The Inward Experience of Believers

Taken and adapted from, “Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne”
Written by, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Sermon XV
Put together and published by Andrew Bonar, 1894.

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“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”   —Romans. 7:22–25.

A BELIEVER is to be known not only by his peace and joy, but by his warfare and distress…

His peace is peculiar: it flows from Christ; it is heavenly, it is holy peace. His warfare is as peculiar: it is deep-seated, agonizing, and ceases not till death. If the Lord will, many of us have the prospect of sitting down next Sabbath at the Lord’s Table. The great question to be answered before sitting down there is, “Have I fled to Christ or no?”

’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,

Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?

To help you to settle this question, I have chosen the subject of the Christian’s warfare that you may know thereby whether you are a soldier of Christ— whether you are really fighting the good fight of faith.

I.   A believer delights in the law of God.—“I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” ver. 22.

(1.) Before a man comes to Christ, he hates the law of God—his whole soul rises up against it. “The carnal mind is enmity,” etc., 8:7.

First, Unconverted men hate the law of God on account of its purity. “Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.” For the same reason worldly men hate it. The law is the breathing of God’s pure and holy mind. It is infinitely opposed to all impurity and sin. Every line of the law is against sin. But natural men love sin, and therefore they hate the law, because it opposes them in all they love. As bats hate the light, and fly against it, so unconverted men hate the pure light of God’s law, and fly against it.

Second, They hate it for its breadth. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” It extends to all their outward actions, seen and unseen; it extends to every idle word that men shall speak; it extends to the looks of their eye; it dives into the deepest caves of their heart; it condemns the most secret springs of sin and lust that nestle there. Unconverted men quarrel with the law of God because of its strictness. If it extended only to my outward actions, then I could bear with it; but it condemns my most secret thoughts and desires, which I cannot prevent. Therefore ungodly men rise against the law.

Third, They hate it for its unchangeableness. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle of the law shall in no wise pass away. If the law would change, or let down its requirements, or die, then ungodly men would be well pleased. But it is unchangeable as God: it is written on the heart of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. It cannot change unless God change; it cannot die unless God die. Even in an eternal hell its demands and its curses will be the same. It is an unchangeable law, for He is an unchangeable God. Therefore ungodly men have an unchangeable hatred to that holy law.

(2.) When a man comes to Christ, this is all changed. He can say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” He can say with David, “Oh how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” He can say with Jesus, in the 40th Psalm, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”

There are two reasons for this:—

First, The law is no longer an enemy.—If any of you who are trembling under a sense of your infinite sins, and the curses of the law which you have broken, flee to Christ, you will find rest. You will find that He has fully answered the demands of the law as a surety for sinners; that He has fully borne all its curses. You will be able to say, “Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me, as it is written, Cursed,” etc. You have no more to fear, then, from that awfully holy law: you are not under the law, but under grace. You have no more to fear from the law than you will have after the judgment-day. Imagine a saved soul after the judgment-day. When that awful scene is past; when the dead, small and great, have stood before that great white throne; when the sentence of eternal woe has fallen upon all the unconverted, and they have sunk into the lake whose fires can never be quenched; would not that redeemed soul say, I have nothing to fear from that holy law; I have seen its vials poured out, but not a drop has fallen on me? So may you say now, O believer in Jesus! When you look upon the soul of Christ, scarred with God’s thunderbolts; when you look upon his body, pierced for sin, you can say, He was made a curse for me; why should I fear that holy law?

Second, The Spirit of God writes the law on the heart.—This is the promise: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jer. 31:33. Coming to Christ takes away your fear of the law; but it is the Holy Spirit coming into your heart that makes you love the law. The Holy Spirit is no more frightened away from that heart; He comes and softens it; He takes out the stony heart and puts in a heart of flesh; and there He writes the holy, holy, holy law of God. Then the law of God is sweet to that soul; he has an inward delight in it. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Now he unfeignedly desires every thought, word, and action to be according to that law. “Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes: great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” The 119th Psalm becomes the breathing of that new heart. Now also he would fain see all the world submitting to that pure and holy law. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law.” Oh that all the world but knew that holiness and happiness are one! Oh that all the world were one holy family, joyfully coming under the pure rules of the gospel! Try yourselves by this. Can you say, “I delight,” etc.? Do you remember when you hated the law of God? Do you love it now? Do you long for the time when you shall live fully under it—holy as God is holy, pure as Christ is pure?

Oh come, sinners, and give up your hearts to Christ, that He may write on it his holy law! You have long enough had the devil’s law graven on your hearts: come you to Jesus, and He will both shelter you from the curses of the law, and He will give you the Spirit to write all that law in your heart; He will make you love it with your inmost soul. Plead the promise with Him. Surely you have tried the pleasures of sin long enough. Come, now, and try the pleasures of holiness out of a new heart.

