Category Archives: Unbelief
A number of years ago, Thomas Manton taught me a very helpful little triad on the topic of faith. He wrote, “we are justified by faith, we live by faith, we walk by faith” (13:15). This simple statement was very helpful to a man with such a narrow view of faith that I thought of “faith” primarily in reference to initial saving faith or in reference to the weighty doctrinal content of “the faith.” Both are true. But like lungs forcing air into a deflated pool toy, Manton stretched my brain and heart to see the awesome reality now reinforced through my life in Sovereign Grace Ministries—faith has everything to do with daily life. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). And it led me to realize that even those with genuine saving faith often struggle with unbelief (Mark 9:24, 16:14).
Manton convinced me of the importance of walking by faith by revealing the fruit that grows from a life of faith. He taught me that it is a life of faith that produces sincerity in the soul, vigor in the affections, watchfulness over the heart, self-denial of sinful compulsions, comfort in affliction, and confidence through our pilgrimage in this life. And I realized this life of faith impacts and influences my entire day, from the moment I awake until I fall asleep at night.
This is what I learned from Manton’s sermon on 2 Cor. 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” …
“Those who have faith must walk by it; for faith is here considered as working and putting forth itself. We walk, that is, we live, for in the dialect of the Hebrews this life is a walk; vitam nostram componimus, we must govern and direct our lives by the power and influence of faith. It is not enough to have faith, but we must walk by it; our whole conversation is carried on and influenced by faith, and by the Spirit of God on Christ’s part: Gal. 2:20, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God ;’ a lively faith. There living by faith is spoken of as it respecteth the principle of the spiritual life; here walking by faith as the scope and end of it: there, as we derive virtue from Christ; here, as we press on to heaven, in the practice of holiness. In short, walking noteth a progress, and passing on from one place to another, through a straight and beaten way which lieth between both. So we pass on from the earthly state to the heavenly by the power and influence of our way; our way is through all conditions we are appointed unto, and through all duties required of us. …
1. Walking by faith maketh a man sincere, because he expecteth his reward from God only, though no man observe him, no man commend him: Mat. 6:6, ‘Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.’ Yea, though all men hate him and condemn him: Mat 5:11-12, ‘Blessed are you when men shall revile and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my name’s sake; rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.’ Now this is true sincerity, when we make God alone our paymaster, and count his rewards enough to repair our losses and repay our cost.
2. It maketh a man vigorous and lively. When we consider at the end of our work there is a life of endless joys to be possessed in heaven with God, that we shall never repent of the labour and pain that we have taken in the spiritual life: 1 Cor. 15:58, ‘Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord;’ Phil. 3:14, ‘I press towards the mark, because of the high prize of the calling of God in Jesus Christ.’ The thoughts of the prize and worth of the reward do add spirits to the runner.
3. It maketh a man watchful, that he be not corrupted with the delights of sense, which are apt to call back our thoughts, to interrupt our affections, to divert us from our work, and quench our zeal. Now one that walks by faith can compare his eternal happiness with these transitory pleasures which will soon have an end, and everlastingly forsake those miserable souls who were deluded by them. As Moses: Heb. 11:24-25, ‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’
4. Walking by faith will make a man self-denying; for, having heaven in his eye, he knoweth that he cannot be a loser by God: Mark 10:21, ‘ Forsake all that thou hast, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven;’ so verses 29, 30, ‘Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, but he shall receive an hundred-fold.’
5. Walking by faith maketh a man comfortable and confident; a believer is encouraged in all his duty, emboldened in his conflicts, comforted in all his sufferings. The quieting or emboldening of the soul is the great work of faith, or trust in God’s fidelity. A promise to him is more than all the visible things on earth, or sensible objects in the world; it can do more with him to make him forsake all earthly pleasures, possessions, and hopes : Ps. 56:4, ‘In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me;’ so Paul: Acts 20:24, ‘But none of those things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so I may fulfill my course with joy. Save the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me’—did wait for him everywhere. I make no reckoning of these things. It maketh us constant. Have ye fixed upon these hopes with so great deliberation, and will you drawback, and slack in the prosecution of them? Have you gone so far in the way to heaven, and do you begin to look behind you, as if you were about to change your mind, Heb. 10:39. The apostle saith, Phil. 3:13, ‘I forget the things which are behind, reaching forth unto the things which are before.’ The world and the flesh are things behind us; we turned our backs upon them when we first looked after heavenly things.
Use, Is to show the advantage the people of God have above the carnal and unregenerate. The people of God walk by faith, against the present want of sight. How do the world walk? Not by faith, they have it not; nor by the sight of heaven, for they are not there, and so continuing never shall be there. So they have neither faith nor sight; what do they live by, then? They live by sense and by fancy: by sense as to the present world; and they live by fancy and vain conceit as to the world to come. Live in their sins and vain pleasures, and yet hope to be saved. Here they walk by sight, but not such a sight as the apostle meaneth; they must have something in the view of sense—lands, honours, pleasures; and when these are out of sight, they are in darkness, and have nothing to live upon. But now a Christian is never at a loss, let his condition be what it will. Suppose God should bring him so low and bare that he hath no estate to live on, no house to dwell in, yet he hath an inheritance in the promises: Ps. 119:111, ‘Thy testimonies I have taken for an heritage for ever;’ and ‘God is his habitation,’ Ps. 90:1. A full heap in his own keeping is not such a supply to him as God’s all-sufficiency, Gen. 17:11. That is his storehouse. But his great happiness is in the other world; there is all his hope and his desire, and he looketh upon other promises only in order to that.”
-Thomas Manton, Sermons Upon 2 Corinthians V.: Sermon X. (SGCB), Works 13:20-22.
Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar
In his exposition of Psalm 80, Augustine defines idolatry as the inability to break from “earthbound thoughts.” His understanding of idolatry stretches to encompass a communion of idolaters—of “pagans” and “heretics,” of both the polytheistic man clutching an armful of gods, and the man who identifies himself as a Christian yet whose so-called faith does not extend beyond what is seen. For Augustine, the link here between the “pagan” and the “heretic” is a paralleled inability to interpret this world by the eternal hope and promise in Christ. The antithesis of idolatry, for Augustine, is not to gain more “spirituality,” but to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Augustine’s understanding of idolatry must surely have been shocking, especially to the professing Christians who were forced to stop and ask themselves a simple question: Is my religion based upon anything more than “earthbound thoughts”?
The echo of Augustine’s exhortation—delivered almost 1600 years ago—continues to be an important in light of various influences (like theological liberalism) where it’s not uncommon to hear Christianity described in words that carry little more significance than “earthbound thoughts.” Talk of heaven and talk of hell—both used by Christ as motivating factors for decisions in this life—can too easily become unpopular themes in contemporary books and sermons. And too frequently they are not part of our thinking as individual Christians.
Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy
I was reminded of Augustine’s challenge to the “communion of idolaters” when I saw Reformation Heritage Book’s new title, Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). Here Bonar models for us how to interpret the difficult circumstances of our life on earth in light of the eternal promises and purposes of God.
Let me briefly outline the content of the book, and provide an “above-minded” excerpt at the end.
Night of Weeping
In the first half of the book, Bonar explains the nature of God’s discipline towards his children. God disciplines his children out of his eternal character—his love, wisdom, faithfulness, and power. This discipline is a training of the mind, will, heart, and conscience. God uses bodily sickness, bereavement, and adversity as he sets to work refining, sifting, pruning, and polishing. During this discipline our comforts come in several forms—Jesus weeps with us as we partake of his suffering, he reassures us in his word that all things work together for our good, he pours out special grace in every trial, he uses our afflictions as an opportunity to glorify God, he makes us useful here on earth, he supplies the means of mortifying sin, and he provides the Holy Spirit to comfort us.
In our age, which sometimes teeters on an overdose of “temporal spirituality,” the eternal spirituality and glory we are being prepared for can be easily forgotten. Life in Christ is preparation for something greater—”the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Bonar calls us to pay attention to the suffering and trials of this life because God is at work in all of the trials and struggles of this life, to prepare us for something greater, more gracious, and more glorious.
Simply stated, our trials are God’s means of purifying our desires and preparing us for the “pleasures forevermore” awaiting those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb!
Morning of Joy
The second half of the book details these eternally glorious promises of God. God disciplines us now, to prepare us eternally. This connection is important as we fend of the encroaching idolatry in our own hearts. Throughout the book, Bonar encourages us to look beyond the circumstances in life and to the eternal weight of glory. Here is a lengthy excerpt from chapter 12, “The Glory.”
