The Art of Divine Contentment

“Discontent is to the soul as a disease is to the body: it puts it out of temper and much hinders its regular and sublime motions heavenward”. So said the English Puritan author Thomas Watson.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the idea of Christian contentment. Just what exactly is it and what should it look like? How important is it in the Christian’s life and what effect does true contentment have upon the Christian? I have chosen “The Art of Divine Contentment” by Thomas Watson as the text for this series as it is one of the best available on the subject.  Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson share this view, stating in their mammoth ‘introductory’ book “Meet the Puritans” that, “Godly contentment is a theme missing from many pulpits today. A serious reading of this treatise…..would do much to fill this void”.

Before we begin to think about Christian contentment, let’s learn a little bit about Thomas Watson.

Watson was born in Yorkshire, England (c 1620), had a pretty normal upbringing typical of that era and eventually went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1642 from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was a dedicated scholar, who wrote many books. Some of his best works, alongside our chosen text, include,

–          All Things for Good– A work based on Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the good of the Christian. “If someone asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “How can I know if I am called by God?,” offer them this book. Its chapters on the love of God, effectual calling, and the purpose of God are especially helpful in understanding Romans 8:28.” (Beeke & Pederson, Meet the Puritans)

–          The Beatitudes–  An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

–          A Body of Divinity– This is Watson’s magnum opus; his most famous work. In this book Watson follows the question and answer format of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and offers up 176 sermons on the essential teachings of Christianity. One reviewer on Amazon.com says “This book needs to be bought, understood and appreciated. My hope is that it will soon sell like wild-fire spreads.” I couldn’t agree more with that assertion! Buy this book and read it!!

–          The Godly Man’s Picture– In this book Watson describes 24 marks of a godly man including “moved by faith,” “fired with love,” “prizes Christ,” “loves the Word,” “is humble,” “is patient,” and “loves the saints”.

–          The Great Gain of Godliness– Despite having a catalogue of 12,000 books in His library, this is one that Spurgeon wished he had. “This volume would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors.” The book is Watson’s exposition of Malachi 3:16-18 and in it he aims “to encourage solid piety an confute the atheists of the world, who imagine there is no gain in godliness.” A  fantastic little volume which combines rich spirituality, nourishing doctrine, and sane practical wisdom coupled with fascinating illustrations and a very pleasant style.

–          The Lord’s Prayer– Initially this was a companion to ‘A Body of Divinity’ but can be read alone without it. Watson continues the question and format method of ‘A Body of Divinity’ in an attempt to explain the petitions of Jesus’ model prayer.

–          The Ten Commandments– Watson’s third volume on the Shorter Catechism which examines the 10 commandments and the moral law as a whole. An extremely valuable work.

Watson was a Presbyterian and expressed his strong Presbyterian views during the Civil War. He was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy to the throne however was released and reinstated in 1652. In 1662, due to the Act of Uniformity (a parliamentary act which made all churches adhere to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and Church of England practices) he was ejected from his pastorate. However, Watson continued to preach in private- in barns, homes, and woods- whenever he had the opportunity.  He then ministered alongside a fellow Puritan giant, Stephen Charnock, at Bishopsgate, until Charnocks death in 1680. He continued to labour until his health failed. He died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer.

His depth of doctrine, clarity of expression, warmth of spirituality, love of application, and gift of illustration enhanced his reputation as a preacher and writer. This has made him one of the most popular and accessible Puritan writers for the modern reader. Do yourself a favour and get some of his books. You will be enriched and encouraged in your faith if you do so.

Next in the series: An Introduction to Christian Contentment

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Limited (Actual) Atonement- An Intro

A Puritan Prayer

puritan1O Lord,Help me never to expect any happiness from the world, but only in thee.Let me not think that I shall be more happy by living to myself, for I can only be happy if employed for thee,and if I desire to live in this world only do and suffer what dost allot me.Teach me that if I do not live a life that satisfies thee,

I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself. Help me to desire the spirit and temper of angelswho willingly come down to this lower world to perform thy will,though their desires are heavenly,and not set in the least upon earthly things; then I shall be of that temper I ought to have.

Help me not to think of living to thee in my own strength, but always to look to and rely on thee for assistance.Teach me that there is no greater truth than this, that I can do nothing for myself.Lord, this is the life that no unconverted man can live, yet it is an end that every godly soul presses after;Let it be then my concern to devote myself and all to thee. Make me more fruitful and more spiritual,for barreness is my daily affliction and load.

