Thursday, December 18, 2014

Charles Spurgeon Sermon - How to Become Full of Joy

The Changing External and the Unchanging Internal

By A.W. Tozer

While Jesus grew through the various stages of developing childhood, He never saw a mechanical device more complicated than a cart. He never saw paper, or plastic, or a telephone, or a radio, or a camera, or a printed sheet, or a paved highway, or a gun, or a steam engine, or an electric motor. No one in His day ever got vaccinated or took vitamin pills or consulted a psychiatrist or had a song recorded or rode in a balloon or airplane or elevator. The people of His time had to get along without floating soap, chlorophyll toothpaste, rubber gloves, ready-mix flour, canned peas, Alka-seltzer, parking meters, Wheaties, puffed rice, electric razors, in-a-door beds, wristwatches, typewriters and Band-aids. Jesus never nursed from a rubber nipple or ate a scientifically compounded formula or played with an "educational" toy or attended a progressive school or saw a comic book or owned a toy bomb shelter. 

Judged against our present highly complicated manner of life, the people of Palestine in the days of Christ's flesh scarcely lived at all. Were we forced suddenly to live as they did, we would feel that the bottom had dropped out of the world. Surely people who lived so close to nature could not be "real people" (to borrow the language of the liberals).

But they were real human beings all right, those simple people of Bethlehem and Capernaum. And the striking thing is that they were exactly the kind of people we are. Not one minor variation distinguishes them from us. Only the externals were different. Those things that have changed belong to the outer man; the inner man has not changed in the slightest.

Understanding Your Standing

By Theodore Epp

Romans 5:1-5

Our standing before God is in the grace to which we have constant access (Rom. 5:2). We do not need new credentials each time we come to God, because our standing is constant since we come by means of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us. God does not accept us as we are, but as we are in Christ Jesus. God makes His grace abound toward us (2 Cor. 9:8), and we are able to come boldly into His immediate presence (Heb. 10:19). All of this is available to us; our responsibility is simply to act on the basis of what God has made available. We need to follow the principle stated by Jesus: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink" (John 7:37). Through grace, God has made all the benefits available to us; we now need simply to appropriate them or to act on the basis of what God extends to us.

God's grace is what He is; therefore, our standing is as sure as God is. Inasmuch as justification is by faith, it is already securely ours when we trust Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour. The benefits, or blessings, that accompany justification are also ours, but in order to enjoy them we must appropriate them for ourselves. To fail in appropriating these benefits is like having money in the bank but refusing to use it or having water immediately available but refusing to drink it. Wonderful as these blessings are, they benefit us personally only as we appropriate them.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" (Gal. 5:1).



Vol. 17, No. 5, Sep. - Oct. 1988

Psalm 139

Harry Foster

IN its fullest expression worship is an activity which should be with others. Nevertheless, since corporate worship can only be provided by many worshippers, it is good to find in this psalm an illustration of individual worship. In a crowd we may be carried away by emotion and the influence of others, whereas individual worship can only come from personal understanding as well as feelings.

Such understanding is a real feature of this intensely individual psalm which records the heart outpouring of a man who is quite alone with his God. In its 24 verses there are 46 references to David himself and 35 to the Lord. The only outside reference is to his hatred of the Lord's enemies; apart from them, this is a song sung to the Lord alone and offered to Him in heartfelt devotion. Perhaps it may help us to gain a better understanding of how we may bring acceptable adoration to our Saviour. The Lord Jesus told the woman of Samaria that the Father desires and appreciates true worshippers. Naturally we who are His children want to satisfy our Father's desires, so a study of this psalm may perhaps help us to identify some of the elements of the true spiritual worship which we may bring Him. They are:


True faith is never self assured. It always finds itself confronted by that which seems too good to be believed. When captive Israel was released from Babylon, they confessed that it all seemed like a delicious dream (Psalm 126:1). When Peter was brought out of Herod's prison, he could not believe that it was really happening and expected to wake out of a dream at any moment (Acts 12:9). Such wonder makes for genuine worship. People who think that they know and can predict in detail how God is going to work, seldom do more than give God credit for what they always expected of Him, and can even take some satisfaction in their own perspicacity. They will doubtless be thankful, but they will not be brought low in wondering worship. It is when we are surprised by the Lord's unexpected goodness that our hearts are melted in wondering worship. I truly believe that at times God finds pleasure in giving us surprises, and the Gospel stories bear out this idea.

See here what David says about the greatness of his God: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it" (v.6). Look, as he considers how to get away from God [98/99] and finds it quite impossible: "If I ascend to heaven" he argues, or "If I take the wings of the morning", or "If I try to hide in the dark", there is no way. I have to give it up. His own being and history are quite beyond him. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" he says of God's wonderful skill, and "all my days are written in Your book even before they have ever happened" (v.16). And of all wonders, the greatest is the wonder of God's love: "Your thoughts about me cannot be counted" he sings, "You are with me while I sleep and still with me when I wake up".

