July 11, Evening – Our First Duty

“Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation” (Joel 1:3)

“In this simple way, by God’s grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land: The beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the Gospel and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty; we are to begin at the family hearth: He is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched, but home has a prior claim, and woe to those who reverse the order of the Lord’s arrangements.

To teach our children is a personal duty; we cannot delegate it to Sunday school teachers or other friendly helpers. These can assist us but cannot deliver us from the sacred obligation; substitutes and sponsors are wicked devices in this case: Mothers and fathers must, like Abraham, command their households in the fear of God and talk with their offspring concerning the wondrous works of the Most High.

Parental teaching is a natural duty. Who is better fitted to look after the child’s well-being than those who are the authors of his actual being? To neglect the instruction of our children is worse than brutish. Family religion is necessary for the nation, for the family itself, and for the church of God. By a thousand plots empty religion is secretly advancing in our land, and one of the most effectual means for resisting its inroads is routinely neglected—namely, the instruction of our children in the faith. It is time for parents to awaken to a sense of the importance of this matter. It is a pleasant duty to talk of Jesus to our sons and daughters, and the more so because it has often proved to be an accepted work, for God has saved the children through the parents’ prayers and admonitions. May every house into which this volume shall come honor the Lord and receive His smile.”

– Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening, A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on the ESV Bible

Knowing God, Chapter 1: The Study of God

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was planning on reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections after reading the first chapter.

Knowing about God versus Knowing God

“…if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject-matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and our grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate, and dismiss them as very poor specimens” (Knowing God, p. 17).

If you know me, you know that I love to read Christian books on doctrine and theology. After reading this chapter, I was convicted that I typically read Christian literature with the wrong motivation. Many times I read books to satisfy a desire to gain intellectual knowledge rather than as a means to know my Savior, Jesus Christ. This is evident because occasionally I’ll read a book and not really like it because I think, “That’s nothing really new. I already knew most of that.” This is revealing of my pride and arrogance. As Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit, “…knowledge puffs up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). I believe that I even do the same with Scripture at times. I can be tempted to search and study the Bible in order that I can win a theological debate (which doesn’t happen often) or to get some ideas on how to counsel a friend. Now of course the Bible reveals truths about God that we should contend for and it is useful for correction or encouragement (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but God’s Word is primarily a means of knowing the personal God it reveals. It is more than an instructional handbook for life or a theological dictionary; it is the way to commune with the Sovereign Creator of the universe. This truth was a helpful reminder in setting the stage to begin reading this book (and any Christian book for that matter).

“Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself the better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply the doctrine of God’s attributes, but the living God whose attributes they are. As He is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so He must Himself be the end of it.” (Knowing God, p. 18).

Meditation

Towards the end of the chapter, Mr. Packer had some insightful thoughts on the practice of meditation. Some of it reminded me of C.J. Mahaney‘s message on Psalm 42, The Troubled Soul: God’s Word and Our Feelings, preached at this year’s New Attitude. Meditation is a discipline I am trying to grow in as I hide God’s Word in my heart and memorize Scripture. Anyway, here’s the quote:

“We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation? Well may we ask; for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. It’s purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us–‘comfort’ us, the old, strong, Bible sense of the word–as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Knowing God, p. 18-19).

Blessed Are The Pure in Heart…

Here is a quote from Martyn Lloyd-JonesStudies in the Sermon on the Mount commenting on Matthew 5:8:

“But of course that is a mere nothing as compared with what is yet to be. ‘Now we see through a glass, darkly.'[1 Corinthians 13:12]. We see in a way we had not seen before, but it is still much of an enigma. But then we shall see ‘face-to-face’. ‘Beloved, now we are the sons of God,’ John says, ‘and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like; for we shall see him as he is'[1 John 3:2]. This is surely the most amazing thing that has ever been said to man, that you and I, such as we are, pressed with all the problems and troubles of this modern world, are going to see Him face-to-face. If we but grasped this, it would revolutionize our lives. You and I are meant for the audience chamber of God; you and I are being prepared to enter the presence of the King of kings. Do you believe it, do you know it as true for you? Do you realize that a day is coming when you are going to see the blessed God face-to-face? Not as in a glass, darkly; but face-to-face. Surely the moment we grasp this, everything else pales into insignificance. You and I are going to enjoy God, and to spend our eternity in His glorious and eternal presence. Read the book of Revelation, and listen to the redeemed of the Lord as they praise and ascribe all glory to Him. The blessedness is inconceivable, beyond our imagination. And we are destined for that. ‘The pure in heart shall see God'[Matthew 5:8], nothing less than that. How foolish we are to rob ourselves of these glories that are held out before our wondering gaze. Have you in a partial sense already seen God? Do you realize you are being prepared for this, and do you set your affection on it? ‘Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth'[Colossians 3:2]. Are you looking at these things which are unseen and eternal? Do you spend time meditating upon the glory that awaits you? If you do, the greatest concern of your life will be to have a pure heart” (p. 97-98).

