Category Archives: bible study

The Fountain of Life, Part 1

fountain2015This week I returned to reading one of the Puritans – John Flavel (1628?-1691). I had first read Flavel a little over six years ago and his work called Facing Grief: Counsel for Mourners. I read this a few weeks after my dad passed away in 2010 and don’t think I was ready for the counsel at the time. But I’ve heard enough good things about Flavel since and decided it was time to return to his writings. Sinclair Ferguson counts Flavel and Thomas Watson as perhaps the two easiest Puritans to read. He may be right.

The Fountain of Life is described as a series of 42 of Flavel’s sermons that “…display Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory”. I’m only three sermons in but am grateful for the things that Flavel has opened my eyes to already. The first sermon, titled “The Excellency of the Subject”, uses 1 Corinthians 2:2 as its basic text. I would summarize Flavel’s message in this sermon as understanding that there is no knowledge so great as that of Christ and knowing Him. Flavel asks us to compare the excellency of knowing Christ to the mere natural things of this world: “O how much time is spent in other studies, in vain discourses, frivolous pamphlets, worldly employments. How little is the search and study of Jesus Christ.” I have to say this is a daily struggle for me – it is always tempting to latch on to the “low hanging fruit” that comes through my phone notifications, breaking news, sports updates, and other areas. These pass through my mind as easily as they come in, but they can still consume a great deal of time. Flavel warns of this danger: “O beware, lest the dust of the earth, getting into your eyes, so blind you, that you never see the beauty or necessity of Christ.”

Something else I found helpful from Flavel – his belief that we should always strive to see how the essential truths of Christianity fit together, like a fine watch, rather than just seeing the individual wheels and pieces and struggling to make sense of the greater themes. Meditating on 1 Corinthians 2:2 is important here: “Even so the right knowledge of Jesus Christ, like a clue, leads you through the whole labyrinth of the Scriptures.” I tend to get bogged down in bits and pieces, especially when reading the Old Testament. Flavel’s encouragement here is something that may fit well in the flyleaf of our Bibles.

I’m glad to have returned to the writings of John Flavel. I hope to write more as I progress through this work.

 

Christ Over All

“In a commendable concern to do justice to the reality of the satanic order, and the seriousness of the Christian calling, we need to be alert to appearing to undermine Christ’s universal creative sovereignty and Easter victory. ‘Never forget’, as Luther said, ‘the devil is God’s devil.’ All authority in heaven and earth now belongs to the crucified and risen one (Mt. 28: 18), in vindication of his primeval creative mastery. The full demonstration of his rule awaits his appearing, but its reality is already proclaimed in both creation and redemption.”

– Bruce Milne, from The Message of John

Opening Our Eyes

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” – Psalm 119:18 (NASB)

I find that whenever my Bible reading goes into a rut that turning to Psalm 119 is a great tonic. Here we find 176 verses that meditate on the wonder of God’s Word. The psalmist asks God to open his eyes in the verse above, and I find this to be a great prayer as I open my Bible.

In the 8th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus and His disciples come to Bethsaida, where Jesus heals a blind man. After Jesus spits on his eyes and lays hands on him, the man sees partially and states in verse 24, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then Jesus lays His hands on him again, and the man’s sight is restored in full. I’ve often wondered why this healing takes place in two stages. But I can identify with the man after he is healed partially. There are so many things that I see and focus my time on that are of no lasting value, yet many of God’s truths seem cloudy. God’s truths seem like those hazy trees, and then it’s only after allowing God’s Word to penetrate through the mist that I can see again and remember His great promises. The longer I go without focusing on God’s Word intently – as the psalmist does so extensively in Psalm 119 – the hazier it is when I try to see. Verse 18 from this wonderful Psalm, and the account in Mark 8, reminds me of the importance of this.

A View of Grace

Mont_Blanc_oct_2004

“In the forest on the high banks of the river Aar, just outside the town, there is a bench where you can sit and enjoy an unusually good view of the Alps. But the clearing which makes this view possible is continually being overgrown and the trees have to be cut back every few years. In the same way, our view of grace is constantly being obscured by the cares of our time and the riches of the world, so that it is necessary to have our view of grace cleared not only every few years, but Sunday after Sunday, indeed even daily.”

-Walter Lüthi, from The Letter to the Romans, pg. xi

True Religion

Amos

Amos the Prophet

“In personal terms, true religion is to respond fully to the grace and law of God, living out the law in a life of obedience, resting on the grace both for ability and forgiveness; towards God, true religion is a reverent hearing and receiving of His Word; and towards other people it appears as honesty, considerateness and unfailing concern for the needy. Take these things away and what remains does nothing more than invite the adverse judgment of God.”

– J. Alec Motyer, from The Message of Amos, p. 18

Secure in Christ

“Once Jesus entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, He did not leave, as did the Jewish high priests. Rather, ‘He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:3). And Jesus remains there forever as the guardian of our souls. Such absolute security is almost incomprehensible. Not only are our souls anchored within the impregnable, inviolable heavenly sanctuary, but our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, stands guard over them as well!”

– John MacArthur, from “Saved Without a Doubt”

Tests from 1 John

“So, then, the essential of a Christian character is that the light of purity and moral goodness shall be as the very orb, in the midst of which it stands and advances. That implies effort, and it implies activity, and it implies progress. And we are only Christians in the measure in which the conscious activities of our daily lives, and the deepest energies of our inward being, are bathed and saturated with this love of, and effort after, righteousness. It is vain, says John, to talk about fellowship with God, unless the fellowship is rooted in sympathy with Him in that which is the very heart of his Being, the perfect light of perfect holiness. Test your Christianity by that.”

– Alexander Maclaren