Reformation Scotland

Two Ways We Argue with God

True humility does not argue with Christ Jesus, but sweetly complies with Him. But let me show you what way false humility works. False humility is always at one of two extremes. It is either lower than God would have it, or it is higher than God can tolerate.
1. False Humility Goes Lower Than God Wants
Leaving our responsibility to God
For example, there are many of you who will leave it to God whether to save or damn you. That is false humility, because He has declared His mind peremptorily to the contrary. People are to keep pressing to get into heaven, until they are actually cast into hell. They will get no thanks from God for that kind of humility.
Giving a latitude to God where He takes none
False humility leaves it up to God to save you whether you believe or not. “We know,” say some, “that people should believe; but He may save us in any way. He may bring folk to heaven equally well without faith as with it.” Do you imagine that God will bring people to heaven if they do not believe? You are making a great mistake. “He that believeth not shall not see life. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
Putting you lower than the reach of free grace
When a man takes such a look of his guilt that he thinks himself below the free grace of God, it is false humility. Though he does not want to say that he has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, yet he thinks God cannot pardon him. But it is a sin to think like this, when God has said, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven.” In this way false humility justles out the whole of God’s arrangements in the covenant of free grace.
Taking more care of the glory of God than He does Himself
It is a strange sort of humility when someone stands up and says, “I think it would be an encroachment on the holiness of God to show mercy to me. He may show mercy to whoever He pleases, but He cannot pardon me.” That is a strange thing. You do not need to worry about encroachments on His holiness, when He has declared that He has found a ransom. Will you be wiser than God? He will never regard that as humility! It is enough to us that He has made a declaration through the world, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you Him.” As if to say, “I shall satisfy myself in myself. Don’t trouble your heads about that. I am satisfied.”
Thinking it is a mistake to take little problems to God
False humility goes lower than God allows when it treats it as a faux pas to put little things into God’s hand. Many think it would be injudicious for them at such a time as this to ask God to heal their sore head which incapacitates them from hearing the preaching, or to help their faint heart that hinders them from profiting by the Word. But this is the devil’s humility, for the Lord counts all the hairs of your head. Some think it would be some sort of gaffe to ask for a bag of meal from God, and a coat to put on their back at such a time as this – but He has commanded you to put all your needs onto Him, from your salvation to your shoe-latchet.
Thinking it a mistake to come to God often about the same thing
This humility justles with the majesty of God. This is the case with many of us. You have told God often what you are. You have frequented many communions, and yet you are not the better. You have come often with one and the same thing, and now you blush to come to Him again.
But in this you are humble overmuch.
Read More

How the Word of God Gives Us Words for God

“God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Something of the nature of God is pointed out to us here, as well as something of our duty towards Him. “God is a spirit,” is His nature; and “we must worship him,” is our duty, and “in spirit and in truth” is the right manner of doing our duty. If these three were rightly pondered, till they sink in to the depth of our spirits, they would make us real Christians.
We Need to Know Accurately Who God Is
It is presupposed for all Christian worship and walking, to know what God is. This is indeed the primo cognitum of Christianity, the first principle of true religion, the very root out of which springs and grows up walking suitably with and worshipping appropriately a known God.
In too much of our religion we are like the people of Athens, who built an altar to an unknown God, and the Samaritans, who worshipped they knew not what. Such a worship, I don’t know what it is, when the God worshipped is not known!
True knowledge of God is not comprised of many notions and speculations about the divine nature, or high and strained conceptions of God. Some people speak of these mysteries in some unique way, using terms far removed from common understandings, which neither themselves nor others know what they mean. But this only shows that they are presumptuous, self-conceited, knowing nothing as they ought to know. There is a knowledge that puffs up – a knowledge that only makes people swells up, it doesn’t make them grow. It’s only a rumour, full of air, a vain and empty and frothy knowledge, that is neither good for edifying others, nor saving themselves. A knowledge that someone has, so as to ascend on the height of it, and measure himself by the degrees of it, is not the true knowledge of God. The true knowledge of God doesn’t know itself, doesn’t look back on itself, but looks straight towards God, His holiness and glory, and sees our baseness and misery. Therefore it constrains the soul to be ashamed of itself in such a glorious presence, and to make haste to worship, as Moses, Job and Isaiah did.
 We Cannot Worship God Without Knowing Accurately Who He Is
This definition of God, if we truly understood it, could not but transform our worship.
God is a spirit. Many people form in their own mind some likeness and image of God, who is invisible. They imagine to themselves some bodily shape. When they conceive of Him, they think He is some reverend and majestic person, sitting on a throne in heaven. But I beseech you, correct your mistakes about Him! There is outward idolatry as well as inward. There is idolatry in action, when people paint or engrave some similitude of God, and there also is idolatry in imagination, when the fancy runs on some image or likeness of God. The latter is too common among us. Indeed it comes to much the same thing, whether to form similitudes in our mind, or to engrave or paint them outwardly. The God whom many of us worship is not the living and true God, but a painted or graven idol. You do nothing more than fancy an idol to yourselves when you conceive of God under the likeness of any visible or tangible thing. Then whatever love, or fear, or reverence you have, it is all but mis-spent superstition, the love and fear of an idol.
Read More

