J.I. Packer on Salvation and Repentence

This may be the best couple paragraphs J.I Packer ever wrote:

To the question; ‘what must I do to be saved?‘,

the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the further question; ‘what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’,

its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.

And to the further question still, ‘how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things?’,

 it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on his mercy; ask him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write his law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from him. Turn to him and trust him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to him; watch, pray, and read and hear God’s word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step . . . So do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on him till his light rises in your soul, as scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobeying the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. ‘l believe – help thou mine unbelief': this must become their cry.

(J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness)

Posted in Bible, Practical Christianity, Prayer | 2 Comments

Boundless: 40 Resolutions You Should Consider Making in 2014

I recently posted 40 suggested New Year’s Resolutions over at Boundless.

http://community.focusonthefamily.com/b/boundless/archive/2013/12/30/40-resolutions-you-should-consider-making-in-2014.aspx

Don’t forget to add some resolutions of your own in the comments.

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J.C. Ryle on Christian Happiness

The only way to be really happy, in such a world as this is to be ever casting all our cares on God. It is the trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad … There is a friend ever waiting to help us , if we will only unbosom to Him our sorrow, – a friend who pitied the poor, the sick, and sorrowful, when He was upon earth, – a friend who knows the heart of a man, for He lived thirty-three years amongst us, – a friend who can weep with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,  – a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to Him. (J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, p.81)

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M’Cheyne’s Advice to Pastors

Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s word to a fellow pastor is one we should all heed:

Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity. Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, and your heart full of God’s Spirit, is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin … Remember it is God, and not man, that must have the glory. It is not much speaking, but much faith, that is needed… (Memoirs & Remains, p.93)

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Recommended Devotionals

Here are some of the richest devotional materials I’ve come across.  I think its beneficial to have a devotional work or two to plow through year-by-year.  These Bible-saturated works have worshipfully ushered me into the presence of the Lord time and time again.  I thank God for them!

Voices From the Past

Scholar Richard Rushing spent 10 years compiling these devotional bits from the the great Puritan thinkers (Baxter, Bunyan, Charnock, Edwards, Owen, Rutherford, Sibbes, etc).  I walked through it day-by-day a few years ago and always found fresh, deep, provocative reflections. This is one of my favorite devotionals available right now. I have a copy on my desk at work and another on my desk at home. It’s that good!

Morning by Morning (C.H. Spurgeon)

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Spurgeon was a master at balancing his sophisticated intellect and pastoral heart.  His daily offerings from various verses throughout the Scriptures are always practical and gospel-saturated.   Few share his ability to go so deep so quickly, never wasting a word.  This new ESV edition, edited by Alistair Begg is my personal favorite.

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford was one of the Scottish divines who lived in the 17th century. A significant part of his ministry included writing letters to those under his care. In them, Rutherford encourages his people by pointing them to take comfort in Christ. Rutherford was uniquely qualified to comfort the afflicted as he lost his beloved wife only two years into their marriage. Spurgeon wrote of these letters, “When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.”

Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister in the 19th century. He ministered faithfully for eight years and then died of typhus at age 29. His memoirs were published by his close friend and college companion, Andrew Bonar. Spurgeon said of this volume “This is one of the best and most profitable volumes ever published. The memoir of such a man ought surely to be in the hands of every Christian , and certainly every preacher of the Gospel.”

Letters of John Newton

I discovered the letters of John Newton when Tim Keller put them on his 2008 Summer Reading List. As Keller put it, “These letters are classics of spirituality and devotion.”  This famous slave trader once converted, became a minister of the gospel and wrote of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” These letters are worth reading and rereading.

The Valley of Vision

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This collection of Puritan prayers is excellent.   Capturing the tenacity with which the Puritan pastors and thinkers pursued their personal faith, they stir the heart with their depth of passion.  Much like the Psalms, these prayers will add vocabulary to your prayer life.  If growing in prayer is your aim, then The Valley of Vision must become part of your repertoire.

The One Year Book of Christian History (E Michael and Sharon Rusten)

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Not merely for the Church History buffs, this work takes some of the finest moments in the last 2,000 years and makes them accessible day-by-day.   The spiritual benefits of reading the biographical snapshots of faithful brothers and sisters over the centuries makes this book a great place to start (or continue) a growing appreciation of Church History.

Posted in Church History, Journaling, Practical Christianity, Reflections, Valley of Vision | 3 Comments

Haddon Robinson on Reading

Beloved preacher and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Haddon Robinson writes on the importance of reading for ministers of the gospel:

Among the last words Paul wrote were in a letter to his young friend Timothy. “When you come,” he asked, “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). The apostle was an old man facing death at the hands of the emperor. He was chained in a drafty dungeon in the city of Rome. He needed his cloak to keep the chill off his bones, but he needed his books and parchments to keep the rust off his mind.

Charles Spurgeon took a lead from these words when he observed, “Even an apostle must read. He is inspired and yet he wants books. He has seen the Lord and yet he wants books…. He has been caught up in the third heaven, and he had heard things which it is unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books. He had written a major part of the New Testament and yet he wants books.” Paul had no more sermons to prepare and no more books or letters to write, but he needed to keep on reading. Even though life was running out on him, Paul needed books.

Ministers must read. We are required to read not as a luxury but as a necessity. We cannot go it alone. Our study of the Bible is enriched by the insights of scholars who have studied particular sections of the Bible more than we have. Only the lazy or stupid ignore the use of commentaries in their preparation. But we should also open our minds to wider vistas through reading books that are not sermon direct.

Working ministers cannot make this broader reading a top priority, but it can be done. Determine to read 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Do that for 50 weeks, and you will have read 125 hours in a year. If you read 30 pages an hour, you will have read over 3,750 pages a year. If you keep up that pace for ten years, you will have read more than 150 books of 250 pages. If those books were well chosen, you could become an authority in any field. As the venerable adage puts it: “Constancy surprises the world by its conquests.”

If you have a book in your hand, you are never alone, and reading enables you to have continued education without having to pay tuition.

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Boundless: Fifty Reasons Christ Came to Die

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