Taken from an Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
I will say a quick word about Christian Hedonism and create some context for what I wish to share. Christian Hedonism teaches that every person — all of us — should seek with all of our might to maximize the intensity and the duration of our enjoyment of God above all things, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
If you are most satisfied in family or job or fame or success or money or food or music or health or staying alive — if you are more satisfied in any of those than you are in God — then you diminish the glory of God, and you magnify the glory of what you’re most satisfied by. And the Bible makes clear that we should live in order to display the supreme worth and beauty and glory of God. That’s our primary reason for existence.
Pain or Pleasure
Now, there are two main challenges that Satan uses to diminish the glorification of God in our lives by causing us to value something else more than we value God: one of those is pain, and the other is pleasure. Those are Satan’s two strategies for ruining the way we glorify God.
Pain can cause us to value something else more than God by making us angry at God that we have this pain, and making us want to be done with it more than we want to embrace God. Which means that pain is a golden opportunity for us to glorify God, by showing how much more we value him than we value comfort or being free from this pain. Pleasure can also cause us to cherish something else more than God — not by making us angry at God, but by making us forget God, because we’re so satisfied in the pleasures that his gifts give us. We can see that in Ezekiel 16:14–15, where God says to Israel,
And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore.
In other words, God gave Israel the great gift of beauty, and instead of leading them to glorify God for the gift, they fell in love with the gift. They preferred the gift over the Giver; they dishonored God by not being satisfied in God, but fell in love with God’s good gift.
Pain and pleasure are Satan’s strategies that can ruin our glorification of God. Withholding good things can ruin us. Giving us good things can ruin us. Both can be an occasion for dishonoring God and not glorifying him — or for indeed glorifying him. And Trent’s question has to do with this last point; namely, How do you glorify God in the good things that he gives us? He mentions food and children. If he wants a book-length answer to that, then he should read Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth.
God in the Good Things
I’m just going to point to a couple of passages that will give part of the answer, I think, to his question. In Philippians 4:11–13, Paul says,
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul makes clear that there is a spiritual secret, something deep and wonderful to be learned in the Christian life, that enables a person not only to be brought low, but to abound; not only to hunger, but to have plenty; not only to be in need, but to have abundance. In other words, Paul is making it clear that abounding and having plenty and having abundance is as much of a challenge to the glory of God in our lives as is suffering. So, Paul had to learn something peculiar and special and deep to help him know how to abound. And that’s Trent’s very question.
And I think Paul’s answer of what the secret is for abounding is in Philippians 3:7–8. The secret is not in discounting or diminishing the goodness of God’s gifts, but in knowing Christ so well and loving him so deeply and finding him so satisfying that good things can be received from his hand as Christ-exalting gifts, and good things can be torn from our hands as Christ-exalting discipline. Here’s what he says in 3:7–8:
Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ [in other words, Christ is way better]. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth [that’s the point] of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
The fact that good things are counted as loss or as rubbish does not mean they can’t be enjoyed, but it does mean that the moment they compete with the superior beauty and worth and glory and satisfaction of Christ, they become an enemy; they become rubbish. But Paul has learned the secret: if Christ is more precious than anything, then both the loss and the presence — the gain of good things — is an occasion for treasuring Christ.
The other passage that I think points to the answer is 1 Timothy 4:3–5, where Paul says that some
forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Oh my, every word there almost begs for a sermon or an essay or something. And then he adds in 1 Timothy 6:17 a warning for “the rich in this present age” not “to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
Orange Juice to God’s Glory
Now, I wrote an article once ages ago called “How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God.” And that’s what I’m being asked. So let’s make orange juice the test case, and we’ll end with just a few illustrations of how you drink orange juice to the glory of God.
1. I will affirm, joyfully, from the word of God, that the color yellow is a gift of God. The sweet taste is a gift of God. The nourishment and the way my body uses it is a gift of God. The sun and the rain that grew the oranges is a gift of God. The trucking and the grocery chain that brought it to me is a gift of God. And the list could go on and on. I will gladly, joyfully, say that out loud. I will feel that.
2. I will lift my heart and voice in prayer, thanking God. And I will do this often so that others can know where all this came from, and how wise and strong and good God is.
3. I will remind myself that I do not deserve this juice. I deserve to be in hell today. And so, I will give thanks that my sins are forgiven and that this pleasure is, in fact, bought for me. This orange-juice pleasure is a blood-bought gift for this child of God on the way to heaven.
4. I will remind myself that this particular pleasure, this taste, this coolness on my tongue, this nourishment, reveals something of God to my senses and my soul that could not be known any other way. That’s why the world was created, because all of it is like a prism, giving us some new sight of the glory of God.
5. Then, I will share this juice, in love, with others at the table; I won’t horde it all.
6. And finally, I will use the strength that it gives me to live for the glory of God.
Article by David Briones, Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary
ABSTRACT: For now, Christians live in a great theological tension: we already possess every spiritual blessing in Christ, but we do not experience the fullness of these blessings yet. In one sense, we are already adopted, redeemed, sanctified, and saved; in another, these experiences are not yet fully ours. Underneath this theological and practical tension are the two comings of Christ. In his first coming, he inaugurated the last days; in his second coming, he will complete them. In the meantime, we live for now in “the overlap of the ages.”
My wife and I have been married for sixteen years, but I can remember our engagement like it was yesterday. It was an unnecessarily long engagement — a year and seven days, to be precise. Yet I have no one to blame but myself. The ring burned a hole in my pocket.
I hastily popped the question before meeting my father-in-law’s demands: college degrees in hand, full-time jobs, and $5,000 in the bank. So, it meant a longer engagement. I was hasty because we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. But once the excitement of getting engaged wore off, I grew increasingly impatient.
It felt as if we were already married, with her ring symbolizing that long-term commitment. The reality symbolized by the ring, however, was not yet a present reality. It was a certain hope in the all-too-distant future.
The Christian life is a lot like that. It is an already-but-not-yet sort of existence, where believers are caught within what Oscar Cullmann calls “the dialectic of present and future.”1
Already, Not Yet
What do I mean? According to Scripture, believers are
We live in a theological tension. By faith in Christ, all of these spiritual blessings are ours already, but the full enjoyment of these blessings is not yet ours. This is the life of faith: “the assurance of things hoped for” in the future, and “the conviction of things not seen” in the present (Hebrews 11:1). This is life between the times.
Underlying this theological tension is a theological structure: the already–not yet framework. It is, according to Cullmann, “the silent presupposition that lies behind all that [the New Testament] says.”2 The New Testament authors thought, wrote, and lived through the grid of this biblical framework or mindset. It determined the way they spoke about God’s dealings in this world in light of the world to come.
If we don’t understand this mindset, the theological tension we live in will become a theological disaster. We will inevitably misread Scripture. And if we misread Scripture, we will live misled lives. To give one example, not understanding the already–not yet framework might lead a person to think that there are two ways to be saved. Initial salvation depends entirely on God (Ephesians 2:8), but final salvation depends entirely on us (Romans 5:9), with the practical damage being a legalistic mindset devoid of the gospel.
Theology and Christian living are not oil and water; they are organically connected like seed and tree. So, if we long to think God’s thoughts after him and live for him, then we must follow the way his inspired apostles thought theologically and lived practically. What follows in this essay is not a mere theological exercise. The mind must be informed, but just as importantly, we need our hearts and lives to be transformed. We need to see how this robust theological framework is deeply practical for Christians living between the times.
Four Foundational Pillars
To grasp the New Testament’s already–not yet mindset, we need to begin with four foundational pillars: eschatology, christology, soteriology, and redemptive history.
You may be thinking, “Eschatology? Doesn’t that deal with the end times?” That’s right. Eschatology means “the study of the last things.” But in the New Testament, eschatology refers not chiefly to millennial views or the timing of the tribulation. Eschatology became more of a mindset on how the future relates to the present. This is especially true of eschatology in Paul’s letters, which will be our primary (though not sole) focus.3
Pauline eschatology relates primarily to christology (“the study of Christ”). The two are inextricably connected and mutually interpretive. As Herman Ridderbos notes, “Paul’s ‘eschatology’ is ‘Christ-eschatology.’”4 Christology completely redefines what we mean by eschatology, and vice versa. For Paul, the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were eschatological events accomplished in history. That is, they were redemptive-historical events — divine actions whereby God revealed himself in word and deed, in time and space — and these redemptive-historical events connected the present with the future; or, perhaps better, they brought “the age to come” into “this age.”5
For example, the outpouring of the Spirit is considered an end-time event in Joel 2, but this end-time event occurred after Christ’s ascension on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The future came into the present through the person and work of Christ. This dynamic is often referred to as inaugurated or realized eschatology.
But Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection are not merely eschatological events. They are also salvific events. Christology and soteriology (“the study of salvation”) are inseparably interwoven with eschatology.6 This means that Paul’s eschatology is not only about the future entering the present, but also the present determining the future. The salvation that Christ accomplished and the Spirit applies has present and future implications for believers. This is where the practical payoff of the already–not yet framework emerges, though we’ll return to these implications later.
These foundational pillars — eschatology, christology, soteriology, and redemptive history — support Paul’s (and the New Testament’s) eschatological framework. But we should pause to consider how drastically different this framework is from the framework Paul affirmed before his conversion on the road to Damascus. A comparison between the two more accurately reveals how the person and work of Christ radically reconfigured time itself.
Before Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus, he saw “this age” and “the age to come” much differently.
Think of redemptive history as divided between this age and the age to come, with a midpoint in between that separates the two.7 The midpoint of redemptive history, from the perspective of the Old Testament, is the coming of the eschatological Davidic Messiah,8 the latter-day outpouring of the Spirit,9 and the general resurrection of the dead.10 These are some of the major events that would usher in “the last days”11 and mark the eschatological turning point from this age to the age to come.
Nevertheless, Paul’s mindset was radically altered after seeing the light of God’s glorious gospel (Acts 9:1–19; 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6). He now could see clearly that the redemptive-historical line had been divinely reconfigured. Time itself was reconfigured.
The Messiah was no longer he-who-is-to-come but he-who-has-already-come. And Jesus, the one who had already come, was the one who, through his death and resurrection, became “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). The resurrection of Christ completely redefined Paul’s Jewish expectation of the general resurrection.
We see this shift particularly in Acts. Luke records how central the resurrection is to Paul’s ministry.12 Again and again, Paul stands before judges, being tried for proclaiming the resurrection. As he explains to Felix, “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day” (Acts 24:21; cf. 23:6; 26:6). Later, in Rome, he says that “it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain” (Acts 28:20).
What is the hope of Israel? It’s spelled out in Acts 24:15: “. . . having a hope in God . . . that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” Israel’s hope was the general resurrection of the dead — the end-time event that would usher in the age to come.
But Paul makes it clear that Israel’s hope of general resurrection and salvation hangs on the resurrection of Jesus Christ: “I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23).
“It is clear,” writes Brandon Crowe, “that the resurrection is not simply one event among many but is the quintessential way that Scripture is fulfilled and is the means by which Jesus as Messiah is Lord of all. The resurrection, in short, is the ‘hope of Israel,’ and this hope has broken into history through Jesus of Nazareth.”13
Whereas once the general resurrection of the dead was the decisive turning point of time, Paul now considers Jesus’s resurrection to be the great turning point,14 moving us from this age into an overlapping of the ages where we presently experience the age to come.15 The midpoint of redemptive history is therefore expanded, bookended by the first and second coming of Christ. These are the “times” between which we live.
The age to come has come upon this age. That’s why Paul describes Christians as those “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). This is why Peter, after witnessing the outpouring of the Spirit, adds the words “in the last days” (Acts 2:17) into his direct quotation of Joel 2:28–32.16 This is why Peter also declares that Christ died and rose again “at the end of the times” (1 Peter 1:19–21 author’s translation). And this is why the author of Hebrews highlights God’s speech through the Son “in these last days” (Hebrews 1:2), who “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
“It is already the time of the end,” writes Cullmann, “and yet it is not the end.”17 Christ’s first coming marks the beginning of the last days. Christ’s second coming will mark the end of the last days. And Christians presently find themselves living in the last days,18 in the overlapping of the ages, where salvific benefits are ours already and not yet.19
Anthony Hoekema provides a helpful summary:
The nature of New Testament eschatology may be summed up under three observations: (1) the great eschatological event [i.e., resurrection] predicted in the Old Testament has happened; (2) what the Old Testament writers seemed to depict as one movement is now seen to involve two stages: the present age and the age of the future; and (3) the relation between these two eschatological stages is that the blessings of the present (eschatological) age are the pledge and guarantee of greater blessings to come.20
Living Between the Times
How does the already–not yet framework inform the way we live in the tension between Christ’s first and second coming? While there are several aspects one can highlight, I want to draw attention to four ways the glorious resurrection of Christ — that time-changing event in redemptive history — relates to our practical Christian living.
Christ’s Physical Resurrection and Ours
As mentioned earlier, the Jews in the Old Testament looked forward to the resurrection of the dead. Christians, however, must look back to Christ’s resurrection before they look forward to their own. The reason for this shift in perspective is simple yet profound: the resurrection of Christ is closely united and organically connected with our own resurrection. More specifically, our future physical resurrection is determined by our present spiritual resurrection with Christ.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). Notice that Jesus calls himself “the resurrection,” the very reality Jews eagerly anticipated. Quite shockingly, Jesus presents himself as the full embodiment of Israel’s resurrection hope. But he’s not only the resurrection; he’s also life itself, which, in John, refers to eternal life (John 5:24, 26).
He is “the resurrection and the life” only to those who believe in him (John 11:25). And those who do believe in him will live, even though they die. They will be raised from the dead at the end of time (John 5:28–29).
So, faith in Christ secures our physical resurrection in the not yet, but faith in Christ also results in spiritual resurrection in the already. The two are inseparable. Jesus explains, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:24–25).
When we believe in Jesus Christ as the resurrection and the life, we are raised spiritually now (“has passed from death to life”) and can, with confidence, await our physical resurrection in the future (“those who hear will live”). We will enter eternal life then because we have eternal life now. And the source of our confidence comes from the undeniable fact of Christ’s physical resurrection.
Paul connects Christ’s resurrection to ours in 1 Corinthians 15. After proclaiming that “Christ has been raised,” Paul describes the resurrected Christ as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20; cf. Colossians 1:18). “Firstfruits” entail the beginning of a harvest — in this case, a “resurrection-harvest.”21 There is a close unity and organic relationship between the resurrection of Christ and our future physical resurrection.
Commenting on this close relationship, Richard Gaffin insists that Christ’s “resurrection is not simply a guarantee” of our physical resurrection but “a pledge in the sense that it is the actual beginning of the general event.”22 When Christ was raised from the dead, he inaugurated the end-time event of the resurrection, but this event unfolds in two phases for his people: spiritual resurrection with Christ first, then physical resurrection (as we saw in John 5).23
Paul depicts our spiritual resurrection with striking language in Ephesians 2:4–6: “God . . . made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Of course, we didn’t physically accompany Christ into the age to come or the new creation, but we were rose spiritually with him because we are in him.
“If anyone is in Christ,” Paul says, “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Notice that I didn’t quote the ESV, which says, “he is a new creation.” The Greek simply says, “new creation” (kainē ktisis). Believers are individually transformed into new creations, but they also enter into the new creation through union with Christ. They enter into a new world.24 As J.C. Ryle notes, “There is a glorious dwelling place provided by Jesus Christ for all His believing people. The world that now is, is not their rest: they are pilgrims and strangers in it. Heaven is their home.”25
Our spiritual resurrection in the already makes our physical resurrection in the future certain. As one Puritan prayed, “My heaven-born faith gives promise of eternal sight, my new birth a pledge of never-ending life.”26
But why is this the case? Because Christ has been raised! He is “the fountain-head of the resurrection.”27 “For,” Paul writes, “as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:21–23).
Our future is certain because the risen Jesus, the hope of Israel, is our hope.
Christ’s Resurrection and Our Justification
When Christ was raised from the dead, he was declared by God to be righteous. After all, he was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21), obeyed the law perfectly (Matthew 5:17), and bore the sins of his people on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 3:13). Christ’s resurrection was therefore his justification. He was declared to be in the right with God. As Geerhardus Vos notes, “Christ’s resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just. His quickening bears in itself the testimony of his justification.”28
Of course, Jesus’s justification (or vindication) differs from ours in one unique way: he never sinned, never needed forgiveness, and never lacked righteousness. Instead, he is our perfect representative who bore our sins, absorbed God’s wrath, and merited the righteousness that comes to us by faith.
