More G.H. Pember Quotes

I continue to be impressed by the godly wisdom given to this man who lived 150 years ago.

[T]he theology of the first murderer (Cain) is that of a large and perpetually increasing school of our times. He neither denied the existence of God nor refused to worship Him. Nay, he recognized Him as the giver of all good things, and brought an offering of the fruits of the ground as an acknowledgement of His bounty. But he went no further than this; and, therefore, though he may have passed among those with whom he dwelt as a good and religious man, he failed to satisfy God. For being yet in his sins he presumed to approach the Holy One without the shedding of blood: he was willing to take the place of a dependent creature, but would not confess himself a sinner guilty of death, who could be saved only by the sacrifice of a Substitute. He is a type of the many in these times who will descant (discourse) upon the benevolence and love of the Creator, and are ever ready to laud Him for those attributes, and claim the benefit of them, without any reference to their own unworthiness and sinful condition, without a thought of that perfect holiness and justice which are as much elements of the mind of God as love itself. (p. 118)

When Moses asks what answer he shall return to the Israelites if they inquire the name of the God Who sent him, the Lord replies: “I AM THAT I AM” : “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exod. iii. 14). Now in the Hebrew not the present but the future of the verb “to be” is used; and from the future the name of Jehovah is derived. But the Hebrew future has a peculiar signification: it is often used to express a permanent state, that which exists and always will exist. Hence the words rendered “I AM THAT I AM” might be more intelligently translated “I EVER SHALL BE THAT WHICH I AM.” And thus Jehovah signifies the immutable God, the Same yesterday, today, and forever, Whose purposes no circumstance can affect, Whose promises can in no wise fail. (p. 122-123)

It is the natural result of the first error, the denial of our position as sinners before God, as doomed to destruction unless a ransom be found. Let the Church surrender that truth, and what hinders her from living in perfect accord with the World? If the practical teaching of religion be that God is fairly satisfied with our conduct, troubles but little about our sins, highly appreciates our works of virtue, even though pride be their mainspring, and looks with pleasure upon bold deeds and intellectual displays, why should such a theology clash with the cravings of fallen men? How could they hate a deity so like to themselves? (p. 143)

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Pember on Eve’s Temptation

I’m still slowly making my way through another read of G.H. Pember’s book, Earth’s Earliest Ages. While I’m finding occasional things I disagree with, I continue to be amazed by the man’s skill with words and the wisdom that God granted him on various subjects. I’m going to continue to post quotes from the book periodically.

Today, I’m posting three quotes pertaining to Satan’s temptation of Eve. Enjoy.

(1) And so by his brief, but most skillful, interrogation [Satan] begins to envelop [Eve] in the mists of error from at least five outspringing suggestions.  First, he throws her off her guard by his assumed ignorance.  Secondly, he stirs up vanity from the depths of her self-consciousness by giving her an opportunity to correct and instruct him.  Thirdly, he uses the term Elohim, and not the covenant name Jehovah, to represent the Creator as far distant, and as having but little concern with His creatures.  Fourthly, he puts in a doubt as to whether God had uttered the prohibition, and hints at the possibility of a mistake.  And lastly, he insinuates the blasphemous thought that harshness and caprice on God’s part are not inconceivable, but may sometimes be expected.  (G.H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1982, p. 89)

(2) Solemn is the warning which the analysis of [Eve’s] thoughts affords to her descendants, to the offspring by whom her own sad path is ceaselessly trodden.  For how often, when we are perfectly aware of some direct command of God which we do not wish to obey, are we seduced into an exaggeration of its magnitude and its inconvenience, till at length, by the continual play of evil imaginings, we almost arrive at its impossibility.  At the same time we strive to diminish its importance, and the penalty which its neglect is likely to involve, not perceiving that, while we are thus working out our own will in defiance of the will of God, His Holy Spirit is gradually withdrawing from us, and that our God-consciousness – or, as it would ordinarily be termed, religious feeling – is becoming weaker and weaker.  Not so, however, the sin within us, which is proportionally growing and acquiring strength; till at last, when our eyes are again opened, we find it like some horrible tumor, which, loathsome and painful as it is to bear, has been so long neglected that it will scarce leave life in us if it be removed.  (p. 90)

(3) Does not the readiness with which [Eve] received the daring [deception of Satan] show the necessity of our present state of weakness?  Does it not sufficiently explain the fact that a broken and a contrite heart is the first indispensable condition of entering into the Kingdom of the Heavens?  (p. 91)

