Crucified to the World

“I am crucified to the world,” says Paul. That word “world” is used in Scripture with varying meanings. Sometimes it stands simply for the numbers of our fellow-men and women around us. In that sense, God loves the world– the foolish, sinful, ailing world– loves it enough to give his Son for it. And we must learn to love it too.

But often the world means that vague, dim, ever-present threatening mass of earthly things which are dangerous to the soul, such as:

– the currents that sweep one away from what is high, true, and unselfish.

– the pressure of the crowd about us, tending to carry us along with it into the customary, the mediocre, and the earthly.

– the throng of interests that crowd our minds and leave no room for the Lord Jesus.

Whatever robs our alligience, whatever cheats us out of our inheritance in Him, whatever drags us down and back– that IS the world. Not necessarily anything evil of itself, but just the fulness of life, the rush of things, the babble of busy affairs, and even our hopes, dreams, ambitions, and desires. Matters that are quite harmless, even true and beautiful in themselves, can grow into one’s world. A man’s home, says Christ, can even become the “world”. For he may sink back luxuriously into that, grow soft, flabby, and self-indulgent, and forget that those around him need his help.

If anything at all is crowding God out of our lives, if anything is making us throw aside the high purposes of God, if anything is convincing us that some of Jesus’s words are mere poetry and are not meant for literal obedience, then that is the world to us. Whatever it is, it is the world to us and we must be crucified to it. It is through things like that by which souls are mostly lost, for the flesh and the devil are open and deadly, but the world is far more subtle and deadly.

“Crucified to this world”- are we really?

– Arthur J. Gossip

Thinking as God Thinks

Am I bound to think of sin as God thinks? Most certainly. Have I no liberty of thinking otherwise? None. You may do so if you choose to, but the consequences are fearful, for error is sin. We are not bound to think as man thinks. In this respect, we have entire liberty; not tradition, but free thought may be our formula here.

But we are bound to think as God thinks, not in one thing only, but in everthing. Woe be to him that presumes to differ from God or reckons it a light matter to be of one mind with Him, or tries to prove that the Bible is inaccurate, unintelligible or only half-inspired, in order to release himself from the responsibility of receiving the whole truth of God and afford himself license to believe or not believe at his pleasure, freed from the limitations of a fixed revelation. We have no option but to be bound to think as God thinks about everything.

– Horatius Bonar

His Lambs

“He shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom.” – Is. 40:11

Mark in this sweet scripture how Jesus is described, in not only attending to all the various needs of his fold, but also to the very method of imparting to all their needs in a way corresponding to his own character.

In the fold of Jesus, some are sheep and some are lambs; some of advanced age and some of younger standing. Where does the Lord put the lambs and weaklings of his fold? Certainly, if there be one place in the heart of Jesus softer and more tender than another, there the lambs shall lay. And as Jesus himself lay in the bosom of the Father, so the lambs of his flock shall lay in his bosom.

Sweet thought to encourage you and all the followers of the good Shepherd. Jesus will not thrust out the lambs into the dangers of the wilderness, where the prowling beasts of prey are, nor expose them to over-driving or to the speed which the more mature sheep can travel. But he will proportion their burden to their own back and their day to their specific strength.

Beside this, he will keep them nearer to himself; his arms shall clasp them; the warmth of his bosom will nourish them; if they cannot walk, they will be carried; when they cannot find their way, they will be led.

O, thou great Shepherd of the sheep, is it thus that you sweetly deal with your little ones? Here then it is explained why it is that young believers, in the first seasons of their knowledge of Thee, find so many blessed refreshings, which they afterward to not so much sense or enjoy. Yes, Lord, it is thus that you gather the lambs and carry them in your bosom. And sweetly do you do all this, and in a way which fully proves your love and compassion to the necessities of thy flock.

