Six Reasons to Be Content (Part Four)

In Matthew 6:11, Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread” (ESV)

This small petition is packed with meaning, as we have already noted in our reading of Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. It has been an incredibly rich study yielding delightful fruit for our souls.

However, in our present section, Thoman Manton is discussing the use of this petition. The Puritan preachers were extremely practical preachers, seeking to divide rightly the Word of Truth and to apply it vigorously to our lives. In this particular petition, Manton spends time examining how this truth can help the Christian be content.

The word content means having enough. When you are standing in line at the buffet and the server asks if you would like more, you reply, “No thank you, I’m good!” What you mean is that you have plenty of food and do not need anymore (evident in many of our waists, sad to say!). We are content. So, how does Manton provide yet another reason to be content?

Manton writes, “God doth not only give suitable to your condition, but suitable to your strength, such a portion as you are able to bear.” (Manton, 164)

What a gloriously sweet Father we serve that He will not give us more than we can handle! A wise parent will give her child a few pieces of candy because she knows that too much sugar can spoil their dinner, harm their teeth, and possibly make them sick. Likewise, and on a great level (infinitely so, we might say), our Heavenly Father loves giving us good gifts, but does so with infinite wisdom to match. He knows how many blessings we are able to bear without souring our souls. He knows how many good gifts to lay on our backs before we give in to self-sufficient thoughts.

Speaking in a pastoral, wise tone, Manton notes, “God layeth affliction pon his people, and he gives them mercies as they are able to bear; if they had more, they would have more snares, more temptations.” (Manton, 164)

Another reason to be content, then, is because God is sovereignly good because He wisely distributes His goodness in proportion to the ability of the believer. 

 

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

For more in this series on contentment, see:

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 3)

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 2)

6 Reasons to Be Content (Part 1)

For more from Manton, see:

4 Ways to Minister Like the Angels: A Word from T. Manton

3 Ways to Know You Love God’s Will

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

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

8 Reasons I am a Southern Baptist

In the midst of all the COVID-19 posts, clips, and Executive Orders, I find it helpful to back off the media consumption and do some heartfelt, soul-edifying work. I recently finished an older book written by Robert Baker titled, The Southern Baptist Convention and Its People 1607-1972. The book covers several hundreds of years of Baptist history in more than 400 pages. It is well-researched, delightfully written, and filled with facts.

 

I enjoyed the book, but what I enjoyed was the message of the book. The Southern Baptist Convention is amazing.[1] I was saved and grew up in an Independent, Fundament Baptist church. There is a lot of difference in what this entails, and I would be more than glad to share my experiences, should you be so inclined. However, shortly after getting married to the most amazing and wonderful woman I have ever met, I became a Southern Baptist. The primary draw was the Cooperative Program.[2] We can get much more done together than we can apart. And I loved the spirit of unity among Southern Baptists. Did they disagree on matters? Absolutely! But they worked through those disagreements with a desire to do the work of the ministry, together.

 

Baker’s book is filled with fascinating stories of the men and women who made the SBC was it is today, and this all happened within the context of the local church. Toward the end of the book, however, Baker mentions eight reasons that the SBC enjoyed, what he called, “remarkable growth.”[3] They were eight reminders of why I am glad to be a Southern Baptist, and I wanted to share them with you.

 

  • “The simple biblical emphasis and democratic ecclesiology.” (447)
  • “The numerous self-sustaining ministry.[sic]” (447)
  • “Identification with the culture-patterns of its environment.” (447)
  • “Evangelistic zeal.” (447)
  • “Individual leadership.” (447)
  • “The structure of the Convention.” (447)
  • “The absence of a significant schism.” (448)[4]
  • “Emphasis on education.” (448)

All of these factors are important to me personally. They are also reasons for which I am thankful to be a Southern Baptist. If you are a Southern Baptist, I highly recommend this resource to you. If you are considering becoming a Southern Baptist, read this book of the historical development of the Convention and the churches within it.

 

What makes you glad to be a Southern Baptist? Would you add anything? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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[1] You can learn more on the SBC’s website: http://www.sbc.net/

[2] The Cooperative Program is fascinating. I encourage you to do your research here: http://www.sbc.net/cp/default.asp

[3] Robert Baker, The Southern Baptist Convention and Its People: 1607-1972 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1974), 446.

[4] Since the book was written prior to the Conservative-Liberal split, it is not included here. However, even with that split, the Convention sided with the Scriptures. Learn more about the C-L split here: http://www.bpnews.net/18486/25-years-ago-conservative-resurgence-got-its-start

 

Lessons of the Judgment of God

Introductory Thoughts
This Sunday evening, I walked our congregation through Genesis chapter 5. Our primary focus was on the judgment of God. This judgment comes from the Creator God, as established by Genesis chapter one and 2:5-24. God creates everything, culminating in the creation of man and woman. Before creating the woman, God issues a command and prohibition to Adam (Gen. 2:15-17). When Adam fails to obey His Creator, judgment comes (Gen. 3). As a result, God cursed the ground (Gen. 3:17-19), but He also eventually executed the judgment of death promised in Gen. 2:17.
4 Lessons on Judgment
In chapter 5 of Genesis, we see a shift from the focus on Cain and his seed to Adam and his seed. Humanity is now born in the image of Adam (Gen. 5:3), maintaining that nature of sin and wrath (Rom. 3:10-18, cf. Eph. 2:1-3). As a result, God’s judgment extends. However, there are four lessons we can learn about God’s judgment. We will take one lesson each week and devote some time, thought, and prayer to seeking how we can best live by the truth we learn.
1. God has a reason for judgment–our judgment is not because of a malevolent God.
Many people erroneously believe that God is a horrible God. Consider Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist and evolutionary-biologist, thoughts, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” [Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 31.]
Unfortunately, Dawkins’ views could well describe the beliefs of many. However, as Christians, we submit to God’s Word, and God’s Word teaches us that since He created us, He is well within His rights to rule over us. Scriptures, however, teach another thing about God: He is holy. Passages like Isaiah 6:1-6 illustrate the supreme holiness of God.
Because God is holy, sin must be judged. It is in the very nature of holiness that sin and injustice must be addressed. So why is it that people have such trouble accepting this?
Besides their natural bend away from God (again, see Rom. 3:10-18), people have a problem with seeing their own wickedness. Individuals like David serve as a perfect example. In 2 Samuel 11, David sees a woman of great beauty. After a significant warning (11:3), David pursued an immoral relationship with the wife of one of his mighty men. Learning of her pregnancy with his child, David attempts to put a blanket over the whole situation (11:6-13). In this, Uriah was acting more righteous than David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. Even in his failure, David pressed on by sending a death warrant for Uriah, carried by Uriah himself (11:14-25). David, after hearing of the success of his command, takes Bathsheba as his wife. The LORD, as the Scriptures say, was displeased. In chapter 12, God brings Nathan to David to confront him. Interestingly Nathan does not come out and address David’s sin, instead, he tells a story. All the while, David is blind to his own wickedness.
While we look back at David and wonder how someone could do such a thing, we must realize that we do the exact same thing. Then, when God righteously judges us, we kick back and begin to argue about His own injustice.
The first lesson we learn about judgment from Genesis chapter five is that God has every right and reason to judge sin: His holiness has been violated.
Brothers and sisters, let us learn this lesson together. Let us learn it swiftly and intensely, and let the judgment of God spur us on to action.

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

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

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

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

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

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 3)

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

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

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

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

A RIGHT VIEW OF GOD

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

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

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

A RIGHT VIEW OF SELF

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

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

A RIGHT VIEW OF THINGS

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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?