Saturday, June 23, 2012

Excuses Fall Short

What follows is from a book I'm currently reading by Charles Spurgeon.

I hear some of you say, "Well, sir, I know nothing of this work of God the Holy Spirit in my heart. I am just as good as other people. I never make a profession of religion; it is very rarely that I go into a place of worship at all, but I am as good as the saints, any of them. Look at some of them - very fine fellows certainly." 
Stop, now. Religion is a thing between you and your Maker, and you have nothing to do with those very fine fellows you have spoken of. Suppose I make a confession that a large number of those who are called saints deserve a great deal more to be called sinners double-dyed, and then whitewashed. Suppose I make a confession of that. What has that to do with you?  Your religion must be for yourself, and it must be between you and your God. If all the world were hypocrites, that would not exonerate you before your God. When you came before the Master, if you were still at enmity with Him, could you venture to plead such an excuse as this:  "All the world was full of hypocrites?"  "Well," He would say, "what did that have to do with you?  So much the more why you should have been an honest man.  If you say the church was drifting away into quicksand, through the evil conduct and folly of the members thereof, so much the more why you should have helped to make it sound, if you thought you could have done so."
Another cries, "Well, I do not see that I need it. I am as moral a man as I can be.  I never break the Sabbath. I am one of the most conscientious of Christians.  I always go to church twice on Sunday.  I listen to a thoroughly evangelical minister, and you would not find fault with him."  Perhaps another says, "I go to a Baptist chapel.  I am always found there, and I am scrupulously correct in my conduct.  I am a good father, a good husband.  I do not know that any man can find fault with me in business."  Well, certainly, that is very good, and if you will be so good tomorrow morning as to go into Saint Paul's and wash one of those statues until you make it alive, then you will be saved by your morality; but since you, even you, are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) without the Spirit you may wash yourself ever so clean, but you cannot wash life into you any more than those statues, by all your washing, could be made to walk or think or breathe.  You must be quickened by the Holy Spirit, for you are dead in trespasses and sins.  Yes, my lovely maiden, you who are everything excellent; you who are not to be blamed in anything; you who are affectionate, tender, kind, and dutiful.  Your very life seems to be so pure that all who see you think that you are an angel.  Even you, unless you are born again, cannot see the kingdom of God.  The golden gate of heaven must grind upon its hinges with a doleful sound and shut you out forever, unless you are the subject of a divine change, for this requirement permits no exception.
And, you, vilest of the vile, you who have wandered farthest from the paths of righteousness, "ye must be born again" (John 3:7). You must be quickened by a divine life, and it is comforting for you to remember that the very same power that can awaken the moral man, that can save the righteous and honest man, is able to work in you, is able to change you!  This power can turn the lion into a lamb, and the raven into a dove. 
Oh, my readers, ask yourselves, are you the subjects of this change?  And if you are, rejoice with joy unspeakable, for happy is that mother's child, and full of glory, who can say, "I am born of God."  Blessed is that man.  God and the holy angels call him blessed who has received the quickening of the Spirit and is born of God.  For him there may be many troubles, but there is "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17) to counterbalance all his woe; for him there may be wars and fightings, but let him tarry.  There are trumpets of victory, there are better wreaths than the laurels of conquerors, there is a crown of immortal glory, there is bliss unfading, there is acceptance in the breast of God, and perpetual fellowship with Jehovah.  But, oh, if you are not born again, I can but tremble for you and lift my heart in prayer to God, and pray for you, that He may now by His divine Spirit make you alive, show you your need of Him, adn then direct you to the cross of Jesus. 
But if you know your need of a Savior, if you are conscious of your death in sin, listen to the Gospel.  The Lord Jesus Christ died for you.  Do you know yourself to be guilty, not as the hypocrite pretends to know it, but do you know it consciously, sensitively?  Do you weep over it?  Do you lament it?  Do you feel that you cannot save yourself?  Are you sick of all fleshly ways of saving?  Can you say right now, "Unless God reaches out His hand of mercy, I know I deserve to be lost forever, and I am"?  Then, as the Lord my God lives, before whom I stand, my Master bought you with His blood, and those whom He bought with His blood, He will have; from the fangs of the lion and the jaws of the bear will He pluck them.  He will save you, for you are a part of His bloody purchase; He has taken your sins upon His head; He suffered in your place.  He has been punished for you; you will not die; "your sins, which are many, are all forgiven." (See Luke 7:47.)  I am the Master's glad herald to tell you what His Word tells you also, that you may rejoice in the fullness of faith, for "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), and "this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation" (v. 15).  May the Lord now be pleased to add His blessing for Jesus' sake. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lord, teach us to pray!