In those vast blocks of unquarried rock what various forms are lying concealed! What shapes of statuary or architecture are there! Yet they have no history. They can have none. They are but parts of a hideous block, in which not one line or curve of beauty is visible. But the noise of hammers is heard. Man lifts up his tool. A single block is severed. Again he lifts up his tool, and it begins to assume a form; till, as stroke after stroke falls on it, and touch after touch smooths and shapes it, the perfect image of the human form is seen, and it seems as if the hand of the artist had only been employed in unwrapping the stony folds from that fair form, and awakening it from the slumber of its marble tomb. From the moment that the chisel touched that piece of rock its history began.
Such is the case of a saint. From the moment that the hand of the Spirit is laid on him to begin the process of separation, from that moment his history begins. He then receives a conscious, outstanding personality, that fits him for having a history—a history entirely marvelous; a history whose pages are both written and read in heaven; a history which in its divine brightness spreads over eternity. His true dignity now commences. He is fit to take a place in history. Each event in his life becomes worthy of a record. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” …
“The wise shall inherit glory” (Prov. 3:35). “The saints shall be joyful in glory” (Ps. 149:5). They are “vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory” (Rom. 9:23). That to which we are called is “eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:10). That which we obtain is “salvation in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). It is to glory that God is “bringing many sons” (Heb. 2:10); so that as He, through whom we are brought to it, is “crowned with glory and honour,” so shall we be (Heb. 2:9). We are “to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We are not only “witnesses of the sufferings of Christ, but partakers of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). So that the word of exhortation runs thus: “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13). And the promise is not only, “if we suffer we shall also reign with him;” but, “if we suffer with him, we shall be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). …
Glory, then, is our inheritance. The best, the richest, the brightest, the most beautiful of all that is in God, of good, and rich, and bright, and beautiful, shall be ours. The glory that fills heaven above, the glory that spreads over the earth beneath, shall be ours. But while “the glory of the terrestrial” shall be ours, yet in a truer sense “the glory of the celestial shall be ours.” Already by faith we have taken our place amid things celestial, “being quickened together with Christ, and raised up with him, and made to sit with him in heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). Thus we have already claimed the celestial as, our own; and having risen with Christ, we “set our affection upon things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Far-ranging dominion shall be ours; with all varying shades and kinds of glory shall we be encompassed, circle beyond circle stretching over the universe; but it is the celestial glory that is so truly ours, as the redeemed and the risen; and in the midst of that celestial glory shall be the family mansion, the church’s dwelling-place and palace—our true home for eternity. …
All that awaits us is glorious. There is an inheritance in reversion; and it is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:4). There is a rest, a sabbath-keeping in store for us (Heb. 4:9); and this “rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). The kingdom which we claim is a glorious kingdom. The crown which we are to wear is a glorious crown. The city of our habitation is a glorious city. The garments which shall clothe us are garments “for glory and for beauty.” Our bodies shall be glorious bodies, fashioned after the likeness of Christ’s “glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Our society shall be that of the glorified. Our songs shall be songs of glory. And of the region which we are to inhabit it is said, that “the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).
The hope of this glory cheers us. From under a canopy of night we look out upon these promised scenes of blessedness, and we are comforted. Our dark thoughts are softened down, even when they are not wholly brightened. For day is near, and joy is near, and the warfare is ending, and the tear shall be dried up, and the shame be lost in the glory, and “we shall be presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
-Horatius Bonar, Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy (Reformation Heritage, 2008), pp. 227-232.
The importance of God’s wrath
Yesterday I posted some comments about my gratefulness to Christ for escaping the horrifying consequences of my own sinfulness, namely escaping God’s wrath (see Saved from the wrath of God). Today I want to return to the topic and post from a slightly different angle.
From my perspective – and knowing my own heart — we sinners are apt to forget the gospel. When we become ignorant of the gospel, we make unwise life decisions, bear children ignorant of the gospel, and live in marriages where the Cross is not central (Eph. 5:22-33). It’s to our benefit, humility, and joy to be reminded of Scripture’s emphasis upon the wrath of God poured out towards sinners. This is what Christians have been saved from. The wrath of God is absorbed in the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ as our judicious and forensic Savior, and we are never beyond need of reminding.
