05 March 2009

The New Covenant Person : Fulfiller and Interpreter of The Old Covenant

“It is, in other words, that all the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be fulfilled in Him down to the smallest detail. Everything that is in the law and the prophets culminates in Christ, and He is the fulfillment of them. It is the most stupendous claim that He ever made.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, on Matt. 5:17, 18
So then, how do we interpret the bible? Or let me say it another way. How do we understand the text, the printed page that we hold in our hands in light of who Christ is as the Living, Eternal Word of God.?
If we understand that Jesus is the Living Word and that means that He is the Word incarnate, then we can understand that the first way to understand Scripture is to understand Christ because that is the priority of Scripture from Genesis to The Revelation. If we do this we can say that the text we read was lived by Him. So, what we read about Him all through Scripture as God, as Jesus, and as The Holy Spirit, reveals to us His completeness as a person with all of His attributes and as we understand that and how He has acted before He was incarnate and how He lived as the God/man then we can more easily understand the things He says with His words because His life and His words are indicative of who He is and the imperatives- the commands He gives us - once we are in Him, are rooted or established first in Him and who He is then in us and who He has made us to be. We have the Living Torah, The Living Word, the Inscription of God. When we read Romans 12:1,2 this should give us a better understanding of why and how we understand the Word of God.
“1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1, 2, NAS95.
For us the will of God in essence is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.
Romans 12:1-2 can be seen as some may say a way, some the means of doing this.
In the first verse, Paul speaks of a call to worship that all Christians will and must embrace to some degree or there is no work of the abiding Holy Spirit and a changed heart.
Paul speaks of the literal human body as a sacrifice unto God. Instead of taking a lamb to slaughter as a sacrifice for God, as Israel did before Jesus died on the Cross, Paul offers up visual imagery to allow the reader to better understand that Christians should offer their bodies unto Christ. This use of sacrificial language by Paul is important to mention. Literal sacrificial worship at this time was very vivid in the minds of most ancient religions, including Judaism. Using metaphors to describe this sacrificial act of worship were vastly understood by the Roman culture that he originally wrote the book of Romans to (Moo 73). Therefore, this usage of language was not foreign to the people that he wrote this specific letter to. This mention of a so-called spiritual sacrifice is considered an act of worship. Paul displays this sacrificial speech in symbolic and cultic terms in these verses (Moo 750). Instead of a literal slaughter of the human body, Christians should offer the body to be used by God for his discernment and will. The word “urge” or beseech in this verse is a translation of the Greek word parakaleo. This word is designed to deliver the correct meaning and usage of the word, which has moral undertones within it. The word parakaleo was often used when signaling a shift in conversation in the Greek language (Moo 73). Therefore, when a slight subject change was to be noted in text, this is a common word to include in usage to signal this change in conversation. This verse is designed to ask for dedication from Christians unto God, without demanding this act. Because the act of giving the body to Christ is an act of worship, this act cannot be forced but one who is truly regenerated does not ned to be forced because we possess the desire to do so, albeit the conflict of the remnant of the old man may at times cause a struggle within us. . This worship is, however, a worship that not only involves the mind, the heart meaning the total being of who we are in Christ.
The second verse of this passage speaks of God’s ability to transform an individual. The transformation is a life long enterprise as we are seeking the prize and the goal of Christ our Lord. Paul here is not referring, although some tend to believe so, to the church to stop conforming to the world, but is saying be continually being transformed
into the likeness of Christ, into who you are. This is a direct reference to the theology of Romans chapter 5-8. Not being conformed to the world, the age that produces what we were. Here in Romans 12, because of the work that has been accomplished for us by Christ from justification to sanctification to the indwelling of the Spirit we are now to be who we are according to the renewing process that keeps transforming us into the likeness of Christ. To be transformed is having the mind of Christ in a growing way, in a maturing way, in knowing the Living Word and His words and walking in the Spirit. Knowing the will of God does not first come from obeying some external standards of law like the Decalogue. We are bound to the Law of Christ which includes all that Jesus has taught us and that which has been taught us by His apostles, all that is Jesus’ teaching preserved in the teaching of the NT writers (This was Jesus’ own plan: John 16:12; John 14:25, 26; John 15:26, 27; 16:12-15). This includes how they interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures in light of Christ, which then gives us the proper understanding of how to understand the Old Testament Scriptures as they are fulfilled in Christ. In this way we know that all Scripture is given to us by Christ and therefore is inspired and we learn what is for teaching by way of illustration from the Old Testament and what can be applied in light of Christ in the New Covenant. For example, we do not follow the dietary laws of the Old Covenant but they teach us about the holiness of God’s people and how they were meant to be set apart as different. We see in all the sacrifices, which we do not make, that they pointed to Christ and are all fulfilled in Him. This informs and instructs us but we don’t do those things.
But the Law of Christ is Christ Himself and His law is written on our hearts. That Law is there because by His Spirit, His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ we are internally driven to outwardly show who we are and a means of that is the desire to obey the imperatives-the commands- the written laws that reveal the standard of Christ for His New Covenant people. We are not shaped by the imperatives but by what Christ has made us to be and is making to be. I am not who I am in Christ because of what I do I do what I do because of who I am, even though in this life it will be imperfect.
We should not be saying, as Steve Fuchs has written that: “Jesus is the guy we need to obey and imitate.”
“We should be saying that ‘Jesus is causing us to act RIGHTLY’. It’s no longer about obedience to codes, but anticipation for being fully ruled. It’s about taking our eyes off of what we need to do in sanctification, fixing them instead on what we are/are becoming by his sanctifying work and fixing them on the glory of what is in store for us and longing for Him to speed up the procession being excited to be ruled (driven) entirely by Him in every act and thought.
We are still under a Law, but it’s a law of a different nature. His nature is Spirit, not code. Codes tell, but Spirit causes. This Spirit who causes us to think and act righteously is not conforming us to the list of imperatives in the NT anymore than to the Decalogue alone or the whole of Law and Prophets This Law of Christ is everlasting in the forward AND backward sense.
He existed from the beginning even while He was only revealed in the shadows of Law and Prophets. He was always the true substance of Righteousness.
The True Covenant didn’t change so much as His substance became fully visible and exposed the shadows to be mere shadows (Col 2 uses the word ‘mere’ ).None-the-less, among the shadows the faith of OC believers trusted that He would perfect them by ruling their very thoughts and desires with His own Spirit.
Our hope should not long for how much we’ll obey codes.
Our hope should be fixed on the Righteousness He is fulfilling in us…ruling our thoughts and desires to be perfect as the Father is perfect.”
As the living Word is eternal and as His people we are eternal then His words and the result of them will never pass away.

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25 January 2008

Reflections on Marshall's book - chapter 1

I've just started reading Walter Marshall's The Gospel Mystery Of Sanctification. The first chapter (introduction) has some simple, yet profound, comments on how important it is to work out HOW we are to become conformed to the image of Christ in holiness, rather than simply focusing on the WHAT of the Christian life. I'm eager to find out what he's going to say about this gospel sanctification, and preparing to be rebuked about how much I simply work on auto-pilot, rather than relying on God for the strength that He supplies to enable good works.

One of Marshall's comments in Chapter 1 is an insightful critique of a "Christianity" which devalues the empowering source of obedience, preferring a Just-do-it outward-results-oriented mentality. Walter comments:

When once [some people] know the nature and excellency of the duties of the law, they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice, making more haste than good speed. They are quick in promising, 'All that the Lord has spoken, we will do,' (Exod. 19:8), without sitting down and counting the cost. They look on holiness as only the means of an end, of eternal salvation: not as an end itself, requiring any great means for attaining the practice of it. The enquiry of most, when they begin to have a sense of religion, is 'What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' (Matt. 19:16); not, 'How shall I be enabled to do anything that is good?'

From: http://www.covenantofgrace.com/gospel_mystery_of_sanctification1.htm

I was reminded of the sinful mindset that sees a holy life as a necessary, but somewhat unpleasant, requirement of getting to heaven. I was rebuked in how easily I want to accept Jesus as my ticket to heaven, without embracing Him as the all-wise, all-trustworthy Leader for my daily life. We so easily disregard how repulsive and wrong a God devoid life is, and forget the wonder of the powerful grace of God to change us to make us actually do good! The bare-minimum-righteousness mindset creeps in so easily, as we embrace the easy-life-now-and-heaven-later, in preference to deeper reliance on and fellowship with God.

This teaching brings my mind to Deuteronomy 6:24, where we are told that all the teachings of the law are FOR OUR GOOD: The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always...

A further reflection makes me ponder about Christianity and personality types. Let me explain. Marshall comments: ...they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice...
This makes me wonder whether there are certain personality types, or certain dispositions, which would find this more of a temptation than others. Some people are geared to be more get-up-and-go practical concrete-thinking types, who don't seem to want to or need to dwell on motivations, or particular means, to inform obedience. At the other end of the spectrum are the more abstract, reflective thinkers, who, generally speaking, are slower-paced and tend to dwell on their motivations for things in greater detail.
Could the more practical types, therefore, be more likely to struggle with reliance on God and neglect gospel sanctification in their obedience? Or, conversely, could we even infer that this issue of having our motivations informed by gospel truth be a sometimes unhealthy introspective preoccupation of those with a more abstract, reflective way of thinking?

Just a few raw thoughts...


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29 October 2007

Gospel Sanctification 6 - Objections Stated

The following is an objection I received to some of the tenents of 'Gospel Sanctification' that I've been espousing. Although I disagree with these objections they are well stated, come from a sincere brother, and represent the very issues I personally struggled with for some time. So here it is as I received it:

- - - -

Hi Shane,

I'm thankful that the Lord has given us many powerful motives
in the form of doctrinal truths (indicatives) as reasons why we should obey

However, would you agree that the Bible uses an indicative to motivate
only some imperatives? But, other imperatives are given with no motives, just
sheer duty?

Do you believe it's OK to obey God out of duty, with no conscious
motive? (No, that's not "Phariseeism" or "legalism." Christ rebuked the
Pharisees for obeying from sinful motives, not NO motives.)

Can I suggest that much if not most of our obedience is without conscious motives? Every day we obey our Lord from disciplined habits of godliness. And, you know what? That's not a sin.

Sure, I prefer to stop and think about why I should obey. But, we often don't have time to think. And, God accepts our obedience in Christ, whether from conscious motives or no motives.

- - - -

I'll give my response to these challenges over my next few posts.

Yours in Christ-


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04 October 2007

The Audiobook of a Saintly Sinner

David Brainerd (1718-1747) is most remembered through Edwards’s publication of the Life and Diary of David Brainerd. William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement considered the work a sacred text. The diary records Brainerd’s life, spiritual disciplines, and missionary work to the Indians in the American northeast. And there are at least eight reasons that his life and diary have made such an impact. First, his life was a picture of God’s providence. All his earthly plans were shattered only to find his perfect place in God’s work for him. Second, he was passionate in his pursuit of God. It was contagious in his life and through his diary. Third, he was ardent in his desire that the Lord’s kingdom come among the heathen. Fourth, he was humble in his estimation of himself and talents. Fifth, he was zealous in his love for his people and honest about the struggle to love them. Sixth, he was faithful to his calling even in the midst of unfruitfulness. Seventh, he was triumphant in his perseverance through suffering. Eighth, he was saintly in dying.

This month, Christianaudio.com is offering an audio reading of Edwards's
Life and Diary of David Brainerd for FREE. Regularly, the nine hours of audio are $26.00. But by entering the code, OCT2007, you can download them for free. I recommend doing that right away.


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24 August 2007

Christ's Glorious Covenant - Notes, Audio, Video.

"Christ's Glorious Covenant"
- Source of Joy and Power -
Treasuring Christ Fellowship Camp
(Australia 2007)


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02 August 2007

Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed

Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed by John Piper

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10 July 2007

Treasuring Christ Fellowship Camp (Australia)

"Christ's Glorious Covenant"
- Source of Joy and Power -

With Joseph Krygier

Mt Tamborine
17-19 August 2007

Brochure - Right Click to Download

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Church-planting in Saskatchewan, Canada

Just in case any of you are interested in what we are doing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, you can check out our latest newsletter here.
We are desirous of establishing a "Christ-treasuring" church-planting church. We want to grow in the grace and knowledge of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ in an ever-increasing measure and make Him known in our community and beyond.
We will definitely need His grace and wisdom.

May the Lord be magnified!

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09 July 2007

Gospel Sanctification 5 - Spiritual Repentance to the Glory of God

Applying the truths of Gospel Sanctification to repentance means maintaining a deeply sorrowful sense of indwelling personal sin while also rejoicing in the present reality of the full and free forgiveness in Jesus Christ, looking forward with expectation to the final delivery 'from this body of death'.

. . . God's kindness leads you toward repentance.” Rom 2:4

A high view of our Holy God mixed with a sorrow over our own personal sin leads to a treasuring of Jesus Christ and complete surrender to His wondrous, gracious and extensive Gospel promises, and gift of Himself, as the only way to return us to the embrace of our loving heavenly Father.

Repentance therefore ought to be coupled with a relishing of the full & free gospel promises of love, forgiveness, acceptance, justification and of union with Christ Himself. Otherwise, repentance can become a defeated and mournful wallowing in the very slough we are being saved from rather than a turning from it and glorying in the eternal happy state we are being saved to. Thus even your repentance ought to be to the heart-felt praise and glory of God!
Although we are miserable creatures, of ourselves, we don't wallow in defeat or remain self-focused but rather look to God, with thankful heart, for the provision of a solution in Jesus Christ. True repentance leads to Christ-exultation:

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Rom 7:23-25

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” 1 Tim 1:15-17

Our repentance must not be characterised by wallowing or self-focus because, " . . . whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.” Phil 4:8

When you are convicted over sin, don't wallow in defeat, but simply confess your sin and weakness to God, thank Him that even in this Christ is sufficient to cover your sin and present you faultless before the throne of grace, and He is the one that will bring deliverance from the very sin you struggle with. He loves you anyway and always - thank and praise him for it. And in this you will glorify God in your repentance.

Is your repentance done to the heartfelt praise and glory of God?

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1 Cor 10:31-32


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06 July 2007

Gospel Sanctification 4 - Legalism's Wrong Assumption

At one point I came to understand the need for the ministry of grace to strengthen believers. I struggled knowing exactly how or where the preaching of commandments came into things. I was challenged by a legalist to explain why we can't simply take an 'imperative' text and preach it, by which he meant rebuke believers for their lack of faithfulness and exhort them to obedience ( i.e. club believers with the commands). After all, it's in the Bible, we need to hear it, and be exhorted to obey, right? It took quite a while for me to figure out what was actually wrong with what he was saying (and doing).

I came to realise that an assumption was brought to the commands by the legalist that forgets that the indelible mark of a Christian is he "loves to keep God's commandments because those commandments are no longer grievous" ( I John 5:1-3).

The assumption implicit (and sometime explicit!) in legalistic preaching is that believers don't want to obey and need to be dragged against their will to obedience. Taken out of the equation is the new heart, the Spirit's work, New Covenant realities, and ultimately Jesus Christ Himself.

Legalists underestimate the power of a believer's new heart feasting on the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. So legalists turn their attention to subduing the flesh through rebuke and sharp exhortation. Scripture teaches this doesn't help bring about obedience but rather fuels the sinful nature by either leading to pride in those who feel successful or leading to despair in those that feel the burden of failure.

In one illustration, Walter Marshall says that much preaching is like telling a man to take his weapons and go and enter a battle. If the man is a soldier he will do it readily. But we are more like sick men on our death beds without the strength to so much as pick up our weapon. The question that needs answering is: How can I, without any strength in myself, perform such an overwhelming task?

The strength to enliven us, and give us power to get out of our sick beds to face the battle, is the gospel alone - to be embraced afresh every day. So our first duty is to believe on Christ and receive healing strength from the great physician who alone gets the glory.

"1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- 6just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?" Galatians 3:1-6.

Resting in grace-



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30 June 2007

Gospel Sanctification 3 - Walter Marshall to My Rescue

Probably the greatest help to me, during deep personal struggles in understanding the Biblical process of Sanctification, was the book "Gospel Mystery of Sanctification" by 17th Century puritan Walter Marshall.

If you seek to stir guilt in yourself or your people to motivate obedience then this post is for you!
So, let me share a little about Marshall's book, his times, and the influence on me. I think you'll find the history interesting and the noted quotes worth the read.

Marshall, in his book, examines what he calls is "The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification". His aim was to minister the much needed balm to those beaten under the weight of legalistic teaching and ultimately to save lives from the depths of what Bunyan calls, "The Slough of Despond".

Marshall's Battle

Marshall struggled despairingly with the issue of seeking after holiness in himself and his people although he preached it hard and often. He went to a number of preachers and writers in his time but found little help. He also went to a hero of his, Richard Baxter, who didn't help although at the time he still much appreciated Baxter's writings and largely modelled his own ministry after the same pattern – this later changed.

Regarding the discussions with Marshall, Baxter later stated that he felt Marshall had misunderstood him and taken him "too legally". Still, Marshall found Baxter useless as regards sanctification.

Can you relate!? Have you ever struggled with obtaining a peace filled life of obedience and have sought help only to find legalistic dung where sweet streams should be sourced? I've sure been there!

Thomas Goodwin to the Rescue

Later, when Thomas Goodwin visited the congregation and heard Marshall preaching, he accused Marshall saying, "You are trying to squeeze oil out of a flint" (an expression that became popular among grace preachers describing legalists). That is, he was trying to squeeze holiness out of the efforts of the flesh. Goodwin explained that holiness is to be sought by "Gospel Means" and he also exhorted Marshall to stop "railing against his people".

The two became friends and Goodwin spent much time with Marshall explaining and discussing the 'gospel mystery of sanctification'.

Marshall took on board the instruction of Goodwin and throughout his life studied Sanctification further. It was towards the end of his life that Marshall wrote his book.

Marshall Identifies the Problem

In his book he discusses, among other reasons, he is writing that some might not commit suicide as a result of the despair arising from much of the preaching of the time. The problem was not so much what was said but what was left out. Much preaching was very clear on the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and the duty of man (and rightly so). The problem, as Marshall saw it, was the means of attaining holiness and the means of dealing with failure was not understood and preached. In Marshall's day, people were exhorted, in the words of Bryan Chapell, to live the principles of:

- "Sola-bootstrapsa" (I must keep the law in my own strength & effort) and

- "Ego-nomianism" (I am able to keep the law).

In his book, Marshall takes Baxter to task for being legalistic. He doesn't name Baxter but a knowledge of the times & Baxter makes it clear who he's speaking of.

John Murray on Marshall's Book

John Murray calls Marshall's book the most important work on Sanctification ever written. I think I agree but unlike John Murray I haven't read every work on Sanctification ever written!! ; )

If you're interested in a modern version of Marshall's book you could read "Holiness by Grace" by Bryan Chapell. I've not read it all but have read good chunks and skimmed a lot. A friend of mine has read both books and said that "Holiness by Grace" is simply a modernized version of Marshall's book and much easier to read. It also extensively quotes Marshall's book. Personally, I think you can't beat the original although the old style may be difficult for a modern audience.

Another book that has been recommended (by Chad Bresson) is Jerry Bridges’ “Transforming Grace”.

Others on Marshall's Book

William Cowper expresses my own feelings regarding this book when he wrote, "The doctrines Marshall maintains are, under the influence of the divine Spirit, the very life of my soul, and the soul of all my happiness".

And, "James Harvey began life with strong prejudices against the truths which he was afterwards honoured so signally to advance. But about the year 1741 his preaching underwent an entire change, partly in consequence of the influence of his lifelong friend Whitefield, but chiefly from the perusal of certain books. Marshall's Gospel Mystery of Sanctification first lead him to the great spring and secret of gospel holiness. . ." Quote from the Editors introduction to the 1902 reprint of the 1645 classic, "The Marrow of Modern Divinity".

Where to Get Marshall's Book

The version of Marshall's book updated and simplified into modern English can be found here:


An electronic version of the original can be found here:


This page has a great single sentence summary of each chapter – let this page alone minister to your soul and whet your appetite for more.

A hardcopy of the original can be purchased here:


Marshall, Whyte and Me

The reason I tracked down a copy and worked through the book is that it was so strongly recommended by Alexander Whyte in one of his books. Alexander Whyte, the Scottish Presbyterian, has probably been the single most helpful writer and greatest post-apostolic influence over me - although my New Covenant Theology (NCT) views and overall understanding of the structure of Scripture doesn't come from Whyte, of course!

Interestingly, both Marshall and Whyte name Goodwin as a primary influence on their thinking.

From Whyte: "In his classical book on Sanctification Walter Marshall tells his readers that he had been labouring all his days to squeeze oil out of a flint. That is to say, he had been labouring all his days to squeeze holiness out of his own sinful heart. And he had gone on performing that fruitless toil till a great spiritual teacher took him and told him that he was to have all his sanctification, as well as all his justification, out of Jesus Christ alone. That great spiritual teacher tells us that he himself for nearly seven years sought for satisfactory signs of grace in his own heart. It took him all that time till he was taken off entirely from searching for the grounds of peace and the source of power within himself, and was lead to look simply to the grace of God and thus to live and grow by faith in Christ alone. Up to that epoch-making conversation with Thomas Goodwin, Walter Marshall's whole life had been one long and painful and fruitless endeavour after inward holiness of mind and heart. But when he opened his whole mind and heart about that matter to Thomas Goodwin, that great spiritual teacher told him that he was to look to Jesus Christ for the sanctifying of his sinful heart, as well as for the cleansing of his sinful conscience. And ever after that illuminating and enfranchising interview with the great Puritan, Marshall set himself to study the person and work of Christ in a new way, and to preach the person and work of Christ in a new way, till he attained to that eminent spirituality of mind and heart and doctrine out of all which he wrote in his ripe old age his standard work on 'The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification' . . . .

The congregation will not have forgotten dear old James Stewart of the cab office at the Dean Bridge, who was wont to sit in the front seat down there with all his eyes and all his ears always open to the pulpit and to the desk. Well, at the last pastoral visit I had the privilege of paying to James Stewart's deathbed, laying his hand on Marshall's book . . . and he kissed that old brown book after his own passionate manner and said again: 'O! that heavenly direction on the Mystical Union!' Now, if your interest in this matter survives until tomorrow morning, your bookseller will supply you with 'Walter Marshall'. . . .

Well, then, all you people of sufficient interest and of sufficient enterprise in the life of Sanctification; all you who are old enough and deep enough in the Divine life, be sure to buy and to read again and again, that true classic of the soul. And send it to some of your most intimate friends as a Christmas gift. To all them who are sufficient intellect and of sufficient heart to appreciate such a great book. . . . And, if you do so, I warrant you they will thank and bless you all their days for so remembering them and for so honouring them and for so enriching them." Alexander Whyte

Spot the Influence

After reading Marshall's book I wrote our Nurturing Philosophy. I wanted to clearly spell out how believers would be nurtured coming into our fellowship. This is something that is often not clear in church creeds, confessions, doctrinal statements, constitutions, etc. Two churches can look the same on paper but one will minister grace, strength, power & Christ, and the other feed the flock the wood, hay, and stubble of will-power religion.

For anyone interested, a copy of our nurturing philosophy can be found here (and a keen eye will also spot the influence of John Piper and John Reisinger, as well as Marshall):

swf: http://treasuringchrist.com/_TCCC/TCF_NurturingPhilosophy_1-2.swf

pdf: http://treasuringchrist.com/_TCCC/TCF_NurturingPhilosophy_1-2.pdf

Section 7 succinctly covers what I consider to be the heart of what Marshall was driving at (although the entire document is ' Marshall' flavoured).

Marshall Strays into NCT

Marshall holds to Covenant Theology (CT), yet like many (e.g. Andrew Murray, John Owen, etc) this hasn't stopped him from making observations such as this one:

"You also should learn the true difference between the two covenants, the old and the new, or the law and the gospel: that the former shuts us up under the guilt and power of sin, and the wrath of God and His curse, by its rigorous terms: 'Do all the commandments, and live; and, cursed are you if you do not do them, and fail in the least point'; the latter opens the gates of righteousness and life to all believers ( i.e. the new covenant) by its gracious terms: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live,' that is, all your sins shall be forgiven, and holiness and glory shall be given to you freely by His merit and Spirit."

Although I don't agree with the CT of Whyte and Marshall, I still owe a great debt to both! The influence of Marshall's book on my thinking and life has been deeply profound!! It was just what I needed at the time when I was enduring week in, and week out, legalistic thumping while Christ's help and grace were hardly ever in view. Marshall (and Whyte) ministered to my soul and changed my life.

(The only other post-apostolic book that has had a similar impact was "Christian Take Heart" by Tom Wells. A simple book but for a messed-up Pentecostal becoming a messed-up Calvinist it was also just what I needed at the time – some overlap with Marshall's work also but it took many years before I 'got it' thanks to Marshall.).

Finally I Finish My Post

Get a copy and read Marshall's book. If you've made it this far into this overdone post of mine then I'm sure you are of 'sufficient intellect and of sufficient heart to appreciate such a great book'.

Take your time, linger over it, let it soak in, and then read it again. If you (or your people) are 'sanctified by vinegar', as Alexander Whyte would say, under legalistic counsel, you will rejoice at the soothing oil of grace and love that will flow as a result of Marshall, or rather Christ through Marshall, moulding you into a person who has 'been mastered by the unconditional grace of God, and from whom iron clad orthodoxy has been torn away and the whole armor of a gracious God has been applied; the armor of him who would not break the bruised reed or quench the dimly burning wick' (A Whyte).

"How can we command holiness without causing despair among saints who know that they are still sinners? Walter Marshall's answer to this 'mystery' not only saved lives in his time, but continues to bring renewed zeal for God to believers in the generations since. The relief and resolve of grace are the Gospel mystery that elude so many but find rejuvenating expression in the firm grasp of Marshall." Dr. Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary.


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13 June 2007

Gospel Sanctification 2 - What is it?

Gospel: The free gift of forgiveness of sin, and gaining of eternal life, all received through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sanctification: The process of becoming more like Jesus Christ throughout this life; personal growth in conformance to the law of King Jesus.

Gospel-sanctification: Conformance to the holy law of Christ through prizing the promises, performance, person and perfection of Jesus Christ freely given by means of His gospel. The process of seeking personal holiness through abiding in Christ and He in you to produce the inner holiness of a joyful and contented heart resulting in natural and unconstrained obedience to His commands.

Gospel sanctification is seeking to continually preach to yourself, and display to your conscience, all the treasures freely given to you in Christ and to ingrain yourself with an understanding of your right standing in Christ. This forms a sure foundation from which to grow in grace.
Believers are those that have a new nature in Christ and therefore desire and are enabled towards the enjoyment of Christ, to walk in the Spirit, glorify God and have the victory over sin. Therefore, believers are helped in this endeavor by the power of the Spirit through prayer, meditation and the Word.

While it is important to recognise the conflict within every believer dealing with their indwelling sin, it is equally important that you take care to not treat yourself, or other believers, as though this struggle with sin is the governing principle because the work of the Holy Spirit within is greater than any other influence in a believers life (1 John 4:4).

Gospel sanctification is aimed toward Spirit-powered holiness through treasuring Christ and abiding in Him. The opposite of Gospel Sanctification is will-power holiness: that is, doing the best that lies in your own power and trusting on the grace of God and Christ to help you in various resolutions of your own will.

Rather, the power of true holiness is received when we trust on Christ, to work in us ‘to will and do, by His own power, according to His own good pleasure’. Will-power holiness is a trusting on the flesh for holiness through acts of the will, resolutions, determination, and personal efforts, instead of trusting on Christ. Christ is to be enjoyed and trusted upon as the author and finisher of our faith.

This is why we encourage you toward ‘vertical’ effort for the achieving of ‘horizontal’ results; looking ‘up’ to behold Christ for achieving our spiritual growth ‘down’ here with benefits spreading ‘outward’ throughout our lives; savoring the sweetness of the Savior to sanctify the soul and sever the root of sin. Seek to learn the art of personal holiness through abiding in Christ and He in you to produce the inner holiness of a joyful and contented heart resulting in natural and unconstrained obedience to His commands.

True holiness is primarily relational and flows from your connection to Christ.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4

Therefore, we encourage you to learn to linger: Through prayer, the word, and meditation we encourage you in the empowering reality of doctrine cherished and adored, in particular as it pertains to and flows from the gospel and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. True holiness is obtained and sustained by the grace of our Lord working in our hearts to prize all we have in the Lord Jesus.

We encourage external obedience to flow from satisfaction in God lest service for God be performed with a legalistic heart far from the Lord (Mark 7:6).

– // –

For a more technical discussion of Gospel Sanctification refer to Chad Bressen’s article linked below:


Anyone struggling with this issue would benefit from reading the above linked article and then getting a hold of, and mastering, “Gospel Mystery of Sanctification”, by Walter Marshall. If you think you may find Marshall’s 16th century style a bit challenging as a modern reader, as an alternatively, I’d recommend you read the more modern equivalent, “Holiness by Grace” by Bryan Chapel. Another book that has been recommended (by Chad Bresson) is Jerry Bridges’ “Transforming Grace”. I’m sure mastering any one of these books will do you much good.

Enjoying grace!


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03 June 2007

Gospel Sanctification 1 - Piper's Word for Joyless Pastors

I was recently part of a great discussion that all started with this link:


(Reference: Sound of Grace discussion Group April/May discussions: http://freegroups.net/groups/soundofgrace/)

Over the next few posts I'll be explaining the importance of Gospel Sanctification, sharing some of the discussion details, and answering some of the questions raised - which were some of the very issues I have struggled with and perhaps some of you also struggle with.


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19 May 2007

Is John Piper's "Christian Hedonism" a misplaced emphasis on joy over love?

John Piper makes statements such as,

"The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever."
"Maximizing our joy in God is what we were created for."
"Pursuing pleasure in God is our highest calling."

Yet in the Bible, Jesus tells us the greatest command is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind". (Matt 22:37).

Therefore, does it not appear that Piper is exalting 'enjoying God' above 'loving God' contrary to the command of Christ? (This was the question raised recently on the Sound of Grace Discussion Group - http://freegroups.net/groups/soundofgrace/).

There is no question that that the Bible teaches that loving the Lord is the greatest command and is to be exalted above all other requirements.

So, to clarify this question in my own mind, I looked up my Thayers Greek Lexicon on the meaning of the word 'love' used in Matt 22:37 (Strongs # 25). In describing the meaning of the word, the lexicon uses terms such as "to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of . . . involves the idea of affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, grateful recognition of benefits received . . . denotes to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without . . . to welcome with desire, long for.".

Matt 22:37 states, " . . . You shall love the Lord your God . . .". Expanded, in light of the meaning of the Greek word, this is the same as saying:

"You shall have preference for, wish well to, and regard the welfare of the Lord your God."

"You shall have affectionate reverence for, prompt obedience to, and grateful recognition of benefits received from, the Lord your God" (I'd suggest 'prompt obedience' in context could better read as 'unconstrained prompt obedience' since constrained obedience is not obedience "with all your heart".).

"You shall take pleasure in, prize above other things, and be unwilling to abandon or do without, the Lord your God."

"You shall welcome with desire and long for the Lord your God."

Therefore, to pursue obedience to the greatest command, with all our heart, mind and soul, is to be a Christian Hedonist.

Relishing Christ with you all-


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12 May 2007

Give me Christ, or else I die

I liked this post.

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13 April 2007

Why Treasure Christ?


Give me your feedback on this. What would you add? What would you restate? What order would you have these in? Please give me your insight!

"5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." (2 Corinthians 4:5-7 ESV).

We treasure Christ because of His Divinity—God of very God. God has created everything for His own glory, including the universe and us. He created us to glorify Him by enjoying Him.

We treasure Christ because of His humanity in humbling himself to come in the form of man, living an absolutely perfect life, and being born of a virgin.

