Mornings at the Mission: An Eternal Weight of Glory

Each morning I offer a short devotion to the men under my care in the dorm. This is the spot where I share them with you, and keep a record of them for myself on the off chance I ever need them again. 

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Every word of Sacred Scripture is inspired of God, protected from error, and preserved for us down through the centuries by His Holy Spirit. We forget sometimes, though, that while the Bible is in a very real sense God’s word, it was written down for us by real people. One of these people was the apostle Paul.

Paul was no stranger to suffering; converted on the road to Damascus, he went from being a zealous persecutor of the church to a zealous preacher of the gospel (Acts 9:1-22). For the rest of his life, Paul would endure much persecution and hardship. He would be beaten, starved, whipped, chained, shipwrecked, frozen, and imprisoned, all before finally being put to death in Rome by the emperor, Nero (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).

Paul reflects on some of what he faced in his second letter to the Corinthians. In chapter four he writes these words:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair [… for] he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:8, 14-17).

It’s amazing to me, in view of everything Paul faced, that he remained steadfast in faith and refused to give into despair. How is this that? Here are a few of my thoughts based on Paul’s words:

1. Paul kept his eyes fixed on the resurrection. Because the Father kept His promise to Jesus and brought Him back from the dead, we too can be confident that He will keep His promise to us; Death is not the end. One day Christ will return to set all things right and there will be no more suffering, sorrow, or pain… this was a great source of hope for Paul.

2. Paul gladly bore his afflictions for the sake of others. You and I may not be shepherds of a flock like Paul was, but that does mean the things we face don’t have value. Think about how your story could be a source of hope and comfort to someone else in the years ahead.

3. Paul saw his trials a means to grow in grace. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, satisfying the wrath of God against sinners by dying in our place, those who trust in Him alone for salvation are made into new creations. Unfortunately, we still struggle with our old depraved nature; the Bible calls this the “flesh”, or the “old man.” That’s why even after we’re saved we still struggle to do what we know is right. According to Paul, though, when we cling to God in the midst of suffering, it slowly kills off the old man, and helps the new creation in us flourish.

4. It’s important for us to realize that none of this was accomplished in Paul’s own strength. At the end of the day, it was grace alone that kept his eyes fixed on Christ in the midst of everything (1 Corinthians 15:10). Rest in that grace; let it carry you.

Finally, In light of Paul’s words, my encouragement to you today is not to give in to despair. Your suffering is not meaningless; thought it may be hard to see now, it is storing up for you an eternal weight of glory that will make everything you and I face in this world seem like but a breath.

Book Review: A Gospel Primer for Christians

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A Gospel Primer for Christians is delightful little book that should find its way on to every Christian’s reading list. Drawing from various portions of scripture, Vincent argues that our need for the gospel does not end at conversion. The gospel is our lifeblood, the thing that by which the Spirit not only creates spiritual vitality in us, but also sustains it. With that in mind, Vincent commends to his readers the discipline of preaching the gospel to oneself, offering passage after passage of comfort and consolation with the aim of drawing the Christian to consider the gospel of Jesus Christ as precious above all else.

This book should be read slowly, and the Scriptures it cites should be savored and meditated on daily for the rest of our lives. I heartily commend its use to new and old believers alike; particularly those who, like me, have often found ourselves picturing God with His arms crossed, glowering angrily at us every time we sin. To folks like us Vincent offers a resounding, biblical, “No!” The cross was sufficient: all of God’s wrath and all of His anger against us has been borne by Christ, there is not a drop of it left for you and I. Instead, He looks on us with love and compassion, inviting us to stop striving and simply rest in the fullness of His grace.

Expect various and sundry quotes to appear on the blog over the next couple weeks, if your interested in reading the whole thing, find it here as a free pdf, or buy it from Reformation Heritage here.

Resting in Christ’s Righteousness

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About a week ago my pastor handed me a little book by Milton Vincent entitled A Gospel Primer for Christians. The basic premise is that our need for the gospel does not end at conversion. The gospel is our lifeblood, the thing that by which the Spirit not only creates spiritual vitality in us, but also sustains it. With that in mind, Vincent commends to his readers the discipline of preaching the gospel to oneself, offering passage after passage of comfort and consolation with the aim of drawing the Christian to consider the gospel of Jesus Christ as precious above all else.

The following passage was one both my wife and I needed to hear this week… perhaps you need to hear it too:

The gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing which Christ Himself has accomplished and always maintains for me.26 I never have to do a moment’s labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God! 27 Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness, and ministering God’s amazing grace to others.

The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine.28 On my worst says of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God’s unrelenting grace toward me.29 On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness and not mine.

