Jacob Tanner

Out of the Abundance of the Heart: The Fruitful Speech of the Christian

Jesus is incredibly clear in his warning of Matthew 12:36–37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Even our careless words will be judged! That ought to make us pause. This means that the words we speak publicly and privately, carefully, intentionally, or even without thought, will all be judged. 

One of the reasons I absolutely love expository preaching and insist that pastors preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible for their congregations is because the Word of God is always timely. Rather than preaching hobby-horses or tired and trite topics of interest, expository preaching, when done well, forces the pastor to faithfully handle the texts of Scripture as they come down the pipeline. There’s no guessing about what’s coming next Sunday for the congregation, either. They can rest in the assurance that—Lord-willing—the preaching will pick up in the text where it left off the previous Sunday.
Some, however, worry that expository preaching prevents pastors from engaging with pressing topics of the times. This, however, is hardly ever the case. Our sovereign God has a peculiar way of lining our preaching texts up with pressing events in often unexpected ways.
This was my experience very recently as I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew for nearly a year-and-a-half. Recently, there has been some talk about the use of vulgar language by certain evangelicals, and some in our congregation (and some friends outside of our congregation, too), have been asking me about how Christians should understand the use of language. As the Lord would have it, amid these questions, Matthew 12:33–37 lined up as my next sermon, and perfectly answered many of these questions. Below, I will share some highlights from this sermon about Christian speech.
Your Actions and Words Are the Fruit That Reveal Where You Are Rooted
Jesus makes the issue clear. Those who are in Christ ought to speak and act in a righteous way, because, as he plainly states in Matthew 12:33, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”
Jesus uses the metaphor of the tree and its fruit on more than one occasion and it’s incredibly simple to understand. If I’m a branch on an apple tree, what kind of fruit will I bear? Apples. No one expects to find oranges on an apple tree because a tree will always bear fruit corresponding to the type of tree it is. If an apple tree bears oranges, something has gone horribly askew. It simply isn’t possible. It is, ultimately, against the nature of the branches to bear fruit differing from the rest of the tree.
So it is with people. If we’re saved and rooted in Christ, we’ll be marked by holy speech and righteous deeds. If we’re lost and chained to sin, we’ll be marked by evil speech and wicked deeds. Thus, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5).
While we know we are not saved by our works, but by faith in Christ alone, yet it is true that a Christian is known by their speech and actions. Hence, there are evidences of salvation, and our speech is one major evidence of whether or not we’re saved and indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
What Fills the Heart Moves the Mouth
In Matthew 12:34, Jesus is speaking directly to the Pharisees whose pretense and facade of apparent righteousness fell apart when they opened their mouths. Jesus rebuked them and explained, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. This is as straightforward as the previous verse. What you have been filled with will ultimately spill out of you. Whatever occupies your heart will control your tongue.
It would, perhaps, be simple enough to say that this verse simply warns us against foul language, swearing, and cussing. However, this verse means even more still. The context of this rebuke is the larger issue of how the Pharisees have blasphemed Jesus by accusing him of being demon possessed. Rather than praise Jesus for his miracles, the Pharisees blasphemed Christ by claiming “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons” (Matt. 12:24). What makes this language so wicked, sinful, evil, and blasphemous is that it lies about who Jesus truly is, while simultaneously ascribing the miracles he was performing to Satan. Such an accusation tried to rob God of his rightful glory while ascribing the glory to Satan instead. In the process of such a wicked accusation, the Pharisees revealed both their wicked hearts and their sinful allegiance to Satan.
Jesus, knowing this, said of the Pharisees in John 8:44 that, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Those who try to pretend to be righteous will, eventually, be revealed by their language. Their true colors will eventually show. They will, by mere words, reveal where their allegiance lies—whether they belong to Christ or Satan.
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The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy

By contemplating the goodness of God, the attributes of God, the acts of God, the promises of God, the Word of God, and especially the gospel of God, we find we can actively begin to increase our sense of joy, and even happiness and contentment, in Christ. Contemplation of the Lord lifts our spirits in such a way that we are, in a sense, drawn nearer to God, and the closer our proximity to the Lord, the greater our sense of joy. 

