Saturday, 7 April 2012

Love's Commendation

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Some of my most treasured books are from some of the giants of yesteryear. Certainly there are many excellent authors today, and I have read many of their works, but I especially love the old classics. If you have read some of my previous posts, or at noticed my blog’s “Topics” list, you will have noticed that one of those classics I’m referring to are the works of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Among those treasured books is a ten-volume collection entitled simply, “Spurgeon’s Sermons.” While many of his works can now be had in an e-format, I tend to be a little more old fashioned and would still rather curl up in my favorite chair with an equally old-fashioned paper version of the book.

What follows here comes from one of those recent times in my favorite chair. It comes from Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume 2, Sermon number 26, entitled “Love’s Commendation.” I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.
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“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”
 –Romans, v.8 
I shall have nothing new to tell you; it will be as old as the everlasting hills, and so simple that a child may understand it. Love’s commendation. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s commendation of himself and of his love is not in words, but in deeds. When the Almighty God would commend his love to poor man, it is not written, “God commendeth his love toward us in eloquent oration;” it is not written that he commendeth his love by winning professions; but he commendeth his love toward us by an act, by a deed; a surprising deed, the unutterable grace of which eternity itself shall scarce discover. He “commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Let us learn, then, upon the threshold of our text, that if we would commend ourselves, it must be by deeds, and not by words. Men may talk fairly, and think that thus they shall win esteem; they may order their words aright, and think that so they shall command respect; but let them remember, it is not the wordy oratory of the tongue, but the more powerful eloquence of the hand which wins the affection of “the world’s greatest heart.” If thou wouldst commend thyself to thy fellows, go and do – not go and say; if thou wouldst win honor from the excellent, talk not, but act; and if, before God thou wouldst show that thy faith is sincere, and thy love to him real, remember, it is no fawning words, uttered either in prayer or praise, but it is the pious deed, the holy act, which is the justification of thy faith, and the proof that it is the faith of God’s elect. Doing, not saying – acting, not talking – these are the things which commend a man.
“No big words of ready talkers,  
No fine boastings will suffice;  
Broken hearts and humble walkers, 
These are dear in Jesus’ eyes.”
Let us imitate God, then, in this. If we would commend our religion to mankind, we can not do it by mere formalities, but by gracious acts of integrity, charity, and forgiveness, which are the proper discoveries of grace within. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” “Let your conversation be such as becometh the Gospel of Christ;” and so shall you honor him, and “adorn the doctrine” which you profess. (Charles Spurgeon)
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Such reads the introduction to “Love’s Commendation.” Spurgeon then goes quite deeply into his two main points: one, “That Christ died for us,” and two, “That Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.” I will not copy out the rest of his sermon, mainly due to the length. There are fourteen pages of text that follow the introduction, far too many for our purposes here.

What did I get out of that introduction from Spurgeon’s sermon? I was reminded of the importance of a practical action-based faith. I was reminded of James’ letter where he says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22; ESV). Have we deceived ourselves a little by seemingly downplaying the “doing” part of the faith? I do wonder about that sometimes.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17; ESV).
Someone once said, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.” The bottom line is that talk is cheap. Sooner or later, it becomes time to put our faith into action. Eventually we must crawl off that pew and “do” something with all that teaching we’ve received. Just as one would expect that a student would eventually graduate and move on into a career, shouldn’t the Christian also eventually graduate (as it were) and move on into “doing” something with all those years and years of indoctrination and pew sitting?

Please understand, I do not have a problem with sermons and teaching per se, but I do have a problem with them if that is all we are doing and if we never seem to get around to actually “doing” the everyday practical parts of the faith. I’m reminded of a well-known parable:
“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him on to his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill – I’ll pay you on my way back.’ “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:30-37; The Message).
Photo Credit: Ted
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Did you notice that? Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” He didn’t say to sit back and wait for them to come to us, as if they’re even interested in coming to our church institutions. No, Jesus said to GO and DO. It’s much like the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Again, GO and DO something. Our faith, for it to be real and worth anything at all, includes a DOING component. It is being the Samaritan as opposed to simply being the religious priest or Levite. While deep down inside I’m sure that we all know that, as I said before, I cannot help but wonder if we haven’t inadvertently downplayed the “doing” part of our faith a bit too much. The world doesn’t need a bunch of more religious people, but it does need a bunch more Samaritans.
Which one are you? 
Which one am I?
Are there needs around us that we can do something about? Most certainly there are! Obviously we cannot possibly do everything for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that we should then do nothing for anyone. Some will say, “I can’t afford it,” as if we were talking about some great financial expense. However, while there could be a financial expense in some circumstances, DOING doesn’t necessarily involve dollars at all, but it does involve having a heart for our fellow man.

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Aren’t you thankful that the Lord didn’t just sit back on his throne and leave us in our sin to fend for ourselves? Aren’t you thankful that God, in his great love, saw the needs in sinful humanity and DID something about it by providing you and me with a Savior? I sure am.

Have a blessed Easter, my friends. May the condition of our hearts toward others, reflect the love of Jesus in practical acts of DOING for those whose paths cross ours.

Peace.

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