The god of This Twentieth Century

Of old, God complained to an apostate Israel, “You thought I was just like you” (Psalm 50:21). Such must now be His indictment against an apostate Christendom. Men imagine that the Most High is moved by sentiment, rather that actuated by principle. They suppose that His omnipotence is such an idle fiction that Satan is thwarting His designs on every side. They think that if He has formed any plan or purpose at all, then it must be like theirs, constantly subject to change. They openly declare that whatever power He possesses must be restricted, lest He invade the citadel of man’s ‘free will’ and reduce him to a ‘machine.’ They lower the all-efficacious atonement, which has actually redeemed everyone for whom it was made, to a mere ‘remedy,’ which sin-sick souls may use if they feel disposed to; and they enervate the invincible work of the Holy Spirit to an ‘offer’ of the Gospel which sinners may accept or reject as they please.

The god of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ, than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The god who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of mushy sentimentality. The heathen outside of the pale of Christendom form gods out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a god out of their own carnal mind. In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God, and no God at all. A god whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits nothing but contempt!”

– Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God, p.21-22

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His Infinite Fullness Fits Him For Us

“One great part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart is to . . .
empty us,
strip us of self,
lead us to feel our own weakness, and
bring us as poor sinners to look to Jesus alone, as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
And just in proportion as we feel our need of Christ, and realize our absolute nothingness without Christ–shall we prize Him, enjoy Him, and exercise dependence upon Him.

O how little do many of us know our need of Christ, and therefore it is that we . . .
make so little use of Christ,
receive so little from Christ,
and do so little for Christ!

We come to Him at first–as poor, lost, helpless sinners–that we may be saved by His merit and mercy. And as believers, we must continually come to Him…
with all our burdens–that He may bear them;
with all our cares–that He may manage them;
with all our sorrows–that He may sanctify them;
with all our foes–that He may conquer them;
with all our sins–that He may cleanse them; and
with all our needs–that He may supply them.

All that we need is in Christ–and it is in Christ, for us. Our sense of our need of Christ, if it is deep and increasing–will lead us to daily come to Christ for all our supplies.

Our deep necessity fits us for Christ–and His infinite fullness fits Him for us!

Our trials, troubles, temptations, disappointments, and vexations are to teach us our need of Christ; and drive us continually to Him.

There is often much prayer–and yet little communion with Christ. We should realize that He is giving us His whole attention. He expects us to tell Him . . .
all that troubles us,
all that grieves us,
all that pleases us,
all that we need,
and all that we desire.
We should keep back nothing from Him–but speak to Him freely on every subject, and every circumstance. He is always with us, listening to us, and sympathetically entering into all our concerns!

We must be intimate with Christ.
We must walk with Him.
We must carry everything to Him.
We must seek all we need from Him.
We must be constantly . . .
going to Christ,
conversing with Christ,
and obtaining from Christ–
if we would receive the consoling influences of His love!

– James Smith, Abide with Me

The Necessity of the Spirit to Pray and Continue in Prayer

“As the heart must be lifted up by the Spirit, if it pray aright, so also it must be held up the Spirit when it is up, if it is to continue to pray aright. I do not know what or how it is with others’ hearts, whether they be lifted up by the Spirit of God, and so continued, or no: but this I am sure of, first, that it is impossible that all the prayer books that men have in the world, should lift up, or prepare the heart, for that is the work of the great God himself. And, in the second place, I am sure that they are as far from keeping it up, when it is up. And indeed here is the life of prayer, to have the heart kept with God in the duty. It was a great matter for Moses to keep his hands lifted up to God in prayer; but how much more then to keep the heart in it! (Exod. 17:12).

The want of this is that which God complains of; that men draw nigh to him with their mouth, and know him with their lips, but their hearts are far from him (Is. 29:13; Ezek. 33:31), but chiefly they that walk after the commandments and traditions of men, as the scope of Matthew 15:8-9 testifies. And verily, may I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought, it is enough to make your poor, blind, carnal men to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loth to go to God, and when it is with him, so loth to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers, first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there. Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only blessed be grace, the Spirit helps our infirmities (Ps. 86:11).

O the starting-holes that the heart has in the time of prayer! None knows how many by-ways the heart has, and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God. How much pride also, if enabled with expressions! How much hypocrisy, if before others! And how little conscience is there made of prayer between God and the soul in secret, unless the Spirit of supplication be there to help! When the Spirit gets into the heart, then there is prayer indeed, and not till then.”