When it comes to Jesus’s resurrection as his justification, 1 Timothy 3:16 is a key text: “[Christ] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated/justified [edikaiōthē] in the Spirit” (cf. Romans 1:3–4). Dikaioō is the Greek verb Paul employs frequently to speak of our justification. But here, he applies it to Jesus, with the Spirit playing a critical role in raising him from the dead (Romans 8:11; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 3:17–18).
As with resurrection, our justification is closely tied to Jesus’s justification/vindication. We see this in Paul’s description of Jesus as the one “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification [dikaiōsin]” (Romans 4:25).
Gaffin describes this connection vividly: “A dead Christ is an unjustified Christ, and an unjustified Christ means an unjustified believer.”29 Conversely, a raised Christ is a justified Christ, and a justified Christ means a justified believer. We are raised in him and justified in him. And that righteous verdict can never be overturned. It has no expiration date. It is the same verdict rendered to Christ, which is his forever. Through our union with the Beloved, what is his is ours (Song of Solomon 2:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:14).
In fact, the righteous verdict we receive in Christ is eschatological. It comes from the future. It is the verdict that will be rendered on the final day when the dead are raised, and God judges the just and the unjust from the throne. Hence, Paul can declare, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33–34; cf. Romans 3:21–26).
The person and work of Christ, applied in the present, secures our future salvation. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). So, it makes sense for Paul to exult in the certain hope that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
And yet, because we’re in the not yet, he can also say that “through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness [dikaiosunēs]” (Galatians 5:5). Paul is not speaking out of both sides of his mouth here. It’s not as if he is saying we have a righteous standing, but we’d better hope that we keep that righteous standing in the future. Instead, Paul is situating the believer’s justification in the already–not yet framework. The righteousness of Christ is ours by faith (Philippians 3:9), but we eagerly wait for that hidden verdict to be manifested openly on the last day (Galatians 5:5).
Since we have been justified in Christ and spiritually raised with Christ now, we will stand before the judgment seat as righteous then. As Gaffin argues, “If believers appear at the final judgment as already resurrected bodily, then they will appear there as already openly justified.”30 To be sure, everyone will be resurrected bodily on the last day. The major difference is that believers, having been raised spiritually and declared righteous by faith, will have that hidden verdict of righteousness become a public verdict when physically raised from the dead. We will be “openly acknowledged and acquitted” on the day of judgment,31 because we have been already justified in Christ.
James Buchanan explains this clearly: “Justification, considered as the pardon of a sinner and his acceptance as righteous in the sight of God, is by faith; but judgment is according to works; and it is not a second Justification — as if there might be two — the one by faith, the other by works — it is one and the same Justification, which is actually bestowed in the present life, and authoritatively declared and attested at the judgment-seat.”32
In the meantime, we wait eagerly for the certain hope of righteousness, and can confidently sing the end of that great hymn “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”:
When I shall launch in worlds unseen, Oh, may I then be found in him; Dressed in his righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.33
On that day, we will stand faultless in the faultless One, who loved us, who gave himself up for us, and who was raised for our justification — never to die again (Romans 6:9).
Resurrection and Sanctification
Though our future is certain, our sanctification can be turbulent. Sanctification is an ongoing battle. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose. We’re constantly in flux. We have mountaintop experiences before lying defeated in dark valleys. We take three steps forward before quickly taking two steps (or four steps) back. In the midst of this distressing battle, viewing one’s sanctification through the already-not yet lens keeps you from feeling spiritually double-minded and powerless. What do I mean?
The spiritually double-minded are Christian versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only they oscillate between the old self and the new self. In their thinking, they are living in the new man when they resist temptations to sin. But when they sin, they revert back to the old man. Two men or two selves are warring within them, and they feel spiritually double-minded as they constantly transform from one man to the other. When this happens, some even think they are moving in and out of a state of salvation.
This sort of unbiblical thinking is detrimental to one’s spiritual vitality. It’s a classic case of bad theology ruining good Christian practice. You can’t fall in and out of salvation, and you certainly can’t oscillate between the old self and the new self.
We need to recall biblical indicatives — true statements about believers in the already. You are definitively sanctified through union with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). You have “been set free from sin” (Romans 6:7). “Sin will have no dominion over you” (Romans 6:14). “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The list could go on and on. These things are true of you now, but they are not yet fully experienced.
This reality about our sanctification may sound like a contradiction, but it’s actually a theological paradox. Paul can say, “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (Colossians 3:9–10), and, in the same breath, he can say, “Put to death . . . what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5), and “Put on . . . compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
Why do we need to put off something we’ve already put off and put on something we’ve already put on? This is the paradox of the already–not yet life. We are new creations in Christ, but indwelling sin will remain in us this side of glory. It’s not a battle over which self ultimately will overcome us and determine our eternal destiny. We’re either in Adam or in Christ (Romans 5:12–21). If you’re in Christ, then you’ve been raised with him and seated in the heavenly places. And if you’ve been raised with Christ, you can be neither spiritually double-minded nor spiritually powerless.
If we are to live biblically in between the times, we must trust indicatives and obey imperatives. Biblical indicatives are another way of expressing the already: “You are holy!” Imperatives express the not yet: “Be holy!” Solely trusting in indicatives will lead to antinomianism (discarding God’s law because we are saved). Merely obeying imperatives will lead to legalism (obeying God’s law in order to be saved). Grace in the gospel opposes both.
Paul declares that Christians are “under grace” (Romans 6:14). That means we are no longer enslaved to sin (indicative; Romans 6:6). But that also means we don’t let sin reign in our mortal bodies (imperative; Romans 6:12). How do we do that? We let indicatives fuel our obedience to God. Recall what is already true in order to be obedient in the not yet.
Suppose, for example, that you’re feeling spiritually lethargic one day. After seeing or thinking about something tempting, you sense sin in your heart being aroused in your mortal body, and you long to satisfy its demands. Sin wants you to satisfy your longings with its cheap thrills and empty offers of satisfaction. And in the moment, you think that sounds like a great idea.
What do you do in the midst of temptation? At that moment, remind yourself of what is true of you in Christ. Pray God’s word over your sin-stricken soul. Say, “The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, that spiritually raised me from the dead in him, dwells in me powerfully (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:19–20)!”
Think about that reality for a second. You have divine power at your disposal. You have access to a storehouse of strength for the battle. God doesn’t leave you to fend for yourself. He equips you for the fight (Philippians 2:12–13). The Spirit that raised our Lord from death enables us to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). And so, we fight.
We don’t claim perfect victory, but we also don’t claim utter defeat. In between the times, we rest on what is true of us in Christ, and we fight until that day when faith becomes sight, and everything in the not yet becomes ours.
The Future in the Present
The resurrection of Christ is central to Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:12–19). There is indeed no hope without it. But Christ’s resurrection is also central to Christian living in the last days. It is a time-changing event that reconstitutes where we live and how we live. We live “in Christ” and we live for Christ in the overlap of the ages. His defeat of death has ushered in the age to come, and we now get glimpses of the future — foretastes of the heavenly world we call home (Hebrews 6:5).
He is risen. And that means we can be certain of our physical resurrection. We can be convinced of our righteous standing before God. We can be calm on the final day of judgment. And we can be courageous in our fight against sin.
Living between the times is riddled with theological and practical tension. But adopting the already–not yet mindset will better equip saints to read the Scriptures faithfully and live out the gospel powerfully, all the while giving thanks to the God who raised Jesus from the dead, and brought the future into the present.
Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
For some reason I always assumed false teaching would be unsophisticated, even crude.
This speaker’s message, however, sounded like a skillfully painted sunny day at the ocean. The water caressed the shore, the sun stood overhead, her rhythmic voice entranced as waves crashing against the shore. She painted with deep blues and vibrant yellows. She held it out to her hearers, most of whom welcomed it fondly, smiling and nodding with gratitude. She called the art “Christian.”
As I listened, I thought, What a charming painting. Yet the longer she talked, the angrier I grew. If it were uglier, I might have found more patience; hideous lies are less believed. But because this woman had not only painted over God’s Masterpiece of the hurriedly referenced but otherwise ignored verses of Scripture in front of her, she proceeded to pawn hers off as the original. Her followers seemed to be blinded to the horror in its beauty.
The Scriptures she was quoting did not teach what she did, but people fixated so much on the pretty colors and pleasant landscape, few seemed to notice. Man’s wisdom stood propped upon the isle; God’s wisdom was lost in background.
That Hideous Beauty
Satan, I was reminded, is more the wolf from Little Red Ridinghood than modern depictions of Frankenstein’s monster. Instead of stomping around clumsily announcing his arrival, he dresses up as what he isn’t. He disguises himself, putting dark for light, wickedness for righteousness, down for up, hell for heaven. He lies down in bed appearing innocent, while trying to hide his fangs.
And so do his followers.
Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Many of the most effective villains in the world are the best mannered. False teachers disguise themselves as servants of God. They’ve learned to mimic the walk, the Twitter-talk, and public persona of the elect. They appear very religious. They must, or how could they gain a following? They sit front-row in the synagogue (Mark 12:39). They tithe even to their most minute possessions (Luke 11:42). They pray longer than the rest of us (Mark 12:40).
Whatever is on the inside, the outside of the cup is very clean. They appear righteous (Matthew 23:25–27). They’re authentic to the touch, like sheep’s wool (Matthew 7:15). They sacrifice much in their proselytizing, crossing sea and land to make their converts, but end up with disciples twice as much children of hell as themselves (Matthew 23:15).
Should you expect, as I once did, to meet a false teacher who looks or sounds like one, you may wait a very long time. Neither Satan nor his best soldiers wear their own uniform. His wolves not only wear sheep’s clothing; they come to you walking and acting like sheep. They attend (and even lead) prayer meetings and small groups. Their etiquettes do not expose them. They bleat from time to time. They may even be sincere, not intending to deceive, perhaps genuinely believing their own message, but this does not make them any less dangerous. Wolves can be very polite, very disarming, very nice, and we may live in a time where they are increasingly difficult to detect.
‘It’s How You Say It’
This makes one of the common arbiters of truth today, even adopted by many within the church, such a perilous one: tone. Our flesh gravitates toward friendliness, inspiration, coddling, affirmation. Nice blasphemy, spoken between stories of one’s family, is more popular and better received by some professed Christians than plainly spoken Christian truth about sin and unbelief. Paint with rich blues and yellows, and it matters little what lies you tell; speak the truth and you must keep your voice pleasant and unthreatening.
While the prophets and apostles — and Jesus Christ himself — would get quickly canceled on Twitter for speaking directly, manfully, firmly against the evils of their day, the sons of Satan roam free using indirect speech, vague platitudes, and empty niceties, smiling at those they devour. But do we notice? Do we value how somebody says something above what they say? Do we put more emphasis on how we feel while listening than what we’re listening to?
Aiding and Abetting
Some professing believers seem to already be more in the grip of the cultural expectations above than what God has said and how. Among them stand the tone police. Interjecting themselves in the skirmishes of the day between a Christian and a critic on a hot topic issue, they side with the unbelieving world — not because the Christian was in error, but because of how they spoke the truth. They seem to “speak up” only when adding their voice with what’s already trending and censuring their brother’s tone.
Those who make it their business to faint and complain at every verbal shot fired against error, why do you aid and abet the blasphemers? No sooner do the faithful speak than you come by to hush them. Should we whisper to a sleeping world? Should we pretend we do not believe what we say? Should we never speak to be heard or glow with anger at the wolves’ treatment of the sheep? While the sons of hell spew their heresies into the microphone without censure, must the sons of God be kept to inside voices? Can Christians never reprove, rebuke, or exhort? Is nothing at stake but impropriety?
Where Tails Stick Out
So it was with this woman. Her voice was amiable; her tone, pleasant. She bore the authentic disposition our generation is trained to listen for; she had been socialized in it for herself. And she sprinkled in plenty of anecdotes to connect to her audience. There was a charm about her that might disarm any sheep.
But along with her amiable presentation, she added another vital ingredient: plausibility. The best lies always cater to what’s trending. False teachers play the fiddles and songs the culture is already humming; the true prophets — Jesus and John the Baptist — were the ones chided for not playing along (Matthew 11:16–19).
So, if pleasantness and (worldly) plausibility cannot expose the wolf, how can we begin to tell who is who?
First, Jesus tells us to look at their lives.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15–20).
This can be hard when so many false teachers can upload the edited, filtered, and sparkling images of themselves online. This difficulty justifies the wisdom in having your main spiritual guides be those who are in your actual life. But while false teachers can hide for a while, they cannot hide forever.
Second, examine what they say.
Paul could scarcely stress this more when he says, even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8–9). “Let them go to hell” is the modern equivalent. And when he says it, he actually means hell. Paul uses the strongest of language to implore them to judge teachers by their content. False teachers are such, not because they use false tones, but because they promote false teaching. And what is the standard their teaching is compared to? The apostle’s teaching as recorded for us in the Bible. Instead, be like the noble Bereans, who not only “received the word with all eagerness,” but also “examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Give Yourself to the Truth
No matter where you are, what local body you are a part of, false teachers likely will rise from among you at some point.
False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1).
False teachers will come. They will paint the most beautiful, most pleasant, most inspirational portraits of a Jesus who strangely fits perfectly with the spirit of the age. And if we don’t learn truth and beauty from Christ’s word, we will be led astray. That doesn’t mean we can’t trust our teachers. But it does mean that we must be deadly serious and careful about who we trust and follow.
Article by Garrett Kell, Pastor, Alexandria, Virginia
Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a man who was hunting deer in the Tehama Wildlife Area of Northern California. As he climbed through a rocky gorge, he lifted his head to look over a ledge and saw something move next to his face. Before he knew it, a rattlesnake struck, just missing him. The strike was so close, however, that the snake’s fangs became snagged in the neck of his sweater.
As the snake coiled around the man’s neck, he grabbed it just behind its head. A mixture of hissing and rattling filled his ear as he felt warm venom run down his neck. He tried to dislodge the fangs from his sweater but fell backward and slid down the embankment. Using his rifle, he untangled the fangs, freeing the snake to strike repeatedly at his face. The man later explained, “I had to choke him to death. It was the only way out” (The Quest for Character, 17–18).
When you face temptation, you enter a battle even more dangerous than having a rattler striking at your face. The Scriptures liken Satan not only to a snake but a crouching lion who is provoking passions within us that war against our souls (Genesis 3:1–6, 4:7; 1 Peter 2:11; 5:8). We must choke temptation to death. It is the only way out.
What follows are four ways to fight when temptation strikes.
1. Pray to God.
As the dark hour of temptation fell upon Jesus’s disciples, he told them twice to “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40, 46). He knew the pressure they were about to face, and so he reminded them, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
If Jesus told his disciples to pray before temptation comes, how much more do we need to pray once it arrives? When temptation calls, you must pray. You need divine intervention to deliver you from the venom of the tempter. You do not need elaborate prayers, just desperate prayers delivered in faith. The Scriptures provide an abundance of examples:
Prayer lifts our eyes off of sin’s disorienting offer and places them on Jesus. Through prayer, we “resist the devil” and “draw near to God” (James 4:7–8). Through it, we confess our desire to sin and plead for help to resist it. We ask God to give us strength to choke out the temptation so that sin cannot strike us. When you are tempted, pray to God. He is the one who helps us and will keep us from falling (Psalm 121:3).
2. Flee right away.
Joseph was handsome, and his master’s wife took notice. As lust burned in her heart, she offered him an opportunity for a secret affair. But Joseph resisted. He was loyal to his master and, beyond that, said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Yet her advances continued “day after day” until she finally cornered him alone. She seized him by his garment and said, “Lie with me.” Rather than entertain her offer, “he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (Genesis 39:6–12).
Joseph ran because he had no other option. He knew he was too weak to resist temptation as long as he was alone with his master’s wife. So, he choked the temptation — not by staying and fighting, but by fleeing. We must do the same. When temptation corners you, don’t flirt with it — flee from it.
Sin wants to convince you that one more click online, or one more minute on the couch, or one more round of inappropriate conversation is manageable. But entertained temptation is like kryptonite to our sinful flesh. The longer we let it linger, the weaker our resolve becomes.
This is why Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). Do whatever is necessary to get away from what is tempting you. Close the computer. Delete the app. Turn off the phone. Run outside. Get in the car and drive. Do whatever you need to do to flee the voice of temptation.
3. Call a friend.
Emily felt overwhelmed by temptation’s onslaught. Being alone in her house for the weekend offered so many ways to sin. But rather than fight alone, she called a sister from church. She explained how weak she felt and asked for help. Her friend told her to pack a bag and stay with her for the weekend. Emily agreed and, with her friend’s help, avoided Satan’s snare.
