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Archive for June, 2010

List of Bible Books and Sermon Series

June 29, 2010 5 comments

Since I enjoy book-by-book and verse-by-verse Bible teaching, especially in MP3 sermon format, I have created an Excel file to help organize the available resources, for future Bible study.  My list includes each book of the Bible and associated Bible teachers who taught through part or all of that Bible book.  For each teacher I list the number of messages in the series, and note if the series covered only part of the book.  For my purposes I looked at several preachers that I’m familiar with.  The list includes John MacArthur and S. Lewis Johnson, as well as the other teachers at Believers Chapel, plus material from preachers affiliated with John MacArthur (Don Green, Steve Lawson, Bruce Blakey, Lance Quinn), and a few other recommended names including Mark Hitchcock, Thomas Constable, and Ray Stedman.

A few observations from the complete list:

  • John MacArthur has the greatest number of messages, and the most complete coverage of the New Testament.  He actually has preached through all of the New Testament books (gospel of Mark still in progress), yet I did not include his sermons for books covered early in his ministry, especially since better series exist for those books, from more mature (better delivery style) preachers.
  • S. Lewis Johnson has the most coverage for the minor prophets — and when you include Dan Duncan, Believers Chapel has the most extensive coverage for all the Prophets:  all books except Lamentations, Nahum and Zephaniah.  Believers Chapel also generally has the most coverage for all the Old Testament: most of the history through the time of King David, plus most of the prophets, and decent coverage for Proverbs and even some Psalms.
  • Thomas Constable has audio sermons available for several Old Testament books, but in many cases the complete series are only available with payment for audio CDs.  Yet Constable also has a complete 66 book commentary of the whole Bible, in PDF format.
  • Thomas Constable, plus Ray Stedman and Mark Hitchcock nicely fill in some of the spots neglected by others, such as Ruth, Esther, 1 Samuel 1-15 (pre-David),  Nehemiah, Job and Ecclesiastes.  Yet a few gaps exist, books I could not find audio sermons for, including the Kings and Chronicles and some of the smaller Old Testament books.  Further study of those books can always be done with material from J. Vernon McGee, or through print resources such as commentaries from Thomas Constable and Alexander MacLaren.

Click the following link to see the actual list:

Bible Teaching Series List

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Is God “Most Glorified” through His Church?

June 28, 2010 2 comments

A friend recently posted a link to the following quote from preacher Jeff Noblit:  “God is most glorified through His church. God is most glorified through His church when His church is biblically healthy. For our churches to become biblically healthy, we desperately need revival and reformation. This revival and reformation will require suffering on the part of God’s shepherd. But His glory is worth it!”

It’s a statement that sounds nice and uplifting, for the average Christian who likes to hear good things about the church — if you don’t think about the words and what it’s really saying. Yet the statement struck me as unbiblical, as an idea that comes from standard Reformed ecclesiology in which the Church is the end-all plan of God, also part and parcel of Church Replacement theology (also called Supersessionism).  I had not heard that particular wording before, though, and googled to see if anyone else had anything to say regarding what God is “most glorified” in.  I did learn that John Piper has written a type of creed statement, that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  I also found this article that looks at the biblical question of “God is Most Glorified… When?”  We really can’t say that there is one thing which glorifies God the most — although of course the Bible tells us of several things that do glorify God.  I know that at my own moment of salvation, when suddenly God revealed basic understanding (as I was driving home listening to the Rich Mullins song “Awesome God”), I suddenly knew that everything came from God, even my very breath and every cell of my existence, and that my whole purpose for being was to glorify and praise God.

But back to the original quote from Jeff Noblit — what does the Bible actually say about the Church?  And what would cause someone to think such a thing as the statement above?

So here are just a few things said in God’s word concerning the first question:  The Church began at Pentecost, and departs at the rapture.  The Church is the body of Christ, built on the foundation of prophets and apostles.  The church structure, for the local church, includes recognized positions of elders and deacons.  The Bible recognizes the gift of pastor/teacher, but does not support the idea of “office of pastor” — a point emphasized by S. Lewis Johnson, at a church that holds to that point.