The Wrong Kind of Fear

The people of God are very prone to the wrong kind of fear, when new difficulties appear to them.
What is the Wrong Kind of Fear?
God’s people are troubled with a fear that is sometimes called “slavish fear.” It arises from various sources, including the misbelief of what God has said, and forgetting what He has said concerning them. It flows also from fixing on His providence [instead of His Word], and putting the worst possible construction on it.
Another source it flows from is despondency of spirit and heartlessness. That weakens their hands in the use of lawful means for bearing their own trial and working for their own deliverance. Their faith and hope and all goes to wrack and ruin. Then there often arises an inclination to follow some unlawful means for deliverance, and even if they do not actually follow it, still the heart is naturally laid open for such a temptation. Ordinarily, complaints are the fruits of slavish fear.
To summarise, slavish fear consists in an atheistical putting of created things in a channel of independency on God, as if the creature could come and go of its own accord without commission from Him. “It is God who comforteth: who art thou that art afraid of a man that shall die, &c.?” (Isaiah 51:12). The truth is, the Lord’s people had forgotten the omnipotent power and sovereignty of God, and thought that mere humans could do with them what they pleased without God. When you are so minded, it is a hundred to one if you don’t attempt to get out from under the trial in some unlawful way.
Why do God’s People Have this Fear?
First, there is the great ignorance of God’s care for His people.
That is the cause of all their slavish fear, and it is what He challenges His people for. “Thou hast feared every day, and hast forgotten me: who art thou that art afraid of a man that shall die?” (Isaiah 51:12–13) We imagine ourselves as standing alone without God. “There feared they, where no fear was.”
The second reason is unbelief.
Thirdly, there is atheism, a growing sin, i.e., when His people think of God as like some creature, and created things like God, as if created things can work what they wish without Him. They put God above the creature in some things, and the creature above Him in some other things.
The fourth reason is, because his people yield to this fear too soon.
Read More

The Heavenly Wisdom of a Soft Answer

James chapter 3 contains two pieces of advice. The first is for governing the tongue (verses 1–13), and the second is to do with the meek wisdom which assuages the evils of the tongue, and avoids strifes and contentions (verses 14–18).
Control Your Tongue and You Control Your Whole Self
James tells us to bridle the tongue, that is, to hold back from invective, and rigid rehearsals of other people’s vices or infirmities. “Be not many masters,” he says (verse 1), i.e., do not arrogate to yourselves the authority of a master over others, and too much liberty to carp at things (as many do), but instead bridle your tongues.
One reason for this is because those who unjustly censure others will suffer heavier judgement from the God who avenges injuries (verse 1). Also, seeing we all have many failings (“in many things we offend all,” verse 2), it is better for us to deal more diligently with the infirmities of others, not to arrogate the authority of judging without a calling, or to be unjust in judging.
Anyone who knows how to govern their tongue shows the sign of being “perfect,” someone who can moderate all their actions (verse 2). Anyone who cannot moderately rule their tongue, but in all things carps at other people’s behaviour, has the sign of being a hypocrite.
If you are guiding the horse’s bridle, you have control of the horse; and if you have your hand on the rudder, you are steering the ship. Even so, if you have your tongue under control, you rein in your whole body, and keep your outward actions in check (verse 3–5).
Great care is needed in governing the tongue, because of how gloriously it can boast. It can on both sides perform much good – in speaking the truth, in constancy, in letting things slide, in courtesy, and so on.
Read More