You cannot fight sin by yourself. God commands us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Sin assures us that asking for help is weak, shameful, and unnecessary. But this is just one more lie from Satan, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
When temptation strikes, reach out to a friend and plead for help. Do not make excuses. Send a text, or make a call immediately. Tell your friend that you need help. Say something like, “Would you pray for me? I’m feeling weak toward temptation, and I need your help.”
Sin cannot live in the light. Drag the temptation into the light of fellowship, and enlist others for help. If the person you called doesn’t take you seriously, plead more urgently, or call someone else. Don’t give into discouragement. Keep fighting, but don’t fight alone.
4. Develop a long-term plan.
When I was young, my father and I often took walks in the woods near our house, which were known to be inhabited by poisonous snakes. During our first walk, he taught me an important lesson: when you come to a fallen tree on the path, step on it, and then step over it. He explained that snakes often rest under trees, so if we stepped right over a tree, we might startle the snake and get bitten. But if we stepped on the tree and then over it, we’d create enough distance to evade the strike of most snakes. Today I can’t walk along a path in the woods without remembering this lesson.
Avoiding a snake’s strike once is good. Developing a pattern to avoid strikes is even better. We cannot, of course, keep the tempter from tempting, but we must develop a plan not to go near his den (Proverbs 5:8). Over the years, I have developed an intentional plan to “make no provision for the flesh” in order to guard my walk with Jesus (Romans 13:14).
Jesus exhorted us to cut off whatever might lead us to sin against God (Matthew 5:28–30). Over the years, I have set up numerous barbwire-like protections to make acting out sinful desires difficult. I encourage you to grab a friend, and develop a similar strategy. The following questions might help you get started.
How are you cultivating hope and delight in Jesus?
What joy-stealing sins are you most prone to give in to?
If Satan were to tempt you, how might he do it?
If you were going to access sin, how would you find it?
How can you dumb down your electronic devices to make sinning in certain ways an impossibility?
Are there subscriptions you need to cancel? Phone numbers you need to delete?
Are there accountability subscriptions you should set up?
When are you most susceptible to temptation? How can you prepare for these times?
What passages of Scripture have you memorized or marked to quickly access in times of temptation?
What lies are you most prone to believe, and what passages of Scripture can you fight them with?
Whom are you regularly confessing your sins to? Whom can you call when you are feeling tempted?
God rarely touches our lives in such a way that we stop loving some long-ingrained sin immediately. But as we fight sin and pursue him, he changes our affections. We begin to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Our confidence in willpower fades, and our hope focuses on Jesus, who was tempted and yet resisted in all the ways we have not (Hebrews 4:15).
You will not regret resisting sin. You will regret giving in. Choke temptation by taking refuge in Jesus and the means of grace he provides: pray to God, flee the scene, call a friend, and make a plan. As you begin to fight afresh, remember that what sin promises so much now will only steal your joy in God.
Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell) is married to Carrie, and together they have five children. He serves as pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.
By Brett McCracken, Senior Editor at TGC, and Author
I don’t like wearing face masks. They fog up my sunglasses and make my beard itch. It’s hard to talk intelligibly through them and nearly impossible to pick up nonverbal facial expressions that add vital texture to conversation. I have a growing collection of masks, but none of them fits great, I don’t know where to store them, and even the most stylish ones are still pretty awkward. Masks also make it impossible to forget the depressing reality that COVID-19 is still around; they’re an ever-present reminder that the world we knew in February is long gone.
I also hate that the mask has become such a divisive political symbol, with the masked and the masked-nots assuming the worst about each other: that mask-wearers are fearful, cosmopolitan elites or that mask-avoiders are science-hating MAGA bumpkins who prefer their freedom over Grandma’s life. It’s silly that it’s come to this: politicizing masks. But I’m not surprised. Everything in our world today is politicized: ice cream, razors, Harry Potter. So of course protective face masks would be politicized, especially when the president himself makes masks political.
I understand, however, why we so quickly politicize things like masks. Faced with an avalanche of information (too much to ever sufficiently wade through), conflicting voices of “expertise,” and no shortage of inconsistency and hypocrisy from government leaders, we default to siding with whatever partisan camp we’re already in. I suspect rising tribalism across the world has a lot to do with the mental exhaustion of living in a time of information gluttony, where it’s easier to just fall in line with one group or another. For most of us, independent, nuanced appraisal of a litany of complex issues is unrealistic for our already taxed brains.
For Christians, though, it’s important to rise above the political partisanship and think through what our faith would call us to with regard to wearing or not wearing masks. What if our view on masks were shaped more by our Christian identity than our American political identity? As much as I dislike wearing masks, sympathize with some skepticism about them, and cringe at attempts to shame people into wearing them, my Christian faith leads me to wear one when I’m in indoor public places.
When I look at Scripture I don’t see a mandate about masks, of course, but I see an invitation—to do at least four things.
1. To Love Your Neighbor (Matt. 22:39)
I’m frustrated that the science on masks during COVID-19 has been inconsistent. It’s maddening that everyone from the U.S. surgeon general to the CDC and the WHO have flip-flopped on their mask guidance. But it’s not surprising. This is a brand-new virus and a fast-moving crisis. We probably won’t know for years what was right and wrong in our efforts to stop COVID-19. But consensus is emerging that wearing masks does slow the virus’s spread and, thus, can save lives.
What if our view on masks were shaped more by our Christian identity than our American political identity?
For Christians called to love our neighbors as ourselves, wearing a mask in public—particularly indoor spaces where social distance cannot be guaranteed—seems like a relatively easy way to practice neighbor love. Even if it’s annoying to wear one, and even if you aren’t convinced by the science behind it, why not wear one anyway? Given the enduring uncertainty about the way COVID-19 spreads, shouldn’t we err on the side of more protective measures rather than less, for the sake of the neighbor we might—even if it’s a slim chance—unknowingly infect?
2. To Respect Authorities (Rom. 13:1–7)
It’s easy to blame leaders these days, and certainly many are making lots of mistakes. But let’s show them grace. COVID-19 is just one of several complex and fast-evolving issues authorities everywhere are facing. Instead of rushing to criticize leaders, what if we gave them the benefit of the doubt—honoring and respecting their authority and believing they are working hard and trying their best? Further, it seems clear from Romans 13 (among other passages, such as Titus 3:1 or 1 Peter 2:13–14) that Christians ought to respect the human governments to which they are subject, as long as submission to those governments doesn’t contradict our submission to the lordship of Christ and his ultimate authority.
When it comes to mask-wearing for Christians, then, if your city or state is mandating masks in certain circumstances right now (as mine is), shouldn’t you obey those directives? Likewise if your church has instituted a “mandatory masks” policy for physical gatherings: go ahead and wear that mask happily—embracing the opportunity to practice Hebrews 13:17.
3. To Honor the Weak in Our Midst (Rom. 14)
Mask-wearing has sadly become divisive in churches where masks are not mandatory. Some churchgoers will wear them; some won’t. Predictably, the groups will start assuming the worst about each other—that mask-avoiders are reckless and see themselves as stronger and braver; and that mask-wearers are cowardly and fear-stricken, needing a nudge in the direction of risk.
In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Paul argues that in matters of freedom, it’s important that “stronger” Christians don’t flaunt their freedom in ways that become stumbling blocks to the weak. When a mask-wearing “weaker” brother enters a church gathering full of mask-free “stronger” brothers, the mask-wearer naturally feels pressure to remove it—but that’s exactly the sort of wounding of the weak conscience Paul says is a “sin against Christ” (1 Cor. 8:12).
4. To Use Freedom for the Sake of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:19–23)
American Christians are sometimes prone to understanding “freedom” in a way more shaped by the U.S. Constitution rather than by the Bible. But it’s no knock on the beauty and legitimacy of manmade freedoms to suggest that Scripture sometimes calls us to give up these freedoms for the sake of the gospel.
Paul, for example, seems happy to give up his freedom for the sake of loving others (1 Cor. 8:13). “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them,” he writes (1 Cor. 9:19). “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22–23). There is such missional power in this posture. Few things are more beautiful to witness than someone giving up their rights and freedom for the sake of another.
