Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charles Haddon Spurgeon on Depression

It's Tuesday again, so I'm again featuring an article from Jim Elliff's ministry, Christian Communicators Online. You can find numerous short articles on their site, http://www.bulletininserts.org/, this one included.

Mingling Groans of Painand Songs of Hope
Charles Haddon Spurgeon on Depression

It's a good thing he wasn't born in the 20th century. Many believing brothers and sisters would label his tendency to melancholy sinful, or evidence of a lack of self-discipline, or even the result of shallow faith. A psychologist would probably send him away with a prescription and a self-help book with twelve easy steps to overcome depression. But Charles Haddon Spurgeon, perhaps the greatest preacher of the 19th century, had a different attitude toward his affliction.

Spurgeon knew "by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between." He warned his students, "Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy." Although he said, "Spiritual darkness of any sort is to be avoided, and not desired," he never assumed that a Christian suffering depression must necessarily be in sin. Instead, he wrote, "I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God's people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night."

Spurgeon goes on in his book, Lectures to my Students, to give some of the reasons believers fall into sadness. He also provides hope for those so overtaken.

"Is it not first, that they are men?" Spurgeon acknowledged that being a Christian did not make a man or woman immune from suffering. In fact, he said, "Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them. It is of need be that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world." But he points out that through this suffering, we "may learn sympathy with the Lord's suffering people." Paul says something similar in 2 Corinthians 1:4; God "comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

"Most of us are in some way or another unsound physically." Spurgeon suffered terribly with a joint disorder that was diagnosed as gout. He was forced to stay in bed, sometimes for weeks at a time in excruciating pain. "I have been brought very low," he wrote to his congregation during one long bout, "My flesh has been tortured with pain and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. . . . With some difficulty I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope."

With characteristic balance, Spurgeon understood that physical pain and natural temperament contribute to depression, but did not allow his students to use them as an excuse for despair. "These infirmities may be no detriment to a man's career of special usefulness," he said. "They may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish."

"In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labor, the same affliction may be looked for." Spurgeon's schedule was exhausting. In a typical week, he preached ten times. He answered approximately 500 letters, taught in a ministerial college, administrated an orphanage and dealt with dozens of individuals concerning their souls. He wrote for publications, entertained visitors at his home, taught his own family and encouraged his bedridden wife. It is no wonder that his health suffered under such a workload. Spurgeon's church finally insisted on regular vacations for him each year. Spurgeon told his students, "The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. . . . Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength."

"One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low." On October 19, 1856, the 22 year old Spurgeon spoke for the first time in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall in London. The church was no longer big enough to contain the crowds of people who wanted to hear him preach. Thousands packed into the music hall, seating themselves in aisles and stairways after all the regular seating was full, and hundreds more waited outside, hoping to hear part of the sermon through the windows. Just after Spurgeon began to pray, someone in a balcony shouted "Fire!" People pushed and shoved to get out of the building, and a stair railing gave way under the pressure. Seven people were killed and 28 more were injured. The tender-hearted Spurgeon never completely recovered from the emotional impact of this incident. He wrote, "I was pressed beyond measure and out of bounds with an enormous weight of misery. The tumult, the panic, the deaths, were day and night before me, and made life a burden."

Many have experienced a natural disaster, the death of a loved one, devastating financial loss or overwhelming disappointment when a child or a fellow believer has fallen into sin. Spurgeon offers hope from his own experience. "The fact that Jesus is still great, let his servants suffer as they may, piloted me back to calm reason and peace. Should so terrible a calamity overtake any of my brethren, let them both patiently hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God."

"The lesson from wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble." In the end, Spurgeon acknowledged that depression may come to some believers for no discernable reason. He did not consider it an illness, a sin, or surprising condition, but an inevitable season in the life of a Christian and an opportunity to demonstrate trust in the God who will one day wipe away every tear.

Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith's rare wisdom
enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places
her hand in that of her Great Guide.

—Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students

Copyright © 2007 Susan Verstraete.Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in exact form including copyright and web address. Other uses require written permission. www.CCWonline.org

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spread the Word!

I wanted Yom Kippur to stay at the top till .. well, Yom Kippur (Saturday) but this deal on the ESV just needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

Did you know you can buy the ESV Outreach New Testament for just $0.50 a copy!?! That's right, 1/2 a dollar! Two quarters! Five dimes! Fifty pennies! Not only that but this is a really good translation. At least RC Sproul, John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, and tons of others think so. It's supposedly very true to the Greek while being so fluid and easy to read! Take a look online and see for yourself! ESV Online

This Outreach NT is also packed with tons of features you'd want to put in the hands of people!

Follow this link to read more about the ESV Outreach NT and some ideas for getting it out there in the hands of those who need it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Was Your Yom Kippur?

I plan to feature a number of articles by Christian Communicators Worldwide here on Promoting Christ. CCW is a ministry of Jim Elliff. I encourage you to browse his site for a TON of resources (articles, sermons, books, ministry tools, CD's and more!) Every Tuesday (until further notice), I'll feature another article from CCW. This one sheds light on Yom Kippur, which takes place Saturday, 9/22/07. (I emailed Jim to ask permission to share his resources and he promptly replied and welcomed me to share the materials. What a neat guy! Enjoy!

When Was Your Yom Kippur?

Daryl Wingerd

Yom Kippur is Hebrew for "The Day of Atonement." The modern observance of this day by Jews around the world is based on the annual ceremony prescribed by God for Old Testament Jews in Leviticus 16. On this day the Jewish high priest would sacrifice a bull, two rams, and a male goat as atonement for his sins and the sins of the people. The high priest would take some of the blood of the bull and the goat inside the holy of holies where he would sprinkle it on the mercy seat—the place on top of the ark of the covenant between the two golden cherubim. A second goat was then led away into the wilderness, symbolically carrying away the sins of the Jewish people. One modern Jewish source describes the importance of the high priest's work this way:

The eyes of all Israel were raised toward the Kohen Gadol's [high priest's] order of service, which began toward the break of dawn. On his success, the atonement of all Israel was dependent.1

The work of the Jewish high priest on the Day of Atonement was unarguably essential for God's Old Covenant people. First of all, God commanded that it be done, so any neglect of the ordinance would have been disobedience. Secondly, we know that "without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). But even in the Old Testament, there are clear indicators that the work of the Jewish high priest and the shedding of the blood of animals on the Day of Atonement was only symbolic, not effective as an atonement for sin.

Abraham, for example, was reckoned by God as righteous (i.e., justified) on the basis of faith well before the Levitical system of sacrifices was instituted (cf. Gen. 15:6). Other prophets, writing hundreds of years after the laws of sacrifice were given, spoke of atonement for sins through a future sacrifice. Consider, for example, the words of Isaiah as he spoke of the Messiah:

He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall upon Him. (Is. 53:5-6).

Although Isaiah seems to be speaking in the past tense, as if the event he was describing had already happened, a few verses later he affirms the forward-looking purpose of God, saying that the Messiah "will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities" (v. 11, emphasis added).

Most importantly, the New Testament assures us that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). The Jewish temple and the mercy seat inside the holy of holies were merely "copies of the things in the heavens" (Heb. 9:23). These copies could be ceremonially cleansed by sprinkling them with the blood of animals, "but the heavenly things themselves" required "better sacrifices than these" (Heb. 9:23). Thankfully,

Christ [the Messiah] did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. 9:24-26)

We do indeed rely on the work of a Jewish High Priest for the atonement of our sins, but not a priest who is "prevented by death from continuing" (Heb. 7:23). The only High Priest whose work makes an eternal difference is the One who died and rose again—Jesus Christ, who, "because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently" (Heb. 7:23). Only this High Priest is "able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:24). Furthermore, Jesus "does not need daily [or annually], like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (Heb. 7:27).

Many people around the world observe Yom Kippur as though the annual ceremony were necessary to please God. The truth is, however, the real and final Yom Kippur occurred on a tragic yet victorious day in first-century Palestine. Jesus Christ fully accomplished the salvation of God's New Covenant people, consisting not only of many Jews, but people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9). On that true Day of Atonement, God's great High Priest offered Himself once as the only effective sacrifice for sin. Any continuing work by another priest is unnecessary—actually futile—because, as Paul says, "there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the One who "bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).

In the words of Jesus Christ Himself, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).


1Orthodox Union website, http://www.ou.org/chagim/yomkippur/ykavodah.htm

Copyright © 2007 Daryl Wingerd. Permission granted for reproduction in exact form. All other uses require written permission www.CCWonline.org

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Christ Raises the Dead!

On the bus ride home Monday, I settled into the very back seat of the bus, excited about spending time in God’s Word. I read in John 11 how “Jesus wept” then raised his beloved friend, Lazarus from the dead. This mighty demonstration of His deity and authority over death happend even after four days of decay!

My relative solitude was disturbed when a 40-something, disheveled man took the seat next to me. I didn’t notice him at first, and tried to keep my nose in my Bible, but his odor and apparent desire to talk woke me up. “How ya doing, sir? Good to see you’re reading the Bible.” I looked up and noticed right away he had a nasty black eye. “God bless you,” he said. “that’s the Lord’s work.”

I introduced myself, his name was Mark. I asked if he was a believer and read the Bible himself, and he explained how Jesus Christ came to die for his sins (of which he had repented) and had made Him his Lord and Savior. He was baptized as an infant in his dad’s church (when will I learn that EVERYBODY will proclaim their own goodness!). Only problem is … his life never changed and he continued to sin despite being "sorry". Was this man a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). He still cursed like a sailor and drank excessively (in fact he often pulled out his bottle of vadka from his bag to flavor his clear cup of ice water). The shiner I mentioned was received by some guys who—like himself—don’t act much like Christians. He also complained of broken ribs from being shot recently. Amazingly he constantly gave credit to God’s grace for his even being alive.

His sad story included jail time (I didn’t ask what he was “in for”) and some pretty shocking and tragic family history. I thanked God for His longsuffering and for placing him next to me on the bus.

As Mark shared his story, I prayed and listened and did my best to steer the discussion. He gladly welcomed questions, which I used to try to guide the conversation. This proved to be somewhat like like pushing one of those shopping carts with an obstinate wheel that points the wrong direction! Soon, though, God allowed me to explain to Mark his need to consider his standing before God, and the urgency of testing his salvation in light of his life and Scripture.

To my amazement Mark freely admitted he should be reading the Bible. As if he expected me to pull one out for him, he said he would gladly take one if I had it. The day before this, I had SIX gift New Testaments in my backpack, but I had inexplicably taken them out! I’m ashamed now that I didn’t offer him my new ESV Bible (later I felt like Gollum in LOTR!)

"My precious!"

I did have some Gospel tracts with me and several printed copies of the Bible verses MacArthur put together in showing how to present the Gospel to your children in his book on parenting, (see my last blog, Bad News First, Please!) This is one of the the most biblically comprehensive presentations of the Gospel I’ve seen! Mark coached me to present what I had, but often interrupted to tell about his hard life.

The more I learned about Mark, the more I thanked God that I’m na├»ve and trusting, because if I'd known this man was as scary as I later learned (he claimed to have killed a man!), I never would talked so candidly with him. In fact, I felt very at ease ... aside from the profanity, I rather enjoyed his open-minded honesty (was it the boos?)

I later became aware that my voice was carrying and those around us were listening as well, though no one seemed to want to join our conversation (or even make eye contact!) I remember wishing I’d spent more time memorizing the Gospel passages! Boy, how I struggled to present a clear message! If I had recorded the conversation, I could sell copies to show how NOT to witness!

But God is sovereign, and Mark appreciated that I seemed to care. The bus arrived at the parking lot of the Great Mall and we "stumbled off", Mark because he was now drunk, and me because of my excitement, and because I can’t walk and witness (or even pray) at the same time! A light rain began to fall and a gust of wind scattered the 4-page Gospel printout I gave him. No worries, I took out another copy and took the liberty of putting it directly in his backpack!

As we waited for my bus, I encouraged Mark—with a burden and passion for this man that only Christ could have ignited—to turn his back on the sin in his life, throwing it away from him like he would a live hand grenade (if you hold on to it will destroy you), and to run to Christ in faith! I think I heard this from reading an entry in Adventures in Christianity. I'll never forget that when it was time for me to go, Mark gave me a hug and thanked me for sharing with him.

Not sure what will happen to Mark. A relative of his agreed to give him some work the next morning, if he was sober and showed up at 7:00 am. That truly would be only something God could orchestrate after watching him put the vadka away.
He told me he would read everything I gave him, and would pray to God that night, about what we talked about. He didn’t think he could give up “the drink” because his pain was so great, but I told him over and over he needed to turn his back on it. I also encouraged him not to try to clean himself up, but that God will take him where he's at. I heard MacArthur say once that God justifies sinners and makes them righteous, not the other way around. We don’t get ourselves righteous by cleaning up our life so that God will accept us! This man has nothing to offer God, nor does anyone! “A person cannot receive anything unless it has been given him from heaven (John 3:25-30)” We’re all sinful creatures who only seek our own good. Without God's grace, and Christ's transformation of our lives, we would be just as pitiful and despicable as this man. In fact, we'd still be dead spiritually (Eph 2:4).

Unless God changes Mark’s heart and imparts a new life to him, he’s without hope. Pastor Neal (one of our associate pastors at Countryside) preached Sunday night on Romans 5:1-3. The phrase that I took from that is “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” For Christians who God has transformed, we have a hope that is certain. The Greek for “hope” used in this verse doesn’t leave any doubt as to the outcome. Our English word says “I hope the weather will be nice," this hope is used to convey something that is inevitable! Like Lazarus, all believers were once dead and without hope, but Christ has called us out of our tomb of sin. I pray that Mark will receive that same call and will "come forth" as well. May Jesus Christ, “The Resurrection and the Life” receive all the glory!
If you do not have an assurance of your salvation, take a minute and take this test to see if you are "good enough" to get to Heaven: Good Person Test

About Me

Here is my testimony: mike