So why is the doctrine of God’s wrath so important? For starters, the gospel – that the wrath of God resting upon the heads of all sinners, is, in Christ, absorbed when He drank the cup of our condemnation and substitutes Himself for the redeemed – is always in a process of erosion. This is especially true today.
One of the most noted dangers of the New Perspective(s) of Paul is the de-emphasis on Christ as the substitute who absorbs the wrath of God. After citing direct quotations from prominent NPP writer N.T. Wright, T. David Gordon writes, “The enemies and powers defeated by Christ do not (for Wright) include God’s own wrath or judgment … when he explains Paul’s narrative theology, and the cross and resurrection as the center of that narrative, he is entirely right, but when he explains precisely what Christ therein triumphed over, the wrath of God is not among the panoply” [in Gary L.W. Johnson and Guy P. Waters, editors. By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (Crossway: 2006), p. 63].
The point is we are always in danger of forgetting God’s wrath. By sheer volume of Bible references, the wrath of God towards every sinner is the central consequence of our sinfulness. It is central to the work of Christ, central to the gospel, and central to living the Cross centered life.
So in hopes of stirring you up by way of reminder, here is a (short) list of some reasons why the theme of God’s wrath is important:
1. God’s wrath is biblical. The Scriptures are saturated with the wrath of God. Look for yourself. Talking about God’s wrath is nothing but letting the priorities of Scripture become our own priorities. We should be humbled and sobered by God’s wrath, but never silent. God has promised that sinners – all who are sexually impure, covetous, idolatrous, or otherwise impure and unrighteous – will face the wrath of God (Jam. 2:10; Eph. 5:3-6). Those who say otherwise are speaking empty and deceptive words.
2. God’s wrath reveals God. The wrath of God reveals His holiness, envy, perfections, an intense hatred of rebellion, His righteousness, His justice, His power. “I will make myself known among them, when I judge you” (Ezek. 35:11). Soberly, God reveals Himself in the damnation of the wicked. “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:22-23). The beauty of the Cross and the redeemed shines with greater luster when compared to the coming condemnation coming upon the wicked. Until we understand God’s holiness and wrath, we will only have wrong conceptions of Him.
3. God’s wrath reveals who we are. We are sinners. We exchange the glory of God for created things. We happily replace the joy of God for collecting Hallmark figurines, antiques and Beanie Babies (Rom. 1:18-23). We would rather treasure the fleeting things of the world and forfeit our souls (Mark 8:36). We are His subjects, but we do everything in our power to reject Him. We will abandon the natural biological creation to invent our own unnatural means of rebellion (Rom. 1:27). Every act of rebellion stokes the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18). If we have become honest with ourselves, we know that we are wrath-deserving, glory-exchanging, sin-pursuing sinners that (apart from Christ) can only expect the eternal wrath of God’s holiness. This is who we are. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the great preachers of the 20th century, writes: “The way to appreciate your own sinfulness is not to look at your actions, nor your life, but to come into the presence of God” (Great Doctrines, 1:72). Step close enough to feel the heat of God’s holiness.
4. Importance of God’s wrath in the daily life of the Christian. To the question, “How are you today?”, C.J. Mahaney has popularized the response: “Better than I deserve.” Try it sometime. The barista behind the counter at Starbucks will give you a very puzzled look. But this will also be a great opportunity to share that an understanding of God’s wrath has made a permanent impact in your heart. So what do you deserve? Do you deserve perfect health? A venti Americano? Comfortable finances? An early retirement? Comforts? Vacations? The Christian knows better. Sinners (of which Christians will be until we see Christ face-to-face and have our sin burned away) deserve the wrath of God. It’s only because of God’s graciousness in the death of His Son that some sinners will be spared. Most sinners will get exactly what they deserve — the undiluted, eternal torment of God’s burning wrath. So why do we get angry when our comforts are disrupted by our spouse or children? Take a look into your own heart and ask: What upsets me? These disruptions are typically rooted in a misunderstanding that we are entitled to something other than wrath.
5. God’s wrath kills self-righteousness. If ever there was a truth that would break a self-righteous sinner like me, it’s the truth that God’s wrath rests upon me eternally if I am uncovered by the righteousness of Christ. My church attendance and good works and kindness and charity are a flick of water into a raging furnace. What can I do to cool the wrath of God? In light of His blazing holiness, what efforts, what works, will extinguish His wrath towards each of my sins? The popular wax gospel of human invention — that God will be pleased with me because I am not as bad as others – melts near the furnace of God’s wrath. Even a great and righteous prophet must pronounce condemnation upon himself in the presence of a holy God (Isa. 6:1-7).