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

A quote from G.H. Pember, first published in 1876

“We may profess worship of the Supreme God, we may be very sedulous [diligent] in the outward part of it; but if at the same time we are obeying the law of Satan, his subjects we are reckoned to be, and to him our prayers and praises ascend. And the law of Satan is this: – That we seek all our pleasures in, and fix all our heartfelt hopes upon, this present age over which he presides; and that we use our best endeavors – by means of various sensuous and intellectual occupations and delights, and countless ways of killing time which he has provided – to keep our thoughts from ever wandering into that age to come, which will see him a fettered captive instead of a prince and a god.”

G.H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1982), p. 38

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Judging Rightly

Back when I went to a “mainstream church” and the Lord began to open my eyes to the truth in His Word and to the far-reaching compromise and lukewarmness among the people there, I began to have conversations with a number of people about God’s call to obedience and separation from worldliness. As you might expect, it wasn’t long before I heard statements like, “You can’t judge! After all, Jesus Himself said, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ So you can’t say these things and judge me.” Are they wrong? Are they right? They’ve certainly quoted Jesus accurately (Matthew 7:1), but are we really not to judge, even among the Body of Christ? Did Jesus give us more guidelines for judging, or did He leave us with only this seeming blanket prohibition? What about judging people’s actions? Thankfully, as with most any subject, God has provided answers for us in His Word.

When we preach the gospel to a lost person, we need to help them see that they are a sinner, that they regularly break God’s commands and that this is their natural course of life. We don’t even have to dig deeply into their life to make any judgments about the person in order to make these points, because unless a person is born again, the “man on the street” is a practicing sinner 100% of the time. However, when we do the exact same thing with a professing believer, we often meet resistance, with the defense, “You’re judging me; only God can judge me; you don’t know my heart;” and so on. These people claim to know the Lord, but their lifestyles contradict their profession. The true believer is left with one option: judge the person based upon their behavior.

This is exactly what Paul advocates:

11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Paul is pointing out that with professing believers, we are to look at their lives in light of God’s commands and see whether their profession is genuine. He does this for two reasons. First, God wants to keep His church pure and shut out evil influence, compromise, and sin as much as possible. Second, God wants to see those who are holding to a false profession broken toward repentance and true conversion. Putting them out of the church as a result of judging their actions is intended to open the eyes of the blind, by helping them see that their lifestyle does not conform to Christ’s call.

Even though they may protest, it’s important for professing believers to understand that we can always judge patterns of behavior, and it’s really quite straightforward. Jesus said:

45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:45)

18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. (Matthew 15:18-19)

Jesus never separates the heart from actions. Professing Christians may claim that their heart is toward God, that they love Him, and that He knows these things; but if they live a life in which they continually violate His commands, and they don’t appear overly concerned about it; then the true, unregenerate state of their heart becomes clear. How then can such people expect true Christians to believe that they either love God’s Word or are born again?

Jesus talked a lot about fruit (or works), and so did his disciples, James and John. Professing believers need to understand that their “confession of faith” to God (or man) is meaningless. What God looks at is a person’s life. As a fallen man with limited wisdom, I can evaluate someone’s life by simply making a chart of (a) how they divide their time among various activities and (b) how they spend their money. I can figure out really quickly what’s important to them. How much more can God see not just through their use of time and money but right through their thoughts and into their heart? What kind of fruit are they bearing?

17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (This certainly implies judging.)  21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ (the cheap confession I referred to – after all, only professing Christians call Jesus “Lord”) will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ (This sure sounds like professing Christians to me.) 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:17-23, emphasis mine)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims (cheap talk again) to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17, emphasis mine)

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. 4 The man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6, emphasis mine)

After looking at God’s description of how to discern those who are truly His, I ask, would you do it any differently if you were God? Would you want followers who gave you cheap talk but who were halfhearted and lukewarm at best and held no true devotion to you? Of course not. Neither does God, and Jesus talked about this fact quite a bit:

11 While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 12“A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. 16 The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ 18 The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’ 24 Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ 26 I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” (Luke 19:11-27, emphasis mine)

Notice the points Jesus is making about His kingdom in this parable. First, there will be an accounting of what we do for Him with our life. He will commends and reward those servants who use what He gives them to increase His kingdom, to build “assets” that matter to Him, not to us. Second, there will be dire consequences for those who reject His way and hate His rightful rule over their lives. They will be killed; and of course, we know from all Jesus’ other teachings that this is not just physical death but also spiritual death, which has eternal consequences. This is a sober message that people need to hear, but you’ll rarely hear it in churches. Yes, they might preach it in terms of why we need to “invest our minas” and give our time to their church and their programs, but that’s not the same thing as personally hearing from God (which His sheep do – John 10:1-18), doing what He says to do, and working as God directs you to work. That’s a firmly biblical concept, well familiar to true followers of Christ but foreign to most churches today.