If you die with your heart as it is, it will be stamped a wicked heart to all eternity. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Rev. 22:11. Oh come and get the new heart before you die; for except you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God!

II.    A true believer feels an opposing law in his members.

“I see another law,” etc., ver. 23. When a sinner comes first to Christ, he often thinks he will now bid an eternal farewell to sin: now I shall never sin any more. He feels already at the gate of heaven. A little breath of temptation soon discovers his heart, and he cries out, “I see another law.”

(1.) Observe what he calls it—“another law;” quite a different law from the law of God; a law clean contrary to it. He calls it a “law of sin,” ver. 25; a law that commands him to commit sin, that urges him on by rewards and threatenings—“a law of sin and death,” 8:2; a law which not only leads to sin, but leads to death, eternal death: “the wages of sin is death.” It is the same law which, in Galatians, is called “the flesh:” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” etc., Gal. 5:17. It is the same which, in Eph. 4:22, is called “the old man,” which is wrought according to the deceitful lusts; the same law which in Col. 3 is called “your members”—“Mortify, therefore, your members, which are,” etc.; the same which is called “a body of death,” Rom. 7:24. The truth then is, that in the heart of the believer there remains the whole members and body of an old man, or old nature: there remains the fountain of every sin that has ever polluted the world.

(2.)  Observe again what this law is doing—“warring.” This law in the members is not resting quiet, but warring—always fighting. There never can be peace in the bosom of a believer. There is peace with God, but constant war with sin. This law in the members has got an army of lusts under him, and he wages constant war against the law of God. Sometimes, indeed, an army are lying in ambush, and they lie quiet till a favourable moment comes. So in the heart the lusts often lie quiet till the hour of temptation, and then they war against the soul. The heart is like a volcano: sometimes it slumbers and sends up nothing but a little smoke; but the fire is slumbering all the while below, and will soon break out again. There are two great combatants in the believer’s soul. There is Satan on the one side, with the flesh and all its lusts at his command; then on the other side there is the Holy Spirit, with the new creature all at his command. And so “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these two are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Is Satan ever successful? In the deep wisdom of God the law in the members does sometimes bring the soul into captivity. Noah was a perfect man, and Noah walked with God, and yet he was led captive. “Noah drank of the wine, and was drunken.” Abraham was the “friend of God,” and yet he told a lie, saying of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” Job was a perfect man, one that feared God and hated evil, and yet he was provoked to curse the day wherein he was born. And so with Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Hezekiah, and Peter, and the apostles.

First. Have you experienced this warfare? It is a clear mark of God’s children. Most of you, I fear, have never felt it. Do not mistake me. All of you have felt a warfare at times between your natural conscience and the law of God. But that is not the contest in the believer’s bosom. It is a warfare between the Spirit of God in the heart, and the old man with his deeds.

Second, If any of you are groaning under this warfare, learn to be humbled by it, but not discouraged.

1st, Be humbled under it.—It is intended to make you lie in the dust, and feel that you are but a worm. Oh! what a vile wretch you must be, that even after you are forgiven, and have received the Holy Spirit, your heart should still be a fountain of every wickedness! How vile, that in your most solemn approaches to God, in the house of God, in awfully affecting situations, such as kneeling beside the death-bed, you should still have in your bosom all the members of your old nature! Let this make you lie low.

2d, Let this teach you your need of Jesus.—You need the blood of Jesus as much as at the first. You never can stand before God in yourself. You must go again and again to be washed; even on your dying bed you must hide under Jehovah our Righteousness. You must also lean upon Jesus. He alone can overcome in you. Keep nearer and nearer every day.

3d, Be not discouraged.—Jesus is willing to be a Saviour to such as you. He is able to save you to the uttermost. Do you think your case is too bad for Christ to save? Every one whom Christ saves had just such a heart as you. Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life. Take up the resolution of Edwards: “Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” “Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar,” etc.

III.   The feelings of a believer during this warfare

(1.) He feels wretched.—“O wretched man that I am!” ver. 24. There is nobody in this world so happy as a believer. He has come to Jesus, and found rest. He has the pardon of all his sins in Christ. He has near approach to God as a child. He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. He has the hope of glory. In the most awful times he can be calm, for he feels that God is with him. Still there are times when he cries, O wretched man! When he feels the plague of his own heart; when he feels the thorn in the flesh; when his wicked heart is discovered in all its fearful malignity; ah, then he lies down, crying, O wretched man that I am! One reason of this wretchedness is, that sin, discovered in the heart, takes away the sense of forgiveness. Guilt comes upon the conscience, and a dark cloud covers the soul. How can I ever go back to Christ? he cries. Alas! I have sinned away my Saviour. Another reason is, the loathsomeness of sin. It is felt like a viper in the heart. A natural man is often miserable from his sin, but he never feels its loathsomeness; but to the new creature it is vile indeed. Ah! brethren, do you know anything of a believer’s wretchedness? If you do not, you will never know his joy. If you know not a believer’s tears and groans, you will never know his song of victory.

