusted Christ when a young child,” and yet their lives bear proof that they do not have the armor of God. The false armor produces a false security, over which the sure judgment of God stands. Gurnall states, “None will have such a sad parting from Christ as those who went half-way with him and then left him.” (Gurnall, 55) Jesus puts it like this, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23, ESV)

A Call for Reformation

What is Gurnall’s advice for those who believe they have the armor of God when in fact they do not? Take up the armor, of course! Repent of the sinful negligence you have shown in refusing to take up the armor of God and put it on! His advice stands true today,

“O Christians, either vindicate the name of Christ, whose ensign you seem to march after, or throw away your seeming armour, bu which you have drawn the eyes of the world upon you.” (Gurnall, 56)

In other words, either be true to Christ or leave Christ. The damage you are creating by claiming to have the armor of God, while not truly possessing it, will only bring further condemnation to your soul.

The message for us today, then, is not much different than that in Gurnall’s day. Let us take up the armor of God. Let us be sure that it is indeed His armor. And let us fight the flesh and the devil with God’s weapons, in God’s power, and with God’s armor. And if we are not truly His, let us cast off the hypocrisy, for we bring greater condemnation upon ourselves when we play the Christian life.

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

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

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

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

It has been a while since I have picked up Gurnall’s massive volume, The Christian In Complete Armour. However, in today’s reading, Gurnall is discussing the importance of taking the armor of God into battle. As he is working his way through this thought, he offers several reproofs for those who use the armor of God, but not in the way God intended.

 

One way that we can do this is trusting in the armor of God rather than the God of the armor. Gurnall pens these powerful words, “We must not confide in the amour of God, but in the God of this armour, because all our weapons are only ‘mighty through God’ 2 Cor. X. 4.”[1]

 

How tempting is it to put our truth in the means of grace rather than the Giver of grace? I immediately think of my own devotional time. I spend most mornings, before everyone arises, in Scripture reading and prayer. It is a constant danger that I take the simple act of reading as the means of grace rather than trusting and depending upon the God of Scripture to speak to me. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith speaks on this as the doctrine of sanctification. Christians, they write, “are also furthered sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts of it are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”[2]

 

As believers engaged in spiritual war, we can, that is to say, we have the potential, of relying on the armor of God in a sinful way. When we replace the means of grace as he main giver of grace, we face unavoidable doom. We must constantly, or “more and more,” as the signers of the 2LBC say, rely on the God of the armor rather than the armor of God.

 

How are we doing with this? Do we engage in the means of grace in a way that focuses on the God of that grace? Or, like the Pharisees, are we mechanical in our approach to the armor (or any other means of grace) of God?

 

Let us heed the warnings of Gurnall. “Many souls, we may safely say, do not only perish praying, repenting, and believer after a sort, but they perish by their praying and repenting, &c., while they carnally trust in these.”[3]

[1] William Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armour: A Treatise of the Saints’ War Against the Devil (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 53.

[2] 2LBC, 13:1.

[3] Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armour, 53.

You can purchase Gurnall’s marvelous work through the Banner of Truth here.

Check out previous posts in this series below:

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

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

In his exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall notes the need for the Christian to wear armor. He plainly writes, “The Christian must be armed for the War.” (Gurnall, 45)

In his opening discussion of Ephesians 6:11, he provides the importance of regeneration. Without God’s saving grace, the individual is in “a Christless graceless state.” (Gurnall, 45) He goes on to describe this terrible situation, “A soul out of Christ is naked and destitute of all armour to defend him against sin and Satan.” (Gurnall, 45)

CONSIDER THE ENEMY

This thought should immediately strike fear into our hearts. Satan is no thin, red devil running around with a pitchfork. He is the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12, cf. Col. 1:13), and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). He has vast power, so much so that even Michael would not bring an accusation against him (Jude 9). He walks around like a lion “seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8, ESV). While Christians should fear God, we must be careful not to approach the great enemy of our souls in a haphazard manner.

CONSIDER THE STATE OF THE UNREGENERATE

As Christians, our greatest privilege is to share the Gospel with people. We seek to evangelize the lost, to see Satan’s kingdom of darkness overcome with the light and love of Jesus. But in our efforts to preach the Gospel, we must remember the state of those to whom we preach.

Gurnall offers four “notions” of those in this Christless state. (Gurnall, 46)

“IT IS A STATE OF ALIENATION FROM GOD” (Gurnall, 46)

Paul encourages believers to remember their hopeless state before Christ (see Eph. 2:12). All people, regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, political view, economic status, or any other class, who have not been born again at in a state of alienation from God. Gurnall states their sad case, “He is without God in the world; he can claim no more protection from God, than an out-lawed subject from his prince.” (Gurnall, 46) The people to whom we communicate the Gospel have no protection from the God of heaven.

“THE CHRISTLESS STATE IS A STATE OF IGNORANCE, AND SUCH MUST NEEDS BE NAKED AND UNARMED” (Gurnall, 46)

This spiritual war, unobserved to the natural eye, wages all over. The sad state is one of complete ignorance. Gurnall remarks, “He that cannot see his enemy, how can he ward off the blow he sends?” (Gurnall, 46) As we share the Gospel, the Christless people of earth have no idea of the enemy’s attacks. They are open, exposed, like a nerve without a tooth. They experience great pain, but are unaware of the enemy’s affliction. Let us pray that God will deliver them out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light!

“THE CHRISTLESS STATE IS A STATE OF IMPOTENCY” (Gurnall, 47)

The souls to whom we preach are impotent. They cannot fight their own flesh, let alone the devil. What hope have they? They have no armor, nor a Protector. They have no weapons, nor a Defender. Gurnall describes their plight, “What the Spirit of God doth in a saint, that in a manner doth Satan in a sinner. The Spirit fills the heart with love, joy, holy desires, fears; so Satan fills the sinner’s heart with pride, lust, lying.” (Gurnall, 47) Imagine the desperate plight of these bearers of the image of God!

“THE STATE OF UNREGENERACY IS A STATE FRIENDSHIP WITH SIN AND SATAN” (Gurnall, 47)

The state of Christless souls is one of friendship with sin and Satan. Remember  James’ words, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4, NASB). No Christless soul can be a friend of God, nor can it be an enemy of Satan. Gurnall even discusses the possibility of when an individual seems to be fighting against sin and Satan. He writes, “Sometimes indeed there appears a scuffle between Stan and a carnal heart, but it is a mere cheat, like the fighting of two fencers on a stage. You would think at first they were in earnest, but observing how wary they are, [and] where they hit one another, you may soon know they do not mean to kill; and that which puts all out of doubt, when the prize is done you shall see them making merry together with what they have got of their spectators, which was all they fought for.” (Gurnall, 47-48)

CONSIDER OUR DUTY

As Christians, we are to don this armor in order to fight our own wars. We still have indwelling sin, and we are told to fight against it in the power of God’s might. We must remember, consider, meditate upon the destructive nature and devilish desires of our enemies.

As Christians, we are to fight against the powers of darkness through the grace of God. Gurnall discusses the weapons of our warfare later, but for now we need to remember the plight of the Christless soul. What are we doing to tell people the Gospel? How are we evangelizing the lost?

May we be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

 

MORE IN THE SERIES

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

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.”

 

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.