Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

From the “Tefillah” (“the prayer”; that is the prayer of all prayers) or “Shemoneh Esre” (Eighteen Benedictions) recited by the Jewish people since before the time of Jesus during synagogue worship.  I have excerpted the second benediction, which Jesus would have prayed throughout his life.  Perhaps as you read it, picture Jesus reciting it on the eve of his betrayal, or carrying the cross on the long road to Golgotha. 

“You are mighty, humbling the proud; strong, judging the ruthless; you live for evermore, and raise the dead; you make the wind to return and the dew to fall; you nourish the living, and bring the dead to life; you bring forth salvation for us in the blinking of an eye.  Blessed are you, O Lord, who bring the dead to life.”

to see the Tefillah in its entirety, click here

rent-veil1What is significant about this quote from Tacitus is that he makes reference to a great disturbance in the Temple, whereby the “doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open.”  Of course, there were no doors to the inner shrine.  Tacitus the Roman historian can be forgiven for mistakenly identifying  the doors that were thrown open for the Temple veil.  That there was a significant disturbance in the Temple associated with the rending of the veil is also supported in Josephus.  Why I find this so exciting, is that a non-Biblical source uncorrupted by Christian influence (neither writer makes any reference to Jesus or his crucifixion) is reporting an event of great importance to the Gospel narratives.  Below is the excerpt from Tacitus whereby he begins  narrating the story of visions reportedly seen by many Jewish people before he eventual reports on the rending of the veil.

“There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure.”- Tacitus, Histories 5.13

Read the account of the rending of the veil in Mark’s Gospel by clicking here

Preached 2.08.09

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” –Blaise Paschal Pensees VII.1.425

Paschal’s quote from Pensees is useful for the fact that it reminds us of something that every inch of our current era strains to help us forget, namely, that you and I are desiring creatures.  What do we desire?  Essentially we desire, Paschal says, to be happy.  Our hearts desire our happiness, our minds conceive of what might make us happy, and our bodies strain to achieve this end.  It is out of a desiring heart, that our mind say “going to the mall today will make me happy,” so our bodies strain to the mall.  It is out of the desiring heart that our mind says “watching House tonight will make me happy,” so my body strains to watch House, even if I’m tired or have other responsibilities.  We are desiring creatures and we always do what we desire and what satisfies us in the end. 

Why do we behave this way?  Well, we behave this way in short because we believe that there is something out there that will eventually satisfy our desire.  Of course the comeback is, just because I think there is something out there, doesn’t mean it exists.  I could imagine a pristine island in the South Pacific that has a sign on the beach that says “reserved for Rob Sturdy” and it doesn’t mean it exists.  But, on the other hand, a baby who is newly born, who desires food desires the food because he was made to consume it.  So, while it doesn’t necessarily prove it, I think it is a strong argument that a desire to be in heaven after we die, to have communion with God, to have a transcendent purpose in life, is a reasonably strong argument that such things exist. (more…)

Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot's Peasant Woman

Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot's Peasant Woman

Below is an excerpt from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. It is a famous section with a well known parable. I have placed an enormous amount of text on this post. Simply click through to read it all. It reaches an emotional crescendo in the final few paragraphs and is quite moving. This is a stunning piece of philosophical devotion to the Lord Jesus.  This excerpt I think will be a joy to anyone who reads it.  Don’t worry if you get lost from time to time.  It’s worth pushing through to the finish.  The greatest Kierkegaard junkie to the guy who says “who’s Kierkegaard?” will reap great rewards for spending time in these few paragraphs.  Enjoy.

Suppose then a king who loved a humble maiden. The heart of the king was not polluted by the wisdom that is loudly enough proclaimed; he knew nothing of the difficulties that the understanding discovers in order to ensnare the heart, which keep the poets so busy, and make their magic formulas necessary. It was easy to realize his purpose. Every statesman feared his wrath and dared not breathe a word of displeasure; every foreign state trembled before his power, and dared not omit sending ambassadors with congratulations for the nuptials; no courtier groveling in the dust dared wound him, lest his own head be crushed. Then let the harp be tuned, let the songs of the poets begin to sound, and let all be festive while love celebrates its triumph. For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love. — Then there awoke in the heart of the king an anxious thought; who but a king who thinks kingly thoughts would have dreamed of it! He spoke to no one about his anxiety; for if he had, each courtier would doubtless have said: “Your majesty is about to confer a favor upon the maiden, for which she can never be sufficiently grateful her whole life long.” This speech would have moved the king to wrath, so that he would have commanded the execution of the courtier for high treason against the beloved, and thus he would in still another way have found his grief increased. So he wrestled with his troubled thoughts alone. Would she be happy in the life at his side? Would she be able to summon confidence enough never to remember what the king wished only to forget, that he was king and she had been a humble maiden? For if this memory were to waken in her soul, and like a favored lover sometimes steal her thoughts away from the king, luring her reflections into the seclusion of a secret grief; or if this memory sometimes passed through her soul like the shadow of death over the grave: where would then be the glory of their love? Then she would have been happier had she remained in her obscurity, loved by an equal, content in her humble cottage; but confident in her love, and cheerful early and late. What a rich abundance of grief is here laid bare, like ripened grain bent under the weight of its fruitfulness, merely waiting the time of the harvest, when the thought of the king will thresh out all its seed of sorrow! For even if the maiden would be content to become as nothing, this could not satisfy the king, precisely because he loved her, and because it was harder for him to be her benefactor than to lose her. And suppose she could not even understand him? For while we are thus speaking foolishly of human relationships, we may suppose a difference of mind between them such as to render an understanding impossible. What a depth of grief slumbers not in this unhappy love, who dares to rouse it! However, no human being is destined to suffer such grief; him we may refer to Socrates, or to that which in a still more beautiful sense can make the unequal equal. (more…)

duel

What a wonderful excerpt from Luther’s 1535 commentary on Galatians.  Below Luther outlines a duel between Christ’s eternal righteousness and sin’s most powerful destructive force.  It is edifying and fascinating to see how he works it out.  Enjoy!

This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through teh Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who at the apple in Paradise; the thief on teh cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find HIm a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!” And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except the sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them. (more…)

A communion sermon delivered by Samuel Rutherford to the Westminster Divines in 1643. At the time communion was irregular. Ministry of the word would have been the daily devotion, while communion would have been a once a week or even once a month devotion. At the communion service, it was common to give two sermons. One for the ministry of the word, one for preparation for the Lord’s Supper. I’m not sure if that was the case at Westminster to be honest. Either way this sermon is a helpful look into history, as well as a majestic articulation of the passionate love of Jesus for sinners.

Of all wonders that ever were read in a printed book this is the first: Christ made an exchange; Christ would coss [barter] lives with you, and make a niffer [exchange]. He never beguiled you, for He took shame, and gave you glory. He took the curse, and gave you the blessing, He took death, and gave you life. The fairest Candle that ever was lighted is blown out. The Head of the Church is dead, and the Lord of Life is laid down in the grave! No wonder that the sun, that did shew [perhaps, “share,” i.e. suffer along with Him] part of his labours, be shut down; because the great Sun of Righteousness was shut down in the grave, and a stone laid above Him. Good right have ye to Christ, accept of His niffer [exchange], and change with Him, and take His best blessing and purchased redemption.

What a sight is our Lord Jesus going out of the gates of Jerusalem, and His cross upon His back! He went like to fall under it, He was so weak in body and weary in soul, when He went to the top of Mount Calvary. And all the time He saw black death before Him, and a curse. He was even then bearing God’s curse upon His back, and that was heavier than the cross. Look on Him, and follow Him, He will not bid you lend Him a lift [offer any help]. Give Him obedience, and give Him love, for it is better to Him than if you had been crucified for Him. Look upon Him, and look for Him. “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Christ this day lets you see all the footsteps in your way to heaven. In His death and blood He made a new way to heaven. He went in an hard way Himself, through God’s curse, and painful sufferings. He bids you not follow Him that way, but believe in Him, and love one another. And stick fast by Christ. The old gate [way] ye dought [could] never have gone; but Christ’s market-gate is a sweet and easy way. If ye will bear Christ’s yoke, and so love Him, ye and He will come in each others’ hands together to heaven. And ye will be the welcomer that He is with you – “A little while,” says Christ, “and I will come again.” Take you here Christ’s flesh in token that He will come again to you, and marry you to Himself for ever. Your new husband hath said, within a little while He will come again and see you; and see that ye keep yourselves for Him; abide in Him. Christ says to you, “My dearest ones, weary not, fight on, I shall be at you your fray-hour [your hour of battle]. Be true to Me, as I was aye true to you.”

read the rest here

The Revelation to John

Dec 15:                        A Love Grown Cold                 (Rev 2.1-7)

 

“They that see God cannot but praise him.  He is a Being of such glory and excellency that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him.  Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise.  Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit” –Jonathan Edwards, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven” (Thanksgiving Sermon, Nov 7, 1734)

 

We begin today’s class with an important principle from Jonathan Edwards, namely that in beholding the excellency of God we are drawn into acts of praise that affect the deepest and most remote compartments of our soul.  That is why we do Bible study. That is why we take Bible study one step farther and do Biblical theology, and farther still to systematic theology.  These are an attempt to behold God, grounded in the revealed word that he has given us, that we might behold him and be given “an unspeakable exultation of spirit.”  I have said this many times before, and I say it again.  THE KEY to spiritual growth lies not in applying Biblical principles to your life, but in beholding God and having his majesty and the depth of his love, mercy, kindness and righteousness transform the heart and reorient our desires. 

 

And yet even this pursuit can be corrupted and turned from its original end, as we shall see in our reading today, we see a church whose love has grown cold.  What is striking about this, is that their love grew cold when they were so well equipped to behold the majesty of God.  So there is a lesson for us here.  When knowledge of God becomes more important than God himself, then our doctrine has become our idol, replacing our “first love” with cold dogma.  May God save us from this!  Let us see what Jesus has to say to the church in Ephesus, and see how we might be turned from this sad situation. (more…)

During the first week of our series, “The Christ to Come” I spoke on why Jesus came.  Namely, he came to fulfill the law.  The second week, Messianic Jewish Rabbi David Levine spoke on where Jesus came from.  He came from the Jewish people, in fulfillment of the prophesies for the Jewish Messiah.  A promise, he was quick to remind us, for the whole world.  Last week Iain spoke about who Jesus came for.  We learned that Jesus came as a light for those walking in darkness.  Today I would like to speak on how Jesus comes, why it is significant, and what application we can render from it for our lives.  

 

How did Jesus Come?

One of the most important tenets of ancient Roman law was that the republic was to be protected by military coup.  The way the senate protected the republic was by forbidding the military to cross the river Rubicon in force.  Crossing the Rubicon on foot, by yourself, was of course entirely legal and would spark little interest.  However, crossing the Rubicon with an army signaled intentions of rebellion and was of course highly illegal.  In January of 49 B.C., Rome was facing a civil war between two military commanders, Pompey and Caesar.  Trying to avert a civil war, the senate declared Caesar a public enemy and ordered him to lay down his command or face criminal charges.  Rather than lay down his command, Caesar led his 13 legions to the Rubicon, and he and his army waited patiently on the banks.  Turning to his army, Caesar spoke: “Even yet we may draw back; but once across that little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.”  Seeing no opposition from his army, Caesar is said to have muttered under his breath, “alea iacta est,” or “Let the die be cast.”  With these words, he crossed the Rubicon, thus signaling open war with the Roman republic. 

 

Jerusalem had its own Rubicon, and there was a particular way to cross it.  Jerusalem’s Rubicon was the Mount of Olives, and it was significant for several reasons.  The first reason is that after Israel’s greatest King, King David, returned from a forced exile he returned over the Mount of Olives (2 Sam 19.20).  It was a long held tradition that when Israel’s coming King, the Messiah came, he would come over the Mount of Olives.  Secondly, in Ezekiel’s prophesy, he sees a vision of the Holy Spirit departing the temple because of the people’s sin (Eze 11.23).  When the Spirit returns to bring God’s righteous rule to the people of Israel once more, he does so by passing over the Mount of Olives (Eze 45.1-5).  So the Mount of Olives is significant in Jewish history, because it is the place by which both the Messiah and God’s Spirit will one day return to Israel.  It is Jerusalem’s Rubicon. (more…)

