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Archive for September, 2010

(Ecc 1:2-8) Creation is subject to frustration by the one who created and sustains it until the final redemption.

(Ecc 1:9-10) In Christ something new happens under the sun – the breaking in of the kingdom of God, the Atonement and new creation.

(Ecc 2) Christ taught futility of laboring after food, drink and clothing that spoils & does not satisfy. Christ taught to seek the Kingdom.

(Ecc 2:15-17) The resurrection of Christ as the first fruits answers Qoheleth’s frustration over the common experience of death of all men.

(Ecc 2:24-26) Sovereign Providence. From God’s hand comes enjoyment and wisdom. Distributed as God pleases.

(Ecc 3:1-11) Sovereignty. God ordains the times for everything that happens under the sun.

(Ecc 1:11) Sovereignty. God’s ways are perceived by men but remain inscrutable.

(Ecc 3:12-13,22) Joy in a creation subject to frustration is a gift of God’s sovereign grace.

(Ecc 3:14-15) Sovereignty. Nothing that God ordains can be altered by man.

(Ecc 4:13-16) Christ was a poor wise youth who God ordained as king. He replaces the foolish rule of men over creation.

(Ecc 1-4) Themes: Creation subjected to frustration, God’s sovereignty, joy as a gift from God’s hand.

(Ecc 5:10) Christ, like Qoheleth, is a Son of David who taught wisdom. What gain for a man to have riches but forfeit his soul?

(Ecc 5:18-20) Sovereign Providence. From God’s hand comes enjoyment and wisdom. Distributed as God pleases.

(Ecc 6:2) Providence. God gives wealth, possessions, and honor but may with hold from a man the power to enjoy these things.

(Ecc 6:12) Christ can tell man what will be after him under the sun.

(Ecc 7:2-4) Christ also said that blessed are those who go to the house of mourning & weeping rather than feasting & laughter. c.f. Mat 5:4.

(Ecc 7:8-9) Christ the wise man taught that blessed are the meek rather than the proud. c.f. Mat 5:5.

(Ecc 7:13) Sovereignty. Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?

(Ecc 7:14) Sovereignty. God has made both the day of prosperity and the day of adversity.

(Ecc 7:19) Christ is supremely wise and therefore supremely strong. Wisdom gives strength to wise man more than ten rulers in a city.

(Ecc 7:20) Christ is the righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

(Ecc 7:23-25) Christ,unlike Qoheleth, has explored the depths & furtherest reaches of wisdom. He alone understands God’s ways in providence.

(Ecc 8:1) Christ is wise, knows the interpretation of a thing, has a face that shines.

(Ecc 8:4) Christ is the king whose word is supreme and cannot be questioned.

(Ecc 8:8) Christ is the man with power to retain his spirit and authority over the day of death. He laid down his life & took it up again.

(Ecc 8:11-13) Christ will judge the wicked and the righteous, cutting short the life of some and prolonging the life of others.

(Ecc 8:15) Sovereign Providence. From God’s hand comes enjoyment and wisdom. Distributed as God pleases.

(Ecc 8:16-17) Christ is the only wise man, unlike Qoheleth, who understands the work of God in all his providences.

(Ecc 9:1) Sovereignty. The righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God.

(Ecc 9:7) The gift of God. Go, eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

(Ecc 9:8) A gift of God. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. In Christ righteousness, Spirit and joy.

(Ecc 9:9) A gift of God. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love.

(Ecc 9:14-16) Christ is the poor, despised wise man, who by his wisdom brought a great deliverance.

(Ecc 9:17) The quiet words of the wise Christ are better than the shouting of the foolish rulers of this world.

(Ecc 10:17) Christ is the king of most noble birth – most suitable to rule, not indulgent, strong, brings happiness to his people.

(Ecc 11:5) Christ knows fully both the creative work of God in one’s birth and the providential work of God in one’s life.

(Ecc 11:7) Christ gives light that is both sweet and pleasant.

(Ecc 12:9) Christ is the wise teacher of knowledge. He weighed, studied and arranged proverbs and parables with care.

(Ecc 12:10) Christ spoke gracious words that delighted people, words of righteousness and truth.

(Ecc 12:11) Christ’s wise words are like goads and nails firmly fixed in the wall. He is the Shepherd-teacher.

(Ecc 12:13) Christ is the perfect model of manhood – feared God and kept his commands – the whole duty of man.

(Ecc 12:14) Christ will bring every deed into judgment.

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Let this be one part of our daily contending with God—that he would preserve our souls, and keep our hearts and our ways, that we be not entangled; that his good and wise providence will order our ways and affairs, that no pressing temptation befall us; that he would give us diligence, carefulness, and watchfulness over our own ways.

Store the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, and his love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby—our adoption, justification, acceptance with God; fill the heart with thoughts of the beauty of his death—and you will, in an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations. … Lay in store of gospel provisions that may make the soul a defensed place against all the assaults thereof.

Meet your temptation in its entrance with thoughts of faith concerning Christ on the cross; this will make it sink before you. Entertain no parley, no dispute with it, if you would not enter into it. Say, "‘It is Christ that died’— that died for such sins as these."

Suppose the soul has been surprised by temptation, and entangled at unawares, so that now it is too late to resist the first entrances of it. What shall such a soul do that it be not plunged into it, and carried away with the power thereof?

First, do as Paul did: beseech God again and again that it may "depart from you" … you shall certainly either be speedily delivered out of it, or receive a sufficiency of grace [so as] not to be foiled utterly by it.

Second, fly to Christ, in a peculiar manner, as he was tempted, and beg of him to give you succor in this "needful time of trouble." … Lie down at his feet, make your complaint known to him, beg his assistance, and it will not be in vain.

Third, look to him who has promised deliverance. Consider that he is faithful and will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able.

Owen says that God may bring relief by sending affliction to mortify the heart, by some act of providence, treading down of Satan under one’s feet, supply of grace or comfortable persuasion of good success or the utter removing of it.

Owen writes that the person "having a due acquaintance with the gospel in its excellencies, as to him a word of mercy, holiness, liberty, and consolation, values it, in all its concerns, as his choicest and only treasure—makes it his business and the work of his life to give himself up unto it in universal obedience, then especially when opposition and apostasy put the patience of Christ to the utmost—he shall be preserved from the hour of temptation."

"He that keeps close to Christ is crucified with him and is dead to all the desires of the flesh and the world (as more fully: Gal. 6:14). Here the match is broken, and all love, entangling love, dissolved. The heart is crucified to the world and all things in it."

Owen warns against the "liking and love of the things proposed, insinuated, commended in the temptation" that "be living and active in us". He warns believers "not so much employ your thoughts about the things whereunto you are tempted, which oftentimes raises further entanglements".

He that makes it his business to eat daily of the tree of life will have no appetite unto other fruit, though the tree that bear them seem to stand in the midst of paradise.

source: John Owen, Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It (1658)

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Those who are Christ’s, and are acted in their obedience upon gospel principles, have the death of Christ, the love of God, the detestable nature of sin, the preciousness of communion with God, a deep-grounded abhorrency of sin as sin, to oppose to any seduction of sin, to all the workings, strivings, rightings of lust in their hearts.

But now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he hath nothing but law to oppose it withal, if he cannot fight against it with gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgement, which are the proper arms of the law, it is most evident that sin hath possessed itself of his will and affections to a very great prevalency and conquest. Such a person hath cast off, as to the particular spoken of, the conduct of renewing grace, and is kept from ruin only by restraining grace; and so far is he fallen from grace, and returned under the power of the law. … If thy contendings against sin be all on legal accounts, from legal principles and motives, what assurance canst thou attain unto that sin shall not have dominion over thee, which will be thy ruin? … What gospel principles do not, legal motives cannot do.

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And how doth God the Holy Ghost save thee?

By his illumination, by his renovation and by his preservation.

What is God’s design in saving of poor men?

The glorifying of his Name, of his Grace and Justice, and the everlasting happiness of his creature.

Source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
(Christiana – Prudence’s catechising of Christiana’s children)

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Let thy soul by faith be exercised with such thoughts and apprehensions as these:

"I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption if too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold, the Lord Christ, that hath all fullness of grace in his heart, all fullness of power in his hand, he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, drying soul and make me more than a conqueror. ‘Why sayest thou, O my soul, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgement is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 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; they shall walk, and not faint" He can make the ‘dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water;’ yea, he can make this ‘habitation of dragons,’ this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for ‘grass’ and fruit to himself".

AMEN

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 14.

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John Owen says that everything he has written is prepatory to the work of mortification especially with regard to heart preparation. As to the actual work of mortification he grounds in Christ and the Spirit. This is so much better than ‘try hard’.

Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.

