Sermon read last Sunday (23/4/2017) at CERC Singapore. Originally preached by Rev. Carl Haak….a MUST if you are getting weary in prayer or any of the disciplines of the Christian life.
Matthew 5:8. Blessed are the pure in heart,…. Not in the head; for men may have pure notions and impure hearts; not in the hand, or action, or in outward conversation only; so the Pharisees were outwardly righteous before men, but inwardly full of impurity; but “in heart.” The heart of man is naturally unclean; nor is it in the power of man to make it clean, or to be pure from his sin; nor is any man in this life, in such sense, so pure in heart, as to be entirely free from sin. This is only true of Christ, angels, and glorified saints: but such may be said to be so, who, though they have sin dwelling in them, are justified from all sin, by the righteousness of Christ, and are “clean through the word,” or sentence of justification pronounced upon them, on the account of that righteousness; whose iniquities are all of them forgiven, and whose hearts are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, which cleanses from all sin; and who have the grace of God wrought in their hearts, which, though as yet imperfect, it is entirely pure; there is not the least spot or stain of sin in it: and such souls as they are in love with, so they most earnestly desire after more purity of heart, lip, life, and conversation. And happy they are,
for they shall see God; in this life, enjoying communion with him, both in private and public, in the several duties of religion, in the house and ordinances of God; where they often behold his beauty, see his power and his glory, and taste, and know, that he is good and gracious: and in the other world, where they shall see God in Christ, with the eyes of their understanding; and God incarnate, with the eyes of their bodies, after the resurrection; which sight of Christ, and God in Christ, will be unspeakably glorious, desirable, delightful, and satisfying; it will be free from all darkness and error, and from all interruption; it will be an appropriating and transforming one, and will last for ever. John Gill Commentary<!–
This can be cross-referenced with Paul’s aim, ” bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” in II Corinthians. 10:5
Job even in the midst of suffering covenants to avoid the sin of lust or fornication/adultery in the mind. Hear John Gill,” (Job) bound himself by a covenant, made a resolution in the strength of divine grace, not to employ his eyes in looking on objects that might ensnare his heart, and lead him to the commission of sin; to shut or turn his eyes from beholding what might be alluring and enticing to him: it is said of Democritus, that he put out his eyes because he could not look upon a woman without lusting after her: (is this not universally true of all men?)
“why then should I think upon a maid;” of corrupting and defiling her, since he had made a covenant with his eyes, and this would be a breach of that covenant: and therefore, besides the sin of lusting after her, or of corrupting her, he would be a covenant breaker, and so his sin would be an aggravated one: or he made a covenant with his eyes, to prevent any impure thoughts, desires, and inclinations in him; for the eye affects the heart, and stirs up lust in it, and excites unclean thoughts and unchaste desires: this shows that the thought of sin is sin; that fornication was reckoned a sin before the law of Moses; and that Job better understood the spirituality of the law than the Pharisees did in the time of Christ, and had the same notion of lust in the heart being fornication and adultery as he had; and that good men are not without temptation to sin, both from within and from without; and therefore should carefully shun all appearances of evil, and whatsoever leads unto it, and take every necessary precaution to guard against it.
The antithesis is especially a Reformed doctrine teaching the Biblical truth that all of history is the history of a war. That war, the antithesis, is God’s work and was taught Adam and Eve in the beginning after the fall in the mother promise of the Gospel that God would put enmity between the seed of the woman Jesus Christ and the elect, and the seed of the serpent, Satan and the reprobate wicked. That truth underlies every instance of temptation, sin and persecution against God’s people in history, the cross, which was the central overarching victory and the lifelong internal battle in every believer between his flesh (old depraved man) and the Spirit of God in the renewed man. Here is how Rev. Brian Huizinga* puts it, ” The evidence of regeneration is not the glory of sinless perfection. Regeneration makes us perfect in principle, but not in full. Our incredibly powerful and relentlessly militant sinful flesh cleaves to us until it is abolished on the day we die and go to heaven. Regeneration decisively breaks the dominion of sin within us, yet sin remains. Do not doubt your regeneration and salvation because you sin, and sin, and sin, and sin, and sin. This side of Eden only one man will ever walk this earth perfectly consecrated to God. You are not that man, nor am I. Jesus is. The evidence of regeneration is that you fight. You know you are regenerated—born again from above with the life of the Lord by the Spirit of the Lord—if you fight. You know with unshakable confidence that you belong to Christ now and forever if you fight. The dead do not fight; the living fight. You fight against sin in and for the kingdom of God. You can see the kingdom by faith. You love the kingdom—the church, its gospel preaching, its holy people, and its living truth. You love God’s King, your Saviour, Jesus Christ. You love and set your heart upon the treasures of the kingdom—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. Because you love God, you hate and want destroyed the lie of false doctrine, wicked attitudes, alluring temptations, and all that is full of the vanity of wicked man. You fight for the Bible and the truth of the Bible contained in the Reformed creeds. The evidence of regeneration is not that you no longer sin, but that your sin bothers you before God. You fight against your own sins by sorrowing over them, hating them, and fleeing from them as Joseph fled Potiphar’s house.”
