Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Love of the Word

I was recently reading sermons by Charles Spurgeon when I came to his sermon called The Blessing of Full Assurance on 1 John 5:13. Because of the title, I was expecting a comforting message of assurance. It does turn out to be a comforting message for believers but Spurgeon’s introduction caught me completely off guard. He says,

John wrote to believers—"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God." It is worthy of note that all the epistles are so written. They are not letters to everybody, they are letters to those who are called to be saints. It ought to strike some of you with awe when you open the Bible and think how large a part of it is not directed at you. You may read it, and God's Holy Spirit may graciously bless it to you, but it is not directed to you. You are reading another man's letter: thank God that you are permitted to read it, but long to be numbered with those to whom it is directed. Thank God much more if any part of it should be used of the Holy Ghost for your salvation. The fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to the churches and to believers in Christ should make you bow the knee and cry to God to put you among the children, that this Book may become your Book from beginning to end, that you may read its precious promises as made to you. This solemn thought may not have struck some of you: let it impress you now.

We do not wonder that certain men do not receive the epistles, for they were not written to them. Why should they cavil at words which are addressed to men of another sort from themselves? Yet we do not marvel, for we knew it would be so. Here is a will, and you begin to read it; but you do not find it interesting: it is full of words and terms which you do not take the trouble to understand, because they have no relation to yourself; but should you, in reading that will, come upon a clause in which an estate is left to you, I warrant you that the nature of the whole document will seem changed to you. You will be anxious now to understand the terms, and to make sure of the clauses, and you will even wish to remember every word of the clause which refers to yourself. O dear friends, may you read the Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ as a testament of love to yourselves, and then you will prize it beyond all the writings of the sages.

Is it any wonder that he is called the prince of preachers? His skillful use of this simple observation is both convicting and captivating. We may be comforted but he makes it plain that the comfort of assurance only belongs to those who are in Christ. Many believers struggle with assurance and fear that they may be self-deceived. The Bible gives many evidences that accompany true faith and we are frequently called to examine ourselves to be sure of our position in Christ.

Spurgeon’s introduction calls our attention to the way that faith in Christ changes our relationship to the Bible. As I read the sermon, I was reminded of Jonathan Edwards’ observations of the marks that accompany a true work of the Holy Spirit. In his famous work, TheDistinguishing Marks of a Work of The Spirit of God, Edwards argues there are five marks or evidences that always accompany a true work of the Holy Spirit. The five marks are:

  1. Love and confession of Christ
  2. Rejection of Sin and the World
  3. Love for the Word of God
  4. Growing Knowledge of the Truth
  5. Love for God and One Another

 Of all these “evidences”, it seems that number three and four are often least emphasized in modern Evangelicalism. Most everyone recognizes that we must love and confess Christ, turn from sin, and love God and one another. These are all accepted and encouraged as evidences of the work of the Spirit in a person or church. There are many, however, who are unconvinced that number 3 and 4 are necessary. In fact, some see a passion for truth or doctrine as evidence against a true work of The Spirit. Edwards, however, argued that where the Spirit of God is at work all five are present. He saw these both things as vitally necessary and closely linked together. One of his arguments for this is from 1 John 4:6 where the apostle says,

“We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6)

Edwards points out that the pronouns “we” and “us” refer to the apostles. God sends them and those who know Him listen to them. Listening involves not only hearing the words but also accepting them as true. Those who are not from God do not listen. The apostle’s words (the Bible) are from God and receiving them separates God’s children from those who do not know Him. Notice that it is by “this” that we are able to exercise spiritual discernment. The Word of God is life (Phil. 2:16), truth (Jn. 17:17), and power (1 Cor. 1:18). It is the Word that creates the people of God (1 Peter 1:23), sustains them (Deut. 8:3), and defends them (Eph. 6:17). The Word is precious to those who love God and as The Spirit renews us, it becomes increasingly sweet to us.

I pray that those who struggle with assurance cling to the scriptures because it is through His Word that God brings us forth (Jas. 1:18) and through the Word that He changes us (Jn. 17:17). The Bible is both the instigation and confirmation of our faith. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to give and sustain life. The same gospel that initially saves us is what also sustains us. One measure of our relationship with God is our love of His Word because our love for the Word of God is an expression of our love for God Himself. Let us pray that this love matures in us so that we can sincerely pray the words of David in Psalm 119.

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

God Bless

1 comment:

  1. Kevin,

    Time and time again we hear from other christians to do this or that based on what the scriptures tell us. Most christians believe everything the bible states is directed at them and they run to the nearest christian and says "this is what it means to you". But often, their understanding is based on what thw spirit is telling them. I often run into christians that do this and probably have done it myself. I have learned from you and others to read the word as the author intends. Each book, verse, etc is special in it's own way as long as we hear the spirit direct our hearts. I have struggles with my parents regarding these issues and have not been able to voice it in a non-threatening way. It has caused a rift in the family that has been in place for 15 years. I have chosen to be silent because I do not have strength or words to provide an understanding to them of my beliefs. Your comments are appreciated.