For Preachers and Their Listeners

JCRyle

In Mark 1:38, Jesus states succinctly the reason why He came from the Father:

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns,
so I may preach there also;
that is why I came
.”

J.C. Ryle comments in the late 1800s on this verse from Mark’s Gospel:

Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office,
and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances
are of more importance than sermons.
Let us give to every part of God’s public worship
its proper place and honor,
but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.
By preaching, the Church of Christ
was first gathered together and founded,
and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity.
By preaching, sinners are awakened.
By preaching, inquirers are led on.
By preaching, saints are built up.
By preaching, Christianity is being carried to a lost world.

There are many now who sneer at missionaries,
and mock at those who go out into the highways of our own land,
to preach to crowds in the open air.
But such persons would do well to pause,
and consider calmly what they are doing.
The very work which they ridicule
is the work which turned the world upside down.

Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook.
The King of kings and Lord of lords Himself was once a preacher.
For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel.
Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side,
sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea.
But the great work He took up was always one and the same.
He came always preaching and teaching.
He says, “That is why I have come.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution
never to “despise prophesying.” (1 Thess. 5:20.)
The minister we hear may not be highly gifted.
The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor.
But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance
for converting and saving souls.
The faithful preacher of the Gospel is handling the very weapon
which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ.
This is the work of which Christ has said, “That is why I have come.”

The Sweet Exchange of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There is not a better prayer that beautifully speaks of the mysterious, sweet exchange that takes place when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Lustres at Calvary

519bbajnjglMy Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on your Son,

Made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of Your justice smote the man, Your fellow;

There Your infinite attributes were magnified,

And infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

And infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

Cast off that I might be brought in,

Trodden down as an enemy

That I might be welcomed as a friend,

Surrendered to hell’s worst

That I might attain heaven’s best,

Stripped that I might be clothed

Wounded that I might be healed,

Athirst that I might drink,

Tormented that I might be comforted,

Made a shame that I might inherit glory.

Entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Savior wept so that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

Groaned that I might have endless song,

Endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

Bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

Bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

Experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

Closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

Expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not Your only Son that You might spare me,

All this transfer Your love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore You by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

My every step buoyant with delight, as I see…

My enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

Sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

Hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O Conquering God, and show me the cross,

Mighty to subdue, comfort, and save.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1975, pp.42-43.

 

How Singing God’s Praise Changes Us

Have you ever wondered why singing is such a prominent feature in corporate worship?

  • Singing serves as a way to bless and thank our God for who He is and for all that He has done to love and rescue us.
  • Singing our Lord’s praise is a primary way that we enthrone Him in our hearts (Psalm 22:3).
  • Singing serves as a means of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In singing, we commend to others the Jesus that we know and cherish ourselves (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
  • Singing enables us to savor God’s Word and makes it more memorable and vivid. The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16).
  • Singing changes us. It makes us kinder, gentler, and more reasonable. It also affords peace and joy to our hearts.
  • Singing galvanizes us to trust God in the midst of trouble (e.g. Paul and Silas sing hymns while persecuted and imprisoned for their faith – Acts 16:25).
  • Singing serves as a weapon when we are in the midst of spiritual conflict. Martin Luther claims that “the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

William Cowper, the beloved 18th century English poet and hymnodist, was right:

“Sometimes the light surprises the Christian while he sings. It is the Son who rises with healing in His wings.”

Oh that we might experience anew His healing and transformative work in our hearts as we draw near to worship our Lord!

Reflections on Spiritual Drifting

‘We must pay the greatest attention to what we have heard,
so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1).’
Drifting is the besetting sin of our day.
And as the metaphor suggests, it is not so much intentional as from unconcern. Christians neglect their anchor — Christ — and begin to quietly drift away.
— Kent Hughes

If you examined a hundred people
who had lost their faith in Christianity,
I wonder how many of them would have been reasoned out of it
by honest argument?
Do not most people simply drift away?
— C. S. Lewis

When our anchor begins to lift from our soul’s grasp
of the greatness and supremacy of Jesus Christ,
we become susceptible to subtle tows.
— Alexander Maclaren

Advice to a little girl: If you continue to love Jesus,
nothing much can go wrong with you and I hope you always do so.
— C. S. Lewis

I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene …
No man can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.
His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
— Albert Einstein

Why worship at Christmas time?

Wesley_C“Gaze on that helpless object of endless adoration!
Those infant hands
shall burst our bands
and work out our salvation;
Strangle the crooked serpent;
destroy his works forever,
And open set the heavenly gate
to every true believer.”

Charles Wesley

Why Read the Book of Revelation?

wordsworth

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, in the early 1800s,
grasped well the significance of the whole book of Revelation.

To a man who suffered bouts of loneliness and heartache
due to the death of both of his parents
by the time he was 13 years old
and his separation from his brothers and sisters, this book was

“a manual of comfort to the Church in her pilgrimage
through this world to the Heavenly Canaan of her rest.
It cheers with the comforting assurance,
that Christ is mightier than His enemies;
that they who die for Him, live;
that they who suffer for Him, reign;
that the course of the Church upon earth
is like the course of Christ Himself;
that she is here a Witness of the Truth;
that her office is to teach the world;
that she will be fed by the Divine Hand,
like the ancient Church, with manna in the wilderness;
that she will be borne on eagles’ wings in her missionary career;
and yet, that she must expect to suffer injuries
from enemies and from friends;
that she, too, must look to have her Gethsemane and her Calvary,
but that she will also have her Olivet;
that through the pains of agony and suffering,
and through the darkness of the grave,
she will rise to the glories of a triumphant ascension,
and to the everlasting joys of the New Jerusalem;
that she who has been for a time
‘the Woman wandering in the Wilderness,’
will be, forever and ever, the Bride glorified in heaven.”

Give Us Hearts that Burn O Lord

William Cowper says in one of his letters
that he once was friends with a man of fine taste
who confessed to him that
although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity,
he could never read this passage in Luke’s Gospel (the Emmaus Walk – Luke 24)
without being deeply affected by it,
and feeling that
if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures,
it was upon that passage.

Below is a portion of Cowper’s poem entitled “Conversation.”
Read it slowly savoring each one and envisioning that memorable walk to Emmaus!

It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of him they loved, of him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced enrich’d them still the more;

They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done,
To exalt a people, and to place them high
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them with a kind engaging air
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gathered up the broken thread,
And truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That reaching home, the night, they said is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here.

The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word,
And left them both exclaiming, ’Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?