Nearly all of those I have spoken with don’t like the fact that I am judging them. What professing believers need to understand is that we don’t take it lightly when we judge their lives. We need to share how judging is to be rightly done, and we need to show that the Word of God is the authority that establishes these truths. We also need to make clear that our ultimate motive is love. Like our loving Father, we don’t want to see anyone perish in their sin. So what principles does the Bible give us for judging? I’ll sum them up in eight quick points:

(1) We are to be clean and humble before God and not hypocritical in our judgment – Matthew 7:1-5.

(2) We need the Holy Spirit (discernment) to make a right judgment, so as not to judge by mere appearances (in the wisdom of man) – John 7:23-24.

(3) On matters that are disputable (non-salvation issues, such as food, sacred days, etc.), we are not to judge our brethren – Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.

(4) Along the lines of (1) above, we are to maintain humility and leave the ultimate  revealing of those with false motives to the Lord – 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.

(5) Paul passed judgment on an unrepentant sinner in the church, and he affirms that we are to judge those inside, not outside, the church. This is a judgment with consequences – 1 Corinthians 5:3, 11-13.

(6) Paul instructed Timothy in how to go about all the judgments he had to make in ministry in the right manner. He was to show no partiality or favoritism – 1 Timothy 5:21.

(7) James tells us not to slander someone in our judgment. “Slander” means to make a malicious statement, with evil intent. He also tells us we cannot condemn someone – i.e. sit in judgment of the Law, or make ourselves judge instead of God – James 4:11-12.

(8) Paul also wrote against making hypocritical, condemning judgments – Romans 2:1-4.

When we follow these principles in speaking with someone about their life, we are also to heed this counsel from God’s Word:

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth (2 Timothy 2:25, emphasis mine)

We are to diligently attempt to share truth with them, so that they may be saved and/or walk according to God’s commands in His Word, which is the exact same thing we should be trying to do in our own lives. So we’re not exhorting someone else to do something that we’re not wholeheartedly striving to do ourselves. We need to be patient and willing to spend many hours discussing the truth in God’s Word, with the knowledge that a true believer loves the Word and will conform his or her life to it.

The unfortunate reality with the vast majority of people is that, after many hours of discussion, it becomes quite clear where they draw the line with God – how far they will and won’t go with what the Bible clearly says. When you line up anyone against the perfect plumb line of God’s Word, imperfections become clear. And when someone sees these things, the appropriate response for the born again child of God is, “I repent. I’m wrong. I humble myself and commit to align my life with God’s Word.” Unfortunately, what you often see from professing Christians is this response: “I don’t feel like God would do that.” Or “I think I’m going to do it this (i.e. my) way instead.” Or “I see that the Bible is saying that, but I just don’t feel right about it, so I disagree.” Or “In spite of what the Bible says about me that clearly shows that I’m not born again, I believe I am anyway.”

If people are honest with themselves, they can easily see that these statements are flawed and that some are ridiculous – simply attempts to justify a person’s preference to rule their own life. The reality is that it’s really not difficult to use the Word of God to judge someone’s life as to whether or not they are following Christ. What makes it difficult and confusing for the multitude of professing Christians out there is the fact that so many claim to be following Christ whose lives bear no fruit. Couple this with how few actually do follow Christ and bear fruit for Him, and you end up with all the confusion we see today. Tack on to this the cost of following Christ and His guarantee of suffering and persecution (Matthew 13:21; 2 Timothy 3:12), and you get an unpalatable religion in the eyes of those who lack the faith to see its eternal rewards.

May all of us who bear the name of Christ watch our own lives closely, and may we employ the same zeal for God’s Bride that Paul did when he rightly judged.

