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

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3 Ways to Exercise Yourself to Godliness

It has been a while since my last posting. Life and ministry have a way of overrunning us if we let it! With that said, I have been reading Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry, printed by the Banner of Truth Trust.

It has been an amazing book. I should underline what does not speak to me as this may save me some ink! Seriously though, the book has been incredibly fruitful.

One thing that Bridges discusses that is of vital importance is the reading of Scripture as it relates to godliness. Though lengthy, I want to provide his paragraph for your digestion.

“’Exercise thyself unto godliness’—was one of the wise rules of the Apostle to his beloved son, for the course of his Ministry; a rule, which bears with most important application to the noviciate. Its connection with the rule of study in the succeeding context is worthy of remark. ‘Giving attendance to reading,’ without active energy, would form a most incomplete and inefficient ministry. The want of exercise is as hurtful to the spiritual as to the bodily system; nor will ‘reading’ communicate any benefit, except its results are operative in Christian activity. Equally important is the combination with prayer. In fact, study, prayer, and exercise, may be said to form the minister. Study stores the mind, prayer infuses a divine influence, exercise carries out the resources into effective agency.” (Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry, 63-64)

Christians should read the Bible, and many often do. However, how we read is more important than simply reading. How many of us are guilty of reading a passage in the morning and completely forgetting what we read by lunch? Are we truly exercising ourselves to godliness? Are we giving ourselves a good workout toward Christ-likeness?

What are some ways we can combat this? How can we exercise ourselves to godliness?

EXERCISE YOURSELF TO GODLINESS THROUGH ACTIVE READING

First, by being active in our reading. When we read we can ask questions, like:

  • Who is this passage talking about?
  • What is going on?
  • What is being said?
  • What does this passage teach me about God?

The questions could go on and on. Active reading can also take the shape of diagramming the verses. It can be jotting the main points down in the margin of the Bible or in a separate journal. Though the method may vary, the point is to be active.

EXERCISE YOURSELF TO GODLINESS THROUGH DIGESTION OF WHAT YOU ARE READING

In his book, Changed Into His Image, Dr. Jim Berg discusses the MAP method for meditating on Scripture. The “P” is “Personalize the passage.” (Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image, 298-299)

He goes on to write,

“Plan concrete changes in your life that are consistent with your understanding of the passage. Such plans would include schedules, steps, and details.” (Berg, Changed, 299)

Exercising yourself to godliness includes putting what you read into practice. When you read verses about praying, you change your habits of prayer to reflect what the Scriptures are teaching.

EXERCISE YOURSELF TO GODLINESS THROUGH CONSISTENCY

The analogy Mr. Bridges uses is one of physical exercise. The human body responds to exercise. When someone lifts weights, they tear down their muscles. During the healing process, the muscles become stronger in order to lift the weight effectively. Through continued weightlifting, the individual develops stronger muscles. He can now lift weights he was unable to do so previously.

If, however, he skips a few months, the weightlifter returns to square one. In a similar way (though not precisely), we need to exercise ourselves continually. We must consistently read, meditate, and apply Scripture in order to grow in godliness.

HOW ARE YOU DOING?

So, how are you doing? Are you exercising yourself to godliness? Are you actively reading God’s Word? Are you digesting what you are reading? Are you doing so consistently?

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!

____________________________________________________________

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

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.

3 Reasons Genealogies Are In the Bible

We all wonder why God allowed genealogies in the Bible. If you find yourself reading through the Bible in a year (or any other length of time), you may even dread it! The endless list of names you can barely spell, the mountains of individuals whose pronunciation you will butcher, and the disconnect from little to no knowledge about the individual causes genealogies to leave a bad taste in our mouths (think of burnt popcorn).

But Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17, ESV) This means that, yes, even genealogies are profitable. We are like children taking medicine. It tastes horrible, and our little brains cannot imagine how something so gross could possibly help us.

So, how do genealogies help us? How are they profitable? This list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it original. I have read different commentaries, articles, and journals over the years. (If one of them sticks out, please send me the source so I can properly cite it!) The thoughts I am sharing this morning stem from that research. However, I want to offer three reasons why genealogies are in the Bible. My hope is to inspire you to cling to the truths of Scripture (see II Timothy 3:16-17), and to build your confidence in God’s wisdom.

Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals in His plan of redemption

One of the benefits of genealogies is that it shows us that God works with individuals. We tend to think of groups such as Israel, Judah, or the Levites. Or, when we do think of individuals, we think only of the big whigs: David, John the Baptist, or Paul. But what about the Loises and Eunices of the Bible (see II Timothy 1:5)? Even “insignificant” people have profound impacts in God’s plan of redemption. No one knows the names of the pit crew members (unless you are a fan of Nascar), but without them the racers would never be known. Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals, many of whom we will never really know, in His plan of redemption. What is your part in this plan? Perhaps you have thought your own life too common to make any significant impact in God’s work of redemption. Take encouragement from the genealogies. They show us that God works with individuals like you and like me.