James 5:13-20
I anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders oft he church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like our, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. 

The Lord has taught me a lot about prayer lately and is continuing to do so.  I've been brought to the hard truth that I really didn't know how to pray.  Yes, I've been a Christian for quite some time but yet, I really didn't know how to pray mainly because I'd never asked the Lord to teach me.  This is the main reason praying has been such a chore up until now.  Certainly I am not the prayer warrior I would like to be and distractions come at me from every side when I attempt to spend time with the Lord but through the power of the Holy Spirit and remembering the things He has taught me, I'm slowing but surely winning this battle.  
Are you willing to learn how to pray?  God didn't create prayer for Himself because He needs us to tell Him what we need or want.  He knows all, sees all, and is the Alpha and Omega.  He created prayer because we need Him and communication with Him is vital to our survival as Christians. in this sinful world.  Is the Lord valuable enough in our lives that we would spend time learning how to communicate with Him?  Have you ever tried to talk to someone with whom you had very little or nothing in common?  It's hard isn't it?!  Perhaps that's why we struggle so with prayer; we don't have enough in common with the Lord to know how to carry on a conversation with Him.  Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."  While Jesus walked this earth He taught the disciples how to pray.  They even sought Him out and said, "Lord, teach us to pray."  Charles Spurgeon says, "Prayer itself is an art that only the Holy Spirit can teach us.  He is the giver of all prayer.  Pray for prayer."  He also says, "There is a vulgar notion that prayer is easy."  
So, what are we to do?  Are we powerless here on earth and God's gonna do what God's gonna do regardless?  In the Christian life there is rarely nothing we can do.  Remember when we pray we have a mightier One that us praying with us.  There is another voice louder and sweeter than the first, more powerful pleading, "Father, forgive them through My precious blood."  (from Spurgeon's Prayer & Spiritual Warfare)  Praise Jesus!  Hebrews 7:25 says Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  Charles Spurgeon explains it well, "Sometimes poor people come to us with requests that they wish to send to some company or important person.  They bring the request and ask us to have it presented for them.  It is very badly spelled, very strangely written, and we can barely make out what they mean; but still there is enough to let us know what they want.  First of all, we make out a good copy for the, and then, having stated their case, we put our own name at the bottom.  If we have any influence, of course, they get what they desire through the power of the name signed at the foot of the petition.  This is just what the Lord Jesus Christ does with our poor prayers.  He makes a good copy of them stamps them with the seal of His own atoning blood, puts His own name at the foot, and thus they go up to God's throne.  It is your prayer, but, oh, it is His prayer, too.  It is the fact of its being His prayer that makes it prevail!"  Again I say, "Praise Jesus!!"
This doesn't mean that we are without responsibility.  In face, when praying, it's easier to get the words right than it is to get the heart right (Elizabeth George) 
Psalm 19:14 says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."  Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."  Luke 18:1 says, "And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not loose heart."  
While we live and desire mercy; it's not too late to seek it!  Don't let Satan tempt you with the thought that it's too late.  We must be persistent because we are so needy!  Genesis 32 records the account of Jacob wrestling with God and when He put his hip out of joint, Jacob still clung to Him and said in verse 26, "I will not let you go unless You bless me!"  Consider the ravens also, "They neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds!"  Ravens don't do one thing to provide for themselves like the tiny ant who stores food for the winter but yet God provides for them anyway.  Have you ever heard anything more irritation than a bunch of crows squawking?  Many of crows have justly been blown to bits by the farmer who has worked in the heat all day planting his seeds just to turn around and see a crow pecking, digging them up and eating them.  Spurgeon says again, "I fear a raven sometimes has a great advantage; young ravens are more in earnest about their food than some are about their souls."  For the most part, ravens come into our daily lives uninvited and are a nuisance but the soul seeking God in earnest is never viewed this why by Him.  They (we) are His invited guests.  "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver You, and You shall glorify Me." - Psalm 50:15
Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!" and the explanation to this verse lies back in Exodus 29:42, "It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there."  Notice the last part of Exodus 42, "where I will meet with you, to speak to you there."  The Lord draws near to all those who seek Him and there is no greater joy in life than walking with Him!