Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment 5

c. It is the frame of spirit that shows the habitual character of this grace of contentment. Contentment is not merely one act—just a flash in a good mood. You find many men and women who, if they are in a good mood, will be very quiet. But this will not hold. It is not the constant tenor of their spirits to be holy and gracious under affliction.

— Contentment is a gracious frame, opposed to natural quietness. Indeed, in contentment there is a compound of all graces. But now the gracious frame of spirit is in opposition to three things:

a. In opposition to the natural quietness of many men and women. Some are so constituted by nature that they are more still and quiet. Others are of a violent and hot constitution, and they are more impatient.

b. In opposition to a sturdy resolution. Some men through the strength of a sturdy resolution do not seem to be troubled, come what may. So they are not disquieted as much as others.

c. By way of distinction from the strength of natural (though unsanctified) reason that may quiet the heart in some degree. But now I say that a gracious frame of spirit is not merely a stillness of the body that comes from its natural constitution and temper, nor a sturdy resolution, nor the strength of reason.

You will ask, “In what way is the grace of contentment distinguished from all these?” Where contentment of heart springs from grace, the heart is very quick and lively in the service of God! The difference is very clear: The one whose disposition is quiet is not disquieted as others are, but neither does he show any activeness of spirit to sanctify the name of God in his affliction. But, on the other hand, he whose contentment is of grace keeps his heart quiet with regard to vexation and trouble and at the same time is not dull or heavy, but very active to sanctify God’s name in the affliction that he is experiencing.

I will give you just one mark of the difference between a man or woman who is content in a natural way and one who is content in a spiritual way: Those who are content in a natural way when outward afflictions befall them are just as content when they commit sin against God. When they have outward crosses or when God is dishonored, it is all one to them whether they themselves are crossed or whether God is crossed. But a gracious heart that is contented with its own affliction will rise up strongly when God is dishonored.

— by Jeremiah Burroughs

Salvation is of the Lord!

Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit

Of all the charges we have been given by God, is there any more serious and important than the gospel? If we rightly believe that reconciliation of sinners with holy God is the most vital part of life, then the role given us by God in His grand redemptive plan must be worthy of our close attention. It is call to properly understanding and proclaiming that gospel our author strives to impress upon the reader in this fine book.

Seiver’s book is presented in 3 parts, focusing on the necessity of evangelism, the biblical pattern for evangelism, and the theological foundation for evangelism – which takes up the largest space in this book. This reflects what should be common knowledge among the children of God – our practice in all things related to our faith is informed and formed by what we think of ourselves and of God; our theology. This is why, for example, the first 11 chapters of Romans is a seminary in theology and the last 5 are how it works out in the lives of individuals and the local church.

One statement from the introduction that sticks out – the gospel “is not even primarily about sinners going to heaven when they die. It is about the manifestation of God’s glory in the contrivance and execution of the plan of redemption.” Being reconciled to God, being with Him in a state of being unable to sin, showing forth the glorious saving grace found only in Christ Jesus – that is the great prize. Since the Bible tells us (Mark 4 – parable of the seeds) that good soil will produce much fruit, and that the seed is the Word of God, we conclude two things that Randy puts before us: The Gospel is God’s message, not ours; and the fruit produced by our message will reflect its source. A false gospel will produce false converts – God promises to attend the proclamation of His Word, not the “wisdom of man”.

Part 1 defines Calvinism, Arminianism, and these views affect evangelism; about which he says, “We can define evangelism as the proclamation of the good news that God has universally published his terms of peace … this proffered pardon is not based in any sense on the sinner’s willingness to return to God or on his believing acceptance of the terms of peace. Pardon is based solely on Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments on the sinner’s behalf.” Our author bids us cast aside our traditions and concepts and jargon that is not found in the Bible; this should be solid ground but I have been amazed at how few people agree with the idea or with working it out to align with Scripture. This will be the rub for many who read this book. I would encourage anyone interested in the idea of biblical evangelism to take and read.

Bottom line from part 1: “People become effective evangelists when they are so filled with the knowledge of God’s glory and of his truth that they simply cannot be quiet.” That is what the Bible records and that is very good counsel.

