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Tim Challies

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Quotes

The Garden
February 07, 2016

Why did God keep back just one thing from the people he made? Why would he make people in his image, then give them one prohibition? What was the purpose in that tricky Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Sinclair Ferguson addresses this in The Whole Christ.

I am giving you everything in this garden. Go and enjoy yourselves. But just before you head off, I have given you all of this because I love you. I want you to grow and develop in your understanding and in your love for me. So this is the plan:

There is a tree here, “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Don’t eat its fruit.

I know—you want to know why, don’t you?

Well, I have made you as my image. I have given you instincts to enjoy what I enjoy. So in one sense you naturally do what pleases me and simultaneously gives you pleasure too.

But I want you to grow in trusting and loving me just for myself, because I am who I am.

You can only really do that if you are willing to obey me, not because you are wired to, but because you want to show me that you trust and love me.

If you do that you will find that you grow stronger and that your love for me deepens.

Trust me, I know.

That’s why I have put that tree there. I so want you to be blessed that I am commanding you to eat and enjoy the fruit of all these trees. That’s a command! But I have another command. What I want you to do is one simple thing: don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.

I am not asking you to do that because the tree is ugly—actually it is just as attractive as the other trees. I don’t create ugly, ever! You won’t be able to look at the fruit and think, That must taste horrible. It is a fine-looking tree. So it’s simple. Trust me, obey me, and love me because of who I am and because you are enjoying what I have given to you. Trust me, obey me, and you will grow.

January 17, 2016

I’ve got a little bit of Spurgeon to share with you today. Here is Spurgeon reminding you of the cost of your sin and calling you to repentance for it.

A deep sense and clear sight of sin, its heinousness, and the punishment which it deserves, should make us lie low before the throne. We have sinned as Christians. Alas! that it should be so. Favoured as we have been, we have yet been ungrateful: privileged beyond most, we have not brought forth fruit in proportion.

Who is there, although he may long have been engaged in the Christian warfare, that will not blush when he looks back upon the past? As for our days before we were regenerated, may they be forgiven and forgotten; but since then, though we have not sinned as before, yet we have sinned against light and against love—light which has really penetrated our minds, and love in which we have rejoiced. Oh, the atrocity of the sin of a pardoned soul! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply compared with the sin of one of God’s own elect ones, who has had communion with Christ and leaned his head upon Jesus’ bosom.

Look at David! Many will talk of his sin, but I pray you look at his repentance, and hear his broken bones, as each one of them moans out its dolorous confession! Mark his tears, as they fall upon the ground, and the deep sighs with which he accompanies the softened music of his harp! We have erred: let us, therefore, seek the spirit of penitence. Look, again, at Peter! We speak much of Peter’s denying his Master. Remember, it is written, “He wept bitterly.” Have we no denials of our Lord to be lamented with tears?

Alas! these sins of ours, before and after conversion, would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire if it were not for the sovereign mercy which has made us to differ, snatching us like brands from the burning. My soul, bow down under a sense of thy natural sinfulness, and worship thy God. Admire the grace which saves thee—the mercy which spares thee—the love which pardons thee!

Take a Test on the Trinity
January 10, 2016

Last week I put out the call via Twitter: What is your favorite book on the Trinity? I received a lot of suggestions including many I had already read and thoroughly enjoyed: Delighting in the Trinity by Mike Reeves, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware, and The Forgotten Trinity by James White. Many people also recommended Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God which I had never read. I remedied that and am glad I did. I will have a review for you next week, but for today wanted to share a couple of choice quotes.

Here he speaks on the very nature of the Trinity:

Pondering the eternal, essential Trinity is the most concrete and biblical way of acknowledging the distinction between who God is and what he does. God is eternally Trinity, because triunity belongs to his very nature. Things like creation and redemption are things God does, and he would still be God if he had not done them. But Trinity is who God is, and without being the Trinity, he would not be God. God minus creation would still be God, but God minus Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would not be God. So when we praise God for being our creator and redeemer, we are praising him for what he does. But behind what God does is the greater glory of who he is: behind his act is his being.

