This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Category: David’s Digest (Page 1 of 12)

David’s Digest: Do We Have Our Own Gourd?

Jonah 4:5-11:

5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

6 And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

As I read this recently, something struck me: This temporary thing made Jonah “exceeding glad.” Is there something in my life that I think is missing that would make me “exceeding glad”? Or rather what came to mind personally, is there something in my life that I wish wasn’t, and that being gone would make me “exceeding glad”?

Do I have my own form of “Jonah’s Gourd”?

Do we truly trust God in His providences in our lives, especially in the difficult times of trial and affliction? Do we do well to be angry at God for them, or the lack of something we think we should have?

Or better, do we thank the Lord for these things, or the lack of something we think we should have, in our lives, as the guiding hand of a loving Father?

1 Thess 5:18 – “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Heb 12:8 – “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

And then, what does the Bible say should make us “exceeding glad”?

First and foremost, the Lord Himself:

Psalm 21:6 – “For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.

But further, not only thankful for His afflicting hand but:

Matt 5:11-12 – “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

1 Pet 4:12-13 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

And so, there we have it…it’s the trial and afflictions themselves that are to make us “exceeding glad”, not some temporal thing in our lives, or difficulties being removed. In fact, removing them might not only be evidence of losing the loving chastisement of a Father that makes us better followers of Him, but also the losing of the thing itself in which we are to be exceeding glad!

May the Lord Christ Himself be our greatest joy! And then, may His trials and afflictions, in the not having things we think we want, or the not removing of things we want removed, make us exceeding glad, and always thankful!

— David

David’s Digest: A Mark of a True Child of God

While reading through Matthew 5 recently, something stuck out to me more this time.

Verse 9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Only Christ can make peace between God and us, but, as Puritan commentator John Gill suggests, this is:

between men and men; and such are they, who are of peaceable dispositions themselves; live peaceably with all men, and with one another, as their relation obliges to, and their mutual comfort requires; and with the men of the world; and who are ready, willing, and very serviceable, in composing differences, and making peace between their fellow creatures and fellow Christians.

And if we are peacemakers, that doesn’t merit our being God’s children: the merit to be adopted into God’s family is only through Christ.

But is there more?

Continuing in Matthew 5, specifically verses 43 to 48, I’ll go through them here with some formatting to add a little emphasis:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you:

  • Love your enemies
  • Bless them that curse you
  • Do good to them that hate you
  • And pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you

But, why?

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven!

Wow! Only God adopting us into His family actually makes us His children, but we evidence we are truly His children when we do these things. How is this so?

For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

So, we’re to do something similar, by loving, blessing, doing good and praying for those who hate us and despitefully use us. This is just as God brings the sun to shine and rain to fall on the ungodly.

And here’s more for the argument:

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Even the ungodly do good to their friends, so if that’s all we do, how are we any different from the ungodly?

And the final statement:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

We cannot be “perfect” as God is in degree, but “perfect” here is in likeness, or “as close to God in this characteristic as possible”.

Children are reflections of their parents, and so to be that Christian reflection of God, and thus show we are a child of His, we must do these good things (praying for, doing good, etc.) to those who treat us very poorly!

I would suggest, too, that the vice-versa is implied: if we are not willing to do, or are indifferent about, these things, that it is quite possible that evidences we might not be God’s children, regardless of what we might say. I believe we must seriously consider this.

Now, all this is an impossible order under our own spiritual strength, but:

Philippians 4:11-13 – “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

And after all, shouldn’t we imitate our Lord Christ Jesus as well?

Romans 5:6-8 – “6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

and

Luke 23:34 – “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Christ died for the ungodly, for sinners, and He prayed for those involved with killing Him, also showing, I would offer, an example of being a child of His Father.

Let us earnestly and slowly consider the marks and required actions of a true child of God one more time:

  • Love your enemies
  • Bless them that curse you
  • Do good to them that hate you
  • And pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you

May we ask God for, and may He grant us, the desires, and these graces themselves, to be like Him, to all of those around us, even those who might abuse or wrong us, going even farther than just not retaliating, in Christian love, motivated by love to Him!