How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly with little done to good purpose!I need thy help:O may my soul sensibly depend upon theefor all sanctification, and every accomplishment of thy purposesfor me, for the world,and for thy kingdom.

TWENTY-THREE GREAT SINS OF EVANGELICALISM–Why We Must Pray For A Reformation Again.

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TWENTY-THREE GREAT SINS OF EVANGELICALISM–Why We Must Pray For A Reformation Again.

Many Christians today are calling for revival. They are mistaken to do so. Revival is the imbuing of what already exists with new life. In the past, Evangelical Christianity has experienced renewed vigor from the Holy Spirit in great moves of God many call revivals. These are times, such as the Welsh Revival, when God, in a special work, in response to the need of the church and the prayers of the saints, breathes into the church and individual saints new spiritual power to live holy lives and to witness.What we need is a reformation much like the Protestant Reformation. God didn’t revive the Roman church. To make it stronger and more powerful would be to aid the kingdom of Satan because its doctrine was Satanic. God called a remnant out of the Roman church to return to biblical doctrine and practice. Thus, Historical Evangelicalism was born. Modern Evangelicalism is not the same. We have gone into sin and lost doctrines that are essential to make biblical faith possible and added others that make biblical faith impossible. We must not seek new vigor for Evangelicalism. We must change it or simply leave it to return to Historical Evangelicalism, that is, the faith once for all delivered.

May it please God, not to revive an old donkey, but to make us a lion again.

1. The Lost Doctrine of Regeneration.
If we aren’t changed, we aren’t saved. Jesus said that if we are His sheep, we will obey His commands and if we don’t, we aren’t His. John 10, Matthew 7:18.

2. The Lost Doctrine of Sanctification.
If we aren’t being made progressively more holy, we aren’t saved. Romans 8:28-29.

3. The Lost Doctrine of Personal Holiness.
If we aren’t radically different than those around us, we aren’t saved. Matthew 10:17 & 16:6; Luke 6:26; Ezekiel 36.

4. The Lost Doctrine of Corporate Holiness.
If our churches and institutions aren’t pure from false teaching, false teachers, and any who hold to false teaching, they are no longer Christian institutions. We must change them immediately or stop supporting them in any way whatsoever and leave them. Deuteronomy 12-13; I Corinthians 5:9-13; Revelation 2:6; 14-16, & 19-24.

5. The Lost Doctrine of the Glory of God.
If we seek our own glory or success, we are sinning. Philippians 1:12-18; Psalm 145. Matthew 23.

6. The Lost Fellowship of Suffering.
If we avoid embarrassment for being Christians, don’t worry. We aren‘t. Matthew 10: 32-33; Romans 10:9-10.

7. The Lost Leadership of Men.
If men don’t act like men again with courage and self-sacrifice, all is lost. Our fathers gave their lives for correct doctrine. Many of today’s pastors and leaders won’t risk being called “insensitive.” Men, let the ladies be sensitive. You be godly. And lead. And die. I Timothy 2:9-3:13.

8. The Lost Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture.
If we read books other than the Scripture for Christian doctrine, we are blaspheming, calling God a fool or a liar. II Timothy 3:16-17. The only two proper uses of other religious works are 1) to illuminate Scripture by way of explanation or example by another more discerning or more familiar than we are, or 2) to research false teaching in order to expose the lie and expel the false teacher for the protection of those weak in the faith and for the preservation of the holiness of each of the saints and for the preservation the corporate holiness of the church, Christian school, or any other Christian institution. I Corinthians 5:9-13.

9. The Lost Doctrine of Truth over Relationship.
If we value anyone, even our families, over being right with God in practice and doctrine, we aren’t saved. This is a call back to holiness and sacrifice, not meanness. Read and take seriously what Moses and Jesus taught in the following references. You will see that following God under either the Old Covenant or the New Covenant meant that many would be separated from families, friends, and loved ones who will not accept the truth. Much false teaching and many other sins in the church are tolerated simply because one brother will not sever ties with another who has fallen. In other words, will you be willing to be divorced by your spouse because he or she will not tolerate God in the house? Pastors, will you jeopardize your career for the gospel? Many will not. This is a disgrace unfit for the kingdom of God. Choose you this day whom you will serve! Deuteronomy 13; Matthew 10:32-39.

10. The Idolatry of Love.
If we worship the god preached in most of Modern Evangelicalism, we are idolaters, because the god of most Evangelicals is only love. The God of Scripture is much more. I John 5:6; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9.