6. God’s wrath exalts the work of Christ. How easily we forget that the searing pain and scorching suffering of Christ can never be pictured by His lacerated back and the holes in His hands, feet and side. These physical pains are only a surface-level visual to the horrors of the Son drinking down the cup of God’s wrath (Mark 14:32-36 with Jer. 25:15-38). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Or to put it another way, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). The Gospel is centered around God’s wrath. For in His anger towards sinners He transferred the wrath from His children onto His only Son and then crushed that only Son. Until we catch a glimpse of the horrors of God’s wrath, we will never begin to see the horror and the beauty of the Cross.
7. God’s wrath motivates evangelism. How can we be quiet? “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). The thought that sinners would rest content in self-righteousness was appalling to the Apostle Paul. All self-righteous sinners, and especially the religious, need to hear the gospel to be saved from the wrath of God. This gospel travels on the wings of preachers sent out with the self-righteous killing Gospel (Rom. 10:1-21). What loosens the mouth to speak the Gospel is a heart that has seen a glimpse of the eternal wrath awaiting sinners (Acts 17:30-31).
8. God’s wrath drives me deep into doctrine. I can only escape God’s wrath if I am justified. So what is justification? Justification is the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to me, whereby God declares me “righteous” and takes my sin and wrath and transfers these upon the account of Christ, whereby He is declared “guilty” and endures the wrath I deserve. By faith, I entrust my salvation alone to Jesus Christ, my sin is atoned, I am declared righteous, I have the hope of eternal life and enjoy peace with God (Rom. 3:9-5:21; Gal. 3:1-14; Phil. 3:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:21). If I am not justified, I am not safe from the wrath of God. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom. 5:9). The wrath of God gives significance to doctrines like justification.
9. God’s wrath reveals the beauty of our adoption. We are all by nature sinners and this makes us naturally “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). But now the enemies of God can be reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10). We are more than justified and declared righteous, we are taken into the family of God! Through Christ, our relationship to God radically changes! By faith alone, we come back to our Father in all our filthy sinfulness and He runs to us, grabs us, kisses us, celebrates over us, and calls us His children (Luke 15:11-32). If you are justified, God has taken His judgments away from you and now sings over you with loud singing (Zeph. 3:14-17)! The wrath of God was paid in Christ and through this beautiful Gospel I am now accepted. It’s not because I am good enough or ever will be obedient enough, rather because of His graciousness alone. Every day I can wake up knowing I am a child of God and that will never depend upon my own appeasement of God. Jesus, Thank you!
Jesus, Thank You (song by Pat Sczebel, Sovereign Grace Ministries)
The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You
By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end
Related: Propitiation is the theological term for the appeasement of God’s wrath in Christ’s substitutionary work for sinners. Theologian John Murray writes, “Sin is the contradiction of God and he must react against it with holy wrath. Wherever sin is, the wrath of God rests upon it (cf. Rom. 1:18). Otherwise God would be denying Himself, particularly His holiness, justice, and truth. But wrath must be removed if we are to enjoy the favor of God which salvation implies. And the only provision for the removal of wrath is propitiation. This is surely the import of Romans 3:25, 26, that God set forth Christ a propitiation to declare His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the ungodly.”
“Go as a sinner”: Bonar on humbly approaching Christ
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) were the words that brought me to saving faith in the Fall of 1999. To this day, those simple words and others like them (i.e. “Just as I am”) are so profound that I simply don’t fully grasp the depth of God’s mercy that He would invite me to come to Him, honestly, with all my sin. I naturally seek to please God through self-improvement and compare myself to other worse sinners. I naturally want to appease Him by being good and doing good. This is Cross-neglecting legalism!
God wants us to press close to Him in the honest truth – I am a sinner, empty of righteousness and undeserving of everything but hell forever and that I don’t typically feel like it.
We need to impress our friends, our hearers, our congregations to come to Jesus. Be honest, sincere and open. Even if you cannot feel your sin, take that honesty to Him. And even there, in the honesty of ignorance and in spiritual numbness, you may find truth and rest for your souls in the everlasting righteousness of Christ!
