In the case of certain men, whom I could name, I feel a great mistake was made. As soon as they were converted, they were taken right out of their former associations and set before the public as popular preachers. It’s a great pity that many made little kings of these preachers and, in so doing, prepared the way for their fall. You see, they couldn’t bear the sudden change. It would have been better for them if everybody had bucked and abused them for ten or twenty years. It would probably have saved them from much misery later.
Many apologies for my long absence and much thanks for your prayers and support. I didn’t intend to take all October off of podcasting, but it began with extreme busyness and ended on a very high and low point. The low being getting sick, and the high being getting engaged to my wonderful girlfriend. Please continue to pray for both!
This chapter presses in hard on what the character of a preacher must be, but all the moreso it presses in on what every believer must strive after as he walks as a disciple of Christ. Take a moment, think about the sins in your life that you struggle to even see as sins, the ones that plague you daily and persist in tripping you up either because you actually kind of like them or because you find yourself bound to run to them for comfort in hard times.
This chapter is not saying, “if you don’t get those areas cleaned up, you can’t be a Christian.” On the contrary, the fact that we struggle and fight against them rather than walk in them without fear and make regular practice of them mark our lives in Christ. Every day we have to drag these evils to the cross and it seems like they come crawling right back. But by the grace of God, we have the joy and duty to drag them right back to that cross again, to crucify the flesh.
If we hide our sins, if we make practice of them without fear and without concern about their effects on our hearts and on our walk with Christ, that’s what should really bring about fear. There cannot be any such thing as peace between holiness and sin. You cannot be a Christian who holds sin close to his heart in any way. The Holy Spirit will not let us walk in such ways in peace.
I pray this reading is a blessing to you, and that I will walk in this diligently as well. Please feel free to reach out to me with prayer requests, and please do continue to pray for me as well.
As soul winners, we are not to hold up a modified standard of holiness before our people and say, “You’ll be all right if you reach that standard.” Scripture says, He that commits sin is of the devil (1 John 3:8). Remaining under the power of any known sin is a mark of our being the servants of sin, for his slaves ye are to whom ye obey (Romans 6:16). The boasts of a man who harbors the love of any transgression are ineffectual.
Chapter 2 of The Soul Winner presses into first matters of preaching the gospel: bringing the weight of sin to bear on those who hear. This is something that, as many will point out, often seems lacking in a lot of modern Western churches. The words “Jesus saves!” are not lacking, but exactly what Jesus saves from is not made clear. For the sake of all those who read this, I will make it clear: that salvation is from the wrath of God that is coming against all sin.
The preaching of the gospel can hardly be considered started if we don’t begin where the Bible does: with man’s sinfulness, and his need for a holy and perfect Savior, found only and completely in Jesus. My church has a little slogan we use, that our desire is “showing the beauty of Jesus to the heart of Denton.” Surely we seek after that, and one of the components of that showing is the flipside of that coin: showing the ugliness of sin. This doesn’t mean we make a mockery of those who commit sin, or that we act as though we personally are above sin.
On the contrary, it involves us being honest with others about the sin that has marked our lives, and in the same way, showing the way Christ has rendered a transformation in our desires and our hearts. Our society today has decided that such preaching is decidedly bad, because to call someone to repent of sin might also involve calling them to repent of something that they have taken as a very identity of themselves. But that is exactly what we want to do: there is no identity other than in Christ that will bring any hope, and in fact every other identity we could adopt (and I mean every, so don’t think you’ve found the loophole) will ultimately bring only frustration and, in the end, death.
We do desire to show the ugliness of sin, and at the same time, to show exactly how beautiful Jesus is, because “while we were still sinners,” while we were absolutely in love with all manner of sins and idolatries and evil, “Christ died for us.” More than that, He lives for us, as a perfect and great high priest, and by whom we have the right and the joy to go to God in prayer, as adopted children. Rejoice in that, and trust completely in Him.
When we think about God’s mercy being shown, usually we look to passages in the gospels where Jesus is speaking gently to sinners, or the didactic teachings of the apostles clearly speaking on God’s great mercy and grace. But in reading today’s selection for Scripture Sunday, I want to point out that God’s mercy is shown even in these early Old Testament passages. So many people deserved to be destroyed, but were blessed with prosperity and family. And most clearly, God’s mercy is seen in His saving of life on Earth in the face of impending judgment through His command to Noah to build the ark–an early image of Christ and His role as the one in whom all are to be saved from final judgment.