– Robert Hawker

Satanic Stratagies

2 Cor. 2.11

When it comes to the life and unity of the body of Christ, Satan is anything but a passive, innocent bystander. Although he may be invisible to the eye and undetected by physical means, you may rest assured that he is present, employing every imaginable device (and some unimaginable) to undermine the integrity of God’s people and to sow seeds of discord and confusion. Paul was himself extremely careful and deliberate in how he sought to resolve the problem in Corinth, lest they all “be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor. 5:11).

Make no mistake: Satan has a plan. Although sinful, he is not stupid. He does not act haphazardly or without a goal in view. He had “designs” for the church at Corinth and he most surely does for your congregation today as well. In Ephesians 6:11 Paul referred to the “schemes” (lit., methodia, from which we derive our word “method”) of the Devil. He has cunning and wily stratagems not only for the individual believer but also for the corporate body of Christ. It is essential, therefore, that we be aware of them and fully prepared to respond.

Here in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 we are made aware of his determination to incite disunity and division. This appears to be an instance in which Satan seeks to exploit the otherwise good intentions of the church. Certain people in Corinth, ostensibly to maintain the purity of the church, were reluctant to forgive and restore the wayward, but now repentant, brother. This harshness would give Satan an opportunity to crush the spirit of the repentant sinner and drive him to despair, most likely resulting in his being forever cut off from the church.

What are some of Satan’s other “designs” and “schemes” and activities in both the church and the world? Here are a few.

1. He works in active opposition to the gospel, blinding the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the truth about Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). There are at least two factors in spiritual blindness: fleshly, sinful, self-resistance to the truth, on the one hand, and satanic/demonic hardening or blinding on the other. Before we ever arrive on the scene with the gospel, Satan is exerting a stupefying influence on the mind of the unbeliever. In other words, we face more than merely intellectual obstacles. We face supernatural opposition. How does Satan do it? There is any number of possibilities. For example:

He distracts them when an opportunity to hear the gospel is at hand: interruptions, day-dreaming, the phone rings, an emergency of some sort, the sudden remembrance of a job or other responsibility that needs immediate attention, the intrusion of a friend (cf. Acts 13:7b-8), etc.

He stirs up hostility and suspicion in the person’s mind concerning the competency and integrity of the person presenting the gospel. The unbeliever suddenly imputes sinister motives to the Christian: “He’s in it for the money,” or “She only wants to gain control over me,” or “He’s just looking for another notch on his Bible so he can boast to others of one more convert,” etc. Sometimes the unbeliever will excuse his/her unbelief by questioning the intellectual and academic credentials of the believer (“he/she is so uneducated; what does he/she know anyway”).

Satan also stirs up the non-Christian to distort what is being said into something the speaker never intended (cf. John 2:19-21; 6:48-52; 7:33-36; 8:51-53). He prompts them to draw false conclusions or implications from the gospel that make it seem absurd. He inclines their minds to link the believer with people who’ve disgraced Christianity in the past, giving him an excuse to reject what is being said (i.e., guilt by association). “All you Christians are just like those hucksters on TV! You’re in it for the gold and the glory!”

He puts in their minds all sorts of questions and convinces them that if they can’t get completely satisfying answers, Christianity can’t be true. Right in the middle of witnessing to someone, he/she suddenly blurts out questions like: “What about evil?” “What about all the hypocrites in the church?” “What about the heathen in Africa?” “Why is there only one way? It seems egotistical.” “Why are there so many denominations?”

Just as the gospel is beginning to make sense, Satan stirs up pride or produces feelings of independence and self-sufficiency: “I don’t need a religious crutch. I’m my own man!” Before serious consideration is given, Satan snatches the seed of the gospel (Mt. 13:4,18-19) from their mind: on the way home from church the car breaks down, or the conversation turns to politics or sports, or a sexy billboard diverts attention, or something on the radio captivates his mind.

Satan might suddenly prompt him/her to place a higher value on things he/she might lose if one were to become a Christian: friends, fame, money, fleshly pleasures, approval of others. Satan stirs up feelings of hopelessness: “Not even this will work. There’s no hope. My life is a lost cause. Not even Jesus can help.”

