Flower

Call to Worship May 26 2019

The Lord’s Supper by Thomas Watson

“QUESTION. What was the cause of Christ’s suffering?

ANSWER. Surely not for any desert of His own. ‘The Messiah shall be cut off—but not for Himself,’ Daniel 9:26. In the original it is, ‘He shall be cut off, and there is nothing in Him.’ That is—there is no cause in Him, why He should suffer. Why, then, was His blessed body broken? It was for our sins. ‘He was wounded for our transgressions,’ Isaiah 53:5. The Hebrew word for ‘wounded’ has a double emphasis. Either it may signify that He was pierced through as with a dart, or that He was profaned. He was used as some common vile thing—and Christ can thank us for it. ‘He was wounded for our transgressions.’ So that, if the question were put to us, as once was put to Christ, ‘Prophesy to us—who smote You?’ Luke 22:64, we might soon answer that it was our sins which smote Him! Our pride made Christ wear a crown of thorns. As Zipporah said to Moses, ‘A bloody husband are you to me,’ Exodus 4:25, so may Christ say to His church, ‘A bloody spouse you have been to Me—you have cost Me My heart’s blood!’

Concerning Christ’s suffering upon the cross, observe these things:

1. It was a BITTER death. ’He was broken.’ The very thoughts of His suffering, put Him into an agony. ‘Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly, and He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground!’ Luke 22:44. He was full of sorrow. ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death!’ Matthew 26:38.

2. It was a LINGERING death. It was more for Christ to suffer one hour—than for us to have suffered forever. But His death was lengthened out. He hung three hours on the cross. He died many deaths before He could die one.

3. It was a PAINFUL death. His hands and feet were nailed, which parts, being full of sinews, and therefore very tender—His pain must be most acute and sharp. And to have the envenomed arrow of God’s wrath shot to His heart—this was the direful catastrophe, and caused that outcry upon the cross, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!’ The justice of God was now inflamed and heightened to its full. ‘God spared not His Son,’ Romans 8:38. Nothing must be abated of the debt. Christ felt the pains of hell, though not locally, yet equivalently. In the Lord’s Supper, we see this tragedy acted before us.

4. It was a SHAMEFUL death. Christ was hung between two thieves, Matthew 27:38. It was as if He had been the principal malefactor. Well might the lamp of heaven withdraw its light and mask itself with darkness, as blushing to behold the Sun of righteousness in an eclipse. It is hard to say which was greater, the blood of the cross—or the shame of the cross, Hebrews 12:2.

5. It was a CURSED death. Deuteronomy 21:23. This kind of death was deemed exceedingly execrable, yet the Lord Jesus underwent this, ‘Being made a curse for us,’ Galatians 3:13. He who was God blessed forever, Romans 9:5—was under a curse!

6. Also, consider the SWEETNESS of it to us. Christ’s bruising—is our healing. ‘By His stripes, we are healed,’ Isaiah 53:5. Calvin calls the crucifixion of Christ, the hinge on which our salvation turns. Luther calls it a gospel spring opened to refresh sinners. Indeed, the suffering of Christ is a deathbed cordial. It is an antidote to expel all our fear. Does sin trouble? Christ has overcome it for us! Besides the two thieves crucified with Christ, there were two other invisible thieves crucified with Him—sin and the devil.”

Contentment

Sons of Abraham

Call to Worship May 19 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 24:50-53

“Let us notice, firstly, in this passage — the remarkable manner in which our Lord left His disciples. We read that ‘He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them — He left them and was taken up into Heaven.’ In one word, He left them when in the very act of blessing.

We cannot for a moment doubt that there was a meaning in this circumstance. It was intended to remind the disciples of all that Jesus had brought with Him when He came into the world. It was intended to assure them of what He would yet do, after He left the world. He came on earth to bless, and not to curse — and blessing, He departed. He came in love, and not in anger — and in love He went away. He came not as a condemning judge, but as a compassionate Friend — and as a Friend He returned to His Father.

He had been a Savior full of blessings to His little flock while He had been with them. He would have them know that He would be a Savior full of blessings to them — even after He was taken away.

If we know anything of true religion — forever let our souls lean on the gracious heart of Christ. We shall never find a heart more tender, more loving, more patient, more compassionate, and more kind. To talk of the Virgin Mary as being more compassionate than Christ — is a proof of miserable ignorance. To flee to the saints for comfort, when we may flee to Christ — is an act of mingled stupidity and blasphemy, and a robbery of Christ’s crown.

Our Lord Jesus was gracious while He lived among His weak disciples. He was gracious in the very season of His agony on the cross. He was gracious when He rose again and gathered His scattered sheep around Him. He was gracious in the manner of His departure from this world. It was a departure, in the very act of blessing! We may be assured that He is gracious now, at the right hand of God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is a Savior ever ready to bless — abounding in blessings.