When the Apostle Paul is outlining the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, he lists joy as the second fruit, directly after love. There seems to be a rather compelling reason for this. In Matthew 22:34-40, when Jesus is asked what commandment is the most important, He responds that the greatest and most important is to love the Lord God with all of one’s heart, soul, and mind (vs. 37-38), and then explains that the second most important commandment is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (vs. 39). When one loves in this way, they subsequently find themselves fulfilling the Law of God, since the first four of the Ten Commandments deal with loving God, and the latter half deal with loving neighbor. Since love is the fulfilment of the two tables of the Law, the one who truly loves God and others both fulfills the Law and glorifies God. This, of course, is only possible for the one who has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
God as the Source of Joy
It is in glorifying God that the Christian finds joy because the supreme object of the Christian’s love is God Himself. We delight in obedience to the Lord because we love His Law as a reflection of Himself. We delight when others see our good deeds and thus glorify our God in Heaven (Matt. 5:16) because there is nothing we love more than pointing others towards the true worship of the living God. We delight when God is exalted in our lives because, whether we live or die, we love to live for the Lord (Phil. 1:20-21).
Out of our love for God and neighbor, then, flows a supreme joy that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else, or by anyone else. As a fruit of the Spirit, the joy the Bible describes as belonging to the Christian is peculiarly the Christian’s only. Nonbelievers may be able to experience momentary happiness, or perhaps even sense a glimmer of joy according to the common grace of God, but pure and unadulterated joy comes from God and flows to the believer through the Holy Spirit.
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The Necessity Laid Upon Pastors

When necessity is laid upon a man to preach the gospel, the best thing for him to do is to pray to the Lord for continued grace, study the Scriptures for continued knowledge, and depend on the Holy Spirit for continued power. Then, when he enters the pulpit with faithfully studied sermons in hand and heart, his sole task becomes this: To joyfully fulfill the necessity of preaching the gospel!

There is an essential duty that every minister of the gospel is called to do: Preach the gospel. Of course, in a broad sense, every believer is called to proclaim the gospel, defend the gospel, and answer questions about the gospel. As Peter orders Christians in 1 Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” so all Christians today are to be always ready to proclaim this same gospel to others.
Pastors are not exempt from these things. In fact, it is arguable that a pastor is called to do all these things to an even greater degree than other Christians. But the pastor is called to do one thing with the gospel that other Christians are not called to do: He’s called to preach. This is not something that he ought to boast in himself for doing, nor should he seek the praise of men for it. He must do it, however, diligently and faithfully, for failure is not an option in this calling. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
At first glance, this verse may seem strange. Is it a joy to preach the gospel or a burden? A privilege or an imprisonment? How should Paul’s use of the word “necessity” be understood when it comes to preaching the gospel? And, in light of this, what are the traps that pastors may fall into if they boast in themselves for doing what was laid upon them as a necessity? Or, what is the danger for the pastor who fails to do what was a necessity?
The Joy of the Necessity Laid upon the Pastor
To understand what Paul meant when he wrote that a necessity to preach the gospel had been laid upon him, we must first understand that he was in the middle of defending himself against those who were attempting to examine him (1 Cor 9:3). As Paul encountered more than once, there were false prophets—only wolves in sheep’s clothing—whose entire existence was wrapped up in trying to devour the people of God.
By the very nature of Paul’s missionary journeys, he would found churches, install elders, and then move on to the next location. This opened the churches he had founded to the attack of these false prophets in his absence. After all, one of the surest ways to attack the church is to sow discord amongst the flock, especially by casting doubt upon the gospel that Christians have heard preached and which they have received with gladness. But, to cast doubt upon the message, these false prophets knew it was essential they first cast doubt upon the messenger.
So, when he begins to make his defense before his examiners, Paul immediately appeals to his dutiful joy in preaching the gospel itself. At first glance though, the argument he makes seems almost entirely to have to do with receiving compensation for preaching; evidently, when it came to the Corinthians, Paul had never taken any financial remuneration for preaching. This, he says, is evidence of his apostleship and love for the saints there. It’s not that pastors and ministers don’t have the right to receive compensation for their preaching; on the contrary, it is a God-ordained right for the pastor to be compensated, and one which churches ought to seek to uphold for the men who care for them as elders and overseers of the flock. Indeed, “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14). Despite what many even today try to suggest, the clear teaching of Scripture is that churches ought to support their pastors financially, as co-laborers in the gospel (1 Cor 3:9).
But Paul did not make use of this right with the Corinthians. Why? Because, he says, “We endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12). Paul saw something in Corinth that made it clear that his accepting remuneration for the gospel would actually hinder the growth of the church there. So, from the Corinthians he accepted nothing, though he did at times receive from other churches. For example, to the Philippians he wrote, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).
But, to the Corinthians, he wrote, “What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” (1 Cor 9:18). And, again, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor 9:22–23). We see here, then, what is at the heart of the necessity laid upon pastors. Paul’s great source of joy came through preaching the gospel to others, and so too must pastors find joy in this duty.
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Peace Like a River: Advice for the Soul in Conflict from William Bridge, Part 1

Bridge explains there is a world of difference between the genuine peace enjoyed by the Christian and the false peace counterfeited in the heart of the wicked. “True saving peace,” wrote Bridge, “is the child of grace, and the mother of grace… True saving peace, is such a peace as is wrought by faith. “Being justified by faith, we have peace,” Rom. xv. “The Lord give you peace in believing,” says the apostle.” Most importantly, Bridge explains that: True saving peace, will live in the sight of sin.

Jesus most assuredly promised a great peace to his children with the words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). However, it is no secret that though Jesus promised peace to his saints, yet Christians are often afflicted by great trials of disquietness, discontentment, and discouragement. Rather than quietness and stillness, the soul feels it is engaged in a most ferocious conflict. While many congregations sing Horatio Spafford’s hymn, It is Well with My Soul, and with loud voices like the tumultuous roar of rushing waters, joyfully shout the words,

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Yet, many of those voices singing have no true peace. They do not feel like they have peace within themselves, with others, or with the Lord Himself. What is the Christian to do when, instead of his inward frame of spirit shouting, “It is well with my soul!” he instead dejectedly laments, “I am downcast and disquieted”?
William Bridge, as a good physician of the soul, pinpoints some of the problems that contribute to this lack of peace and despondency in his work of collected sermons, A Lifting Up for the Downcast (preached at Stepney, A.D. 1648). In the first sermon of this work, he examines the lack of peace that is often encountered in the hearts of even the most seasoned of Christians by examining Psalm 42:11. In this Psalm, King David laments his own sad countenance and disposition, brought about by various outward afflictions, and asks the question: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Bridge takes this verse and carefully dissects it, noting a multitude of ways that peace may be lost, reasons why a Christian may lack peace, and various remedies that may, like a healing balm, be applied to the weary saint.

Christians may, for a time, lose their sense of additional peace with God, but will never lose their fundamental peace with God.

As Bridge considers the various losses of peace that a Christian may experience, he is careful to instruct his readers that the Christian who has been justified by the blood of Christ, through faith in Jesus, according to the grace of God, will never lose their fundamental peace with the Lord. That is to say, Christians enjoy a most “Fundamental peace, which does naturally arise and flow from their justification: ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,’ Rom. v. And then there is an additional peace, which arises from the sense of justification.” In other words, the one who has been justified in the sight of God is truly at peace with the Lord. Whereas before God was angry with him because of his sins, and ready to unloose the arrow of just wrath He had aimed against him as a sinner, now, through faith in Jesus, he has been justified and God’s wrath has been exhausted. God has not merely lowered the arrow to only raise it again at a later date; He has both lowered and broken the arrow, never again to raise it against the one who has been justified in Christ. There is genuine forgiveness and eternal reconciliation between the repentant sinner and God. This is the foundational peace that every Christian now enjoys.
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Forgetting What is Behind and Reaching Towards What Is Ahead: A Framework for Spiritual Growth

Each day, we must proclaim the gospel to ourselves and others. We must defend the faith against those who assault it. We must commit ourselves to Christ and, by his grace, keep striving towards maturity and Christ-likeness in him. Most importantly, we mustn’t permit ourselves to stagnate or wallow in laziness. Like Paul, we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

