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Quotes

April 29, 2012

Though prayer is instictive, it is also difficult labor. David M’Intyre makes and explains this point in his book The Hidden Life of Prayer:


Instinctive as is our dependence upon God, no duty is more earnestly impressed upon us in Scripture than the duty of continual communion with Him. The main reason for this unceasing insistence is the arduousness of prayer. In its nature it is a laborious undertaking, and in our endeavor to maintain the spirit of prayer we are called to wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness.

“Dear Christian reader,” says Jacob Boehme, “to pray aright is right earnest work.” Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the “heavenly footman.” The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill. Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter. A man that truly prays one prayer,” says Bunyan, “shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.” The saints of the Jewish Church had a princely energy in intercession: “Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,” they took the kingdom of heaven by violence. The first Christians proved in the wilderness, in the dungeon, in the arena, and at the stake the truth of their Master’s words, “He shall have whatsoever he saith.” Their souls ascended to God in supplication as the flame of the altar mounts heavenward. The Talmudists affirm that in the divine life four things call for fortitude; of these prayer is one. One who met Tersteegen at Kronenberg remarked, “It seemed to me as if he had gone straight into heaven, and had lost himself in God; but often when he had done praying he was as white as the wall.” David Brainerd notes that on one occasion, when he found his soul “exceedingly enlarged” in supplication, he was “in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity,” that when he rose from his knees he felt “extremely weak and overcome.” “I could scarcely walk straight,” he goes on to say, “my joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.” A living writer has reminded us of John Foster, who used to spend long nights in his chapel, absorbed in spiritual exercises, pacing to and fro in the disquietude of his spirit, until his restless feet had worn a little track in the aisle.

Another explanation of the arduousness of prayer lies in the fact that we are spiritually hindered: there is “the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.” St. Paul assures us that we shall have to maintain our prayer energy “against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day. Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into “dry” and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer. Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage. “And what I say unto you,” said the Lord to His disciples, “I say unto all, Watch! “

April 22, 2012

I have probably shared this quote before—a quote drawn from D.A. Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry, but I found myself thinking about these words this morning and asking myself this: How many of these things could I do today? Which of these things could I do today and perhaps unwittingly undermine my church from within. I do not anticipate teaching rank heresy today, but would about gossip? What about living an unholy life? What about bitterness? If all of this is true—if all of these are ways in which we can undermine the church—then it presents us a list of specific things to pray against on our behalf and on behalf of others.

The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it—admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism—all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

April 15, 2012

Kerry Allen is a keeper of all things Spurgeon, including a Twitter feed that shares Spurgeon quotes and Spurgeon.us, a web site that contains a massive database of Spurgeon material. He recently shared with me an interesting quote from Spurgeon. It comes from the sermon “Further Afield,” preached on September 23, 1888. Here Spurgeon describes his first encounter with recorded sounds (and, of course, uses the experience to make a gospel illustration).

Surely, you do not know what is in the gospel, or you would hearken to its every tone. I sat yesterday with two tubes in my ears to listen to sounds that came from revolving cylinders of wax. I heard music, though I knew that no instrument was near. It was music which had been caught up months before, and now was ringing out as clearly and distinctly in my ears as it could have done had I been present at its first sound. I heard Mr. Edison speak: he repeated a childish ditty; and when he had finished he called upon his friends to repeat it with him; and I heard many American voices joining in that repetition. That wax cylinder was present when these sounds were made, and now it talked it all out in my ear. Then I heard Mr. Edison at work in his laboratory: he was driving nails, and working on metal, and doing all sorts of things, and calling for this and that with that American tone which made one know his nationality. I sat and listened, and I felt lost in the mystery. But what of all this? What can these instruments convey to us? But oh, to sit and listen to the gospel when your ears are really opened! Then you hear God himself at work; you hear Jesus speak: you hear his voice in suffering and in glory, and you rise up and say, “I never thought to have heard such strange things! Where have I been to be so long deaf to this? How could I neglect a gospel in which are locked up such wondrous treasures of wisdom and knowledge, such measureless depths of love and grace?” In the gospel of the Lord Jesus, God speaks into the ear of his child more music than all the harps of heaven can yield. I pray you, do not despise it. Be not such dull, driven cattle that, when God has set before you what angels desire to look into, you close your eyes to such glories, and pay attention to the miserable trifles of time and sense.