(2.) He seeks deliverance.—“Who shall deliver me?” In ancient times, some of the tyrants used to chain their prisoners to a dead body; so that, wherever the prisoner wandered, he had to drag a putrid carcase after him. It is believed that Paul here alludes to this inhuman practice. His old man he felt a noisome putrid carcase, which he was continually dragging about with him. His piercing desire is to be freed from it. Who shall deliver us? You remember once, when God allowed a thorn in the flesh to torment his servant,—a messenger of Satan to buffet him,—Paul was driven to his knees. “I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” Oh, this is the true mark of God’s children! The world has an old nature; they are all old men together. But it does not drive them to their knees. How is it with you, dear souls? Does corruption felt within drive you to the throne of grace? Does it make you call on the name of the Lord? Does it make you like the importunate widow: “Avenge me of mine adversary?” Does it make you like the man coming at midnight for three loaves? Does it make you like the Canaanitish woman, crying after Jesus? Ah, remember, if lust can work in your heart, and you lie down contented with it, you are none of Christ’s!

(3.) He gives thanks for victory.—Truly we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we can give thanks before the fight is done. Yes, even in the thickest of the battle we can look up to Jesus, and cry, Thanks to God. The moment a soul groaning under corruption rests the eye on Jesus, that moment his groans are changed into songs of praise. In Jesus you discover a fountain to wash away the guilt of all your sin. In Jesus you discover grace sufficient for you,—grace to hold you up to the end,—and a sure promise that sin shall soon be rooted out altogether. “Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by my name; thou art mine.” Ah, this turns our groans into songs of praise! How often a psalm begins with groans and ends with praises! This is the daily experience of all the Lord’s people. Is it yours? Try yourselves by this. Oh, if you know not the believer’s song of praise, you will never cast your crowns with them at the feet of Jesus!

Dear believers, be content to glory in your infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon you. Glory, glory, glory to the Lamb!

The Roman Method of Crucifixion. Part One

Taken and adapted from, “Crucifixion”
Written by, John Osborne
Originally published, 1897

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It must be remembered that the cross was not represented as an emblem of our salvation during the first 325 years of the Christianity…

…it was an abominable and detested thing, as the gallows is now, a symbol of shame and slavery; and therefore, until the time of Constantine, who was the first Roman emperor to embrace the Christian religion, there would be no endeavor made by Roman, Jewish or Christian writer to preserve any account of this dread process for the infliction of death. The little we may know about it is to be gathered from writings in which mention must be made of it from necessity, and only by allusion and as related in an illustrative way to some other topic forming the principal subject of the writing.

The apostle Paul frequently alludes to the cross as a symbol of shame and speaks of the offence (σκάνδαλον) of the cross…

…and it must have been with great horror, loathing and disgust that any unconverted man should read about Paul’s glorying in the cross of Jesus Christ, and that he rejoiced in being daily crucified with his Lord. To a Roman of polished but pagan education, such declarations would appear as the extreme aberrations of a disordered brain, and Paul would readily be reckoned as among those intellectual cranks to any one of whom a Festus might exclaim,” Thou art beside thyself, much learning hath made thee mad.”

There were some incidents attending our Savior’s crucifixion, explanations of which have been offered by writers in commentaries that do not account for those incidents consistently and in harmony with what we know of Roman policy and practice in military executions. Two of these incidents are: first, the offer of vinegar mingled with gall to Jesus when on the cross as well as before He was crucified; and secondly, the breaking the legs of the crucified at the time of their being taken down from the cross. The very inadequate explanation of these proceedings is, that they were both acts of mercy; that the vinegar and gall, or, as named in another place, the wine mingled with myrrh, was given in order to partly dull the senses or to stupefy the victim and thus to lessen the pain; and that the legs were broken as a closing act of the scene in order to hasten death and thus the termination of his misery.

These explanations are not admissible, and simply for the reason that thus the period of suffering would be shortened, and they contravene the fact that crucifixion was practiced in order that the sufferings of the victim should be as intense and prolonged as possible. It was a military punishment as at first practiced by the Romans, and had its origin in military necessity. Roman policy, as exercised toward the states that were to be subjugated, was essentially a policy of terror; “Vae victis! woe to the conquered!” was the terrible cry that sounded forth before their armies as they entered upon the bloody work of battle and destruction, and the captives taken were in greater part appointed to death in such manner as would best serve to terrify the people and make them willing, through abject fear, to pass under the Roman yoke.