— David

David’s Digest: What Does It Mean to Submit All Our Actions to God’s Will?

James 4:15 – “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

At what depth should our wills in the actions of our lives be submitted to our God if we claim Him to be so? What does it mean to truly submit our lives in what we do to Him?

Puritan Thomas Manton in his superb work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James” takes a deep and detailed look into what it means to submit the actions of our lives to God.

You can listen to all of verse 15 here:

 


or download it:
Download

 

The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=375, and this section starts on PDF page 379 (in the print, page 360), or you can get it in other formats here

…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:
Thomas Manton – James Commentary

From Thomas Manton:

Verse 15. – For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Observation. All our undertakings must be referred to the will of God; not only sacred, but civil actions. Our journeys must not be undertaken without asking his leave; as Jacob, “O Lord God of Abraham thy servant, send me good speed this day” (Gen. xxviii. 20, and xxiv. 12). No wonder, if this be neglected, that you meet with so many cross accidents; they do not come from your hard luck, but your profane neglect.

But what is it to submit all our actions to the will of God? I answer,

1. To measure all our actions by his revealed will [the Bible], that is the rule of duty. We can look for no blessing but upon those ways that suit with it. There must be a submission to his secret will, but first a conformity to his revealed will. Lust [generally, any corrupt desire of the heart] has its wills (Eph. ii. 2); but we are to serve the will of God till we fall asleep (Acts xiii 36).

2. We must the more comfortably undertake any action, when we see God in it. Acts xvi. 10, he gathered that God had called him to Macedonia: so, when we see God in the sweet means and course of his providence, or by inward instinct guiding and leading us, we may with more encouragement walk in the way that he hath opened to us.

3. When in our desires and requests we do not [try to] bind [constrain] the counsels of God; [we should say] “Not my will, but thine be done” (Matt. xxvi. 39). In temporal things we must submit to God’s will both for the mercy, the means, and time of attainment. Creatures that cannot ascribe to themselves, must not prescribe to God, and give laws to Providence, but must be content to want [lack], or have, as the Lord pleases. If any thing succeed not well, the Lord would not [wills it not to be]; that is enough to silence all discontents [discontentment].

4. We must constantly ask his leave in prayer, as before was urged.

5. We must still reserve the power of God’s providence. If the Lord will. If the Lord permit: God would not have us too carnally confident; it is good to inure the soul to changes. Two things we should often consider to this purpose, and they are both in the text:

(1st.) The sovereignty and dominion of Providence: the Lord can blast your enterprise, though managed with never so much wisdom and contrivance [of our own]; he can nip it in the bud, or check it in the very article of execution: and I have observed, that usually God is very tender of his honour in this point, and usually frustrates proud men that boast of what they will do, and conceive unlimited purposes, without any thought of the check they may receive in Providence.

It is a flower of the imperial crown of heaven, and the bridle that God hath upon the reasonable creature, to dispose of the success of human affairs; therefore herein God will be acknowledged: “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps” (Prov. xvi. 9). Man designs, but the execution depends wholly upon God’s will and providence.

In peremptory resolutions there is a contest between us and Heaven about will and power; therefore, in such cases, the answer of Providence is more express and decisive to the creature’s loss, that God may be acknowledged as Lord of success, and the first mover in all means and causes, without whom they have no force and efficacy.

(2nd.) Consider the frailty and uncertainty of your own lives. Our being is as uncertain as the events of Providence. If we live, and God will, are the exceptions of the text, and do imply that there must be a sensible impression of our own frailty, as well as of the sovereignty of Providence, that the heart may the better submit to God. It is said, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psa. cxlvi. 4).

Frail men are full of thoughts and projects; this they will do, and that they will do; go to such a city, promote their interests by such an alliance, gain so much by such a purchase; and then they will raise up some stately fabric which shall continue their name and memory to succeeding generations, and all this because they do not mind the earth which they carry about them, and how soon the hand of Providence is able to crumble it into dust. Certainly man will never be wise, till he is able to number his days, and does sufficiently possess his soul of the uncertainty of his abode in the world (Psa. xc. 12).

Observation. We shall live, and do this or that. Mark! it is not enough that God suffer [allow] us to live, but he must also by the same will suffer [allow] us to do or act. The point is, that God’s will concurs not only to our lives, but actions. We may live, and yet not be able to do any thing for the promotion of our designs: for, if God suspend his concurrence, the creatures cannot act, at least not with any towardliness and success, which quite crosses the doctrine of the heathen philosophers. Seneca said, “That we live, it is by the benefit of the gods; that we live well, it is of ourselves.” So Tully: “This is the judgment of all men, that prosperity is to be sought of God, but wisdom to be gotten by ourselves.”

But in the Scriptures we are taught otherwise, not only to seek success of God, but direction; he gives abilities to perform, and a blessing when the action is finished.

  • Without the efficacious [effective], as well as permissive will of God, we can do nothing; he must give us life, and all things necessary to action.
  • We must not only look up to him as the author of the success, but the director of the actions.
  • It is by his conduct and blessing that all things come to pass.
  • Our very counsels and wills are subject to the Divine government, and he can turn them as it pleaseth him (Prov. xxi. 1);

and therefore we must not only commit our ways to his providence, but commend our hearts to the tuition of his Spirit. In short, all things are done by bis will, and must be ascribed to his praise.

May God grant that we indeed see our frailty, His greatness, His supremacy in all things, His worthiness to be submitted to, His lovingkindness in His dealings with us, and may He grant that we be full of thankfulness at all times, especially if by His graces and mercies we have the Lord Christ Jesus as our own!

— David

David’s Digest: Don’t Be a CHRINO

I believe Scripture defines two kingdoms on earth: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, influenced by Satan:

Mark 1:14-15 – “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Eph 2:2 – “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience

I also believe the following implies that time is a factor of servitude. For example, when one spends time pursuing either mammon or God, they are serving one or the other:

Matt 6:24 – “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Besides mammon, I believe generally the activities of our lives that we can engage in fall into being a part of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of the world; and, like mammon, if it is part of one, it cannot be part of the other. If we were to list all the activities in our lives throughout the week and categorize them honestly as being part of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of the world, in what kingdom would they end up?

How much of our lives is spent participating in, and thus serving, the kingdom of the world; and therefore, how much of our lives is spent not in the service of Christ and following Him? And then are we actually servants of Christ?

To use the political vernacular of the day, are we just CHRINOs — Christians in name only?

It is possible to say we are Christians and not be:

Matt 7:21-23 – “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

James 2:19-20 – “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

1 John 4:20 – “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Judas was a Christ-follower, but externally only and not in his heart truly. (You can listen to an excellent sermon on Judas being a Christian in name only here.)

 

Christianity isn’t something we do — it’s who we are. We shouldn’t fit Christianity into the rest of the things in our lives — the rest of the things in our lives should fit into our Christianity, directed by the Word of God, the Bible.

 

How is our Lord’s Day keeping? Is the day — the whole day — kept holy, set apart for the worship of Christ and religious exercises? Here is what Puritan Thomas Watson said in part regarding the 4th Commandment, which you can listen to here, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or all the commandments in their entirety:

Use one. See here the Christian’s duty, “to keep the Sabbath-day holy.”

(1) The whole Sabbath is to be dedicated to God. It is not said, Keep a part of the Sabbath holy but the whole day must be piously observed. If God has given us six days, and taken but one to himself, shall we grudge him any part of that day? This would be sacrilege. … Let those who say, that to keep a whole Sabbath is too Judaical, show where God has made any abatement of the time of worship; where he has said, you shall keep but a part of the Sabbath; and if they cannot show that, it robs God of his due. That a whole day be designed and set apart for his special worship, is a perpetual statute, while the church remains upon the earth, …

(2) As the whole Sabbath is to be dedicated to God, so it must be kept holy. …

If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable: and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words.” Isaiah 58:13. Here is a description of rightly sanctifying a Sabbath.