lipstickpigUnbelief disables a man for the performance of any good work. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” is a great truth in more senses than one. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” You shall never hear me say a word against morality; you shall never hear me say that honesty is not a good thing, or that sobriety is not a good thing; on the contrary, I would say they are commendable things; but I will tell you what I will say afterwards—I will tell you that they are just like the cowries of Hindostan; they may pass current among the Indians, but they will not do in England; these virtues may be current here below, but not above. If you have not something better than your own goodness, you will never get to heaven. Some of the Indian tribes use little strips of cloth instead of money, and I would not find fault with them if I lived there; but when I come to England, strips of cloth will not suffice. So honesty, sobriety, and such things, may be very good amongst men—and the more you have of them the better. I exhort you, whatsoever things are lovely and pure, and of good report, have them—but they will not do up there. All these things put together, without faith, do not please God. Virtues without faith are whitewashed sins. Obedience without faith, if it is possible, is a gilded disobedience. Not to believe, nullifies everything. It is the fly in the ointment; it is the poison in the pot. Without faith, with all the virtues of purity, with all the benevolence of philanthropy, with all the kindness of disinterested sympathy, with all the talents of genius, with all the bravery of patriotism, and with all the decision of principle—”without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Spurgeon, The Sin of Unbelief, preached Jan 14, 1855

Why It Was Necessary That Jesus Christ Be True Man
It was necessary that the Mediator of this covenant and this reconciliation be true man, but without any stain of original sin or any other, for the following reasons:

Firstly, since God is very righteous and man is the object of His wrath, because of natural corruption (1 Tim 2:5; John 1:14; Rom 1:3; Gal 4:4; Rom 8:2-4; 1 Cor. 1:30), it was necessary in order to reconcile men with God, that there be a true man in whom the ruins caused by this corruption would be totally repaired.

Secondly, man is compelled to fulfil all the righteousness which God demands from him in order to be glorified (Matt 3:15; Rom 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:21). It was therefore necessary that there be a man who would perfectly fulfil all righteousness in order to please God.

Thirdly, all men are covered with an infinite number of sins, as much internal as external; that is why they are liable to the curse of God (Rom 3:23-26; Is 53: 11, etc). It was therefore necessary that there be a man who would fully satisfy the justice of God in order to pacify Him.

Finally, no corrupt man would have been able, in any way, to even begin to fulfil the least of these actions. He would first of all have had need of a Redeemer for himself (Rom 8:2; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22; 3:18; 1 John 2:1-2). So much was necessary for himself before he could buy back the others, or could do anything pleasing or satisfying to God (Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6). It was therefore necessary that the Mediator and Redeemer of men be true man in his body and in his soul, and that he be, nevertheless, entirely pure and free from all sin. (more…)

nativityThis is not only a clever bit of Christology, but it is also a powerful argument for the orthodox claim that salvation is found exclusively in knowing Christ. Note for Augustine, it is in the knowing that we are saved because only Christ does man  (Jesus) mark a trail for men to follow.  Only Christ as God can mark a trail to our salvation.  Thus, it is only in knowing the God-Man, Jesus Christ, that we can come to salvation.

It is a great and very rare thing for a man, after he has contemplated the whole creation, corporeal and incorporeal, and has discerned its mutability, to pass beyond it, and, by the continued soaring of his mind, to attain to the unchangeable substance of God, and, in that height of contemplation, to learn from God Himself that none but He has made all that is not of the divine essence.  For God speaks with a man not by means of some audible creature dinning in his ears, so that atmospheric vibrations connect Him that makes with him that hears the sound, nor even by means of a spiritual being with the semblance of a body, such as we see in dreams or similar states; for even in this case He speaks as if to the ears of the body, because it is by means of the semblance of a body He speaks, and with the appearance of a real interval of space,—for visions are exact representations of bodily objects.  Not by these, then, does God speak, but by the truth itself, if any one is prepared to hear with the mind rather than with the body.  For He speaks to that part of man which is better than all else that is in him, and than which God Himself alone is better.  For since man is most properly understood (or, if that cannot be, then, at least, believed) to be made in God’s image, no doubt it is that part of him by which he rises above those lower parts he has in common with the beasts, which brings him nearer to the Supreme.  But since the mind itself, though naturally capable of reason and intelligence is disabled by besotting and inveterate vices not merely from delighting and abiding in, but even from tolerating His unchangeable light, until it has been gradually healed, and renewed, and made capable of such felicity, it had, in the first place, to be impregnated with faith, and so purified.  And that in this faith it might advance the more confidently towards the truth, the truth itself, God, God’s Son, assuming humanity without destroying His divinity, Homine assumto, non Deo consumto. established and founded this faith, that there might be a way for man to man’s God through a God-man.  For this is the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.  For it is as man that He is the Mediator and the Way.  Since, if the way lieth between him who goes, and the place whither he goes, there is hope of his reaching it; but if there be no way, or if he know not where it is, what boots it to know whither he should go?  Now the only way that is infallibly secured against all mistakes, is when the very same person is at once God and man, God our end, man our way.   Quo itur Deus, qua itur homo.

