Spirit v Flesh

Why does God not crush and eradicate all sin when we become his people by regeneration and adoption? Why must we struggle against sin all our lives? Paul descibes and laments this fact in Romans 7 and 8 at length.
Seems to me the typology of Israel on entering Canaan has real relevance: “Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.(Judges 1:27)
“And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
2And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.(Judges 2).

 Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of CanaanOnly that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses (Judges 3).

The remaining peoples, like our sins, are there to test us and keep us humble, dependent and gowing in our covenant relationship with our Lord and Saviour. We overcome by faith which works by love in obedience to the Word. Ultimately it is the will of God and glorifies his grace in our fight and perseverance.

Disciplines of a Godly Man (Book review)




Book review. “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes. 301pages paperback. Crossway Books 2001.

Hughes’ key verse is I Timothy 4:7,8, “Exercise (discipline or train) thyself rather unto godliness.” Rev. Hughes is convinced that godliness and discipline are intrinsically linked. His opening chapter is entitled “Discipline for godliness.” Thereafter the book chapters include the topics of discipline in relationships, discipline of self (soul and character) and discipline in church life (ministry). “You will get nowhere in life without discipline, whether in the arts, business, athletics or any academic subject.” For the believer discipline is God-centred and for his glory. This means hard work! Godly habits (spiritual disciplines) are often hard on the flesh because our old man is naturally lazy, sinful and selfish but they are basic in reaching our heavenly goal and living daily with that perspective in mind.
He covers sexual purity (I Thess.4:3-8) as basic, with self-control of the eyes, commitment to spouse, a supreme love for God, prizing of fellowship with him, as together important in the battle with lust. Chapters on being a committed father, choosing friends wisely, being involved in same-sex Bible studies with accountability, he says are other important disciplines in our relationships.
A Christian must discipline his mind and exclude the intake of many things (Phil.4:8) including the various types of screens and include regular Bible reading and good (Reformed-JK) Christian books. He must pray and have a prayer list, and work at prayer. When we get to worship he mistakes worship in spirit to mean our spirit rather than the Holy Spirit which is lamentable as without the Comforter and his power we cannot worship aright. When it comes to personal godliness he emphasises integrity, control of the tongue, listing good guidelines for speech, and hard work. He has a chapter on persevering to the end of our Christian race and another on being a committed member of a true church which then becomes central in our lives. He devotes a chapter to disciplined leadership, one to witnessing, one to giving and another to serving others. Discipline in the means of grace and grace granted as a result issue in hard work (I Corinthians 15:10).
In his appendices he includes daily Bible readings for the year which are something I would hope most of us already follow. We should ignore his chapters on Christian books as many are not Reformed and may be very misleading. We have a wealth of excellent Reformed books available at the RFPA, along with the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights. We should also ignore his unregulated and unreformed views about choirs and church singing which include a chapter of hymns and choruses many of which might be termed “spiritual nursery rhymes”, a far cry from our all encompassing Spirit-breathed edifying Psalms of David.
So notwithstanding the few weaknesses–a good read especially if you need more discipline in your Christian life!

Bible studies

The Pursuit of Glory (6)


We are made to be lifelong students. Sadly the true knowledge of God, which constitutes one of the aspects of the image of God in man, was lost when our parents believed Satan’s lie. This is spiritual darkness, hiding to avoid the truth about our sins and what God says about them (Psalm 82:5). Our inablilty to understand truth is moral. “If anyone will do his will he shall know…” (John 7:17, I Cor.2:14).

 “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21).

The most pervasive and powerful lie infecting humanity is EVOLUTION…              “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:” (2 Peter 3:5)-JK

“Of  all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important” (Jonathan Edwards). We are full of self-deceit, and love to make gods in our own image. If we only perceive God’s justice and wrath, we will forever hide from him and suppress the truth, but knowing his mercy and grace in Christ leads us to repentance. The truth (Christ) frees us, sanctifies us and brings forgiveness as we confess our sins (John 8:32, 17:17). “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life….”

Pursuit of Glory (5)


This chapter is about companionship and marriage.  The author describes a trip to Europe where he saw spectacular scenery in Switzerland but had no-one to share it with. “God did not design us to experience life alone” (Gen.2:18).

We crave companionship but we were created originally for fellowship with God, the fellowship that is enjoyed in the Trinity, and the fall destroyed that and our relationships with each other. Selfishness creates conflict in marriage. He quotes the example of a mega-rich businessman whose job priority was at the expense of family. “It is family and friends that make this life so special. We must invest our time in the things that matter most–God, family, and friends.”

God’s law commands us to love him and our neighbour. Counterfeit love is lust. “Love seeks the betterment of others while lust is for the satisfaction of self.” “Lust has more in common with hate than love, it uses people for personal pleasure then throws them in the wastebasket after their resources are used up”–witness Amnon and Tamar (II Samuel 13). Real love is from God and is supernatural (I Cor.13)-love will sacrifice without seeking to receive. “A loving mother understands it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Love delights in bringing joy and blessings to others. To love someone and to be loved by someone is the most treasured of all blessings.”