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath.” This may be understood either literally or spiritually. Literally, that is, if you withdraw your foot from taking long walks or journeys on the Sabbath-day. So the Jewish doctors expound it. Or, spiritually, if you turn away your affections (the feet of your soul) from inclining to any worldly business.

“From doing your pleasure on my holy day.” That is, you must not do that which may please the carnal part, as in sports and recreations. This is to do the devil’s work on God’s day.

“And call the Sabbath a delight.” Call it a delight, that is, esteem it so. Though the Sabbath is not a day for carnal pleasure, yet holy pleasure is not forbidden. The soul must take pleasure in the duties of a Sabbath…

“Not doing your own ways.” That is, you shall not defile the day by doing any servile work.

“Nor finding your own pleasure.” That is, not gratifying the fleshly part by walks, visits, or recreations.

“Nor speaking your own words.” That is, words unsuitable for a Sabbath; vain, impertinent words; discourses of worldly affairs.

 

Now, how about the rest of our lives? How do our lives compare to the following?

From AW Pink’s “A Fourfold Salvation”, part 3 on “Salvation from the Power of Sin“:

But not only must the new nature be fed, it is equally necessary for our spiritual well-being that the old nature should be starved. This is what the apostle had in mind when he said, “Make not provision for the flesh, unto the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14). To starve the old nature, to make not provision for the flesh, means that we abstain from everything that would stimulate our carnality; that we avoid, as we would a plague, all that is calculated to prove injurious to our spiritual welfare.

Not only must we deny ourselves the pleasures of sin, shun such things as the saloon, theatre, dance, card-table, etc., but we must separate ourselves from the worldly companions, cease to read worldly literature, abstain from everything upon which we cannot ask God’s blessing.

Our affections are to be set upon things above, and not upon things upon the earth (Col. 3:2).

Does this seem a high standard, and sound impracticable? Holiness in all things is that at which we are to aim, and failure to do so explains the leanness of so many Christians. Let the young believer realize that whatever does not help his spiritual life hinders it.

 

Or this, from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness book (Chapter 19, which you can listen to here, Part 1, Part 2, or in its entirety):

I must honestly declare my conviction that, since the days of the Reformation, there never has been so much profession of religion without practice, so much talking about God without walking with Him, so much hearing God’s words without doing them, as there is in England at this present date. Never were there so many empty tubs and tinkling cymbals! Never was there so much formality and so little reality. The whole tone of men’s minds on what constitutes practical Christianity seems lowered. The old golden standard of the behaviour which becomes a Christian man or woman appears debased and degenerated.

You may see scores of religious people (so-called) continually doing things which in days gone by would have been thought utterly inconsistent with vital religion. They see no harm in such things as card-playing, theatre-going, dancing, incessant novel-reading, and Sunday-travelling, and they cannot in the least understand what you mean by objecting to them! The ancient tenderness of conscience about such things seems dying away and becoming extinct, like the dodo. When you venture to remonstrate with young communicants who indulge in them, they only stare at you as an old-fashioned, narrow-minded, fossilized person and say, “Where is the harm?” In short, laxity of ideas among young men, and “fastness” and levity among young women, are only too common characteristics of the rising generation of Christian professors.

Now in saying all this I would not be mistaken. I disclaim the slightest wish to recommend an ascetic religion. Monasteries, nunneries, complete retirement from the world, and refusal to do our duty in it, all these I hold to be unscriptural and mischievous nostrums. Nor can I ever see my way clear to urging on men an ideal standard of perfection for which I find no warrant in God’s Word, a standard which is unattainable in this life, and hands over the management of the affairs of society to the devil and the wicked. No; I always wish to promote a genial, cheerful, manly religion, such as men may carry everywhere and yet glorify Christ.

 

Or this, from Puritan Thomas Manton:

John 17:16 – “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

2. Observe again, an excellent means to digest the world’s neglect is to consider the example of Christ. It is our duty, it will be for our comfort, and it turneth to our profit.

1. It is our duty. In his example we have a taste of his Spirit: ‘I am not of the world,’ said Christ; and we should ‘ imitate Christ as dear children,’ Eph. v. 1. They that love to live in delight and pleasures are but christians in name. If we had no other reason to contemn the vanity of the world than the life of Christ, this were enough. Who was wisest, Christ or you ? Who can make the better choice, Christ or you? Who is in error, Christ or you? Christ chose a poor life, and you affect [work to acquire] greatness.

 

Claiming to be a Christian and not living as one can also be taking the Lord’s name in vain. If we say we are Christians, we take the name of Christ as ours (like when a new wife takes her husband’s surname).

For example, besides potentially swearing falsely, Puritan commentator Matthew Henry suggests the following is one of the ways of taking God’s name in vain:

Prov 30:7-9 – “7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: 8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Lest I should steal, and take the name of my God in vain, that is, discredit my profession of religion by practices disagreeable to it.

 

And here is Thomas Watson on the 3rd Commandment (which you can listen to in its entirety here) giving his explanations of some of the ways we can take the Lord’s name in vain:

Exo 20:7 – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

[2] We take God’s name in vain, when we profess God’s name but do not live answerably to it, we take it in vain. They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, Titus 1:16. When men’s tongues and lives are contrary to one another, when, under a mask of profession, they lie and deceive, and are unclean, they make use of God’s name to abuse him, and take it in vain. “Pretended holiness is merely double wickedness.” “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”, Rom 2:24. When the heathen saw the Jews, who professed to be God’s people, to be scandalous, it made them speak evil of God, and hate the true religion for their sakes.

[4] We take God’s name in vain, when we worship him with our lips but not with our hearts. God calls for the heart, “My son, give me your heart.”, Prov 23:26. The heart is the chief thing in religion; it draws the will and affections after it, as the Primum Mobile [the outermost moving sphere that carried the others with it in the geocentric view of the universe] draw the other orbs along with it. The heart is the incense which perfumes our holy things. The heart is the altar which sanctifies the offering. When we seem to worship God but withdraw our heart from him, we take his name in vain. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.”, Matthew 15:8-9

Hypocrites take God’s name in vain: their religion is a lie; they seem to honor God but they do not love him; their hearts go after their lusts [generally, any corrupt desires of the heart]. “They set their heart on their iniquity.”, Hos 4:8. Their eyes are lifted up to heaven but their hearts are rooted in the earth, Ezek 33:31. These are devils in Samuel’s mantle.

Superstitious people take God’s name in vain. They bring him a few ceremonies which he never appointed, bow at Christ’s name and cringe to the altar but hate and persecute God’s image.

 

Further, do we have oil in our lamps, or are we just holding empty ones?

Is our true purpose in life God and His glory alone?

Is our eye single toward Christ? Are our treasures, and thus our hearts, on things of this world, or Christ Himself and heavenly things?

And finally, are we ravished with the beauty of Christ? Do we wish to be in His presence more each day, in prayer now and in person in heaven one day? Is he our all?

The Song of Solomon is an allegory of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. If you’ve never read through it with that in mind, I would encourage you to do so. And here are other excellent sermons, focusing on some of this relationship, and the Church’s desire, and those individuals that make up the bride of Christ, for Christ, the excellency it (the Church) and they (the individuals) see in Him, and its and their desire for communion with Him:

I believe the kingdom of Christ is real, here, and now, and is not yoked with the kingdom of the world; and those that take the name of Christ I believe should strive to live life in and focused on Christ and His kingdom, participating much in heavenly things, purposing all things for God’s glory, separated as much as possible from the world’s kingdom and its accoutrements.

May God grant us a desire for the things of the world to die to us, and may He grant that they indeed do!

