Volume. XXXIII, No. 22
Sunday, 25 November 2018


From the Pastor’s Heart: How to be Godly (Part 3)


Some believers may feel uneasy with the term, “means of grace,” because they consider them (means of grace) as artificial tools that promote works or humanistic ideas above the supernatural and sovereign work of the Lord.  Thus, they may argue against any teaching about the means of grace.  I hope that they will remember two important lessons: (1) God uses means to accomplish His will.  The Westminster Confession of Faith 5.3 reads, “God, in His ordinary providence, maketh use of means [Acts 27:31,44; Isa. 55:10,11; Hos. 2:21-22], yet is free to work without [Hos. 1:7; Matt. 4:4; Job 34:10], above [Rom. 4:19-21], and against them [2 Kings 6:6; Dan. 3:27], at His pleasure.”  Therefore, it is a biblical idea that God uses means.  The Bible is the story of God’s providential work in which He used many different kinds of means including nations, individuals, weather like thunder or rain, good and bad circumstances, illnesses, natural disasters, human relationships, and so on.  (2) Man has duties.  The means of grace are purposed to teach, correct, encourage, edify, mould him to submit to the Lord and His commandments, and to love Him.  Godliness is a picture of a godly man’s life, which is full of obedience and humble submission to God and His will.  The means of grace assists and helps him to fulfill his duties.  See the following and judge for yourself if you can fulfill your duties before God without employing any means.  A godly life is a life of unfeigned faith, faith in the temporal promises of God, hearty assent to the commands and threats in the Bible, a cleansed heart, the renunciation of all sins, the virtues of uprightness, diligence, continuance, humility and meekness.  Of course, this is a life that fulfills all of our duties to both God and man.  The means of grace are necessary tools for our godliness.

 

I thought it was interesting that Rogers emphasized on precision and precious obedience to God and life before Him and man, while emphasizing godliness.  The following story has been spoken of him.  Once he was riding with the lord of a nearby manor, who said, “Mr. Rogers, I like you and your company very well, only you are too precise.”  Rogers replied, “Oh, sir, I serve a very precise God.”  Probably, it is not different from what Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”  It implies that godliness involves precise living developed through exercises and disciplines.  It means that godliness is not a natural product of human nature. 

 

Such a person is well illustrated in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1977, 25-26).  The story is told as follows: Christian comes to the Interpreter’s House and he was brought into a candlelit room.  “Christian saw the picture of a very grave person against the wall; and this was the fashion of it.  It had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back.  It stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.”  Christian asks its means, and his guide explains that this man is “one of a thousand; he can beget children (1 Corinthians 4:15), travail in birth with children (Galatians 4:19), and nurse them himself when they are born.”  This man’s work is to “know and unfold dark things to sinners.”  He also has turned his back on this present world because of the love he has for his master, and awaited his reward in the glorious world to come.  The Interpreter continually explains that it is only such a man “whom the Lord of the place whither thou art going, hath authorized to be thy guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way.”  Such is a man who is godly. 

 

Means are tools

As God uses means to accomplish His providence, so the Christian life is upheld and continued by means.  We need to consider means even more when we desire to be godly.  It is because our nature (depraved and corrupt) cannot be our guide.  It is something we ought to put off, and we must put on new man.  In reality, we know and understand that though many people desire to be godly, only a few attain to it.  It is because the Christian faces hindrances and discouragements in life.  We need tools to overcome such challenges and our weaknesses.  We may be helped by two things as we pursue a course of godliness: (1) what kind of tools we are going to use, and (2) how diligently and efficiently we are going to use them.  There are two sorts of means/tools we are going to look into: (1) Public means are (a) the ministry of the word read, preached, and heard, as the Lord prescribes, (b) The administration and worthy receiving of the holy sacraments, and (c) the exercise of prayer with thanksgiving and singing of psalms.  (2) Private means are (a) watchfulness, (b) meditation, (c) the armor of a Christian, (d) reflecting on our own experience, (e) the use of company by godly conversation and family exercises, (f) prayer, and (g) reading (Rogers, Kindle loc., 279-285 of 2097). 

