The Lord is Your Portion

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan pastor, counsels believers
to confront all temptations
(the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life) with the words of the Psalmist:
“The LORD is my portion” (16:5; 73:26; 119:57; 142:5).

He exhorts:

Every blast and every wind of temptation will overset and overturn that man that hath not God for his portion. Such a man may pray a thousand times over and over, ‘Lord, lead me not into temptation,’ and yet every day falls before the least temptation, as common experience doth abundantly evidence;
whereas a man that hath God for his portion will stand fast like a rock in all storms, yea, in the face of all temptations he will be like mount Zion,
that cannot be removed.

Luther counsels every Christian to answer all temptations with the short saying, ‘I am a Christian’  and I would counsel every Christian to answer all temptations with this short saying, ‘The Lord is my portion.’

O Christian, when Satan or the world shall tempt thee with honors,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion,’
when they shall tempt thee with riches, answer,. ‘the Lord is my portion;’
when they shall tempt thee with preferment, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’ and when they shall tempt thee with the favors of great ones,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
yea and when this persecuting world shall threaten thee with the loss of thy estate, answer ‘the Lord is my portion;’
and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of thy liberty,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of friends,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of life,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;. O sirs!

If Satan should come to you with an apple, as once he did to Eve,
tell him the “the Lord is your portion;”
or with a grape, as once he did to Noah,
tell him that “the Lord is your portion;
or with a change of raiment, as once he did to Gehazi,
tell him that ‘the Lord is your portion;
or with a wedge of gold, as once he did to Achan,
tell him that “the Lord is your portion;”
or with a bag of silver, as once he did with Judas,
tell him that “the Lord is your portion.”[1]

[1] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, vol 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh, Scotland: James Nichol, 1666), 114.

Temptation & the Loveliness of Jesus

The below three quotations remind us of the only real, lasting cure for resisting temptation.

To respond to the distorting nature of temptation and sin
you must set your affections on the beauty and glory of God,
the loveliness of Christ, and the wonder of the gospel:
Were our affections filled, taken up, and possessed with these things…
what access could sin, with its painted pleasures,
with its sugared poisons, with its envenomed baits, have unto our souls.
– John Owen

How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys
which I had once feared to lose. . . You drove them from me,
you who are the true, the sovereign joy.
You drove them from me and took their place,
you who are sweeter than all pleasure,
though not to flesh and blood,
you who outshine all light,
yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts,
you who surpass all honor,
though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves.
O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.
– Augustine of Hippo

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you…
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. – John Donne

Idolatry: Causes, Consequences and Cures (1 Corinthians 10)

Why do I lie? Why do I fail to love as I should? Why do I not keep my promises? Why am I selfish? There is something besides Jesus Christ that I feel I must have to be happy, something that is more important to me than God and enslaving me through inordinate desires.

My heart is an “idol-making factory”. What are the things that I find to be absolutely essential for life other than Jesus? Martin Lloyd-Jones: “An idol is anything in our lives that occupies the place that should be occupied by God alone. Anything that is central in my life, anything that seems to me essential. An idol is anything by which I live and on which I depend, anything that holds such a controlling position in my life that it moves, rouses and attracts too much of my time, attention, energy and money.”

It can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, or a hero.

  • What are the causes of idolatry? There are two causes…

All of our hearts are grasping and demanding. 

“Idolatry is the principle crime of the human race, the highest guilt charged upon the world, procuring the judgment of God. All murder and adultery, for example are idolatry, for they arise because something is loved more than God–yet in turn, all idolatry is murder for it assaults God, and all idolatry is also adultery for it is unfaithfulness to God. Thus it comes to pass, that in idolatry all crimes are detected, and in all crimes idolatry.” — Tertullian, On Idolatry Chap. I

Paul explains, beginning in verse six, why these Israelites perished in the wilderness. He says there were two things that they did which we also do.

First of all, our idolatrous hearts crave evil things that God forbids. We read in verse six, “These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We should not commit sexual immorality as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died” (verses 6-8).

Paul says one of their problems was that they craved evil things that God had forbidden. They followed after idols, and they followed after sexual immorality. These are evil things they never should have longed for.

Secondly, our idolatrous hearts crave good and legitimate things that God chooses not to give us. Idols are not necessary sinful things, but good and basic things elevated to the status of ultimate in our lives. We look to them to give our lives meaning and worth and to cover our sense of insignificance.

Then they grumbled when they didn’t get what they wanted. Verse 9 tells us, “We should not test the Lord as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble as some of them did and . . .”

We all know that it’s not good to lust after evil things. But I wonder how often we remember that’s also a grievous thing in God’s sight to demand good things that God has not chosen to give to us, and then to murmur and grumble and whine and complain when we don’t get what we want.

The sin that destroyed the Children of Israel and kept them out of the Promised Land really came down to a single root, and it’s this sin of discontentment—wanting something God had not given them, that it was not God’s time to give them. They insisted on having things that they wanted that God had not provided, and the Scripture says God considered this a very serious sin. “Do not grumble as some of them did—and were destroyed in the wilderness” (verse 10).

  • What are the devastating consequences of idolatry? The text highlights three devastating consequences for those who persist in idolatry (v.5)

Idolatry arouses God’s displeasure. God is displeased. Idolatry is the most heinous injury and affront to the true God; it is transferring his worship and honour to a rival.

Idolatry brings physical ruin – Brokenness, pain, suffering, death, and judgment. Verse 5 – Paul sees the wilderness as strewn with bodies (their corpses littered the desert).