Satan will do all he can to oppose and disrupt missionary endeavors (1 Thess. 2:18), by disrupting travel plans, influencing the minds of state officials to delay or deny the issuing of visas, inflicting illness, provoking military conflict, etc.

2. He is often (but not always) the source of sickness (cf. Acts 10:38; Mt. 8:16; Mark 9:17-18; Luke 13:10-17).

3. He can inflict death as well as provoke the paralyzing fear of it (Heb. 2:14; see Job 1:13-19; John 10:10).

4. He plants sinful plans and purposes in the minds of men (Acts 5:3; John 13:2; Mt. 16:21-23). It is instructive to observe that in the case of Acts 5 “it is not through some act of terrible depravity, but through an act of religious devotion, that Satan brings about the downfall of Ananias and Sapphira. . . . It is sobering to think that the very good that God’s people attempt to do can be their undoing” (Sydney Page, 132).

5. On occasion, Satan will himself indwell a person (John 13:27). By speaking of Satan as “entering” Judas, John uses language reminiscent of demonization (cf. Lk. 8:30-33). It is important to note, however, that Judas’s motive was also greed and nowhere is he exonerated from his action simply because he was indwelt by the devil.

6. He sets a snare or trap for people, perhaps with a view to exploiting and intensifying their sinful inclinations. According to 1 Timothy 3:6-7, Satan is able to exploit any blemish on the reputation of a Christian leader. In 2 Timothy 2:25-26, Paul appears to speak of believers who have been led astray through false teaching. Satan thus strives to hold people captive to do his will by deceiving them to believe what is false and misleading. If nothing else, this text emphasizes how crucial sound doctrine is.

7. He infiltrates the church and plants within it his own people (Mt. 13:37-39).

8. He tests or tries Christians, the malicious “sifting” “like wheat” of Peter’s faith being an excellent example (Luke 22:31). Clearly, Satan is unable to act outside the parameters established by the will of God but must first ask permission. He wanted to destroy Peter by inciting him to deny Jesus. But God’s intent in permitting Satan to do it was altogether different. God’s purposes with Peter were to instruct him, humble him, perhaps discipline him, and certainly to use him as an example to others of both human arrogance and the possibility of forgiveness and restoration. This points to the fact that often we cannot easily say “Satan did it” or “God did it”. In cases such as this, both are true (with the understanding that God’s will is sovereign, supreme, and overriding), but their respective goals are clearly opposite. Sydney Page’s comments concerning this incident are important:

“Luke 22:31-32 reveals that Satan can subject the loyalty of the followers of Jesus to severe tests that are designed to produce failure. So intense are the pressures to which Satan is able to subject believers that the faith of even the most courageous may be found wanting. Satan is, however, limited in what he can do by what God permits and by the intercession of Jesus on behalf of his own [cf. Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1]. Furthermore, those who temporarily falter can be restored and, like Peter, can even resume positions of leadership. It is implied that Satan cannot gain ultimate victory over those for whom Jesus intercedes” (124).

9. He incites persecution, imprisonment, and the political oppression of believers (1 Pt. 5:8-9; Rev. 2:10).

10. He is the accuser of the Christian (Rev. 12:10).

11. He performs signs and wonders to deceive the nations (Exodus; 2 Thess. 2:9-11).

12. He seeks to silence the witness of the church (Rev. 12:10-12).

13. He promotes false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Rev. 2:24; 2 Cor. 11:1ff.).

14. He can manipulate the weather (but not by virtue of his own inherent power; it is only to the degree that God permits, as is clear from Job 1:18-19; cf. Mk. 4:37-39).

15. He influences the thoughts and actions of unbelievers (Eph. 2:1-2). It is a stunning thought, similar to that in 1 John 5:18, that Satan is at work in and energizes the disobedience of all unbelievers. This does not mean that all non-Christians are demonized, but it does imply that their unbelief and unrighteous behavior are stimulated and sustained by the enemy. Yet, they remain morally culpable for their actions.

