It was December 22, 1745 when David Brainerd preached from the text, Matthew 19, concerning the rich and self-righteous rich young ruler at the Native American outpost of Crossweeksung, where Brainerd did much of his service for Christ.  That Sunday morning, some Indians who had recently arrived at Crossweeksung were in attendance.  These Indians, unlike many of those whom Brainerd ministered to, had the (Brainerd would say ‘unfortunate’) encounter with something like biblical Christianity known as Quakerism.  Brainerd would write of the falsehoods that these Indians were taught, “(these Indians) had imbibed some of (the Quakers) errors; especially this fundamental one, viz., that if men will but live soberly and honestly, according to the dictates of their own consciences (or the light within) there is then no danger or doubt of their salvation.”

Vance Christie, the author of this particular biography of Brainerd, then followed with an interesting proposal, one not altogether new to me, but one which I might pose to others for your insight and thoughts.  Speaking of Brainerd, Christie writes:

He had generally found those types of individuals, with their self-righteous foundation to stand upon, much harder to deal with concerning spiritual matters than were total pagans who made no pretenses of possessing any Christian knowledge.

Providentially, on this particular day, not only had the Lord inclined Brainerd to a text that, Lord willing, would directly address their situation, but in God’s mercy, it actually did.  All but one of them, Christie records of Brainerds diary, “appeared now convinced that this sober honest life, of itself, was not sufficient to salvation; since Christ Himself had declared it so in the case of the young man; and seemed in some measure concerned to obtain that change of heart which I had been laboring to show them the necessity of.”

From David Brainerd: A Flame for God, 198.

I Once Was Blind But Now I See

Discoursed from Luke 18:31-43 yesterday morning for about an hour at the Transformation House.  Humility was the exhortation, for it was apparent in the text that even the disciples of Christ, who had been so formerly presumptuous, were dependent upon the mercy of God to reveal the saving truths of the Gospel of our Lord.  (And let it be noted that it was not the first time that Christ had taught it to them; oh, even as redeemed men, we are still in need of the Gospel, day in and day out; and so of a constant disposition of humility).  The blind beggar served as an object lesson for them; and he is a sure guide for both the unbeliever and the believer.  As an object lesson, it was providential that a man who could not see with his outward eyes could yet see Christ as the King of mercy in his heart; while the disciples, who to our knowledge could see quite well, and had spent several hours at the feet of Jesus, did not understand the simple words which Christ said concerning the immediate and future accomplishment of redemption.  As a sure guide to the unbeliever, we find an earnestness that captures the heart of Christ; oh, that God would move upon the unbelieving men at this house (and unbelievers confronted with Christ in general) in such a way that they, too, would realize their blindness of heart and Christ as the physician able to grant them a healing balm for sight; that they might cry out for mercy, not once, but when shunned by men, all the more a second time, and so hear also those precious words of the Lord, “What would you have me to do for you?”  “Let me receive my sight,” the beggar replied.  Of course, Christ obliged in mercy!  As a sure guide to the disciple, the blind beggar trusts Christ, pleads for mercy, and once healed, immediately follows Christ, giving glory to God in such a way that the multitude join in praising Him.  “I once was blind, but now I see,” is the chorus which should, in our remembrance of it, produce great shouts of glory unto God, and much public praise.

The Chief Misery of the Church

The chief misery of the church lies in the fact that there are too many men who are ministers before they are Christians.

-Sinclair Ferguson per Richard Baxter, The Westminster Directory of Public Worship, p. 9

I do not think he means that the chief misery of the church is that too many men are unregenerate ministers (though that is quite true; and is a great misery), but that too many men who are Christians earnestly press themselves into ministry before they have thoroughly understood the Christian life themselves, that is, they have not been tested, suffered, or grown sufficiently in grace; and so they pridefully think that if they have some degree, or some self-appointed gifting, that they are primed for ministry (I do not mean to say that they should not be in ministry, only not immediately); Ferguson and Baxter mean to say “not so fast.”  Let a man devote himself to personal growth in grace and godliness, and with patience, God will prepare a man for ministry in due time.

Denny Burk on “The Final Act of Lost”

Go here.  Other takes on the final show are included.

Is Not This to Know Me? Declares the Lord

In the days of the sons of king Josiah, the prophet Jeremiah was given an oracle from the Lord as an indictment of both Shallum (presumably Jehoahaz) and Jehoiakim.  The indictment dealt with what it meant to be a king of Israel, a king pleasing to God.  Neither of these sons of Josiah matched the life of their father, and therefore, they were sent into exile.  The word of the Lord through Jeremiah was a straight dart into the heart of these kings – “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar” (Jer 22:15a)?  The answer, of course, was “No!”  Competition in cedar makes no king.  But what does make a king?  The Lord offers the life of their father, Josiah, as an example: “Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness?  Then it was well with him.  He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.  Is not this to know me? declares the Lord” (Jer 22:15b-16).  That is simply to say that one is a king insofar as he knows the Lord and makes Him known.  And the way that Josiah made the Lord known was by attending to the cause of the poor and needy.