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What is the real winning of a soul for God? Since this is done by a means to an end approach, what are the processes by which a soul is led to God and to salvation? I take it that one of the main actions consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God (2 Timothy 2:25). Instruction in the gospel is the beginning of all real work upon men’s minds. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, behold, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20). Teaching begins the work and crowns it too.
As I mentioned in the last episode, the next few episodes will be from Charles Spurgeon’s Book The Soul Winner. I wanted to take a little break from the regular format, so I thought I would switch over to this.
You can follow the link above to find your own copy of the book on Amazon, with slightly updated language. It’s an interesting book that definitely shows his forthright approach to preaching. Like with everything else here, I hope it is helpful and a blessing.
Let me know in the comments below or by email if you have a favorite Spurgeon sermon you’d like to hear in a future episode.
That returning evil for evil looks like rough and ready justice, I have confessed, but then is any man prepared to follow out for himself and in his own case this rule of justice? Is he prepared to stand before God and receive evil for his evil? “He shall have justice without mercy that shows no mercy.”
Is he willing to stand before God on the same terms as he would have the offending one stand before himself? No, our best and, indeed, our only hope must lie in the mercy of God who freely forgives offenses!
We’ve come quite a ways in the last few months, as I have worked my way towards this goal. I want to again thank my good brother Ed Romine for helping me to select the sermons that made up the bulk of this series. I started this series after I felt a conviction that the subject of unity in the church was a crucial one to discuss. My conviction has not changed since I began, though my reasons and my thoughts have broadened considerably since then.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to conclude this series. For a while I thought that it would wind up in a long conclusion of my own where I would take each point and tie them all together in painstaking detail, driving home a final grand point about the need for unity and the foundation of that unity in Christ and in His gospel. But it seems to me that the book of Romans as a whole, and especially chapter 12, serve as a marvelous display of what I’m trying to say.
So I won’t belabor this with long paragraphs, but I want simply to point to what Paul accomplishes in his text. He begins in chapter one by pointing to man’s need for God’s grace. He demonstrates man’s innate sinfulness and the fact that everyone, whether gentile or Jew, needs to trust to the sacrifice of Christ alone as the basis of their salvation and of their relationship with God as a beloved child.
Our new Scripture Sunday feature is continuing, this time with a series that will take a little more time. God willing, we will be making our way through the entire Pentateuch three chapters at a time.
What is the Pentateuch? It’s the term for the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those books contain so much: history, poetry, and law just as starters. My desire as we dig into these books is that we will worship God together as we see how He has planted and tended the seeds of redemption that was to come in Jesus.
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Christians will sometimes lose the realization of Jesus. The connection between themselves and Christ will be, at times, severed as to their own conscious enjoyment of it, but they will always groan and cry when they lose that Presence. What? Is Christ your Brother and does He live in your house and yet you have not spoken to Him for a month? I hear there is little love between you and your Brother if you have had no conversation with Him for so long.
Charles Spurgeon, sermon 2598, “Spiritual Revival, the Need of the Church”
Just one more episode after this and our series on unity in Christ for the church will be finished. Certainly, this sermon of Spurgeon’s has perhaps more…directness to it. In our day and age, a preacher going up and basically putting a finger directly in the face of his audience and delivering a message a la the prophet Nathan saying to David, “You are the man!” is not going to win that preacher very many friends.
But that points, in many ways, directly to the issue of our day that this century-old sermon still speaks to. The title itself draws out the comparison between a faithful pursuit of Christ and what is seen in many churches–after all, what is a “revival” in many places but a period, however long, where the faith is turned into a grand entertainment and distraction? How often is the concept of “revival” equated, not with life given by the Holy Spirit to live life in Christ, but with brief seasons of great emotion?
But what Charles Spurgeon points to in his sermon is a reminder that the kind of spiritual revival needed in all of us, the kind that God’s people need to call for, is not emotional excitement, though it may and often can contain that. It should end with that though. The kind of revival he is calling us to seek after is the kind that requires everything that we’ve talked about in the previous episodes. The revival is not an upswelling of feeling, but a trusting of our day to day life to a strength that is not our own. And it requires a unity in the body that is not static or intellectual by any means, but is constantly moving even as it rests fully in Christ. I am talking about unity in striving after holiness.
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 CSB
We’ve been livestreaming readings of Scripture on the Spurgeon Audio Facebook page for a few weeks now, and as originally planned I want to start releasing them on the podcast feed as well. If you don’t currently follow the page on Facebook, please consider coming on over and following us for more content!