But even the best earthly relationship falls short. We need the love of God because his love is perfect, unconditional and unchangeing. Out of sheer love Christ gave everything for his people (Rom.5:5,8, 2:4, 8:31-39). We were saved to enter covenant love with God and his people–the fellowship of the saints. Heaven needs no marriage because the earthly type is swallowed up in the reality it typified, namely the marriage of Christ and his church.

Further reading: Keeping God’s covenant (Engelsma/Hanko), Communion with God (John Owen), Handle with Care (Dr Julian Kennedy), Walking in the Way of Love (Nathan Langerak)

Book Review-“The Pursuit of Glory.”

Book Review

The Pursuit of Glory by Jeffrey D. Johnson

Paperback 113 pages published by Reformation Heritage books Grand Rapids 2018

Amazon Books £5.73p


This book is useful as an evangelistic tool and as a spur to believers. By reading it I believe, God uses it to answer the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23,24 to search us and know us and lead us in the way everlasting. This book, like Scripture is a sharp sword (Hebrews 4:12) to expose our motives-why we do things, in the same way as we know God looks at our hearts.

By covering all the basic human needs it shows us how fallen humanity perversely seeks to satisfy them. In the main it is theologically sound and very readable. The forward spells out its basic thesis which is Augustinian namely, “ You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” The chapters in turn show that the pursuit of happiness, purpose, truth, freedom (from sin, death and selfishness), companionship, peace, holiness and life (abundant) are all only found in relationship with God.

One basic error he repeats, and it is one widely believed among evangelicals, is that we (though fallen) are made in God’s image. Had he said we WERE made in God’s image he would be correct but now as fallen creatures and totally depraved we have lost all of that image which consisted true knowledge of God, righteousness and holiness which is only renewed when we are born again (Ephesians 4:24). He also ought to have said that pursuing God was part of our original humanity but now no man naturally seeks for God (Romans 3:11). He gets the “ordo salutis” (order of salvation) wrong when he says, “ By faith in God we are not only born again but empowered by the Spirit…” Regeneration precedes faith which is one of its fruits!

Some very pithy sayings include, “The biblical contrast to glory is vanity.” He maintains that the deep seated longings of our hearts (he ought to qualify this by saying regenerated hearts) is for eternal glory that is only found in God, it is the satisfying inter-trinitarian glory (John 17:5). As Westminster Confession states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” We can never be self-sufficient simply because unlike God we are dependent creatures. “The cause of sin stems from a heart that desires to satisfy a legitimate craving with an illegitimate experience.” “Finite and perishable things were not designed to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts.” “The end of love is the betterment of the other while the end objective of lust is the satisfaction of self.”

Near the end of the book he says something I had to contemplate but eventually had to agree with namely, that Christ was the “happiest” i.e. most joyful person who ever lived despite the fact he was a man of sorrows. He never lost his joy and was able to obey the Pauline injunction to rejoice evermore (Philippians 4:4) except when he was deserted in those awful last hours before he said ,”It is finished.”Hence the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Dr Julian Kennedy, Ballymena.

The Pursuit of Glory (4)


Freedom to do what we want to do when we want to, is a glory we all desire but because of our first parents we are born enslaved to sin (John 8:34, Rom.7:18). Satisfying all our appetites (indulging the flesh) is not freedom. We need restrictions, self-control  and God’s law, otherwise we are enslaved to sin. Fleshly appetites are like a fire, never satisfied. “If our selfish nature is god we will get frustrated, angry, sad and depressed or jealous with circumstances and people who oppose us.” Sin enslaves the soul.

We must gain control of our emotions (feelings) which ought not to rule us but rather be  ruled by the truth. We must do what is right and obey God regardless of how we feel. Thus obedience brings freedom from sin’s slavery. Obedience out of thankfulness is the product of love and desire for, enjoyment of and delight in God. (John 8:36, I John 5:3). This massive change of heart only comes though being born again by the power and Spirit of God (John 3:3).  Only Christ by his cross crucifies our old sinful nature and frees us from sinful self (Romans 6:7). The truth of Romans 8:1-9 becomes ours though we will only be completely free from sin when we leave this sinful world.

In the meantime, dear believer, dying to the sinful self is the only way to live for the glory of God (Matthew 10:39). We must turn over our “rights” to find freedom (Rom.6:22).




Diligence occurs 10 times in Scripture and diligent 51 times. Here are some key instances:

Keep your heart (the centre of your desires and motives) with all diligence (Prov.4:23). Be diligent and try to avoid going to court (Luke 12:48). Rule (as an elder) with diligence (Rom.12:8). Be diligent to get assurance (Heb.6:11). Be diligent to add to your faith virtue (II Peter 1:5). Give diligence to make your calling and election sure (II Peter 10).

Diligence means careful and persistent work or effort.

It comes from the Latin “ to delight in” and of course you will take care to do well in what you delight in.

