The Christian life is one of continual conflict from its commencement to its close. There is no hope whatever that it can be otherwise. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and never can be anything else but flesh. It continually wars against the spirit–so that oftentimes, as the Apostle says, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” This was Paul’s own experience to the end of life, for never did he find any good thing in himself, that is, in his flesh. The flesh never changes for the better. Our only expectation and our encouragement is that through the grace of our Lord Jesus, with watchfulness and prayerfulness, it will be kept under control, and that the spiritual nature will increase in vigor daily. The consciousness of all our infirmities, our inward lusts, and our utter helplessness–but makes the Lord Jesus more precious! The very lusts we abhor, do serve our best interests when they cause us to look more to Him. Thus they are among the all things that work for our good, by keeping us in our proper place and exalting the Lord. (Thomas Moor, “Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers” 1881)
“The LORD’s portion is His people!” Deuteronomy 32:9. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” Lamentations 3:24. The above two passages of Scripture ought never to be separated. God and my soul possess each other.
God finds his portion in His people–and His people find their portion in God! This God is mine, in all His glorious perfection!
His heart is mine, for He loves me. His ear is mine, for I may pour into it all my tales of sorrow, and all my songs of joy. His eyes are mine, for they watch me from morning until night. His hand is mine, for it is stretched out to uphold me. Oh, He is a God of infinite glory! Abased in the very dust, and half bewildered by the thought, I yet dare to look up and say, “This God is my God forever and ever! He will be my guide even unto death!” (Archibald Brown, “This God Is Our God!” 1896)
Luke 2:10–14 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
“O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34. O, give thanks to the Lord, Christian, for He has not dealt with you after your sins, nor rewarded you according to your iniquities! He has pardoned your sins, justified your soul, renewed your nature, and given you a title to everlasting life! He has thus prevented your eternal ruin, borne with your faults and follies, supplied all your needs, guided your steps, and promised to conduct you to glory! His mercy has been ever great toward you! “O, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever!” Psalm 107:1. (James Smith, “Sunny Subjects for All Seasons” 1858)
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.” Psalm 119:67. “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.” Psalm 119:71. By trials, God makes sin more hateful and the world less delightful. God had but one Son without corruption–but He had none without afflictions! By trials the Lord will make His people more and more conformable to the image of His Son. Christ was much tried–He was often in the school of affliction; and the more a Christian is tried, the more into the likeness of Christ he will be transformed. The most afflicted Christians do most resemble Christ in meekness, lowliness, holiness, heavenliness, etc. The image of Christ is most fairly stamped upon afflicted souls. Tried souls are much in looking up to Jesus–and every gracious look upon Christ changes the soul more and more into the image of Christ. Afflicted souls experience much of the comforts of Christ, and the more they experience the sweet of the comforts of Christ–the more they grow up into the likeness of Christ. Afflictions are the tools by which the Father does more and more carve, form, and fashion His precious saints into the similitude and likeness of His dearest Son. “I know, O LORD, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to your servant.” Psalm 119:75-76. (Thomas Brooks, 1608-1680)
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24. Blessed announcement! Not the less hateful, nor hated, is the sin because it is forgiven and entirely blotted out. Oh no! Let the Lord touch your heart, Christian reader, with a sense of His pardoning love, with the assurance of His forgiveness, and you will go and hate, and mortify, and forsake it, more resolutely and effectually than ever. And must the Son of God become the Son of Man, that those who are by nature children of wrath, might become the sons of God! Must God, the eternal God, the high and lofty One, stoop so low as to become incarnate, and that for sinners; for me, a poor worthless sinner! To save me from eternal woe, must the Son of Man suffer, agonize, and die; die in my stead, die for my sins, die an accursed death! Ah! Lord, what must sin be, what must my sin be! How little have I thought of it, how little have I mourned for it, still less have I hated it as I ought to have hated it! Lord, how vile, how unutterably vile I am! Oh, hated sin! Do You forgive it, Father of my mercies? This only makes it more hateful still. (Octavius Winslow)
“I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You!” Psalm 73:22-23. “Nevertheless”–as if notwithstanding all the foolishness and ignorance that David had just been confessing to God–not one atom the less was it true and certain that David was saved and accepted, and that the blessing of being constantly in God’s presence was undoubtedly his. Fully conscious of his own lost estate and of the deceitfulness and vileness of his nature–yet by a glorious outburst of faith, he sings, “Nevertheless I am continually with You!” Believer, endeavor in like spirit to say, “Nevertheless, since I belong to Christ, I am continually with God!” I am continually upon His mind–He is always thinking of me for my good. I am continually before His eye–the eye of the Lord never sleeps but is perpetually watching over my welfare. I am continually in His hand–so that none will be able to pluck me out from it. I am continually on His heart–worn there as a memorial, even as the high priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon His heart forever. “You always think of me, O God. You are always making providence work for my good. You have set me as a signet upon Your arm. Your love is as strong as death–many waters cannot quench it, neither can the floods drown it. You see me in Christ, and though in myself I am despised–You behold me as wearing Christ’s garments of salvation and washed in His blood; and thus I stand accepted in Your presence. I am thus continually in Your favor. I am continually with You!” (Charles Spurgeon)