April 08, 2012

Christ has died and Christ has risen. He has called a people to himself and he is jealous of those who are his. Read and reflect upon what Charles Spurgeon says about Christ’s holy, jealous love:

The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I now speak, is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he not choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he not buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he could not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than that you should perish; he stripped himself to nakedness that he might clothe you with beauty; he bowed his face to shame and spitting that he might lift you up to honour and glory, and he cannot endure that you should love the world, and the things of the world. His love is strong as death towards you, and therefore will be cruel as the grave. He will be as a cruel one towards you if you do not love him with a perfect heart. He will take away that husband; he will smite that child; he will bring you from riches to poverty, from health to sickness, even to the gates of the grave, because he loves you so much that he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart’s love and him. Be careful, Christians, you that are married to Christ; remember, you are married to a jealous husband.

April 06, 2012

A few hours from now I will be heading downtown for a Good Friday service that will bring together several local congregations and, we hope, hundreds or maybe even over a thousand, Christians. Together we will remember the death of our Lord. Today I found a few choice quotes from Frederick Leahy’s wonderful little book The Cross He Bore (seriously, it’s an amazing book and bears repeated readings).

In this first quote Leahy writes about Satan’s hour.

Initially the plans of his enemies would succeed, not just because they came to him under cover of darkness, but essentially because in this hour Satan and his forces were permitted by God to subject Christ to further suffering and humiliation. God reserved this hour for Satan. In all of time this hour was especially his. The darkness of which Christ spoke was the darkness of evil and of the prince of darkness. In this dread hour Satan had free rein. In the case of Job God set a limit to Satan’s activity. In the experience of Christ there were no limits to Satan’s onslaught. He was free to do his worst, and he did.

Gethsemane and Calvary marked high noon in the world’s long day, and God’s permission was absolute as Satan mustered his legions for the decisive encounter. The first Adam had been easy prey. How would he fare with this Adam? As Satan entered the battlefield he did so fully conscious of the Word of God: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Did he recall his cynical contempt for God’s Word earlier when he asked, “Did God actually say…?” (Gen. 3:1). Or did he fear the sentence passed in Eden? Doubtless he did. But the hour was fixed. It was decreed by God. When tempting Christ in the wilderness, Satan had done his utmost to deflect him from this hour, to take some other road than the way of the cross, but all in vain. Now the battle had commenced in earnest. Nothing could stop it. This is your hour, Satan!

And in this second quote he writes about the Lamb who was silent before his accusers:

Christ remained silent about the hidden things. He left his judges with the Word of God and there lay their great responsibility. They must busy themselves with the things that had been revealed. Christ will take his riddle with him to the grave. The meaning will become apparent in due course. He will not cast his pearls before swine, rather he will leave it to his judges to execute their high office before God. In this he did justice to them and at the same time condemned them.

To have explained the riddle to the Sanhedrin would not have been to the glory of God or for the good of Christ’s judges. Imagine what would have happened had he said, “Bury me and within three days I will rise again.” He would have been regarded as an ostentatious and supernatural escapologist! He would have relieved the Sanhedrin of its moral responsibility. The dawn of the New Testament Sabbath would have become the occasion for a gathering of gawping spectators hoping to see the latest wonder. What a mockery of predestination that would have been! And what a windfall for Satan! Christ the redeemer reduced to a mere super-fakir, not lying on a bad of nails or walking on hot coals, but rising from the grave!

If Christ had explained his riddle that day, it would have been a most untimely word. That he would never do. He would not prostitute his God-given mission. All his miracles, including his resurrection, were essentially part of his kingdom and of his redeeming work. They were totally different from those related in the Apocryphal Gospels, as when it is written that the boy Jesus making clay birds with other children made his birds fly! But Christ was no magician; he had neither need nor place for stunts.

All too often Christ’s silence has been given a dangerous one-sidedness, as his passive obedience is stressed almost, if not altogether, to the exclusion of his active obedience. Christ’s silence was deliberate, emphatic and authoritative; it was his deed. The passivity of his suffering was real, but so was the activity of his obedience. Led as a lamb to the slaughter and like a sheep before the shearers, he was active right up to and on the cross. He went as a king to die.

There are just two small dimensions of Christ’s crucifixion for you to ponder today.

April 01, 2012

Last week I shared a quote from Richard Sibbes that called on us to hate sin from the heart. I want to share another pearl of wisdom from Sibbes, this one telling why Christians are often charged with distraction. You’ll need to read the quote to get the context for that word.

It has been an old imputation to charge distraction upon men of the greatest wisdom and sobriety. John the Baptist was accused of having a devil, and Christ to be beside Himself and the Apostles to be full of new wine, and Paul to be mad. The reason is because as religion is a mystical and spiritual thing, so the tenets of it seem paradoxes to carnal men; as first, that a Christian is the only freeman, and other men are slaves; that he is the only rich man, though never so poor in the world; that he is the only beautiful man, though outwardly never so deformed; that he is the only happy man in the midst of all his miseries. Now these things though true seem strange to natural men, and therefore when they see men earnest against sin, or making conscience of sin, they wonder at this commotion for trifles. But these men go on in a course of their own and make that the measure of all; those that are below them are profane, and those that are above them are indiscreet. By fanciful affections, they create idols, and then cry down spiritual things as folly. They have principles of their own, to love themselves and to love others only for themselves, and to hold on the strongest side and by no means expose themselves to danger. But when men begin to be religious, they deny all their own aims, and that makes their course seem madness to the world, and therefore they labor to breed an ill opinion of them, as if they were madmen and fools.

March 25, 2012

Here is some wisdom from Richard Sibbes—the kind of wisdom that, if we could just take it to heart, all the way to heart, it would make every difference in our lives.

If we would make it evident that our conversion is sound we must loathe and hate sin from the heart; now a man shall know his hatred of evil to be true, first if it be universal. He that hates sin truly hates all sin. Secondly, where there is true hatred it is fixed; there is no appeasing it, but by abolishing the thing it hates. Thirdly, hatred is a more rooted affection than anger; anger may be appeased, but hatred is against the whole kind. Fourthly, if our hatred be true, we hate all evil in ourselves first, and then in others. He that hates a toad would hate it most in his own bosom. Many like Judah are severe in censuring others but are partial to themselves (Genesis 38:24). Fifthly, he that hates sin truly, hates the greatest sin in the greatest measure; he hates all evil in a just proportion. Sixthly, our hatred is right if we can endure admonition and reproof for sin and not be enraged with him that tells us of it; therefore those that swell against reproof, hate not sin; only with this caution, it may be done with such indiscretion and self-love that a man may hate the reprover’s proud manner. In disclosing our hatred of sin in others, we must consider our calling; it must be done in a sweet temper, reserving due respect to those to whom reproof is offered, that it may be done out of true zeal, and not out of anger nor pride.

March 21, 2012

Reading Michael Wittmer’s excellent new book The Last Enemy, I came across a powerful little story that I wanted to share with you. I trust you will enjoy it as I did.


My friend Jeff stopped by the hospital to visit one of his dearest senior saints. Charlotte was in her eighties, but she had been young enough in heart to blossom under Jeff’s ministry. She had paid close attention as Jeff proclaimed the story of God—how the world began with God’s good creation, suffered a cataclysmic fall that ruined us and everything else, is being redeemed by Jesus’ cross and resurrection, and will be consummated when Jesus returns and delivers this world to His Father.

Charlotte said learning God’s story had changed her life. “I get it now,” she told anyone who would listen. “The parts of the Bible make sense when you read them in light of the whole. For the first time in my life, I understand how my salvation fits into the larger picture.”

Now Charlotte was dying. She chatted with her pastor about family, church, and the general quality of hospital food, and then Jeff said a prayer and promised to come see her again.

Jeff was minutes from home when his cell phone rang. It was the floor nurse calling from the hospital.

“Charlotte told me to contact you,” she began. “She said that it’s time for her to die. She told me to tell you not to hurry; she’ll wait until you get here.”

March 18, 2012

Jonathan Edwards says that a truly Christian love is a humble, broken-hearted kind of love. You will want to read and ponder this short quote from The Religious Affections.

Christian affections are like Mary’s precious ointment that she poured on Christ’s head, that filled the whole house with a sweet odor. That was poured out of an alabaster box; so gracious affections flow out to Christ out of a pure heart. That was poured out of a broken box; until the box was broken, the ointment could not flow, nor diffuse its odor; so gracious affections flow out of a broken heart. Gracious affections are also like those of Mary Magdalene (Luke 7 at the latter end), who also pours precious ointment on Christ, out of an alabaster broken box, anointing therewith the feet of Jesus, when she had washed them with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken-hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken-hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble broken-hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit; and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior.

March 11, 2012

This quote from J.C. Ryle seems more than a little appropriate to read and ponder on this, the Lord’s Day. Today we go to hear the Word of God read and preached and on this day, more than any other, we have opportunity to work on applying it to our lives. Is the Bible the Word of God? Then…

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, “O my soul, you are going to read a message from God!”

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible than any commentary that ever was written. You will not understand it unless your heart is right. You will find it a sealed book without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Its contents are often hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to babes.

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, and walk in its light.

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