The Deceitfulness of Sin

John Owen, (1616-1683) was a Puritan academic, pastor, one-time chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and prolific author in England during the crisis-filled seventeenth century. He was acquainted with sorrow (of his eleven children, ten died in infancy), persecution (was a victim of the Act of Uniformity of 1662 which drove him from London), and had an astute understanding of the destructive nature of sin in people’s lives. In The Mortification of Sin he wrote:

Every time sin rises to tempt or entice, it always seeks to express itself in the extreme. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression; and every unbelieving thought would be atheism. It is like the grave that is never satisfied.

In this we see the deceitfulness of sin. It gradually prevails to harden man’s heart to his ruin (Heb. 3:13). Sin’s expression is modest in the beginning but, once it has gained a foothold, it continues to take further ground and presses on to greater heights. This advance of sin keeps the soul from seeing that it is drifting from God. The soul becomes indifferent to the seed of sin as it continues to grow. This growth has no boundaries but utter denial of God and opposition to Him. Sin precedes higher by degrees; it hardens the heart as it advances. This enables the deceitfulness of sin to drive the soul deeper and deeper into sin. Nothing can prevent this but mortification. Mortification withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour. The best saints in the world are in danger of a fall if found negligent in this important duty!” (The Mortification of Sin, Banner of Truth abridged version)

The utter deceitfulness of sin reminds us once again of our need to flee to Christ, to trust in Christ, and to rest in what Christ has done of our behalf, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Godly Counsel from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

In Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones discusses the Psalmists words in Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” I will share his Godly advice without comment:

“I say we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ouselves’ to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’ Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have had but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why are thou cast down’—what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note; defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’” (Pp. 20-21)

Tuesday Hymns: “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended”

Johann Heermann (1585-1647) was a German Lutheran poet and pastor whose 62 years were filled with sickness, the death of loved ones, the loss of all his worldly possessions, and the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. Yet, his hymns again and again speak of the goodness and the mercy of God being poured out on undeserving sinners. Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended, our Tuesday Hymn, is one such hymn. The hymn speaks much of the sinner’s sin, and even more of the glorious grace of God. We usually sing it to the tune, Iste Confessor.

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

Lo, the good Shepherd for the sheep is offered:
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered:
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation:
Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

Free Grace

As I was looking over our Affirmation of Faith for tomorrow morning, I came across the following paragraph written by A. A. Hodge in The Confession of Faith:

The following facts indicate that ‘justification is only of free grace.’ (1) It was an act of free grace that God permitted another to be our substitute. (2) It was an act of free grace that God gave his only begotten Son to be our substitute. (3) It was an act of free grace that God chose many out of a lost race to be represented by him. (4) It was an act of free grace that God bestowed the rewards which are the inheritance of the redeemed because of Christ’s finished work.”

I, for one, appreciate the doctrinal clarity of those giants of past centuries who declared “the whole counsel of God” to the generations that went before us. May the Lord bless us with a double-portion of that spirit.

Cosmic Treason

I am convinced that every man has at least two blind spots which effect everything that he thinks, says, and does. The first is his inability to understand the height and breadth of the holiness of God, and the second is his inability to understand the depth of the depravity of his own sin. Jonathan Edwards seems to have had a good understanding of both:

“Any sin is more or less heinous depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we had offended. Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence. The slightest sin is nothing less than cosmic treason when we realize against whom we have sinned.”

Happy Birthday, Reed!

Fifteen years ago today, Reed came into our lives. We were able to bring him home from the adoption agency on a sunny Saturday afternoon after I had spent that Friday night and Saturday morning speaking at a couple’s retreat for Woodland Baptist Church in Beaumont. Although I had had two biological children with my first wife, Lydia, who was killed in an auto accident along with my daughter; Dixie and I had not been able to have any children of our own. After five years of infertility treatments (truly a nightmare) the Lord blessed us with the opportunity to adopt Reed.

He was slow to sit up, talk (although he made great train and animal sounds), crawl (he scooted on his behind everywhere he went), and walk, yet it was not until we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana that we heard the word, “autism,” for the first time. The segue used by our doctor to introduce the topic was to ask if we had ever seen the movie, “Rainman.” (Note to doctors: there are better ways to introduce parents to the possibility that their child might have autism.)