Thus the death by crucifixion, was the most cruel that could be devised; but it would have been most contradictory to the spirit in which that punishment was inflicted, and would have revealed a broad inconsistency in the procedure, if at any stage the element of mercy had entered to relieve, in never so slight a degree, its bitter and protracted suffering. For it was an infliction carefully so ordered that the body of the victim should not be attached at any vital point while he was kept slowly dying “by inches” under the agonies of starvation and thirst. The sufferer was held for days under the tortures of this living death, unless at times he was fortunately rendered unconscious of his pains by the delirium that accompanied the hard fever and slight loss of blood from the wounds in his hands and feet.

Men of fairly strong constitution lasted out this bitter experience during from three to eight days; the instance recorded of longest survival being nine days; while with the case of a weak or sickly frame the wretched scene might close within the first twenty-four or forty -eight hours, but seldom in less than the time first mentioned.

Our Lord’s death came when He had been on the cross but six hours, and it is one of the objects of this and another paper to show why it should have come so soon. The material contributed by the records is so scanty and vague as to serve merely for a frame work on which to build up our complete account, such as would be furnished by the inferences fairly to be drawn from the extant records of military custom and state policy. That account should proceed upon fair and natural deductions made legitimately from known facts of history and custom; thus may we, haply, make out a rounded and complete story in which there shall be place for all necessary facts and incidents related in the Gospel narrative, and each of them shall fall without design into its own place as forming a consistent and natural part in the whole sad tragedy.

It may be again stated, since the fact is a controlling one and too important to be lost sight of for a moment, that the policy and usage of Rome in her treatment of every nation and tribe subdued to her arms was unvaryingly that of the utmost cruelty…

…and that cruelty was continued in practice until nation, tribe or people had become so completely overawed and reduced that no hope or thought remained to them of opposition to Roman sway. When a Roman general, upon his invasion of a country, had fought a battle and gained a victory, he had a large number of captives, both of those taken from the defeated army and of the unarmed dwellers in cities and villages near the battlefield. They were all different in class and various in condition, and at the absolute disposal of the victor.

With the end of subjugation in view, there was no exchange of prisoners, neither could the captives be allowed to go free. There thus remained for them the fate of either slavery or death; and the only problem before the general was, how to so assort them that those best fitted by education, by trade or other adaptation, could be made useful as slaves in Rome. Such were reserved for the slave market there, and the remaining mass of captives, and generally the far greater part, were made useful to Roman policy in subjugating the country by being put to the slow tortures of starvation; for after long experience in various sorts of military punishment it had been found that this was the most agonizing and protracted method of torment in all the repertory of cruelty.

For the purpose, therefore, of securing the doomed men during the days of gnawing hunger, when in desperation they might use any extreme violence to escape its agonies, the most simple and obvious method was to bind each of them by cords or withes to a tree or post; and thus for the great herd of the condemned a wide space near the camp was reserved in which, in addition to the trees growing there, holes were dug for countless posts; each post was set up by two out of a party of four soldiers detailed to crucify a victim; the other two soldiers passed with the condemned man to the nearest wood or to the ruined houses of some village to obtain the cross bar to be affixed at the top of the post or at a suitable height on the living tree, they also provided themselves with ropes or green withes with which to suspend the man from the cross bar; he bore the cross thus provided for his own crucifixion, for the indolent and merciless soldiers compelled him.

After they had returned in this manner to the place in the field where the upright post had been already set by other captives under direction of the other two soldiers, the cross bar was securely fixed at the top and then two short stakes of equal length were prepared. These were made with the upper end ”square across,” and with the lower end sharpened, and were driven into the ground close beside and nearly in front of the upright post, ” being separated from each other by a little space. The tops of these stakes were from six to eighteen inches from the ground, and on these the victim was forced to stand, a foot on each stake, while the four at once attached the cords around his body, and fastened them over the cross bar close to the upright, so that when the stakes had been taken from under his feet the body hung suspended by the cords or withes. It was then but a short task to drive a nail through each hand and foot so that the poor wretch might be thoroughly secured against any hope of escape; for if left without this nailing, the arms and hands might be readily used for untying the cords that suspended him and so escape would be easy during the darkness of the night.

End of part one.

THE SABBATH, GENTILES, AND THE SEVEN NOAHIDE LAWS

Taken and adapted from,  Leif’s Articles,
Regarding Adventism, Sabbatarianism, Sabbath, Legalism. 
Written by, Leif L
Materials sourced from  Solus Christus | In Christ Alone

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A weakness in the Sabbatarian worldview is the attempt to anchor the identity of the church and validate it through its connection with Torah-observant Judaism.

They understand genuine Christian origins to be found in observant and obedient Jews who accepted Jesus as their Messiah. I don’t dispute the fact that this is true among the earliest believers, but there was a divinely ordained change recorded in the New Testament which Sabbatarians seem to ignore.