The Church has been given the role that Israel would have had, to spread the gospel in the world during this age, and as Paul tells us in Romans 11, the purpose of Gentiles coming into the Church is to make Israel jealous. But Romans 11 also tells us that this situation will end, after the fullness of the Gentiles.  Old Testament texts affirm that in the age to come (the Millennial Kingdom) Israel will be restored and will serve the purpose that God intended for her, with the special place of prominence among the nations again.  So, knowing the purpose and limits of the Church in God’s overall plan — an equal part of the full people of God, alongside Israel — how can it be said that God is “most glorified through His Church?” For such language claims that the Church is greater than anything else in God’s Divine Purpose.

The New Testament also tells us to expect difficulty and great apostasy as the end draws near.  Paul often warned the church (as in Acts 20) as well as its leaders Timothy and Titus, to guard and keep the faith, to watch out for false teachers who would soon enter the church.  Peter and Jude also spoke of such things. As Mark Hitchcock has pointed out, it is interesting that the book of Jude is listed in the canon just before the book of Revelation; God has ordained both the books of the canon as well as their sequence in our Bibles.  The parable in Matthew 13:33 uses leaven to describe this age; and despite the ideas of some, leaven is never used in a positive way in scripture, and that includes the truth taught here.  The parable of the wheat and tares also makes it clear that the church will always have true and false professors within it, and we cannot separate them out.  Believers are continually exhorted to holy living and to resist the devil (again making it clear that Satan is not currently bound), and Revelation 2-3 make it clear that even by the end of the first century the churches were having lots of problems.

From church history, we can read the words of Christian leaders from previous times, such as 19th century Britain’s J.C. Ryle, C.H. Spurgeon, and Horatius Bonar, to learn that even in past times (that we like to think of as having been morally upright and more “Christian”), the true Church was oppressed, local churches plagued with professing believers more caught up in the affairs of the world than in the study of God’s word.  Refer to my previous blog article that includes one such quote from Horatius Bonar, or one of many samplings from J.C. Ryle:

The devil is the prince of this world during the present dispensation (John 14:30). The vast majority of the inhabitants of the earth choose the things that please the devil far more than the things that please God. Little as they may think it, they are doing the devil’s will, behaving as the devil’s subjects, and serving the devil far more than Christ. This is the actual condition of Christendom as well as of heathen countries. After 1900 years of Bibles and Gospel preaching, there is not a nation, or a country, or a parish, or a long established congregation, where the devil has not more subjects than Christ. So fearfully true is it that the world is not yet the kingdom of Christ.

To say that we “desperately need” revival and that it requires suffering on the part of God’s shepherd (presumably by this he means local church leaders) to accomplish this, is to put the matter in man’s hands, as if God’s glory is dependent on our producing “biblically healthy” churches.  Furthermore, the only way to come up with such a positive view concerning the Church and the necessity for revival and “biblically healthy” churches, is to re-interpret scriptures that are not even talking about the Church but about the promised future for Israel, as being really about the church — the common error of Church Replacement Theology that looks at the optimistic passages in the Old Testament prophets and applies the blessings to the Church but leaves the curses to Israel.

Since God never promised such blessings to the Church but to the future Kingdom age, those who re-interpret the scriptures (to think of our age as the glorious Church/Kingdom) face a serious disconnect between their view of God’s word and observed reality — a disconnect that can only lead to disappointment and frustration as they continue to expect to see certain things, such as revival and biblically healthy churches — while the reality fails to live up to the ideal of the great “blessings” as described by the prophets.

J.C. Ryle: How to Read the Bible (Practical Religion)

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

“read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.”

Do not think for a moment that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to fancy that all is done if they read so many chapters every day, though they may not have an idea what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark so many pages. This is turning Bible-reading into a mere form. It is almost as bad as the Roman catholic habit of buying indulgences, by saying an almost incredible number of “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Fathers.” Settle it in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood is a Bible that does no good. Say to yourself often as you read, “What is all this about?” Dig for the meaning like an man digging for gold. Work hard, and do not give up the work in a hurry.

“read the Bible with childlike faith and humility.”

Open your heart as you open your book, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth, whether you like it or not.