26-Romans 5. “(1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” 1 John 2. “(1)…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (2) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…”

27-Romans 4:5. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited  as righteousness,” Hebrews 4:3. “For we who have believed enter that rest…” Matthew 11:28. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

28-Romans 5. “(18) So then as though one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of of life to all men. (19)…through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

29-Romans 5. “(20)…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (21) so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (6:1) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace might increase?” 1 John 2. “(1)…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, (2) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…”

– Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer, p. 20

If I’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to read more, you can find a pdf of the full book here. Enjoy!

Confident Rejoicing in a Faithful God

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And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. (John 10:28)

The Christian should never think or speak lightly of unbelief. For a child of God to mistrust His love, His truth, His faithfulness, must be greatly displeasing to Him. How can we ever grieve Him by doubting His upholding grace? Christian! it is contrary to every promise of God’s precious Word that thou shouldst ever be forgotten or left to perish. If it could be so, how could He be true who has said, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.” What were the value of that promise—”The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” Where were the truth of Christ’s words—”I give unto My sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” Where were the doctrines of grace? They would be all disproved if one child of God should perish. Where were the veracity of God, His honour, His power, His grace, His covenant, His oath, if any of those for whom Christ has died, and who have put their trust in Him, should nevertheless be cast away? Banish those unbelieving fears which so dishonour God. Arise, shake thyself from the dust, and put on thy beautiful garments. Remember it is sinful to doubt His Word wherein He has promised thee that thou shalt never perish. Let the eternal life within thee express itself in confident rejoicing.


“The gospel bears my spirit up:
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope,
In oaths, and promises, and blood.”

– C.H. Spurgeon

Mornings At the Mission: Suffering Well

Each morning I offer a short devotion to the men under my care in the dorm. This is the spot where I share them with you, and keep a record of them for myself on the off chance I ever need them again. 

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For a small moment have I forsaken thee;
but with great mercies will I gather thee. […]
10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed;
but my kindness shall not depart from thee,
neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed,
saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

(Isaiah 54:7, 10)

A good Father disciplines his children. He does so out of love, with great tenderness. It grieves his heart to see his children sad–he does not want to cause them grief–and yet for their own good and often for their own safety, he must set them on the right path.

So it is with our relationship with God, and one of the ways he disciplines us is through the trials we face (James 1:2-4). Through them, God is making us new, conforming us to the image of His son. For those who stand as enemies of God, suffering is at once an act of judgement and of grace, meant to demonstrate the magnitude of God’s anger against sin. But for those who love God, suffering becomes something entirely different.

For the sake of those called of God, all of the Father’s wrath against sin has been absorbed by Christ at the cross. Now, because of Him, affliction comes to us not as judgement, but as a gift, meant to refine us, and deepen our intimacy with, and dependence upon the Lord. Speaking through the prophet Zechariah God says, “I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God” (Zechariah 13:9).

So there are two questions for us to ask today: First, to the person who still stands at enmity with God. We’ve all to some extent or another stood where you stand, thinking “surely I deserve better than this!” But the fact is that all of us are guilty of treason before God, deserving of the death penalty… eternal death. If you’re still breathing, that’s because God is showing you mercy, allowing time for grace to work in your life, drawing you to repentance. In the words of the apostle Paul, “as though God did beseech you by [me]: [I] pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Second, to the Christian: When we experience affliction–no matter how great, or how small–we have two choices; We can either use the pain as an excuse to run from God, or we can embrace it as a friend, and suffer well. Perhaps it would help to think of yourself as a piece of iron in a forge. God is the blacksmith, hammering you into shape, and the troubles you face are the white-hot coals that make you malleable in the craftsman’s hands.

Choose well, friends, and I pray one day you will find yourself echoing the words of King David; “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

J. Gresham Machen on Tolerance and Dogma

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The Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feelings, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine.

Certainly with regard to Paul himself there should be no debate; Paul certainly was not indifferent to doctrine; on the contrary, doctrine was the very basis of his life. His devotion did not, it is true, make him incapable of a magnificent tolerance. One notable example of such tolerance is to be found during his imprisonment at Rome, as attested by the Epistle to the Philippians. Apparently certain Christian teachers at Rome had been jealous of Paul’s greatness. As long as he had been at liberty they had been obliged to take a secondary place; but now that he was in prison, they seized the supremacy. They sought to raise up affection for Paul in his bonds; they preached Christ even of envy and strife. In short, the rival preachers made of the preaching of the gospel a means to the gratification of low personal ambition; it seems to be about as mean a piece of business as could well be conceived. But Paul was not disturbed. ‘Whether in pretense, or in truth,’ he said, ‘Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice’ (Phil. 1:18). The way in which the preaching was being carried on was wrong, but the message itself was true; and Paul was far more interested in the content of the message than in the manner of its presentation. It is impossible to conceive a finer piece of broad minded tolerance.