There is a quote often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill, but whose origins appear to be lost, that says, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” There is a great truth to it. It reminds one of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13–14: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Past accomplishments should not and cannot dictate our futures. Failures must not determine our ends. Faith, courage, and hope firmly rooted in Christ, ultimately, are what count as we strain towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We who are in Christ must press ever onward, toward the goal ahead of us, that we might finish the course of this life with joy and gladness.
Of course, we ought never forget that our justification by faith alone is the very means of our security in Christ. We are in no danger of losing our salvation. We need not work to stay saved. However, this does not excuse us from actively living out our faith in practical obedience to the Lord; the one who is saved will work as the indication that they have been saved (cf. Eph 2:10; Jas 2:17). This means that our personal development and spiritual growth is essential. We are to never stop growing as Christians. Even elders in the church must strive toward spiritual growth. There’s always more Bible to learn, more habits to improve, more sin to kill, more souls to evangelize, more saints to disciple, and more to be done. If ever we find ourselves thinking that we have made it, or perfected our faith, then we will know that we have missed the mark.
Consider pastoral leadership. A pastor who stops spiritually growing will eventually stop leading. A pastor cannot expect his people to continue to spiritually grow if he himself has stopped growing. After all, if he has stopped growing, one of two things will happen: either his people will stop caring to grow themselves and thus stagnate in the faith, or they will surpass and leave him behind.
Yes, pastors must strive toward spiritual growth. But so too must all other Christians. Stagnation is never a positive thing. If a man is running a marathon and decides that he is comfortable where he is, but only ran half the marathon, then the race will remain incomplete. If a mountain climber says that they’re happy to have climbed only three-quarters of the way up the mountain, and now they’re content to stay where they are, then they will likely freeze to death.
So, too, the Christian cannot be content with their current spiritual growth. While we find perfect joy and contentment in Christ alone, we must simultaneously see the many improvements we must make in our walk with Christ and strive to push ever ahead. What then are we to do to forget what’s behind and reach towards what’s ahead?
Our spiritual Growth Depends on Our Partaking of the Ordinary Means of Grace.
The very first step to take towards spiritual growth is profoundly simple, yet also the most important. In fact, this step ought to be repeated, to various degrees, daily. It holds true for elders, deacons, kitchen cleaners, sound system operators, janitors, children, elderly, and everyone else in between.
Spiritual growth requires the ordinary means of grace. This means that studying the Scriptures, praying without ceasing, attending church, fellowshipping with the saints, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper are all simple, yet highly effective means of grace that God has gifted us with to mature us in Christ.
Many miss these ordinary means of grace, though. Some are so busy seeking the next “big thing” that they miss what is lying right before them. They seek thrills and highs, hoping for miracles and revivals, while ignoring the biblical habits that are necessary to shape us into the image of Christ. They spend so much time seeking spiritual highs that they miss the seemingly ordinary things of this life that are actually quite extraordinary. It may seem a small thing to pick up the Bible and study it, and it may even appear to be impossible that doing so would cause any amount of spiritual growth to transpire. Yet, that is exactly what we’re called to do. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). That isn’t a trick, some sort of nasty deception, or a promise contingent upon spiritual elitism. No, the one who puts forth the diligence, effort, and hard work needed to study the Bible will be one who has no need of shame because they can rightly handle the Word. That’s a mark of spiritual maturity.
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Prayer as God Intended

How can we define prayer as children of God? In this way: Prayer is a relational expression that vocalizes our trust in our Heavenly Father. At the same time, just as a son speaking with his father learns to think, speak, and act like him, so speaking with our Heavenly Father will conform us into his image. At the same time, prayer must be done wisely, according to God’s will, with an expectant faith and trust that he hears and answers his children in Christ, all for his glory alone. 