Why Love is One of Gods Commandments

The Relationship Between Love, Lifestyle, and Faith
I wish you to rightly observe this conjunction, that these are inseparably knit together, love to God and love to other people – delight to do His will – to love Him and live to Him. Do not deceive yourselves with vain words. If you do not find the doctrine of grace laying this restraint on your heart, you are yet in your sins. This is the reasoning of a believing soul: “Shall I, who am dead to sin, live any longer therein? Shall I not delight in those commandments, when Christ has delivered me from the curse of the law?” Although that person falls and comes short, yet the pressure of their heart is in that direction.
At the same time, pay attention to the order. You must first believe on the Son, and then love Him, and live to Him. You must first flee to His righteousness, and then the righteousness of the law shall be wrought in you.
Therefore do not weary yourselves to no purpose. Do not wrong your own souls by seeking to reverse this order, which was established for your joy and salvation. Know that you must first meet with satisfaction in all the commands of Christ, before your obedience to any of them can be accepted. Then, having met with that, know that the sincere endeavour of your soul, and the affectionate impulse of your heart towards your duty, is accepted.
And if you find yourself afterwards surcharged with guilt and inconsistent walking, yet you know that the way is to begin at this again, to believe in the Son. This is the round you must walk, as long as you are in the body. When you are defiled, run into the fountain, and when you are washed, strive to keep your garments clean, but if defiled again, get your hearts washed from wickedness.
How Far-Reaching Love Is
Now love is a very comprehensive command. It is the fulfilling of the whole law (Romans 8:10, Matthew 22:37–38. It is indeed the true principle and pure fountain of our obedience unto God and men. All fruits of the Spirit are moral virtues that grow out of the believer. Whether pleasing to God, or refreshing to other people, they are all virtually in the root of love. That is why the apostle names one for all, i.e., brotherly love, as the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:14).
Love is a bundle of many divine graces, a company or society of many Christian virtues combined together. They are named bowels of mercies, long suffering, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, forbearance, and forgiveness, all which are tied to the believer’s girdle by charity. So where love is, every good comes. After love comes a troop of so many sweet endowments and ornaments, and where love is lacking (as truly it is the epidemic disease of the time), many sins abound, for when iniquity abounds, “the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).
Oh! that is our temperament, or rather our distempered nature — our love is cold, and our passions are hot! When charity goes away, out come the wild and savage beasts of darkness, i.e., bitter envying and strife, rigid censuring and judging, unmercifulness and implacableness of spirit towards others’ failings and offences. Self-love keeps the throne, and all the rest are her attendants. For where self-love and pride is, there is contention, strife, envy, and every evil work, and all manner of confusion. They lead one another as in a chain of darkness (Proverbs 13:10; James 3:16).
Do not think that love is a mere compliment, an idle feeling. It more real than that, more vital. It has bowels of mercy, which move when others are moved, and which bring their neighbour’s misery into the inmost seat of the heart, and make your spirit a companion in their misery. It is also exercised in forbearing and forgiving.
Read More

Reasons Why Believers Love Jesus More Than Anyone Else

Love is misplaced if is not bestowed on Jesus Christ Himself. David bestowed his love well when he said, “Whom have I in the heavens but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee” (Psalm 73). In Song 3:3 the spouse says, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” It is not a mouth or lip love, it is a soul’s love.
Think of Where Christ Came From
What is His birth? You know if a man comes to make suit to a woman, she will be sure to enquire what parents he is descended from. And is there any like our Lord? He is descended of honourable parentage. He is the Son of the Father. He is the Son of God, and as He is man He is the Son of David.
This is a wonderful thing, that the Son of God should offer marriage to the most insignificant man or woman in all the land. You would be very impressed if the king, having one lawfully begotten son, was to send him to you, and desire marriage with a low-ranking girl. But oh wonderful! God has sent His only begotten Son, who is God equal with Himself—He has sent Him down from heaven to earth, to discuss terms for marriage with the poorest believer there.
Think of the Possessions He Has
Jesus Christ is heir of all things. All power in heaven and earth is given unto Him. Such is the believer’s Beloved! It is He that has power, ruling over heaven, earth, and hell, and the absolute disposal of all things. He has grace and glory, and every good thing to give unto them that wait on Him. Is it any wonder then that the spouse says, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” She could not endure the loss when He absented Himself. But many, because they cannot get the present things, think little of Christ. Some even say, “If you are faithful and honest, you get nothing! So much misery comes of following Christ; follow Christ and lose everything!” You think Christ is not a good husband, since His followers are so badly treated on earth.
But I will tell you—nay, I assure you—that the believer has as good a right to the world as anyone else, and the one who is cast out of house and hold for Christ has as good a right to it as anyone. Oh then, saw ye Him whom my soul loveth in this night of persecution on the Church—when the Lord’s people are meeting with such bitter things? They will however have much more than their persecutors have. Supposing you did not have twopence to rub together, you have more than all the persecutors have—you have Himself, and that is more than all other things.
Think of His Precious Person
Let us consider what Jesus is, as to His person. You know when a young man makes suit to a young woman, she not only asks what is his birth and what he has, but has some desire to know what he is in himself. Is he a well-favoured man? So the spouse goes to the watchmen, and to the daughters of Jerusalem, that is, to professing Christians in general, and says, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, that if ye find my well beloved, ye tell him, that I am sick of love.” She cannot go without Him any longer.
But they reply, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved? that thou makest so much noise about him.” There are many who say, “What do you mean, making so much ado about Christ?”
“Indeed,” says she, “my beloved is white and ruddy; fairer than the sons of men, and the chiefest of ten thousand.” And indeed so He is, and always will be to any who know the power of religion. He will be to them the pearl of great price. He is refreshing to them every way; He fills the desires of the hungry and longing soul.
“His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
Love Christ for Taking Our Nature
Now let us consider what Christ has done for the church and for believers. Our Lord has been at much pains, and cost too, for believers. Will this not give us reason to love him?
I tell you one thing He has done for us: He has taken on Him our nature.
Read More

