We must ram ourselves into our cannons

Oct 08, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

As soon as Zion was in labor
she brought forth her children.  Isaiah 66:8

“If any minister can be satisfied without conversions, he shall have no conversions.  God will not force usefulness on any man.  It is only when our heart breaks to see men saved, that we shall be likely to see sinners’ hearts broken.  The secret of success lies in all-consuming zeal, all-subduing travail for souls.  Read the sermons of Wesley and of Whitfield, and what is there in them?  It is no severe criticism to say that they are scarcely worthy to have survived.  And yet those sermons wrought marvels. . . .

In order to understand such preaching, you need to see and hear the man, you want his tearful eye, his glowing countenance, his pleading tone, his bursting heart.  I have heard of a great preacher who objected to having his sermons printed, ‘Because,’ said he, ‘you cannot print me.’  That observation is very much to the point.  A soul-winner throws himself into what he says.  As I have sometimes said, we must ram ourselves into our cannons, we must fire ourselves at our hearers, and when we do this, then, by God’s grace, their hearts are often carried by storm.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “Travailing for Souls,” 3 September 1871.  Italics original.

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Brothers, we are not comedians

Oct 07, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


The pulpit, therefore, (and I name it filled
with solemn awe, that bids me well beware
with what intent I touch that holy thing;)
the pulpit (when the satirist has at last,
strutting and vaporing in an empty school,
spent all his force, and made no proselyte;)
I say the pulpit (in the sober use
of its legitimate, peculiar powers)
must stand acknowledged, while the world shall stand,
the most important and effectual guard,
support, and ornament of virtue’s cause.
There stands the messenger of truth.  There stands
the legate of the skies; his theme divine,
his office sacred, his credentials clear.
By him, the violated law speaks out
its thunders, and by him, in strains as sweet
as angels use, the gospel whispers peace.
He ‘stablishes the strong, restores the weak,
reclaims the wanderer, binds the broken heart,
and, armed himself in panoply complete
of heavenly temper, furnishes with arms
bright as his own, and trains, by every rule
of holy discipline, to glorious war,
the sacramental host of God’s elect.

William Cowper, 1731-1800

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As we prepare to preach

Oct 04, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


Last evening I found, in one of my Bibles, this from my dad — a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ wonderful Preaching and Preachers, with dad’s personal note: “Bud, this is seeking the anointing.  I know this is your passion too — Spirit-filled preaching.  I love you, my son.  Dad”

If all our preaching amounts to is human communication with human impact, then I don’t care about it.  In fact, I oppose it, and bitterly, as just another form of oppressive pretense, but with the added wickedness of blasphemy, for it is perpetrated in the name of God.

But if our preaching flows out with authentic divine power, then Jesus will be lifted up, people will be helped, and new beauty will be created that will last forever.

“Seek Him!  Seek Him!  What can we do without Him?”

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Why angels?

Oct 02, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“. . . ministering spirits sent out to serve . . . .”  Hebrews 1:14

God sends out angels to serve “those who are to inherit salvation,” as Hebrews 1:14 goes on to say.  Before we enter into our full inheritance, these “ministering spirits” are helping us along.

But wait a minute.  One of many questions that raises is this.  Why does God use angels at all?  If God is all-powerful, and he is, then why does he bother with angels?  John Calvin, Institutes 1.14.11, proposes an answer:

“God makes use of angels to comfort our weakness, that we may lack nothing at all that can raise up our minds to good hope or confirm them in security.  One thing, indeed, ought to be quite enough for us: that the Lord declares himself to be our protector.  But when we see ourselves beset by so many perils, so many harmful things, so many kinds of enemies — such is our softness and frailty — we would sometimes be filled with trepidation or yield to despair if the Lord did not make us realize the presence of his grace according to our capacity.”

So, “out of his immeasurable kindness and gentleness,” as Calvin further says, God uses angels too.  Calvin cites 2 Kings 6:8-17 to validate his point.

God alone should be enough to see us through anything.  But we are so weak, God throws in angels too, to help us feel more fully cared for.

“His immeasurable kindness and gentleness.”

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Praying might make things worse — at first

Oct 01, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“It is very apparent from the Word of God that he is wont often to try the faith and patience of his people, when they are crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first to cause an increase of dark appearances.  And yet he without fail at last succeeds those who continue instant in prayer with all perseverance and ‘will not let him go except he blesses’ (Genesis 32:26).”

In other words:

An obvious pattern in the Bible is that God tests the faith and stamina of his people as they cry out in prayer for some significant mercy.  He tests them by withholding the mercy they are asking for.  Not only that, but first he makes things worse, sending them discouraging setbacks.  But count on it – he will eventually prosper those who push through in urgent prayer without quitting and will not take no for an answer.

Jonathan Edwards, “A Call to United Extraordinary Prayer,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), II:312.

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No longer pause

Sep 30, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies.  God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there.  This is to be known to us in conscious experience.  It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.”

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (London, 1967), pages 36-37.

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What to do when downcast

Sep 29, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“I often suffer from severe trials and sorrows.  At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me.  A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures.  It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner.  Away with monks and hermits!  These are inventions of Satan because they exist apart from all the godly ordinances and arrangements of God. . . . Accordingly, a solitary life should be avoided as much as possible.”

Martin Luther, quoted in Luther’s Works: Table Talk, edited by Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia, 1967), page 268.

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There is a reason

Sep 28, 2014 | Ray Ortlund

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No blogging today

Sep 27, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


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The Bible: guidebook to a bygone era or breakthrough to a new world?

Sep 26, 2014 | Ray Ortlund


“Kierkegaard described accurately the sense of disorientation which a tamed modern religion produces in those who read the Bible:

‘The New Testament therefore, regarded as a guide for Christians, becomes, under the assumption we have made, a historical curiosity, pretty much like a guidebook to a particular country when everything in that country has been totally changed.  Such a guidebook serves no longer the serious purpose of being useful to travelers in that country, but at the most it is worth reading for amusement.  While one is making the journey easily by railway, one reads in the guidebook, “Here it is a band of robbers has its stronghold, from which it issues to assault the travelers and maltreat them.”‘

Such a domesticated view of spiritual reality may be superficially comfortable for a while, but eventually it is simply not credible.  We will have less anxiety ourselves and more of a hearing from the world if we will believe in and preach the awesome, dangerous, but solid realities taught in Scripture.”

Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove, 1979), page 144.

In my opinion, the [definite article] challenge of ministry is for us to re-enter the surprising world of the New Testament while remaining in the known world of today.

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