Allow me to make one last new year’s observation, with the help of George Whitefield. As we enter into this new year, many resolutions will be made regarding better diets and more exercise. But what we need most — as always — is to feed on Christ and to exercise ourselves unto godliness. The preeminent preacher of the Great Awakening in America, George Whitefield reminded his audience in a New Year’s message entitled “A Penitent Heart, the Best New Year’s Gift” that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Not exactly your typical warm and fuzzy holiday
The doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture” is a well-known and important teaching within the Christian faith. This doctrine refers to the fact that the Bible is clear, that it communicates perfectly. All scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible can be understood by anyone, barring mental handicaps (2 Timothy 3:15). This doesn’t mean it is easy to correctly understand; rather, the Bible requires careful, thoughtful study (2 Peter 3:16). Equally vital as the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity, however, is the balancing consideration of the “perspicacity” of the reader.
Now concerning the collection for the saints … on the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Paul here instructs the Corinthian church to lay aside funds before he comes to visit them. Why lay aside funds? “So that there will be no collecting when I come.”
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Notice that Paul couches the amazing Christian claim that “Christ died for our sins” in both Scriptural and historical language: “in accordance with the scriptures.”
In a worship service in which I recently participated, we sang this beautiful hymn by Charles Wesley. I believe it was my first time to be acquainted with it and the words struck me powerfully. Too little thought is given, and too few messages and songs are devoted, to the marvelous and gospel-centering truth that salvation now and forever is found only in the substitution of Christ on the cross, for sinners.
We wish to see Jesus (John 12:21). These were the words of the Greeks who approached the apostle Philip when they came to the feast at Jerusalem. It is interesting to observe that these Gentiles were seeking Jesus while the Jewish leaders were plotting to put him to death. Their appearance points to the bringing in of the Gentiles and the blessing of the gospel they would soon enjoy.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). How much do your worldly friends really love you? Movie or music stars you look up to? The employer who wants you to devote your life to climbing the corporate ladder? The cars, gadgets, carpet, or designer outfits you spend so much time dreaming about or delighting in?
James is famous for his bold, convicting rebukes regarding the use of our tongue. But it is important to see that James’ discussion of the tongue is just one illustration of the many ways that we all offend God: “We all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (3:2).
Although we often think and talk about God being good, loving — and even wrathful — the truth is that God is also supremely, perfectly, and always happy. One of the best modern equivalents for the idea of “blessedness” in the Greek language is “happy.”
I was blessed some time ago by Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel? This quote in particular struck me as helpful for Christians to consider, as we contemplate our motivation and message when it comes to evangelism:
In studying through a difficult passage of Scripture recently, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that applies to every passage of Scripture: “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater.
While knowledge of the truth is very important, it is possible to put so much emphasis on the letter of it that the application is forgotten. Paul reminds us that knowledge alone just puffs a person up, while knowledge according to love actually builds up. So here is a thought for pastors, especially, and by implication the people in the pew as well.
My wife and I were struck by this recent devotion from C.H. Spurgeon’s Checkbook of Faith — so much so, in fact, that we’ve printed out a copy, framed it, and hope to make it a regular part of our prayer life. Nothing is more potent or refreshing than praying God’s promises back to him! From Every Sin “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter took an old Latin phrase and popularized it in his day, in English. It is simple, but profound: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Why was Baxter so concerned to see Christians publicly, charitably, doctrinally unified? Baxter, writing in 17th century England about the evil effects of division in the church, made this observation:
George Muller, the great nineteenth-century English preacher, fed over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime — on nothing but prayer. Refusing to solicit donations or perform fundraisers, Muller famously found God more than sufficient for all the needs of the orphanages as he daily prayed for their provision (read an excellent article here for more on that). Countless Christians since Muller’s day have discovered there are life lessons to be learned from God’s grace in and through this man’s faithful ministry.