Let us notice, secondly, in this passage — the place to which our Lord went when He left the world. We read that ‘He was carried up into Heaven.’ The full meaning of these words, we cannot of course comprehend. It would be easy to ask questions about the exact residence of Christ’s glorified body, which the wisest theologian could never answer. We must not waste our time in unedifying speculations, or ‘intrude into unseen things.’ (Colossians 2:18.)

Let it suffice us to know that our Lord Jesus Christ is gone into the presence of God on behalf of all who believe on Him, as a Forerunner and a High Priest. (Hebrews 6:20. John 14:2.)

As a Forerunner, Jesus has gone into Heaven to prepare a place for all His members. Our great Head has taken possession of a glorious inheritance in behalf of His mystical body, the church, and holds it as an elder brother and trustee — until the day comes when His body shall be perfected.

As a High Priest, Jesus has gone into Heaven to intercede for all who believe on Him. There in the holy of holies, He presents on their behalf the merit of His own sacrifice, and obtains daily supplies of mercy and grace for them. The grand secret of the perseverance of saints, is Christ’s appearance for them in Heaven. They have an everlasting Advocate with the Father — and therefore they are never cast away. (Hebrews 9:24. 1 John 2:1.)

A day is coming when Jesus shall return from Heaven, in like manner as He went. He will not always abide within the holy of holies. He will come forth, like the Jewish high priest, to bless the people, to gather His saints together, and to restore all things. For that day — let us wait, and long, and pray. Christ dying on the cross for sinners — Christ living in Heaven to intercede — Christ coming again in glory — are three great objects which ought to stand out prominently before the eyes of every true Christian.

Let us notice, lastly, in this passage — the feelings of our Lord’s disciples when He finally left them and was carried up into Heaven. We read that ‘they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.’

How shall we account for these joyful feelings? How shall we explain the singular fact, that this little company of weak disciples, left, for the first time, like orphans, in the midst of an angry world — was not cast down, but was full of joy? The answer to these questions is short and simple.

The disciples rejoiced, because now for the first time they saw all things clearly about their Master. The veil was removed from their eyes. The darkness had at length passed away. The meaning of Christ’s humiliation and low estate — the meaning of His mysterious agony, and passion, and cross — the meaning of His being Messiah, and yet a sufferer — the meaning of His being crucified, and yet being Son of God — all, all was at length unraveled and made plain!

They saw it all. They understood it all. Their doubts were removed. Their stumbling-blocks were taken away. Now at last they possessed clear knowledge — and possessing clear knowledge, they felt unmingled joy.

Let it be a settled principle with us, that the little degree of joy which many believers feel, often arises from lack of knowledge. Weak faith and inconsistent practice — are doubtless two great reasons why many of God’s children enjoy so little peace. But it may well be suspected that dim and indistinct views of the Gospel, are the true cause of many a believer’s discomfort. When the Lord Jesus is not clearly known and understood — it must needs follow that there is little ‘joy in the Lord.’

Let us leave the Gospel of Luke with a settled purpose of heart to seek more spiritual knowledge every year we live. Let us search the Scriptures more deeply and pray over them more heartily.

Too many believers only scratch the surface of Scripture, and know nothing of digging down into its hidden treasures. Let the word dwell in us more richly. Let us read our Bibles more diligently. So doing, we shall taste more of joy and peace in believing, and shall know what it is to be ‘continually praising and blessing God.’”

God’s Work of Revival

Call to Worship May 12 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 24:44-49

“Let us observe, firstly, in these verses — the gift which our Lord bestowed on His disciples immediately before He left the world. We read that He ‘opened their understanding — that they might understand the Scriptures.’

We must not misapprehend these words. We are not to suppose that the disciples knew nothing about the Old Testament up to this time, and that the Bible is a book which no ordinary person can expect to comprehend. We are simply to understand that Jesus showed His disciples the full meaning of many passages which had hitherto been hidden from their eyes. Above all, He showed the true interpretation of many prophetic passages concerning the Messiah.

We all need a like enlightenment of our understandings. ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Corinthians 2:14.) Pride, and prejudice, and love of the world — blind our intellects, and throw a veil over the eyes of our minds, in the reading of the Scriptures. We see the words, but do not thoroughly understand them — until we are taught from above.

He who desires to read his Bible with profit, must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men, is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit, will find a thousand things in the Bible — which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.

Let us observe secondly in these verses — the remarkable manner in which the Lord Jesus speaks of His own death on the cross. He does not speak of it as a misfortune, or as a thing to be lamented — but as a necessity. He says, ‘The Messiah must suffer, and rise again the third day.’

The death of Christ was necessary to our salvation. His flesh and blood offered in sacrifice on the cross, were ‘the life of the world.’ (John 6:51.) Without the death of Christ — God’s law could never have been satisfied — sin could never have been pardoned — man could never have been justified before God — and God could never have shown mercy to man.