Posted in Teachings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Run at the Cry

I was studying Hebrews 4 and was blessed by Adam Clarke’s commentary on verse 16:

Hebrews 4:16  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The word βονθεια is properly rendered assistance, help, or support; but it is an assistance in consequence of the earnest cry of the person in distress, for the word signifies to run at the cry, θειν εις βοην, or επι βοην θειν. So, even at the throne of grace, or great propitiatory, no help can be expected where there is no cry, and where there is no cry there is no felt necessity; for he that feels he is perishing will cry aloud for help, and to such a cry the compassionate High Priest will run; and the time of need is the time in which God will show mercy; nor will he ever delay it when it is necessary. We are not to cry to-day to be helped to-morrow, or at some indefinite time, or at the hour of death. We are to call for mercy and grace when we need them; and we are to expect to receive them when we call. This is a part of our liberty or boldness; we come up to the throne, and we call aloud for mercy, and God hears and dispenses the blessing we need. (underlining mine)

Faith is a frequent theme in Hebrews, and it’s no different in this passage, except for the fact that it’s not explicitly mentioned. No one is going to run to God’s throne and cry out for help, expecting to receive it, unless they have living faith. I definitely needed to read and understand this, to see where my own faith is and to exhort me to always believe.

Posted in Quotes | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Great Devotional from Gary Wilkerson

by Gary Wilkerson

There was a young Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne who died at 29. Before his passing he brought a great awakening to his church. This week I read a quote from this man of God, he said, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness.”

We have a plethora of eloquent preachers, an over abundance of charismatic personalities, more than sufficient number of high profile leaders. What we are in want of are holy men of God. People need to see more than ministry skill from their leaders; they need to see a godly heart.

A pastor cannot take his congregation into the depths of Christ any further than he has gone first himself.

What’s the outcome of a church that has astonishing programs, brilliant leadership, edge of the seat presentations and state of the art building but has no vision at its core to be a holy people? What good can come from engaging speakers conducting entertaining events if that leader is not a man desiring to bow in brokenness and humbly recognize how estranged he and his congregation are from a holy and awesome God?

Our churches are often full of frivolity and we know it but it is not changed because leaders tolerate it rather than grieve over it. The situation in the church is simply a reflection of the reality that is within the pastor’s heart. The light pouring from a single broken vessel far outshines the productions of a thousand religious entertainers. Paul said you have many tutors but few fathers. Today he might have said you have many church experts but few holy men.

R.M. McCheyne’s word is more necessary today than when he first spoke this to a compromised, liberal, nominalist church in Scotland. But not just his words but his example, the power of his pulpit and the effect of his ministry empowered his words. His word contained power behind a life that contained purity.

Are you hungry to be a holy man or woman of God? There is only one way to see this happen. It is to lay down both human efforts to strive at your own righteousness and be fully cloaked with the garments of Christ and to simply receive the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

This holiness is far more than self-willed negating of sin; it is an absolute surrender to Christ who releases a great and glorious passion for holiness. I don’t want to spend my life trying to wrestle with my old man. I want to see Christ form in me the fullness of the new man he has created.

Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment

Look to Christ

I was really moved by these powerful words from Matthew Henry’s commentary on the 1st half of John 19:

Little did Pilate think with what holy regard these sufferings of Christ would, in after-ages, be thought upon and spoken of by the best and greatest of men. Our Lord Jesus came forth, willing to be exposed to their scorn. It is good for every one with faith, to behold Christ Jesus in his sufferings. Behold him, and love him; be still looking unto Jesus. Did their hatred sharpen their endeavors against him? and shall not our love for him quicken our endeavors for him and his kingdom? Pilate seems to have thought that Jesus might be some person above the common order. Even natural conscience makes men afraid of being found fighting against God. As our Lord suffered for the sins both of Jews and Gentiles, it was a special part of the counsel of Divine Wisdom, that the Jews should first purpose his death, and the Gentiles carry that purpose into effect. Had not Christ been thus rejected of men, we had been for ever rejected of God. Now was the Son of man delivered into the hands of wicked and unreasonable men. He was led forth for us, that we might escape. He was nailed to the cross, as a Sacrifice bound to the altar. The Scripture was fulfilled; he did not die at the altar among the sacrifices, but among criminals sacrificed to public justice. And now let us pause, and with faith look upon Jesus. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? See him bleeding, see him dying, see him and love him! love him, and live to him!

Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment