It is at once the most Christlike and the most happy course for a believer to cease from living to himself. He who blesses others cannot fail to be blessed himself. On the other hand, to seek our own personal greatness is a wicked and unhappy plan of life, its way will be grievous and its end will be fatal.
“We must learn to think again about the Christian Church. Our whole approach has become subjective. It is subjective in evangelism, it is subjective in the teaching of sanctification, it is subjective from beginning to end. We start with ourselves, and our own needs and problems, and God is an agency to supply an answer, to give us what we need, but it is all wrong.
Evangelism, and everything else, must start with God and his glory. The God who is over all and to whom all things belong. It is because men are not glorifying him that they need to be saved, not to have some little personal problem solved. And if the motive for evangelism is to fill the Churches, it is doomed to failure. Of course, you may fill your Churches, and it will not help you, it will not avail you, it will not make any difference to the main problems. It is this conception of the Church as the people of God, who bear his name and who have been brought into being by him, it is this that matters.
We must cease to think of the Church as a gathering of institutions and organisations, and we must get back this notion that we are the people of God. And that it is for his name’s sake, and because his name is upon us, we must plead for the Church. Yes, and for her glory and her honour, because she is his.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival
To instance in the duty of prayer: it is manifest, we are not appointed, in this duty, to declare God’s perfections, his majesty, holiness, goodness, and all-sufficiency; our own meanness, emptiness, dependence, and unworthiness, our wants and desires, in order to inform God of these things, or to incline his heart, and prevail with him to be willing to show us mercy; but rather suitably to affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask.
“So I venture to urge you to be patient, but determined. Do not lose heart. Watch the disciplines of your Christian life. Be diligent in daily prayer and Bible reading, in church going and attendance at the Lord’s Supper. Make good use of your Sundays. Read helpful books. Seek out Christian friends. Get busy in some form of service. Never leave your sin unconfessed and unforgiven. Never allow a pocket of resistance to arise in your heart. Above all, yield yourself without reserve each day to the power of the Holy Spirit who is within you. Then step by step you will advance along the road of holiness and grow towards full maturity.”—John Stott, Christian Basics
“All temptation is temptation of Jesus Christ and all victory is victory of Jesus Christ. All temptation leads the believer into the deepest solitude, into abandonment by men and by God. But in this solitude he finds Jesus Christ, man and God. The blood of Christ and the example of Christ and the prayer of Christ are his help and his strength.”—D. Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall
If man were happy, the less he were diverted the happier he would be, like the saints and God. Yes: but is a man not happy who can find delight in diversion?
No: because it comes from somewhere else, from the outside; so he is dependent, and always liable to be disturbed by a thousand and one accidents, which inevitable cause distress.
However sad a man may be, if you can persuade him to take up some diversion he will be happy while it lasts, and however happy a man may be, if he lacks diversion and has no absorbing passion or entertainment to keep boredom away, he will soon be depressed and unhappy. Without diversion there is no joy; with diversion there is no sadness.
“The wasted years, the barren years, the years that the locusts and the canker-worms and the caterpillars and all these other things have devoured, until there was nothing apparently left, of them He says: ‘I will restore to you the years that the locust have eaten’.
If you think of it in terms of what you can do with your strength and power, then time is the essence of the contract. But we are in a realm in which that does not matter. He comes in and He can give us a crop in one year that will make up for ten—‘I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten’. That is the character of our Master, that is our Saviour, that is our God.
I say, therefore, in the light of this: Never look back again; never waste your time in the present; never waste your energy; forget the past and rejoice in the fact that you are what you are by the grace of God, and that in the Divine alchemy of His marvelous grace you may yet have the greatest surprise of your life and existence and find that even in your case it will come to pass that the last shall be first. Praise God for the fact that you are what you are, and that you are in the Kingdom.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression
“Satan does not often attack a Christian who is living near to God. It is when the Christian departs from his God, becomes spiritually starved, and endeavours to feed on vanities, that the devil discovers his vantage hour. He may sometimes stand foot to foot with the child of God who is active in his Master’s service, but the battle is generally short.”—C.H. Spurgeon
“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.”—Clyde Kilby, Resolutions
“If you insist on holding on to yourself and living for yourself and refusing to let yourself go, you will lose yourself. But if you are prepared to lose yourself, to give yourself away in love for God and your fellow human beings, then in that moment of complete abandon, when you think you have lost everything, the miracle takes place and you find yourself.”—John Stott, Why I Am a Christian
“Of all the temptations that I’ve ever experienced in my life, the questioning of God’s existence, and wondering about the truth of the gospel, is the worst. When these temptations come, it’s like losing my belt, and the ground underneath me falls away. I’ve often thought of the words, “With the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14), and, “When the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?” (Psalms 11:3).”—John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (paraphrased)
“It dawned on me for the first time, really. It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw…a child…I just thought: “Wow!” Just that poetry…Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable.
