A City and its society: The City of God in this World

Greetings friends, it has been a little while since I last posted. I have recently been going through the hiring process with a church and this has taken much of the time I was dedicating to writing and reading for this blog. In that time, I have become the senior pastor at New Horizon Baptist Fellowship in Marion, Nc. It is my hope that my congregation may find this blog to be a good resource and a blessing, as I hope those of you who have been following it have.

To the point, today I was struck by a short text written by St. Augustine in his “City of God” and thought it was a fitting way to move back into working on this blog.

St. Augustine writes:

“I know, of course, what ingenuity and force of arguments are needed to convince proud men of the power of humility. Its loftiness is above the pinnacles of earthly greatness which are shaken by the shifting winds of time– not by reason of human arrogance, but only by the grace of God. For, in Holy Scripture, the King and Founder of the City of which I have undertaken to speak [the city of God] revealed to His people the judgment of divine law: ‘ God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.’ Unfortunately the swollen spirit of human pride claims for itself this high prerogative, which belongs to God alone, and longs and loves to hear repeated in its own praise the line: ‘To be merciful to the conquered and beat the haughty down.’ (Augustine is quoting a line from the Greek poet Virgil here, about being a great conqueror.)

Hence, in so far as the general plan of the treatise demands and my ability permits, I must speak also of the earthly city [the city of man]– of that city which lusts to dominate the world and which, though nations bend to its yoke, is itself dominated by its passion for dominion.”

Here we see in Augustine’s argument the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Those who reside in what Augustine calls the “City of God” are driven by humility and service. He will go on to argue that for these two reasons the people who live in the “City of God” are more studious and effective citizens, because they do not seek their own glory and do not look for others to serve them. Rather, they serve and love sacrificially. This will prove somewhat of a fulfillment of Christ’s promise that we will be known for our love for one another. Love, true biblical love, does not seek its own glory.

Sadly, this leads us to the consideration of Augustine’s other city the “city of man” where lusts and pride rule and those in power are the most arrogant. Let us as believers keep these cities in mind. I pray that we would seek humility as a people recognizing that whatever we have, we have because it was given to us, not earned by us. All things are a gift from God. At the root, you have no control over you will take in your next breath, or your heart will beat one more time. Because of this, every second and every event that happens in the space of that time, is a gift of God to you. I pray that you might rejoice in the love of a creator that sees fit to keep you living today, and more than that, keeps you in the city of God. We are kept by a generous and loving God, who does not let us wander, but rather blesses us and keeps us close, under the shadow of His wing. Let us delight in Him.

Jesus, life!

In preparing this week for a sermon on Col. 3, I came across a sermon by the puritan Thomas Brooks. In it, his main concern is that the congregation recognize that Jesus Christ is their life. This has been a doctrine that has dogged me the past several years. I have been reminded time and time again that Jesus Christ is all that we have. It is common to hear people speak of Jesus Christ as all we need, but this understanding leaves one with the thought that if Jesus is all we need then we can add to him by going beyond our needs to our wants as well. However, if Mr. Brooks is right, and the apostles for that matter, then we should instead recognize that there is nothing but Christ. There is no hope, joy, or life outside of him. There is nothing but death outside of Jesus Christ. Let us consider two paragraphs from this sermon:

 

Is the Lord Jesus Christ a believer’s life? To pass by what we have further spoken upon this point—this same, by way of use, doth serve to bespeak all believers not to repent of anything they have done, or suffered, or lost, for the Lord Jesus. Oh, is the Lord Jesus Christ a believer’s life? Why, then, let no believer be disquieted, nor overwhelmed and dejected, for any loss or for any sorrow or suffering that he meets with for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. What a base and unworthy spirit is it for a man to be troubled and disquieted in e himself for anything that he shall do or suffer for his own natural life! Oh, Jesus Christ is thy life; do not say this mercy is too dear for Christ, nor that comfort is too great for Christ. Christ is the life of a believer: what wilt thou not do for thy life? The devil hit right when he said, ‘Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life.’ Oh, what should a man then do for Jesus Christ, who is his life! You noble hearts whose particular God hath come near in this sad loss, remember this, that Christ is a believer’s life; Christ is that glorious champion’s life. Therefore be not over-whelmed, for doubtless he is now triumphing in the love, in the light, in the goodness, and in the glory of him who is his life. Let the sense of this sad loss kindly affect you, but let it not discourage you.