Idolatry brings spiritual destruction as we fall under God’s divine discipline (vv.8-10).

  • What is the cure for idolatry?

Take heed. The danger of falling into idolatry is always before us. Those who are self-assured and proud are the most susceptible. Those who have personally experienced God’s divine presence, guidance, and miraculous deliverance can become overconfident and complacent

  1. Take heed by fleeing from idolatry. “To seek safety in flight.” To avoid, shun, run away from… Keep on running away from idolatry. (When you are fleeing from something, you are running to safety. Where’s safety found?)
  2. Take heed by relishing and rejoicing in how God has rescued us in Jesus Christ (v.12) God acts decisively to rescue his idolatrous people.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the types of Christ in this story. Christ is the pillar of cloud that screens us from the heat of God’s wrath. Christ as “the light of the world.” He is our “pillar of fire” to guide us through the darkness of the world. The Rock was struck: As the rock when smitten sent forth the waters, so Christ, having been once for all smitten, sends forth the waters of the Spirit. The Serpent was lifted up. (John 3:14-15) Look up and live. A serpent set up on a pole. The bread of God came down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:31-34).

Implications

  1. Take heed by remembering the time in which we live (v.11). “At the end of the age.” “When the end is about to come.” All previous ages come to their appointed end in Christ.
  2. Take heed by remembering who God is. He is faithful.   He is wise as well as faithful, and will give us strength and resolve to bear up under our trials and testing. He knows what we can bear. We have full encouragement to flee from sin and to be faithful to God.
  3. God faithfully provides a means to endure times of testing and temptation – WAY OF ESCAPE.

 

 

How to face temptation – Sage Counsel from Thomas Brooks

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan pastor, counsels believers to confront all temptations (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the boastful pride of life) with the words of the Psalmist: “The LORD is my portion” (16:5; 73:26; 119:57; 142:5). He exhorts:

Luther counsels every Christian to answer all temptations with the short saying, ‘I am a Christian’ and I would counsel every Christian to answer all temptations with this short saying, ‘The Lord is my portion.’

  • O Christian, when Satan or the world shall tempt thee with honors, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion,’
  • when they shall tempt thee with riches, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • when they shall tempt thee with preferment, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall tempt thee with the favors of great ones, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • yea and when this persecuting world shall threaten thee with the loss of thy estate, answer ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of thy liberty, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of friends, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of life, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;.
  • O sirs! If Satan should come to you with an apple, as once he did to Eve, tell him the “the Lord is your portion;”
  • or with a grape, as once he did to Noah, tell him that “the Lord is your portion;
  • or with a change of raiment, as once he did to Gehazi, tell him that ‘the Lord is your portion;
  • or with a wedge of gold, as once he did to Achan, tell him that “the Lord is your portion;”
  • or with a bag of silver, as once he did with Judas, tell him that “the Lord is your portion.”[1]

[1] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, vol 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh, Scotland: James Nichol, 1666), 114.

God’s Gift of Physical Intimacy in Marriage – Proverbs 5:15-21

Desire after forbidden enjoyments naturally springs from dissatisfaction with the blessings in possession. Where contentment is not found at home — drinking out of our own cistern — it will be sought for, however vainly, abroad. Marital love is chief among the earthly goods in mercy granted by God to his fallen and rebellious creatures. Enjoy then with thankfulness your own, and desire not your neighbor’s well.

— Charles Bridges, Anglican Pastor (1794-1869 AD)

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Regard her as the special gift of your Father’s hand. Cherish her with gentleness and purity. Whatsoever interrupts the strictest harmony in this delicate relationship opens the door to imminent temptation. Tender, well-regulated, domestic affection is the best defense against the vagrant desires of unlawful passion.

—Bridges

It is highly important to see physical intimacy in marriage as God-given…for history confirms that when marriage is viewed chiefly as a business arrangement, not only is God’s bounty misunderstood, but human passion seeks other outlets (cf. Proverbs 5:20).

—Derek Kidner, Cambridge Professor (1913-2008)

Screwtape and “The Christ and …” Syndrome

You might have heard of the book the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. In it, a senior demon equips a junior demon on the wiles of tempting Christ-followers.

Screwtape writes Wormwood in the attempt to persuade Wormwood to undermine the faith by turning Jesus into a great hero and moralist:  We thus distract men’s minds from Who He is, and what He did. We first make Him solely a teacher, and then conceal the very substantial agreement between His teaching and those of other great moral teachers.  The devil’s strategy is not to remove Christ altogether from the scene, but to propagate a “Christ And…” religion:

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of “Christianity And.” You know–Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychic Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing (Letter XXV).

Michael Horton adds:

Today, we see this in terms of Christ and America; Christ and Self-Esteem; Christ and Prosperity; Christ and the Republican Party; Christ and End-Time Prophecy; Christ and Healing; Christ and Marketing and Church Growth; Christ and Traditional Values, and on we could go, until Christ himself becomes little more than an appendage to a religion that can, after all, get on quite well without him.

Resisting the Urge to Complain

Mark 15:4-5 – So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.”

Let us learn a practical lesson from our Savior’s example. Let us learn to suffer patiently, and not to complain, whatever God may think fit to lay upon us. Let us take heed to our ways that we offend not in our tongues in the hour of testing and temptation.

Certainly Psalm 39:1 served as guidance for our Savior during this unjust trial: “I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence…'”

Let us beware of giving way to irritation and ill temper, however provoking and undeserved our trials may seem to be. Nothing in the Christian character glorifies God so much as patient suffering.

“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…” (1 Peter 2:20, 21.)

– Adapted from J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels