Contending For The Faith

May 21, 2009

Great Words From Spurgeon

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 11:21 am
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Only within the last year have I really begun to appreciate, and seek out, the sermons of great Christian teachers– what a treasure I missed, all those years content with reading the Bible through once a year, glancing through my NIV Study Bible notes, and weekly sermons from the local church pastor. It was actually my discontent with that local pastor (which is another story) that God used to lead me to the good material, the solid preaching and teaching. First I started reading and listening to John MacArthur, and what a difference that has made in my life, to go deeper into the Word, to correct and increase my biblical understanding and faith.

Since then I have found a few other good teachers I enjoy listening to, including Phil Johnson and Jim McClarty. I’ve only begun to read the “dead Christian teachers” including two books from A.W. Pink, and now, especially, C.H. Spurgeon. I’ve started with my church library’s Spurgeon sermon collection, about halfway through the first volume, sermons from 1855.

Now I also enjoy the daily Spurgeon devotionals (from Alistair Begg’s website), and a new blog called “The Daily Spurgeon.”  So much of Spurgeon’s words are “spot on,” timeless observations of God and man, and still as true in today’s Christian world as then– and special to me personally as well.

For example, the following quote, from his 1855 sermon “The Necessity of Increased Faith,” describes where I am now at:

From C.H. Spurgeon, sermon #32, “The Necessity of Increased Faith” (1855)

I know I can say I have had an increase of faith in one or two respects within the last few months. I could not, for a long time, see anything like the Millenium in the Scriptures; I could not much rejoice in the Second Coming of Christ, though I did believe it; but gradually my faith began to open to that subject, and I find it now a part of my meat and drink, to be looking for, as well as hastening unto, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe I have only just begun to learn the A B C of the Scriptures yet, and will constantly cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith,” that I may know more and believe more, and understand thy Word far better.

Spurgeon was only 21 then, an age now a little over half a lifetime ago; I wasn’t even yet saved at that age–God would work on my heart just three years later. But just at the point when I had become content, and thought I knew all that the Bible had to say, God has seen fit to reveal this too, and like Spurgeon I cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith.”

May 14, 2009

Thoughts on Spurgeon

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon — Lynda O @ 7:18 am
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In the last few months I have begun to appreciate C.H. Spurgeon, through reading his sermons, daily devotionals, and the Teampyro blog’s “Dose of Spurgeon” posts. His sermons are an invaluable treasure, with thoughts on so many different Christian topics.

Every once in a while, though, we all find something wrong, something to disagree with, even in a much-revered man like Spurgeon, moments that remind us that yes, even Spurgeon was human and fallible. A few days ago, while reading through sermons in the first volume of Spurgeon’s sermons (1855), I read the following:

Can any man tell me when the beginning was? Years ago we thought the beginning of this world was when Adam came upon it; but we have discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvelous skill, before he tried his hand on man.

He then changed the subject, went on to other matters without elaborating. As far as I know, he never said anything further regarding the matter. Answers in Genesis mentions the above quote in this article that tells the history of 19th century Christians who compromised and accepted the claims of science without challenge.

Today I read the latest from Teampyro’s Weekly Dose of Spurgeon, on Spurgeon’s comments (1890) against evolution and other man-made philosophy:

If any of you shall live fifty years, you will see that the philosophy of today will be a football of contempt for the philosophy of that period. They will speak, amidst roars of laughter, of evolution; and the day will come, when there will not be a child but will look upon it as being the most foolish notion that ever crossed the human mind. I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I know what has befallen many of the grand discoveries of the great philosophers of the past; and I expect that the same thing will happen again.

Alas, his prediction about evolution has yet to be fulfilled — though as one blogger commented, the specifics of “evolution” have changed since Spurgeon’s time. Yet Spurgeon’s own error concerning the long ages of time — the very thing necessary to support the man-made evolutionary theory — has been so oft-repeated down through the years, a lie that so permeates our culture today that most continue to accept it without question.

So Spurgeon too is fallible, a good reminder to always subject man’s words, even those of godly, Christian leaders, to the word of God. Some preachers come closer to the mark, the standard of God’s word, than others, and this too requires great discernment, a gift from God through the Holy Spirit and our study of the Bible.

In Spurgeon’s defense, I can recognize that his shortcoming on this matter was far less than the same error in present-day preachers — due to the amount of light and knowledge. Scientific discoveries of the last 150 years since Spurgeon have pointed out the many problems with the claims of evolutionists, the flaws and inconsistencies found in the supposed geologic column and dating techniques. The modern-day preacher, who has full access to so much information regarding the issue, and yet insists on the old-earth ideas and rejects the overwhelming body of evidence, simply has no excuse for his unbelief.

From that point of variation, too, we can apply the Bible’s teachings and discern how far astray the preacher goes, in other doctrinal matters. Does the preacher honor the word of God in all matters, exegeting the text rather than imposing his own ideas onto it?
Here Spurgeon comes up much stronger than the modern-day “old-earth” professors. For on the same day when I read the above 1855 sermon, I also read one from the same year in which he preached on a verse from Ezekiel 34 and correctly taught what the passage says regarding Israel, both past and future. Though Spurgeon denounced the dispensationalists of his day, his views of Historic Premillennialism are actually very similar to that of my own “progressive dispensationalism,” agreeing that the Bible does teach a future regathering of Israel to the nation, and that some type of structure, whether a temple or other Church structure, will exist in the millennial period (in reference to Ezekiel’s prophecy). The only area of disagreement regards the timing of the rapture. As I’ve read elsewhere, Spurgeon was of the post-trib view, that the Church and believers would go through the tribulation. I’m not 100% sure of the pre-trib view yet (though I understand and agree with the pre-trib reasoning), mainly because I realize that the rapture timing is not something taught explicitly in the Bible, but that can only be inferred and implied based on several other assumptions. Clearly it was not something God wanted us to know with positive certainty.

So, even with Spurgeon’s error regarding the age of the creation, I can still evaluate his overall teachings and recognize a solid Christian teacher who can generally be trusted as faithful to the Bible. I have far less problems with Spurgeon’s ideas concerning the earth’s age and the rapture timing, than with the one who altogether rejects the basic futurist teaching of the Bible, with the modern-day “old-earth” preacher who shows (time and again) his unfaithfulness to God’s word in so many other doctrinal matters.

May 13, 2009

Great Quotes About God’s Faithfulness and Goodness

Filed under: quotes — Lynda O @ 11:40 am
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A.W. Pink, from The Attributes of God, on God’s faithfulness:

There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a profest brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely-tried fellow-pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
. . .
God is faithful in disciplining His people. He is faithful in what He withholds, no less than in what He gives. He is faithful in sending sorrow as well as in giving joy. The faithfulness of God is a truth to be confessed by us not only when we are at ease, but also when we are smarting under the sharpest rebuke. Nor must this confession be merely of our mouths, but of our hearts, too. When God smites us with the rod of chastisement, it is faithfulness which wields it. To acknowledge this means that we humble ourselves before Him, own that we fully deserve His correction, and instead of murmuring, thank Him for it. God never afflicts without reason. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you” (1 Cor. 11:30), says Paul, illustrating this principle. When His rod falls upon us let us say with Daniel, “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces’ (9:7)

From C.H. Spurgeon, on God’s Goodness:

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same.

More Bible Reading Observations

I’ve completed day 55 in the Horner Bible Reading plan, and continue to be amazed at all the cross-references and overall view of God’s word discovered through this reading plan. The cross-reference texts sometimes come a few days apart, but close enough together to remember. For instance, just five days after reading Luke 2 – a passage that ends by describing how Jesus grew in stature and favor with God and men — I read 1 Samuel 2 and an interesting, similar verse (1 Samuel 2:26) about young Samuel. Recently I read Zechariah 4, about the lampstand and two olive trees; the next day I read Revelation 11, which describes the two witnesses as being the two lampstands and two olive trees. I had learned about this parallel a few weeks ago, from a John MacArthur MP3, Revelation 11 sermon, but here I actually read the two passages, and only a day apart. This also goes to show that we need not hold rigidly to Horner’s actual ten list plan; I would not have even been reading Zechariah 4, but only the one prophecy passage of Isaiah, in the 10 list plan. Yet the overall concept still holds, of multiple genre readings that highlight the overall themes in God’s word.

A few more “gems” from recent reading:

  • 1 Samuel 5 shows some of the darker history concerning God’s covenant with Israel, when the ark is captured. The same day reading of 2 Chronicles 7 showcases the high point, the dedication of Solomon’s temple, in which was placed that same ark.
  • Review of Israel’s history is common: Judges 11 includes a reference to Moses’ time and the battles for land, and later conflict with the Ammonites. Acts 7 is Stephen’s speech to the Jews, a summary overview of a lot of their history. Now I’m reading Exodus, the beginning of the conflict with Pharoah; 1 Samuel 6 includes the Philistines talking about that past event, Pharoah hardened his heart, and then when God “treated them harshly, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?”
  • Frequent references to the surrounding nations and their gods: Judges 9:6 mentions the “gods of Aram” (Arameans); in 2 Kings 12, they’re still dealing with the Arameans and the king of Aram

I continue to make slight changes to my actual reading. After reading through just the minor prophets this time, for next time I’ll add Ezekiel to that list — to even out the lengths of the two lists. Soon I’ll implement a switch in List 12 (Acts) to alternate between Acts and Revelation. To even out the two epistle lists without Revelation, I will move Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians from list 3 to the beginning of list 4.

Like others who’ve come to enjoy this reading plan, I cannot go back to only reading three chapters a day — the typical required reading of the typical “Bible in a year” plans. I’ve recently heard about the “Bible in 90 Days” plan, from people who prefer reading the Bible sequentially for context, and found the reading schedule online. That schedule shows even more why I prefer my multi-list reading: the 90-day plan involves reading up to 16 chapters a day, all in the same place in the Bible. Often the reading starts and ends in the middle of a chapter, and just remembering where to start and stop would be difficult to remember — print-out list definitely required. The multi-list plan is easy enough to remember, with small post-it notes at the starting point for each reading. I just move the sticky note to the end of the chapter to mark the next day’s starting point. Whereas even on the 90 day plan you don’t read any of the New Testament for the first 60 days, here I’m always reading four selections out of the New Testament. Even better, this plan has no ending point; you start each list over individually, but the overall reading continues its flow.

I do my daily readings with my “smallest” Bible, an NIV hard-back Topical Study Bible. Soon — well, in the next two months — I plan to buy a basic ESV Bible (courtesy of E-Rewards “dollars” redeemable for $15 of Borders Rewards), and that should work even better, a smaller Bible to carry around. Plus it would be nice to have an ESV version, as I’ve heard good things about the ESV translation and have read a little of it online.

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