We did all that we knew to do for him. We involved him in some early childhood education through the schools in Shreveport, but we finally chose to teach Reed at home in order to give him as much individual attention as possible. Those early days were not easy (I distinctly remember standing in the doorway to our hall, hitting my head against the doorframe in frustration), and the present has its difficulties, also, yet I can truly say it has been a blessing to have been chosen in God’s providence to be Reed’s dad.

Through God’s grace and much diligence, Reed has come a long way. He can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and use other math skills needed to survive in this world, and knows that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (And, to be perfectly honest, can memorize Scripture much better than his father.) Granted, he struggles, as many do with Autism Spectrum Disorder, with emotional swings, focus, speech, verbal tics, and understanding what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in our adult world; yet, he knows that his only hope is to be found in Christ, and he is resting in what Christ has done on His behalf.

I am not sure what the future holds for Reed, but I do know that God has a purpose for his life. And, by God’s grace, Reed’s desire in living is the very same as mine: to learn to “love the LORD [his] God with all [his] heart, and with all [his] soul, and with all [his] mind,” and to “love [his] neighbor as [himself].” May the Lord bless him on his birthday and through the years to come.

Tuesday Hymns: “Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee”

Josiah Conder (1789-1859) was a Congregationalist author, editor, hymn writer, and avid abolitionist in London during the nineteenth century. Although he lost sight in one of his eyes to small pox at the age of five, he grew to be a prolific writer and collector of hymns with his The Congregational Hymn Book selling over 90,000 copies. He is the author of our Tuesday Hymn of the week, ’Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee.

The hymn displays the vivid truth of 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” which states that apart from a sovereign work of God’s Spirit, man is not only not willing to receive the truth of the Gospel, but he is unable to receive the truth of the Gospel. Salvation is truly a work of God’s mercy and grace from start to finish. “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him alone be the glory. Amen.”

Because the tune that is usually connected to the hymn (Savoy Chapel) is somewhat difficult to sing, this past Sunday we sang it to the tune of St. Theodulph.

‘Tis not that I did choose thee,
For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse thee,
Hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old thou hast ordained me,
That I should live to thee.

‘Twas sovereign mercy called me
And taught my op’ning mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heavenly glories blind.
My heart owns none before thee,
For thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love thee,
Thou must have loved me first.

The Market Day for the Soul

“The Sabbath day is God’s market-day for the week’s provision, wherein He will have us to come unto him, and buy of him without silver or Money, the Bread of Angels, and Water of life, the Wine of the Sacraments, and Milk of the Word to feed our souls: tried Gold, to enrich our Faith: precious Eyesalve, to heal our spiritual blindness: and the white Raiment of Christ’s Righteousness, to cover our filthy nakedness.”–Lewes Bayly

“For He Shall Reign Forever and Ever”

In his New Testament Commentary on the Book of Revelation, Dr. Simon Kistemaker, Professor of New Testament Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, made the following statement:

“No one in the entire universe is worthy of glory, honor, and power but God and the Lamb. God is worthy because of creation, and the Lamb is worthy because of his sacrificial death. Hence, the Lamb alone is worthy to execute God’s plan of salvation and to fill the role of king in his kingdom.”

The 21st century church has become so enamored with programs, new paradigms, cultural relevance, and “being missional” that we have missed out on the glorious truth of Scripture that was announced by the twenty-four elders gathered around God’s throne:

“You [Christ] are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,   And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

May the church return once again to the simplicity of the Truth of the Gospel, magnifying God and the Lamb for the grace that has been poured out on the redeemed.

Talking to Oneself

In his book, The Pleasures of God, John Piper wisely wrote that “God is not displeased with the strength of a horse and the legs of a man as good things that He has made. He is displeased with those who hope in their horses and in their legs. He is displeased with the people who put their hope, for example, in missiles or in make-up, in tanks or tanning parlors, in bombs or body-building. God takes no pleasure in corporate efficiency or balanced budgets or welfare systems or new vaccines or education or eloquence or artistic excellence or legal processes, when these things are the treasure in which we hope, or the achievement in which we boast. Why? Because when we put our hope in horses and legs, then the horses and legs get the glory, not God.”

When days are dark, and friends are few, it can be a profitable thing to talk to yourself. At least it can be if you say what the Psalmist said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

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