11. The Sin of Reproving the Reprover. (The New Phariseeism–Unbiblical Rules Against Telling The Truth.)
If we continue to adopt the unscriptural ethics of the idolaters of love, we will continue to be like the Pharisees of old, adding laws God has never given, and honoring human tradition over Scripture. In our zeal for the soft, the sentimental, and the mediocre, we hate the prophet and make artifical rules to silence him. Amos 5:10 & 14-15; Matthew 11:16-19; Amos 7:10-17.

12. The Idolatry of the Effeminate. (Worshipping the Uber-mommy.)
The American jesus isn’t the Jesus of Scripture. It’s a bizarre mix of god, goddess, man, and an uber-mommy unknown to Scripture. We have idolatrous pictures of this imaginary girlygod standing at a knobless door, unable to conquer the human heart that Yahweh, the true God, created. This contradicts both reason and Scripture. Exodus 20:4-6; Revelation 1-3; Nahum 3:13; Leviticus 19:17-18; II Timothy 2:1.

13. Self Idolatry.
If we continue to preach self-esteem, we deny Christ, Who taught us we are filth. Filth awaiting judgment. Roman 3:23, 6:23.

14. The Idol of the God Who Serves Me.
If we continue to seek earthly blessings from God, rather than self-denial, we continue to indulge our emotions and expect riches and health on Earth, while our souls die. Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 9:27.

15. The Lost Doctrine of the Value of Doctrine.
If we continue to deny the importance of strong biblical doctrine, we are self-contradictory fools, valuing the doctrine that says no doctrine is to be much valued. II Timothy 2:14-18.

16. The Lost Doctrine of the Powerlessness of the Church and Its People.
If we continue to speak as if God cannot act without our cooperation, we will remain idolaters, blaspheming the Sovereign Yahweh, and worshipping a domesticated god we control. Deuteronomy 11:25; John 6:44-65.

17. The Lost Doctrine of Redeeming the Time.
If we continue to spend time in secular entertainment, we will remain unfaithful servants, not evangelizing those for whom God has made each one of us responsible, all the while poisoning our souls with the humor of Satan, the mindset of this world, and the desires of the flesh. Ephesians 5:15-16.

18. The Lie of “Impacting the Culture.” (Whatever That Means.)
If we continue to engage in this and other nebulous doctrinal sophistries, we will go to our graves, not fulfilling the Great Commission, which calls us to the specific task of teaching individuals the Scripture. Culture is the world, and is to be shunned. Learn the customs of politeness and modesty. Avoid the contamination of the values of any human culture. Love not the world. Romans 12:1-2; I John 2:15-17.

19. The Lost Obedience to Witness. (Evangelicals Who Don‘t Evangelize Are Lying!)
If we continue to cower, and not witness, we disobey Christ’s last command on Earth and refuse to disciple anyone as Christ taught us to. All His students were required to witness almost from day one. How have we come to the point at which a man can be called a Christian who isn’t regularly witnessing? It is dishonest. It is disobedient. It is inexcusable. May God damn the preacher who says otherwise. The book of Jude; Ezekiel 33.

20. The Lie of Relevance.
If we continue to attempt to “make the gospel relevant”, we are apostates, leaving the original gospel, which God told us was plenty relevant since it, and only it, is the power to save from eternal wrath. Are we smarter than God? Romans 1:16.

21. The Lost Doctrine of God’s Hatred for the Wicked. (Lost to the people, hidden by the preachers.)
If we continue to speak and preach about the god who is only love and does not hate evil and the workers of evil, we are idolaters and lie to our hearers, damning even our own children to eternal hell unless they rebel against us and return to the God of Scripture Who is loving to the repentant and burning in His anger against the unrepentant. Psalm 5:5.

22. The Lost Doctrine of Repentance.
If we continue to preach belief without Christ’s call to repentance from all known sin, we have another gospel and will spend eternity in hell, with the blood of our followers on our hands. Jude 4; Matthew 4:17.

23. The Lost Doctrine of the Fear of God.
If we continue to tell people that God is to be respected and not feared and that He will not send anyone to hell, we are liars whom God will judge eternally in hell. Most of our preachers have lied to us on this issue. Because we insist upon a god who doesn’t scare anyone we either fail to speak of hell or tell the lie that our god doesn’t send anyone there. Scripture says otherwise. Revelation 14:9-11; Malachi 1:14; Hosea 3:5 , 11:10-11; Daniel 5:25-26; Jeremiah 2:19, 5:22-24, 10:7, 10:14; Isaiah 2:10-19, 33:6, 50:10, 57:11, 59:19, 64:1-2, 6:5; Jonah 1:8-16; Jude 4; Habakkuk 3:2-16; Matthew 10:28.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Puritan Corner- Thomas Watson

“The Godly man loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword as its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. ‘God shall wound the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses’ (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (1 Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threatenings against the very appearance of evil. It is like thats flying roll full of curses. (Zech 5:1)

A Godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God’s threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. Th threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.”