Your main and principal motive as a Christian should always be to live for Christ. To live for glory? Yes, but for his glory. To live for comfort? Yes, but be all your consolation in him. To live for pleasure? Yes, but when you are merry, sing psalms, and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. To live for wealth? Yes, but to be rich in faith. You may lay up treasure, but lay it up in heaven.

– Charles Spurgeon

1 John 2:15 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Rom 12:2 – “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Psa 73:25-26 – “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Phil 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

— David

David’s Digest: The Carnal Life

James 4:13 – “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

Where are our hearts truly? With God or the things of the world?

Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Puritan Thomas Manton in his excellent work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James” discusses the life of carnal persons and the things important to them.

How do we compare?

You can listen to all of verse 13 here:


or download it:
Download

The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=375, and this section starts on PDF page 375 (in the print, page 356), or you can get it in other formats here

…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:
Thomas Manton – James Commentary

From Thomas Manton:

Verse 13. – Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

Ye that say, “To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, etc.” By an imitation he recites the speeches or thoughts of the Jewish factors or merchants: Now we will go to Alexandria, or to Damascus, or to Antioch, which were the places of their usual traffic [for business]. Observe hence,

Obs 1. That carnal hearts are all for carnal projects. Thoughts are the purest offspring of the soul, and do discover the temper of it. Men are according to their devices; see Isa. xxxii. 6, 7: “Liberal men devise liberal things.” Carnal men are projecting how to spend their days and months in buying and selling, and getting gain. The fool in the Gospel is thinking of enlarging his barns, and plucking down his houses, and building greater (Luke xi. 17, 18): this engrosses all his thoughts.

One apostle describes such men thus, “Minding earthly things” (Phil. iii. 19). Another thus, “Having a heart exercised with covetous practices” (2 Pet. ii. 14); that is, with earnest contrivances how to promote their gain and earthly aims.

A gracious heart is for gracious projects, how they shall be more thankful (Psa. cxvi. 12), how more holy, more useful for God, more fruitful in every good work; “what they shall do to inherit eternal life.” Oh! consider, this is the better care, that more suits with the end [purpose] of our creation and the nature of our spirits. We were sent into the world, not to grow great and pompous, but to enrich our souls with spiritual excellencies, etc.

Obs 2. Again you may observe, that carnal men send out their thoughts to forestall and fore-enjoy their contentments ere [before] they obtain them. [ie. looking forward to expected events and enjoyments with excitement] It is usual with men to feed themselves with the pleasure of their hopes. Sisera’s mother’s ladies looked through the lattice, pleasing themselves in the thought of a triumphant return (Judg. v.).

Thoughts are the spies and messengers of the soul; hope sends them out after the thing expected, and love after the thing beloved. When a thing is strongly expected, the thoughts are wont [often] to spend themselves in creating images and suppositions of the happiness of enjoyment. If a poor man were adopted into the succession of a crown, he would please himself in the supposition of the future honour and pleasure of the kingly state. Godly men, that are called to be co-heirs with Christ, are wont [often] to pre-occupy the bliss of their future estate, and so do in a manner feel what they do but expect.

So also do carnal men charm their souls with whispers of vanity, and feed themselves with the pleasant anticipation of that carnal delight which they look for: as young heirs spend upon their hopes, and riot away their estate ere [before] they possess it.

Well then, look to it; it is a sure note of fleshliness, when the world runs so often in your thoughts, and you are always deflowering [corrupting] carnal contentments [in this case I believe lawful ones] by these anticipations of lust [generally, any corrupt desire in the heart] and sin; and you have nothing to live upon, or to entertain your spirit withal, but these suppositions of gain and pomp, and the reversion [future possession] of some outward enjoyment.

Obs 3. Again, you may observe their confidence of future events. “We will go, and continue there a year,” etc. Note from that, that carnal affections are usually accompanied with, certainly much encouraged by, carnal confidence. They are doubly confident: of the success of their endeavours. “We will get gain”; of the continuance of their lives, “We will continue there a year.” Lust [corrupt desires] cannot be nourished without a presumption of success.