Genealogies teach us that God works in the mundane

The second reason genealogies are in the Bible, though not second in order or significance, is that they teach us that God works in the mundane. Now, don’t get me wrong, the birth of the child is a miracle. Besides my salvation and marriage, the most exciting moments in my life we’re meeting three of our four children. There is nothing mundane about the birth of a precious baby. At the same time, however, it is mundane, at least in the broad sense. Parents have children, those children grow up, get married, and have children. It is mundane. Genealogies are not unlike this. After the tenth “And (insert name you cannot pronounce) begat (insert second but equally un-pronounceable name)…” you realize just how mundane genealogies truly are. The glaze over your eyes and the blank stare bring you back to fourth grade. But an amazing truth lies underneath the common experiences of life: God works in them. Have you ever stopped and considered that for rough thirty years Jesus did the mundane elements of life? He would wake up, eat, work, come home, attend synagogue, and repeat. Day after day. Year after year. Yet, this was part of God’s redemptive plan to save countless numbers of people. Genealogies are an expression of God’s work in the mundane. How do you view the mundane of life? Did you ever stop to consider that the mundane of life my be God’s way of using you in His plan of redemption?

Genealogies teach us humility

The final reason genealogies are in the Bible is to teach us humility. There are several ways this is observed. First, it shows us some of the great people of the Bible and some of the worst. It’s The Incredibles and the Malcoms in the Middles thrown together. It’s the Uncle Bobs the mean grannies. Our humility comes from the fact that God uses both. Second, genealogies teach us humility because it shows us that it is not all about us. We come, and we go. We do not live for ever. But God’s work does not stop with us. It goes on and will go on. Does that not humble us?

Conclusion

Let’s face it: genealogies are not the most exciting part of our Scripture reading. They can be a little boring. But, if we take the time to consider a few reasons God gave them to us, it may, like the redemption of sinners by the grace of God, transform something boring into a reminder of God’s Grace.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Kevin DeYoung, in his book Crazy Busy, writes, “What is wrong—and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable—is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.” (118)

That is how DeYoung ends his book. The chapter is, “The One Thing You Must Do.” I must admit, this is a danger for me personally. I am a driven individual. I like setting goals and achieving them. But I am constantly in danger of making Jesus a goal. “Oh, I read my Bible for the day!” is a dangerous statement to make. I need Jesus, moment by moment. I must meditate o His Word constantly. In times of particular busyness, it is paramount that I maintain daily time in Scripture reading and prayer.

I will be sharing a review of the book soon (if the Lord wills), but for now I wanted to leave you with this challenging thought.

May God give us this day our daily bread, and may we thoroughly feast on the Wondrous Word.

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

Worship: Advice Worship

Photo by Robin Spielmann on Unsplash

Worship: Advice on How to Worship

I am slowly working my way through D. G. Hart and John R. Muether’s With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship.[1] It is a wonderful book! In my reading, I came across the chapter, “Leading and Participating In Worship.” In the chapter, Hart and Muether discuss the different roles individuals (ministers and lay-people) play in worship. This post is not a discussion on that particularly (though the question is of upmost importance), I did want to highlight a few helpful points they offer for engaging in worship.

  1. Worship is God-centered

    In a previous chapter, Hart and Muether address the importance of remembering what worship is: “Worship is the work of acknowledging the greatness of our covenant Lord.”[2] We must always remember that we are worshiping God. That is what worship is all about. It is dangerous to be rash with our mouths because “God is in heaven and [we] are on earth.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, ESV) We are worshiping the Creator of the Universe, the “One who is high and lifted up.” (Isaiah 57:15, ESV) We are not nearly as careful as we should be entering into worship. Toward the end of the chapter, Hart and Muether remark, “…if a problem exists with Reformed worship, the difficulty may be inappropriate expectations.”[3]

  2. Worship is active

    Worship is not a passive event. It is one of action. We worship The question may be asked, “How do I worship God?” Here are several ways offered by Hart and Muether:

    1. Hear the Word of God “diligently and prayerfully”
    2. Prepare for reception of Communion (self-examination, meditation on Christ’s body, etc.)
    3. Live in light of your baptism[4]

“Worship really is a verb when it consists of Word, sacraments, and prayer.”[5]

Is this how you view worship? Do you invest in worship? Do you read the Scriptures to be preached? Do you examine yourself prior to observing the Lord’s Supper?

Worship, far from being passive, is an active participation in glorifying the great and everlasting God.

“It is a time when heaven and earth meet; it is a holy conversation between the Creator of heaven and earth and his redeemed creatures.”[6]

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! Psalm 95:6

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You can purchase With Reverence and Awe, and other helpful resources, from Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

[1] D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002).

[2] John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1996), 1.

[3] Hart and Muether, With Reverence and Awe, 116.

[4] Ibid., 113-114.

[5] Ibid., 115.

[6] Ibid., 116.