You can read more here.

The Wrath of God

A few days ago I read a chapter on the wrath of God in J.I. Packer’s, Knowing God. The entire chapter was amazing, but here I will just entice you with just a few quotes that I highlighted. The first quote is about Jesus’ teaching on “losing your soul”, or essentially hell. This was especially helpful for me as I just finished reading the Gospel of Matthew where many of these phrases are repeated by Jesus.

“Jesus uses the His own solemn imagery–‘Gehenna’, (‘hell’ in Mark 9:47 and ten other gospel texts), the valley outside Jerusalem where rubbish was burned; the ‘worm’ that ‘dieth not’ (Mark 9:47), an image, it seems for the endless dissolution of the personality by a condemning conscience; ‘fire’ for the agonizing awareness of God’s displeasure; ‘outer darkness’ for knowledge of the loss, not merely of God, but of all good, and everything that made life seem worth living; ‘gnashing of teeth’ for self-condemnation and self-loathing. These things are, no doubt, unimaginably dreadful, though who have been convicted of sin know little of their nature.” (Knowing God, p. 138)

In this second quote, J.I. Packer, explains the necessity of the doctrine of God’s wrath:

“…if we would know God, it is vital that we face the truth concerning His wrath, however unfashionable it may be, and however strong our initial prejudices against it. Otherwise, we shall not understand the gospel of salvation from wrath, nor the propitiatory achievement of the cross, nor the wonder of the redeeming love of God.” (Knowing God, p. 142)

Dr. Packer had an excellent, long quote from A.W. Pink, but after Packer explaining importance of this often overlooked doctrine we should take Pink’s advice:

“The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character on which we need to meditate frequently.” (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, p.77, emphasis mine)

The Hidden Treasure and Pearl of Greatest Price

This morning I was reading the gospel of Matthew, chapters 12 and 13. Christ is teaching his disciples in many parables and I have been meditating on two them today: the parable of the hidden teasure and the parable of the pearl of great value.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys up that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

Here is what Matthew Henry says about this parable in his concise commentary:

“Many slight the gospel, because they look only upon the surface of the field. But all who search the Scriptures, so as in them to find Christ and eternal life, John 5:39, will discover such treasure in this field as makes it unspeakably valuable; they make it their own upon any terms. Though nothing can be given as a price for this salvation, yet much must be given up for the sake of it.”

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

Again, here are Matthew Henry’s comments:

“All the children of men are busy; one would be rich, another would be honourable, another would be learned; but most are deceived, and take up with counterfeits for pearls. Jesus Christ is a Pearl of great price; in having him, we have enough to make us happy here and for ever. A man may buy gold too dear, but not this Pearl of great price. When the convinced sinner sees Christ as the gracious Saviour, all things else become worthless to his thoughts.”

This second parable reminds me of the chorus of “Only Jesus” from Sovereign Grace‘s Valley of Vision:

“Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
Give us Jesus, we cry
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
The Pearl of greatest price”

A Prayer

LORD, thank You for showing me where the treasure of Christ is in the field of your Scriptures. Apart from your Spirit’s work, I would not have known to dig and much less know where to dig. I would have wondered the fields aimlessly in poverty. Father, I praise you for all the riches and wealth that I have in your precious Son. Although salvation is free, it is not without cost. Christ’s blood paid the debt of all my sins in order to purchase my salvation. Lord, that’s percisely the reason why Christ is so valuable to me! I am poor and naked without Him. Jesus, You are more valuable than anything in this world, yet I am tempted daily to hold on to fool’s gold. Don’t let me settle for counterfeit pearls that may appear beautiful, but have no value in Your kingdom. Help me to sell all the treasures that I have. For your glory and my joy, I pray. Amen.