Saturday, November 26, 2005

Overcoming the World

What is the World?
The world and all that is in the world is described as 'the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life' (1 Jn. 2:16).

How does the world try to separate us from Christ?
It seeks to conform us to its own image (Rom. 12:1-2) rather than that we should be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

In what which ways does the world seek to conform us to its image and separate us from Christ?
It works to this end by:
1) blinding us against the loveliness and excellency of Christ by its attractions;
2) deadening our spiritual senses in order that we do not see our need of Christ;
3) engaging our hearts and affections rather than Christ;
4) giving us excuses for neglecting Christ (Luke 14:18-20);
5) taking away our time and energy by the cares of this life.

What is the world's strength?
The strength that the world has in us lies in the natural enmity of the carnal mind and sinful heart to the things of God. The flesh is a worldly spirit to whom the things of God are foolishness (1 Cor 2:12) and the world is able to play upon its desires (Ezek. 33:31).

How does the devil make use of this world?
The devil as the god of this world blinds men against the gospel of God (2 Cor 4:4) by 1) overrating the value of the things of this world and underrating the eternal (Gen. 3:4-5); 2) emphasising afflictions in this world more than the afflictions of eternal condemnation in the world to come.

How do we overcome the world?
We overcome the world by our faith (1 Jn. 5:4).

How does faith overcome the world?
Faith unites us to Christ (1 Jn. 5:5), from whom the world tries to separate us (Jas. 4:4). Faith lays hold of every part of the armour of God, and is the crucial part of that armour ('above all taking the shield of faith' Eph. 6:16).

Where does the strength of faith lie?
Faith as that which unites us to Christ communicates strength from Him to us. As the vine communicates life to the branches, so Christ is our life (John 15:4; Col. 3:4) and we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us (Mk. 9:23; Phil 4:13; John 15:5). Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is the hope of glory and strengthens us with might in the inner man (Col. 1:27; Eph 3:16-17). As Christ has overcome the world, so we through faith in Him are able to do likewise (John 16:33; Rev. 3:21).

What is the perspective of faith?
Faith as the the evidence of things not seen, sees beyond this present, temporary world to the recompence of the reward and lays hold on eternal life, which is to know Christ (John 17:3; 1 Tim 6:12). It perseveres as seeing Him who is invisible and esteeming the reproach of Christ more worth than anything this world can offer (Heb 11:27-27). It sees death as gain not loss (Phil; 1:21-23; 1 Cor. 5:1-2).

How does the Christian fight against the world?
The world is a deadly enemy to whom no ground can be given without wounding the soul. The Christian therefore uses the weapon of all prayer to resist temptation or to seek cleansing when he falls (Eph. 6:18). He uses this world carefully as though he used it not and conscious of the account of stewardship that he must render (2 Tim. 2:4). He does not give his heart or thoughts predominantly to the things of this world to be conformed by it but seeks to have his heart in heaven and his mind renewed (Col. 3:1-2; Rom. 12:2; Rom. 8:6). He fears that which he loves most in this world as potential idols and he seeks submission to God's providence and contentment which is the antidote to covetousness and counts all things loss in comparison to Christ (Heb. 13:5; Phil. 3:8).

What promises are made to those that overcome the world?
Those that overcome the world are promised in this life the blessings of adoption and communion with Christ and ultimately entering into the everlasting joy of their Lord (Rev 2:7, 17; Rev. 35, 12, :21).

Glory of Christ

In the vision which we shall have above, the whole glory of Christ will be at once and always represented unto us; and we shall be enabled in one act of the light of glory to comprehend it. Here, indeed, we are at a loss; - our minds and understandings fail us in their contemplations. It will not yet enter into our hearts to conceive what is the beauty, what is the glory of this complete representation of Christ unto us. To have at once all the glory of what he is, what he was in his outward state and condition, what he did and suffered, what he is exalted unto, - his love and condescension, his mystical union with the church, and the communication of himself until it, with the recapitulation of all things in him, - and the glory of God, even the Father, in his wisdom, righteousness, grace, love, goodness, power, shining forth eternally in him, in what he is, hath done, and doth, - all presented to us in one view, all comprehended by us at once, is that which at present we cannot conceive. We can long for it, pant after it, and have some foretastes of it, - namely of that state and season wherein our whole souls, in all their powers and faculties, shall constantly, inseparably, eternally cleave by love unto whole Christ, in the sight of the glory of his person and grace, until they are watered, dissolved and inebriated in the waters of life and the rivers of pleasure that are above for evermore. So must speak of the things which we admire, which we adore, which we love, which we long for, which we have some foretastes of in sweetness ineffable, which yet we cannot comprehend.
Rev. John Owen (Puritan) Extracted from ‘The Works of Owen’, Vol. 1, p.410.