16. He attacks married believers in regard to their sexual relationship (1 Cor. 7:5). Paul approves of the decision by married couples to refrain from sexual relations to devote themselves to prayer, but only for a season. To abstain entirely for a prolonged period of time exposes oneself to unnecessary temptation (i.e., lust and the satisfaction of one’s sexual desires outside the bonds of marriage). Again, we see here an example of how the enemy takes an otherwise godly intention and exploits it for his own purposes.

17. He exploits our sinful decisions, most likely by intensifying the course of action we have already chosen (Eph. 4:26-27). Note that Satan is not credited with or blamed for creating the anger in the first place. We are responsible for it. Satan’s response is to use this and other such sins to gain access to our lives and to expand and intensify our chosen course of behavior.

18. He confronts us with various temptations (1 Chron. 21:1; Mt. 6:13; 1 Thess. 3:5).

Yes, Satan has “designs” and “schemes” all of which, in one way or another, are intended to undermine our enjoyment of all that God is for us in Jesus. May God grant us both the wisdom to discern his stratagems and the strength and resolve to resist him at all times.

– Sam Storms

For Joy

2 Cor. 1.23-2.4

Do you fight for joy? Do you think of joy as something to be sought as the object of diligent striving and focused labor? Or do you think of it more as an after-effect, a by-product of other and more important pursuits? Or am I splitting hairs, leaving you to wonder, “Sam, what difference does it make?” I think we should let Paul answer that question.

As we’ve already noted on several occasions, Paul goes to extraordinary lengths to explain why he changed his plans about visiting Corinth. Here at the close of chapter one and the start of chapter two, he again accounts for his behavior and in doing so pulls back the curtain, so to speak, on his own heart and exposes the driving force in his life and ministry.

“But I call God to witness against me – it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4).

Some in Corinth felt that Paul’s behavior and change of travel plans was indicative of an arrogant and authoritative style of leadership. But the apostle is quick to remind them that it was neither indifference to their needs nor pompous posturing that governed his actions. Rather, he made his decisions based on what he believed would best serve their joy! Look again closely at v. 24 – “we work with you for your joy.”

The two verses at the close of chapter one deserve close attention. Obviously, Paul is concerned that his comments in v. 23 might lead to a false conclusion. His words, “Not that” or “This is not to say” is his way of introducing a clarification of what has preceded, lest they draw an unwarranted inference from he had said. Paul apparently fears that his statement about wanting to “spare” them (v. 23) could be misunderstood, as if he were presuming to have such authority over their lives that their every move was subject to his control or that his every move impacted their lives. “No,” says Paul. “I have no intention of trying to tyrannize your faith, nor could I even if I wanted to, for your faith rests in the power of God, not in me or the wisdom of any human being” (cf. 1 Cor. 2:5).

Ultimately, the Corinthians, as is true of all believers (including you), are accountable to God alone. Although they may have come to faith through Paul’s ministry, their faith is in God, not in an apostle or a pastor or an elder or a teacher or a theologian. “You have only one Lord,” says Paul, “and it ain’t me” (or something similar; cf. Rom. 14:4).

Both 1 and 2 Corinthians must have been difficult for the church to swallow. Paul had some harsh things to say to the church in Corinth (deservedly so, I might add). His rebukes often stung. He pulled no punches and cut no corners. As far as Paul was concerned, compromise was the language of contempt. If you love someone, you speak the truth, no matter how painful or discomfiting it may be. But in every case, beneath and behind every word in every verse in every chapter, Paul’s aim was the same: joy!

Unlike so many in his own day and even more in ours, Paul didn’t discharge his apostolic calling to expand his personal power or to broaden his influence or to bolster his reputation or to increase his control, far less to pad his bank account, but to intensify their joy in Jesus.

Paul can almost be heard to say, “Whether I’m rebuking you for sectarianism in the church (1 Corinthians 3) or laxity in moral conduct (1 Corinthians 5-6) or abuse of spiritual power (1 Corinthians 12-14), my aim is your joy in Jesus. Whether I appeal to you to be financially generous (2 Corinthians 8-9) or warn you of false apostles (2 Corinthians 11), my aim is your joy in Jesus.”