The cross of Christ, was the solution of a mighty difficulty. It untied a vast knot! It enabled God to be ‘just — and yet the justifier’ of the ungodly. (Romans 3:26.) It enabled man to draw near to God with boldness — and to feel that though he is a sinner, he could be saved. Christ by suffering as a Substitute in our stead, the just for the unjust — has made a way by which we can draw near to God. We may freely acknowledge that in ourselves, we are guilty and deserve eternal death. But we may boldly plead, that One has died for us, and that for His sake, believing on Him — we claim forgiveness and eternal life.

Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ. Let us regard it as the source of all our hopes — and the foundation of all our peace. Ignorance and unbelief may see nothing in the sufferings of Calvary, but the cruel martyrdom of an innocent person. Faith will look far deeper. Faith will see in the death of Jesus, the payment of man’s enormous sin-debt to God, and the complete salvation of all who believe.

Let us observe, thirdly, in these verses — what were the first truths which the Lord Jesus bade His disciples preach after He left the world. We read that ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins’ were to be preached in His name among all nations.

‘Repentance and forgiveness of sins’ are the first things which ought to be pressed on the attention of every man, woman, and child throughout the world. All ought to be told the necessity of repentance.

All are by nature, desperately wicked. Without repentance and conversion — none can enter the kingdom of God.

All ought to be told God’s readiness to forgive every one who believes on Christ. All are by nature guilty and condemned. But anyone may obtain by faith in Jesus — free, full, and immediate pardon.

All, not least, ought to be continually reminded, that repentance and forgiveness of sins are inseparably linked together. Not that our repentance can purchase our pardon. Pardon is the free gift of God to the believer in Christ. But still it remains true — that an impenitent man, is an unforgiven man.

He who desires to be a true Christian, must be experimentally acquainted with repentance and remission of sins. These are the principal things in saving religion. To belong to a pure Church, and hear the Gospel, and receive the sacraments — are great privileges. But are we converted? Are we justified? If not — -then we are dead before God. Happy is that Christian who keeps these two points continually before his eyes!

Repentance and forgiveness are not mere elementary truths, and milk for spiritual babes. The highest standard of sanctity is nothing more than a continual growth in practical knowledge of these two points. The brightest saint, is the man who has the most heart-searching sense of his own sinfulness, and the liveliest sense of his own complete acceptance in Christ!

Let us observe, fourthly — what was the first place at which the disciples were to begin preaching. They were to begin ‘at Jerusalem.’

This is a striking fact, and one full of instruction. It teaches us that none are to be reckoned too wicked for salvation to be offered to them — and that no degree of spiritual disease is beyond the reach of the Gospel remedy. Jerusalem was the wickedest city on earth, when our Lord left the world. It was a city which had stoned the prophets and killed those whom God sent to call it to repentance. It was a city full of pride, unbelief, self-righteousness, and desperate hardness of heart. It was a city which had just crowned all its transgressions — by crucifying the Lord of glory. And yet Jerusalem was the place at which the first proclamation of repentance and pardon was to be made! The command of Christ was plain, ‘Begin at Jerusalem.’

We see in these wondrous words, the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of Christ’s compassion toward sinners. We must never despair of anyone being saved — however bad and profligate he may have been. We must open the door of repentance to the chief of sinners. We must not be afraid to invite the worst of men to repent, believe, and live.

It is the glory of our Great Physician, that He can heal incurable cases. The things which seem impossible to men — are possible with Christ.

Let us observe, lastly — the peculiar position which believers, and especially ministers, are meant to occupy in this world. Our Lord defines it in one expressive word. He says, ‘You are witnesses.’

If we are true disciples of Christ — then we must bear a continual testimony in the midst of an evil world. We must testify to the truth of our Master’s Gospel — the graciousness of our Master’s heart — the happiness of our Master’s service — the excellence of our Master’s rules of life — and the enormous danger and wickedness of the ways of the world.

Such testimony will doubtless bring the displeasure of man down upon us. The world will hate us, as it did our Master, because we ‘testify of it — that its works are evil.’ (John 7:7.) Such testimony will doubtless be believed by few comparatively — and will be thought offensive and extreme by many. But the duty of a witness is to bear his testimony — whether he is believed or not. If we bear a faithful testimony, we have done our duty — although, like Noah and Elijah, and Jeremiah, we stand almost alone.

What do we know of this witnessing character? What kind of testimony do we bear? What evidence do we give that we are disciples of a crucified Savior, and, like Him, are ‘not of the world?’ (John 17:14.) What marks do we show of belonging to Him who said, ‘I came that I should bear witness unto the truth?’ (John 18:37.) Happy is he who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions — and whose life declares plainly, that he seeks a better country. (Hebrews 11:14.)”