Spiritual Worship

A spiritual worshipper actually aspires in every duty to know God....To desire worship as an end, is carnal; to desire it as a means, and act desires in it for communion with God in it, is spiritual, and the fruit of a spiritual life...

Rev. Stephen Charnock (Puritan)

Hatred of Sin an Evidence of Love to Christ

1. His wrongs done to Christ will prick him most. If the wrongs be done by others, they affect him; if by himself, they some way faint him. Wholeness of heart, under wronging of Christ, is too great an evidence that there is little or no ground for application of his satisfaction; but it is kindly like, when wrongs done to Christ affect most.
2. When not only challenges for sin against the law, but for sins against Christ and grace offered in the gospel, do become a burden, and the greatest burden.
3. When the man is made to mind secret enmity at Christ, and is disposed to muster up aggravations of his sinfulness on that account, and cannot get himself made vile enough; when he has a holy indignation at himself, and with Paul counts himself the chief of sinners; even though the evil was done in ignorance, much more if it has been against knowledge. It is no evil token when souls are made to heap up aggravations of their guilt for wrongs done to Christ, and when they cannot get suitable expressions sufficiently to hold it out, as it is an evil token to be soon satisfied in this. There are many that will take with [admit to] no challenge for their wronging Christ; but behold here how the prophet insists, both in the words before, in these, and in the following words; and he can no more win off the thoughts of it, than he can win off the thoughts of Christ’s sufferings.
Rev. James Durham (Covenanter) Extracted from Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in Seventy-Two Sermons on the Fifty- Third Chapter of Isaiah

Meditating often on the Word

In the plainest text there is a world of holiness and spirituality; and if we in prayer and dependence upon God did sit down and study it, we should behold much more than appears to us. It may be, at one reading or looking, we see little or nothing; as Elijah's servant went once and saw nothing; therefore, he was commanded to look seven times. "What now?", says the prophet. "I see a cloud rising like a man's hand", and by and by the whole surface of the heavens was covered with clouds. So you may look lightly upon a scripture and see nothing; meditate often upon it, and there you shall see a light like the light of the sun.

Rev. Joseph Caryl (Member of Westminster Assembly)

Family Worship

Families have hereby their communion kept with God, & thus are kept in the suburbs of heaven; hereby they tell him all their wants, and make known to him all their desires, cast all their care and burdens on him, consult him in all difficult cases, & get their resolutions.
John Brown of Wamphray (Covenanter)

A Fountain Sealed

In Song of Solomon 4:12 the church is compared to a garden shut up, a fountain sealed, which is to be understood not only in respect of the defence and protection God vouchsafes to His church (that none can destroy her) but also, because strangers and wicked men are not able to drink of her delicacies, or smell of her sweetness.

A spiritual sermon is a fountain sealed up; the spiritual administration of a sacrament is a garden enclosed. Superficial Christians understand not nor perceive the full sweetness thereof. There were many people in a throng and crowd about our Saviour, but only the infirm woman felt the efficacy come from Him. Although many may attend the ordinances, frequent the assemblies, few find the inward power of Christ derived unto their souls.

As, therefore, Thomas, though spoken wrongly on a false ground, said he would not believe Christ to be risen unless he saw His wounds and put his fingers into them, so neither must you believe your estate to be good and sound, unless you may see and feel the efficacy of Christ in His ordinances upon thee.

Anthony Burgess

Burgess was a member of the Westminster Assembly and wrote at least a dozen books that were based largely on his sermons and lectures. This extract is from a sermon contained in his major work, Spiritual Refining, a massive, two-volume work of 1100 pages that has been called an “unequalled anatomy of experimental religion".