A Phobia of Fearing God

Reformation Diaries

A Phobia of Fearing God

June 10 , 2008

by Bo White

The teacher in Ecclesiastes, after a tour of our material existence, writes, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccles. 12:13, ESV). Frankly, this doesn’t seem to be a common theme from pulpits around our country and it certainly isn’t the theme of the worship songs streaming on the contemporary Christian music scene. In fact, the whole idea of fearing God seems to be lost in many respects. The logic goes something like this: God is a loving God and Jesus tells us over and again to not be afraid and when we address God, we should say “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Therefore, let’s talk to God, draw near to God, and even invite God into our “family” meetings where the children of God gather to feel his presence. And while much of this is true, it’s only a half-truth. And half-truths are worth very little.

John Bunyan writes, “The presence of a king is dreadful to his subjects, even if he carries himself ever so condescendingly. If then there is so much glory and dread in the presence of a king, what fear and dread must there be in the presence of an eternal God!”[1] Kings invite their subjects into their presence; the subjects never invite the king. I was in a worship service recently where the pastor began with these words: “We invite you God to come and be here with us.” I couldn’t help but think that instead of proclaiming the beginning of worship, the pastor was actually proclaiming the end of it. Why would I kneel before someone I had the power to invite over to our little church building? What awe is there in a deity that needs an invitation?

The concern churches have of creating a community that is grace-centered and characterized by sincere love has lead to a God who is increasingly more familial than majestic. In a very real sense, we believers seem to be afraid to fear God. Now, I am phobic in my fear of snakes. I don’t like them; and so I run from them because inwardly I feel threatened, insecure, and simply do not want to find out if a specific snake is a friend or foe. There isn’t much logic to it, which is why it’s a phobia. It’s unreasonable for me, in many respects, to fear snakes, simply because most of them can do me no harm. I frankly don’t like them and oftentimes it’s for no good reason.

But God created all things by the power of his word. God sustains all things by his word. At the word of God, every living thing in the universe came into existence. The wind and the waves obey the words of Jesus (see Mark 4). Let the truth of the power of the word of God sink a moment into your mind and heart. You can scream your lungs out at a thunderstorm and that will affect absolutely nothing. But the still small voice of God can make it rain for forty days and forty nights. God is, in a word, awesome.

Bunyan puts it this way, “For if God shall come to you, indeed, and visit you with the forgiveness of sins, that visit will remove the guilt, but increase the sense of your filth—and the sense of this, that God has forgiven a filthy sinner, will make you both rejoice and tremble.”[2] Notice that Bunyan doesn’t leave us with an either/or option. When God forgives us through grace alone on the merit of Christ alone, we indeed rejoice and we also tremble. Jesus is both Son of God and King of Kings. By our union with Christ, we are both adopted children of God as well as servants of the Almighty King. We are not only sons who can rejoice in being near to God, nor are we simply servants who are subjects to a loving King. We are inseparably both sons and servants.

In Luke 15, the famous parable of the Lost Son ends with not only a royal banquet scene but with the prodigal understanding that he longs simply to serve in his loving Father’s house. The tension the follower of Christ lives with then is that through Jesus our sins have been eternally paid for and there is now no sacrifice needed. Jesus paid it all. Yet Jesus invites us to live in a kingdom, not the Democratic Republic of God. We are forgiven and free, but we have no vote. God alone is sovereign.

During the 1770s, lining the streets of Boston were signs that read: “We serve no sovereign here.” My concern is that these same signs unwittingly hang today in some church buildings because there is no awe, no willingness to bow a knee, and no authentic reverence or fear of God. We don’t want a sovereign God who can do whatever he ordains or pleases. We want a serving God who will do whatever we want. And this is revealed with our current obsession, as Christians, to be relevant.

Let’s be clear. Jesus is the exact representation of God (see Heb.1:3), so Jesus is a revelation. So many churches though plead for Jesus to be relevant more than a revelation. And in being relevant, the fear of God is gone. And when the fear of God is missing, then believers will turn to slick marketing, trendy music, and emotional highs rather than to the Jesus who can calm storms and walk out of his own grave. The longer the church strives to become relevant, the longer there is a phobia for fearing God, and the longer the wait will be for renewal and reformation. “You see, all true reformation and genuine spiritual renewal comes from Christ alone. True reformation is not worked up by human effort. The last church in the world to be visited by spiritual renewal will be the church which thinks it can produce it.”[3] After all, if God is sovereign, then he will initiate the movement of his Spirit, not the other way round.

