Bonar: The Humble Calvinist in the work of God

Bonar: The Humble Calvinist in the work of God

“If Jewish or Gentile unbelief, and alienation from God were things which could be reached by moral persuasion, and human warmth; if men’s souls were within our reach as completely as their bodies, then God’s definite purpose as to salvation would be of little moment [importance]. But if the estrangement of humanity from God be a thing quite beyond man, and man’s argument or eloquence; if the resistance of a human will be a thing of almost unconceivable potency, and if the subjugation of that will require the direct forth-putting of Omnipotence, such as that which created heaven and earth, then God’s purpose is the first and last thing to be considered in going forth to deal either with Jew or Gentile. Other considerations may light up a false fire and produce a fair seeming zeal; but only the knowledge of a divine purpose can bring a man into a right missionary position, fill him with missionary devotedness, and nerve him [give confidence] in the hour of disappointment or discomfort. ‘Even so Father for so it seemed good in thy sight,’ was the truth on which the Son of God rested in the day of Israel’s first rejection of His Word; and it is just on such a truth as this, — a truth that lifts the divine purpose into its true place, that each of us, whether minister or missionary, must lean, in the day of apparent failure. The Pauline, or, if you like, the Calvinistic scheme, which connects all work for God with a definite purpose, and not with an indefinite wish, is that which alone can make us either comfortable or successful. Armed with this divine purpose, we feel ourselves invincible; nay, we are assured of being victorious. Having ascertained God’s purpose, and adopted it as the basis of our operations, we feel that we are in sympathy with God while working for Him. And it is this sympathy, this oneness of mind with God, that cheers us and sustains. He ever wins who sides with God. We shall thus be better fitted for enduring hardness, for ‘spending and being spent;’ that is, for expending ourselves, till all that is in us is expended.”

– Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury (1871) in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 1334-1335.

“Go as a sinner”: Bonar on humbly approaching Christ

“Go as a sinner”: Bonar on humbly approaching Christ

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) were the words that brought me to saving faith in the Fall of 1999. To this day, those simple words and others like them (i.e. “Just as I am”) are so profound that I simply don’t fully grasp the depth of God’s mercy that He would invite me to come to Him, honestly, with all my sin. I naturally seek to please God through self-improvement and compare myself to other worse sinners. I naturally want to appease Him by being good and doing good. This is Cross-neglecting legalism!

God wants us to press close to Him in the honest truth – I am a sinner, empty of righteousness and undeserving of everything but hell forever and that I don’t typically feel like it.

We need to impress our friends, our hearers, our congregations to come to Jesus. Be honest, sincere and open. Even if you cannot feel your sin, take that honesty to Him. And even there, in the honesty of ignorance and in spiritual numbness, you may find truth and rest for your souls in the everlasting righteousness of Christ!

O, that we would stop trying to appease ‘seekers’ with scientific proofs and stop trying to appease legalists with more duties. Let us press everyone we know to go to Jesus honestly, just as they are, in the soiled garments of sin and ignorance. Let sinners come in their tattered rags!

On this topic, yet another gem from Horatius Bonar (1808-1889):

Faith may seem a slight thing to some; and they may wonder how salvation can flow from believing. Hence they try to magnify it, to adorn it, to add to it, in order that it may appear some great thing, something worthy of having salvation as its reward. In so doing, they are actually transforming faith into a work, and introducing salvation by works, under the name of faith. They show that they understand neither the nature nor the office of faith. It saves, simply by handing us over to the Saviour. It saves, not on account of the good works which flow from it, not on account of the love which it kindles, not on account of the repentance which it produces, but solely because it connects us with the Saving One. Its saving efficacy does not lie in its connection with righteousness and holiness, but entirely in its connection with the Righteous and Holy One …

The blood of the cross is that which has ‘made peace;’ and to share this peace God freely calls us. This blood of the cross is that by which we are justified; and to this justification we are invited. This blood of the cross is that by which we are brought nigh to God; and to this blessed nearness we are invited. This blood of the cross is that by which we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace; and this redemption, this forgiveness, is freely set before us. It is by this blood that we have liberty of entrance into the holiest; and God’s voice to each sinner is, ‘Enter in.’ It is by this blood that we are cleansed and washed; and this fountain is free, free as any of earth’s flowing streams, free as the mighty ocean itself, in which all may wash and be clean.

These are good news concerning the blood, — news which should make every sinner feel that it is just what he stands in need of. Nothing less than this; yet nothing more.

