Episode 45: Beauty From Ashes (Part 3)

Surely, if the Savior has divine power, as the text declares to proclaim liberty to the captive, and if He can break open prison doors, and set free those convicted and condemned, He is just the one who can comfort your soul and mine, though we are mourning in Zion! Let us rejoice at His coming and cry, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Happy are we that we live in an age when Jesus breaks the gates of brass, and cuts the bars of iron in sunder! – Charles Spurgeon

Read the whole sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

Opening prayer from Spurgeon’s Prayers Personalized, free to download at Monergism

It may strike you as a little confusing as to why I’m suddenly reading a sermon out of Isaiah, when this is supposed to be a series on the Beatitudes.  The sad fact is, as far as I can tell, Charles Spurgeon never preached a sermon explicitly on Matthew 5:4, which of course reads, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  I did not want to simply skip the passage, however, and certainly the idea that Jesus speaks to in this verse is one that is found throughout Scripture, so it made sense to pick a sermon that spoke to the same subject.  I also wanted to cover it for personal reasons, especially because I am now passing roughly one year since what could be termed “my Weathertop.”

But as the good Brother Spurgeon says in his sermon, mourning for the believer is not something that is simply dreaded or to be avoided.  On the contrary, a believer mourns with hope in their heart.  Though there is pain and heartache now, the believer in Christ thinks of God’s promises in His Word.  Ecclesiastes 7:2, for example:

It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.

We will die.  It is the result of the curse of sin on all of us, and whether it’s tomorrow or a hundred years from now, whether because we get hit by a bus or because we can’t physically endure one more moment of a long life.  And we look to Paul’s words, as he spoke to Christians who faced persecution:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So we can readily see, in a broad picture, why one might believe that those who mourn are blessed.  And even more, as was noted in the sermon, the kind of mourning that a believer does is done in such a way as to drive us to prayer, to communion with God, to once again nail our sins to the cross.

Those whose eyes are opened by God to their poverty of spirit are blessed, because that moment is the moment they come into their grand inheritance of the kingdom.  Yet on this earth we are surrounded still by darkness, we are still plagued by sinful desires that seek to upend a life in Christ and seek after foolish things that bring no life, and we mourn all of that.  We mourn our own sinfulness and we mourn our dry times, we mourn the ways that we have foolishly sinned and stumbled and rebelled.  But in that mourning, there is joyfulness, there is the comfort of the Lord, because that is the state of heart that leads us to bow in humility before the mercy seat, and to worship and rejoice in God’s incredible love and graciousness towards us.

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Episode 37: The Novelties of Divine Mercy

I want to again thank all of you who have been patient through this last hiatus, and especially for those of you close to me who have been actively praying for and ministering to me during this time.  This was not a “I’m just really busy” hiatus.  I mentioned in the last episode that there was some turmoil ongoing, and unfortunately it ended in the worst possible way: my wife and I are no longer married.  I have no intention of divulging more information than that, but to answer the questions I know many of you concerned will have: yes, this is the end of a process that involved church elders and it is something that was not entered into lightly in any way.  I will not say more than that, out of respect for privacy.  Those of you who do know us, I appreciate your constant prayers and the loving support that you all have shared through this.

I’ve waited to continue this podcast and blog until after everything was officially finalized.  I plan to move forward continuing to trust God in my darkest times, continuing to pray for Jessica, and continuing to rely on the support of His people.  I am particularly grateful for the godly men and women who have gathered around me to minister to me through all this.

The fact is that this has been a deeply tragic event for me, and I have struggled with understanding it and with my own emotions, both in trying to figure out exactly how I should feel and think, as well as finding constructive ways to work through my deeper feelings.  I have been hurt down to my deepest parts, and I have lost my partner.  The pain I have had to endure, the sadness and anger, has been of a kind I can scarcely hope to describe meaningfully.

But as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians, I do not grieve as a person who has no hope.  Through all of this, God has held me steady and been true to His promise to provide a way of escape from the temptation to sin.  I picked this sermon because the chapter it is from, Lamentations 3, was a strength to me in this dark time.  It is a reminder that even though God ordains the darkness, it ultimately serves to the purpose of greater joy when the light comes.

I won’t say that the light has reached me yet, at least in this matter.  I will say that God is good, and God is gracious, and I will trust Him with each new step in life.  To my listeners who have similar struggles, I would say to you: Do the same.  Trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

I have had a few people talk with me about this that clearly expected me to have become embittered towards Jessica in particular, and towards the institution or concept of marriage in general.  But I have no intention of letting a root of bitterness grow down into my heart towards either, for several reasons: Firstly, because that would be an incredibly selfish position to take, that would make my marriage all about what I want and what I get out of it, rather than glorify God or honor my wife even in the aftermath of all this; secondly, because I am aware of the ways in which my own sinfulness has contributed to this regardless of other circumstances and such an attitude would be completely unrepentant and un-Christian on my part; and thirdly, because I have not become a different person as a result of this.  I still desire to represent Jesus with the way I live and work and speak.  I still want to grow in love, and in the grace and knowledge of God–even more now, I would say.  I still want to put my sin to death.

On a purely personal level…this has been the most tragic time I’ve walked through in my life.  I am deeply grateful to those who have gathered around me during this time, to hold me up in my weakness, to remind me of my true strength in Jesus, and to pour out love onto one who was feeling deeply unloved.  But this has been the darkest moment of my life, and I have had to continually turn to prayer and to the strength of my brothers and sisters to help me deal with the enormous weight I have felt upon my shoulders.  I have been wrestling day by day with the myriad ways I have sinned and contributed, and having to drag it to the foot of the cross each time.  There has been no time for self-pity.

All of this may seem very vague in a sense to many, and honestly it should.  Those who need to know more details of my and Jessica’s personal lives know them.  To the rest of the world, I would simply ask for prayer.  I intend to press forward into Jesus regardless of anything else.

To those listening who are facing darkness, for whom hard times come hard and fast, and who are feeling the weight of despair on their shoulders: I want to urge you, do not hesitate.  Do not hide in the dark, because there you will only find more of what afflicts you.  Turn to Christ, and run to Him.  Make yourself and your struggles known to His people, to those who can love you and gather close to minister to you in those times.  The reason the Scriptures are so full of good texts to apply to suffering is because suffering is something that all humans have in common as long as we live in this world.  Trust the goodness of God even in your darkest times, and do not hide your struggles.  Drag them to the light!  Leave them at the foot of the cross, and do it every day!  Trust to the renewed grace of God every morning, and never believe that God is tired of you, or that His church has better things to do.  This is what it is for: to weep with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  We are called simply to trust Him in all things, and that is all I can do in this time of deep pain.

Sermon text