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.

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… and what have we then to be proud of?

Once again I find myself in Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis. Here our brother points our the humble origin of man, dust. He uses this little fact to remind us that we have nothing to be proud of. How can one be proud of that which is going to crumble? he writes:

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The matter was despicable. He was made of the dust of the ground, a very unlikely thing to make a man of but the same infinite power that made the world of nothing made man, its master-piece, of next to nothing. He was made of the dust, the small dust, such as is upon the surface of the earth. Probably, not dry dust, but dust moistened with the mist that went up, Genesis 2:6. He was not made of gold-dust, powder of pearl, or diamond dust, but common dust, dust of the ground. Hence he is said to be of the earth, choikosdusty, 1┬áCorinthians 15:47. And we also are of the earth, for we are his offspring, and of the same mould. So near an affinity is there between the earth and our earthly parents that our mother’s womb, out of which we were born, is called the earth (Psalm 139:15), and the earth, in which we must be buried, is called our mother’s womb, Job 1:21. Our foundation is in the earth, Job 4:19. Our fabric is earthly, and the fashioning of it like that of an earthen vessel, Job 10:9. Our food is out of the earth, Job 28:5. Our familiarity is with the earth, Job 17:14. Our fathers are in the earth, and our own final tendency is to it and what have we then to be proud of?

 

Shaking Hands With the Devil

Yesterday, while listening to a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, I was struck by and illustration that he gave of those who put on an act of fighting sin and living as a Christian. It struck me to the core and caused me to consider whether I have truly been seeking to fight sin in earnest, or if I had instead been taking on the appearance of the life of repentance. These questions are good and helpful. We as believers should never blindly assume our salvation, but rather should be working it out daily in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) never forgetting that it is God who gives us the desire and ability to do so.

In our church age of decisionsism it is easy and often encouraged to rest our hopes on a decision we have made and be done with it. If we are troubled, we will often be reminded of that day where we made our decision or prayed a prayer and even asked if we meant it. This move is not helpful and it is not scriptural. The question is are you trusting Jesus Christ right now? Do not waste your time trusting a decision you have made, rather trust the person and finished work of Jesus Christ for surely if He has not done it then it is not done! Everyday should be an examination of ourselves. Are we truly fighting sin? or are we rather putting on a show? Heed the words of Mr. Spurgeon:

At the same time, let me observe that a man’s outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all. Have you ever seen two jugglers in the street with swords, pretending to fight with one another? See how they cut, and slash, and hack at one another, till you are half afraid there will soon be murder done. They seem to be so very much in earnest that you are half in the mind to call in the police to part them. See with what violence that one has aimed a terrific blow at the other one’s head, which his comrade dexterously warded off by keeping a well-timed guard. Just watch them a minute, and you will see that all these cuts and thrusts come in a prearranged order. There is no heart in the fighting after all. They do not fight so roughly as they would if they were real enemies. So, sometimes I have seen a man pretending to be very angry against sin. But watch him a little while, and you will see it is only a fencer’s trick. He does not give his cuts out of order, there is no earnestness in his blows, it is all pretense, it is only mimic stage-play. The fencers, after they have ended their performance, shake hands with one another, and divide the coppers which the gaping throng have given them; and so does this man do, he shakes hands with the devil in private, and the two deceivers share the spoil. The hypocrite and the devil are very good friends after all, and they mutually rejoice over their profits: the devil leering because he has won the soul of the professor, and the hypocrite laughing because he has won his self. Take care, then, that your outward life is not a mere stage-play, but that your antagonism to sin is real and intense; and that you strike right and left, as though you meant to slay the monster, and cast its limbs to the winds of heaven.

taken from: A Christmas Question (a sermon)

http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0291.htm