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The Hidden Life: Devotional Book, by Adolph Saphir

August 9, 2013 2 comments

After trying a few different free online Christian books recently (including works from Henry Morris and Alfred Edersheim), I am now reading Adolph Saphir’s “The Hidden Life”.  This work is available in several formats from archive.org, and also free on Google Play: the format I’ve chosen, without the many typo errors in, for instance, archive.org’s Kindle version.

I’ve only read the first three chapters so far, but finding it a good devotional with the proper emphasis on different aspects of the Christian life: prayer, reading of scripture, and the overall question of what it means to draw near to God.  Saphir’s work considers the epistle of James, and specifically James 4:8 – “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Scripture verses and Christian poetry abound, as Saphir considers the proper way to come to God, how we should approach prayer (along with discussion of our tendency to not pray), and more.

A few excerpts are noteworthy, including this from the preface:

It is right to guard the house against the attacks of foes, or rather to point out the strength and security of the divinely-laid foundation. It is also right to point out the gate wide and open, and to declare to all the freeness and fulness of divine grace. But to describe the home itself, the inner sanctuary, seems to be more essential, and also more in accordance with the practice of the apostles, who declared the whole counsel of God, and regarded the preaching of the gospel, in its fulness, and with the power of the Holy Ghost, as at once the great argument to convince, and the great attraction to persuade.

And

The Word, or the Scripture, is the great, and in many respects the unique, channel of God’s communications to the soul; or rather it is central, round which all other divine influences gather. Scripture is the divine revelation in a special sense, but so that it connects itself with all other manifestations of God to the soul, be they in Nature or Providence, or by the direct influence of the Spirit.

Saphir keeps balance, avoiding the excesses and negative associations of mysticism and Christian mysticism, while noting the proper focus the Christian should have: on the Lord Himself, rather than on the “experience” of communion we enjoy with the Lord (which tends toward self-centeredness).  Notes at the end of chapter 1 specifically address the errors of mysticism, also observing:

The Christian knows not only wherein religion consists, but he also knows the source and power of the true life. The mystics outside Christianity have truly felt the necessity of death, of hating our own will and life, and in this respect put to shame many professing Christians who mind earthly things, and are the enemies of the cross of Christ. But they did not know : ” Ye have died with Christ, and your life is hid with Christ in God. ” They did not know the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the constraining love of the Divine Saviour, who for us died and lived again, that we henceforth may live unto Him. They may therefore be viewed as resembling those who, through the law, have become dead and long for life.

Later chapters deal with worldliness and the Christian’s proper response: to not love the world, yet in our service in the world, The less he loves the world in its God-opposed character, the more he truly loves the world, and is a blessing to those around him.

Do Unbelievers Really Just Not Understand the Gospel?

February 27, 2013 24 comments

From my readings through a devotional book (Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, volume 2), comes this excerpt from the Feb. 21 reading:

Many of the lost fail to embrace the gospel because no one has presented it clearly to them.  That’s because many Christians communicate a muddled gospel that emphasizes lots of secondary issues, thanks in many respects to their leaders’ digressing from the genuine message. A sure way for Satan to weaken the gospel is simply to prevent its clear and accurate presentation.

The devotional’s point was for believers to stay focused on the gospel itself and not chase rabbit trails onto less important, secondary issues. Still, somehow in reading that, I considered the fact that, really (and generally speaking), lost people don’t have a problem of “not understanding” the gospel message.  I’ve been going through S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, in which he pointed this out, that people don’t have a problem with understanding the gospel.  Jesus perfectly communicated the saving message, and they understood His message so well that they crucified Him.
Sometimes I think, that people think that if the Lord Jesus were the preacher everyone would respond.  If the Apostle Paul were preaching in Believers Chapel there would be much better results.  Well, I’m willing to grant there would probably be some better results, but let me assure you it would not be because when a man gives a clear presentation of the gospel and gives it in a greater spirit of love, that there must therefore be a response.  Just think for a moment, who was preaching?  The Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever gave the gospel message more clearly than he?  No one would debate that.  Whoever spoke out of a greater sense of divine love than the Lord Jesus?  What was his response?  Well he was crucified. … The facts are that men are unresponsive to the word of God.  They are unable to come.  They rebel against the Scriptures, for the mind of the flesh is enmity against God.  …  So when those who were listening to the Lord Jesus said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” they were really representative of human nature.
Regarding the idea that believers do not always present the gospel message because they (believers) get side-tracked onto “secondary” issues, and therefore the unbeliever hears a “muddled gospel”: perhaps that does happen, just not within my experience.  Instead, in conversations with unbelievers what usually happens is that the unbeliever likes to throw up objections, and the unbeliever likes to get sidetracked, away from the gospel itself to other unrelated issues.  Here again I recall something that S. Lewis Johnson mentioned sometimes, both from his own experience as an adult unbeliever in conversations with the Christian people around him (including his wife and mother-in-law) as well as the similar advice he was given on this very issue soon after he was saved.  Here is one excerpt from SLJ, describing this:
This reminds me of something that the man who led me to the Lord said when I was just a brand new Christian.  I came to him and spoke to him about a friend of mine with whom I had spoken about the Lord Jesus, and whom I’d sought to bring to faith in Christ, and was totally unsuccessful.  And then he said, Lewis, you’ll notice this about dealing with the lost.  They frequently will come to you with six or eight intellectual reasons why they should not believe the gospel.  He said, you ask them to list them, and they do, and you answer the first objection, and the second objection, and so on down through the six or seven.  And he said, “Lewis, you will notice that when you finish answering the seventh, the last one, they won’t say, ‘well then I’ll become a believer’; as a general rule, they’ll go back to number one again.”