Here are some hints on being diligent:

  • Remove distractions e.g. a phone
  • Be organized-have a “to do” list.
  • Prioritize


The Christian is called to be diligent in everything he sets his hand to (Col.3:23). Diligence in listening to and obeying God’s voice is always rewarded (Deut. 6:17, 28:1-3, Prov.13:4, Heb.11:6) This entails regular prayerful intake of the word:


Abhor evil, cleave to that which is good.

These two sermons are a MUST for every believer-they set the impossible standard God sets for us-impossible but for the grace of God. Videos (U tube) here under Romans 12:9:


Gospel Living (8)
The Moral Absolutes of Good and Evil  [download]  
Scripture Reading: Romans 12
Text: Romans 12:9

I. The World’s Views
II. The Christian Position

Gospel Living (9)
Abhor! Cleave!  [download]  
Scripture Reading: II Corinthians 6
Text: Romans 12:9

I. Abhor Evil
II. Cleave to the Good

Herman Hoeksema on “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”

(Righteous By Faith Alone, pp. 595-597)


If we are to love without hypocrisy, we must also abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good. Abhorring evil and cleaving to good is the indispensable condition for heeding the admonition to love without hypocrisy. When the apostle speaks of good and evil, he uses the terms in the most unlimited sense. Some explain that we must abhor evil and do good in relation to one another, but there is no need of this limitation. The apostle is thinking of evil in the most unlimited sense: evil in relation to God, evil in relation to the world, evil in relation to one another. To be concrete, evil includes such things as false doctrine, an unholy walk, and love of the world. Evil includes wickedness that we see every day in the world. We meet it on the street, in pictures, and in paint, powder, and dress. It is the wickedness of the world, that the Christian is tempted to copy. It is also the evil we commit in relation to one another. It is untruth, malice, envy, hatred, slander, and backbiting.

Abhor these things. The apostle does not simply say, “Don’t do the evil.” The exhortation addresses the state of our mind: “Abhor it.” Then it is repulsive to us. We hate it. We shun it. We run away or fight it. Abhor false doctrine! Abhor an unholy walk! Abhor evil books, literature, and pictures. Don’t even cast one eye on them in the lust of the flesh. Hate them. Condemn them.

Cleaving to that which is good is also a state of mind. Good refers to spiritual, ethical, and moral good in relation to God, in relation to the world, and in our relation to one another. We are to cleave to the fruits of sanctification, particularly honesty. As we abhor evil, so are we spontaneously to love what is good. When we see it, we love it, set our heart on it, and take hold of it.

The question is, how can this exhortation address our inner life? If the Word commands, “Do it!” I might try to do it. But if I must abhor and cleave, how can I do this? It must be remembered that the apostle is speaking here to the church. One cannot give this exhortation to a worldly crowd. The church has the inner, spiritual principle of the renewal of the mind. If there is not this renewal of the mind, the exhortation is impossible. But the renewal of the mind transforms us from within. To put it concretely, there is a new principle of life in us. And if there is a new principle of life in us, we abhor evil, and we cleave to that which is good.

Still, means are necessary. Scripture teaches that there are two means by which we learn, more and more, to do what the text commands. The first means is the Word of God. If we want to abhor evil, we must live close to the Word of God. The more that Scripture becomes a living principle in our life, the more we will develop the spiritual principle by which we abhor evil. The second means is prayer. And I mean prayer by which we cry unto God. If we really pray, we will become more and more unhypocritical in love.

We might be inclined to read the text this way: “Let love be without dissimulation, and then you will never do evil, but you will always do that which is good.” But this is not the meaning. Abhorring the evil and cleaving to the good is the condition for loving without hypocrisy. We cannot love without dissimulation if we do not abhor evil and cleave to that which is good. The reason is that love is the love of God. We cannot love God and one another if we walk in darkness. If we walk in darkness, we cannot be loved as a child of God.

Therefore, this admonition is serious, “Let love be without dissimulation.” If this is to be so in our life, we must abhor evil and cleave to that which is good. Then there is the action of love, and the blessing of Christ will be richly manifest in the church.

Worthy (2): Knowledge

Great post. Believers are taught of God, as Christ says, and this knowledge leads to worship the root of which word Luke rightly points out is “weighty” and worthwhile. And as we love , obey and worship the cycle of learning goes on and hence our light shines brighter and brighter to the perfect day!

Young Calvinists

In closing my last article, I spoke of how, although we know so much about God, there is still so much more for us to learn. As we gain knowledge, we not only learn how to better give God what He is worthy of, but also our knowledge of Him is something He deserves. It is important that we distinguish what kind of knowledge to gain. “All heathen wisdom is but folly. Of all knowledge, the knowledge of God is the principal. There is no true knowledge without godliness” (Bridges). It is not heathen wisdom, such as the knowledge of things here below, but true knowledge of God that is important. God is worthy of knowledge first, so that we may better praise Him, second, so we may reverently and affectionately obey His law, and third, so we can better love Him.

As mentioned in the previous article, our praise…

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