By faith fill thy soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all thy lusts, this very lust wherewith thou art entangled, may be mortified. By faith ponder on this, that though thou art no way able in or by thyself to get the conquest over thy distemper, though thou art even weary of contending, and art utterly ready to faint, yet that there is enough in Jesus Christ to yield thee relief … In thy greatest distress and anguish, consider that fullness of grace, those riches, those treasures of strength, might, and help, that are laid up in him for our support … Let them come into and abide in thy mind. … Christ tells us that we obtain purging grace by abiding in him … To act faith upon the fullness that is in Christ for our supply is an eminent way of abiding in Christ, for both our insition and abode is by faith …

Raise up thy heart by faith to an expectation of relief from Christ. … "as the eyes of a servant to the hand of his master" … thy soul shall be satisfied, he will assuredly deliver thee; he will slay the lust, and thy latter end shall be peace. Only look for it at his hand …

But wilt thou say, "What ground have I to build such an expectation upon, so that I may expect not to be deceived?" … For the necessity of it, I have in part discovered it before, when I manifested that this is the work of faith and of believers only. "Without me," says Christ, "ye can do nothing" …

Consider his mercifulness, tenderness, and kindness, as he is our great High Priest at the right hand of God. …. Yea, let me add, that never any soul did or shall perish by the power of any lust, sin, or corruption, who could raise his soul by faith to an expectation of relief from Jesus Christ. …

Consider His faithfulness … He hath promised to relieve in such cases, and he will fulfill his word to the utmost.

Mortification of sin is peculiarly from the death of Christ, which shall assuredly be accomplished by it. He died to destroy the works of the devil. Whatever came upon our natures by his first temptation, whatever receives strength in our persons by his daily suggestions, Christ died to destroy it all. … This was his aim and intendment (wherein he will not fail) in his giving himself for us. That we might be freed from the power of our sins, and purified from all our defiling lusts, was his design.

In one word: This whole work, which I have described as our duty, is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all the parts and degrees of it; as, —

(1) He alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the corruption, lust, or sin to be mortified.

(2) The Spirit alone reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for our relief; which is the consideration that stays the heart from false ways and from despairing despondency.

(3) The Spirit alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ; which is the great sovereign means of mortification.

(4) The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power; for by the Spirit are we baptized into the death of Christ.

(5) The Spirit is the author and finisher of our sanctification; gives new supplies and influences of grace for holiness and sanctification, when the contrary principle is weakened and abated.

(6) In all the soul’s addresses to God in this condition, it hath supportment from the Spirit. Whence is the power, life, and vigour of prayer? whence its efficacy to prevail with God? Is it not from the Spirit?

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 14.

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NINETH DIRECTION

In case God disquiet the heart about the guilt of its distempers, either in respect of its root and indwelling, or in respect of any eruptions of it, take heed thou speakest not peace to thyself before God speaks it; but hearken what he says to thy soul.

That as it is the great prerogative and sovereignty of God to give grace to whom he pleases … so among those so called and justified, and whom he will save, he yet reserves this privilege to himself, to speak peace to whom he pleaseth, and in what degree he pleaseth, even amongst them on whom he hath bestowed grace.

He bears testimony concerning our condition as it is indeed. We may possibly mistake, and trouble ourselves in vain, or flatter ourselves upon false grounds, but he is the "Amen, the faithful Witness;" and what he speaks of our state and condition, that it is indeed.

Take these two previous observations, and I shall give some rules whereby men may know whether God speaks peace to them, or whether they speak peace to themselves only:–

Men certainly speak peace to themselves when their so doing is not attended with the greatest detestation imaginable of that sin in reference whereunto they do speak peace to themselves …

Let a man make what application he will for healing and peace, let him do it to the true Physician, let him do it the right way, let him quiet his heart in the promises of the covenant; yet, when peace is spoken, if it be not attended with the detestation and abhorrency of that sin which was the wound and caused the disquietment, this is no peace of God’s creating, but of our own purchasing. It is but a skinning over the wound, whilst the core lies at the bottom, which will putrefy, and corrupt, and corrode, until it break out again with noisomeness, vexation, and danger. Let not poor souls that walk in such a path as this, who are more sensible of who address themselves for mercy, yea, to the Lord in Christ they address themselves for mercy, but yet will keep the sweet morsel of their sin under their tongue; — let them, I say, never think to have true and solid peace.

How shall we know that our speaking peace is of ourselves rather than from God?

When God speedily causes us to know otherwise.

When we do not wait to hear God’s voice.

When though our rationale conscience and minds feel quietened yet it doth not sweeten the heart with rest and gracious contentation.

When it amends not the life, it heals not the evil, it cures not the distemper. When God speaks peace, it guides and keeps the soul that it "turn not again to folly." When we speak it ourselves, the heart is not taken off the evil; nay, it is the readiest course in the world to bring a soul into a trade of backsliding. If, upon thy plastering thyself, thou findest thyself rather animated to the battle again than utterly weaned from it, it is too palpable that thou hast been at work with thine own soul … In God’s speaking peace there comes along so much sweetness, and such a discovery of his love, as is a strong obligation on the soul no more to deal perversely.

We speak peace to ourselves when we do it slightly.

When men of themselves speak peace to their consciences, it is seldom that God speaks humiliation to their souls. God’s peace is humbling peace, melting peace, as it was in the case of David; never such deep humiliation as when Nathan brought him the tidings of his pardon.