Why are there Differences in Grace?

Why does the Lord keep or make these gradations and differences in His way of dealing to His people? You would think it would be much better for God to give a large stock of faith, love, patience, etc., to all His people, and that this would be more for their comfort than when they are kept at such a great distance from Him, and with such a scanty measure of gifts and graces.
We may think so, but He is much wiser than we.
To Enhance the Fellowship of the Saints
The Lord has resolved to give out diverse administrations to the body of which He Himself is the Head. He wants His body to have different members, and He wants them to serve Him with different qualifications. In the body He wants eyes, hands, feet, etc. And yet they are only the one complete body! They are still just the one communion of saints. But this would not be possible if they were all alike. “You know more than I do,” says one, “and have greater understanding in the matters of God.” “Well,” says another, “but I love more than you do. You think you would do more for Christ than I would do, but it may be if there was something to do for the cause of Christ I would fight better than you would for all that.”
To Make Us Value Christ’s Intercession More
By this varied manner of His administration, the Lord keeps the ransom still in request, and the intercession of Christ in heaven still in request. For if we had it in our own hand, Christ would soon be out of work for all the employment we would give Him, and we would soon lose respect to the ransom. But now when infirmities appear from day to day it keeps the ransom still precious to the soul.

The Hollow Core of Human Flourishing

The preacher says, “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). All created things, and all human endeavours related to them, are insufficient for yielding any true contentment. “All is nothing,” it could be translated, or “empty of any virtue as to the effect of making us happy.” This includes created delights such as riches, honours, and worldly pleasures, particularly as they are abused, and “subjected to vanity” (Rom. 8:20), by people seeking their chief good from them. Also “vanity” are all the efforts we make by human power or skill to make ourselves happy, or contented, whether in the contemplation or the enjoyment of created things. These are vain because they are unable to afford any thing but disappointment, and disappointment in the highest degree, “vanity of vanities.”
Spiritual Beings Need Spiritual Fulfilment
There are earthly and tangible delights which are in themselves good, and in their right use lawful, and subservient to us for attaining true happiness. Yet even these prove altogether unprofitable, and unsatisfying to us, if we seek to enjoy them as our chief good. They are so disproportionate, so inadequate, to the human soul. The nature of the soul is spiritual, and the soul is capable of enjoying an infinite good – God reconciled to through Christ as our portion. This is why our souls can never be satisfied with these fading and transitory things. All temporary delights, mainly because they are fading, and unable to satisfy the immortal soul, are here pronounced to be vanity of vanities.
The “Just a Bit More” Fallacy
Solomon continues, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8). While people are pursuing earthly contentments as their chief good, they foolishly imagine that if they just had a bit more of them, they would then be satisfied. Yet, pursuing earthly things as our best portion always ends in dissatisfaction, not only in the pursuit but also when they are attained, as if by drinking you only become more thirsty. All the toil and wearisome labour that people have in pursuing these lying vanities, and all the dissatisfaction and even disgust they feel in consuming them, never in the slightest diverts them from spending themselves yet further in the pursuit! They still keep gazing at these unsatisfying sights, and still listen greedily to the voice of temptations and corruption, expecting to find happiness in these things. Even when their efforts are unspeakable weariness, yet still they labour in the same way.
The “Now We Know Better” Fallacy
In fact, people persist in this, so entranced with the apparent sweetness of earthly things, as if nothing like it had ever been tasted by anyone who ever lived before.
Read More