Prayer is, arguably, one of the greatest struggles of the Christian faith. While some may lament their poor Bible study habits, or their failure to share the gospel as frequently as they should, almost all would likely mourn over their poor prayer life. Almost no one will say that they feel they have reached the pinnacle of their prayer life; almost all are forced to admit that we do not pray as we should. And, yet, prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. Just as we need to breathe to live physically, we need to pray to live spiritually.
Prayer, however, is a privilege of the saint with many promises. For example, God promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” While that particular promise was given to ancient Israel through King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, the principle remains the same: God will honor the humble prayers of his saints. If the saints today would submit themselves to God in humble contrition and earnest prayer, would not God still send reformation and revival as he has done countless times in the past?
Yet, we do not currently have revival or reformation. We do not see a white harvest being reaped by many laborers, though Jesus commanded us to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest that is ripe and white and plentiful (Matt 9:36–38). Instead, we see the decline of Christendom in the West. We see morality on the downgrade. We see churches emptying and closing.
Ultimately, our culture partially reflects the failures of the Church at large. When our churches are healthy, functioning, and thriving, the culture is bereft of godlessness and full of holiness. But how does that happen? In part, it happens when our churches are full of saints who are warriors of prayer, praying as God intended.
Consider the great revivals of the past. When Martin Luther saw reformation, he was known as a man of prayer. One of his most famous quotes is, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” When Charles Spurgeon saw the Metropolitan Tabernacle filled with thousands in the nineteenth century in London, it was because he prayed earnestly. When the Puritans saw revival in England and America, it’s because they were men and women of prayer.
We must be people of prayer. We must be prayer warriors who pray as God intended. To borrow a line from William Carey, we must pray expecting great things from God, and then we must go forth to attempt great things for God, by his grace and for his glory. But it all begins with knowing how to pray, which Jesus fleshes out for our benefit in Matthew 6:5–9. Here, he aids us by offering us two warnings about what prayer is not and then shows us what prayer is.
Let us consider these truths and learn to pray as God intended:

1. Do not pray as the hypocrites do, to be noticed by others, but to be heard by God.

Jesus’s command in Matthew 6:5 is a simple one: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” This is a picture of how the Pharisees evidently prayed. They would stand in public spots and pray long-winded, elaborate, and noticeable prayers. As they did so, they would be seen by people—which is exactly what they wanted!—and they would be praised. Surely, some would say of them, “There are none more holy than they!”
But that was it. Their reward was being praised by men. There was no answer from God. As it turns out, even if the content of the prayer was theologically accurate, God had no interest in answering because it came from a hypocritical heart set on others, rather than focused on God.
Before dismissing this warning as peculiar to the Pharisees, we must see this as a danger common to man.
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How Calvinism Shapes Christian Ministry: Perseverance of the Saints and the Powerful Promises of God

It is the strength of the Lord that preserves and keeps us persevering. In this truth, let us also remember that it is “the joy of the Lord that is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and let us remain faithful to the Lord and his people wherever he has placed us. This, ultimately, is how Calvinism shapes Christian ministry.

Every pastor, at one point or another, stands in a similar position to the Prophet Elijah—looking at the enemies that surround us, the sheep that bite us, and the weakness within us, we often cry out, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD” (1 Kings 18:22). The trials of the Christian life can feel overwhelming and, when coupled with the dangers of pastoring, it is little surprise that many ministers and stewards of the gospel sometimes feel the crushing weight of despair. Our strength can seemingly fail, our hope grow dim, and our joy dissipate.
Often, we find ourselves like Peter. As the Lord calls us to minister in some extraordinary way (all ministering, at its heart, is extraordinary, whether it be seen by thousands, hundreds, tens, or one), we find ourselves sinking in the waves of fear and doubt. We are like Peter in Matthew 14:29–30 wherein, “[Jesus] said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’”
If it were up to us as Christians to keep ourselves saved, we would daily fail. We would be eternally lost. If it were up to our faith or our works to secure the continuance of our salvation, then none of us would ever prevail. We do not have the strength or power within ourselves to either be saved or stay saved.
Praise the Lord, then, that as tightly as we cling to Christ, he clings even more tightly to us still. If salvation hinged at all on our efforts, then we would not be strong enough to uphold our salvation. But salvation depends not on us. Salvation depends on Christ.
It is not the extent of our faith that saves, but the object of our faith—the Lord Jesus Christ—who both saves and secures us to himself. It not the number of our works that save or secure us, but the finished work of Christ that saves us eternally (Jn 19:30).
The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints promises that our salvation in Christ is secure, that eternal life is ours and will never be lost, and that God will finish the good work he began within us (Phil 1:6).
Perseverance of the Saints and the Everlasting Certainty of Salvation
Perseverance of the Saints is the final letter of the TULIP acronym, and it outlines for the believer the certain and comforting truth that we who belong to Christ will never be lost by Christ. We who are saved are saved eternally.
Perseverance itself is a word that describes the everlasting continuance of something. It explains how those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Christ, who have been washed by the blood of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, been forgiven, redeemed, and saved, will continue within that salvation.
Philippians 1:6 provides one of the most encouraging verses in this regard, as it comfortingly promises, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God not only began the work of salvation within us, but he will complete the work. The Golden Chain of salvation will  never  be broken. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:29–30). The promise is that God, who foreknew and predestined us unto salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), elected us to an everlasting salvation.
Indeed, Perseverance of the Saints is the culmination of the other four letters of the TULIP acronym. We are born into this world as  totally depraved  sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins and absolutely incapable of saving ourselves or coming to saving faith on our own. Yet, God, by his gracious and sovereign will,  unconditionally  elected  a number of sinners unto salvation. Those whom God has  unconditionally elected—according to his providential purposes within predestination—he sent Jesus, the Son of God, to this earth to die for. At the cross, Jesus  limitedly atoned  for the sins of those whom the Father had elected and promised to him. At the time appointed by the Father, the Holy Spirit now effectually applies salvation to elect sinners through the preaching of the gospel by drawing them to Christ with an  irresistible grace. Those who are  irresistibly  drawn to Christ will be  kept  and  preserved  by this same sovereign and amazing grace of God.
This means that our salvation, from beginning to end, is a Trinitarian work of God. The Father planned our salvation, the Son purchased our salvation, and the Holy Spirit now applies our salvation. As Jesus promised in John 10:28–30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Because of these promises, we can know with absolute certainty that we who are saved are never in danger of losing our salvation. We will be kept by God because we are triply and eternally secure in Christ. Held in the hands of the Son, whose hands are wrapped in the hands of the Father, we are also filled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
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The Compass Christ Sails By