It is all summed up in David's words, "Too wonderful!" Like the rest of us, David longed to do some great work for God. He even planned to build a magnificent temple. However the prophet Nathan came and told him not to do it but just to listen to God's promises to him. So David went and sat before the Lord and worshipped. "Who am I to be so blessed?" he asked, and then added, "Thou art great, O Lord God, for there is none like Thee" (2 Samuel 7:22). Perhaps that was David's finest hour; not when he was doing mighty public deeds, but when in the secret place with God he was pouring out his heart in worship. God has a lot of people working for Him. It is true that there are not nearly enough, but there are many. Alas, He has only a few who will sit quietly in His presence and wonder at His greatness.

A friend can give you presents or work hard on your behalf and so give you great pleasure. If, however, you have ever had a loved one look straight in your eyes and murmur, "I think you are wonderful", you will agree that this is the greatest joy a person can ever experience. And what about our God? Can we not give Him that joy? Yes, and supremely so when we look into His face and tell Him that we find Him most wonderful. That was what David did as he sat in God's presence alone. He had many faults, but he was a true worshipper. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why God described David as a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).


We cannot know God unless and until He reveals Himself to us. David's glowing and eloquent words of worship came, in a sense, from what he had been taught about God, but his method of describing the divine wonders suggests that his knowledge came also from personal experience. From God's side it was revelation but from David's it can best be described as discovery.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Isaiah 40:29-31

29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.


Vol. 9, No. 5, Sep. - Oct. 1980

W. C. Saunders

"Come with me ... look from the top" Song of Songs 4:8

THIS little book consists of songs and poems by which Solomon and his bride conveyed their love for, and to, each other. Behind the songs there lies a much deeper meaning than this, for they were inspired not merely by human love but by the Spirit of God, in order to form part of Holy Scripture. Whatever the intention in the minds of Solomon and his bride, the Holy Spirit intended the songs to portray the love of Christ -- the heavenly Bridegroom -- for His bride, the Church, as well as her love for Him. If you look on the words of Solomon here as the words of Christ to the Christian, and the words of the bride as the response of the Christian to the Lord, you will discover some of the deepest and most precious truths affecting the full Christian life.

In particular we now consider this invitation to draw alongside of the king to look down with him from the top. In speaking thus to his bride, Solomon wants her to realise what partnership with him is going to mean. In this verse he reminds her of Mount Hermon and other mountains, but comparison with verse 6 will show that he really wants her to go with him to another mountain -- the mountain which he describes as the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. I believe that he is referring to Mount Zion -- that mount which was always so sweet and precious to him. It was sometimes called 'The mountain of the Lord'. The temple was there where the glory of the Lord dwelt amidst the fragrant incense. It was also the place of His throne and His power.

To us these words come over from our great Lover, the Lord Jesus Christ. "Come with me" He calls. "look from the top". It is to no ordinary mountain that He invites us to accompany Him. Solomon was inviting his bride to go with him to Mount Zion. The Greater than Solomon would have us with Him in His Home, the heavenly Jerusalem. On Ascension Day Jesus the Lord went back into heaven and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high -- far above all. Now the Bible teaches us that as Christians we are 'in Christ' and one [95/96]with Him in everything. We are one with Him in His death, and so spiritually speaking we are to reckon ourselves dead -- dead to sin, to self and to the old life. We are also one with Him in His resurrection, so we are to walk in newness of life with all the power of His resurrection available to us. Furthermore, we are one with Him in His ascension. Spiritually speaking we have been made to sit with Him in the heavenly places -- far above all (Ephesians 2:6).

We are to live in the good of this. He calls us to come with Him and look from the top. Here is a new realm for the exercise of faith, we are to reckon ourselves to be seated with Christ in His position of being far above all. Many Christians are too earthbound. They fail to realise and enter into the values of their true position in Christ. He wants His people to get on to higher ground, ever calling to us "Come with me ... look from the top". Our position 'in Christ' brings a new elevation into our lives. We can see things -- even earthly things -- from heavenly heights.

How different everything in life appears if we see it from Christ's level rather than our own. Here is the secret of spiritual ascendancy, to stand with Christ on high and view your life "from the top". I believe that whenever the way is hard and we are prone to be cast down, the Lord Jesus would whisper in our ears this invitation to rise up to Him and view the situation as He sees it. When Elijah was so depressed and sat under his juniper tree wanting to die, God sent the message to him: "Go forth and stand upon the Mount before the Lord". The prophet found that from that position everything took on a different face.