We treasure Christ because of His power to create a universe, uphold a universe by the might of His word, and perform mighty miracles.

We treasure Christ because of His obedience to keep His covenant, fulfill His law, perform His righteousness, and impute an alien righteousness to His people.

We treasure Christ because of His ministry to speak words of eternal life, send the Holy Spirit, and manifest the glory of the Father in His face.

We treasure Christ because of His death to bear the wrath of God, satisfy the justice of God, and atone for the sin of the Church.

We treasure Christ because of His resurrection to defeat death, destroy the devil, and open heaven.

We treasure Christ because of His reign at the Father’s right hand to be sovereign, interceding, ever present, triumphant, and never leaving us alone.

We treasure Christ because in all of this He is the fountain for all of our joy in God.

We treasure Christ because a superior joy in him is the key to severing the love of money, love of consumerism, and love of this world.

We want you to treasure Christ because our enjoyment of Christ will only be completed when we praise Him and call others to praise Him as well.

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27 March 2007

The Morning I Heard the Voice of God

By John Piper

Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o'clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.

I couldn't sleep for some reason. I was at Shalom House in northern Minnesota on a staff couples' retreat. It was about five thirty in the morning. I lay there wondering if I should get up or wait till I got sleepy again. In his mercy, God moved me out of bed. It was mostly dark, but I managed to find my clothing, got dressed, grabbed my briefcase, and slipped out of the room without waking up Noël. In the main room below, it was totally quiet. No one else seemed to be up. So I sat down on a couch in the corner to pray.

As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, "Come and see what I have done." There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

I wondered what he meant by "come and see." Would he take me somewhere, like he did Paul into heaven to see what can't be spoken? Did "see" mean that I would have a vision of some great deed of God that no one has seen? I am not sure how much time elapsed between God's initial word, "Come and see what I have done," and his next words. It doesn't matter. I was being enveloped in the love of his personal communication. The God of the universe was speaking to me.

Then he said, as clearly as any words have ever come into my mind, "I am awesome in my deeds toward the children of man." My heart leaped up, "Yes, Lord! You are awesome in your deeds. Yes, to all men whether they see it or not. Yes! Now what will you show me?"

The words came again. Just as clear as before, but increasingly specific: "I turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There they rejoiced in me—who rules by my might forever." Suddenly I realized God was taking me back several thousand years to the time when he dried up the Red Sea and the Jordan River. I was being transported by his word back into history to those great deeds. This is what he meant by "come and see." He was transporting me back by his words to those two glorious deeds before the children of men. These were the "awesome deeds" he referred to. God himself was narrating the mighty works of God. He was doing it for me. He was doing it with words that were resounding in my own mind.

There settled over me a wonderful reverence. A palpable peace came down. This was a holy moment and a holy corner of the world in northern Minnesota. God Almighty had come down and was giving me the stillness and the openness and the willingness to hear his very voice. As I marveled at his power to dry the sea and the river, he spoke again. "I keep watch over the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves."

This was breathtaking. It was very serious. It was almost a rebuke. At least a warning. He may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand, and said, with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love, "Never, never, never exalt yourself. Never rebel against me."

I sat staring at nothing. My mind was full of the global glory of God. "I keep watch over the nations." He had said this to me. It was not just that he had said it. Yes, that is glorious. But he had said this to me. The very words of God were in my head. They were there in my head just as much as the words that I am writing at this moment are in my head. They were heard as clearly as if at this moment I recalled that my wife said, "Come down for supper whenever you are ready." I know those are the words of my wife. And I know these are the words of God.

Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.

What effect did this have on me? It filled me with a fresh sense of God's reality. It assured me more deeply that he acts in history and in our time. It strengthened my faith that he is for me and cares about me and will use his global power to watch over me. Why else would he come and tell me these things?

It has increased my love for the Bible as God's very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5).

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible.

This is why I found the article in this month's Christianity Today, "My Conversation with God," so sad. Written by an anonymous professor at a "well-known Christian University," it tells of his experience of hearing God. What God said was that he must give all his royalties from a new book toward the tuition of a needy student. What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn't true or didn't happen. What's sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence.

I am sure this professor of theology did not mean it this way, but what he actually said was, "For years I've taught that God still speaks, but I couldn't testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear" (emphasis added). Surely he does not mean what he seems to imply—that only when one hears an extra-biblical voice like, "The money is not yours," can you testify personally that God still speaks. Surely he does not mean to belittle the voice of God in the Bible which speaks this very day with power and truth and wisdom and glory and joy and hope and wonder and helpfulness ten thousand times more decisively than anything we can hear outside the Bible.

I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, "Incline my heart to your word" (Psalm 119:36). "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don't let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling, and even consider this misplacement of amazement worthy of printing in a national magazine.

Still hearing his voice in the Bible,

Pastor John

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16 March 2007

This Man Went Down to His House Justified

Thirsty Thursday
: Fueling Your Passion to Treasure Christ by Providing Grace-saturated Audio Sermons

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

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24 February 2007

Ian Malins & E.M. Bounds - Quotes

"Revivals start with a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit who takes control of His Church and moves the way he chooses. Revivals die when people take control again and try to predict, program or direct the Spirit to work the way they want Him to work."
Ian Malins, Prepare the Way for Revival, (Chosen Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004) p161

"Preachers are pre-eminently God's leaders. They are primarily responsible for the condition of the church. They shape it's character, give tone and direction to it's life. Much depends on these leaders."
E.M. Bounds

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17 February 2007

The New Pioneers of Revival by David Smithers

While driving to town the other day I unexpectedly came upon a busy stretch of highway that was under construction. Bumper to bumper, the line of cars ahead of me waited their turn to follow the directions of the brightly colored detour signs. Seemingly, without any thought or hesitation they all quickly sped away from their original course in pursuit of smoother traveling. The road ahead was unquestionably rough and unpaved, but it was still open to traffic and definitely the most direct route to town.

Suddenly I found myself thinking about the state of the modern Church. Many Christians today are being enticed into the well-paved highways of convenient Christianity at the expense of their personal calling and original destination. No doubt just the sight of that rough, unpaved road communicated "RISK" to many of the drivers that day. It threatened all of us with the risk of uncertainty, inconvenience and even the risk of physical danger or loss. As I sat there waiting for my turn to move, something else hit me. "All the well-paved roads in the Church today are only going places that most of us have already been." Those big, flashing church signs too often lead us away from where God’s pioneer work is being done. By the time the concrete sets up and the paint is dry, most of the heaven and earth moving is all over! . . . Read entire article.

How long will we continue to travel down the same old, predictable, powerless highways while the promises of God beckon us to enter into a fresh move of the Holy Spirit? There is still so much of the presence and power of Jesus Christ that is readily available and yet untouched. Be assured God is not standing still! He is even now seeking out and raising up a NEW generation in the Church who is willing to take extreme risks to REDISCOVER the highway of holiness and revival power. God is raising up a new generation of revival pioneers!

Go West Young Man!

The call to pursue revival is a call to be a pioneer! A revival pioneer courageously and even sometimes naively seeks to rediscover new and forgotten places in the Spirit. Pioneers instinctively challenge the modern Church to go places she has never been before, places long forgotten and overgrown by decades of man-made traditions and spiritual decline. Pioneers dare others to dream and trust God to do ALL that the Bible plainly promises. Pioneers are not satisfied with superficial reform. They hunger and thirst for spiritual REALITY. Their calling demands that they defy the laws and limitations of man-centered religion. In their pursuit of more of Jesus, they unknowingly challenge the foundations of so-called "NORMAL CHURCH". Like young Joseph in the company of his older brothers, the pioneer’s dream of revival often provokes strong reactions from within the established Church. -(Gen 37:5) The young pioneer is sure to be confronted by giants of intimidation and mountains of unbelief and religious control. At other times they are simply spurned and dismissed as immature extremists and idealists.

