Sermon of the Day – October 4, 2021
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 KJV
“So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” ( Job_42:12 ).
Through his griefs Job came to his heritage. He was tried that his godliness might be confirmed. Are not my troubles intended to deepen my character and to robe me in graces I had little of before? I come to my glory through eclipses, tears, death. My ripest fruit grows against the roughest wall. Job’s afflictions left him with higher conceptions of God and lowlier thoughts of himself. “Now,” he cried, "mine eye seeth thee.
And if, through pain and loss, I feel God so near in His majesty that I bend low before Him and pray, “Thy will be done,” I gain very much. God gave Job glimpses of the future glory. In those wearisome days and nights, he penetrated within the veil, and could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Surely the latter end of Job was more blessed than the beginning.-- In the Hour of Silence
“Trouble never comes to a man unless she brings a nugget of gold in her hand.”
Apparent adversity will finally turn out to be the advantage of the right if we are only willing to keep on working and to wait patiently. How steadfastly the great victor souls have kept at their work, dauntless and unafraid! There are blessings which we cannot obtain if we cannot accept and endure suffering. There are joys that can come to us only through sorrow. There are revealing’s of Divine truth which we can get only when earth’s lights have gone out. There are harvests which can grow only after the plowshare has done its work.-- Selected
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars; martyrs have put on their coronation robes glittering with fire, and through their tears have the sorrowful first seen the gates of Heaven.
I shall know by the gleam and glitter
Of the golden chain you wear,
By your heart’s calm strength in loving,
Of the fire you have had to bear.
Beat on, true heart, forever;
Shine bright, strong golden chain;
And bless the cleansing fire
And the furnace of living pain!
THE ONE UNFAILING THING Act_7:1-8
The one unfailing quantity in life, and the only one, is—what? Banks fail, even with the Government guarantee back of them. Investments prove utterly unprofitable sometimes. Friends? Yes, they fail too, for lack of strength when not for lack of love. By the time a man gets the figure four at the beginning of his age, he finds that every thing and every one has failed sometime, with the rare exceptions that prove the truth of the statement. But God , Jesus —never yet.
ore on Contrasting Results for Self-Exaltation and Humility
And the tax collector , standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven , but beat his breast , saying, " God be merciful to me a sinner !" . . . everyone who exalts himself will be abased , and he who humbles himself will be exalted . (Luk_18:13-14)
Our present meditation continues Jesus’ parable that warns against self-righteousness and encourages lowliness of mind. In this teaching, the Lord declares contrasting results for self-exaltation and humility . " Everyone who exalts himself will be abased , and he who humbles himself will be exalted ." The contrasting examples in the parable are the prayers of a vainglorious religious leader and a contrite publican.
The Pharisee’s prayer was addressed to himself and was filled with glorying about himself . "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself , 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men . . . I fast twice a week ; I give tithes of all that I possess ’ " (Luk_18:11-12). In stark contrast to this arrogant, feigned prayer, the tax collector would not so much as lift his countenance toward heaven . Instead, he pounded his guilt-ridden chest, humbly pleading for mercy . “And the tax collector , standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven , but beat his breast , saying, ’ God be merciful to me a sinner '!” His attitude was like David, who knew he could not withstand the righteous judgment of God. "Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no one living is righteous " (Psa_143:2).
These two men (who both appeared to be praying to God) faced drastically differing results. “I tell you, this man [the humble publican] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the self-righteous religious leader]” (Luk_18:14). The self-exalting Pharisee was abased . He was dishonored before God and confirmed in his guilty, unrepentant state. " Everyone who exalts himself will be abased ." The humble tax collector was exalted . Through humble dependence, he was raised up to the blessed realm of justification. “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly , his faith is accounted for righteousness " (Rom_4:5). He was declared not guilty, forgiven, righteous in God’s sight. " He who humbles himself will be exalted .”
Lord God, I deserve to be abased for the times I have exalted myself in Your sight. I want to take my stand with this repentant tax collector. I want to humble myself before You, pleading Your mercy. I hope in You to lift me up to new realms of obedience, godly growth, and service, through Christ Jesus, my Lord, Amen.
LOVE AND LIBERTY
“None of us liveth to himself, and no man died to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord: and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” — Rom_14:7-8.
