Steve’s Thoughts

The Deception of Sin

I’ve been reading a lot in Ralph Venning’s book lately and thought this was worth sharing…

It is impossible to count up all the ways in which the deceitful hearts and sins of men abuse them. I will, however, give a few examples as a warning to sinners and a witness against sin, and so conclude this section of our book.

(1) Sometimes sin persuades us that such and such a thing is not a sin, though it looks like a sin. Thus the Devil dealt with Eve in the beginning and so deceived her. She was a little suspicious and shy, that what the Devil urged her to do was evil, but he cunningly insinuated that however it seemed to her, yet it was not so. In this way the pride and wantonness of people is maintained–that though these things appear to be evil, they are not evil. But, alas, it is the next thing to being a sinner to look like a sinner; appearance in good is too little and in evil it is too much. It is a very hard thing to look like a sinner and talk and dress like a sinner and not to be one. It is more than likely that what the Devil grants to be like a sin, is a sin. Those who are persuaded otherwise are deceived by him, as Eve was. If we like the picture, the odds are great against us not liking the thing. Though an idol is no God, nor even like him, yet God has utterly forbidden graven images for they are of the Devil’s carving.

(2) Sin would persuade that what may be sin in another cannot be sin in you, all things considered, because you are necessitated. For example, a poor man is forced to steal. But no man is necessitated to sin, even though under necessity; sin is sin in any or in all. Though temptations may mitigate and excuse somewhat, yet they cannot excuse totally from its being a sin, and they cannot un-sin sin.

(3) It is one sin only, and this only once, says Sin. But if sin is good, why only once, and if evil, why once? One sin though committed but once is one and once too much. Besides when the Serpent’s head is in, it is hard to keep out the whole body; one makes way for the other. It is almost impossible to sin once and only once.

(4) It is only a little one, says Sin. But that which is against a great God and deserves so great a punishment as death cannot be a little sin; for the wages of sin and of every single sin is death (Romans 6.23).

(5) It is in secret and no-one will see it, says Sin. But this is a cheat, for it is impossible to sin so secretly but there will be at least two witnesses. God and conscience know all the sins that man can commit.

(6) Yes, but you will hate it and dread it ever after, says Sin. Thus some go to Mass to show their distaste of it, and to plays to see the folly of them. But who would be a burnt child to learn to dread the fire? Such costly experiments may indeed cost us the loss of out souls. It is dangerous to meddle with that which is an appearance and may be an occasion of evil, and much more to parley and tamper with sin itself.

(7) But I promise you that you shall gain by it, says Sin. You will have so much profit, so much pleasure and so much honour. Sin’s gain is loss, however; for he who gains even the world by sin pays too dearly for it. It means the loss or at least the hazard of his soul. The pleasures of sin are grievous, and its honours are disgraces and shame. Did not our first parents find it so, and do not we (Romans 6.21)? The precious substance promised by sin ends in a pernicious shadow, and the spoils we get by sin only spoil us. Sin promises like a God but pays like a Devil. Sin tells us that we shall not die but live like gods, but we find nothing but death and such a life as they have in Hell. Sin’s performance is altogether contrary to its promises; it promises gold and pays dross. If any man, then, has a mind to have true miseries, let him pay heed to sin’s false promises.

(8) But others do it, says Sin, and why may not you? It is not what others do, however, but what they ought to do that we are to follow. We must not follow any man or a multitude of men to do evil. If others will risk their damnation, what is that to us? It will be no comfort to have had companions in sin and to meet them again in Hell.

(9) But you have only to repent, says Sin, and God will forgive you. To this we must say that he who promised forgiveness to them that repent has not promised repentance to them that sin. Besides, even if sin were to cost no more than repentance, anyone in his right mind would be loath to buy repentance at so dear a rate; for repentance, though it may free them from greater, puts men to more grid and pain than ever sin could afford them pleasure.

(10) Yes, but you have escaped well enough hitherto, says Sin. No evil has befallen you. If this is so, however, it may be so much the worse for us. Not to be punished may be the worst punishment (Isaiah 1.15; Hosea 4.14,17). What will it cost if God does awaken me, and if not, what will it cost when God shall damn me?