Part 2 opens with this jewel: “Whenever we search for a biblical pattern for any aspect of the church’s life and ministry we need to understand that such a pattern is established in the didactic passages of the New Testament Scriptures, not in the historical and hortatory passages.” I dare say that many of the errors so prevalent in church life today are the result of normalizing narratives.  Combine that with the long ending of Mark and you have people handling snakes and drinking poison as if commanded to do so by God to demonstrate faith in Him.  As you read the chapters in this part, your thoughts of evangelism will likely be shaken, as many of the practices in our churches are not found in the Bible, but are established only as traditions of men.  Randy sums much of this section up with this: “the message preached to the unconverted included no call for them to believe that Jesus died for them. It simply demands that sinners leave their sin and their wicked and misguided thoughts about God and return to his way. It assures them that when they account God to be faithful to keep his promise, he will pardon them in Jesus’ name (by his authority and through his merit).”

Part 3 is the longest, focused on the proper theology behind evangelism. He spends time presenting a biblical view of God and tells us, “It is never right to conclude that God is unfair [unrighteous] because he did not act in a way that meets our standard of right and wrong.” It is OK for the Christian to admit he doesn’t understand something; it is flat out wrong to say something clearly taught as God’s will is not right. We are reminded of our main goal in life – the glorify our God, and our author highlights how ur gospel proclamation fits into this: “We preach the gospel because it is in line with God’s great purpose—that is, to make his glory known in the earth.” What can be more glorious than the displayed mercy of holy God as He redeems sinners and makes them fit for His house? If some do not hear our message, we do not lose heart – our goal is to be pleasing to our Savior. He bids us to sow the seed He has given to us, not to presume to know or determine the nature of the soil into which we sow.

This section of the book covers other topics, such as the authority of Scripture, the nature and purpose of salvation, God’s eternal purpose, repentance and faith, and conferring assurance.

You are likely to disagree with some of Mr. Seiver’s conclusions or the details of this or that. But unless you want to sit in judgment on God, you will find yourself in vigorous agreement with his over-arching thrust – salvation is of the Lord!

You can buy this book here.

Willing to Be Used by God

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me

These words penned by Steven Curtis Chapman echo my sentiment most of the time. I can relate to Gideon who referred to himself as “the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). I’m thankful that God does not limit Himself to using the good looking, the smart, or even the greatly talented. He simply looks for those who are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

In God’s Kingdom, there are no competitions. God simply desires faithfulness, those who will run this race called life with endurance, never stopping until we cross the finish line.

It’s easy to compare ourselves with others but Scripture tells us that is unwise (2 Corinthians 10:12). If I had every gift and talent I would like to have, I would probably be pretty proud. If I look at it that way, my limitations are a blessing.

To me, the wonder is not in the fact that God can use me but that He does. I trust He is using you as well. You may not see it but rest in it. If you are shining with the light of Jesus, people can’t help but notice. Don’t beat yourself up with how imperfect you are but get up each morning, talk to the Father, read His Word, and tell Him you are willing to be used however He would like to use you each day. Then thank Him for the work He is doing in and through you. He is so faithful!

Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment 4

Contentment is an inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit. It is an inward frame of spirit and a gracious frame. Contentment is a soul business.

a. It is a grace that spreads itself through the whole soul. In some, there is a partial contentment. It is not the [whole] frame of the soul, but [only] some part of the soul has some contentment. Many a man may be satisfied in his judgment about a thing, who cannot for his life rule his affections, his thoughts, or his will. I do not doubt that many of you know this in your own experience, if you observe the workings of your own hearts.