And this, which nicely follows that point:

We meet the triune God as he gives himself to us in the history of salvation, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Specifically, we meet the Trinity as the incarnate Son, his heavenly Father who loves the world and elects a people, and the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, whom Jesus and the Father poured out on all flesh after the ascension of Christ. We meet them, that is, in the middle of their missions for us and our salvation. We might say that we meet a salvation-history Trinity, in the Bible and in our Christian experience. But the persons of the Trinity have a depth of life behind those missions, and that infinite depth is precisely what the actual doctrine of the Trinity points to.

I also appreciated this extended definition of a familiar word, liturgy.

The best liturgies in use in Christian churches are ancient, well-worn compositions permeated with scriptural language skillfully deployed across a series of pastoral pronouncements, prayers, congregational responses, and songs. These are correlated with a series of symbolic actions arranged with equal artfulness to embody the theological commitments of the church. At crucial junctures, select passages of Scripture are read aloud as the word of the Lord for that day in the church calendar. The synergy of the words and actions constitute a worship experience intended to convey the entirety of the Christian message in symbolic form, and all of this takes place in its own liturgical language, regardless of the content of the actual sermon preached that day.

Happy Sunday, as you worship this triune God.

December 27, 2015

This morning, all across the world, thousands of ordinary pastors will preach ordinary sermons to ordinary people, and through these sermons they will communicate the most powerful, extraordinary news of all. This news will slowly but definitely make its mark on these people, conforming them ever more to the image of Christ. These congregations will also read the Bible together, pray, sing, and fellowship. Some will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and some will witness a baptism. These are the beautiful, wonderful, ordinary means of grace. Here is what Thomas Chalmers says about such ordinary things.

In bygone days when God’s covenant people sought to strengthen their piety, to sharpen their effectual intercessions, and give passion to their supplications, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.

When intent upon seeking the Lord God’s guidance in difficult after-times, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.

When they were wont to express grief—whether over the consequences of their own sins or the sins of others—they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.

When they sought deliverance or protection in times of trouble, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.

When they desired to express repentance, covenant renewal, and a return to the fold of faith, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.

Such is the call upon all who would name the Name of Jesus. Such is the ordinary Christian life.

December 03, 2015

On a morning that followed a sick and sleepless night, these words were refreshing. They come from Charles Spurgeon and reflect on Psalm 146:7, “The Lord looseth the prisoner.”

He has done it. Remember Joseph, Israel in Egypt, Manasseh, Jeremiah, Peter, and many others. He can do it still. He breaks the bars of brass with a word and snaps the fetters of iron with a look. He is doing it. In a thousand places troubled ones are coming forth to light and enlargement. Jesus still proclaims the opening of the prison to them that are bound. At this moment doors are flying back and fetters are dropping to the ground.

He will delight to set you free, dear friend, if at this time you are mourning because of sorrow, doubt, and fear. It will be joy to Jesus to give you liberty. It will give Him as great a pleasure to loose you as it will be a pleasure to you to be loosed. No, you have not to snap the iron hand: the Lord Himself will do it. Only trust Him, and He will be your Emancipator. Believe in Him in spite of the stone walls or the manacles of iron. Satan cannot hold you, sin cannot enchain you, even despair cannot bind you if you will now believe in the Lord Jesus, in the freeness of His grace, and the fullness of His power to save.

Defy the enemy, and let the word now before you be your song of deliverance; “Jehovah looseth the prisoners.”

November 29, 2015

It was a slow week for letters to the editor, largely because of American Thanksgiving, I think. So I will double-down next week and in the meantime share a great little quote from Spurgeon.

No neutralities can exist in religion. We are either ranked under the banner of Prince Immanuel, to serve and fight His battles, or we are vassals of the black prince, Satan. “To whom belongest thou?” (1 Samuel 30:13)

Reader, let me assist you in your response. Have you been “born again”? If you have, you belong to Christ, but without the new birth you cannot be His. In whom do you trust? For those who believe in Jesus are the sons of God. Whose work are you doing? You are sure to serve your master, for he whom you serve is thereby owned to be your lord. What company do you keep? If you belong to Jesus, you will fraternize with those who wear the livery of the cross. “Birds of a feather flock together.” What is your conversation? Is it heavenly or is it earthly? What have you learned of your Master?—for servants learn much from their masters to whom they are apprenticed. If you have served your time with Jesus, it will be said of you, as it was of Peter and John, “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