THE KEY to this wonderful chapter, so full of sound judgment and sanctified common sense, is the reiterated reference which the Apostle makes to the Lord, which occurs some ten times in fourteen verses. The fact of Jesus being Lord both of the living and of those who have died, and are living on the other side of death, is the solution of the difficulty as to what the Christian should do or leave undone. Let each of us stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, or at least before the reflection of that tribunal which is mirrored in the tranquil expanse of conscience, and we shall have an unerring guide for conduct.
The question agitated in Rome was as to the observance of the seventh or first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath; and, what principle should direct the use of food—that of Leviticus, or of common use. The Apostle insists that these are not questions which affect either our personal salvation or our acceptance with God. In his opinion they are matters for each individual Christian to settle and decide for himself. There are certain questions clear as light, or black as night, about which there can be no controversy; but there are other questions for the solution of which each must apply one or other of these general principles for guidance through the maze.
What would Jesus Christ, my Lord and Master, wish me to do? I am His servant, and He will let me know His will by the teaching of His Spirit in my heart. Whether I act or forbear, it must be done unto Him; and in my liberty or abstinence I must give Him thanks.
What is best for others? I have an influence over some; perhaps more look to me for guidance than I know. I must be on my guard not to put a stumbling block in another’s way. Though certain things are innocent to me, yet, if they will destroy, directly or indirectly, one for whom Christ died, it will be better for me to abstain from them.
What is best for myself? I ask God not to lead me into temptation, but I must not put myself into it. I must put aside all weights as well as sins, that I may follow Christ as He goes forth to the conquest of evil.
O Lord and Master, may we be faithful to Thee in the little things, always following the inner light, till it lead us into the perfect day. AMEN.
The Attraction of Agnosticism
I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD — Act_17:23
Atheism and Agnosticism
Not very long ago in Glasgow there was a criminal trial which attracted much attention, not only by reason of its peculiar circumstances, but also because of certain observations of the judge. When the prisoner was being examined by counsel one of the questions asked was, “Are you an atheist?” That was a very unusual question to be put in a modern court of law. No one, therefore, was very much surprised when Lord Guthrie, in giving the charge to the jury, dwelt with undisguised severity on that unusual interrogation. Now had the learned lord done nothing more than that, the aspect of things would have been entirely legal. But your true Scot is a theologian born— especially if he be born a Guthrie. And so we had a little discourse on theology in which we were very wisely told that there are no atheists nowadays— only agnostics. I was struck by the very widespread notice which was given to that dictum of the judge. It found its way into all sorts of papers and was commented upon from every point of view. And so I have thought this might be a fitting time to say one or two words about agnosticism.
The Difference between an Atheist and an Agnostic
Now I venture to think there are few who do not know the meaning of these words. An atheist is one who denies that there is a God; an agnostic one who denies that we can know God. The word agnostic is quite a modern word. It was coined, if I remember rightly, by Professor Huxley. It was suggested by that verse in the Acts of the Apostles which tells of the altar raised to the unknown God. It is very significant that the view of things which utterly denies all revelation should have had to borrow its title from the Bible. An atheist has the courage of conviction. He lifts up his eyes and says there is no God. For him, heaven is a vacant place, and there is no eternal Personality. But the agnostic does not deny there is a God. All he asserts is that we are so constituted intellectually that to know God is utterly impossible.
Agnosticism Is Not Born of Humility
You will observe that this agnostic attitude has nothing in common with Christian humility. It does not spring from the majesty of God, but from the limitations of our finitude. There are octaves of sound, in high and sunken registers, which no human ear is capable of hearing, yet to say that a thousand tones are imperceptible is not at all to say that man is deaf. And so the Christian reverently holds that there are heights and depths in God he cannot know, and yet he is convinced that God is knowable. “Now we know in part and see in part”; there is an agnosticism which is apostolic. There is a reverent veiling of our mortal gaze under the burning mystery of heaven. But to hold, as every Christian holds, that there are depths in God beyond our fathoming is not to assert that God cannot be known. On the contrary, for the Christian consciousness, there is no such intense reality as God. He is nearer than breathing, closer than hands and feet, more subtly present than any summer morning; and this though logic be powerless to reach and argument ineffectual to demonstrate Him, and life, in all the seeming tangle of it, too intricate a riddle to reveal Him. “And when I saw him,” says John, “I fell at his feet as dead”; there were depths in the Infinite which overwhelmed him. Yet that same John— with what triumphant certainty does he ring out the clarion cry, We know. And this is the glory of our Christian faith that, with the fullest confessions of great ignorance, it can yet lift up its voice out of the darkness and say, I know whom I have believed.
The First Christian Church Battled Against Gnosticism, Not Agnosticism
It is significant, let me say in passing, that the wheel of antagonism has now come full circle. This last subversal of the Christian faith is the intellectual negation of the first. When the new Gospel was fighting for its life, it had one foe more deadly than others. Some of you probably have never heard its name, though the later epistles are full of references to it. It was more deadly than any Jewish hatred. It was more subtle than any pagan ridicule. It wrought more havoc in the infant Church than the most cruel and bloody persecutions. Across the Empire, from Ephesus to Lyons, there was not a Christian community but suffered from it. It sapped the spiritual life of congregations and blighted the promise of countless catechumens. And this so subtle and insidious enemy, with which the infant Church fought for its life, was called by the forgotten name of Gnosticism. Now the word gnostic, as students are aware, means exactly the opposite of agnostic. The Gnostic is a man who says I know; the agnostic a man who says I don’t know. And the singular thing is that the Christian faith, which began by battling against a spurious knowledge, should now have to battle against a spurious ignorance. I regard this as a very hopeful sign for the ultimate triumph of the Gospel. There is less hope for the man who says that he knows everything than for him who thinks that he knows nothing, For the one is unteachable, and in a world like this to be unteachable is to be condemned; but the other has at least the aspect of humility. That is why in early Gnosticism the prevailing temper was one of scornful arrogance. And that is why in our modern agnosticism we can so often detect a note of wistfulness. It is always a humbling thing to say, I do not know; doubly so to a keen and brilliant intellect; trebly so when the things it does not know are known to the humble farmers in the glen.
Agnosticism Contradicts Man’s Deepest Instinct
Indeed it is this last fact, when you consider it, that makes the attraction of agnosticism so remarkable. It contradicts the deepest of all instincts: yet it is acceptable today. That there is a God, and that that God is knowable, is the universal verdict of humanity. That there is a God, and that that God is knowable, is the instinct and affirmation of the soul. Yet when agnosticism throws out its challenge and repudiates these universal witnesses, it finds a welcome in the modem mind. That is a very remarkable phenomenon, well worthy of our consideration. At Gnosticism we all smile today; but at agnosticism no one thinks to smile. And what I suggest is that this is only explicable on the ground of a certain specious affinity between the negative creed of the agnostic and the general spirit of the age. Professor Lecky has taken pains to show that it is not argument which kills beliefs. It is rather those slow and subtle changes which gradually permeate the spirit of a people. But not only do these slow and subtle changes explain the destruction of ancient superstition; they explain also the emergence of beliefs. Every creed demands its fit environment as absolutely as does the Alpine flower. Without that environment it will never flourish though it be preached with genius and passion. And I want to show you how the agnostic creed, which once would have been treated with derision, has found a fitting environment today.
Agnosticism’s Fitting Environment
Agnosticism, for instance, seems to answer readily to our altered thought of the dwelling-place of man. “What is man, that thou art mindful of him” has meaning for us the psalmist never knew. So long as man deemed that the world which he inhabited was the great and glorious center of the universe, so long was it natural for him to hold that he was important in the eyes of heaven. But if his dwelling place be but an atom flying through boundless space where worlds are numberless, then things assume a different complexion. Now that is exactly what modem science has done. It has dislodged our world from its centrality. It has robbed us of our cosmical importance and made us the creatures of a tiny planet. And it was inevitable that this altered thought, which has so profoundly influenced man’s attitude to nature, should have influenced also his attitude to God. It was natural to believe that God was knowable when just beyond the clouds He had His throne. But heaven has gone very far away now, and we sweep the depths of space and cannot find it. And so having learned, on evidence unquestioned, the actual insignificance of earth, we begin to doubt the significance of man. It is to that temper agnosticism comes. It is the creed which answers that suspicion. It is not presumptuous as was atheism. It does not dare to say there is no God. It only says that for creatures such as we are, fashioned of the dust of a little distant planet, the proper attitude is one of ignorance.
But if men would only think a little, they would see the fallacy of that appeal. There is a little cottage down in Ayrshire to which pilgrims turn with tender hearts. It has no grandeur as of marble staircase nor spacious rooms with decorated ceiling. Yet he who was born there would have been no greater had he been cradled in a kingly palace, nor was he less a genius because a cottage-child. It is not the dwelling place that makes the man; it is the man that makes the dwelling place. There may be depths of meanness in the lordliest home and moral grandeur in the poorest mountain hut. And to argue that man must be a cipher because the world is not a lordly dwelling place is like arguing that Bums was not a genius because he was a cottage-child. On the contrary, it seems to me that the evidence is the other way. For it is not in palaces nor lordly manors that moral and spiritual worth is oftenest found. It is in humble homes with lowly roofs which have no beauty that we should desire them and which never obtrude themselves upon the passerby. Search through Scotland for the men who know, and you will not find them in the grandest dwellings. It is not in the castles of Dunbartonshire that you find the students who know Shakespeare. And so to argue that God cannot be known unless the world be the castle of the universe is to move contrary to all experience.
Agnosticism in an Environment of Rejection of Dogmatism
But there is another attraction of agnosticism which helps to explain its prevalence today. It is in apparent harmony with an age that cannot brook the accent of finality. To say I do not know is not dogmatic, at least it does not seem to be dogmatic, and so it answers to that prevailing spirit which cannot tolerate the thought of dogmatism. Probably we are suffering today for the over dogmatism of the past. You will very generally find an age of doubt after an age of overconfident assertion. And it may be that the preaching of a former generation, which was so absolutely confident of everything, has given us an age which is confident of nothing. Whatever the cause be, this at least is plain, that men today are not in love with dogmatism. They may have a wistful yearning for the Christ; but they are easily irritated at the creed. They do not accept the sufficiency of formulas. They are no longer held by orthodox beliefs. They are impatient at the suggestion of finality. That there is a nobler side to this impatience, I think it is only fair to recognize. It is always the characteristic of an age that is trembling on the verge of discoveries. And that we are now trembling on the verge of such discoveries as will revolutionize our life and thought, I have not the shadow of a doubt. Now whenever there is such expectancy abroad, the one intolerable standpoint is finality. To be dogmatic in a world of mystery is to seal the eye so that it cannot see. And any creed which cuts as with a saber into the heart of all dogmatic doctrine is certain to receive a kindly welcome. There have been ages when a teacher had no audience unless he could lift up his voice and say I know. But today a far more powerful appeal is to lift up the voice and say I do not know. And that is the attraction of agnosticism to an age that is a little weary of dogmatics and is beginning to feel again, in countless ways, the wonder and the mystery of things.
Agnosticism an Intolerant Dogma
But the curious thing is that agnosticism has proved itself the most intolerant of dogmatisms. Professing to be the foe of all finality, it is itself the most final of all creeds. Through all the ages the Gospel has maintained itself with an infinite and living power of adaptation. It has responded to all the growth of knowledge and never forfeited its central verities. But agnosticism in these past forty years— and what are forty years to twenty centuries— has only saved itself from utter ruin by the very dogmatism which it scorns. To say we have no evidence for God may sound like intellectual humility. It may seem to indicate a very different temper from the blatant atheism of fifty years ago. But when you are dealing not with things but with persons, to say that you have no proof of their existence is really to deny that they exist. There might be gold under the snows of Greenland though we had no evidence that gold was there. But if there were little children in a home, would they not be certain to betray their presence? And if you found no nursery nor cot, no picture books nor fragmentary toys, would not that mean there were no children there? That would be the verdict of the briefest visit: but what if you lived for years within the dwelling? What if you lived there day and night for years and never found one proof that there were children? You see in a moment that to find no evidence is to be driven to deny their being; and as with little children, so with God. If even a shipwrecked sailor on an island leaves unmistakable traces of his presence, how much more the Creator of the universe.
Agnosticism Cannot Stand the Test of Life for It Is Negative and Life Is Positive
Now that is where agnosticism fails. It has never been able to maintain itself. It has not been able, like the faith of Christ, to stand foursquare to every wind that blew. It has either gravitated far nearer atheism than Lord Guthrie would allow us to admit, or it has crept back to the feet of God again. I confess I have no faith in any creed that cannot maintain itself for forty years. I have a strong suspicion that the truth must lie with one that has stood the storm and shock of centuries. And when I find it meeting my deepest need and answering the crying of my heart, by it I am content to live and die. For character is not built upon negations, nor does life come to its victories that way. Life is too difficult and dark and terrible to be fought out by what I do not know. It is when I can say after the strain of years, I know whom I have believed, that my feet are planted on the rock.
The Trouble with a Warped Head (Part 2)
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (Jas_1:19-20, NIV)
Sometimes our relationship with the Lord is like Candid Camera — when you least expect it, and always at a time when you would not want it to happen — He walks right up to you, dressed is some clever disguise like a grease-stained mechanic at a car dealership, and says, “Mr. Ryle, you have a warped head.”
As the guy went on to explain the problem I was having with my Astro van, the Lord started talking to me about deeper issues in my own heart. Specifically –the issue of anger.
The mechanic told me that because the engine head was warped, it caused a break in the gasket seal, which in turn resulted in an oil leak and loss of power. The smoke was the result of oil burning on a hot head.
you get all that? Yeah, me too. At that moment I realized that while the mechanic was talking about my van — the Lord was talking about me.
When we are warped in our thinking – nothing good can happen. And to make matter worse, we get all hot and bothered when something good doesn’t happen. And when things go bad or wrong – we blow our lids. That’s the trouble with a warped head.
The Lord wants to set our minds right. And as He does so, the seal will hold and there will be no blown gaskets, nor any loss of power.
Have you “blown your lid” lately? Finding yourself over-heating and losing your cool? Take heart — the Lord is expert at fixing a warped head!
Next time you find yourself over-heating and getting ready to pop – just pull over to the side and ask the Lord to straighten out your thinking; to check the seals, and make sure your “oil level” is fine. Cool down, and only then proceed along the high way.
"At evening time it shall be light." — Zec_14:7
Oftentimes we look forward with forebodings to the time of old age, forgetful that at eventide it shall be light. To many saints, old age is the choicest season in their lives. A balmier air fans the mariner’s cheek as he nears the shore of immortality, fewer waves ruffle his sea, quiet reigns, deep, still and solemn. From the altar of age the flashes of the fire of youth are gone, but the more real flame of earnest feeling remains. The pilgrims have reached the land Beulah, that happy country, whose days are as the days of heaven upon earth. Angels visit it, celestial gales blow over it, flowers of paradise grow in it, and the air is filled with seraphic music. Some dwell here for years, and others come to it but a few hours before their departure, but it is an Eden on earth. We may well long for the time when we shall recline in its shady groves and be satisfied with hope until the time of fruition comes. The setting sun seems larger than when aloft in the sky, and a splendour of glory tinges all the clouds which surround his going down. Pain breaks not the calm of the sweet twilight of age, for strength made perfect in weakness bears up with patience under it all. Ripe fruits of choice experience are gathered as the rare repast of life’s evening, and the soul prepares itself for rest.
The Lord’s people shall also enjoy light in the hour of death. Unbelief laments; the shadows fall, the night is coming, existence is ending. Ah no, cried faith, the night is far spent, the true day is at hand. Light is come, the light of immortality, the light of a Father’s countenance. Gather up thy feet in the bed, see the waiting bands of spirits! Angels waft thee away. Farewell, beloved one, thou art gone, thou wavest thine hand. Ah, now it is light. The pearly gates are open, the golden streets shine in the jasper light. We cover our eyes, but thou beholdest the unseen; adieu, brother, thou hast light at even-tide, such as we have not yet.
"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." — 1Jn_2:1
“If any man sin, we have an advocate.” Yes, though we sin, we have him still. John does not say, “If any man sin he has forfeited his advocate,” but “we have an advocate,” sinners though we are. All the sin that a believer ever did, or can be allowed to commit, cannot destroy his interest in the Lord Jesus Christ, as his advocate. The name here given to our Lord is suggestive. “Jesus.” Ah! then he is an advocate such as we need, for Jesus is the name of one whose business and delight it is to save. “They shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” His sweetest name implies his success. Next, it is “Jesus Christ”-Christos, the anointed. This shows his authority to plead. The Christ has a right to plead, for he is the Father’s own appointed advocate and elected priest. If he were of our choosing he might fail, but if God hath laid help upon one that is mighty, we may safely lay our trouble where God has laid his help. He is Christ, and therefore authorized; he is Christ, and therefore qualified, for the anointing has fully fitted him for his work. He can plead so as to move the heart of God and prevail. What words of tenderness, what sentences of persuasion will the anointed use when he stands up to plead for me! One more letter of his name remains, “Jesus Christ the righteous.” This is not only his character BUT his plea. It is his character, and if the Righteous One be my advocate, then my cause is good, or he would not have espoused it. It is his plea, for he meets the charge of unrighteousness against me by the plea that he is righteous. He declares himself my substitute and puts his obedience to my account. My soul, thou hast a friend well fitted to be thine advocate, he cannot but succeed; leave thyself entirely in his hands.