But the tolerance of Paul was not indiscriminate. He displayed no tolerance, for example, in Galatia. There too, there were rival preachers. But Paul had no tolerance for them. ‘But though we,’ he said, ‘or an angle from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed’ (Gal. 1:8). What is the reason for the difference in the apostle’s attitude in the two cases? What is the reason for the broad tolerance in Rome, and the fierce anathemas in Galatia? The answer is perfectly plain. In Rome, Paul was tolerant, because there the content of the message that was being proclaimed by the rival teachers was true; in Galatia he was intolerant, because there the content of the rival message was false. In neither case did personalities have anything to do with Paul’s attitude. No doubt the motives of the Judaizers in Galatia were far from pure, and in an incidental way Paul does point out their impurity. But that was not the ground of his opposition. The Judaizers no doubt were morally far from perfect, but Paul’s opposition to them would have been exactly the same if they had all been angels from heaven. His opposition was based altogether upon the falsity of their teaching; they were substituting for the one true gospel a false gospel which was no gospel at all. It never occurred to Paul that a gospel might be true for one man and not another; the blight of pragmatism had never fallen upon his soul. Paul was convinced of the objective truth of the gospel message, and devotion to that truth was the great passion of his life. Christianity for Paul was not only a life, but also a doctrine, and logically the doctrine came first.

But what was the difference between the teaching of Paul and the teaching of the Judaizers? What was it that gave rise to the stupendous polemic of the Epistle to the Galatians? To the modern Church the difference would have seemed to be a mere theological subtlety. About many things the Judaizers were in perfect agreement with Paul. The Judaizers believed that Jesus was the Messiah; there is not a shadow of evidence that they objected to Paul’s lofty view of the person of Christ. Without the slightest doubt, they believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. They believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer’s own effort to keep the Law. From the modern point of view the difference would have seemed to be very slight. Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical – not even, perhaps, the temporal – order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified. The difference would seem to modern ‘practical’ Christians to be a highly subtle and intangible matter, hardly worthy of consideration at all in view of the large measure of agreement in the practical realm. What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law, even including the unfortunate ceremonial observances! Surely Paul ought have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity.

As a matter of fact, however, Paul did nothing of the kind; and only because he (and others) did nothing of the kind does the Christian Church exist to-day. Paul saw very clearly that the difference between the Judaizers and himself was the difference between a religion of merit and a religion of grace. If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin. For no matter how small the gap which must be bridged before salvation can be attained, the awakened conscience sees clearly that our wretched attempt at goodness is insufficient even to bridge that gap. The guilty soul enters again into the hopeless reckoning with God, to determine whether we have really done our part. And thus we groan again under the old bondage of the law. Such an attempt to piece out the work of Christ by our own merit, Paul saw clearly, is the very essence of unbelief; Christ will do everything or nothing, and the only hope is to throw ourselves unreservedly on His mercy and trust Him for all.

– J. Gesham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

Joy from the Valley

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The Valley of Vision is a breathtaking collection of Puritan prayers and devotions that stirs my soul like nothing else outside of Scripture. The other day while thumbing through my copy, I stumbled across this delightful prayer:

O CHRIST,

All thy ways of mercy tend to and end in my delight.
Thou didst weep, sorrow, suffer that I might rejoice.
For my joy thou hast sent the Comforter,
multiplied thy promises,
shown me my future happiness,
given me a living fountain.

Thou art preparing joy for me and me for joy;
I pray for joy, wait for joy, long for joy;
give me more than I can hold, desire, or think of.
Measure out to me my times and degrees of joy,
at my work, business, duties.
If I weep at night, give me joy in the morning.
Let me rest in the thought of thy love,
pardon for sin, my title to heaven,
my future unspotted state.

I am an unworthy recipient of thy grace.
I often disesteem thy blood and slight thy love,
but can in repentance draw water
from the wells of thy joyous forgiveness.
Let my heart leap towards the eternal sabbath,
where the work of redemption, sanctification,
preservation, glorification is finished
and perfected for ever,
where thou wilt rejoice over me with joy.

There is no joy like the joy of heaven,
for in that state are no sad divisions,
unchristian quarrels,
contentions, evil designs,
weariness, hunger, cold,
sadness, sin, suffering,
persecutions, toils of duty.

O healthful place where none are sick!
O happy land where all are kings!
O holy assembly where all are priests!
How free a state where none are servants
except to thee!
Bring me speedily to the land of joy.

This little book is an absolute delight to use. Take the time to ready slowly, letting the rich, God-entranced, Scripture-saturated words of the writers be a rich feast for your soul.

When you’re ready for seconds, make sure you head on over to Banner of Truth Trust and pick up a copy.