Beware of that miserable habit of mind into which some readers of the Bible fall. They receive some doctrines because they like them: they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some lover, or relation, or friend. At this rate the Bible is useless. Are we to be judges of what ought to be in the Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it in your mind that you will receive everything and believe everything, and that what you cannot understand you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray, you are speaking to God and God hears you. But, remember, when you read, God is speaking to you, and you are not to “talk back” but to listen.

“read the Bible every day.”

Make it a part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday’s meal will not feed the worker today, and today’s meal will not feed the worker tomorrow.  Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own periods and hours. Do not hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best and not the worst part of your time. But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and the Bible every day.

“read the Bible fairly and honestly.”

Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning, and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean, it does mean. Cecil’s rule is a very valuable one, “The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular system.” Well said Hooker, “I hold it for a most infallible rule in the exposition of Scripture, that when the literal construction will stand, the furthest from the literal is commonly the worst.”

Highlights from Bible Readings: Scripture Thoughts for Today

June 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Lately my Bible readings (modified Horner Bible Reading System) have included some great readings in Genesis (list 2), Ruth and 1 Samuel (list 6), Jeremiah (list 7), and Romans (list 3).  Now for some highlights:

The despair of people, just before God works great things in their lives:  Naomi (Ruth 1:20-21), and Jacob (Genesis 42:36).

Ruth and Genesis also nicely fit together in another interesting way, as in the day which included both Ruth 4 and Genesis 38.  Genesis 38 of course tells the story of Judah and Tamar, ending with Tamar’s birth to twins, one of whom is Perez.  Ruth 4, verse 12 and again in verses 18-22, again mentions Perez and then completes the lineage from Perez (Genesis 38) to King David.

Speaking of Ruth, Thomas Constable has a good four part series through this interesting book.   I recently listened to the first part, a good introduction to the characters and the story.

Stones as Witnesses

In the Pentateuch and history lists I’ve come across many incidents of stones setup as memorials or witnesses — for agreements between people, as well as witnesses between man and God — such as in Jacob’s journeys in Genesis: Genesis 31:45-53, and again in Genesis 35:14.  Early in 1 Samuel, chapters 6 and 7 also feature two such incidents of stones used as witnesses:  1 Samuel 6:18, after the Philistines returned the ark to Israel, “The large rock, on which they set the ark of the LORD, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.”  Then 1 Samuel 7 has Samuel setting up a stone (1 Samuel 7:12), called Ebenezer, after a great victory over the Philistines.  I also recall the “stone as witness” theme from recent reading through Joshua (Joshua 24:2-27).  The people saw rocks as something more permanent than themselves, part of God’s creation that was always there, like the mountains and hills, to “witness” in the future.  Even when men had forgotten the thing witnessed, those rocks were still there.

So during these readings, when Romans 9:32-33 also refers to stones, as in “a stumbling stone,” the “rock of offense” that Paul quotes from Isaiah 28, in the context of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah, the imagery of a stone has that much more meaning and depth.  Beyond the basic understanding that stones can get in our way and trip us up, lies the rich history and meaning that the people of Israel associated with stones, straight from their own history, from their own prophets and leaders, even back to Jacob–Israel himself.

Benjamin — both the person and his descendants — also has received frequent mention.  Today’s readings, for example, featured Benjamin himself (Genesis 45), then Romans 11:1 (Paul “an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin”), then 1 Samuel 9 (introduction to Saul the soon-to-be king), and again in Jeremiah 37:12 — “Jeremiah started to leave the city to go to the territory of Benjamin to get his share of the property among the people there.”  Jeremiah chapters 37 and 38 also frequently mention the “Benjamin Gate” in Jerusalem.

The Milk and the Meat of Scripture

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

John MacArthur has described the difference between milk and meat in a Christian’s life:

Some times the Scripture can be milk and sometimes it can be meat. Now that doesn’t mean that some parts of the Bible are milk and some parts are meat. Really all of it is either milk or meat it depends on how deep you go.  For example I can say to you “God so loved the world” and if you are a brand new Christian you say yea, I understand that, that’s kind of milk. But then if I took off and began to develop the character of God, the character of His love, how His love works, what His love is defined at in the Scripture, the depths of all that that concept means, then that gets deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and gets into the meat aspect of that same simple truth. We say for example, God knows everything and that’s a milk statement, but we could develop that to the place where it becomes very complex and that would be the meat end of it.

