A Man of the Cross:
“Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Emphasis mine)
We serve a satisfying Christ who is the expression of divine glory and the clearest picture of His nature. May we remember Whom it is that we serve. The One who made us, gave Himself for us, in order to save and sustain us by the power of His love and transforming grace. He has promised to purify and perfect us so that we may reflect the beauty of His glory as partakers of the divine nature. May our every breath be used to worship and reflect Him, even in the midst of our imperfection. His power is displayed through our weakness for His glory and our good.
There’s a great old hymn entitled “I Need Thee Every Hour” that captures our need of God’s grace to sustain us. In fact, as the following hymn suggests, God’s provision of grace comes chiefly through the presence of our Savior:
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord; no tender voice like Thine can peace afford. I need Thee, O’ I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O’ bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. I need Thee every hour; stay Thou nearby; temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh. I need Thee, O’ I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O’ bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain. I need Thee, O’ I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O’ bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will; and Thy rich promises in me fulfill. I need Thee, O’ I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O’ bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. I need Thee every hour, most Holy One; O’ make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son. I need Thee, O’ I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O’ bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.
There are times in my life when I am more mindful of my need of grace than others. Tonight happens to be one of them. Sometimes my awareness is clothed in gratitude for my salvation and a desire for sanctification. And, sometimes it stems from feeling helpless as a result of my sin or the challenges of living in a fallen world with fallen people. That’s when desperation and despair drive me to desire grace. Whether I acknowledge it or not, I am always utterly dependent on God’s grace throughout each moment of every day. There is absolutely no hope apart from God’s grace, and there will be no spiritual growth without it. The more consistently I acknowledge this fact, the better off I will be and the more gloriously will God be reflected through me.
The late Puritan pastor, John Owen, had a keen understanding of this human condition. He acknowledged that the Holy Spirit uses means to deliver God’s grace to us when He initiates regeneration; He then excites that grace within us throughout our sanctification. It’s a beautiful mess as God takes graceless sinners and establishes His grace within them. Nothing could be more marvelous and mind-blowing than that…
“God inclines our hearts to duties and obedience principally by strengthening, increasing, and exciting the grace we have received, and which is inherent in [believers]; but we neither have nor ever shall have, in this world, such a stock of spiritual strength as to do anything as we ought without renewed co-operations of grace.” (John Owen, The Holy Spirit, 491).
Charles Spurgeon made a similar observation when he wrote, “One thing is past all question; we shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace.” (An All-Around Ministry).
Oh, how desperately I feel my need of God’s grace. I pray for both His provision of it and a growing sense of my own deep need of it.
The Sorrow of a Christ-less Eternity:
Leonard Ravenhill: “While millions were watching with thumping hearts, American scientists hurled a man into space in May of this year . The same day thousands of souls were launched into a Christless eternity and are in orbit forever in the regions of the damned. Few hearts thumped over their eternal misery; no banner headlines of the press screamed of the eternal woe of those who can never again pass this way.” (Ravenhill, Revival Praying, 15)
It is grievous how often my mind is consumed with the vanity of this temporal world while thousands enter into a Christless eternity each and every day. The horrors of hell and the fact that I deserve such torment, alone, should be enough to drive me to my knees in earnest prayer that God should save sinners. It should compel me to speak His truth with courage, conviction, and love. My momentary inconvenience or mild discomfort does not even compare to someone spending eternity without Christ. The lost have no greater need than to hear the gospel and see a life that displays its redemptive love and transforming power. Eternity is the only true reality, and seeing a Christless person ought to provoke me to compassion, prayer, and witness rather than complacency. Only God can give me a greater burden for the lost, and so I ask Him to graciously do so. He desires for all of His children to have compassion on those who are still children of wrath. Apart from Christ, that is what we would continue to be. And without Him we would experience a Christless eternity.
The Need for Earnest Prayer:
Samuel Chadwick: “Brethren, the crying sin of the Church is her laziness after God.” Ravenhill further writes, “Praying people, however, are not lazy. Prayer demands will power. Prayer recognizes unfinished business with and for God. Prayer is a battle for full-grown men, fully armed and fully awake to the possibilities of grace. I write here by constraint, for my spirit is sore, my heart sick at the slothfulness with which we tarry in prayer. My head hangs low that Communists will give more for their dying cause than we will give for the living Christ… I write not for those who want a “bottle” (“I have fed you with milk”) but for those who want to battle. My heart is at rest–but I am restless for revival. I have peace–but yet am at war against principalities and powers and against everything in the Church that clutters up the blocked channel through which revival could come…” (Ravenhill, 1961).
The Holy Spirit alone can bring revival. He always begins such a work by reviving our hearts, and His means of doing so is by the living word of God. May He compel us to become a praying people who persevere in earnest prayer, both for our own souls and for the lost. May the burden of the Lord become our burning passion as we turn from sin and turn to God.
“From God’s other known attributes we may learn much about his love. We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, his love had no beginning; because he is eternal, his love can have no end; because he is infinite, it has no limit; because he is holy, it is the quintessence of all spotless purity; because he is immense, his love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea before which we kneel in joyful silence and from which the loftiest eloquence retreats confused and abashed.”
“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for him. Nobody can always have devout feelings; and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian love, either toward God or toward man, is an affair of the will. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, his love for us does not.”
“But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean. The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom. The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment.”
Here are some thoughts that I wrote to a friend last Fall as I was reflecting on the richness of Christ’s love. May you be blessed by the things He laid upon my heart…
“The Love of Christ”:
The breadth of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His desire to cover a multitude of sins. His blood has sufficiently removed our sin from us as far as the East is from the West. His love is a pardoning, yet perfect love. The length of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His decision to love us before the foundation of the world. His love is an everlasting love that has neither beginning nor end. His love is a predetermined, yet personal love. The depth of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His descent from the glories of heaven in order to bear the humility of the Cross. His death for us was the greatest act of unchanging, sacrificial love. His love is a patient, yet passionate love. The height of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His determination to lead us to glory that we might enjoy it with Him. His love compels Him to prepare an exalted place for His pure and perfect Bride; that she may ever be at His side. His love is a purifying, and altogether persevering and perfect love. While such faithful love is beyond our understanding, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. By His death He pursued us and by His life He will preserve us. By leaping into the sea of God’s wrath, He rescued us so that we may forever love our Faithful One who first loved us.
See also Octavius Winslow’s “The Infinite Ocean of Christ’s Love”