From Augustine’s The City of God, XI.2

the thought is expressed almost word for word in Chrysostom, but since I can’t remember the reference I must resort to what Calvin and Luther often do; “Chyrsostom somewhere says…”  Anybody know the reference? 

As many of you know, last Friday (Dec 12), Trinity partnered with the Sons of God motorcycle club and 3-D Motorcyle club to feed the homeless of Myrtle Beach. I am especially proud of our Trinity folks, who provided 20 hams and all the green beans, mac n’ cheese, and cookies that you could ever eat. Unfortunately, we did not have a great turn out from the homeless community. I have a few theories on this. First of all, a few other charities had events that night so the homeless could go in a few different directions. Secondly, the city has recently clear cut the woods, so the homeless can no longer hide there. So we did not have central place to pick them up.

Nevertheless, we fed around 50-60. One of the more touching moments of the evening was when one of them, through tears, asked me to preach the word. He said “That is the food I came here for.” I was also impressed with how well many of the homeless know Lou Townsend and Dick Arnold. Lou and Dick go into the woods throughout the week, sing hymns and do Bible studies with the homeless. They also try to provide for their needs by checking them into rehab (if willing) or providing them with tents and wheel chairs for example.

Because of the poor turnout by the homeless, I was tempted to feel like the evening was a bit of a failure. But a few things encouraged me. I was greatly encouraged by the turnout from Trinity. I am so thankful to be part of a church that demonstrates God’s grace with both proclamation and works of mercy. Secondly, I was grateful to take home four young children who were fed and clothed by us. They were so excited about their new hats and mittens. What a simple gesture from us that meant so much to them. And finally, I am encouraged because our leftover food provided a local charity with enough food to carry them through to the finish of their new kitchen. The other half of our leftover food was sent to an impoverished community in Tabor City that our motorcycle friends have adopted. We fed the whole community. So there was much fruit, even if we didn’t get to see it all. God be praised!

edwardsIain Boyd, Associate Rector for Christian Ed. at Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach, contributes to our “Help Me Read the Bible” series.  He is a fine preacher, wonderful pastor, and gifted theologian.  He’s also my best friend!  Check out his blog here

 

How would Jonathan Edwards tell us to read our Bibles?  Beyond telling us to read, pray, and journal, I’m not exactly sure.  But what I am sure of is what he might say the Holy Spirit does when we read our Bibles.  Jonathan Edwards understood that there is Common Grace and Special Grace.  That is, there are graces given to all of humanity, whether they have believed in Christ or not.  All of humanity can know, to some degree, what is right and what is wrong.  All of humanity can know that there is a God.  All of humanity can know that hard work pays off.  There are other truths, however, that God must give specially to believers which are uncommon amongst men.  Jonathan Edwards discussed these graces in his sermon, A Divine and Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God.  In this sermon, Edwards was not dealing directly with how to have a devotional life, but rather, how to tell true conversion, true revival, from mere emotionalism.  What is helpful from his exposition is that Edwards’ evidence for true work of the Holy Spirit is centered on God’s revelation of Himself from Holy Scripture.  In other words, true revival, true conversion, and true sanctification have always to do with the Holy Spirit’s work in illuminating Scripture.  So, what might Edwards say the Holy Spirit does for us when we read our Bibles? (more…)