Remember, Christian: Your heart is not the compass that directs Christ. His love, Word, and promises are His compass—and so they must be ours. Your salvation in Him is secure because His covenant is sure.

“Follow your heart.” We hear this time and again, the world’s mantra to find assurance in emotion and intuition. Yet this is hardly a consolation for the Christian who knows that the heart is ever-fickle and oft-misleading. When the weight of sin overwhelms, or when doubts arise, or when fears assail, what comfort is there to be had? When weary saints distrust their salvation, where can they look for assurance, rest, and peace?
The prophet Jeremiah would warn, contra the world’s call to “trust and follow your heart,” that the subjectivity of our feelings are no sure guide for our lives. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Or, to borrow the language of Samuel Rutherford, the heart is no sure compass:
Your heart is not the compass Christ saileth by. He will give you leave to sing as you please, but he will not dance to your tune. It is not referred to you and your thoughts, what Christ will do with the charters betwixt you and him. Your own misbelief hath torn them, but he hath the principle in heaven with himself. Your thoughts are no parts of the new covenant; dreams change not Christ.[1]
In a letter written in 1637 to Earlston the Younger, Samuel Rutherford penned these assuring words to remind his friend that our salvation depends on the steadfastness of Christ and not our unsteady hearts. Evidently, Earlston was a youth who felt like he was being beaten while struggling against all manner of sin and doubt. Rutherford responded to him in three ways: He encouraged Earlston to not listen to the lies of sin or Satan; he implored Earlston to turn to Christ as the Physician of his soul; and he offered several compelling ways to fight such doubts of the heart.
Beware the Lies of Sin and the Devil
Satan “cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” while Jesus comes, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Is it any surprise that Satan would aim to steal, kill, and destroy the Christian’s assurance in Christ? And what better tactic or strategy is there for the devil to employ than that of temptation? Is there any experience more subjectively deceiving than the momentary and fleeting pleasure of sin followed by extraordinary remorse, regret, and doubt?
The Apostle Paul had cautioned his youthful protégé Timothy to, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Rutherford’s warning to Earlston was similar:
I have seen the devil, as it were, dead and buried, and yet rise again, and be a worse devil than ever he was; therefore, my brother, beware of a green young devil, that hath never been buried. The devil in his flowers (I mean the hot, fiery lusts and passions of youth) is much to be feared: better yoke with an old gray-haired, withered, dry devil. For in youth he findeth dry sticks, and dry coals, and a hot hearthstone; and how soon can he with his flint cast fire, and with his bellows blow it up, and fire the house! Sanctified thoughts, thoughts made conscience of, and called in, and kept in awe, are green fuel that burn not, and are a water for Satan’s coal.[2]
To return to youthful lusts and passions is to dig up the devil. To do so is not only to give into the demands of a wicked enemy, but to return to an old life, though we be new creations in Christ. By turning back to Satan and sin, the Christian essentially gets on the ground alongside Satan’s burning coals and blows upon them with his own breath, causing the consuming flames of temptation and sin to burn brighter and spread. Is it any surprise that sin produces doubt in the heart?
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Psalm 127: Unless the Lord Builds the House

The one who trusts in the Lord will, like the Psalmist, know the joys of fruitful labor and the delight of sweet rest. They will, Lord willing, know the rich blessing and heritage of an abundance of children, far greater than all other material blessings this earth has to offer. Such are the blessings when the Lord builds the house.

The culture in which we live is diametrically opposed to the idea of the family as set forth in Psalm 127. Here, the Psalmist refers to a household, composed of a father and mother who married early and are blessed by an abundance of children, as a direct and wonderful blessing from God.
It is, in fact, good for Christians to get married and have many children while young. It is an evil sign of modernity that family life is put off so long. Contra the opinions of secularism, children are not a burden but a blessing. Christians ought to desire a household full of offspring. After all, a household full of children is far greater and grander than a life without, no matter how Instagramable it may appear to onlookers. While it is true that, occasionally, God does not permit Christians to have children of their own, it is no less a good thing for young Christians to get married, have children, and strive toward filling a Christian household with godly, covenant children.
Of course, all such things are impossible apart from God. Building a house, like building a church, cannot be blessed if God is not laboring in the work himself. Solomon, whose inscription this Psalm bears, was a man who understood this well. His father, King David, had long desired to build a Temple for God to inhabit in a special way upon the earth. But God did not permit David to build such a House. The right to build went instead to his son, Solomon, and Solomon knew that the Lord’s blessing was essential to building both his own home and palace, and the Temple of the Lord.
Thus, verse 1 begins with the warning that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” While there are two ideas here, they are closely related. Just as it is essential for the Lord to build a house or the laboring is done in vain, so too must the Lord defend and protect a city, or the watchmen watches in vain. In other words, if the Lord does not build the house, it will crumble regardless of the materials used and craftsmanship employed.
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Psalm 126: Set Free

Psalm 126 is an encouraging reminder to saints throughout all ages that, just as the Israelites were saved from Babylonian captivity, God now saves sinners from captivity to sin. We may sow seeds of the gospel in desert places but will one day bear witness to a great harvest with unparalleled joy in our hearts. Though we often find ourselves in hard trials, the Lord will turn our sorrow to joy in his own perfect timing and for his own perfect glory.

That Psalm 126 bears the heading “A Song of Ascents,” and is within the grouping of the Psalms of Ascent is a providential grace of God. Likely penned later than most other Psalms, it offers a great degree of hope and comfort to those weary saints who, like the Israelites of the Babylonian exile, long to be set free from their burdens and trials. It is a Psalm that promises the pious tears of troubled saints will turn to laughter and joy by the grace of God.
The Psalm is believed to have been penned around 530 B.C., about the time certain Jews began to make their way back to Jerusalem after their decades-long captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10, 14, 16).
This was a miserable time for the people of God, who were not only forcefully removed from their homes, but forced to watch their homes and places of worship desecrated by these foreign Babylonian invaders. Yet, this was the just will of God coming to pass. The people had long been in sin, and God was now fulfilling his promises to bring judgment upon his unrepentant people for their sin.
Of course, God would not punish his people forever. He promised to show his people mercy by visiting them once more and restoring them to their own land (Jer. 29:10-14). They would find joy in their God again.
It is believed that Psalm 126:1 describes the heart of those first Jews being freed from Babylon to return to Jerusalem: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Have you ever received such great news that you wondered if you were really just dreaming? That was the reaction of the Jews. They could hardly believe that God was showering them with such favor and blessing. They could hardly believe the time had come to return to their own land.
Yet, as they began to recognize the reality of their situation, their hearts turned to praising the Lord. The Psalmist says that “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy” (vs. 2a). The one who experiences the grace of God cannot help but laugh with joy and praise God with song.
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