This week we read the entire book of Colossians. You can learn more about the translation used here as well as read for free or buy your own copy.
Do you want to join a perfect Church? You must die. You will not do it otherwise. And if you were to join a perfect Church, I am sure it would not be perfect after you had been admitted into it. You had better give up that idea and just believe what God says about His own Church, “You are my flock, the flock of my pasture, you are men.” Come, then, with us, and we will do you good.
I’ve talked about the unity the church has in the most central issue of the gospel of Jesus. I’ve talked about the unity we have in crucial areas of love, humility, and suffering. This time my desire is to talk to you all about the unity we have in the central and primary practice of the church, as a group and individually: unity in worship.
Now, I want to set the boundaries of this idea first: this is not about music, though music and singing are inexorably part of the church’s worship of God. Likewise, this isn’t going to be a rant about musical styles or certain groups and churches, though inevitably that will be a point to discuss later on as a fruit of this. I invite that discussion, in fact, either here in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter, or through email if you’d prefer to discuss your thoughts privately. There are practices that even my own church uses, like instruments, that Spurgeon himself would not have approved of.
What I want to do is define worship, its purpose, and its ends in the body of Christ. As one body and as individual churches, we join together weekly to bare our hearts before our Lord. We cry out praises to Him for who He is, and our need for Him to strengthen us to obey His Word, to die to ourselves and to live to Christ.
When the church worships together, it declares its confidence that God will fulfill His promises and remembers how He has already done exactly that. We confess our faith that lies in the cross, we instruct the weaker brother to pursue God boldly, and we correct the erring brother who may fear that the Lord’s mercies are not sufficient to cover him. We confess our sins and weaknesses to God and we embrace His great and glorious grace, and remember that His love and patience will long outlast our sin.
Worship is not just music. To be honest, I’ve never liked the phrases “worship team” or “worship minister” to refer to those who are involved in music for a worship service. That’s just it: all of a service is worship. We worship through raising our voices in song; we worship through hearing the Word preached faithfully; we worship through sacrificial giving to strengthen our own body and for the needs of others; and we worship through observing the ordinances of the church. When a brother or sister is baptized, we rejoice and cry out in worship of God for the faith demonstrated both in the finished work of Christ and in the promise of the day when we will see Jesus face to face, free from sinful weights and made totally new. And I cannot think of a more worshipful time than for a church to take communion together, to take part in a physical remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
The psalms display so many facets of what the worshiping believer’s heart cries out. We join our voices with David in Psalm 27 when we declare our complete confidence and faith in God’s work for our salvation:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.
Psalm 27:1-3, CSB
When our hearts ache for intimacy for God, when He feels far and when fear presses in, we can let the light of the Word drive back the darkness alongside the sons of Korah:
I will say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:9-11 CSB
And when sin wounds, when we stumble and fall and need His restoring hands to heal us, David again comes to aid us:
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God— God of my salvation— and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
Psalm 51:10-17 CSB
While worship serves to bring our hearts before God, and seeks His ministry (as it should!), worship is not about us. So often worship becomes a thing where men seek to bring glory to themselves. I won’t belabor this with many examples, except to say, this is an area where we all must guard our own hearts. We are going before the holy God who made you and who bought you for the price of His Son’s precious blood. It should not be a light and easy thing, nor should worship be simply an emotional high. That is not to say that it should be emotionally dead; I think a lot of times this becomes something of a false dichotomy for churches, where we feel we either have to be this over-the-top rock concert for Jesus, or a dour congregation that goes through the motions with Vulcan-like self-control.
Overwhelming joy in Christ is a wonderful thing! I can think of many beautiful times where joining in the body of Christ brought me to joyful tears or overflowing happiness. But we need to be careful that worship does not simply become the method by which we seek our next “hit” of an emotional high. If worship is designed simply to seek this over and over, I think it is wise to ask the question: is this worship about Jesus, or about me?
I am looking forward to joining the body again and again to seek the Lord’s face, and I hope that the same desire is in you. Above all, I want the unity in worship that the church shares to drive us to greater heights of unity in the areas I mentioned in previous episodes: in love, in humility, and serving and suffering. Worship should never terminate on ourselves, and it should never conclude with the final chord or the benediction. It should be a refreshing draught that lets us rejoin the outside world ready to display the love of Jesus to those around us, full of faith and peace.