Historic “Gentile Christianity” did not spring from Torah-observant Judaism, but rather, from first century “God-fearers” who accepted the gospel of Jesus. The “God-fearing” Gentiles who worshipped the God of Israel without the ceremonial requirements of Moses (circumcision, Sabbath, kosher, etc.) was valid in the eyes of Jews, who recognized that God never required Gentiles to keep these particular commands.

Therefore, Gentile worship of Yahweh, without the observance of Shabbat, was (and still is) entirely acceptable to Jews.

The book of Acts chronicles the foundational changes that happened in the Christian church in its first few decades. In Acts chapter 2, Christianity was simply a sect of Judaism, born at the feast of Pentecost (2:1); all of its adherents and converts were practicing Jews who met in the temple daily (2:46). It passed through the challenges that Gentile converts put on the movement (chapters 10-15), to the point where Paul became frustrated with the prevailing Jewish rejection of the gospel and said to them,  “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (28:28)

First Century Jewish Relations with Gentiles

During the first century, Jews were more “evangelical” than the Jews of today. Non-Jews who were seeking to learn about the God of Israel and live their lives according to righteous principles were welcomed into early first century synagogues.

“Outsiders could and did enter the Jewish fold. Some were resident aliens (gerei toshav) who resided in a Jewish milieu, sometimes marrying a Jew, sometimes living as slaves in a Jewish household and becoming part of the family in the narrower and the wider sense, and adopting Jewish practices. Outsiders regularly attached themselves to the Jewish people in this way. Some (like Ruth with her “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God”: Ruth 1:16-17) made a more deliberate choice of Judaism and were full converts (gerei tzedek, literally “righteous proselytes”). … Between the gerei toshav and the gerei tzedek was a third group, semi-proselytes or “God-fearers” who though still gentiles were regarded as friends of the Jews.” – – Judaism in transition, 175 BCE-150 CE: Christian and Jewish perspectives, by Rabbi Raymond Apple

God-Fearers and the Law

The non-Jews who sought to honour God but did not convert to Judaism were called “God-fearers”. This is a term that is used in the New Testament at the time when early Judaic Christianity was at the cusp of an explosion of Gentile converts, when it would walk on its own apart from the temple and other Mosaic structures of Judaism, within which this new religion was born and incubated.

Ancient Jews did not teach Gentiles that conversion to Judaism and obedience to all the laws in the Torah were necessary for them to become a part of the future kingdom of God. However, they were required to adhere to the seven Noahide laws:

“Being a gentile might prevent a person from enjoying the blessings of monotheism and morality, but gentiles were not automatically debarred from the World to Come: the righteous (other versions read ‘pious’) of the nations had a place in the afterlife. The commandments of Judaism did not obligate the gentile apart from the Seven Noahide Laws, basic ethics that derive from the post-diluvian age when civilisation had to be reconstructed. These seven laws prohibited murder, robbery, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy and cruelty to animals and required a system of justice (b. Sanhedrin 56b, Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4).” – Judaism in transition, 175 BCE-150 CE: Christian and Jewish perspectives, by Rabbi Raymond Apple

“According to religious Judaism, any non-Jew who lives according to the Seven Laws of Noah is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the world to come, the final reward of the righteous.” – Wikipedia, Jewish Eschatology

Although these seven laws are based on Jewish tradition, they do show that Jews did not require Sabbath observance of Gentiles.

The Noahide Laws

In the first century A.D. many Greek and Roman women converted to Judaism, but few men took this step, due to the rite of circumcision. These “God fearers” were expected to obey the seven Noahide laws, but were not required to observe the specifically “Jewish” laws of circumcision, the Sabbath, festivals and eating regulations. Long before the Christian Era, Jews recognized that Gentiles were not expected by God to keep the Sabbath commandment, unless they converted to Judaism through circumcision.

“God-fearers (or ‘Fearers of God’) are considered to be of significant importance to the popularity of the Early Christian movement. They represented a group of gentiles who shared religious ideas with Jews, to one degree or another. However, they were not converts, but a separate gentile community, engaged in Judaic religious ideas and practices. Noahidism would be a modern parallel. Actual conversion would require adherence to all of the Laws of Moses, which includes various prohibitions (kashrut, circumcision, Sabbath observance etc.) which were generally unattractive to would-be gentile (largely Greek) converts.” Wikipedia, article God Fearer

Cornelius the God-Fearer

In Acts chapter ten we are introduced to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and a God-fearer. There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10:1-2

Prior to Cornelius, all believers in Christ were circumcised, Sabbath-keeping, Torah-observant Jews, without exception. It was expected (even by the apostles) that in order to become a Christian, it was natural and necessary to first be a devout Jew; after all, the promises of both covenants are to the house of Israel (see Jeremiah 31:31). This is why there was such great contention over the issue of circumcision in the early church.

For a Roman or Greek to completely bypass the Sinaitic covenantal requirements, and be grafted into the new covenant by faith only, was unknown.

“The [post-destruction] Judeo-Christians suffered a diminution in numbers and now, though not without an internal struggle, rebuilt and repositioned themselves as an increasingly gentile group, with new adherents directly coming to the new group without having to go through the old one first.” …

“After much internal debate it became possible for an outsider to become a Christian without ever being part of Judaism, either through genealogy or choice. Could you be a Jew without the Sabbath, festivals, circumcision (Jews were not the only ancient people to view uncircumcision as shameful) and dietary laws? The answer was no – but you could become a Christian.” – Judaism in transition, 175 BCE-150 CE: Christian and Jewish perspectives, by Rabbi Raymond Apple

The conversion of Cornelius, a non-Torah observant Gentile, created a crisis in the early church. His account reveals God fulfilling his promises given to Abraham, and through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Amos of opening the way of salvation to the Gentiles, while not requiring the distinctive observances of Judaism.

What Think Ye of Christ?

Taken and adapted from, “Sermons of the Reverend George Whitefield”
Written by George Whitefield

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–Matthew 22:42

When it pleased the eternal Son of God to tabernacle among us, and preach the glad tidings of salvation to a fallen world…

…different opinions were entertained by different parties concerning him. As to his person, some said he was Moses; others that he was Elias, Jeremias, or one of the ancient prophets; few acknowledged him to be what he really was, God blessed for evermore. And as to his doctrine, though the common people, being free from prejudice, were persuaded of the heavenly tendency of his going about to do good, and for the generality, heard him gladly, and said he was a good man; yet the envious, worldly-minded, self-righteous governors and teachers of the Jewish church, being grieved at his success on the one hand, and unable (having never been taught of God) to understand the purity of his doctrine, on the other; notwithstanding our Lord spake as never man spake, and did such miracles which no man could possibly do, unless God was with him; yet they not only were so infatuated, as to say, that he deceived the people; but also were so blasphemous as to affirm, that he was in league with the devil himself, and cast out devils by Beeluzbul, the prince of devils. Nay, our Lord’s own brethren and kinsmen, according to the flesh, were so blinded by prejudices and unbelief, that on a certain day; when he went out to teach the multitudes in the fields, they sent to take hold of him, urging this as a reason for their conduct, “That he was besides himself.”

Thus was the King and the Lord of glory judged by man’s judgment, when manifest in flesh: far be it from any of his ministers to expect better treatment. No, if we come in the spirit and power of our Master, in this, as in every other part of his sufferings, we must follow his steps. The like reproaches which were cast on him, will be thrown on us also. Those that received our Lord and his doctrine, will receive and hear us for his name’s sake. The poor, blessed be God, as our present meeting abundantly testifies, receive the gospel, and the common people hear us gladly; whilst those who are sitting in Moses’ chair, and love to wear long robes, being ignorant of the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and having never felt the power of God upon their hearts, will be continually crying our against us, as madmen, deceivers of the people, and as acting under the influence of evil spirits.

But he is unworthy the name of a minister of the gospel of peace, who is unwilling, not only to have his name cast out as evil, but also to die for the truths of the Lord Jesus.

It is the character of hirelings and false prophets, who care not for the sheep, to have all men speak well of them. “Blessed are you, (says our Lord to his first apostles, and in them to all succeeding ministers) when men speak all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake.” And indeed it is impossible but such offenses must come; for men will always judge of others, according to the principles from which they act themselves. And if they care not to yield obedience to the doctrines which we deliver, they must necessarily, in self-defense, speak against the preachers, lest they should be asked that question, which the Pharisees of old feared to have retorted on them, if they confessed that John was a prophet, “Why then did you not believe on him?” In all such cases, we have nothing to do but to search our own hearts, and if we can assure our consciences, before God, that we act with a single eye to his glory, we are cheerfully to go on in our work, and not in the least to regard what men or devils can say against, or do unto us.

But to return. You have heard what various thoughts there were concerning Jesus Christ, whilst here on earth; nor is he otherwise treated, even now he is exalted to sit down at the right hand of his Father in heaven. A stranger to Christianity, were he to hear, that we all profess to hold one Lord, would naturally infer, that we all thought and spoke one and the same thing about him. But alas! to our shame be it mentioned, though Christ be not divided in himself, yet professors are sadly divided in their thoughts about him; and that not only as to the circumstances of his religion, but also of those essential truths which must necessarily be believed and received by us, if ever we hope to be heirs of eternal salvation.

Some, and I fear a multitude which no man can easily number, there are amongst us, who call themselves Christians, and yet seldom or never seriously think of Jesus Christ at all.

They can think of their shops and their farms, their plays, their balls, their assemblies, and horse-races (entertainments which directly tend to exclude religion out of the world); but as for Christ, the author and finisher of faith, the Lord who has bought poor sinners with his precious blood, and who is the only thing worth thinking of, alas! he is not in all, or at most in very few of their thoughts. But believe me, O ye earthly, sensual, carnally-minded professors, however little you may think of Christ now, or however industriously you may strive to keep him out of your thoughts, by pursuing the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, yet there is a time coming, when you will wish you had thought of Christ more, and of your profits and pleasures less. For the gay, the polite, the rich also must die as well as others, and leave their pompousness and vanities, and all their wealth behind them. And O! what thoughts will you entertain concerning Jesus Christ, in that hour?

But I must not purpose these reflections: they would carry me too far from the main design of this discourse, which is to show, what those who are truly desirous to know how to worship God in spirit and in truth, ought to think concerning Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent to be the end of the law for righteousness to all them that shall believe.

I trust, my brethren, you are more noble than to think me too strict or scrupulous, in thus attempting to regulate your thoughts about Jesus Christ: for by our thoughts, as well as our words and actions, are we to be judged at the great day. And in vain do we hope to believe in, or worship Christ aright, unless our principles, on which our faith and practice are founded, are agreeable to the form of sound words delivered to us in the scriptures of truth.

Besides, many deceivers are gone abroad into the world. Mere heathen morality, and not Jesus Christ, is preached in most of our churches. And how should people think rightly of Christ, of whom they have scarcely heard? Bear with me a little then, whilst, to inform your consciences, I ask you a few questions concerning Jesus Christ. For there is no other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved, but his.

What think you about the person of Christ?  “Whose Son is he?”

This is the question our Lord put to the Pharisees in the words following the text; and never was it more necessary to repeat this question than in these last days. For numbers that are called after the name of Christ, and I fear, many that pretend to preach him, are so far advanced in the blasphemous chair, as openly to deny his being really, truly, and properly God. But no one that ever was partaker of his Spirit, will speak thus lightly of him. No; if they are asked, as Peter and his brethren were, “But whom say ye that I am?” they will reply without hesitation, “Thou art Christ the Son of the ever-living God.” For the confession of our Lord’s divinity, is the rock upon which he builds his church. Was it possible to take this away, the gates of hell would quickly prevail against it. My brethren, if Jesus Christ be not very God of very God, I would never preach the gospel of Christ again. For it would not be gospel; it would be only a system of moral ethics. Seneca, Cicero, or any of the Gentile philosophers, would be as good a Savior as Jesus of Nazareth. It is the divinity of our Lord that gives a sanction to his death, and makes him such a high-priest as became us, one who by the infinite mercies of his suffering could make a full, perfect sufficient sacrifice, satisfaction and oblation to infinitely offended justice.

And whatsoever is a minister and makes use of her forms, and eats of her bread, and yes holds not this doctrine (as I fear too many such are crept in amongst us) such a one belongs only to the synagogue of Satan. He is not a child or minister of God: no; he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; he is a child and minister of that wicked one the devil.

Many will think these hard sayings; but I think it no breach of charity to affirm, that an Arian or Socinian cannot be a Christian. The one would make us believe Jesus Christ is only a created God, which is a self-contradiction: and the other would have us look on him only as a good man; and instead of owning his death to be an atonement for the sins of the world, would persuade us, that Christ died only to seal the truth of hid doctrine with his blood. But if Jesus Christ be no more than a mere man, if he be not truly God, he was the vilest sinner that ever appeared in the world. For he accepted of divine adoration from the man who had been born blind, as we read John 9:38, “And he said, Lord I believe, and he worshipped him.”

Besides, if Christ be not properly God, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins: for no created being, though of the highest order, could possibly merit anything at God’s hands…

…it was our Lord’s divinity, that alone qualified him to take away the sins of the world; and therefore we hear St. John pronouncing so positively, that “the Word (Jesus Christ) was not only with God, but was God.” For the like reason, St. Paul says, “that he was in the form of God: That in him dwelt all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” Nay, Jesus Christ assumed the title which God gave to himself, when he sent Moses to deliver his people Israel. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” And again, “I and my father are one.” Which last words, though our modern infidels would evade and wrest, as they do other scriptures, to their own damnation, yet it is evident that the Jews understood our Lord, when he spoke thus, as making himself equal with God; otherwise, why did they stone him as a blasphemer?

And now, why should it be thought a breach of charity, to affirm, that those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, in the strictest sense of the word, cannot be Christians?