All the great pioneers of revival have had to face these same obstacles and hindrances in their zeal to bring Heaven down to Earth! Most of the early American pioneers that moved westward between 1760 and 1850 encountered countless dangers and extreme hardship, because they were not content with what they already seen. The knowledge that there was still something better beyond the horizon drove them to take extreme risks to improve the quality of their lives. A true pioneer is relentless. He refuses to compromise or substitute the barren plains of lifeless orthodoxy for the living presence of Jesus! No amount of religious rhetoric or decorum will ever satisfy his God-hungry heart. The God-breathed promises of Scripture hound his soul, reminding him over and over again of his destiny and calling. Promise of green forests, fruitful harvests and rushing streams compel him to continue to seek and pray for something MORE. -(Isa 35:7, Isa 41:18-19, Isa 44:3-4, Isa 51:3)

Forerunners & Mountain Movers

Revival pioneers are ordained of God to violently move Heaven and Earth. The English term "pioneer" was originally derived from a French word meaning PICK AX. Later it was also used to convey the idea of a foot soldier. The Germans use the term "trench digger" to convey the idea of a pioneer. A pioneer during wartime was one who marched before an invading army to prepare and repair the road. They did everything from clearing away barricades to setting mines for destroying the works of the enemy. Pioneers are pathfinders and scouts. Like Jeremiah, a pioneer is one who goes before to remove obstructions for the purpose of preparing the way for others that must soon follow. "See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant." -(Jer 1:10) These prophetic people do not set mines and level mountains of ungodliness just for the thrill of watching things blow up. No, the revival pioneer understands that it is his job to prepare the way and make it easier for others to enter into the manifest presence of Jesus Christ.

The revival pioneer labors to restore the highway of holiness, removing stumbling blocks, so it will be straight and level again. This work is done not only for the sake of a coming army, but also for the spiritually lame and crippled. The prophet Isaiah repeatedly reminds us of this important truth. He declares, "Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness…" -( Isa 35:3-8)

"And one shall say, ‘Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.’ For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones". -(Isa 57:14-15)

The High Peaks of Prayer

The American pioneers moving west were always looking for some high vantage point from which they could catch a glimpse of the path just ahead of them. The pioneers of revival are no different. From the towering heights of bent knees they scan the spiritual horizon for some small token of a coming move of God. These Holy Ghost trailblazers are consistently scaling the mountain peaks of prayer in hopes of spotting even the smallest sign of revival. Revival pioneers cannot afford to live on second hand reports and experimental theories borrowed from books. The divine immensity of the pioneer’s vision and calling demands that they hear from God for themselves! They need Heaven’s insight and perspective if they are to stay on course and avoid falling short of their eternal destination. Only through regular and extended times in prayer can they maintain their bearings and spiritual compass.

Every true pioneer of revival is well acquainted with the taste of hot tears and heartache. Prayer for the revival pioneer is not only a means of fresh direction, but also a supernatural outlet for the burden of a broken heart. The pioneer is repeatedly tormented by the growing crisis of a powerless Church in the midst of a lost and sin-sick world. Religious wastelands and deep valleys filled with sun bleached bones mock and challenge his hopes and dreams. Yet, strangely enough it is these same bleak and threatening spiritual conditions that keep the pioneers of revival praying and pressing deeper into new frontiers of the Holy Spirit. For them to stay and settle in such places would mean the death of their ministry and vision.

For those truly called to be a pioneer, revival is not merely another church growth trend or some spiritual luxury. Revival is a reason for being, a created purpose and divine destiny. Though at different times many young pioneers try to deny the vision and hope for revival, they can’t escape it! The tears and intense longings for revival always return. This passion and burden was part of their spiritual inception and new birth. They have become RUINED for anything less than genuine revival. The pioneer can’t rest or give up until God’s revival glory is released in the Earth. They would rather die than miss or abort the coming visitation of God. These young pioneers are driven to continue to pray, weep and believe for revival. Though at times, they grow fainthearted and discouraged in their heavenly pursuit, they always finds themselves rising again to cry out for God to rend the heavens and come down.-(Isa 64:1-4)

You’re NOT Crazy!

Has this divine heartache ever made you wonder if you were going crazy? Many of the early pioneers that pulled up roots and moved west often experienced similar emotions before leaving the safety and comfort of their established homes. In spite of the fact that they enjoyed and valued their property and neighbors around them, they still somehow felt as if they didn’t quite fit in and belong. As hard as they tried, they couldn’t seem to shake a growing hunger and burden for something more. The pioneer spirit deep within them was driving them to keep moving and looking west. In much the same way, today there are thousands of young revival pioneers who share these same intense and sometimes bewildering feelings. I am talking about something born of the Holy Spirit, a divine discontentment that will not let you settle for anything less than the manifest presence of Jesus Christ.

Unfamiliar with God’s revival process, some young pioneers seek to escape the touch of God upon their hearts. Over and over again, they struggle to fit in with the Church’s most recent "cutting edge" agenda. Yet, lasting relief seems to never come. Even in the midst of renewed and vibrant fellowships, the young pioneer oftentimes still feels like a spiritual misfit and outsider. While others in the Church seem completely satisfied, the revival pioneer in the exact same setting fights to hold back the tears and hunger for something more. Do these disjointed feelings and uncomfortable emotions sound familiar? Is your hungry heart confused and puzzled over where you fit in the house of God? Perhaps God has not allowed you to "FIT" in!

Often there is not a hearing for the pioneer’s prophetic message until after a fresh work of God has begun to be realized. Therefore, young pioneers should not be surprised when they are accused of being idealistic and impractical in their message and methodology. Such criticism and misunderstandings are often a part of God’s training process in becoming a spiritual forerunner. These trials help to deepen the work of endurance and humility in the pioneer’s heart. Though at times they are slighted and even harshly rejected, the true pioneer learns by trial and error, how to bear it all in meekness, patience and love. Nevertheless, let each pastor and spiritual leader take care that they don’t too quickly dismiss a young pioneer’s sincere passion and zeal as simply the critical spirit of an immature rebel.

Young pioneer, be encouraged! These feelings of loneliness and holy dissatisfaction are all part of God’s process within you. Pioneers have always gone out in small waves in order to prepare the way for the masses. Nevertheless, beware of letting the uniqueness of your calling be an excuse for fleshly strife and division with other believers. Remember that we will NEVER build the house of revival with Satan’s tools of anger and strife! Don’t waste your time constantly striving and wrangling with those who don’t share your vision and passion for revival. Get in the prayer closet and unburden your broken heart to the Father. Give yourself to fervent prayer and don’t stop until the glory comes. Ask the Lord to send people into your life with a similar gift and vision. Read the classic works on the great moves of God. The Father wants you to nurture this passion and vision for something MORE, but you will have to make sacrifices in order to keep it. The larger the vision, the lonelier the path you will have to walk. A GOD size vision ALWAYS requires a great amount of grace, love and humility.

The Law of The Frontier

A person’s chances of surviving on the open frontier were often determined by his or her own willingness to cooperate and work with others. One of the unwritten laws of the western frontier was, "be a good neighbor". The constant threat and uncertainty of life on the trail taught the pioneers to appreciate the safety found in numbers. Therefore, most pioneer families, when they set out West joined several other families who were making the same journey. Typically what often started as a disjointed band of individuals and small cliques usually grew into a healthy and vibrant traveling community. Serving and considering one another’s basic needs became a way of life. Cultivating an atmosphere of forbearance and unity was no longer just a luxury, but a daily NECESSITY! (Eph 4:14-16)

As we have already seen, a revival pioneer is called to walk a very demanding and lonely path. The pioneer is often misunderstood, rejected and even ridiculed for venturing into what seems to be new and unfamiliar territory. Therefore, he is the last person who can afford to recklessly neglect his covenant relationships. If the revival pioneer is to succeed in his calling, he cannot indulge himself in the slightest trace of stubbornness or an independent spirit. Our differences and diversity are meant to remind us of our great need for one another, not give us an excuse to separate from each other. The persistent revival pioneer inevitably learns this costly lesson of love and self-denial. The process and path of revival is challenging enough without us making it even harder by being willful and uncooperative!