The Ballymena Academy motto TENAX PROPOSITI means steadfast in purpose. All people who study, who train for sporting competition or have set themselves some goal, need to be steadfast in purpose to achieve it. How about the Christian? Let’s look at Christ’s steadfastness.
In Luke 9:51 we read that he steadfastly set his face toward Jerusalem. Throughout his life he steadfastly obeyed Scripture and his purpose to glorify his Father, even when it meant suffering and death. Paul similarly, confronted by much suffering stated, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
Likewise according to the Westminster Confession, our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Our sovereign God and Father has a purpose for each of his children (Eph. 2:10). To accomplish this we must be steadfast in apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42), steadfast in our service of God (I Cor.15:58) and steadfast in our resistance to Satan (I Pet.5:9). Thus this purpose encompasses our personal spiritual life, our life in church and our life in the world.
In the last chapter of Luther on the Christian Life, Truman explores Luther’s theology of vocation and family life. Luther’s thought on these areas of the Christian life was truly groundbreaking. Luther’s understanding of vocation, i.e., calling was groundbreaking because he denied the accepted opinion of his day that there are spiritually higher and lower callings in life. The common opinion of the day said that the calling of a civil ruler or officebearer in the church is inherently better and more holy than the ordinary callings that most of God’s people pursue in this life. To be a magistrate was better than being a farmer. To be an officebearer or monk was holier than being a shopkeeper or milkmaid. Luther strongly opposed this idea. In Luther’s view, every calling that accords with God’s law constitutes a holy calling and can be done for the glory of God. The idea that certain vocations are more holy…
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It always encourages me to see animals playing, just doing what they are good at for pure pleasure! Like these dolphins surfing…
or this vulture gliding upwards in a thermal…
The word of God speaks of great whales playing in the oceans in Psalm 124,
“25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.”
This shows us that even in the brute creation apart from pure survival and necessary work to provide for themselves and their offspring there is a place for play and recreation. Likewise with us. God has given us a huge variety of possible pastimes from the purely mental/word-based and logical like chess or a crossword, interest in the natural world like astronomy or watching documentaries to the more or less purely physical like running, climbing or swimming. For our health and well-being we all need some form of each of these to balance our duties and work. God has given his people richly all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17), we just must give these recreations their proper place and affection. They must never detract from our relationship with God or others or take up inordinate time that mean work or family are neglected.
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). Not long after creation Adam knew his wife Eve. He had intimate relations with her. On the last day Christ will say to the goats, “Depart from me I never knew you.” Plainly it is not the case that God only knew the people of Israel among all the nations in Amos or Christ, the judge, does not know all men—we are here seeing examples of the knowledge of love. When Christ says on the last day, “I never knew you” he means I never loved you (reprobation!) To reveal yourself, expose yourself if you will, you must love the one you are with. Christ calls his disciples, and all his people, his friends, by revealing himself and thus his Father to them (John 15:15). The great need of all men is to know God which is eternal life (John 17:3). To not know him intimately is separation from him in this life and the next, namely eternal death (hell). For the Christian believer the knowledge of God, more and more, is vital for Spiritual strength (Dan.11:32). The knowledge of God, and he of us by grace, is the blessed covenant of God. We grow in our knowledge of God by regular exposure to his word by every means especially preaching. The regular intake of sound apostolic* teaching in a true church leads to strong healthy Christians. Are you growing (II Peter 3:18) in the knowledge of God?
Worldliness or love of the world.
Key text: I John 2:15-16.
Rev. Martyn McGeown, Limerick Reformed fellowship.
“Love of the world is probably the number one reason for apostasy in the Christian church today. Remember Demas” (II Tim.4:10).
The world is the system, unified, organised and arranged in hostility against God. The world of fallen men and the created order under the power of Satan.
Our senses serve as vehicles by which the world entices us to sin using our lusts (burning inordinate desires). Each one of us has different predispositions to lust. The world says, “I will satisfy you.” The pride of life is wicked self-sufficiency, no need for God, live for yourself (indeed all sinful lusts are at heart self-indulgence, love of self).
Worldliness is, “an attitude of the heart in which it is fascinated, excited and bewitched by those things which gratify the sinful lusts, and a giving over of oneself to serve those things instead of God.”
Worldliness may be different for different people. It is not taking pleasure in the good gifts of this life (Eccles. 3:13, I Tim.4:4-5, 6:17). Love of the world and love of the Father are incompatible.
Symptoms of it: less time for God and his worship, worldly companionship, or join a false church. “The false church is the world with a religious mask.” On judgment day the world-ling will confess, “I loved the world rather than the creator.” Spiritual pleasures belong to God’s people forevermore.
Listen to message here: Recording
Some thoughts on I Thess.1:3,” Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;”
Note that FAITH WORKS (it’s not just in the head), LOVE LABOURS (it’s not just feelings) and HOPE IS PATIENT (for the coming of the Lord for us). Make sure these three great Christian graces are being EXERCISED by you in your pilgrimage through life and in the fellowship of your church. Clearly the labour and the work can be physical or spiritual and the spiritual (study, prayer, teaching and witnessing) is the hardest!