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.

 

____________________

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 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

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 Benefits of Pruning: John 15:2

I read John chapter fifteen this morning. It is a wonderful chapter, filled with glorious truths, personal warnings, and sweet love. It is part of the last exhortations of Jesus to the disciples, and it is packed with exquisite truth for life.

In verse two Jesus says, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (KJV)

The first half of the verse deserved it’s own treatment. It was the second half of the verse that stood out to me. In our society, we are obsessed with comfort and ease (aren’t we all?). We seek for projects to be as easy as possible. We want our food to be readily available. We need our packages shipped the next day. It is every where. We want “1 click buy options,” and a card that we can simply move over the card reader.

We could go on with this, but I think we can all agree that it is true. We are creatures who are protective of our comforts. Now, comfort is not wrong in and of itself. It is wrong when we place it above what is necessary or better.

This is where John 15:2b comes into play. When we bear fruit for Jesus, Jesus promises that the Father will purge the branch to produce more fruit. The word translate purge (or prune, as in the ESV), comes from καθαιρω. Interestingly, this is the only instance in the New Testament of this word. Its basic meaning is to cleanse or prune. Surprise, right? But what does this look like?

Jesus is illustrating the biblical truth of sanctification with the cultivation of grapes. Gardeners know that in order to help plants grow better (or produce more fruit/vegetables), they must trim and keep healthy. Sanctification is God’s process of growth to be more like Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). It is God’s pruning of our lives, if you will.

Why does this matter? Because it means that there may be things in our lives, good things, that God removes in order to help me be more like Jesus. I think there are three helpful points to note.

1. God may cause us pain in order to make us more like Jesus.

This is huge. Understanding that painful and terrible experiences in our lives are allowed and produced by God for our good and His glory redeems our sufferings. We all have had Romans 8:28 quoted to us, but it is a depthless verse. All things work together for our good and God’s glory. All suffering prunes us to bear more fruit. All experiences, no matter how impossible for us to understand, helps us bear more fruit.

2. God may bring people into our lives that help us to be more like Jesus.

We all have that one person that knows how to push every button that irritates us. There is that guy at work, or that lady on Instagram, and it seems every thing they say and do is like an arrow shot from a crossbow two inches from your chest into your heart. Could it be that God has allowed him or her into your life to prune you and me? The Scriptures are packed with references to how we treat other people. Even in John 15 Jesus says that we should love one another (verse 12). Rather than complain about the individual, rejoice in God’s sovereign goodness in allowing that tool of pruning to enter your life. Rather than seeking to minimize or eliminating the relationship, why not embrace it and through the power of God (see John 15:4) produce more fruit.

3. God may allow irritating events in your life to make you more like Jesus.

One thing about blogs that I do not like it that you do not really know the blogger. We usually have a romanticized view of those we read. One thing that you may not know about me is that I get irritated over little things. Now, I do not mean that when one little thing happens I fly off the handle. It is when 100 little things happen, ether simultaneously or sequentially. That is irritating, right?

But I am slowly learning (emphasis on slowly) that it is God’s way of helping me be more like Jesus. He was patient with people. He was kind. He trusted in the Father’s sovereign rule of His life. Don’t you want to be like Him? I do!

So, you may be experiencing a little issue or a life-changing trauma. Will it be easy to work through? Probably not. Will it be enjoyable? Only if you are warped. Will it produce more fruit? Only if you yield to God’s leading, and through God’s power allow it to mold you more into the precious image of Jesus Christ.

“Every branch in my that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (KJV)

Silence and Solitude

Just recently I began waking at five in the morning and going to my shed to pray. There’s not much in there besides my weights. There is a small chair, a make shift desk, and two candles to give a little light. But in the silence God has began to teach me a little about Himself, how through being alone and in a quite place I can hear His still, small voice.

At first it was hard to get up that early, and the very next day I skipped getting out of bed that early. But since then I have been fairly consistent at it. The fruits have been far more than enough in payback. I have gained victories over sin, things that irritated me or made me angry before have now slipped into everyday life, and I feel like a brand new Christian. Jesus’ example was to rise early and get alone with God. And there is nothing more beneficial to the believer than to be with their Heavenly Father, in silence and solitude.