Unity Under The King

Call to Worship May 5 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 24:13-35

“We should observe in this passage — the singularly gracious words with which our Lord introduced Himself to His disciples after His resurrection. We read that He suddenly stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

This was a wonderful saying, when we consider the men to whom it was addressed. It was addressed to eleven disciples, who three days before had shamefully forsaken their Master and fled. They had broken their promises. They had forgotten their professions of readiness to die for Jesus. They had been scattered, ‘every man to his own,’ and left their Master to die alone. One of them had even denied Him three times. All of them had proved backsliders and cowards.

And yet, behold the return which their Master makes to His disciples! Not a word of rebuke is spoken. Not a single sharp saying falls from His lips. Calmly and quietly He appears in the midst of them, and begins by speaking of peace. ‘Peace be with you!’

We see, in this touching saying, one more proof that the love of Christ ‘surpasses knowledge.’ It is His glory to pass over a transgression. He ‘delights in mercy.’ He is far more willing to forgive — than men are to be forgiven. He is far more ready to pardon — than men are to be pardoned. There is in His almighty heart — an infinite willingness to put away man’s transgressions. Though our sins have been as scarlet — He is ever ready . . .
to make them as white as snow,
to blot them out,
to cast them behind His back,
to bury them in the depths of the sea,
and to remember them no more!

All these scriptural phrases are intended to convey the same great truth. The natural man is continually stumbling at them, and refusing to understand them. At this, we need not wonder. Free, full, and undeserved forgiveness to the very uttermost — is not the manner of man. But it is the manner of Christ!

Where is the lost sinner, however great his sins — who need be afraid of beginning to apply to such a Savior as this? In the hand of Jesus, there is mercy enough, and to spare. Where is the backslider, however far he may have fallen — who need be afraid of returning? Fury is not in Christ. He is willing to raise and restore the very worst of sinners.

Where is the saved saint who ought not to love such a Savior, and to willingly render unto Him a life of holy obedience? There is forgiveness with Him — that He may be feared. (Psalm 130:4.)

Where is the professing Christian who ought not to be forgiving toward his brethren? The disciples of a Savior whose words were so full of peace — ought to be peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated. (Colossians 3:13.)

We should observe, for another thing, in this passage — our Lord’s marvelous condescension to the infirmity of His disciples. We read that when His disciples were terrified at His appearance, and could not believe that it was Him — that He said, ‘Behold my hands and feet — touch me and see.’

Our Lord might fairly have commanded His disciples to believe that He had risen. He might justly have said ‘Where is your faith? Why do you not believe my resurrection, when you see me with your own eyes?’ But He does not do so. He stoops even lower than this. He appeals to the bodily senses of the eleven. He bids them to touch Him with their own hands, and satisfy themselves that He was a material being, and not some kind of Spirit.

A mighty principle is contained in this circumstance, which we shall do well to store up in our hearts. Our Lord permits us to use our senses, in testing a fact or an assertion in religion. Things above our reason — we must expect to find in Christianity. But thingscontrary to reason, and contradictory to our own senses — our Lord would have us know, we are not meant to believe. A doctrine, so-called, which contradicts our senses, is not a doctrine which came from Him who bade the apostles to touch His hands and His feet.

Let us remember this principle in dealing with the Romish doctrine of a change in the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. There is no such change at all! Our own eyes and our own tongues tell us that the bread is bread, and the wine is wine — after consecration, as well as before. Our Lord never requires us to believe that which is contrary to our senses. The doctrine of transubstantiation is therefore false and unscriptural.

Let us remember this principle in dealing with the Romish doctrine of baptismal regeneration. There is no inseparable connection between baptism — and the new birth in man’s heart. Our own eyes and senses tell us — that myriads of baptized people have not the Spirit of God, are utterly without grace, and are servants of the devil and the world! Our Lord never requires us to believe that which is contrary to our senses. The doctrine that regeneration invariably accompanies baptism, is therefore undeserving of credit. It is mere antinomianism to say that there is grace — where no grace is to be seen.

A mighty practical lesson is involved in our Lord’s dealing with the disciples, which we shall do well to remember. That lesson is the duty of dealing gently with weak disciples — and teaching them as they are able to bear. Like our Lord, we must be forbearing and patient. Like our Lord, we must condescend to the feebleness of some men’s faith, and treat them as tenderly as little children, in order to bring them into the right way. We must not cast off men, simply because they do not see everything at once. We must not despise the humblest and most childish means — if we can only persuade men to believe.

Such dealing may require much patience. But he who cannot condescend to deal thus with the young, the ignorant, and the uneducated — has not the mind of Christ. Well would it be for all believers, if they would remember Paul’s words more frequently, ‘To the weak, I became weak — that I might gain the weak.’ (1 Corinthians 9:22.)”

Genesis 3:1 The Subtlety of Satan

By Law or By Faith?