When men multiply endeavours, they liittle think of God, or of the changes of providence. [If they were to], It is [or would be] enough to undo [sadly, to them, take away from them their] lust [corrupt desire] to suppose [that] a disappointment [might happen].

Besides, when there is such a presence of means [wealth, prosperity], we ascribe little to the highest cause [God and His providence, how He causes things to happen in our lives]. First the world steals away our affections, and then it intercepts our trust: there is not only adultery in it (James iv. 4), but idolatry (Eph. v. 5). It is not only our darling, but our god; and that is the reason why worldly men are always represented as men of a secure presumption; as, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke xii 9). “I shall die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand” (Job xxix. 18). So in that apocryphal passage, “I have found rest, and will eat continually of my goods, and yet he knoweth not what time shall come upon him” (Ecclus. xi. 19). They think now they have enough to secure them against all chances [happenstances].

Well then, look to your confidence and trust: when you are getting an estate, is your expectation founded in faith, or lust [corrupt desire]? When you have gotten an estate, where lies the assurance of your contentment, in the promises or your outward welfare?

Obs 4. Again, from that to-day or to-morrow, and we will tarry there a year. Carnal men are not only confident of present, but future welfare; which argues a heart stupidly [insensibly, like in a stupor] secure, and utterly insensible of the changes of Providence: “To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundantly” (Isa. Ivi. 12): “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever” (Psa. xlix. 11).

Men love to enjoy their carnal comforts without interruption, thought of death, or change. Every day is as a new life, and brings sufficient care with it; we need not look out for so long time. But worldly men in their cares do not only provide for the morrow, but the next year, in their possessions; do not only please themselves in their present happiness, but will not so much as suppose a change.

May God grant the things of the world be seen as the vain things they are. May our hearts be with spiritual things and all our desires be toward Christ Jesus, being in union with Him, loving Him, adoring Him, and worshipping Him in our hearts, minds, words and actions!

1 John 2:15 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Psalm 27:4 – “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

— David

David’s Digest: Can We Offer Up Our Issac?

James 2:21 – “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Abraham’s Issac was his only son — the son of the promise, and yet God would have Abraham offer Isaac as a literal sacrifice on an alter. I would assume this caused Abraham at least a little angst of heart and mind. However, he was quickly obedient.

What has God required of us that causes us pause by way of reason or feelings? How are we to approach obedience to God? Are we willing to offer up our “Issacs”?

Puritan Thomas Manton in his most excellent work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James” applies Abraham’s experience in a practical way to our lives in this verse.

You can listen to all of verse 21 here:


or download it:
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The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=246, and this section starts on PDF page 246 (in the print, page 227), or you can get it in other formats here

…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:
Thomas Manton – James Commentary

From Thomas Manton:

Verse 21. – Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Obs 4. From that Offered Isaac upon the altar He brings this as the great argument of the truth of Abraham’s faith. It is not for faith to produce every action, unless it produce such actions as Abraham’s. Such as will engage you to self-denial, are troublesome to the flesh. David scorned such service as [that] cost nothing. There — where we must deny our own reason, affections, interest — that is an action fit to try a believer.

Let us see what is observable in this action of Abraham, that we may go and do likewise.

(1.) Observe the greatness of the temptation. It was to offer his own son, the son of his love, his only son, a son longed for, and obtained when ‘his body was dead’, and ‘Sarah’s womb dead’; nay, ‘the son of the promise’. Had he been to contend only with natural affection, it had been much — descensive love [I believe, love of a descendant, like a child] is always vehement; but for love to Isaac there were special endearing reasons and arguments.

But Abraham was not only to conflict with natured affection, but reason; not only with reason, but faith. He was, as it were, to execute all his hopes; and all this was to be done by himself; with his own hand he was at one stroke to cut off all his comforts. The execution of such a sentence was as harsh and bitter to flesh and blood, as to be his own executioner.

