Though I haven’t blogged through them all, I’ve participated in almost all of Tim Challies’ initiative, “Reading Classics Together.” The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul is his next book choice. Will you read with me?
I’m really surprised by how short this chapter is. Sibbes doesn’t waste any words making a point; he gets right to it. This way of writing lends itself to producing one profound statement or phrase after another. I paused many times to really get it, to ponder where I see a truth manifested in my life (either in my past or present). This is how Sibbes ends the first chapter:
Hence we learn that we must not pass too harsh judgment upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head, Christ, who `was bruised for us’ (Isa. 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him.
Ungodly spirits, ignorant of God’s ways in bringing his children to heaven, censure broken hearted Christians as miserable persons, whereas God is doing a gracious, good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts.
It has been too long since I thanked God for the bruise. This reed was terribly bent in the wrong direction and has taken many bruisings. I’m sure I will need many more before all is said and done.
This season of my life alone is proving to be one of the most challenging physically, spiritually and emotionally. Just now, now that I’m forcing myself to take a good look, I can see several areas in which I’m resisting the bruise: propping myself up, moving forward (or in circles), cluttering life with activities in an effort to avoid what I want to avoid, refusing to accept what I don’t want to accept.
Whether the bruises come as a result of trial or temptation or weakness, it is so important that I remember a few things. First, the purpose behind the bruise is to conform me to Christ. Second, the force behind the bruising is always love. Third, I must keep my focus not on myself, but on Jesus, the one bruised for me. Finally, the bruise serves to increase my appreciation, though that’s probably not the best word to use, and devotion to Jesus.
Are you reading along as part of Challies’ Reading Classics Together project? Leave a comment or link so I can read your reaction to Chapter 1.
A few years ago Tim Challies started a little project he calls Reading Classics Together. It works like any book club — he picks a book, we read, blog and comment. It has proven an effective tool in helping many people persevere through reading some classic works of the faith. With Tim’s encouragement, I’ve read Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards (even though I read it about a year before Tim, I enjoyed skimming it again when he blogged it), and Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. Tim has chosen his next classic for his Reading Classics Together project: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. This one has been on my I-Want-To-Read list of books for a long time. Years. I don’t know why I haven’t already read it. But now I have a good reason to go ahead. Though I have not blogged through each of the RCT picks, I’ll probably blog this one; I’ve heard it’s a treasure trove.
This book is a collection of sermons of Sibbes from Matthew 12:20, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law” (Matthew 12:18-21).
It can be a scary realization: to see oneself as that weak reed or the barely flickering wick in the hands of a holy God. Many times I’ve prayed, “Lord, I’m barely making it…I don’t know if I can do this.” But the Lord has been compassionate and merciful. He’s lifted me, fanned into flame something I thought had gone out. And because Sibbes wrote with the heart of a pastor, I know this little book has much to say about knowing our God who deals so tenderly with his humble children.
Do you think you’ll read & blog along, too? Link up! And click the book cover to order from WTSBooks.
Tim’s latest book choice for RCT is Jonathan Edwards’, The Religious Affections. I’m reading it (again) along with him and several others. This past week I read (and listened to) Part I. I think I’m comprehending it better this time around, though I’m still wary of writing anything about it. Tim’s summary and discussion are excellent, as is the comment thread. Even if you’re not reading the book, you will gain something from reading his post for Part I.
Man had done his worst. The One by whom the world was made had come into it, but the world knew Him not. The Lord of Glory had tabernacled among men, but He was not wanted. The eyes that sin had blinded saw in Him no beauty that He should be desired. At His birth there was no room in the inn, which foreshadowed the treatment He was to receive at the hands of men. Shortly after His birth, Herod sought to slay Him, and this intimated the hostility His person evoked and forecast the Cross as the climax of man’s enmity. Again and again His enemies attempted His destruction. And now their vile desires are granted them. The Son of God had yielded Himself up into their hands. A mock trial had been gone through, and though His judges found no fault in Him, nevertheless, they had yielded to the insistent clamoring of those who hated Him as they cried again and again, “Crucify him.”
The fell deed had been done. No ordinary death would suffice His implacable foes. A death of intense suffering and shame was decided upon. A cross had been secured; the Saviour had been nailed to it. And there He hangs — silent. But presently His pallid lips are seen to move — Is He crying for pity? No. What then? Is He pronouncing malediction upon His crucifiers? No. He is praying, praying for His enemies — “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
So begins Chapter 1 of The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by A.W. Pink. Pink offers seven observations from Jesus’ word of forgiveness. The one that spoke most deeply to me, though, is the last one, “Here we see the triumph of redeeming love.” Not only is God’s forgiveness triumphant, it is complete. It is impossible for me to “sin away” the pardon of God. “The believer is in Christ, and there sin will never again be imputed to us. This is our position before God. In Christ is where He beholds us.”
A reminder of God’s complete forgiveness is a great way to start the day!
I also read this from Of First Importance this morning:
“Because of the gospel’s power, you can be completely free of all condemnation.
Not mostly free; completely free.
Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity.
It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned. It’s only when we receive his free gift of grace and live in the good of total forgiveness that we’re able to turn from old, sinful ways of living and walk in grace-motivated obedience.”
From C.J. Mahaney’s The Cross-Centered Life
Thank you, Jesus, for your word of forgiveness.
Read more Reading Classics Together discussion at Challies.