And these good news of the blood are no less good news of Him whose blood is shed. For it is by this blood-shedding that He is the Saviour. Without this He could not have been a Redeemer; but, with it, He is altogether such a Redeemer as suits the sinner’s case. In Him there is salvation, — salvation without a price, — salvation for the most totally and thoroughly lost that this fallen earth contains. Go and receive it.

Do you ask, How am I to find salvation, and how am I to go to that God, on the blood of whose Son I have trampled so long? I answer, Go to Him in your proper and present character — that of a sinner. Go with no lie upon your lips, professing to be what you are not, or to feel what you do not. Tell Him honestly what you are, and what you feel, and what you do not feel. ‘Take with you words;’ but let them be honest words, not the words of hypocrisy and deceit. Tell Him that your sin is piercing you; or tell Him that you have no sense of sin, no repentance, no relish for divine things, no right knowledge of your own worthlessness and guilt. Present yourself before Him just as you are, and not as you wish to be, or think you ought to be, or suppose He desires you to be …

Appear before Him, taking for granted just that you are what you are, a sinner; and that Christ is what He is, a Saviour; deal honestly with God, and be assured that it is most thoroughly impossible that you can miss your errand. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found;’ and you will see that He is found of you. ‘Call upon Him while He is near;’ and you will find how near He is.

Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 584-585. (Posted with permission from publisher.)

New evangelism tools

How do we communicate the message of the Cross to those who do not know? While there are no substitutes for personal conversations, there are a number of excellent (and very affordable) resources you can incorporate into your evangelism. Here are just two…

For Your JOY, by John Piper ($0.25 – $1.00 each)

This little 40-page book can be kept in your pocket. It begins with C.S. Lewis’ famous question: Is Christ a liar, lunatic or Lord? It gives the typical elements of the gospel – providing an understanding of God’s holiness, the nature of sin, that God judges sinners, and the precious death of Christ as the sinner’s substitute. Also included is a clear call for the reader to consider and act upon these things personally.

Then, in typical John Piper style, he expands the scope of the gospel to show the reader that their eternal happiness is also at stake. “The gospel of Christ is the good news that at the cost of his Son’s life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy, namely, himself” (p. 29).

The entire book can be read in about 30-45 minutes. An excellent overview of the gospel!

ESV Outreach New Testament ($0.50 each)

As a college ministry leader in Omaha, I tried to get an ESV into the hands of each student that did not own a bible. First, the ESV is both a literal translation of the bible and is literally superb. And second, it looks like a book you would sit down and read. For some reason, outreach bibles are typically the least creatively formatted, lacking all the imagination and readability of a typical book you would find at a bookstore. The ESV has always printed bibles that use various fonts, paragraph breaks, clear section markers and book introductions. This new outreach edition of the ESV New Testament is no different.

It’s 222 pages of fairly small and tightly formatted text. But it is also a book that someone can sit down and comfortably read through (provided they have fairly good eyesight. This version is promoted for “Nursing Home Residents.” I would find another edition for that use.)

The extra features of this small and inexpensive bible are impressive. How should I read my New Testament? is a short article helping readers trust in the illumination of the Spirit and encourages the reader to find a good local church. Then there is a topical guide to the bible for passages concerning sadness, anger, temptation, the nature of joy, pride, forgiveness, etc. A 30-day reading plan to read through some of the most important sections of the NT follows. Then a short introduction to the New Testament explains how the NT is comprised (gospels, letters, prophecy). Each book of the NT has a very brief (but very helpful) introduction.

The outreach edition closes with a gospel presentation that wonderfully points the reader back into the text of the NT. And finally a second reading plan lays out a schedule to read through the entire NT in six months.

Both the booklet by Piper and the New Testament by the ESV are wonderful helps for our evangelism efforts. They are both clear, concise, concrete and affordable.

0977328600, 9781581348354, 1581348355

The Art of Manfishing by Thomas Boston

In his book on evangelism titled The Art of Manfishing (“follow me and I will make you fishers of men”), Thomas Boston writes this about the net of the gospel,

“the meshes must not be over-wide, lest the fish run through. So neither must thy doctrine be general, without particular application, lest thou be no fisher of men. Indeed men may be the better pleased, when thou preachest doctrine so as wicked men may run out-through and in-through it, than when thou makest it so as to take hold of them; but be not a servant of men” (p. 39).

So in the counsel of one wise Puritan, let us be like the ancient fishers – always mending and tightening our nets by making certain our theology is biblically sharp and earnestly applied.