Should Paul have been pressed for an explanation, he would have said: “I aim to intensify their joy because apart from their souls relishing and resting in the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ, they don’t stand a chance against Satan.” I believe he would have answered like the good Christian Hedonist that he was: “I work for your joy because God is most glorified in you Corinthians (and all believers) when you are most pleased and satisfied and enthralled with the plenitude of divine beauty seen only in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Let’s be clear about one thing: the joy for which Paul labored and prayed and preached should never be thought of in terms of “feeling good about yourself” or living in the lap of luxury. This joy is far and away removed from any form of self-indulgent smugness or that superficial psychological giddiness that comes from reaping the material comforts of western society.

The joy that Paul has in mind is a deep, durable delight in the splendor of God that utterly ruins you for anything else. It is a whole-souled savoring of the spiritual sweetness of Jesus that drives out all competing pleasures and leads the soul to rest content with the knowledge of God and the blessings of intimacy with him. This is the kind of joy that, rather than being dependent on material and physical comfort, actually frees you from bondage to it and liberates you from sinful reliance on worldly conveniences and gadgets and gold.

Paul’s commitment to their joy in Jesus was motivated, at least in part, by his belief that Satan was no less committed to their joy in the passing pleasures of sin (cf. Hebrews 11:25). He knew all too well that the diabolical strategy of the enemy is to seduce us into believing that the world and the flesh and sinful self-indulgence can do for our weary and broken hearts what God can’t (or won’t).

This is the battle that we face each day. We awaken to a world at war for the allegiance of our minds and the affections of our souls. The winner will be whoever can persuade us that he will bring greatest and most soul-satisfying joy. That is why Paul labored and prayed so passionately and sacrificially for joy in Jesus in the hearts of that first-century church.

To reinforce his point, he tells them in the opening verses of chapter two that if he had visited them when he had first planned to do so it would only have led to the diminishing of their joy and thus the deprivation of his own. “If I had come at that time,” says Paul, “I would have been compelled to deal with your unrepentant sin. It would have been unprofitably painful for you. And if you are in anguish, your joy is lessened. And if your joy is lessened, so too is mine in you.” This is why Paul delayed his trip, namely, to give them opportunity to put their house in order so that upon his arrival their joy in Jesus might enrich his and his joy in Jesus might in turn enrich theirs.

As you consider your involvement in the lives of others or your ministry to the broader body of Christ, do you consciously think in advance: What can I do to help them set aside obstacles to full and lasting satisfaction in Jesus? What can I do to portray the glory and beauty of Christ so that the allure of the world, the flesh, and the devil loses its luster? How can I live that others might see in me the superior pleasures that are found in Christ alone?

I awakened this morning, as did you, and as the Corinthians did each day of their lives, with an unshakeable, inescapable, relentless longing for joy. I can’t wash it from my skin in the shower or hold my breath in hopes that it will disappear. Psychological catharsis will not drive it from me. Willpower will not suppress its influence. And contrary to much so-called “Christian” counsel, I should not exorcise its presence or pray for its defeat.

Paul’s counsel to them and to us, I believe, is to pursue God’s presence where “fullness of joy” may be found (Ps. 16:11), to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), to drink from the river of his delights (Ps. 36:8), and to avail ourselves of every means possible to increase and intensify our delight and satisfaction in him who is joy incarnate.

Writing for your joy

– Sam Storms

A Normal Day in the Life of George Whitefield

Sunday, March 4, 1739 – Age 24

Rose much refreshed in spirit and gave my early attendants a warm exhortation as usual. Went to Newgate and preached with power to an exceedingly thronged congregation. Then hastened to Hannam Mount, three miles from the city, where the miners live altogether. God favored us in the weather. Over four thousand were ready to hear me and God enabled me to preach with the demonstration of the Spirit.

The ground not being high enough, I stood upon a table and the sight of the people covering the green fields, and their deep attention, please me much. I hope that same Lord, who fed so many thousands with bodily bread, will feed all their souls with the Bread which cometh down from Heaven, for many came from far away.