Jesus has a much more wonderful message for us than was given to Elijah. In the words of Ephesians 2, He reminds us that our true position is to be one with Him, even now. By His Word He calls us into those heavenly places that, with His help and encouragement we may look from the top. This is surely the true significance of the promise that we shall mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31). How can we do so except by rising on the wings of faith and then -- like the eagle -- looking down on earthly things from a bird's eye viewpoint? Only with us it is to be more than a bird's eye; it is to be the Lord's eye view of things. It is of supreme importance that we learn to look on things as He sees them.

So often people speak of the limited possibilities of things, 'under the circumstances'. Christians are never meant to be under the circumstances, but rather above them. In all things we are to be "more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37). By this God means that not only do circumstances not get the better of us, but that by faith we are able to make them serve us. We are not to be ruled by them; we are to use them for the greater blessing of our souls. When Paul himself was taken to the prison in Rome, he proved these very words which he had written and indeed was able to affirm that "the things that happened to him" were turning out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12). He had heard Christ's call to rise up by faith and stand with Him, so that even though in a prison cell he could "look from the top". When I tried to find a way out of the Hampton Court Maze, I found that every endeavour to discover the way made by me from the horizontal level only got me more hopelessly lost in the twists and turns. It needed advice from a guide who looked down from a higher vantage point to get me out of that maze. It was easy to see the right way "from the top". From the earthly viewpoint our life is a maze. Christ is in the vantage point, far above all. We must get up there with Him. If we do so we shall see:

1. The Lord is on the throne and is Lord over all.

He Himself has assured us that He has all power over heaven and earth. Down here we are all too conscious of the terrible strength of the powers of darkness; we need to rise above them in Christ and to know that He is Master of them all. From His position of ascendancy He is able to keep all our varying circumstances under His omnipotent control. That is why Paul, from his prison, could describe himself as "The prisoner of the Lord". He knew all about the Roman army and he had heard all about Nero. That was on the horizontal level. But in spirit he was able to enjoy his union with Christ in the heavenlies and to look down on the earthly powers from that vantage point. For this reason he could not be content to think of himself as the prisoner of Nero or the prisoner of the Roman army, but only as the Lord's prisoner. He knew that these other powers could have no hold over him save as the Lord permitted it. When you look from the top you see the reality of Christ's throne. [96/97]

2. Our circumstances are part of the Lord's great strategy.

None of us lives to himself. Our lives impinge upon and affect the lives of others. This explains why the Lord allows us to get into situations which bring us into contact with others. From the earthly viewpoint it all looks haphazard or even calamitous, but when with Him we look from the top, we find that our experiences are being fitted into His wise and loving plan. The Bible abounds with illustrations of this very fact.

i. Joseph. A nation needed to be saved from famine and starvation, a deliverance which required a God-sent ruler. What did God do? He permitted Joseph to be hated by his brothers, sold as a slave, cast into prison, held unjustly there until in due time he could be made the ruler of Egypt. That is the divine view of his story. We can see it so clearly now.

ii. David. The nation of Israel needed a God-given king. For this purpose God took the young shepherd boy, David, had his father send him to the battle front with bread and cheese for his brothers, and all so that he could hear and respond to the challenge of Goliath. Everything in David's life developed from that incident of the bread and cheese.

iii. Esther. To save His people from the terrible massacre planned by Haman, God overruled all the affairs of the monarchy to bring Esther to the kingdom for such a time and such a task. So it is today. May the Lord give us grace to co-operate with Him by looking "from the top" at the various features of our daily life -- our neighbours, our work, our joys and our sorrows.

3. All present circumstances are related to the future.

As we look down with Him, we see our circumstances and experiences as tools in the hands of the Potter. We find comfort in Romans 8:28 but we should follow this through to the following verse, where we are reminded that the governing purpose of God in all His dealings with us is to conform us to the image of His Son. The poor clay on the whirling wheels cannot understand this, but if it could see itself and its movements with the eyes of the Potter above, it would be restful and submissive under the skilful hands which are working with it. God always has eternity and His eternal purposes in view There is nothing so small as to be insignificant in our lives. We must not look at the incidents of life in isolation, but always see that in them God is 'working together', and always with that final glorious destiny in view. That is what can only be realised if we go to Him and "look from the top".

4. He is able to use all things for His own glory.

"Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the residue of wrath shalt thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10). The man who wrote those words was certainly viewing affairs from the divine standpoint. We can be certain that God is well able to restrain any wrath which cannot serve His purposes. The glory of the life of faith is that we know that when He does not restrain evil, it is just as purposeful and even more wonderful, for He plans to use men's evil for His own greater glory. If, then, God can use the actions of evil men to bring Himself glory, how much more will He make use of everything in the lives of His own people to glorify His own name. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby" Jesus said (John 11:4). That was certainly a case of looking from the top. So it is with everything in the believer's life. We need to keep close to the Lord Jesus so that we may always see things as He sees them.