In the New Testament, James, our Lord’s brother, would call this “pure and undefiled” religion “before God, the Father,” that we “visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas 1:27).  Thus, Christianity is not so much a religion of words, although it is that, but especially a religion of loving and holy action; and it is this sort of lifestyle that is the expression of one who has not only heard the word, but sought to apply it.  It seems, then, that the life which the word reveals, and is therefore to be done, is the life of attending to the cause of the poor and needy as a response to our God who has revealed Himself in that word as One who has had mercy on the poor in soul in the life, penal-substitutionary death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul, seeking to encourage the Corinthian church in such a task, sets before them, not a new idea but one that they already knew: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).  As we have received such mercy, is it not incumbent upon us to seek a similar exaltation of the poor, an exaltation that stands as a visible representation of saving grace?

And should this care and love for the poor and needy not be the very air that the Christian breathes?  I say, it must be as prevalent an atmosphere as that of regeneration (the life of the new birth)!  For John, in the same breath as he mentions regeneration, writes of love for one’s brother, to express the inseparability of the two, indeed, the one flows from the other.  If you ask, “how often am I regenerate once I have been regenerate,” the answer is quite simple: “I am regenerate unceasingly.”  Therefore, laying down our lives for one another because Christ laid down his life for us; expressing the indwelling love of God by, first, exercising stewardship over what God has  providentially given to us, and secondly, intentional identifying with the needs of our brothers and sisters, so as to meet their needs; and loving, then, not only in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18) – such mercy must be as unceasing as our regeneracy is unceasing, for the two, apparently, cannot be separated one from the other.

If we take mercy and attendance to the needs of our siblings in Christ seriously, as an expression of our covenant relationship with God (Jer 22:3 cf. 22:9), then we must strive to be that sort of body wherein “there was not a needy person” (Acts 2:34).  It is with this in mind that I suggest a “no needs” initiative, the sort of inward and outward looking ministry that is not satisfied with isolated events of mercy as we are prone to be (see checklist mentality), but seeks instead a pervasive, “this is the air we breathe,” ministry grounded in the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For fundamental to all mercy is the sacrifice of Him who bled and died for the forgiveness of sins and the granting of His righteousness and eternal life to we who were (and millions still are) bankrupt of any saving merit.

Severe Mercy

These past two and half months have wrought many instances of severe mercy.  Humility has been the order and grace of the day.  God bids me to kiss the rod.  The details do not matter so much as my attitude towards, and the reason and glory of, and questions answered by this divine humiliation, this discipline received as from Father to a son.  I pray for humility; but I do not immediately approve of it.  When I pray for humility, it is as if I think my Father won’t grant my request – though He delights to do so, particularly as it pertains to humility.  And humility requires that which humbles.  Confrontations, hard truths, retort, rebuke, reproof; it has been hard.  And, admittedly, I do not immediately cuddle it.  My attitude towards humility is at first disdainful.  And then I must ask, Why?  For what reason?  The answer returns suddenly, “Well, because of your pride.”  And as it is pride that ails me, it must be reckoned as a sinful attitude to humiliation, and cast off as that which is brutish and hellish, and servile of death.  And so I am inclined to inquire of the reasons for humiliation – why does God take such pains to humble me?  The answer is quite glorious – “Why, in order to legitimate my sonship.”  For the Father disciplines and humiliates those whom He loves, and so proves Himself to be my Father, and I, His son.  But a second answer comes – “Why, this also, that God endeavors to make me like His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.”  Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered; so I learn obedience through the Father’s appointed means of humiliation.  So he desires, by the lesson which offers humility, to conform me to the image of His Son.  And there is a third answer informed by a question – the question, “In what way does God intend to conform me to the image of His Son today by the means of humiliation employed?” and the answer, and this true to me this day, “A pure and undefiled religion!”  He says, “Christ is pure and undefiled; He looks after orphans and widows and kept Himself unstained from the world; that is, Christ embodied love and holiness, And, You must do the same, my son.”  When I ask my Father, what would you have for me to learn and resolve from these past seventy-five days, He would answer me this – take care to love the needy, and take care to live as holy.  There are a myriad of ways that God deems to make me like His Son, and thus, a myriad of humiliating lessons to be learned; but as the aim is to rid me of pride, and make me like the sun of righteousness, and in every circumstance, to work patiently with me on particular matters like love and holiness, so it behooves me to kiss the rod.  He is only treating me as a son.

A Necessary Comparison

“Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.

– John Calvin