But, secondly, If the Lord Jesus Christ be a believer’s life, then this serves to bespeak all believers highly to prize the Lord Jesus. Oh, it is this Christ that is thy life; it is not thy husband, it is not thy child, it not this or that thing; neither is it this ordinance or that, that is a believer’s life. No; it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is the author, that is the matter, that is the exerciser, that is the strengthener, that is the completer, of a believer’s life. You prize great ones; the Lord Jesus Christ is great—he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge: the Lord Jesus hath in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. 2:3. You prize others for their beauty: the Lord Jesus Christ is the beautifullest of ten thousand, Cant. 5:10. You prize others for their usefulness: the Lord Jesus Christ is the right hand of a believer, without which he can do nothing. The believer may say of Christ as the philosopher .said of the heavens, Tolle coelum, nullus ero—Take away the heavens, and I shall be nobody; so take away Jesus Christ, and a believer is nobody—nobody to perform any action, nobody to bear any affliction, nobody to conquer corruption, nobody to withstand temptation, nobody to improve mercies, nor nobody to joy in others’ grace. Oh, prize Jesus Christ!

The whole sermon can be found here: http://www.puritansermons.com/sermons/brooks7.htm

Jesus christ, your life… that is, your delight

Is Jesus Christ your life? Such a question would likely have been a normal question coming from a pastor in the 16th-17th centuries. It is surely a tragedy that this question seems so rare, and likely odd to one reading it now. The question comes from Col. 3 where the apostle speaks of our life being hidden with Christ in God. However, the implication is more amazing. If our life is hid with Christ then He is our only hope in this life, and moreover He is our greatest delight and in that delight the one we seek to obey.

Consider all of the great things that we proclaim that we would do for a loved one. Better yet, imagine all of the ways that you have gone above and beyond to either woo a lover or sacrifice for a relative. People sacrifice for their family all of the time. In fact, that is often considered the hallmark of love. Then why is it that we often find no strength to do so for Jesus Christ? I believe it is because we do not recognize the fact that He is our life. There is nothing if His work is not finished. We are to be pitied above all men if there is no resurrection.

This little section out of a work on Christ by Thomas Brooks sets forth a teaching on this doctrine that I think is much needed in the church today. So many are looking for a “purpose driven life”, but in that pursuit have forgotten our true purpose. Do we beget children to have slaves? Then why would we imagine that God merely birthed us spiritually for the sake of laboring in the vineyard? He saved us so that we might delight in Him and, through Christ’s work, He might find us to be delightful as well:

But, secondly, If the Lord Jesus Christ be a believer’s life, then this serves to bespeak all believers highly to prize the Lord Jesus. Oh, it is this Christ that is thy life; it is not thy husband, it is not thy child, it not this or that thing; neither is it this ordinance or that, that is a believer’s life. No; it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is the author, that is the matter, that is the exerciser, that is the strengthener, that is the completer, of a believer’s life. You prize great ones; the Lord Jesus Christ is great—he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge: the Lord Jesus hath in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. 2:3. You prize others for their beauty: the Lord Jesus Christ is the beautifullest of ten thousand, Cant. 5:10. You prize others for their usefulness: the Lord Jesus Christ is the right hand of a believer, without which he can do nothing. The believer may say of Christ as the philosopher .said of the heavens, Tolle coelum, nullus ero—Take away the heavens, and I shall be nobody; so take away Jesus Christ, and a believer is nobody—nobody to perform any action, nobody to bear any affliction, nobody to conquer corruption, nobody to withstand temptation, nobody to improve mercies, nor nobody to joy in others’ grace. Oh, prize Jesus Christ!

Again, Consider the Lord Jesus Christ doth highly prize you; you are as the apple of his eye; he accounts you his fulness; you are his jewels; therefore prize him who sets such a high price on you. But I hasten to what I intend—

In the last place, Remember a Christ highly prized will be Christ gloriously obeyed. As men prize the Lord Jesus Christ, so they will obey him. The great reason why Jesus Christ is no more obeyed, is s because he is no more prized. Men look upon him as a person of no worth, no dignity, no glory; they make slight of him, and that is the reason they are so poor in their obedience to him. Oh, if the sons of men did but more divinely prize Christ, they would more purely, and more fully, and more constantly obey him. Let this bespeak all your hearts highly to prize the Lord Jesus, who is your life.

Troubles

There is a type of Christianity today that teaches that Jesus is here to ease all of our earthly troubles. However, they are unable to produce legitimate texts to support their position. We are told to count it all joy when we face trials and tribulations (and these are not the little difficulties of having unruly children). God’s common grace ensures that we will have the good things, but it also means that the wicked will enjoy the good things of the earth as well. So too, the bad will dog the heels of all who dwell on this earth. We serve a sovereign and risen Lord, but we will not see Heaven here. That is, not until it comes to Earth at Christ’s return. However, take heart dear Christian, we might die in the midst of troubles on this earth, but these troubles are only designed to make you yearn so much more for Heaven. These earthly troubles are the worst you will face, and soon they will be no more. Let us take to heart the words of J. C. Ryle.

“If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other people. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory to the end – all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that.” ~ J.C. Ryle