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Free Offer

Is it desired that we should forbear to make a free offer of God’s grace in Christ to the worst of sinners? This cannot be granted by us: for this is the gospel faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation (and therefore worthy of all our preaching of it), that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and the chief of them (1 Tim. 1:15). This was the apostolic practice, according to their Lord’s command (Mark 16:15-16; Luke. 24:47). They began at Jerusalem, where the Lord of life was wickedly slain by them; and yet life in and through his blood was offered to, and accepted and obtained by, many of them. Every believer’s experience witnesses to this, that every one that believes on Jesus Christ, acts that faith as the chief of sinners. Every man that sees himself rightly thinks so of himself, and therein does not think amiss. God only knows who is truly the greatest sinner, and every humbled sinner will think that he is the man.

Shall we tell men that unless they are holy they must not believe on Jesus Christ? That they must not venture on Christ for salvation till they are qualified and fit to be received and welcomed by him? This would be to forbear preaching the gospel at all, or to forbid all men to believe on Christ. For never was any sinner qualified for Christ, He is well qualified for us (I Cor. 1:30); but a sinner out of Christ has no qualification for Christ but sin and misery. Whence should we have any better, but in and from Christ? Nay, suppose an impossibility, that a man were qualified for Christ; I boldly assert, that such a man would not, nor could ever, believe on Christ. For faith is a lost, helpless condemned sinner’s casting himself on Christ for salvation; and the qualified man is not such a person.

Shall we warn people, that they should not believe on Christ, too soon? It is impossible that they should do it too soon. Can a man obey the great gospel command too soon (1 John 3: 23)? Or do the great work of God too soon (John 6:28-29)?

Robert Traill, quoted in Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ

 

 

What Is Will-Worship?

In Colossians 2:20-23, Paul writes:

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

The phrase “self-made religion” is translated in the King James Version as “will worship.” Ezekiel Hopkins, in his exposition on the Second Commandment, writes the following:

Now will-worship is nothing else, but the invention and ascribing any other worship unto God, besides what he hath been pleased to command and institute. God will not be worshipped according to our fancies, but his own appointment: For, as we must have no other God, besides the true; so that God must have no other service performed unto him, besides what himself hath required and prescribed; for this were to impute folly and weakness unto him, as if, indeed, he would have servants but knew not what service to enjoin them. (Works, vol. 1, p. 335)

There is much wisdom in warning against invented forms of worship which might be intended to honor God, but actually serve to obscure His glory, because the focus is taken away from what God Himself has ordained. This wise warning is summarized well in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. (21:1)

And what ways are we to worship God? In addition to prayer, the WCF explains:

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner. (25:5)

Therefore, so that we are wise and obedient unto God, and so that we offer up worship that is pleasing to Him, let us seek to worship Him in the ways He has taught to us by His word. All other worship will, in the end, be will-worship. For, in the end, will-worship only seeks to please ourselves, and not God.

In the Merse

I am looking forward to reading Sinclair Ferguson’s upcoming book on The Marrow Controversy (available here), which should be available near the end of January. It is largely based upon a series of lectures he delivered around 1980 (see here and here for some of Dr. Ferguson’s messages on the subject). In the meantime, the following article (taken from the book) articulates why this book and the issues it wrestles with are so important a concern for the church in the 21st century.

Why I Wrote a Book on the Marrow Controversy

Challenges to Preaching

It is a pathetic feature of contemporary church life that there are still plenty in the pews who clamour for shorter and lighter sermons and bright and easy services and not a few in the pulpits prepared to pander to popular taste. There’s a vicious circle: superficial congregations make superficial pastors, and superficial pastors make superficial congregations.

C.E.B. Cranfield, quoted in John Stott’s The Challenge of Preaching

I found the following article to be particularly helpful in that oft-neglected duty of preparing our souls for the Lord’s Day and the worship of God.