We press the question, “To whom belongest thou?” Answer honestly before you give sleep to your eyes. If you are not Christ’s you are in a hard service—Run away from your cruel master! Enter into the service of the Lord of Love, and you shall enjoy a life of blessedness. If you are Christ’s let me advise you to do four things. You belong to Jesus—obey him; let his word be your law; let His wish be your will. You belong to the Beloved, then love Him; let your heart embrace Him; let your whole soul be filled with Him. You belong to the Son of God, then trust him; rest nowhere but on him. You belong to the King of kings, then be decided for Him. Thus, without your being branded upon the brow, all will know to whom you belong.

Gratitude
November 26, 2015

If you are at all like me, you probably find it easy to pray those prayers of petition (“Please give me…”) but far more difficult to pray those prayers of gratitude (“Thank you for…”). Here is some valuable assistance from The Valley of Vision.

O My God,
You fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
My heart admires, adores, loves You,
For my little vessel is as full as it can be,
And I would pour out all that fullness before You in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with You
Ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
Ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
Ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
Crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless You for the soul You have created,
For adorning it, for sanctifying it,
Though it is fixed in barren soil;
For the body You have given me,
For preserving its strength and vigor,
For providing senses to enjoy delights,
For the ease and freedom of limbs,
For hands, eyes, ears that do Your bidding;
For Your royal bounty providing my daily support,
For a full table and overflowing cup,
For appetite, taste, sweetness,
For social joys of relatives and friends,
For ability to serve others,
For a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
For a mind to care for my fellow-men,
For opportunities of spreading happiness around,
For loved ones in the joys of heaven,
For my own expectation of seeing You clearly.
I love You above the powers of language to express,
For what You are to Your creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 11, 2015

One of the most important books I have ever read is a book about joy and wonder. Steve DeWitt’s Eyes Wide Open impacted me in many ways, but perhaps foremost by opening my eyes to the beauty behind the beauty. Here is a short quote in which he describes our problem with beauty.

Creation is beautiful precisely because its Creator is beautiful. God defines beauty by His very essence. He is the source and standard of all beauty. But the concept of God’s beauty is hard for us to imagine. For one thing, God is spirit, a reality that in itself poses problems; we are limited in our ability to understand God’s beauty in that our experience of beauty is essentially sensory. We cannot see God or smell God or touch God. He is “the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Yet this invisible God has chosen to express the fullness of His beauty in physical ways. The display is not the beauty itself. We must not confuse God’s expression of His beauty with its essential character. That would be like mistaking a woman’s taste in fashion for her virtue. The created world in all its beauty is an expression of God’s beauty, but it is not the essence of His beauty. (Although if God’s visual display of His beauty in creation is so awe-inspiring, imagine how wonderful His essential beauty must be!) We are accustomed to thinking about beauty as visual; to think of God as beautiful requires a definition that goes beyond the senses to the quintessence—core—of essential beauty.

Our second problem with understanding the beauty of God is that beauty is generally viewed as a category of personal preference. When judging beauty, people often say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Our assessment of the beauty of an object or person is shaped by cultural influences and perceptions. …

Studies show that we are heavily influenced by our parents’ and our culture’s definitions of beauty. These factors make it difficult for us to consider the beauty of God, which doesn’t fit into cultural or conditioned categories of thinking. God’s beauty is divine, eternal, and infinite. He is beautiful. He always has been and eternally will be.

Our final difficulty is that God’s beauty defies our ability to comprehend. A helpful word in grappling with divine beauty is ineffable. This word is one of the few that apply because it means “beyond comprehension.” God transcends all aesthetic definition. Human language cannot produce a word that adequately describes something infinitely desirable. A popular phrase captures the ineffability of God’s beauty: It blows our minds. We cannot see God’s beauty (God is spirit); we cannot evaluate it (God transcends humanity’s ability for critique); and we cannot comprehend it (God is infinite, and we are not).

So why even attempt to wrap our minds around the beauty of God? … We seek expressions of beauty because what we can see and comprehend draws us to wonders too awesome not to enjoy. Their ineffability is entwined with their desirability. What I cannot see is mysteriously interesting to me and compels me to look all the more. The same is true of God’s beauty and attributes.