When we come to the New Testament searching for how God would have us make decisions, what categories do we find? Rather than directions on how to discern the individual will of God we are given principles of decision making. Rather than pointing us to hunches, inner voices and promptings, we are pointed to scriptural guidelines that enable us to make wise choices to the glory of God. The New Testament paints a picture of a believer who knows and obeys Scripture, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and who has been given a mind whereby he is able to think, reason, discern and choose. He is an individual who is quite capable (due to regeneration, the Scriptures and the renewing of his mind) of making wise decisions which please God. It is for these reasons that God does not call for Christians to make subjective choices based upon what they “feel” God might be telling them. Rather we are to be students of the Word, knowing how God wants us to reason and choose based upon principles He has given us.
Whatever happens to us, we can be confident that it is for our ultimate good and God’s glory. At times, this may be hard to see or understand, but it is reality. Notice a number of blessings from suffering in the Scriptures:
- Suffering softens your heart towards God’s Word
“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Psalm 119:67
- Suffering opens your heart to make you more teachable
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Psalm 119:71
- Suffering teaches you to be compassionate
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
- Suffering strengthens your heart to make you more mature
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4
- Suffering humbles your heart
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” 2 Corinthians 12:7
- Suffering shows our weakness so we can rely on Christ’s strength
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
- Suffering makes you desire eternal things
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
The following is written by C. H. Macintosh:
If I allow my work to get between my heart and the Master, it will be of little worth. We can only effectually serve Christ as we are enjoying Him. It is while the heart dwells upon His powerful attractions that the hands perform the most acceptable service to His name; nor is there anyone who can minister Christ with unction, freshness, and power to others, if he is not feeding upon Christ in the secret of his own soul. True, he may preach a sermon, deliver a lecture, utter prayers, write a book, and go through the entire routine of outward service, and yet not minister Christ. The man who will present Christ to others must be occupied with Christ for himself.
Happy is the man who minsters thus, whatever be the success or reception of his ministry. For should his ministry fail to attract attention, to command influence, or to produce apparent results, he has his sweet retreat and his unfailing portion in Christ, of which nothing can deprive him. Whereas the man who is merely feeding upon the fruits of his ministry, who delights in the gratification which it affords, or the attention and interest which it commands, is like a mere pipe, conveying water to others, and retaining only rust itself. This is a most deplorable condition to be in and yet it is the actual condition of every servant who is more occupied with his work and its results than with the Master and His glory.
Currently, I am preaching through Ephesians in our Wednesday night services. This morning I read a great quote while doing a little reading on the chapter I am preaching from over the last month or so (ch. 4):
a minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more. – John Owen
quoted in The Ephesian Church, p. 64 of the pdf available here: http://www.febc.edu.sg/assets/pdfs/febc_press/The%20Ephesian%20Church.pdf
May God help me to be much on my knees before God!
Pastor Kent Brandenburg reviews a recent book on wordliness and gives a brief explanation of what God’s grace does in the believer. The book, written by C.J. Mahaney, emphasizes “internal” worldliness in opposition to “external” worldliness. Worldliness cannot be confined to either of these areas; it really can permeate both our hearts and our conduct. Here are a few excerpts:
“The pagan, anti-God philosophy of this world weaves its way into every part of a culture. For this reason, everything must be judged (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that which associates itself with a humanistic or depraved way of thinking must be eschewed (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This applies to piercings, modern art, tattoos, extreme hair styles, rock, rap, and country. In other words, we are not to “[fashion ourselves] according to the former lusts in [our] ignorance: but as he which hath called [us] is holy, so be [we] holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:14-15). Every aspect of our conduct or behavior is to be distinct. In no way should our externals reflect the old unregenerate life.”
“The truth is that the new definers of worldliness emphasize conduct. It’s just that it is, and ironically, the loose conduct appealing to the lust of the flesh. And they’re judging externals. They will judge your standards (which they do have) to be more strict than theirs, so you must be the legalist and the moralist. Even in writing style they work hard to make it as easy as possible to understand. Even in the dress down style of the sovereign grace ministries, something strategic is going on with their urban chic and soul patches. They are working at attracting or making comfortable a certain demographic. Something is driving all that, but it isn’t the gospel.”
“The grace of God that works in believers “denies ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12). As God is working in both to will and do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), true Christians are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).”
Read the rest at Jackhammer