Why Reading the Bible Leads to Conversion

Psalm 19 is a sweet contemplation of the glory of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness shining in the works of creation (v. 1-6), and of the glory of His holiness and rich grace shining through his Word and ordinances in His church (v. 7-10).
God’s Glory is Displayed in Creation and Providence
Although the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord, yet any portion of it will absorb your meditation when you begin to think of it. Here, the psalmist focuses his meditations on the heavens, and the alternation between day and night, and the light of the sun. The invisible things of God, even His eternal power and Godhead, and His glorious attributes of wisdom, goodness, and majesty, are to be seen in the works of creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work” (v1).
Yet, although His glory is shown to all, yet it is only the child of God, who has been illuminated by God, who can observe it. In substance the heavens declare that they are not their own maker, but that they are made by one, infinite, incomprehensible, omnipotent, everlasting, good, kind and glorious God. And the “firmament” (which I take is the region of the air, and the place of the stars) declares how skillfully and intricately God can adorn the work of His hands, and how powerfully He can put abundant glory on the creature, even though it has nothing in itself to make it glorious.
The Message of Creation and Providence is Plain
Next, the psalmist listens and hears what day and night speak. All that they say, he calls “knowledge” (v2). The day tells us that we live in time, that our days are numbered, that our days go away quickly, that time is precious, and cannot return when it is gone, and that as long as it lasts, it allows us to view the works of the Lord as we go about our own necessary labours. The night says that in ourselves we are weak, and cannot endure long toiling in labour; that as some little short rest is necessary to the labourer, so it is prepared for him, that he may lie under a curtain, and sleep a while, and so be fitted for more work; that he may now quietly review what he has been doing, and may commune with his heart and be still; and that if he does not do what he has to do in time, “the night cometh when no man can work.”
Read More

Are Young People Turning to Prayer More?

Who Paul Prayed To
In Ephesians 1:17, the apostle gives a short summary of his prayer to God for the Ephesian believers.
First, Paul refers to God the Father (to whom he is praying) as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the Father of glory”. The Father is in His own nature infinitely glorious, the fountain of the whole Godhead and all the divine attributes in the Son and the Holy Ghost. All glory is due to Him from created beings.
What Paul Prayed for His Friends
Paul then mentions what he sought from God for the Ephesian believers. This was “wisdom,” or a further increase of the saving knowledge of God which the Holy Spirit gives, together with a clearer insight into the Scripture where the same Spirit reveals these truths. This “wisdom” mainly consists in the saving, believing, and operative “knowledge of him,” i.e., of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wants the Holy Spirit to remove the natural blindness of their understandings and to bestow a clear discerning of the things of God.
We Should Have Definite Things to Pray For
We should not necessarily restrict ourselves to a set form of words when we pray. Yet we should have set purposes worked out, and a definite point to aim at, when we pray, so that we would be able to give an account of what we are praying for, whether that is for ourselves or for others.
We Must Pray to the True God
Our prayers should be directed to God only. No one else knows us, or the secrets of our hearts. Anyone or anything else is unfit to receive our prayers.
Also when we draw near to God in prayer (whether for ourselves or others), we should do so with confidence and reverence – for these are not mutually exclusive. We should think about God, and express what we are thinking about Him, in a way that will most strengthen our faith and most strike our hearts with reverence towards Him. To strengthen his faith, Paul refers to God as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and to bring his heart into deep reverence he calls him “the Father of glory,” or “glorious Father.”
We Should Pray Out of Faith in Christ
In order to have access to God with boldness through Christ, it is necessary to renew the act of faith which applies and appropriates Christ to ourselves. Then, being made one with Christ, we will be seen by the Father as clothed with Christ’s righteousness. This is the way that God will accept both our persons and our imperfect prayers – that is, through Christ. Paul here appropriates Christ to himself as his own, calling Him “our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is necessary also that when we embrace Christ in this way, we do not divide Him into parts, but take to ourselves the fullness of all the perfections which are in Him. This is an evidence of our sincerity in embracing Him, but additionally, nothing less than the whole Christ is necessary to cover all our imperfections, bear us up under all our discouragements, and help us in all the infirmities which beleaguer us in our approaches to God.

Scroll to top