Nothing to hide

To have a clear conscience, to wear a guileless spirit, to have a heart void of offense, is greater riches than the mines of Ophir could yield or the traffic of Tyre could win. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and inward contention therewith. An ounce of heart’s ease is worth a ton of gold; and a drop of innocence is better than a sea of flattery. Burn, Christian, if it comes to that, but never turn from the right way. Die, but never deny the truth. Lose all to buy the truth; but sell it not, even though the price were the treasure and honor of the whole world, for “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” ~ Charles Spurgeon

From a sermon entitled “Consolation In The Furnace,” delivered November 26, 1865.

Spurgeon often said, he had nothing to hide in his personal life or ministry. Do you?

Remembering God

Charles Spurgeon‘s opening remarks in a sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:24 in 1855 highlight one of the reasons why there are so many verses in the Bible that call us to “remember” what God has done.

It seems, then, that Christians may forget Christ. The text implies the possibility of forgetfulness concerning him whom gratitude and affection should constrain them to remember. There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous, and our remembrance superficial in its character, or changing in its nature.

Christian gobbledygook: I’m a mute?

This is another short article on the, sometimes, weird language that Christians use to describe God and their faith. Christians use all sort of words and phrases that have no meaning to outsiders.The first blog in this series explains the background of these articles.

Not all the words used in Christian Churches come from the Bible. Some are technical terms that describe aspects of God’s character, actions or expectations of his children. One of these words is immutability.

In ages past, such as during the America of Jonathan Edwards or the Victorian and Elizabethan England of Charles Spurgeon, terms such as immutability might have been readily understood. Today, the concept of immutability is familiar, but might not be received or understood by the casual listener at a Church service or Christian meeting.

It means, “unchanging through time; unalterable; ageless“. In so far as it’s origin is an adjective used to describe something that does not or cannot mutate, (i.e. change).

If you enjoy math, you’ll be familiar with the concept of a constant. It is a number, which, for a variety of reasons does not change. One of the most well-known constants is π (sometimes written pi – referring to the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter). If you’re more technically minded you might know about immutable objects used in object-oriented programming.

When Christians talk about immutability they are referring to an attribute of God. To refer to God as immutable is to say that, in His being and in His eternal decrees (decisions), he does not and cannot change. It also means that God does not change in his essence. In other words he is always consistent with himself, his character and his promises.

James 1:17 says God “does not change like shifting shadows.”

God has not evolved, improved, or weakened. He says in Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change.”

He is altogether perfect in his being and is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

But God is not just unchangeable in his nature – he is also unchangeable in his decrees. As finite people, what causes us to change our minds and plans? (e.g., lack of foresight, lack of power to carry our plans out, lack of sleep, a whim?) Well, this is not so with God. God is certainly powerful to carry out, to completion, all of his plans.

So what does God’s immutability mean for us? We should be greatly encouraged and strengthened by this. Why? Because it means that God can be trusted and that we can rely on His promises in the Bible. He will always act in conformity with what he has promised. If he says he loves us – that love is unchanging – it isn’t conditioned or dependent on my performance (good or bad!). If he says he will forgive our sins – that forgiveness is everlasting. He isn’t going to retract or renege on a promise just because he had a bad a day. For me, as an inconsistent, fickle nincompoop who is always acting selfishly and, at times, destructively, this attribute of God is a supreme mercy.

God is and has spoken. His word stands forever and his mercy extends to all generations.

Battling against that black dog

Cover of "Lectures to My Students"
Cover of Lectures to My Students

I wish I had the same confidence as Charles Spurgeon concerning his “fit” of depression being a precursor to a “larger blessing”. Whilst I will never measure to the mark of Spurgeon in the quality or scope of his ministry I find encouragement in his words given in chapter 11 of Lectures to My Students.

… I was timorous and filled with a sense of my own unfitness. I dreaded the work which a gracious providence had prepared for me. I felt myself a mere child, and trembled as I heard the voice which said, “Arise, and thresh the mountains, and make them as chaff.”

This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn. The mariners go down to the depths, but the next wave makes them mount to the heaven: their soul is melted because of trouble before he bringeth them to their desired haven.

Determined to lead

In his commentary on Nehemiah, ‘Be Determined’, Weirsbe has a supplementary chapter on leadership qualities. He outlines characteristics needed by local Church Pastors as exemplified by Nehemiah. There are 12 points in all, summarised below.

1. He knew he was called of God
Nehemiah started with a burden for Jerusalem, but the burden was not the call. He wept over the sad condition of the city (Neh. 1:4), but his tears were not the call. It was as he prayed to God and sought divine help that he received a call to leave his relatively easy job and go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Because he knew God had called him, Nehemiah could approach the king and get help; and he could also enlist the help of the Jews in Jerusalem.

Before you quickly move into a place of ministry, be sure God has called you and equipped you for the job. You may not think you can do it, and others may have their doubts; but if God calls you, have no fear: He will see you through.

2. He depended on prayer
One mark of true spiritual leaders is their honest acknowledgment of their own inadequacy and their humble trust in the power of God.

3. He had vision and saw the greatness of the work
Leaders must see what others don’t see and then challenge others to follow until they do see.

4. He submitted to authority
Nehemiah is a man whose work prospered because he submitted to God, the Word, and the king.

5. He was organized in his work
He planned his work and worked his plan, and God blessed him.

6. He was able to discern the tactics of the enemy
Leaders must spot the enemy before anybody else does and be ready to meet him quickly and efficiently.

7. He worked hard
Charles Spurgeon: “Do not be afraid of hard work for Christ; a terrible reckoning awaits those who have an easy time in the ministry, but a great reward is in reserve for those who endure all things for the elect’s sake.” (An All Round Ministry, p. 197).

8. He lived an exemplary life
You can face any enemy, listen to any accusation, or confront any misunderstanding if you have integrity and a good conscience.

9. He sought to glorify God alone
There is nothing good that God will not do for the worker who humbly serves and lets Him have the glory.

10. He had courage
There is no place for timidity in leadership. … As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

11. He enlisted others to work
Leaders don’t feel intimidated by the excellence of others; in fact, they encourage it.

12. He was determined
Lech Walesa, Polish labor leader who became President of his country: “To be a leader means to have determination. It means to be resolute inside and outside, with ourselves and with others.

The church today needs leaders, men and women and young people who will determine under God to acomplish the will of God, come what may.

~ Wiersbe, W. W. 1996. Be determined (148–159). Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.