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 13.

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FOURTH DIRECTION

Being thus affected with thy sin, in the next place get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it.

Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that hath a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after.

FIFTH DIRECTION

Consider whether the distemper with which thou art perplexed be not rooted in thy nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from thy constitution. A proneness to some sins may doubtless lie in the natural temper and disposition of men.

SIXTH DIRECTION

Consider what occasions, what advantages thy distemper hath taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.

SEVENTH DIRECTION

Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, "Thus far it shall go, and no farther." If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel, — if it once break out, it will have its course.

EIGHTH DIRECTION

Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him. Many thoughts of it cannot but fill thee with a sense of thine own vileness, which strikes deep at the root of any indwelling sin. When Job comes to a clear discovery of the greatness and the excellency of God, he is filled with self-abhorrence and is pressed to humiliation … Will not a due apprehension of this inconceivable greatness of God, and that infinite distance wherein we stand from him, fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatever? Let the soul be continually wonted to reverential thoughts of God’s greatness and omnipresence, and it will be much upon its watch as to any undue deportments.

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 12.

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THIRD DIRECTION

Load they conscience with the guilt of the perplexing distemper.

Owen urges that the Law of Moses be applied to your sin in all its holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness and absoluteness and then see how thou canst stand before it. He urges that one’s conscience be affected with the terror of the Lord in the Law and how righteous it would be that every one of thy transgressions should receive a recompense of reward. Owen says that the Law should be applied to allow it to do its work of exposing sin, guilt and humbling the soul.

Next he urges to “bring thy lust to the gospel”. I was hoping that he meant so one would find grace. But he says, “not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt”.

… look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, "What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace? …

Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God towards thee in particular. … Hast thou not often been ready to conclude thyself, that it was utterly impossible that he should bear any longer with thee; that he would cast thee off, and be gracious no more; that all his forbearance was exhausted, and hell and wrath was even ready prepared for thee and yet, above all thy expectation, he hath returned with visitations of love.

[Consider] how often hast thou been at the door of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and by the infinite rich grace of God hast been recovered to communion with him again.

[Consider] all God’s gracious dealings with thee, in providential dispensations, deliverances, afflictions, mercies, enjoyments …

By these, I say, and the like means, load thy conscience; and leave it not until it be thoroughly affected with the guilt of thy indwelling corruption, until it is sensible of its wound, and lie in the dust before the Lord. Unless this be done to the purpose, all other endeavours are to no purpose. Whilst the conscience hath any means to alleviate the guilt of sin, the soul will never vigorously attempt its mortification.

source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 11.

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DIRECTION 2

Get a clear and abiding sense upon thy mind and conscience of the guilt, danger and evil of sin.

The guilt of it.

It is one of the deceits of a prevailing lust to extenuate its own guilt. "Is it not a little one?"

Owen urges us to remember that since we know God and have experienced his grace, our sinning is even more terrible.

So, then, let these things, and the like considerations, lead thee to a clear sense of the guilt of thy indwelling lust, that there may be no room in thy heart for extenuating or excusing thoughts, whereby sin insensibly will get strength and prevail.

The danger of it.

(1) Of being hardened by the deceitfulness … thou shalt be able to pass over duties, praying, hearing, reading, and thy heart not in the least affected. Sin will grow a light thing to thee; thou wilt pass it by as a thing of nought …

(2) The danger of some great temporal correction.

(3) The loss of peace with God and strength to walk with God.

(4) There is the danger of eternal destruction. … That there is such a connection between a continuance in sin and eternal destruction, that though God does resolve to deliver some from a continuance in sin that they may not be destroyed, yet he will deliver none from destruction that continue in sin; so that whilst any one lies under an abiding power of sin, the threats of destruction and everlasting separation from God are to be held out to him.

The evils of it.

It grieves the Holy Spirit …

The Lord Jesus is wounded afresh by it …

It takes away a man’s usefulness … His works, his endeavours, his labours, seldom receive blessing from God. If he be a preacher, God commonly blows upon his ministry, that he shall labour in the fire, and not be honoured with any success or doing any work for God … The world is at this day full of poor withering professors. How few are there that walk in any beauty or glory! how barren, how useless are they, for the most part! Amongst the many reasons that may be assigned of this sad estate, it may justly be feared that this is none of the least effectual, — many men harbour spirit-devouring lusts in their bosoms …

This, then, is my second direction, and it regards the opposition that is to be made to lust in respect of its habitual residence in the soul :– Keep alive upon thy heart these or the like considerations of its guilt, danger, and evil; be much in the meditation of these things; cause thy heart to dwell and abide upon them; engage thy thoughts into these considerations; let them not go off nor wander from them until they begin to have a powerful influence upon thy soul, — until they make it to tremble.

source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 10.

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