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But there is a great deal of hope of attaining contentment, if you can sit down and say, “I see good reason to be contented.” Yet even when you have [gotten this] far, you may still have much to do with your hearts afterwards. There is such unruliness in our thoughts and affections that our judgments are not always able to rule them. That is what makes me say that contentment is an inward frame of spirit. The whole soul—judgment, thoughts, will, affections—all are satisfied and quiet.

b. Spiritual contentment comes from the frame of the soul. The contentment of a man or woman who is rightly content does not come so much from outward arguments or help, as from the disposition of their own hearts. Let me explain myself. Someone is disturbed. If you come and bring some great thing to please him, perhaps it will quiet him, and he will be “contented.” It is the thing you bring that quiets him, not the disposition of his own spirit, but the external thing you bring him. But when a Christian is content in the right way, the quiet comes more from the disposition of his own heart than from any external argument or from the possession of anything in the world. To be content because of some external thing is like warming a man’s clothes by the fire. But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like the warmth that a man’s clothes have from the natural heat of the body.

–Jeremiah Burroughs

Captive to the Word of God

Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores. In four parts, Captive to the Word of God examines the history of Baptists and the distinctives that mark them; how Baptists fit into and should view reformed theology; a Baptist view of the covenants in Scripture; and what these theological and doctrinal concepts look like when practiced in a local church.

Here’s what people are saying about this book:

Mike Ratliff

As a fellow Baptist I am extremely grateful to Stuart for writing and publishing this well written and well researched book. When God drew me out of the mediocrity of American Evangelicalism in 2004 I had the Word of God and works of Luther, Calvin, Sproul, Pink, Packer, Boice, Clark, Edwards, Owen, Horton, Spurgeon, and Bunyan to wade through in an attempt to get a grasp on what Stuart has clearly organized and presented in this fine work. In the above list of names only two of them are Baptists (Spurgeon and Bunyan). I did learn much of my Reformation Theology from all those listed, but I learned how to get things right Biblically through the teachings of those two men. If I had had this book back then it would have been most useful! Why? Stuart gives us the history of the Baptist very succinctly and then history of the Reformation itself and why it was necessary. In part 3 Stuart gives us the proper interpretation of Covenant Theology by Baptists which keeps us from the errors made by so many in todays mess of Evangelicalism. Lastly, Stuart gives us proper soteriology in Part 4 which is sadly missing in our day, which is a large part of why Evangelicalism has lost its way.

I highly recommend Stuart L Brogden’s new book to you. If you are being drawn by God to know Him and your role in His Church then this book is a wonderful place to start. You won’t be disappointed.

Jon J. Cardwell, pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, Anniston, Alabama and author of Christ and Him Crucified

As we live in times of enormous dysfunction, disagreement, and even disunion in local gatherings professing to have faith in Jesus Christ, Stuart Brogden’s voice rises in the wilderness as a servant and workman of Christ who, by God’s grace and in His providence, has been made manifest among us. Although his message is couched in a Particular Baptist perspective, the underlying theme of his treatise is found in the main title of his book: Captive to the Word of God. A thorough and thoughtful passion for God’s Word has always been needed by the Christian believer, and today, more than ever. Too many, these days, are departing from their First Love, Jesus Christ, because they have divorced who He is and what He has done from what has been written of Him from Genesis to Revelation. Whether you identify with Baptists or not, Stuart Brogden provokes us to love God’s Word unto loving Christ… and loving Christ and His holy Word as much as a sinner saved by grace is able, by God’s grace.

Rev. Jeff Canfield, D. Min., Pastor at Word of Life Church, Sullivan, Indiana and author of A Call to Honor and When Church and Government Collide

Stuart Brogden’s excellent work, subtitled, A Particular Baptist Perspective on Reformed and Covenant Theology, is not only rich in church history, but also in theological substance. Mr. Brogden details the Baptist view of Reformed and Covenant Theology in a scholarly and authoritative manner. Without a doubt, this work should be considered a necessary addition to any serious theological student’s study library, as well as a wonderful resource for any pastor, teacher, or professor.

