Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Spurgeon on Prayer

I have just started reading Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic ‘Only a prayer meeting’ and I intend to serve up some great insights on what a God glorifying prayer meeting does and does not look (although ‘look’ is a little misleading because it’s not about how it looks per se) like from the big man himself as I turn the pages of this book. Here’s what I’ve uncovered so far…

First of all on Christian gatherings and the importance of keeping Christ exalting truth central rather than performing the latest ‘fad’:

‘I would sooner have the doctrines of grace revived, individual piety deepened, and family religion increased, than I would watch a frantic crowd parading the street with noisy music, and harsh clamour. I see no special virtue in drums and tambourines. Make what noise you will to attract the careless if  you afterwards give them sound instruction in the truth, and make them know the meaning of the Word of the Lord; but if it be mere stir, and song, and swagger, what is the good of it? If gospel truth is not taught, your work will be a building of wood, hay, and stubble, soon to be consumed. Quick building is seldom permanent. Gold, silver, and precious stones are scarce material, not easily found; but then they endure the fire. What is the use of religion which comes up in a night, and perishes as soon? Ah, me! What empty bragging we have heard! The thing was done, but then it was never worth doing; soon things were as if it never had been done; and, moreover, this sham way of doing it made it all the harder toil for the real worker.’

Let churches everywhere be full of the faithful and passionate deliverance and spread of God’s truth!

And then before turning to the public use of prayer in the rest of the book, Spurgeon highlights the necessity of time alone with the Lord in prayer:

‘If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury, ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. The Puritans were abundant in meditation and prayer; and there were giants on the earth in those days. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility.’

May our lives not just talk the talk, but let us walk the walk!

 

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Phil 1:1-11; God’s started so He will finish

I’ve been going through the wonderful book of Philippians with a friend over this first term and I intend to blog a short reflection on each passage as we go along, please feel free to interact with what I post.

In the first verse of Philippians 1, we have Paul’s classic address to a church, and it is worth pointing out that in verse 1 he addresses the letter to all the saints in Philippi, every follower of Jesus, not just to the overseers and deacons.

In verses 3-6 he sets the tone for this letter; joy. Paul uses the word joy or rejoice 17 times in the letter (I think). What kind of joy is going to be expressed in this letter? Well, it’s going to be rejoicing in God, and more specifically in this case joy in God for the good work that the Philippian Church is engaging in. Paul’s joy is in the partnership of the Philippian church; they are standing at the side of Paul, praying for Him, giving generously to the work of the gospel (cf. 2 Cor 8:2-5) and sharing in the work of gospel partnership. They even face the same trials as Paul for the sake of the gospel (see Phil 1:30).

In verse 5 and 6, we have three time periods that Paul is rejoicing in God’s work. Can you spot them? In v5, we have gospel partnership from the ‘first day’ until ‘now’, and in v6 Paul is utterly confident that God will complete their life of good work until the ‘day of Jesus Christ’, until Christ returns, or they die to go and be with Him. It is important to notice that Paul thanks God for the Philippians, he doesn’t just heap praise on the Philippians. We should spend more time praising God for growth in the lives of Christians and their ministries than heaping praise on them, which could lead to pride (not that we shouldn’t thank and praise people for such things, we should – see ch2:29) So the big picture in Philippi, God started the church in Philippi, God has sustained the church until this point in time and God will bring it to completion. The same can be said of the Christian believer, and we can take great confidence in the Spirit’s work to preserve us until we meet our Lord. Jesus says ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).

Paul is in Prison in Rome and yet the Philippians are standing beside him still (v7). This is amazing partnership, what a gem of a church! Philippi was a part of the Roman Empire and their reputation is at risk, yet here they are sharing in the grace of God with Paul. And Paul finishes this opening chunk by praying for an abundance of love in the Philippians. He basically prays for a bumper harvest of righteousness. Paul is not content to say to the Philippians “Well done, you faithful servants of Christ, put your feet up”. He doesn’t even ask God to continue their good work, he boldly asks for more! In light of the ‘day of Christ’ (v10), he wants the Philippians’ love to abound more! And notice that in v11, the fruit of righteousness is only available through Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. There is no righteousness attainable outside of Christ. He alone is our righteousness. Praise be to Him.

Reflection:

(1) How does your life or your church match up to the kind of gospel partnership that Paul speaks of here?

(2) Do you praise God for Christians partnering together in the gospel much?

Don’t be a “Christian Rambo”

Lately I’ve become more aware of the importance of church in the life of a Christian. I guess I always knew it was important but this particular doctrine is starting to take root in my heart and mind. Church is a fundamental building block of spiritual growth and of daily and weekly encouragement. Church helps to sustain the Christian through the week ahead and prepares them for a lifetime of service.

Chris, the Ministree Trainee at my church in Preston, was preaching on Hebrews 10:19-39 last week as we’ve been going through the book in the evenings. I feel very encouraged by clearly seeing the necessity and joy of being part of the local church. I am always greatly encouraged by the church around me (Church = people not buildings), spurring one another on towards love and good deeds (v24).

The writer to the Hebrews writes;

‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ (v25)

Hebrews is a book full of warnings – warnings about drifting in the Christian life. The people of God coming together in praise, prayer, fellowship, all under the authority of God’s Word is a great source of encouragement. This is definitely my experience too.

Church Consumerism

If you live in the UK, you live in a culture of consumerism. It’s all about ‘Number One’, what can I get out of the deal?’ Everything is about me. Christ calls his church to be distinctive in this area;

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Yes we will be encouraged by meeting together on a Sunday, and it is the role of the pastor-teacher to preach the Word to prepare God’s people for works of service (Ephesians 4:11-12), therefore there is definite gain by going to Church on a Sunday or by going to a midweek Bible study, but this does not advocate a consumerist approach to church. We come to serve (that’s the Christian life), to become more like Christ, the ultimate servant – who laid his life down for His sheep. There is no greater show of love than this (John 15:13).

I need to repent. Even when the Word is being read or preached in church, I’m thinking “what is God saying to me?’.” There is nothing necessarily wrong with this; God does speak to us individually through His Word. But what about the other members of my church family – I should also be thinking “What is God to saying to ‘us’ as a church?” “And what about my friend sitting over there, what could I encourage or challenge them with afterwards?”. “And how about my friend who isn’t here tonight?”.

It’s a real challenge to rid ourselves of this consumerism. But by God’s grace it is possible and we’ve got God the Holy Spirit to wage war against the sinful nature! He gives us new desires and makes it possible to say “No” to sin, and “Yes” to righteousness; we CAN become more like Christ. But this is not an individual process, that’s why God gave us brothers and sisters. Praise be to God for the family He has given me. Amen.

Further Reading;

God’s New Community – Graham Beynon

Stop Dating the Church – Joshua Harris