– John Bunyan, Prayer, p.31-32

Prayer is More Than Words

“The soul that rightly prays, it must be in and with the help and strength of the Spirit; because it is impossible that a man should express himself in prayer without it. By this I mean that it is impossible that the heart, in a sincere and affectionate way, should pour out itself before God, with those groans and sighs that come from a truly praying heart, without the assistance of the Spirit. It is not the mouth that is the main thing to be looked at in prayer, but whether the heart is so full of affection and earnest in prayer with God that it is impossible to express their sense and desire; for then a man desires indeed when his desires are so strong, many, and mighty, that all the words, tears and groans that come from the heart cannot utter them: ‘The Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with’ sighs and ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26).

That is but poor prayer which is only one of words. A man that truly prays one prayer cannot express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in his prayer. The best prayers have often more groans than words: and those words that they have are but a lean and shallow representation of the heart, life and spirit of prayer.”

– John Bunyan, Prayer, p.32-33

It Is Just The Back Parts of Eternity And Infinity That We See

“There are some truths of God that He has taught us to speak of. He has even guided us in our expressions of them. But when we have done so we do not really fully understand these things. All we can do is believe and admire. We profess,  as we are taught that God is infinite, omnipotent, eternal; and we know the discussions about His omnipresence, immensity, infinity and eternity. We have, I say, words and notions about these things; but as to the things themselves, what do we really know? What do we comprehend of them? Can the mind of man do any more than be swallowed up in an infinite abyss and give itself up to what it cannot conceive or express? Is not our understanding ‘brutish’ in the contemplation of such things?

We are more perfect in our understanding when we realize that we cannot understand, and rest there. It is just the back parts of eternity and infinity that we see. What shall we say of the Trinity, or the existence of three Persons in the same individual essence? This is such a mystery that it is denied by many, because they cannot understand it. Is it not indeed a mystery whose every letter is mysterious? Who can declare the generation of the Son, the procession of the Spirit, or the difference of the one from the other? Thus, the infinite and inconceivable distance that is between Him and keeps us in the dark as to any sight of His face or clear apprehension of His perfections.

We know Him rather by what He does than by what He is. We understand His doing us good, but not truly His essential goodness. How little a portion of Him, as Job says, is discovered in this way!”

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.94-95

Consider Sin in Relation to the Gospel

“Bring your lust to the gospel. Not for relief, but for further conviction of your guilt. Look on Him whom you have pierced, and let it trouble you. Say to your soul, ‘What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this how I pay back the Father for His love? Is this how I thank the Son for His blood? Is this how I respond to the Holy Spirit for His grace? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, and the Holy Spirit has chosen to dwell in? How can I keep myself out of the dust? What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before Him? Do I count fellowship with Him of so little value that, for this vile lust’s sake, I have hard;y left Him any room in my heart? How shall I escape if I neglect so great a salvation?

‘What shall I say to the Lord? His love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation – I have despised all of them! I have considered them as nothing, that I might habour lust in my heart. Have I seen God as my Father, that I might provoke Him to His face? Was my soul washed that there might be room for new defilements? Shall I seek to disappoint the purpose of the death of Christ? Shall I grieve the Holy Spirit, Who has sealed me unto the day of redemption?’ Allow your conscience to consider these things every day. See if you conscience can resist the way in which these considerations aggravate guilt. If this does not cause your conscience to sink and melt, I fear that your case is very dangerous.”

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.78-79

What If There Were No Holy Spirit?

“It is an extraordinary thing that those who profess to care so much about Christ should know and care so little about the Holy Spirit. Christians are aware of the difference it would make if, after all, it transpired that there had never been an incarnation or an atonement. They know that then they would be lost, for they would have no Saviour. But many Christians have really no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in the world. Whether in that case they, or the Church, would suffer in any way they just do not know. Surely something is amiss here. How can we justify neglecting the ministry of Christ’s appointed agent in this way? Is it not a hollow fraud to say that we honour Christ when we ignore, and by ignoring dishonour, the one whom Christ has sent to us as His deputy, to take His place, and care for us on His behalf? Ought we not to concern ourselves more about the Holy Spirit than we do?

“But is the work of the Holy Spirit really important?

“Important! Why, were not for the work of the Holy Spirit there would be no gospel, no faith, no Church, no Christianity in the world at all.”

– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.60-61