"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Some will show a great deal of humanity in comforting others, but little Christianity; for as kind men they will utter some cheerful words, but as Christians they want wisdom from above to speak a gracious word in season (Isaiah 50:4; 2Timothy 4:2). Nay, some there are who hinder the saving working of any affliction upon the hearts of others by unseasonable and unsavoury discourses, either by suggesting false remedies, or else diverting men to false contentments, and so become spiritual traitors rather than friends, taking part with their worst enemies, their lusts and wills. Happy is he that in his way to heaven meets with a cheerful and skilful guide and fellow-traveller, that carries cordials with him against all faintings of spirit. It is a part of our wisdom to salvation to make choice of such a one as may further us in our way. And indifference for any company shows a dead heart. Where the life of grace is, it is sensible of all advantages and disadvantages. How many have been refreshed by one short, apt, savoury speech, which hath begotten, as it were, new spirits in them.
"A sermon without Christ, it is an awful, a horrible thing. It is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked up by the roots. It is a an abominable thing to give men stones for bread and scorpions for eggs, yet they do so who preach not Jesus. A sermon without Christ! As well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul? Men die and perish because Christ is not there."
Charles Spurgeon believed many Ministers of his time were too timid in their invitations, He said, "How wide is this invitation! There are some Ministers who are afraid to invite sinners, then why are they Ministers! For they are afraid to perform the most important part of the sacred office...I preach Calvinism as high, as stern, and as sound as ever; but I do feel and anxiety to bring sinners to Christ." He saw "anxiety" for sinners as a key trait of preachers.
(S. Lawson, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon)
" I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ than unpick all the mysteries of the divine Word. I would rather be the means of saving a soul from death than be the greatest orator on earth. I would rather bring the poorest woman in the world to the feet of Jesus than I would be made the Archbishop of Canterbury. I would sooner pluck one single brand from the burning than explain all mysteries. To win a soul from going down into the pit, is a more glorious achievement than to be crowned in the arena of theological controversy...to have faithfully unveiled the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will be, in the final judgment, accounted worthier service than to have solved the problems of the religious Sphinx, or to have cut the Gordian knot of Apocalyptic difficulty. One of my happiest thoughts is that, when I die, it shall be my privilege to enter into rest in the bosom of Christ, and I know that I shall not enjoy my heaven alone. Thousands have already entered there, who have been drawn to Christ under my ministry. Oh! what bliss it will be to fly to Heaven, and to have a multitude of converts before and behind."
Are we visiting in a home, sitting at the fireside, ministering at a hospital bed? Wherever we are, we are there as Ministers of the Word of God with the aim of bowing under the truth the Word declares. Like a doctor who pays a house-call with his "bag of tricks" in his hand, so we go into people's houses Bible in hand. This is what we have come to bring; that is what we are for. How well I remember my early days in ministry, before I learned the importance of 'the Bible in the hand', desperately trying to 'bring the conversation round' to the point where it would be natural to fetch my pocket Bible out of my pocket! Bible in hand, the situation is reversed: those we visit are waiting for the moment when the book will be opened! But the material point is, that is what we are for: to 'open the Book'. A lady said to me, speaking of the Minister at her church who had just moved on: "I don't know what what we will do without Mr. X. He used to explain the Bible to us." An epitaph to be coveted!
It was time for his departure, so what his heart set upon (John 13:1)? Of course he had others who were his, in that world to which he was going"the spirits of just men made perfect." You might think, that when he was meditating upon his going out of this world, his heart should be upon them. On Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom he was going to. No, he takes more care for his own, who were to remain here in this world. A world in which there is much evil and danger, of both sin and misery. It is this that draws out his heart towards them, he loved them to the end, who were in the world (John 13:2).
In Genesis chapter nine Ham is termed the father of Canaan, the land was named after him. Some generations later the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their homosexuality (now termed Sodomy in the Bible). White supremacists refer to Ham as the father of the black races which they call "mud people." But it is the perversion of sodomy, not skin colour, which is associated with the curse of Canaan.
The Holy Spirit plays a major role in our prayers. Without his work, prayer would be impossible. He is the one who unites us to Christ so that we become one body with him and thereby able to come to God through Christ. A man who is not saved cannot pray and may not pray. In World War II, this saying was common: "There are no atheists in foxholes," and it is true that in times of great terror, the wicked sometimes claim to pray. But the wicked have not faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). Our LORD himself is clear" "Not every one that saith unto me, LORD, LORD, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Prayer is, after all, a privilege. It is a gift of grace.
He is the propitiation for our sins (1John 2:2). I think I have only once heard the verb 'propitiate' used in ordinary conversation. It happened like this. Late on a dankish, winter afternoon in Wolverhampton where I was in my first assistantship in ministry, I met one of our menfolk with a bunch of flowers in one hand and a gift-wrapped parcel under his arm. 'What's this? What's this?' cried I, since I knew him well enough to be so familiar. 'Oh', said he, 'it's to propitiate the wife.' And there you have it in a nutshell: 'to propitiate' is to take away anger, bring back peace.
The Reformation recognises no truth other than that which is given on the authority of God in holy Scripture...The principle into which all theological dogmas are distilled is: God has said it...The Church of Christ has a certain task to fulfil with respect to dogma. To preserve, explain, understand, and defend the truth of God entrusted to her, the Church is called to appropriate it mentally, to assimilate it internally, and to profess it in the midst of the world as the truth of God.