Abandonment & Settling for Less

It was not uncommon for many of the early pioneers to be abandoned by some of their family and friends during the most difficult parts of the journey. After traveling hundreds of miles, some forsook their dreams and plans of the new frontier. A lack of supplies, fatigue, sickness and even death caused many a band of once zealous pioneers to split up and go their separate ways. Some retreated back to more familiar and less threatening territory. Others abandoned their original vision and settled on the open range. Settling for less was not hard to justify for a family of exhausted and discouraged pioneers. Even while still hundreds of miles away from their original destination, the rich natural resources of the open range usually far exceeded what most people had previously enjoyed back home. This was heartbreaking for those who still felt called to push ahead. Shaken and torn from their loved ones, many pioneers moved forward with the complaints of the weary and fearful ringing in their ears. The same fears that excuse and justify the faint-hearted to abandon God’s BEST, are often used by Satan to threaten and discourage the progress of those whom are determined to move forward.

There have been many want-to-be pioneers that have at one time truly sought and prayed for revival, only to turn back to the broken cisterns of so called "GOOD" church. Others have gone further in their pursuit of revival and yet they too have fallen short. They unknowingly became distracted by the spiritual blessings enjoyed during the revival journey. God in His mercy often gives us a foretaste of the blessings to come to encourage us in the path of faith and obedience. However, some are tempted to confuse these mercy drops of refreshing for the reality of revival. Distracted by the appetizers of future grace, some have stopped hungering for the fullness of God’s presence. Today many revival hungry souls are in DANGER of making this terrible mistake! Such shortsightedness threatens to rob them of their spiritual destiny, while also misleading countless others along the way. This premature satisfaction calls into question the validity and hope of our vision for a worldwide revival. It belittles and mocks the very character and faithfulness of a covenant keeping God. If what is being experienced today is truly the fullness of God’s revival power, then this generation is surely doomed!

Spiritual Foresight & Timing

Every step and decision of the pioneer is to be considered in view of how it contributes or hinders him and other pioneers from their final destination. Every action, plan and opportunity is evaluated in view of the end of the trail. A wise revival pioneer understands what is essential for the journey and what must be left behind. The revival pioneer must discern the difference between the things that are temporal and the things that are eternal. He must be willing to lay aside anything and everything that would potentially weaken his ability to reach his God ordained destination. (Mtt 13:22 & 2 Tim 2:3-6)

A sense of proper timing is a very important part of being a revival pioneer. Depending upon the place of their departure, the early pioneer bands had to leave in time to get over the great western mountain ranges before the first snowfall. Physical strength and abundant resources could not make up for a lack of proper timing and foresight. The pioneers of revival MUST likewise discern the Spiritual seasons correctly if they are to enter into their manifest destiny. The very calling and purpose of a pioneer demands that he GO out early rather than late! He has a farseeing eye and therefore doesn’t wait until everything is neatly established and nailed into place. Spiritual procrastination is the pioneer’s deadliest enemy. Proper timing often means the difference between becoming a revival participant or merely a religious spectator.

Spiritual Claim Jumpers?

There are some in the Church today that seem to desperately want revival, but reject the pioneer path and call. They want revival, but they want it on their own terms. Their passion for revival fails to include a prayerful endurance and patience with the broken and needy in their own midst. They would rather complain about problems than pour out their heart in prayer. They readily recognize all the needs around them but lack the courage and faith to do anything about it! The very problems that should naturally awaken them to intercessory prayer are twisted and manipulated to justify their wandering from one church to another. These revival claim jumpers want spiritual riches, but they refuse to bend their own back and knees to get them. They covet revival but lack the endurance to dig in and help birth and pioneer something in the Spirit. So they seek out a place where God is already moving while neglecting the deeper disciplines of prayer, loyalty and sacrifice that are necessary to sustain such works. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that it is wrong to visit churches where God is moving. In past seasons of grace, men and women have always been eager to witness a genuine move of God. If at all possible, they took every opportunity to partake of these wonderful events. However, afterwards they went back home to pray and labor in faith for God to do the same things in their own communities! This was often the means by which revivals spread from region to region or even to other continents. God’s plan for you is not one long, unending renewal road trip, but an abiding visitation of His glory. He is not content with merely a handful of renewal hotspots! The Lord of the harvest longs to pour out the Spirit of revival over the whole Earth, among every tongue, tribe and nation.

Revival Shortcuts!

Some of the early pioneers never reached their destination because they were too eager to cut corners and take shortcuts. Many of you history lovers will surely remember the tragic story of the Donner Party. In 1846 a group of some 300 pioneers set out along the Oregon Trail determined to reach California. George Donner, hearing of a new and faster route, encouraged his family and fellow pioneers to abandon the trusted Oregon Trail to follow the newly advertised Hastings shortcut. The new route promised to trim 400 miles off their overall journey. Ignoring the warnings of seasoned frontiersmen, the Donner party left the main trail at Fort Bridger. Soon after exhausting most of their supplies in the Utah desert and struggling through tree-choked gorges and riverbeds, they finally acknowledged their error and returned to the established trail. However, by this time they had missed their window of opportunity and suddenly found themselves unable to cross the mountains because of an early snowstorm. Exhausted and inexperienced, most of the Donner party died in the mountains, succumbing to cannibalism, frostbite or starvation. The lure of saving time cost most of them their hopes, families and very lives. It was later learned that Lansford Hastings had promoted this shortcut for his own political advantage and at that time had himself never successfully made the trip to California by this route.

If Satan cannot tempt you to abandon your vision for revival, he will then entice you to reach for the promises of revival with the hand of the flesh. This is perhaps above all else his most deceptive tactic. We must always remember that there are no guarantees once we get out from under the grace-filled direction of God. Like the Donner party, we are capable of resorting to anything when left to our own wisdom! Apart from God’s grace we have no idea where we may end up or what we might do. Extreme risks and uncertainties unquestionably mark the pioneer’s life. However, the risks that a pioneer is called to take will NEVER fly in the face of the established and unfailing principles of God’s word!

A New Season of Hope & Opportunity!

The early pioneers had an old saying, "all the cowards stayed at home and the weak died along the way." Wherever men and women defy the laws of comfort and convenience, heartaches and casualties are sure to follow. Nevertheless, "beloved, we are confident of far better things concerning you…" None of us need fall short or stay behind in these days of revival hope and opportunity. The LAMB has prevailed. Jesus has provided a sure path into new frontiers of revival blessing and harvest for all those who will trust and obey. We are living in a new season of unprecedented opportunities and possibilities. God is opening up new doors in the Church today that no man can close. Such times require fresh vision and strength. The Church needs every ounce of zeal, vision and power at Her disposal.

Proverbs 20:29 says, "The glory of young men is their vigor and strength…" The zeal and energy of our youth was never meant to be carelessly squandered away on chasing fun and entertainment. With every great gift comes the call to great RESPONSIBILITY! Now is the time for a new generation of Christians to fully surrender to the yoke of Christ and take their rightful place on the pioneer path. God is raising up a new generation in the Church today to rediscover the forgotten frontiers of personal holiness and revival power. He is preparing them to carry the seeds of revival to the very ends of the Earth! The prophet Joel prophesied that God would accomplish great things through such a generation. "I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions". -(Acts 2:17)

Such language will no doubt make some cautious churchman very uncomfortable. They might quickly remind us of Lam 3:27 –"It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth." This is certainly true! However, God’s yokes are designed to channel strength, not cripple it. The Lord’s yoke is not a fetter of bondage, but a tool for submissive service and labor! It was yoked oxen that pulled the pioneer wagons across rivers and over steep mountains. The strength of yoked oxen plows up the fallow and rocky ground for a coming harvest. Still, some fear the uncertainty and excess that sometimes comes with the zeal and enthusiasm of young oxen. Let’s not forget the divine wisdom of Solomon, "Where there is no oxen, the stall is clean, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest". -(Prov 14:4) Pastor what would you rather have in your church, a clean and orderly stall or an abundant harvest? It’s time to put the young oxen to work!

A Generation on Fire!

The greatest revivalists of the past were young men and women who dared to believe God for something more for their own generation! George Whitfield, Howell Harris, Count Zinzendorf, Charles G. Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Evan Roberts, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, William C. Burns, Hudson Taylor, C. T. Studd, David Brainerd and countless others were all mightily used of God while still in their twenties. Why then are so many of us still looking to the fruitless institutions of decaying Christendom for the steps to our revival dreams? We will never realize our spiritual potential by imitating the unrevived methods of status quo Christianity. God has not called us to mimic the weak and half-reformed religion around us. Like Abram, we have been called out of the land of barrenness to inherit the harvest-fields of revival fruitfulness for this generation and generations to come. -(Josh 24:2-3)

True spiritual pioneers are the embodiment of URGENCY and ZEAL. They recognize their eternal responsibility for their own generation. The apostle of faith, George Muller once said, "My business is with all my might to serve my own generation. In doing so I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord tarry…I have but one life to live on Earth and this one life is but a brief life for sowing in comparison with eternity for reaping." General Booth conveyed the same thought with the following lines: "Your days at the most cannot be very long, so use them to the best of your ability for the glory of God and the benefit of your generation." Catherine Booth, the mother of the Salvation Army, daily charged her nine children with something similar, "You are not here in the world for yourself. You have been sent here for others. The world is waiting for you!" More than once, I heard the late Leonard Ravenhill predict that God was going to raise up a new generation to bring the fires of revival to this sin-sick world. The late Keith Green, echoed these same urgent sentiments. In his final days, he repeatedly unsettled many of us with the following words. "This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the Earth!" Have you been awakened to your eternal and personal responsibility for this generation?

A good pioneer is always eager to learn from the insight and experiences of others, but stand still – NEVER! Not while the promises of revival are still unknown in this generation. Not while Christ is still a stranger to countless lost and dying souls around the world. Not while there is still one blind and stubborn heart that refuses to give praise and honor to our King Jesus! Are you willing to break new ground and rediscover some of the forgotten treasures of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to take His manifest presence to the ends of the Earth? Young pioneer, NOW is the time to look to Jesus Christ and dare to dream for something MORE! "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force". – (Matt 11:12)

Ministry Article Site – Awake and Go: www.awakeandgo.com


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15 February 2007

The Nature and Necessity of Repentance

Thirsty Thursday: Fueling Your Passion to Treasure Christ by Providing Grace-saturated Audio Sermons

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

Alistair Begg:

"The Natu
re and Necessity of Repentance" Part One and Part Two

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13 February 2007

Advent Beauty

By John Piper November 28, 1982

Tilting on her yearly track
Advent beauty circles back,
Flying faster with the years,
Hardly giving time for tears
First to dry upon the cheek—
Has it been more than a week
In the ground now winter cold?
Has there really been a spring
When the birds began to sing?
Has there been both summer, fall
Since the Baby in the stall
Called us with a Christmas bell
to sing, O Come, Immanuel?
Tilting on her yearly track
Advent beauty circles back,
Flying faster with the years—
Ah, but overtaking fears.
Let the Lord of advent lift
Every care (an early gift!);
See the Savior and the Son
Shine in advent candle one.

All of Pastor John's poetry can be found here.

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12 February 2007

Peter: On This Rock I Will Build My Church

Part Two: His Conversion

Some Are Like Peter, Some Are Like Andrew, Jn. 1.35-42.

Have you ever known someone from afar? Perhaps you’ve read a book, or watched a movie, or heard by ear, or corresponded my mail and in doing any one of these things, you’ve formed an impression of that person. Sometimes the person may live up to the hype that you’ve surrounded them in your mind. Sometimes the person disappoints. Can you imagine the anticipation with which Jesus anticipated meeting the men who would be His disciples and believers?

He had foreknown them before the foundation of time. The Father had chosen them and given them to the Son to be His. He had placed their ancestors in towns and nations, molded the hearts of men and women to love one another, all in preparation for these men’s lives. Perhaps Jesus had already become incarnated before His disciples were born. Or perhaps He, Himself, knit them in their mother’s wombs before going into the womb Himself. Nevertheless, can you imagine the excitement of Jesus upon laying His eyes on Peter?

“Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter). Notice the way in which Peter was introduced to Jesus. It was through his brother Andrew. There is something we should not miss here. The Lord will always have his men like Peter. He was a mighty man of God. He is a pillar of the Church. And many a would-be theologian has longed for the day that the Lord might use him as a Peter in this generation.

Just think of what is coming in Peter’s ministry: walking on water, confession of Jesus as Christ, transfiguration, preaching that God uses to save thousands of people. So we long to be used as Simon was used. As it were, we ought to long to be more like Andrew. Sure, the Lord used Peter to bring in thousands. But He used Andrew to bring in Peter. Although an apostle, Andrew doesn’t stand out in church history. We don’t know what he did. We don’t know where he went. We don’t know how he died. But, in heaven, we shall be there because God used Andrew to bring his brother Peter to the Lord. I pray that the Lord would cause me to be more enthralled with His plan for my life rather than my plan.

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11 February 2007

The Dangers of Being a Student

Sunday With the Saint Series: Getting to Know David Brainerd

“In the beginning of September I went to college, and entered there; but with some degree of reluctancy, fearing lest I should not be able to lead a life of strict religion, inthe midst of so many temptations. After this, in the vacancy, before I went to tarry at college, it pleased God to visit my soul with clearer manifestations of himself and his grace. I was spending some time in prayer, and self-examination, when the Lord by his grace so shined into my heart, that I enjoyed full assurance of his favour, for that time; and my soul was unspeakably refreshed with divine and heavenly enjoyments. At this time especially, as well as some others, sundry passages of God’s word opened to my soul with divine clearness, power, and sweetness, so as to appear exceeding precious, and with clear and certain evidence of its being the word of God. I enjoyed considerable sweetness in religion all the winter following.

“In Jan. 1740, the measles spread much in college; and I having taken the distemper, went home to Haddam. But some days before I was taken sick, I seemed to be greatly deserted, and my soul mourned the absence of the Comforter exceedingly. It seemed to me all comfort was for ever gone; I prayed and cried to God for help, yet found no present comfort or relief. But through divine goodness, a night or two before I was taken ill, while I was walking alone in a very retired place, and engaged in meditation and prayer, I enjoyed a sweet refreshing visit, as I trust, from above; so that my soul was raised far above the fears of death. Indeed I rather longed for death, than feared it. O how much more refreshing this one season was, than all the pleasures and delights that earth can afford! After a day or two I was taken with the measles, and was very ill indeed, so that I almost despaired of life; but had no distressing fears of death at all. However, through divine goodness I soon recovered; yet, by reason of hard and close studies, and being much exposed on account of my freshmanship, I had but little time for spiritual duties: my soul often mourned for want of more time and opportunity to be alone with God. In the spring and summer following, I had better advantages for retirement, and enjoyed more comfort in religion. Though indeed my ambition in my studies greatly wronged the activity and vigour of my spiritual life; yet this was usually the case with me, that “in the multitude of my thoughts within me, God’s comforts principally delighted my soul;” these were my greatest consolations day by day."

Taken from The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, by Jonathan Edwards (in the Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, Banner of Truth), 319-320.

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10 February 2007

The Faith on Friday

"Every Christian is a theologian. We are always engaged in the activity of learning about the things of God. We are not all theologians in the professional or academic sense, but theologians we are, for better or for worse. The 'for worse'' is no small matter. Second Peter warns that heresies are destructive to the people of God and are blasphemies committed against God. They are destructive because theology touches every dimension of our lives.

The Bible declares that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. This declaration sounds strange. It is almost as if the biblical writer blunders. He seems to confuse the mind and the heart. We normally associate thought with the brain and feelings with the heart. So what does it meant to say a man thinks in his heart? The phrase to think in the heart refers to thoughtful reflection. Many ideas are briefly entertained by the mind without ever penetrating the heart. Those ideas that do grasp us in our innermost parts, however, are the ideas that shape our lives. We are what we think. When our thoughts are corrupted, our lives follow suit.

We all know that people can recite the creeds flawlessly and makes A's in theology courses while living godless lives. We can affirm a sound theology and live an unsound life. Sound theology is not enough to live a godly life. But it is still a requisite for godly living. How can we do the truth without first understanding what the truth is?

No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian has a theology. The issue, then, is not, do we want to have a theology? That's a given. The real issue is, do we have a sound theology? Do we embrace true or false doctrine?"

The previous was taken from the preface in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, by R.C. Sproul.

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