There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. Because that’s exactly what we were talking about earlier: love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It’s actually logical. It’s pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.”—Bono, In Coversation with Michka Assayas
“What makes you a Christian is that God does something to you. It is not that you take up Christianity, but that it takes hold of you; that a mighty power comes upon you and does something to you and turns you from what you were into something else. And because it is this power of God, it is something that affects our lives and actions profoundly; it is not just something on the surface, but something that God the Creator does and does in the depth of the soul. There is nothing greater than this ‘power of God unto salvation’.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God
“If we have no sense of responsibility for the condition of humanity at this moment, then there is only one thing to say—if we are Christians at all we are very poor ones. If we are only concerned about ourselves and our own happiness, and if the moral condition of society and the tragedy of the whole world does not grieve us, if we are not disturbed at the way in which men blaspheme the name of God and all the arrogance of sin—well what can be said about us?”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable
Legolas: Look at them. They’re frightened. I can see it in their eyes. And they should be. Three hundred against ten thousand! They cannot win this fight! They are all going to die!
Aragorn: Then I shall die as one of them!
I’ve been a way I shouldn’t be.
I became downcast and I fell into temptation that led to despair. I doubted God’s goodness, the sufficiency of Christ, and became blinded by sin.
In my foolishness and anger, I haphazardly tore down what had painstakingly been built, and from here, as the fall turns to winter, I’ve got to quickly rebuild again.
I’m regretful of the past couple months, but once again eager to get back on track and get my life together. I’ve been taught many lessons, so I’ve got to use them to keep going while continually trusting in Christ.
Legolas: We have trusted you this far, you have not led us astray. Forgive me. I was wrong to despair.
“The only value of religious services is that they concentrate into an hour or so of public, vocal, congregational activity the devotion of our whole life. If they do not do this, if instead we say and sing things in church which have no corollary in our everyday life outside church, at home and work, they are worse than worthless; their hypocrisy is positively nauseating to God.”—John Stott, Involvement
My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now, that’s not so easy.
There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my shit and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.
”—Bono, Bono: in conversation with Michkas Assayas
“Most of our troubles are due to the fact that we are guilty of a double failure; we fail on the one hand to realise the depth of sin, and on the other hand we fail to realise the greatness and the height and the glory of our salvation.
Oftentimes we are content to think of our salvation merely in terms of forgiveness of sins. Not that one wants to depreciate that, for there is nothing more wonderful or more glorious. My point is that to stop at that is surely tragic. And I verily believe that the whole condition and state of the Church today is largely due to the fact that we fail at both points.
It is because we never realise the depth of the pit out of which we have been brought by the grace of God that we do not thank God as we ought. And then there is our failure to realise the great heights to which He raised us.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation
“But all the blessings that [Christians] are enjoying are spiritual blessings. The lot of the Christian in this world is sometimes a difficult one; he is surrounded by problems and trials and tribulations; but he is ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places’. And if he realises this and dwells there, and sets his affections on things above, not on things on earth, he will rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation
“The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?”—Martin Luther, quoted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.
“What I am trying to say is this: I am certain that the world outside is not going to pay much attention to all the organized efforts of the Christian church. The one thing she will pay attention to is a body of people filled with this spirit of rejoicing. That is how Christianity conquered the ancient world. It was this amazing joy of these people. Even when you threw them into prison, or even to death, it did not matter, they went on rejoicing; rejoicing in tribulations.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable
“There is a sort of external religious practice, without inward experience, which in the sight of God is esteemed good for nothing. And there is what is called experience, that is without practice, being neither accompanied nor followed with a Christian behavior; and this is worse than nothing.”—Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
“Curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it; in other words, we would never travel by sea if it meant never talking about it, and for the sheer pleasure of seeing things we could never hope to describe to others.”—Blaise Pascal, Pensees
“Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven. Remember you cannot serve Him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them. The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”—John Wesley, Wesley’s Journal
Men who believe themselves noble-winded waste their lives in protesting against everything, in correcting every one, in writing scorching letters, in sowing hatred and strife under pretext of defending victims of such hatred and strife.
In this way everyone projects his own rebellion into the noblest causes which espouses. Each is leading his own crusade—so it is warfare on all fronts. Each allows himself to do wrong in the name of justice, and so justifies it. Every such act brings a reaction in kind from others, self-justified in like manner.
The Christian knows that the depth of injustice’s roots are to be found in man’s heart, yes, in his own heart. He knows that in order to be freed from this, a divine intervention is necessary without which the best of intentions are useless, as are the noblest of reforms and finest legal codes. They can be twisted, too, only to serve evil.
“Sin is the rebellious assertion of myself against the love and authority of God, and against the welfare of my neighbor. God’s order is that we put him first, our neighbor next and self last. Sin is precisely the reversal of that order—me first, neighbor next (when it suits my convenience) and God somewhere (if anywhere) in the distant background.”—John Stott, Why I Am a Christian
When God is pleased to enter into the intimate communion with the soul, his first action is to bestow an extraordinary knowledge and insight, through which the soul reflects on itself and on the world in a way that is altogether new. The enlightenment installs a holy fear, which stirs up in the soul a profound regret at all the years that have been wasted in idle pleasures. The soul now finds it can no longer enjoy these old pleasures, and even the though of them causes unease. Yet paradoxically the soul also feels a strange aversion to the invisible, spiritual joys of God. This is because the old visible pleasures, which still seem attractive as well as repulsive, are in direct opposition to the new invisible joys; and the only way the soul can escape this conflict is to turn inside for every form of joy. The shoul thus find itself in deep confusion and perplexity.
Astonishment The soul soon recognizes that many of its attachments are destined to pass away: its own mind and body; relatives and friends; possessions and reputation; authority and status; healthy, and even life itself. And it realizes that all these mortal, perishable things cannot satisfy its deepest desires, for the soul yearns for a stable, unchanging condition of bliss that will last for all eternity. The soul then feels astonished that for so long it had been blind to the mortality of her attachments, and blind to her own true needs. And she is astonished at how so many other people in the world are also blind. Thus to the initial confusion is added astonishment. The fact that such blindness is so common sows the seed of doubt, in which the soul wonders whether such perishable attachments are in fact the only source of pleasure, and thus the new insights are illusory. But then the soul remembers that everyone eventually discovers that worldly pleasures are mere dust, as health and life slip away.
Silence The soul now turns all her powers to the search for true goodness. And she realizes that true goodness must contain certain properties. It must be durable, like the soul herself. It must be secure, unable to be lost. And it must be so precious that the soul can conceive nothing more precious. The soul then concludes that God alone contains these properties; that nothing is worthy of the fullness of love other than God himself, who created love. The soul now rejoices that she has found true goodness that cannot be taken away from her. And she begins to contemplate the Creator in a state of profound humility and heartfelt adoration. She is conscious that in the presence of God she is as nothing. Nor can she form any clear idea of true goodness, since God in his glory is so far above her own experience. So she gives up trying to think about God, and now simply rests in his presence. Silence because her most natural form of prayer, since words and ideas can have so little grasp on the mystery of God.
Humility The soul now realizes that she has embarked on a journey without knowing the way. So, all humility, she turns to God, praying that, since he has been pleased to show himself to her, he will also guide her towards him. She asks God to be both her destination and her journey, and the companion who shows her the route. But God does not himself offer a guiding hand. Instead he prompts her to do what travelers on an earthly journey have to do: to ask other travelers, more familiar with the landscape, to give directions. Now the soul is compelled to swallow all pride, and ask for the spiritual course of fellow travelers.
Resolution The soul makes a firm resolution that for the rest of her life on earth she will live in conformity with God’s will. But the weakness of her human nature, and her tendency to fall back into those sins in which she formerly lived, mean that by herself she cannot keep the first resolution. So she makes a second resolution; to pray constantly to God to give her the strength to keep the first resolution in the way the soul acknowledges that it is her duty to worship God, since she is his creation; to give thanks to God, since he is the source of all joy; to see forgiveness for her persistent weakness; and to beg earnestly for his strength.
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.”—Samuel Rutherford