PREPARATION FOR THE SABBATH

The family is gathered in church on Sunday morning. The service is about to start. The minister asks a question, asks it even before the Invocation. He asks, “How many of you have taken time to prepare your souls for this, the Lord’s Day?” How would we answer such a question; what would have been our answer last Sunday morning?

There has been much said regarding the keeping of the Sabbath day, and this is proper. Indeed, our country is guilty of breaking it time and time again and born again Christians are joining in. But possibly some emphasis should be put on the matter of preparation for the day. There seems to be little said about this important aspect. It might well be there would be less breaking of the Sabbath if there was more preparation for it!

How can we prepare for the Sabbath day? What things would be important for us to do in order that we might be better prepared to spend the day as the Lord would have us to spend it? The following list might be helpful as we seek to live unto Him in this area:

1. Dedicate the day to the Lord beforehand and rejoice at the prospect of it. Recognize this is truly the Lord’s Day. We should seek, by His grace, to make it a special day of blessing to our souls.

2. Use a good portion of the time on Saturday evening for a spiritual retreat. Closet yourself with the Word, with prayer, filling your soul with the things that be of God. Recognize that your heart needs to be cleansed from the things of the world, necessary things possibly, but things that have entered in to choke the Word.

3. Use some time for meditation. Instead of only reading the Word and praying, think on the things of God and of God Himself. Think on His works, on His holiness, on the wonderful fact of redemption, on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Pray for the minister, pray that he will be prepared for the preaching of the Word, the primary means of grace. Hold him up before the Throne of Grace, pray that he will be a fit vessel for the Master’s use.

It is time that God’s people, His saved, prepare themselves for the Lord’s Day and its activities. As the people of Israel had to wash their bodies before the law was presented to them, so should the believers in Christ prepare their souls for the Lord’s Day. (Ex. 19:10). Think of what the result could be in His work if His people were to make some spiritual retreats in preparation for His day!

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 55 (July 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

Found here.

The Bible’s verdict on the human heart is that it is deceitful (Jer. 17:9). And it deceives preachers of the gospel, too. It persuades us that we have more to do than to pray; that prayer is a luxury that we cannot afford; or that prayer is a practice we do not really need. Our hearts tell us to get straight from breakfast to exegesis and that we are sufficient in ourselves for the duties of our calling. Sometimes our hearts don’t even tell us that; they tell us that it can all wait until after another cup of coffee.

Iain Campbell, “Pray, Plan, Prepare, and Preach”, pg. 40

HT: Benjamin Glaser

The Hypocrite’s Religion

“They weave the spider’s web.” — Isaiah 59:5
 
See the spider’s web, and behold in it a most suggestive picture of the hypocrite’s religion. It is meant to catch his prey: the spider fattens himself on flies, and the Pharisee has his reward. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot always escape. Philip baptized Simon Magus, whose guileful declaration of faith was so soon exploded by the stern rebuke of Peter. Custom, reputation, praise, advancement, and other flies, are the small game which hypocrites take in their nets. A spider’s web is a marvel of skill: look at it and admire the cunning hunter’s wiles. Is not a deceiver’s religion equally wonderful? How does he make so barefaced a lie appear to be a truth? How can he make his tinsel answer so well the purpose of gold? A spider’s web comes all from the creature’s own bowels. The bee gathers her wax from flowers, the spider sucks no flowers, and yet she spins out her material to any length. Even so hypocrites find their trust and hope within themselves; their anchor was forged on their own anvil, and their cable twisted by their own hands. They lay their own foundation, and hew out the pillars of their own house, disdaining to be debtors to the sovereign grace of God. But a spider’s web is very frail. It is curiously wrought, but not enduringly manufactured. … Hypocritical cobwebs will soon come down when the besom of destruction begins its purifying work. Which reminds us of one more thought, viz., that such cobwebs are not to be endured in the Lord’s house: he will see to it that they and those who spin them shall be destroyed for ever. O my soul, be thou resting on something better than a spider’s web. Be the Lord Jesus thine eternal hiding-place.
 
C.H. Spurgeon