Jeffrey D. Johnson, pastor at Grace Baptist Church, Conway, Arkansas and author of The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism

Eliza Spurgeon told her son: “I have often prayed for your conversion, but I never thought you would become a Baptist.” With his quick wit, the young Charles responded: “Mother, that shows you that God has not only answered your prayers, but has done exceeding abundantly above all you asked or thought.” Like Charles Spurgeon, I am joyful to be a Baptist but concerned we have lost sight of what it means to be a Baptist. With confessions of faith being stored in the attic as archaic relics of the past, it is no wonder that the labels defining denominational distinctives are being dropped from churches’ names. To recover the Baptist name, it is vital that we recover the historic Baptist distinctives. For this reason I cannot recommend Captive to the Word of God enough. Stuart Brogden covers all the major components of the Baptist faith and traces every doctrinal tenant back to the Scriptures. Above everything else, Brogden explains why Baptists are called “people of the book.” In my opinion, this helpful work needs to be required reading for all Baptist seminary students. In fact, everyone who wants to know what it means to be a Baptist should read this book. Since I love the historic Baptist faith, I love this book.

Click the pic or the link to be taken to the Amazon page. Also, now available on Kindle!

My goal in writing this is to examine my own beliefs, strengthen my fellow Baptists, provoke fellow Christians to think biblically, and be a faithful steward of all the Lord has given me. My goal in life is to serve our God for the glory of His name and the good of His people, and to be remembered by my family and our God. May all who have benefited from anything I have said or done forget my name; may it be the name of the Lord Jesus that is remembered. A more excellent way to sum this up was written by an 18th century pastor, William Mason in his booklet, The Believer’s Pocket Companion:

The design of my writings is to stir up and quicken the Lord’s children in the way of . . .

greater trust in Christ,

 more intense looking to Christ,

greater dependence upon Him,

and more consistent abiding in Him

  • so that they may . . .

enjoy more sweet fellowship with Him,

find more of the His inestimable preciousness,

and experience more of His wonderful love, which surpasses knowledge.

Amen and amen!

Looking Through His Eyes

My mom used to sing a song which said:

Let me see this world, dear Lord, as though I were looking through Your eyes
A world of men who don’t want You, Lord, but a world for which You died

I’ve not heard that song for years but it comes back to me from time to time. How would I treat people differently if I could see them through God’s eyes?

I find that the people who come across as the most arrogant are often the most insecure. Those who are mean are usually very lonely. It’s easy to think they’ve done that to themselves, and I’m sure some have but I expect that some use meanness in order to keep themselves from getting hurt, which has probably happened to them in the past.

As God told Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Do you try to see into people’s hearts or do you judge them by how they appear externally?

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As you go through this week, I challenge you to bear with people. You might have an opportunity to show love to someone who is hurting but would never admit it. Don’t be so focused on yourself that you miss what God desires to do in and through you. And, even if someone is being mean to you because he or she is a mean person, this may be a good time to practice heaping “burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).

My goal this year is to remind all of us to walk as Jesus walked and to obey His commands. There are so many things in the Bible that are easy to lose sight of in the midst of trials and conflict. I need these reminders too so, if you see a theme running through my posts this year, that is why.

Don’t Be Offended

Years ago, I heard a testimony by a man who said that he was determined to not get offended. At the time, I thought that was an interesting goal but not one I’d ever considered. The older I get, the more I realize what a worthy goal that is. How many relationships have ceased, or at least been greatly strained, because one person became offended over something another person did or didn’t do.

I can’t say that I have mastered this but it is something that I am asking God’s help in. I find that, often, the person who caused the offense does not realize they have done so and, in this age of not wanting to offend others, the offended does not follow the Biblical principle of going to their friend to let them know they’re hurt or offended. This is so sad!

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One thing that helps me is realizing that I am not always easy to get along with either. There really is something to showing the grace to others that you would like to receive in return.If someone has offended you to the point that it is affecting your relationship, I would recommend that you go to that person and talk to them. Explain that you were offended by their actions and how you would like things to play out in the future.

If they listen and are willing to work through things, you have saved your relationship. If they aren’t, then you may need to distance but at least you did what you could. Then ask God to give you a pure heart toward that person. If you continue to let it fester, it could turn into bitterness, which may affect other relationships and will hinder your relationship with God. Pray too that God will give you an open heart if you are struggling with bitterness over a damaged relationship. Humility is the best path to pursue when striving to walk the path toward the future.