Oh! go and shame yourselves without, you that can so little deny yourselves for God, that attempt duties only when they are easy and obvious, never care to recover them out of the hands of difficulty and inconvenience. Public duties, if well done, are usually against carnal interests; private duties against carnal affections. Can you give up all that is near and dear to you? Can you offer up your Isaac? your ease and pleasure, for private duties? your interests, for public? Every action is not a trial of faith, but such as engages to self-denial.

(2.) Consider the readiness of his obedience. As Abraham is the pattern of believing, so of obeying. He received the promises, as a figure of our faith; he offered up his son, as a figure of our obedience (Heb. xi. 17).

(1st.) He obeyed readily and willingly: ‘Abraham rose early in the morning’ (Gen. xxii. 3). In such a service some would have delayed all the time they could; but he is up early. Usually we straiten [confine, make narrow] duty, rather than straiten ourselves: we are not about that work early.

(2nd.) Resolutely: he concealed it from his wife, servants, from Isaac himself, that so he might not be diverted from his pious purpose. Oh! who is now so wise to order the circumstances of a duty, that he may not be hindered in it?

(3rd.) He denied carnal reason. In difficult cases we seek to elude the command; dispute how we shall shift it off, not how we shall obey it. If we had been put upon such a trial, we would question the vision, or seek some other meaning; perhaps offer the image of Isaac, or some youngling of the flock, and call it Isaac; as now we often pervert a command by distinctions, and invent shifts to cheat our souls into a neglect of duty; as the heathens, when their gods called for a man, they offered a candle; or as Hercules offered up a painted man instead of a living.

But Abraham does not so, though he had a fair occasion; for he was divided between believing the promise and obeying the command. God tried him in his faith; his faith was to conflict with his natural reason, as well as his obedience with his natural affection. But he ‘accounted that God was able to raise him from the dead’ (Heb. xi. 19), and he reconciled the commandment with the promise. How easily could we have slipped out at this door, and disobey out of pretences and reasons of religion! But Abraham offered Isaac.

May God grant us to be able to see the “Isaacs” in our lives that we might not be willing to easily let go of;

… may we not lessen duty because it goes against carnal selves in some way;

… may He grant us the faith and trust in Him to not hold on to any things of this temporal world;

… may we see ourselves only as stewards of anything we have, with God as the actual owner of them;

… may we cheerfully and obediently surrender and submit ourselves to whatever His pleasure is in the retrieving of these things from us at any moment, even those things most dear to us and least pleasing to our carnal selves;

… and may the Lord grant that He be our only portion, now and always!

Psa 16:5- “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

Psa 119:57 – “Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words.

Psa 73:25-26 – “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

— David

David’s Digest: You Must Deny Yourself

Matthew 16:24 – “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

By nature, we are all self-centered. Every sin has some idolatry in it, where we are self-gods (ie. God said to do or not do something, and in a certain way, and we say, “No, I know better”, which is defacto saying we will not have God be our God, but ourselves). The original sin was to be God (while the temptation was to “be as gods”, Gen 3:5, in the end, since only one God can exist at a time by definition, the reality was that they wanted to be God).

According to the above verse, we are required to deny ourselves to be a disciple of Christ. Then, it seems it would follow that we really cannot be good Christians with each other without it either, which makes sense from experience as well.

Along the lines with how important I believe Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruits as sort of being part of “Christianity 101”, that every person claiming the name of Christ should attend to, I believe Thomas Manton’s A Treatise of Self-Denial is right up there along with it.
And so, to help make it available in audio format for those who might rather listen than read, I recently finished recording the entire treatise, which you can access as one of our Readings pages here:

A Treatise of Self-Denial

And if you want to read it, you can find it here: https://www.monergism.com/treatise-self-denial-free-ebook

I cannot emphasize how important I believe Mr. Manton’s exposé is. We hope you’ll take the time to go through it, and may God guide your studies.

— David

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