There’s a lot at stake for Christian witness during COVID-19. Do we want the non-believing world to look at Christians as reckless virus super-spreaders who put their own freedoms (to gather in person as soon as possible, to not wear masks unless absolutely mandated) ahead of the health of their larger community? Or do we want them to look at Christians as “servants to all,” willing to forego their freedoms out of Christlike neighbor love?
If the small annoyance of wearing masks can help not only save lives but also souls, winning more to the gospel, isn’t it worth it?
Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor and Teacher, Evansville, IN., from his continued study in Deuteronomy. David uses the S.O.A.P method in his morning devotional time. (study, observe, apply, pray).
14:22 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. 23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God. 24 “Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. 25 If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. 26 When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 28 “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work. NLT
Most American Christians aren’t concerned about tithing, and since we are no longer under the Law (of Moses) that is OK. But we should understand why God gave these commands long ago. First, a tithe is 10%. It was to be given “off the top” before anything else was spent, and it was a “faith statement”. God said in effect, “If you give Me the top 10% I will bless the rest of your income more than you could if you kept 100%.”
In :23 Yahweh said if they did this it would “teach you always to fear Me.” Tithing teaches us something. Tithing showed respect for God. It showed they believed He had the right to command them anything, and that He was good and would provide for His people who loved and trusted Him. The ongoing practice of tithing would produce ongoing growth in their love and appreciation of Yahweh because it would repeatedly show His greatness. Tithing did not leave them poorer, it demonstrated He would “bless you in all your work”. On the other hand, if they did not trust and obey they Lord, they would not experience His power and love and they would grow more cynical and distant.
:27 said “Do not neglect the Levites”. Tithing not only blessed those who gave the tithes, it provided the necessary income for the priests. And since all the people were sinners, they always needed priests to offer sacrifices and intercede for them. There was no other way a sinner could be made right with God without the shedding of blood, and only the priests could do that. Priests were indispensable.
Lord Jesus, thank You that You are our high priest and that You Yourself were the final sacrifice for our sin (Heb 9:11-12) and that You still intercede for us at the right hand of the Father. (Rom 8:34) We don’t need priests today to offer sacrifices on our behalf. Not only that, but we all have the privilege of interceding for one another. So we have more reason to give to You now than Israel did then. We have the joy of acceptance without the mess and expense of animals. And thank You that even though we are not required to give 10% of our income, when we trust You and love You, we experience Your wonderful presence and provision time and again. Thank You for the many, many times You have surprised me with Your fantastic provision as fresh demonstrations of Your love. As I reflect on that, I can see it really has taught me the beauty of “the fear of the Lord”. I don’t think I would have had the same understanding of that phrase if I had not tithed all these years, and experienced Your power and Your love. Hallelujah! Amen
When the Holy Spirit cultivates his fruit in our lives, he often works in ways we would never pray for (Galatians 5:22–23). To grow the fruit of love in us, he may give us an enemy; to grow the fruit of peace, he may allow conflict to come near. And to grow the fruit of faithfulness, he may send us to forgotten places.
Forgotten places are those corners of the world where no one seems to be watching, where our efforts go unseen, unthanked. Perhaps we labor among diapers and dishes, cubicles and emails. Or maybe, more painfully, among unfruitful mission fields, rebellious children, or spouses whose love has cooled. All of us live in forgotten places sometimes; some live there all the time.
Drudgery as a Disciple
We should beware of underestimating the spiritual strain of such monotonous and seemingly unrewarded toil. The daily duties in forgotten places may be small, but pile them up over months, years, or decades, and you may start to sympathize with Oswald Chambers when he writes,
We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.
Chambers may overstate his case — but not by much. In truth, the forgotten places can feel like a wilderness, and many days come when we find ourselves searching for something to keep us going, some water from the rock to sustain us in this desert (Psalm 105:41).
We will find it, not in the forgotten places themselves, but in the God who sent us here, who is with us here, and who promises to reward us here.
At times, we may stare at the responsibilities in front of us and wonder how we landed here. How did we wander into this wilderness of drab days and hidden obedience? We have become familiar with the backward glance, wondering if we missed a turn somewhere. How clarifying, then, to remember that our life situation is not ultimately a matter of chance, nor of any mistakes we have made, nor even of the string of events leading up to the present, but of God’s providence. The tasks in front of us are, at least for today, God’s assignment to us.
To be sure, God’s providence does not nullify the decisions — and perhaps the mistakes or sins — that led us to this station in life, nor does it discourage us from striving after better circumstances: we are more than twigs in the stream of God’s purposes. But God’s providence does teach us to see, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, that “leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” No matter how we got here, the forgotten places are ultimately from our Father’s hand.
Over and again, God describes our own plans and efforts as significant, but his as decisive — even over the most personal matters of life. He determines when and where we live (Acts 17:26). He assigns to us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). He apportions spiritual gifts as he wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). He entrusts to us a number of talents — whether five, two, or just one (Matthew 25:15). He gives us a specific ministry (Colossians 4:17). He even calls us to a particular life (1 Corinthians 7:17).
In time, this forgotten place may give way to somewhere different — and depending on the circumstances, we may be wise to seek that change. But for now, we can look at the responsibilities in front of us and say with relief, “My Father’s hand has led me here.”
God not only sends us to the forgotten places, however; he also meets us there. When we labor in obscurity, he is near (Psalm 139:5). When our work escapes the notice of every human eye, it does not escape his (Luke 12:7). He catches every whispered prayer, every Godward groan. He stands ready at every moment to mark the smallest tasks we perform in faith.
The wise man tells us why: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). God delights not mainly in the greatness of the work, but in the faithfulness of the worker. What else could explain the New Testament’s insistence that even the lowest, most invisible members of society are “serving the Lord Christ” when they walk faithfully in their callings (Colossians 3:24)? The smallest duties done in faith become duties done for Christ.
The missionary Hudson Taylor was fond of saying, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing.” Cooking a meal, filling a spreadsheet, buying groceries, wiping a child’s nose — these are little things. But if done faithfully for Christ’s sake, they become greater than all the triumphs and trophies of an unbelieving world. They become the delight of our watching Lord.
Once we have traced God’s providence in the past and felt his pleasure in the present, he would have us consider the future, when all our obedience will be rewarded.
When many Christians imagine judgment day, we assume the spotlight will fall on the grand acts of sin and righteousness. And surely it will — but not only. Remarkably, when Jesus and the apostles speak of that day, they often focus on life’s ordinary moments.
“On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” Jesus tells us (Matthew 12:36). On the other hand, God will reward his people for the smallest good works they do by his grace: for giving to the needy (Matthew 6:4), for praying in the closet (Matthew 6:6), for fasting in secret (Matthew 6:18), even for giving a cup of cold water to one of Christ’s disciples (Matthew 10:42).
The apostle Paul similarly writes that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). But then in Ephesians he clarifies the kind of good he has in mind: not just extravagant good, impressive good, or above-average good, but “whatever good” (Ephesians 6:8). Come judgment day, every scrap of unseen obedience will find its fitting reward.
Living and dying in forgotten places, then, is no infallible index of our labor in God’s eyes. Many saints, in fact, will not know the true worth of what they’ve done for Christ until Christ himself tells them (Matthew 25:37–40).
Exceptional in the Ordinary
Chambers, after remarking on the grace required to endure drudgery as a disciple, goes on to write, “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”
Again, Chambers may slightly overstate his case. God sometimes does call us to do exceptional things for him: to adopt children, to launch ministries, to plant churches, to move overseas. But the point still holds, because none of us will do anything exceptional unless we have first learned, through ten thousand steps of faithfulness, to be exceptional in the ordinary.
We are not on our own here. Faithfulness, remember, is a fruit of the Spirit. And to bear that fruit in us, he would have us treasure up the providence, the pleasure, and the promises of God that hem us in behind and before, and follow us into every forgotten place.
Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. —Hebrews 9:22
Christianity is unlike anything man can imagine on his own.
It is perhaps natural to imagine a religion that functions like a swimming pool — a hobby that may have benefits, but of course, swimming is not for everyone. Others might conceive of religion as a medicinal pool used to strengthen people who have sprained their hope and need some rehab to get them back on their feet.
But Christianity is different. It is not primarily a swimming pool to enjoy nor a hot tub to fix a midlife crisis. Christianity is about a pool filled with blood. It is graphic. It is gory. It is not a pristine pond found next to our manicured lawns. It is a crimson tide in which we must be submerged.