From SLJ’s own experience:

I can remember when I was like that.  Whenever spiritual things would come up, and I would get involved in the conversation, I had about half a dozen things that I thought were things that prevented me from responding to the gospel.  I was in the insurance business, and I prided myself on thinking fairly logically.  And so I had a series of reasons that I would lodge against the Christian faith as it was understood by my mother-in-law and by others.  I usually reduced her to tears.  I won the arguments, and lost the ultimate battle of course.  But anyway, this is what I would do.  I would start with reason number one, why is the Bible the word of God?  How can we know the Bible is the word of God?  And I would go one, two, three, four, five, six.  And if we were in a large group of people, everybody would pounce in and they would answer my question.  So I would move on to number two, number three, number four, number five, number six.  And when I finished number six I would go back to number one again, number one, two.  That’s the way we are.

Unbelievers don’t have a problem of not understanding the gospel.  Jesus perfectly explained it and they still rejected it.  The greater issue is not so much that Christians do not clearly present the gospel and instead present a “muddled gospel” due to being sidetracked into non-essentials, but that unbelievers themselves, by nature, do not want to hear the gospel and will use such “defensive” tactics to distract away from the presentation of the gospel message.

Devotional Reading

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Along with my Bible reading (90 days modified Horner System), I’m now regularly reading from a few devotional books / emails.  A well-known one, which I receive by email, is Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening — available here.  I usually only read the morning one, since that’s when I’m in front of the computer reading email.

Another good one I’ve recently discovered is ICR.org’s “Days of Praise”.   Apparently the devotionals come in three-month booklets, and unlike Spurgeon’s devotional book the content changes from year to year.  The archives from previous years are available on the site as well.  Written by Henry H. Morris as well as a few other writers, these devotionals often deal with texts upholding the importance of God’s word, as well as some that relate to science and/or creation.  Recent devotionals have included texts such as 2 Timothy 3:16 (Jots and Tittles), several of the Psalms, and Genesis.  One devotional on Genesis 2 pointed out that Eve was really formed from “Adam’s side” (not merely a bone, a rib) — and saw this incident as a prophetic foreshadowing of the deep sleep which would come upon on “the last Adam”:

As Adam’s sacrifice gave life to his bride, so did the death of Christ quicken “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

In the evenings I usually read an entry in John MacArthur’s “Readings from the Life of Christ, volume 2,” a hardbound devotional book I received through the Grace to You mailing list, and part of a three-volume set of devotionals focused on the gospel accounts.  As with MacArthur’s other devotional books, three of which are available online (no archives, only the current day), the entries are only from the New Testament:  in this case, from the gospel accounts.  MacArthur’s devotionals have more of a teaching style, bringing up specific technical points concerning a passage.  Often these are interesting and point out new things I had not noticed — as in a devotional from Hebrews 1, mentioned in this previous blog.  The readings also highlight some more MacArthur-specific ideas that I don’t always agree with, but they at least provide opportunities to further study such texts.  My next blog (for Thursday) will consider one such matter:  MacArthur’s definition of “types.”  I would also point out here that the epilogue “application” parts are not as useful, and often seem a forced format to “apply” the good teaching to something completely unrelated.

My day’s routine is not complete without the J.C. Ryle quote of the day.  I’ve just subscribed to the Octavius Winslow devotional, and will see if I enjoy it as much as the J.C. Ryle quotes.