In that same message he also advised:

Don’t ever think that because you came to church and heard the sermon on Sunday morning and Sunday night and you went to the Bible study on Friday that you don’t need to study on your own.

How true that is, since such a passive attitude will not be able to digest the meat, or discern between incorrect versus correct Bible interpretation.

Here are examples of the kinds of error that the person sitting in the pew at a local church, not doing any study on their own, could possibly face, by relying on a shallow pastor who they suppose really knows how to interpret and teach the Bible:

  • John 6:4 means that Jesus skipped going to the Passover in Jerusalem that year, and stayed up in Galilee and had his own “passover” with the people there.  For further appreciation of what that text really means, see this Matthew Henry commentary.
  • 1 Samuel 27:1 is interpreted that David did no wrong, and he did what he did because he had no choice.  No understanding about the true spiritual condition of David at this time
  • In 2 Samuel 1, the Amelekite really did kill Saul; from the other accounts we know that Saul attempted to kill himself, but he wasn’t successful and so the Amelekite’s part fits in there
  • 2 Samuel 12:8 means that God positively supported polygamy in the Old Testament; God had given David lots of wives and He would have given him even more (never mind that the text actually says “your master’s wives” referring to everything associated with Saul’s kingdom)

Today I want to look specifically at 2 Samuel 1, which I recently studied in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series.  Even from just reading the text, plus the story at the end of 1 Samuel, combined with the basic notes in the NIV Study Bible that I used at the time, I understood that the Amelekite was making up his story — quite a different view from what was being said during the local Sunday sermon.  S. Lewis Johnson, in a meaty (not milk) message, confirms the correct understanding:  “almost all biblical scholars of a believing mentality are convinced that this man was lying.”

Now to the exposition and further explanation, the meat, to understand the details from the text to support this conclusion:
1.  We read that he shows up with his clothes torn and dust on his head.
“Now, you can tell from this that this man was not an ordinary man.  He was an observant man, he was a shrewd man because he realized coming in with his clothes torn and dust on his head that it would be thought that he was very, very supportive of the children of Israel.”
Clearly, he hoped for some kind of material gain — his secular mind could not imagine anyone thinking differently from him, rejoicing in the death of his enemy.

2.  The young man says “I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa.”
Mount Gilboa was where the battle was.  A large host of Philistines, so large that King Saul was afraid of them, and Israelites gathered there as well.  ….  No, no!  He didn’t happen to be by chance there.  He wanted to be there because after the battle there was always hope of gathering up some of the spoil, plunder, after the battle.

3.  The Amelekite’s use of the word “behold” which shows up in some of English translations, but appears several times in the Hebrew text.  From SLJ:

I’m going to read this as the Hebrew text has it. “And behold, Saul, leaning on his spear.  And behold the chariots and horsemen following hard after him.  Now, when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me.  And I said, behold, me.”

Now, if you read that carefully, you’ll see that what he is doing is playing a little bit loose with the truth.  And that little “behold” not rendered in the text that I have here — once as “there was” and then as “indeed” and then “here,” will give you an indication of the kind of speech that he was engaging in.  The use of that little term hinneh which means behold is indicative of the fact that what he is saying is a bit fictional.  It’s very much like the use of “hey” and so, “I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa where there was a great battle and, hey, Saul leaning on his spear and, hey, the chariots and horsemen following hard after him and Saul called to me and I said, hey, I’m here.”  No.  This man is a liar, he’s a prevaricator.

I looked this up in the KJV and ESV translations.  Sure enough, the footnote for 2 Samuel 1:7 tells us that the Hebrew is “Behold me.”  The ESV adds “behold” in verse 6.  Interesting.

4.   The author already told us in 1 Samuel 31 how Saul really died.  From the text we can understand that Saul was already dead — because it says that Saul’s armour bearer, seeing that Saul was dead, also fell on his sword and died with him.

“Saul is his own murderer, as his armor bearer knew.  So, in chapter 31, we have God’s description of what happened.  Now, we have the Amalekite’s fabrication of what happened.”

Perhaps some will say, well, what difference do such details make?  How does it affect my salvation, whether or not I think that the Amelekite killed Saul, or Saul killed Saul?  It may not matter in your overall salvation, but it does affect your concept of God.  Does God contradict Himself, telling us in one place that events happened this way, and then say differently in the next chapter?  It affects our understanding of man’s depravity, with yet another historical example of the true natures of both Saul and the Amelekite.  More so, it makes the difference between a baby Christian consuming only milk, versus the strong man Christian who can plumb the depths of God’s word for its great treasures and discern truth from error.

Finally, some great words from J.C. Ryle, also on the importance of reading our Bibles:

We must to be diligent readers of our Bibles. The Word is the sword of the Spirit. We shall never fight a good fight, if we do not use it as our principal weapon. The Word is the lamp for our feet. We shall never keep the king’s highway to heaven, if we do not journey by its light. There is not enough Bible-reading among us. It is not sufficient to have the Book. We must actually read it, and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good, if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition. It can only be obtained by diligent, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading.
From Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew

Study the Scripture: 1 John 5:16-17

June 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I appreciate S. Lewis Johnson’s advice concerning how to study the Bible, in which he recommends the use of a few good English translations — and to look at the words and the context:

As I have so often said if you have two or three translations made fairly accurately, like the New American Standard Bible or the International version and then the old King James Version if you have those three versions before you and you studiously studied them you would be able to be a premier student of the word of God without any knowledge of Greek or Hebrew.  For the simple reason as you read and pondered those texts in English you would be able to discover where the problems were because the authors would differ here and there in their renderings of the text. And then by the study of their context you would be almost always able to make a decision that would be the right decision, because almost all interpretative problems are solved by an accurate, careful, perceptive knowledge of the context….  Study the Bible for yourself.

As one example concerning different translations, consider 1 John 5:16-17:

KJV:  If any man see his brother sin a sin [which is] not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

ESV:   If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life-to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Notice that the KJV translation has the added little word “a” — “There is a sin unto death” and “there is a sin not unto death.”  If someone merely looks at the authorized version (KJV) they might think that John is talking about a specific sin, and from this come some incorrect understandings of what the “sin unto death” and the “sin not unto death” is really talking about.

The next part of SLJ’s advice concerns how we look at the detail, the actual words and their context.  In the case of 1 John 5:16-17, some have interpreted “sin unto death” as a reference to the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (from Matthew 12), or to the sin of apostasy.  But if we closely examine the text, it is clear that it is not talking about either of these, but the sin of a believer that leads to physical death — as described also in 1 Corinthians 11.

First, the verse says “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin” — which indicates that it’s talking about a believer, a Christian brother.  A Christian cannot be guilty of eternal sin.  We also know, from the more modern translations, that John is not talking about any one particular sin.  Verse 17 reinforces the point of verse 16, too, by pointing out that “all wrongdoing is sin,” so again John is talking about sin generally, not any one specific sin — much less the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which we would never see a brother commit in the first place.  Here is further commentary from SLJ, in his exposition of this text:

It’s obvious he’s speaking generally.  Any sin that one persists in which is within the whole body of sin, generally.  Persistent sin exposes one to the possibility of a disciplinary chastisement of physical death.  Willful continued sin then of any kind.  If we are looking at the Epistle of 1 John, we would think of what he has been talking about in the epistle.  Unrighteousness, unlove among Christian brethren and sisters.  All of these things he has spoken about.  In other words, to put it in the language that all of us can understand, sometimes we are fit for heaven when we are not fit for the earth.  In other words, having been brought to faith in Jesus Christ, a true faith, if we persist in sin, the Lord may find it necessary to take our physical life.  The reproach brought upon his name by our sin is reason to take our lives physically.  It is a very solemn thing to think about isn’t it?  “Sin unto physical death” is something for all of us to think about.  Therefore, we don’t have anything from this particular context to make us think that John is talking about a definite sin.  There are no particular clues to any specific sin.  He’s talking about sin of all kinds in which a believer may persist.