Drawn from His Veins
So, whose blood is it? Where it ought to have been the blood of God’s enemies, it was, almost unimaginably, the blood of his own Son. The God-man revealed to us as Jesus of Nazareth was not spared what others in God’s great story were.
The Red Sea did not part for him. The Father struck him with Abraham’s flint knife. He drowned in Noah’s flood. Daniel’s lions devoured him. The fiery furnace of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego consumed him. The spear that missed David impaled his Lord. He was cast overboard and swallowed by Jonah’s beast. He was crushed for David’s adultery, Abraham’s cowardice, Noah’s drunkenness. The squeals of every sacrificed animal that ever bled on the altar were in anticipation of his cry.
We, like all of God’s people since, were only spared because Christ was not.
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
God passed over former sins until the day of reckoning came. The debt had accrued for God’s chosen. Man could not pay for his crime with money, time, or life-change. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where Rome crucified criminals and burned their garbage, Jesus paid every awful debt we had, and he did so with the only acceptable currency: blood.
Plunged Beneath That Flood
Christianity is unlike any other religion. Not merely because it is true, but because it is beautiful. Yet it offends a man before it can save him. It tells him that he is dead in sin. It tells him that he’s a rebel. It tells him that unless he plunges himself underneath the flood of Christ’s blood by faith, he will die and never live. That his blood will be upon his own head forever.
But as plainly as it tells a man that he is condemned before God, it commands him to draw near and receive mercy.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7)
God calls criminals near that he might have compassion on them. He threatens us with everlasting ruin — what your many sins deserve — but offers us everlasting fellowship with him, if we would turn from our evil and receive his crimson pardon. The Great Husband calls his adulterous bride to return to him and find complete forgiveness and unending love. No pity will be offered the one who insists on rejecting the blood-soaked offer of the cross.
You Would Not Forgive You
But what if you are the worst person you know? Why should you be confident to draw near to this God? Why should you have any hope to be an object of his love?
Not because your case isn’t as bad as you think, but because his greatness is higher than you can imagine. Because his thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Often, this verse is used to prove God’s omniscience. But it’s more specifically about his mercy and compassion towards repentant sinners. Read it in context:
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:6–8)
Why should you return to the Lord? Why should you go as you are to Christ and hope to be received? Because his grace is above your grace. His ways of mercy are not like ours. If you or I were God, the world would have been crushed ages ago. You would not forgive you; but he will. You wouldn’t pour out wrath on your own Son for rebels; but he did. This God displayed his love by sending his Son into the world to fill a fountain with his own blood. No man could conceive of it, unless God revealed it.
Rejoiced to See
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day. And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
One of the first to take the plunge under the flood of Christ’s blood in the Gospels is the dying thief who died beside him. Crucified at the same time as Christ, he initially began ridiculing him (Matthew 27:44). But after hearing the crowd, hearing Jesus’s words and his prayers, watching him die as the sun fled in shame, he, by the mercy of God, saw Jesus for who he was: the King of heaven (Luke 23:42). With his dying breaths, this criminal, stained in the consequences of his own sin and dying as a vile man with nothing to commend him, found the fountain being filled next to him. He trusted in those wounds, and has now been with him for two thousand years.
Christianity is unlike any religion. The Father is unlike any god. Christ is unlike any savior. And the Spirit is unlike any helper. Seek the Lord while he may be found — because there is now a fountain filled with blood.
From an Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
How do I wage war against my self-pity? Michael, from Portland, wants help in the battle he’s facing. “Pastor John, thank you for this podcast. I struggle with self-pity, and often self-justify my self-pity by rationalizing it in my own head. Have you experienced this too? If so, what are the best arguments you have made from your flesh to justify your own self-pity? And what biblical arguments do you use to make war against those selfish arguments?”
Well, Michael asked, “Have you ever experienced this?” So, let me put my answer to his question in an autobiographical form. Ten years ago this year, I took a leave of absence from my then pastoral ministry. And the reason I asked the elders and the church quite openly for this leave was to do what I called a “soul check.” And during that leave, I tried to be very specific in identifying my own characteristic, besetting sins. It became evident that they were an ugly cluster of selfishness, proneness to anger, self-pity, quickness to blame, sullenness. That’s the cluster.
At the root of that was what I called selfishness. And selfishness had five reflexes that I could discern very clearly. I’ll tell you in a minute why I call them reflexes.
The reflex of expecting that I be served
The reflex of feeling I am owed
The reflex of wanting praise
The reflex of expecting that things will go my way
The reflex of feeling that I have the right to react negatively to being crossed in my desires
Now, the reason I call those five things reflexes of selfishness is because I don’t premeditate any of them. They just happen in my head, in my heart. I didn’t decide for any of those to happen; they just are there. That’s how rooted our unmortified corruption and remaining, indwelling sin and selfishness is. And I noticed, as I kept my sin before my own eyes, that these selfish reflexes gave rise to four characteristic things that were manifest for others to see — not just in my head, but obvious to everyone.
Anger — the strong emotional opposition to the obstacle that just got in my way
Self-pity — a desire that others feel my woundedness and admire me for being so mistreated (and that’s the one Michael is asking about)
Quickness to blame — a reflex to attribute to others the cause of my frustrating situations
Sullenness — a sinking discouragement, moodiness, hopelessness, unresponsiveness, withdrawn, deadness of emotion
That’s the cluster of John Piper’s besetting sins as I identified them ten years ago.
No Passivity in Pursuing Holiness
So, what did I learn about the defeat of these monsters in that leave, which has, I believe (you’d have to ask my wife, probably), gotten me more victory in the last ten years than I had before?
What the Bible showed me was that there was a disconnect between Christ’s cancelation of my sins on the cross and my conscious, willed opposition and conquering of my own sins through blood-bought, Spirit-empowered effort; there was a disconnect. In other words, God blasted a pattern of passivity that had developed in me toward that particular cluster of sins. He forced into my face the biblical reality that canceled sins — that is, blood-covered sins — must be killed consciously with effort, by faith, in the Spirit — not coddled. And one of the ways God forced this discovery on me was to expose the inconsistency between the very active way that I fought sexual temptation and the fairly passive way that I handled the temptation to self-pity.
Now, right there is the nub of the matter: I had the unspoken assumption that sexual lust must be attacked directly, consciously, forcefully, with effort of my mind and my will, since Jesus said, “Tear out your eye, Piper. Cut off your hand if you have to when it comes to the temptation of lust” (see Matthew 5:29–30). But for some crazy, demonic reason, I assumed I could not attack these other besetting sins in the same vicious way, and they would somehow just dry up and disappear by some inner, unconscious work of the Holy Spirit, without any Spirit-empowered, conscious, ruthless, vicious, angry, “Get outta my life, devil!” effort to cut my hand off or gouge my eye out.
But it became increasingly clear during this leave of absence that the link between the cancelation of my sin on the cross and the conquering of my sin was sanctified effort. Now, to be sure, the only effort that avails is blood-bought effort, Spirit-wrought effort; but it is, nevertheless, a conscious effort of the sanctified will. Passivity in the pursuit of holiness is not what the Bible teaches. I knew that in relation to sexual temptations; I was playing like it didn’t exist in relationship to self-pity temptations. Oh my goodness.
Kill Sin — Consciously and Intentionally
Here are the texts of what I mean; I mean, there are lots of them. I’ll just mention two to show the connection between cancelation and conquering.
In the death of Christ, we died to sin, Paul says (Romans 6:2). Therefore, put sin to death (Romans 8:13).
Clearly, if you just take those two cases, victory over sin in the death of Christ for my sin is decisive. But they’re followed immediately not by the minimizing of human effort, but by the empowering of the will: Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body. You have died to it; don’t let it reign (Romans 6:12). Forgive one another.
In other words, God intends for my sanctification to include conscious, willed opposition to specific sins in my life. I had applied that to sexual temptation, and I think with significant success over the last forty years or so, but for some reason, I failed to apply the same brutal intentionality of sin-killing to my selfishness and anger and self-pity and quickness to blame and sullenness. So, I began to use the same strategy toward self-pity that I was using toward lust. Let me give you an example.
‘I Beat It Down’
I came home one Lord’s Day evening, and I was tired. I was hoping to do something with my wife and daughter, Talitha, who was still at home. And my wife and my daughter were on the couch with the computer, watching something together. They announced, “We’re watching this, and we’re going to watch this.” They didn’t say anything about me — poor me, poor hardworking pastor me, right? They just said, “We’re enjoying this. Welcome home; do what you want.” My reflexes were immediate: frustration, anger, and especially self-pity.