(11) It is only your infirmity, says Sin. You cannot help it. Tell sin that this is a thing that none but fools and children can accept. Besides, to plead for infirmities is more than an infirmity. That which is only an infirmity today may become a disease tomorrow, if not prevented. Once the will is engaged, it is past an infirmity and has become a sin.

Now if these and other arguments do not succeed, then Sin speaks more openly. It says, there is no such thing as sin. There is no difference between good and evil. As all things come alike to all, so all things are alike. And also, says Sin, evil is good in God’s sight, or he would judge it (Malachi 2.17); his silence makes you think that he is such an one as yourself (Psalm 50.21). But tell Sin that this defeats and refutes itself and proves nothing so clearly as that sin is exceedingly sinful. If there is no sin, and no difference between good and evil, to what purpose are these different words used by Sin to prove that there is no difference? To say that it is only in imagination and not real is to deny that there is any such thing as sense and conscience, which every man admits, and no-one can deny without denying himself and God. Between good and evil there is more difference than between light and darkness, life and death, ease and pain, food and poison, and these are real, and not differences made by our fancy only. That all things come alike to all is not always true; there are contrary examples. To say that all things are alike is never true but is a manifest contradiction. To say that evil is good in God’s sight and that he is such an one as a sinner is to deny God to be, for if he is not good and just, he is not God. But this bespeaks man to be woefully ignorant, for the flood which drowned the old world, the fire which fell from Heaven on Sodom, the judgments which God executes in the earth continually, witness that God is displeased with and the avenger of sin, just as his giving us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons is witness that he is good and does good. The fact that his sun shines and his rain falls on the unjust as well as on the just is to persuade men of his goodness which calls for repentance and which also witnesses that sin is evil.

But if sin were not exceedingly sinful, what need would it have to use all these tricks and subterfuges? If it and its deeds were not evil, why does it seek to avoid the light? Why, like a maker of counterfeit money, does it put the King of Heaven’s stamp on its base metal? Why does Jacob call himself Esau and counterfeit his brother if sin were not abominable? Why did the Gibeonites pretend to have come from afar if they did not wish to be unknown? If sin were not false and a robber, why does it creep in unseen, climb up a narrow way and avoid the door? Why does it flatter and deceive? Why does it never keep its promises, but break all it ever made? It is because it is sinful sin.

– Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin.

Meet George Muller

If you are not familiar with George Muller, you should be!  Jim Elliff has written an introduction (available in full here) in the book A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer by George Muller (Hardcover, 736 pages, Westminster Literature Resources).

As Jim writes,

Muller’s view of faith was simple, almost childlike. He believed that everything he did was to be guided by Scripture. He was no mystic, refusing to be lead by impressions or even to take Scripture out of context. He believed that living by impressions would lead Christians into much error. Rather, as a man of confidence in the Bible, he found out what God had promised and rested on it. Faith, to Muller, was finding out what God said or what he permitted, and doggedly hanging on to the promises even when circumstances were screaming otherwise.

George Muller’s life was incredible.  However, the incredible results stemmed from the simplest, child-like faith in the power of the Scriptures.  This sort of faith must be recovered where it is missing and fostered where it is found.  Muller cared for over 10,000 orphans, but this sort of faith does not only bring food for children.  It will bring food for our souls, and power for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

May we earnestly seek in prayer such promises from God’s Word, knowing that He is faithful to grant the desires of our hearts.  May we preach the Word of God in the same manner Muller was guided by it: refusing to be led by impressions or taking Scripture out of context.  Let us trust that the Word is purposeful and divinely designed!

Simplify Family Worship

Family worship can be intimidating to start, but it is one of the most rewarding and responsible things that we can do in our family’s.  Men, it is ultimately your responsibility as the leader of you family.  I have attached below an article from Don Whitney designed to give you encouragement on starting and maintaining family worship in your home.  May God grant us homes filled with the glorious knowledge of His Son!!!