So, yes, on the one hand, let’s draw near to God because “no one has sins forgiven, no one goes to heaven, no one has peace until there is faith in Jesus Christ.”[4] But, on the other hand, let’s be crystal clear: “No one comes to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). The fact that God has drawn us near to him should leave us not only free of all chains with a peace that passes understanding, but also on our knees saying, “I know you love me. What’s next? I am at your service.

Bo White, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, is a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. He currently attends New Valley Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and is chief messaging officer of Food for the Hungry, an international organization committed to a gospel-centered approach to ending poverty worldwide.

[1] John Bunyan, The Fear of God (Morgan, PA: reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria, 1999), 6.

[2] Bunyan, 9.

[3] Robert Reymond, The God Centered Preacher (Glasgow:  Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 185.

[4] R. Kent Hughes, Sought by Grace (Chicago: Moody, 2002), 78.

A Quick Look at the Doctrines of Grace

If anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, or that we can be saved by assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the effectual work of the Holy Spirit, who makes all whom He calls gladly and willingly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray from the plain teaching of Scripture by exalting the natural ability of man, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
Adapted from The Council of Orange (529 AD)

That statement made by the Council of Orange is truly brilliant. It detracts all glory from man and gives it all to God. We, by our fallen proud nature, are naturally inclined to claim it was us who chose God. However a detailed study of scripture from Genesis to Revelation reveals quite the opposite. The question that one must ask his/herself is this; “Am I willing to submit to the Authority of a Holy and Sovereign God in the salvation and redemption of his people, giving all glory to Him for His gift of Faith by Grace through Christ and Christ alone?” My feeling is that we have Christians who refuse to accept and acknowledge this truth and as such this leads to strife, pride and rebellion against God’s Word and effectively God himself. God’s word is final and has full authority over and above man’s tradition or intellect. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.””
– Psalm 19:7,8

Check out the following links for a study regarding the Doctrines of Grace

  • The Cambridge Declaration (1996)
    Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals – Embraces the “essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church” and the “solas” of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.
  • Doctrines of Grace – Categorized Scripture List
    Nathan Pitchford
  • The Cause of God and Truth by John Gill
    John Gill
  • Are There Two Wills in God?
    John Piper – Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved
  • The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
    Loraine Boettner
  • Introduction to the Reformed Faith
    John M. Frame (.pdf)
  • By Grace Alone
    Jim McClarty (pdf) – A study in the fundamental reformation doctrines, commonly called the Doctrines of Grace.
  • Why Can’t They See This?
    Tom J. Nettles
  • The Sovereignty of God in Salvation
    A.W. Pink
  • Series on the Doctrines of Grace
    Charles Spurgeon
  • A Teacher’s Manual for the Study of the Doctrines of Grace
    Roger L. Smalling (pdf)
  • Summary of the Sovereignty of God in Salvation
    John Piper – The “Five Points” of Calvinism
  • The Doctrines of Grace
    http://www.the-Highway.com – Helpful and Concise Explanation of the Five Points with Scripture
  • Richard Baxter- Direction to Children and Youth NO.3

    Remember that you have corrupted natures to be cured, and that Christ is the Physician that must cure them; and the Spirit of Christ must dwell within you, and make you holy, and give you a new heart and nature, which shall love God and heaven above all the honour and pleasures of the world: rest not therefore till you find that you are born anew, and that the Holy Ghost hath made you holy, and quickened your hearts with the love of God, and of your dear Redeemer. [1] The old nature loveth the things of this world, and the pleasures of this flesh; but the new nature loveth the Lord that made you, and redeemed and renewed you, and the endless joys of the world to come, and that holy life which is the way thereto.”

    Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

    Puritan Zone

    “In true conversion the soul is changed to be of the same mind with Christ. As He is affected, so the soul of such an one is affected; and as He loathes all evil, so upon this ground there must also be in us a loathing of whatsoever is evil. But a carnal man is like a wolf driven from the sheep that yet retains his ravenous nature; so those men that are driven from their sins only by terrors of conscience, they are affrighted with sin’s desert but do not hate it; therefore a loathing of evil is required; as well as our leaving it.”

    Richard Sibbes 1577-1635