For they are greater infidels than the devils themselves, who confessed that they knew who he was, “even the holy one of God.” They not only believe, but, which is more than the unbelievers of this generation do, they tremble. And was it possible for arch-heretics, to be released from their chains of darkness, under which (unless they altered their principles before they died) they are now reserved to the judgment of the great day, I am persuaded they would inform us, how hell had convinced them of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and that they would advise their followers to abhor their principles, lest they should come into the same place, and thereby increase each other’s torments.

The Pardon that Gives Life

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Spurgeon tells a story about his predecessor…

…an incident that occurred in the reign of King George the Third. It happened to the son of a member of his church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and he lay under the immediate sentence of death for forgery.

His predecessor, Dr. Rippon, after incredible exertions, obtained a promise that the young man’s sentence should be remitted. But by a singular occurrence, the senior deacon, who was also then a young man, learned from the governor of the jail that the reprieve had not been received; and the unhappy prisoner was to be executed the next morning. Dr. Rippon left post-haste to Windsor, and obtained an interview with the king in his bedchamber. There he received from the monarch’s own hand a copy of that reprieve which had been negligently put aside by a thoughtless attendant.

“I charge you, doctor,” said his Majesty, to make good speed.” “Trust me, sire, for that,” responded the old pastor, and he returned to London in time, just in time, and only just in time, for the prisoner was being marched out to the scaffold.

Yes, the pardon had been given… but yet the man might have been executed if it had not been effectually carried out.

However, when we accept Christ as our Savior, our pardon is an effectual thing.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24

Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? Have you asked him also to be your Lord? I pray that you do so, For Jesus also said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” –John 6:37

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Taken and adapted from, “Spurgeon’s Illustrative Anecdotes”
Written by, Louis, Albert Banks

Demons Have a Knowledge of God

Taken and adapted from, “How To Know If You Are A Real Christian”
Written by, Jonathan Edwards
Dated September 28, 1752

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Demons Have a Knowledge of God…

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they “shudder.” But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these Demon’s thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God’s existence is more concrete than any man’s knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn’t make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly convinced that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God’s grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

Troubling Doubts, and the Anchor that Holds Within the Veil

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Are you deeply troubled with your own doubts?

Are things getting bad? And are you coming to the conclusion that God is utterly rejecting you? Do you not understand that our Heavenly Father knows the difference between the immature foolishness of a child and the stubborn wickedness of a rebel? Don’t you think that he knows what is in your heart? And don’t you think he knows that you are his child?

You are like a ship that is well anchored, and though the tide is rushing in, and though circumstances, events, and maybe even foolish decisions is making your life roll from side to side so that you find yourself staggering just to stand, yet your life is not loosed from its moorings, Christ has not let go of you, and you, dear Christian, are not in any danger.

Your faith, halting, stumbling and tired as it may be, is fixed on Christ. And Christ is that great anchor which holds your faith… and that means that He indeed holds you.

So, are you are tossed about a little?

Just rest assured, you are not going to suffer shipwreck because of your doubts…. No! Not even for your sins. But you are going to suffer much sea-sickness because of your folly. Expect it!

How can I be so assured of this?

Because Jesus said, All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out. –John 6:37

Shaken up a little bit? Got some sea-sickness? Welcome to the club. Just remember, Christ has got your anchor, and it doesn’t get any safer than that.

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

It will firmly hold in the straits of fear,
When the breakers have told the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

It will surely hold in the floods of death,
When the waters cold chill our latest breath;
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the veil.

Sin, and a Bundle of Sand

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A poor and desperate woman, driven partially crazy by her sins…

…came to a minister one day carrying a bundle of wet sand. “Do you see what this is, sir?” said she.
“Yes,” was the reply; “it is wet sand.”

“But do you know what it means?”
“I do not know exactly what you mean by it, woman; what is it?”
“Ah, sir,” she said, “that’s me; and the multitude of my sins cannot be numbered.” And then she exclaimed, “O wretched creature that I am! How can such a wretch as I ever be saved?”

“Where did you get the sand?” asked the minister.
“At the Beach, by the light.”
“Go back, then, to the Beach. Take a spade with you. And you dig, dig, and dig some more. Raise a great mound; shovel it up as high as ever you can, then leave it there. Take your stand by the sea-shore, and watch the effect of the waves upon your heap of sand.”
Pausing, looking into the sky, lost in thought, she exclaims, “Ah, sir, I see what you mean, the blood, the blood, the blood of Christ, it would wash it all away.”

Away, went her sins as she let the Lord wash her soul clean. Gone with her sins was her desperation and her sense of guilt. Gone was her fear and shame. The door was opened, the light turned on, the clouds evaporated. And replacing her degradation and anxiety, was a calm peace and a sense of relief and joy.

That is how the Gospel works. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful…” John 14:27    

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 For my cleansing this I see–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Nothing can my sin erase
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Naught of works, ’tis all of grace–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus! 

This is all my hope and peace–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
This is all my righteousness–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

 

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