Furthermore, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is only mentioned once, and it’s a definite sin related to that historical situation where Jesus showed the nation of Israel, and its leaders, clear proofs that He was the promised Messiah.  Arnold Fruchtenbaum (a Christian from Orthodox Jewish background) has pointed out, concerning Matthew 12, that Jewish tradition held that the Messiah would be able to do three particular miracles:  cleansing of a leper, healing of a man born blind, and casting out a demon from a mute man.  (Exorcist tradition involved a step in which the exorcist asked the demoniac to identify himself by name; Jesus himself did so in other cases, such as the Gadarene demoniac.)  Matthew 12 describes the third case, casting a demon out of a mute, and the people seriously wondered at this point, could this be the Messiah?  Confronted with an undeniable miracle, the Pharisees instead attributed the Holy Spirit’s power to the devil.

John MacArthur also deals with the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Matthew 12, in his book  The Jesus You Can’t Ignore — a book that specifically looks at the hard sayings of Jesus and His many confrontations with Israel’s leaders, culminating in this very incident.  MacArthur likewise notes the difference between this sin, and the sin unto physical death described in 1 John 5.

Wrong theology comes from incorrect Bible interpretation, and this is just one example of how we must all study the scriptures for ourselves, to see what a text actually says.  This is also the only way to really evaluate Bible preachers, to discern how closely they agree with what the text says, and discern which Bible teachers are worth listening to.

Great words from Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle

June 19, 2010 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon’s sermon #117 (John 21:15-17):

a believer’s strong faith is not a strong faith in his own love to Christ—it is a strong faith in Christ’s love to him. There is no faith which always believes that it loves Christ. Strong faith has its conflicts; and a true believer will often wrestle in the very teeth of his own feelings. Lord, if I never did love thee, nevertheless, if I am not a saint, I am a sinner. Lord, I still believe; help thou mine unbelief.

And some helpful and convicting words from J.C. Ryle, in “Practical Religion,” concerning prayer:

There are wonderful examples in the Scripture of the power of prayer. Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer to do. It has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach. It has won victories over fire, air earth, and water. Prayer opened up the Red Sea . Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven. Prayer made the sun stand still. Prayer brought fire from the sky on Elijah’s sacrifice. Prayer turned the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib. Well might Mary Queen of Scots say, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.” Prayer has healed the sick. Prayer has raised the dead. Prayer has procured the conversion of souls. “The child of many prayers,” said and old Christian to Augustine’s mother, “shall never perish.” Prayer, pains, and faith can do anything. Nothing seems impossible when a person has the spirit of adoption. … Think of this. Is this not an encouragement?

and

Without controversy there is a vast difference among true Christians. There is an immense interval between the foremost and the hindermost in the army of God.

They are all fighting the same good fight but how much more valiantly some fight than others. They are all doing the Lord’s work but how much more some do than others. They are all light in the Lord; but how much more brightly some shine than others. They are all running the same race; but how much faster some get on than others. They all love the same Lord and Savior; but how much more some love him than others. I ask any true Christian whether this is not the case. Are these things not so?

There are some of the Lord’s people who seem never able to get on from the time of their conversion. They are born again, but they remain babies all their lives. You hear from them the same old experience. You remark in them the same lack of spiritual appetite, the same lack of interest in anything beyond their own little circle, which you remarked ten years ago. They are pilgrims indeed, but pilgrims like the Gibeonites of old; their bread is always dry and moldy, their shoes always old, and their garments always rent and torn. I say this with sorrow and grief; but I ask any real Christian, Is it not true?

There are others of the Lord’s people who seem to be always advancing. They grow like grass after rain; they increase like Israel in Egypt; they press on like Gideon, though sometimes faint, yet always pursuing. They are ever adding grace to grace, and faith to faith, and strength to strength. Every time you meet them their hearts seems larger, and their spiritual stature taller and stronger. Every year they appear and feel more in their religion. They not only have good works to prove the reality of their faith, but the are zealous of them. They not only do well, but they are unwearied in well doing. They attempt great things, and they do great things. When they fail they try again, and when they fall they are soon up again. And all this time they think themselves poor, unprofitable servants, and fancy that they do nothing at all. These are those who make religion lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all. They wrest praise even from the unconverted and win golden opinions even from the selfish people of the world. It does one good to see. to be with them, and to hear them. When you meet them, you could believe that like Moses, they had just come out from the presence of God. When you part with them you feel warmed by their company, as if your soul had been near a fire. I know such people are rare. I only ask, Are there not many such?

Now how can you account for the difference which I have just described? What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy, pray much.