O, that we would stop trying to appease ‘seekers’ with scientific proofs and stop trying to appease legalists with more duties. Let us press everyone we know to go to Jesus honestly, just as they are, in the soiled garments of sin and ignorance. Let sinners come in their tattered rags!
On this topic, yet another gem from Horatius Bonar (1808-1889):
Faith may seem a slight thing to some; and they may wonder how salvation can flow from believing. Hence they try to magnify it, to adorn it, to add to it, in order that it may appear some great thing, something worthy of having salvation as its reward. In so doing, they are actually transforming faith into a work, and introducing salvation by works, under the name of faith. They show that they understand neither the nature nor the office of faith. It saves, simply by handing us over to the Saviour. It saves, not on account of the good works which flow from it, not on account of the love which it kindles, not on account of the repentance which it produces, but solely because it connects us with the Saving One. Its saving efficacy does not lie in its connection with righteousness and holiness, but entirely in its connection with the Righteous and Holy One …
The blood of the cross is that which has ‘made peace;’ and to share this peace God freely calls us. This blood of the cross is that by which we are justified; and to this justification we are invited. This blood of the cross is that by which we are brought nigh to God; and to this blessed nearness we are invited. This blood of the cross is that by which we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace; and this redemption, this forgiveness, is freely set before us. It is by this blood that we have liberty of entrance into the holiest; and God’s voice to each sinner is, ‘Enter in.’ It is by this blood that we are cleansed and washed; and this fountain is free, free as any of earth’s flowing streams, free as the mighty ocean itself, in which all may wash and be clean.
These are good news concerning the blood, — news which should make every sinner feel that it is just what he stands in need of. Nothing less than this; yet nothing more.
And these good news of the blood are no less good news of Him whose blood is shed. For it is by this blood-shedding that He is the Saviour. Without this He could not have been a Redeemer; but, with it, He is altogether such a Redeemer as suits the sinner’s case. In Him there is salvation, — salvation without a price, — salvation for the most totally and thoroughly lost that this fallen earth contains. Go and receive it.
Do you ask, How am I to find salvation, and how am I to go to that God, on the blood of whose Son I have trampled so long? I answer, Go to Him in your proper and present character — that of a sinner. Go with no lie upon your lips, professing to be what you are not, or to feel what you do not. Tell Him honestly what you are, and what you feel, and what you do not feel. ‘Take with you words;’ but let them be honest words, not the words of hypocrisy and deceit. Tell Him that your sin is piercing you; or tell Him that you have no sense of sin, no repentance, no relish for divine things, no right knowledge of your own worthlessness and guilt. Present yourself before Him just as you are, and not as you wish to be, or think you ought to be, or suppose He desires you to be …
Appear before Him, taking for granted just that you are what you are, a sinner; and that Christ is what He is, a Saviour; deal honestly with God, and be assured that it is most thoroughly impossible that you can miss your errand. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found;’ and you will see that He is found of you. ‘Call upon Him while He is near;’ and you will find how near He is.
-Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 584-585. (Posted with permission from publisher.)
“Herein consists the excellency of faith above all other powers and acts of the soul – that it receives, assents unto, and rests in things in their own nature absolutely incomprehensible [Trinity, incarnation, Cross, etc.] … The more sublime and glorious – the more inaccessible unto sense and reason – the things are which we believe; the more are we changed into the image of God, in the exercise of faith upon them … faith which is truly divine, is never more in its proper exercise – doth never more elevate the soul into conformity unto God – than when it acts in the contemplation and admiration of the most incomprehensible mysteries which are proposed unto it by divine revelation.”
- John Owen, The Glory of Christ, Works 1:50
I think many of us know Psalm 14:1 by heart: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” But apparently I did not know the meaning of this verse by heart. Actually the two words, “there is” are not in the Hebrew text. The verse should more accurately be translated: “The fool says in his heart, ‘No God.’” It’s not that the fool does not believe in God’s existence but that for him/her God is unnecessary. As Lawson writes,
“The term is a synonym for sinner, and it describes everyone who has no place for God in his or her life. The fool’s problem is that his heart refuses the knowledge of God. To be sure, he is not an intellectual atheist, denying the existence of God, but a practical atheist, living as if there were no God (Pss. 53:1; 74:18,22; Isa. 32:6).” [Holman Old Testament Commentary: Psalms 1-75, p. 75]