 

Godly exercises need both public and private means, because we cannot use the public means daily.  And even though public means are good and efficient, they are not sufficient to enable us to grow in spiritual maturity and fullness of godliness.  Besides, if public means help us grow upwardly, private means help us grow both upwardly and horizontally (ourselves and others).  One additional thought is that public means will be less, if not at all, profitable, unless private means are known and rightly used.  For example, we may be able to make beautiful and eloquent public prayers, without a dedicated and sincere private prayer life.  How much can we get benefited from our public prayers in such instances?  We may come to church to hear the preaching of the Word, which is a public means.  However, if we do not read and meditate upon God’s Word in private, we will receive fewer benefits to our souls in the end.  Private means or helps are necessary for maximum benefits from public means or helps.

 

Tools must be used

I have a few tools in my storage room that I have inherited from others.  They look interesting and would be handy, if I knew how to use them and also diligently used them for house work.  The things I have learnt from seminaries are like tools that help me study the Bible.  I have many books in my bookshelves.  However, though tools are important, if they are not used, they are useless.  Everything listed in public and private means is a good tool, but if they are not used, they are nothing.  They themselves do not have any power, until they are used.  What does it mean that the means of grace have to be used?  How relevant this question is to us, serious believers of Jesus Christ?  There are many ways I might describe the relationship between the means of grace and us.  Out of many choices, if I have to choose one, I would say that using the means of grace simply means that we have duties.  For example, the preaching of the Word, prayer, meditation, watchfulness, or partaking of the Lord’s Supper and being baptized, are all commanded by the Lord.  For instance, “watch and pray” is a command from the Lord.  To meditate on God’s Word day and night is not a choice but a duty!  Every one of the means of grace teaches us of our duties!  It is true that they are the means of grace, but they describe our duties.  We also need to know that these means are God’s appointments.  We have Christian duties. 

 

The Word is the prominent tool

I am sure that no one is surprised by knowing this.  We must know the supremacy of God’s Word over everything concerning us.  The Bible is the very Word of God.  Not only are its contents wonderful (Psalm 119:129), but also its operating power is mighty (Hebrews 4:12).  Thus we are required to search the Scriptures (John 5:39).  In what way is the Word the prominent tool?

  1. It has the final authority over everything concerning us. By recognizing its authority, we must study it in order to know the will of God and His commandments, and we also must voluntarily submit ourselves to it.  Thus, the knowledge of the Bible and our willful obedience to it are rooted in its authority.  Whatever the Bible says, we will do.  Without using the Bible, we are confused over authority issues.
  2. It is all sufficient for the wholeness of our life. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a perfect example for the sufficiency of the Bible: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

 

 

Lovingly,

Your Pastor

 


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

  • Those who have completed their Basic Bible Knowledge Course & would like to be baptised, re-affirmed or have their membership transferred please see one of the Elders ASAP.
  • Today’s undesignated (General) Offerings will be sent to the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in Philadelphia, USA.
  • Due to unforeseen circumstances, Precept Seminar this afternoon is cancelled & rescheduled for next Lord’s Day.
  • Please invite your family, relatives, friends & work colleagues to the Christmas Carols this coming Saturday, 1 Dec at 4 pm. Please bring refreshments to share at fellowship time after the carols.
  • There will be no AFG, M2M, Wednesday Bible Study, Neighbourhood Bible Study (BSAG, Joy, Maranatha) meetings in December – January.
  • Church roster for Jan-March 2019. Please email your availability no later than 1 Dec to hopebpcrosterer@gmail.com
  • Lunch Duty: This week: YAF. Next week: Neighbourhood Bible Study Groups.

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Visitors & church activities in the past week.
  • Elders Michael D Lee’s & David Yeo’s ministries at Ebenezer BPC (Melb).
  • Discharged from hospital: Sis Myung Ki.
  • Working Bee.
  • Journey mercies: Elder Michael; Elder David Yeo (Melb); & others who have travelled.

Prayer Items

  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren; & others in afflictions.
  • Special Prayer: For healing & quick recovery: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); Uncle Wong (hospital); & Bro Wayne Spencer.
  • Missions: House of Hope – pastor, staff & residents; Bro Jose Mangco (Cebu). 
  • Ebenezer BPC (Melb).
  • Rev & Mrs Mathews Abraham & family – for God’s guidance.
  • New pastor for our church.
  • Journey mercies: Rev Mathews Abraham & family; Elder David Yeo (Adl); & others who are travelling.

 

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063