 

From Horatious Bonar’s Commentary on Revelation

1. Learn self-denying Christianity.

Not the form or name, but the living thing. ‘Christ did not please Himself.’ Let us in this respect be His true followers; bearing burdens for Him; doing work for Him; submitting to the sorest toil for Him; not grudging effort, or cost, or sacrifice, or pain; spending and being spent for Him; relinquishing the lazy, luxurious, self-pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day. A self-indulgent religion has nothing in common with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; or with that cross of ours which He has commanded us to take up and carry after Him, renouncing ease and denying self. Our time, our gifts, our money, our strength, are all to be laid upon the altar. We are to be ‘living sacrifices’ (Romans 12:1)

2. Learn faithfulness to His truth.

We hear it often said that what the age needs, and what the Church needs, is religion—not theology. But the whole Bible takes for granted that there can be no true religion without a true theology. The Bible is God’s testimony to Himself and to His Son—the Christ of God. There can be no acceptable religion or worship or service except that which is founded upon that testimony. The belief of that testimony is life everlasting—the belief of any other testimony is death eternal. Let us be true witnesses for the truth—let us shun and hate error—trying those that propagate it, and finding them ‘liars’, as the Ephesian church did. Let the Master’s word in reference to the errors of the early churches sound in our ears—’Which thing I hate.’

 

A church may, no doubt, have a true testimony, and yet be a very unfaithful church; she may have the FORM of sound words and the form of godliness—and yet be cold like Sardis, or lukewarm like Laodicea. Yet, on the other hand, it is not possible that, with a false testimony, or a testimony to what is untrue, she can represent her Master and Head. A false testimony must make a false church. The belief of a lie will not save a man; nor will the belief of a lie win for a church the favor of the Lord. A true creed is of unspeakable importance, even though at times it has been associated with inconsistency and death.

read it all here

tree-and-roots1Many times people ask me, “what about application?”  This is a valid question, one that I intend to answer, however I think our modern view of “application” is really an attempt for us to baptize self-help in the name of spiritual progress.  In other words, by “application” what we really mean is seven Biblical principles for time management.  Self-help is really just legalism poorly packaged.  It has the powert to discipline the flesh, but it does not have the power to change the human heart and its desires.  “Repent and believe” is the application of Scripture, but the human heart says “give me some work to do!”  But works cannot produce righteousness nor can they change the human heart.  That is why “works of the flesh” (things we consciously do) always result in the most disastrous sin (Gal 5.19).  However “fruit of the Spirit” (things that are produced from the inner-work of the Spirit) produces life (Gal 5.22).  The important distinction to make is that fruit just happens.  It is a result of nourishment and watering.  So what nourishes and waters the human soul in such a way that it produces fruit?  Well, I say that it is principally beholding God in all his majesty, which is chiefly revealed to us finite creatures in the cross, where God’s extravagent and unmerited love is abundantly demonstrated.  Below is an excerpt from Edwards’ “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven.”  Notice that for Edwards, beholding God puts the human soul under compulsion to worship him.  Check it out below:

That they see God, sufficiently shows the reason why they praise him. They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.  (Jonathan Edwards, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven“)

For Edwards, merely beholding God puts you under an irresistable compulsion to worship him.  Now worship is not merely something confined to Sunday morning but it is a life activity (Rom 12.1).  We worship God by going to the workplace with integrity, watching out for our clients, caring for our family.  Essentially we live our life to the glory of God.  This is a fruit not a work.  Do not try to do any of these things!  Rather, allow the water that nourishes the soul, namely the Gospel, compel us (assisted by the Spirit) to worship God through a Godly life. 

So when I preach the Gospel, what is the principle application?  The application that I am hoping for is that my listeners behold God through the glory of the crucified Jesus and are compelled to worship him.  As a fruit of this “beholding” they begin to perform extravagent gestures of genorsity, sacrificial love, grace, forgiveness as demonstrations of their deep worship of the Savior.  Not to earn his favor, but because they have beheld him and love him deeply.  This deep love for the Savior is the well from which Christian spiritual growth must always flow.  May the beauty of the stricken Jesus “irresistibly impel” you, drawing you into a lifestyle of praise to the glory of the Savior.