A Christian's Anchors

["Men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (Heb. 6:16-20).

"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck..." (1 Tim. 1:19).

"Fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off." (Acts 27:29-32).]

It seems that this ship, whatever else it carried in cargo, carried a very good cargo of anchors. They put four out at the stern and then it says that the men lowered a boat on the pretext of putting some more out of the foreship, so they were well off for anchors. Evidently they were experienced in what can happen in the Mediterranean. Some of us have seen some of the storms in those waters and have seen the actual point at which this ship broke up, and we know exactly what it can be like.

But there never was a Mediterranean gregale to compare with what you have to encounter in a spiritual way when your soul's eternal welfare is at stake. The forces which are at work to bring a soul to ruin, to prevent a man or a woman reaching God's appointed and desired haven, are far greater and more terrible and persistent than anything that has ever been encountered in the natural realm of storms. Of course, you do not know that until you definitely set yourself in the direction of God's will. A great many people in this world seem to be getting along very well, with not very much trouble, and think that they are going (in that easygoing, carefree way) to get where God wants them to be. That is an illusion. Never yet has there been a definite and serious association with the will of God, the purpose of God, except there has been the rising of terrific conflict and tempest to make that realisation impossible, and I say when a man or a woman does seriously have an understanding with God that His will and purpose is to be realised in their life and that they are abandoned to Him for that, then such a life will know that it is not all plain sailing, easygoing. There will be forces which were not imagined arising to hinder that, to make that impossible.

The course of the salvation of a soul is the course of no less a conflict than all the forces of heaven and hell locked in battle over that soul. That is not exaggerating. Sooner or later it is found that we are not going to get through quite so easily. In the early stages of this story, these people thought they had gained their end - "the south wind blew softly". The thing seemed to be going very well. Oh no, that is not the experience of those who are really in union with God for His purpose, and we shall find that we need a good cargo of anchors before we are through.

If there is one thing that we shall need, it will be anchors. We are going to be put under terrific testing and strain and there has got to be some real holding power or we are going to be on the rocks spiritually, our destiny will be a shipwreck. There are those referred to in the New Testament as those who "concerning the faith have made shipwreck" (1 Tim. 1:19). That is a terrible possibility. But there are those referred to also as having, "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil" (Heb. 6:19). Well, anchors are an important part of our equipment, and in a very simple way I propose to mention to you four of the cargo of anchors absolutely necessary, but, thank God, provided for our security. "They cast four anchors out of the stern", and we shall find that the forces driving on, to carry us headlong to undoing, will have to be countered by these four anchors at least, but I think they will prove sufficient. They are very simple and I think I can say in a sense the New Testament as a whole is taken up with these four things.

1. Christ Died for our Sins

The first is this - "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3). That is a statement of fact, that is a mighty and gracious provision of God for our security, for our safety under pressure, under strain, under the drive of the accuser, the one who is ever seeking to bring us under condemnation itself under which we all lie by nature which is a perfectly true thing about us. Until this great fact is something which is apprehended by us, by our faith, we are under condemnation by nature. The whole race lies under judgment by nature and Satan has the ground and the right to accuse, to raise the whole question of our standing before God and our acceptance with God, until we have taken hold of this anchor and made fast:"Christ died for our sins".

Now, have you got that assurance? We have just been singing:
"My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"

Now, you all sang those words. Did you sing it as true where you are concerned or just as a part of an evening form of worship?
You know, between an anchor and the vessel to be held there must be a connection. Some of you know that we have been doing a little in the North in seeking to help the men on the merchant ships of the conveys for which purpose we have a launch, and this being about the worst non-summer in our history! We have had some terrific storms and gales and in the course of only a few days I lost three anchors and I proved the tremendous value and importance of anchors. The gale got up, moorings were broken, and, not carrying more than two anchors, we put out the two anchors, a large one and a smaller one. One was on an iron cable; the other was on a rope, howbeit a fairly stout rope. The rocks were not many yards away, but the rope which was fastened to the larger anchor simply went in the course of a few hours like thread. That anchor was gone and that connection was broken. Now everything depended upon the cable and the other anchor and we had to do some praying and a lot of praying because naturally the situation was fairly hopeless, we have seen things happen there before. But, thank God, the anchor held and the cable held and that long storm was weathered. But I suppose we had better face it, that, though we prayed and trusted the Lord, we watched with an anxious eye what was going to happen.