With my new, God-given resolve, I did with that temptation what I do with sexual temptation regularly: I said, “No. No, self-pity. No, get out of my head. Get back to hell, where you belong.” And I went upstairs to my study, and I waged war for maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I waged war — effort. I turned my mind and my heart toward the promises of God, and the surety of the cross, and the love of my Father, and the wealth of my inheritance in Christ, and the blessings of the Lord’s Day that had just gone by, and the patience of Jesus. And I held them there in front of my mind, where I could see them. I cried out to the Lord for blood-bought help. And I consciously, intentionally — not passively — beat it down. I beat it down, the anger and self-pity and blaming and sullenness, as utterly out of character with who I am in Jesus. And I kept beating until they were effectively dead.
So, Michael, there you have it. You asked, “Do you ever experience this?” Oh my, yes, I have shared your experience. And that’s what the Lord taught me ten years ago. I think if you were to ask my wife today, “Is Johnny different in that regard from, say, twenty years ago?” I think she’d say yes. And I give God great glory.
Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
It may appear, at first glance, to be an odd text to hang in your bedroom:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12 KJV)
Whereas others might draw from a thousand wells before this one, Susannah Spurgeon framed Jesus’s words to remind her husband, Charles, of Jesus’s upside-down perspective. When his disciples face bitter opposition for his name’s sake, the proper response should be joy.
When we consider this Baptist giant, when we read his stirring sermons, when we remember that his life’s work rivaled that of one hundred men, when we read of the revival and the winning of countless souls to Christ, we can imagine the Prince of Preachers encountering little but unbroken success. Compared with so many of our ministries, his seemed to soar high in the clouds. We rarely consider, as Iain Murray contends, The Forgotten Spurgeon — the Spurgeon who needed Matthew 5:11–12 hanging on his wall.
The forgotten Spurgeon stood among the tornadoes of several great controversies in his day. His protestation against Arminianism, his disgust at baptismal regeneration, and his resistance to an evangelical unity founded upon fragments of Christian doctrine (known as the Downgrade Controversy) made him the target for many arrows.
This Spurgeon, especially at the beginning and end of his ministry, had reason to reckon himself as “the scum of the earth” (24–25). The name Spurgeon, which we regard fondly, was, by estimation of its owner, “kicked about the street like a football” (28). He had occasion to remark in a sermon, “Scarce a day rolls over my head in which the most villainous abuse, the most fearful slander is not uttered against me both privately and by the public press; every engine is employed to put down God’s minister — every lie that man can invent is hurled at me” (63).
This Spurgeon was slandered in the newspapers, ridiculed by his opponents, and censured by many evangelical ministers who he anticipated would be his allies. This Spurgeon was a living example of the happy — but often hated — man of God to whom Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.
What can we learn from this forgotten Spurgeon?
This Spurgeon can teach us to handle controversy manfully and without compromising. His convictions, which he held to his dying day, cost him dearly. He did not practice that vice he so clearly preached against: “I think there is scarcely a Christian man or woman that has been able to go all the way to heaven and yet quietly hide himself and run from bush to bush, skulking into glory. Christianity and cowardice? What a contradiction in terms!” (“Speak for Yourself — a Challenge”).
If we would cast away the temptation to tiptoe into glory, and be of real benefit for Christ’s name in this world, Spurgeon teaches us that we would do well to resist loving our own names, be comfortable in the minority, and recognize (and reject) false unity.
1. Don’t fall in love with your own name.
“Let my name perish, but let Christ’s name last forever! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Crown him Lord of all!” (43)
Spurgeon warns us of falling in love with our own reputations and influence. This self-love, he identified, is a main ingredient in the undoing of the best of us. He exposes the steps to compromise of the person initially used by God:
The temptation comes to be careful of the position he has gained, and to do nothing to endanger it. The man, so lately a faithful man of God, compromises with worldlings, and to quiet his own conscience invents a theory by which such compromises are justified and even commended. He receives the praises of “the judicious”; he has, in truth, gone over to the enemy. The whole force of his former life now tells upon the wrong side. (170)
How many times have we seen or experienced this drift?
First, we are somehow exalted for special use. Then we quietly begin to notice it and relish the attention. Falling in love with recognition, we tighten our grip around our platforms in fear of losing them. We then calculate what we say, filtering out anything that may weaken our influence — including the unfavorable truths of Scripture. And finally, faced with the thing we used to call compromise, we invent reasons to support what we’ve become — why we’ve beaten the sword into a plowshare.
Fierce loves fixed on unworthy objects mold Christians into cowards. If we have begun to love the music of our own name, manage our brand, or consider our popularity as necessary to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, we have begun building our own kingdoms. May we say with Spurgeon, “I count my own character, popularity, and usefulness to be as the small dust of the balance compared with fidelity to the Lord Jesus” (219). It is Christ we proclaim, not ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:5).
2. Be comfortable in the minority.
“Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world. I have faith in the Lord Jesus for myself, a faith burned into me as with a hot iron. I thank God, what I believe I shall believe, even if I believe it alone.” (146)
Have you ever felt the temptation to count heads — or followers, likes, and shares — to see what you should or should not say? I have. When we begin sharing truth based on how well that truth will be received, we are halfway to compromise. Spurgeon counsels us to consider the cost beforehand: truth is often in the minority; to stand with it means you may stand alone.
Yet those who stand for Christ’s truth never truly stand alone. You may go as Esther before the king without kin beside you, resolved that if you perish, you perish; you may preach like Stephen, as crowds press in around you, shutting their ears and hurling stones; you may rebuke King Herod’s adultery alone or say with Paul, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me” (2 Timothy 4:16) — but Christ shall be with you, even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). And if your cause is true, you will find, like Elijah, you are not the only one not to bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:14, 18).
3. Recognize false unity.
“It is, of course, the most easy to flesh and blood to deal in generalities, to denounce sectarianism, and claim to be of an ultra-catholic spirit; but though rough and rugged, it is required of the loyal servant of King Jesus to maintain all his crown rights and stand up for every word of his laws. Friends chide us and foes abhor us when we are very jealous for the Lord God of Israel, but what do these things matter if the Master approves?” (18)
Error loves vagueness.
As in Spurgeon’s day, the temptation to tolerate all positions and accept all perspectives on truth is strong in ours. We are told it is prejudiced, narrow, and even unchristian to draw lines. But to Spurgeon, promoting a type of “Christian unity” whose common denominator sinks lower than genuine Christianity in the first place is unacceptable. Unity of Jew and Gentile into one new man is bought with the blood of Christ; unity of gospel truth and gospel untruth is unity brought about by Satan.
Orthodox Christianity, he argued, is distinct. Not all views can be true. When the only standard left is for all in the flock to have four legs, wolves and goats stand at ease among us. The trend toward an undoctrinal, atheological, shapeless evangelicalism, beginning in Spurgeon’s day and seemingly ripening in ours, is one of the quickest ways to compromise our fidelity to Christ and witness in the world.
In saying this, Spurgeon did not intend to divide over every possible theological difference — lest every man be an island unto himself. But Spurgeon chafed at minimizing Christian zeal and truth in order to bring together contrasting theologies and to mix liberalism with historic Christianity. We may be called particular or dogmatic, but what do we care if what we promote is the Master’s truth?
Though the Heavens Fall
“It is yours and mine to do the right though the heavens fall, and follow the command of Christ whatever the consequence may be. “That is strong meat,” do you say? Be strong men, then, and feed thereon.” (171)
His beloved wife, who hung Matthew 5:11–12 in their bedroom, said after his death at the age of 57, “His fight for the faith . . . cost him his life.” He fought the good fight of faith, he kept the faith, he finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7), claiming before his death, “My work is done” (173). He lived for his Lord, and now he basks in his presence.
To those of us who lag behind him, traversing our own times with all of their challenges and opportunities, temptations and labors, take up his oft-quoted hymn as we continue on in our race of faith:
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize And sailed through bloody seas?
Since I must fight if I would reign, Increase my courage, Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by thy word.
Though the heavens fall, though the earth gives way, though controversy and temptations of spiritual compromise stand before us, may we heed this forgotten Spurgeon, hang Matthew 5:11–12 in our hearts, and live before men and devils with the courage and hope that only Christ supplies.