At four in the afternoon, I went to the mount on Rose Green and preached to over fourteen thousand souls. God was so good to allow all to be able to hear me. I think it was worth while to come many miles to see such a sight. I spoke with great freedom, but thought all the while, as I do continually, when I ascend the mount, that hereafter I shall suffer, as well as speak, for my Master’s sake. Lord, strengthen me for that hour. Lord, I believe (O help my unbelief!) that Thy grace will be more sufficient for me.

In the evening I expounded at Baldwin Street Society, but could not get up to the room without the utmost difficulty, as the entry and court were much filled with people. Blessed be God, the number of hearers much increases and as my day is, so is my strength. Tonight I returned home much more refreshed in joy and longed to be dissolved and to be with Jesus Christ. This has been a sabbath indeed to my soul!

– George Whitefield

Cinderella no more!

2 Cor. 1.21-22

Theologian Alister McGrath once identified the Holy Spirit as “the Cinderella of the Trinity. The other two sisters,” he said, “may have gone to the theological ball; the Holy Spirit got left behind every time” (Christian Theology, 240). My, my, how times have changed! Contemporary interest in the person and ministry of the Spirit is unparalleled in the history of the church. As a result, passages such as 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 are being given renewed attention. It’s hard to imagine two verses anywhere in Scripture that speak more directly and powerfully of the work of the Spirit than do these:

“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

I want to draw our attention in this passage to three glorious truths concerning the Spirit, the third of which being the primary focus of this meditation.

First, God the Father has “anointed” us with the Spirit, even as he anointed Jesus. Paul deliberately juxtaposes two words to highlight this remarkable truth. Here is a translation that makes the point unmistakably:

“It is God who establishes us with you in ‘Christ’ (christon) and ‘christed’ (chrisas) us.” Or again:

“It is God who establishes us with you in the anointed one and anointed us.”

Thus, just as Jesus said of himself, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me” (Luke 4:18), likewise Christians are spoken of as anointed ones because we too have received the same Holy Spirit and are thus set apart and empowered to serve God and authorized to act on his behalf. The Spirit who indwelt and energized the ministry of Jesus indwells and energizes us! All Christians, therefore, are anointed (as confirmed also in 1 John 2:20-21,27).

Second, God has “sealed” us with his Spirit. As Paul said in Ephesians 1:13, “in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (cf. also Eph. 4:30).

The term “seal”, when used literally, referred to a stamped impression in wax pointing to ownership and protection. When used metaphorically, it meant (1) to authenticate (John 3:33; 6:27; 1 Cor. 9:2) or confirm as genuine and true, including the idea that what is sealed is stamped with the character of its owner; (2) to designate or mark out as one’s property; to declare and signify ownership (see Rev. 7:3-8; 9:4); or (3) to render secure or to establish (i.e., protect; cf. Eph. 4:30; Matt. 27:66; Rev. 20:3).

With what, precisely, are we sealed? Both Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30 would appear to suggest that the seal is the Spirit himself, “by whom God has marked believers and claimed them for his own” (Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 807). In other words, it isn’t so much that the Spirit does the sealing as the Spirit is the seal (although it certainly could be both). Hence, sealing is nothing less than the reception and consequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Third, God the Father has “given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” Before we explore this word translated “guarantee” (or “pledge”), I want to draw our attention to something all Christians experience.

I have in mind that ill-defined but inescapable ache in your heart for something better, that instinctive sense that all is not as it should be, that there is a world yet to come where justice will prevail and truth will be known and peace will reign and all will love righteousness and beauty will radiate and permeate everything. You know what I’m talking about. One struggles to put it in words. It’s as if you’ve been allowed to smell the flower but not see it, taste the feast, but not consume it.

I suppose there are even times when we’d just as soon not at all be aware, even in the slightest degree, of the “not yet” in God’s redemptive purposes. The frustration in knowing it is coming but not seeing it is often more than one can endure. It would almost be better never to have caught a glimpse of the glory to come than to have seen it but be compelled to continue life in its absence. But then we come to our senses. “Of course I’m glad to have touched the reality of future glory, if only in part, if only in a passing glance, if only in a gentle twinge in my spirit that says, Wait, be patient, it will be worth it all.”

Where does it come from, this unfulfilled confidence in what is not yet, this unconsummated longing for what we can’t see? It’s as if we are given just enough water to sustain us in the desert, with the ever echoing reassurance that an oasis of unimaginable and transcendent refreshment is just beyond our grasp.

It comes from the deposit of the Holy Spirit in our hearts! On three occasions Paul describes the Spirit as the down payment, the pledge, or as the ESV renders it here in 2 Corinthians 1:22, the guarantee. The term (arrabon) itself was used in commercial transactions to refer to the first installment of the total amount due. The down payment effectively guaranteed the fulfillment of whatever contractual obligations were assumed. “The Spirit, therefore,” says Fee, “serves as God’s down payment in our present lives, the certain evidence that the future has come into the present, the sure guarantee that the future will be realized in full measure” (807). John Eadie’s explanation beautifully sums up Paul’s point:

“It is the token that the whole sum stipulated for will be given when the term of service expires. The earnest is not withdrawn, but is supplemented at the appointed period. . . . But the earnest, though it differ in degree, is the same in kind with the prospective inheritance. The earnest is not withdrawn, nor a totally new circle of possessions substituted. Heaven is but an addition to present enjoyments. Knowledge in heaven is but a development of what is enjoyed on earth; its holiness is but the purity of time elevated and perfected; and its happiness is no new fountain opened in the sanctified bosom, but only the expansion and refinement of those susceptibilities which were first awakened on earth by confidence in the Divine redeemer. The earnest, in short, is the ‘inheritance’ in miniature, and it is also a pledge that the inheritance shall be ultimately and fully enjoyed” (67-8).

In giving the Holy Spirit to us, writes Peter O’Brien, “God is not simply promising us our final inheritance but actually providing us with a foretaste of it, even if it ‘is only a small fraction of the future endowment’” (121).

In other words, when you become consciously and experientially aware of the presence within of transcendent deity, of a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory, of a power that triumphs over the allure of fleshly lusts, of a delight that is sweeter than the passing pleasures of sin, of a satisfaction that puts earthly success to shame, you are sensing, if only in small measure, what will be yours in infinite and unending degree in the age to come!

It is nothing less than the precious Spirit of God quickening your soul to the reality of what awaits us on the other side, assuring you that he is here, “in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1:22b), to guarantee that all God has promised will come to pass. We have it on no less authority than the Holy Spirit himself that what we sense in our spirit now is a foretaste of what we will see and hear and feel and taste and enjoy throughout the ages to come in all the fullness of God himself.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

– Sam Storms

The Word and Prayer

The Christian life demands that we live in the Word of God as a fish lives in the sea. By this I do not mean that we study the Bible merely or that we take a course in Bible doctrine. I mean that we should meditate day and night in the sacred Word, that we should love it and feast upon it, digesting it every hour of the day and night. But we find the Bible difficult because we try to read it like we would read any other book, and it is not the same as any other book.

Concerning prayer, we must retire from the world each day to some private spot, even if it be only a bedroom. (For a while, I slipped away into the furnace room of my house for lack of a better place.) Then stay in the secret place until the surrounding noise begins to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelops you. Deliberately tune out the unpleasant sounds and come out of your closet determined not to hear them.

Listen for the inward Voice of the Spirit until you learn to recognize it. Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think. Reduce your interests to a few. Don’t try to know what will be of no service to you. Avoid the digest type of mind– shorts bits of unrelated facts, cute stories, and bright sayings. Learn to pray inwardly continually. After a while, you will do this even while you work. Practice candor and childlike honest humility. Pray for a single eye. Read less, but read more of what is important to your inner growth. Never let your mind remain scattered for very long. Call home your roving thoughts and gaze on Christ with the eye of your soul, practicing spiritual concentration.

Then fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed.

– A. W. Tozer