Simplify Family Worship

A man who is like a spiritual father to me began what he called a “family altar” with his wife before they were married, and has faithfully continued the practice through the arrival of children and grandchildren for more than fifty years. Sadly, it seems that few men among even the best evangelical churches today could speak of daily family worship in their home. In the minds of some, active church involvement eliminates the need for family worship. For others, Bible reading, prayer, and singing praises to God together as a family have been crowded out by the television, the Internet, and a non-stop schedule that makes even meals together a rarity.

But the father (and in his absence, the mother) of the family has the responsibility from God to provide spiritual leadership for his household. As He did with Abraham, the Lord wants every father to “command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19). Each one should raise his children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Every husband should love his wife as Christ loves His bride—the church—and follow Christ’s example of washing his wife with “the washing of water by the word” of God (Ephesians 5:26).

While it isn’t the only way, the simplest method of applying all these texts in a steady, practical way is through daily family worship. This is how generations of Christians have understood them. For instance, both Baptists and Presbyterians in the 1600s saw this biblical teaching, and incorporated identical language about the expectation of family worship into the most influential confessional statements in their respective histories. To this day, many churches still maintain (at least officially) that, “God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and truth; as in private families daily.”

Somehow, though, many men have gotten the idea that family worship is complicated, or that it requires time-consuming preparation. But it need not require any more preparation than your personal worship of God. And the entire experience can be reduced to three simple elements: read, pray, sing.

Read. The centerpiece of family worship is the Bible. Read a passage of appropriate length for your family, making any impromptu comments that come to mind. Those with younger children should emphasize the narrative portions of Scripture, and possibly the Proverbs. Eventually, most seem to work up to about a chapter a day, reading consecutively through a particular book of the Bible. I recommend that you ask a few questions to determine comprehension, or just ask the children to repeat what they remember.

Pray. Let the words of the passage you read suggest matter for prayer. The husband/father should pray, and perhaps one or all the rest of the family members. Most days this will be brief.

Sing. Use a hymnal and sing a cappella, or sing along to a recording, or let a family musician lead the way. Sing as little as one verse, or for as long as the family enjoys it.

Any order of “read, pray, sing” is fine. It doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Be patient with the interest and attention span of the younger ones. Remember that you’re not only fulfilling a responsibility to God by leading family worship, you’re also introducing your children to Him. In these moments together, your children can see your love for God and for His Word, and some of the most teachable moments of their childhood will occur. So start family worship in your home today. It doesn’t matter when you have worship. For some, early morning is best. For others, it’s mealtime, and for still others, it’s bedtime. Just start. Whether you’ve been married fifty years or newly engaged, just start. Keep it simple, and keep it up.

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1London Confession of Faith (Baptist) 22.6; Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian) 21.6.

For more details on this subject, see Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald S. Whitney at www.BiblicalSpirituality.org


From Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2003).
Copyright © 2003, Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.

Some of Our Favorite Books

The following is a list of books that we have benefited greatly with and/or used in our studies at Heritage.  We offer this list to as suggested resources to help you in your life, not as a full-fledged approval of all doctrine contained therein!  We will continue updating this list over time, so check back for updates.

Bible Study Resources

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (An absolute treasure of information!)

Dictionary of New Testament Background (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener (Good background info, though it is not always related to the context of the passage.)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas

Christian Life

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney (A short and simple reminder that we must treasure the Gospel.  Highly recommended!)

Call to Spiritual Reformation, A: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D. A. Carson (Addresses one of the most important issues of our day…failure to pray as the Scriptures teach us to pray.)

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges (This book could easily be turned into a multi-volume set.)

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges

Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges

Joy of Fearing God, The by Jerry Bridges

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Gospel / Evangelism

How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation by Donald S. Whitney

Wasted Faith by Jim Elliff (Great evangelistic tool!)

Going Under: Discussions on Baptism by Jim Elliff

Pursuing God: A Seeker’s Guide by Jim Elliff (Great evangelistic tool!)

Doctrinal / Theological

Existence and Attributes of God, The by Stephen, Charnock (If you think you’ve pondered long enough on theology, think again.)

Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible (New Studies in Biblical Theology, 15) by Stephen G. Dempster (One of the best works of seeing the Old Testament in the overall redemptive context.)

Abraham’s Four Seeds by John G. Reisinger (Unlocking the grasp of the two major theological systems.)

A Journey in Grace by Richard Belcher (The story of a young pastor’s struggle with the Doctrines of Grace)

Sovereignty of God, The by Arthur W. Pink

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Loraine Boettner

Knowing God by J. I. Packer (A classic primer on theology.)

Issues

Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians by D. A. Carson (A great challenge to those serving the Gospel)

Gagging of God, The by D. A. Carson

The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God by G. K. Beale (I may disagree with some of his conclusions in the end, but this is still an excellent resource and a challenge for us to increase in our knowledge of the significance of the Temple.)

From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by J. Daniel Hays and Donald A. Carson (I am very grateful for this book and I  highly recommend it.)

Devotional

Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur G. Bennett (Beautiful expressions of faith and devotion.)

The Cross: God’s Way of Salvation by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Morning and Evening by C. H. Spurgeon (Available in many places online for free, but if you don’t sleep with your smartphone by the bed, go ahead and invest a few bucks for the hardcopy.)

The Christian Family and Mens/Womens Studies

Legacy of Faith: From Women of the Bible to Women of Today by Lydia Brownback (One of our Ladies’ studies)

Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Don Whitney

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective by Martha Peace

Greek

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Walter Bauer and Frederick William Danker (Okay, it’s not cheap and it’s not transliterated, but it is the best resource for understanding meanings of the Greek words.  If you know someone who has it and knows how to use, take advantage of it!)

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics by Daniel B. Wallace (A great accessible work that shows a little bit of Greek basics can be a dangerous thing.  Getting beyond the basics of Greek is a wonderful thing!)


A Reminder from Bunyan

I hope you find the quote from Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” below to be an encouragement to seek the powerful work of grace through the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.  May sin be vanquished and subdued in us through faith!

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room; the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

CHRISTIAN. Then said Christian, What means this?

INTERPRETER. The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel. The dust is his original sin, and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first is the law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith: this is to show thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it; for it doth not give power to subdue. (Rom. v. 20; vii. 7-11; 1 Cor. xv. 56.)

Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure: this is to show thee, that when the Gospel comes in the sweet and gracious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit. (John xiv. 21-23; xv. 3; Acts xv. 9; Rom. xvi. 25, 26. Eph. v. 26.)

Our Children and the Gospel

One of the greatest burdens upon parents is to be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel to our children.  It requires wisdom, patience, and understanding.  Along with these things, we must also be able to faithfully speak to our children regarding assurance and the dangers of having a false profession.  As Christian families, we know that we can prime our children to know the answers to Gospel questions in the same way that we teach them their multiplication tables.  The difficulty is knowing how to evaluate the professions of our children.  Have they been born again, or are they just giving us the answers that we have taught them is right?

Jim Elliff has provided a short article to help parents.  He has a burden to help us think in a biblical manner about childhood conversions.  Take a moment and read his article “Reading Our Children: Is Somebody Alive in There?“.

And, be faithful to pray for the mercy of God to cover them and grant them faith to believe in the glorious Good News of Jesus the Messiah!

The Dating of Revelation

Just wanted to post links to some good articles written as part of a Master’s Thesis by D. Ragan Ewing (Dallas Theological Seminary) concerning Revelation.  The thesis is concerned with the identification of Babylon the Harlot in Revelation.  One section of the work deals with the date of the book of Revelation.  This is one of the more clear and concise (not necessarily simple!) presentations of the issue that I have found readily available.

The entire series can be found here.

The article specifically dealing with the dating of Revelation can be found here.

I appreciate that the author has honestly and humbly considered the weight of the external evidence and found that it is quite frail.  Even Daniel Wallace (who holds to a later dating of Revelation) recommends Ewing’s article as an excellent resource to consider.  Then, when we consider the internal evidence (the text of the Scripture itself), I believe we find – as Ewing concludes – that there is much more support of an early date.