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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spurgeon: Thoughts on the Last Battle

In preparation for preaching through 1 Corinthians 15, I checked to see if any of Charles Spurgeon's sermons in 1 Corinthians 15 were published and found his sermon titled Thoughts on the Last Battle, preached May 13, 1855. Although I do not regularly read Spurgeon sermons, it is easily one of the top three I have read and would encourage everyone to read it.

Here is an excerpt from the sermon that I used in part in my own sermon:

2. But I must take it in another sense. "The sting of death is sin:"—that is to say, that which shall make death most terrible to man will be sin, if it is not forgiven. If that be not the exact meaning of the apostle, still it is a great truth, and I may find it here. If sin lay heavy on me and were not forgiven—if my transgressions were unpardoned—if such were the fact (though I rejoice to know it is not so) it would be the very sting of death to me. Let us consider a man dying, and looking back on his past life: he will find in death a sting, and that sting will be his past sin. Imagine a conqueror's deathbed. He has been a man of blood from his youth up. Bred in the camp, his lips were early set to the bugle, and his hand, even in infancy, struck the drum. He had a
martial spirit; he delighted in the fame and applause of men; he loved the dust of battle and the garment rolled in blood. He has lived a life of what men call glory. He has stormed cities, conquered countries, ravaged continents, overrun the world. See his banners hanging in the hall, and the marks of glory on his escutcheon. He is one of earth's proudest warriors. But now he comes to die, and when he lies down to expire, what shall invest his death with horror? It shall be his sin. Methinks I see the monarch dying; he lies in state; around him are his nobles and his councillors; but there is somewhat else there. Hard by his side there stands a spirit from Hades; it is a soul of a departed woman. She looks on him and says, "Monster! my husband was slain in battle through thy ambition: I was made a widow, and my helpless orphans and myself were starved." And she passes by. Her husband comes, and opening wide his bloody wounds, he cries, "Once I called thee monarch; but, by thy vile covetousness thou didst provoke an unjust war. See here these wounds—I gained them in the siege. For thy sake I mounted first the scaling ladder; this foot stood upon the top of the wall, and I waved my sword in triumph, but in hell I lifted up my eyes in torment. Base wretch, thine ambition hurried me thither!" Turning his horrid eyes upon him, he passes by. Then up comes another, and another, and another yet; waking from their tombs, they stalk around his bed and haunt him; the dreary procession still marches on, looking at the dying tyrant. He shuts his eyes, but he feels the cold and bony hand upon his forehead; he quivers, for thesiting of death is in his heart. "O Death!" says he; "to leave this large estate, this mighty realm, this pomp and power—this were somewhat; but to meet those men, those women, and those orphan children, face to face; to hear them saying, 'Art thou become like one of us?' while kings whom I have dethroned, and monarchs whom I have cast down shall rattle their chains in my ears, and say, 'Thou wast our destroyer, but how art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou brought down as in a moment from thy glory and thy pride!'" There, you see, the sting of death would be the man's sin. It would not sting him that he had to die, but that he had sinned, that he had been a bloody man, that his hands were red with wholesale murder—this would plague him indeed, for "the sting of death is sin."

Or, suppose another character—a minister. He has stood before the world, proclaiming something which he called the gospel. He has been a noted preacher; the multitude have been hanging on his lips; they have listened to his words; before his eloquence a nation stood amazed, and thousands trembled at his voice. But his preaching is over; the time when he can mount the pulpit is gone; another standing-place awaits him, another congregation, and he must hear another and a better preacher than himself. There he lies. He has been unfaithful to his charge. He preached philosophy to charm his people, instead of preaching truth and aiming at their hearts. And, as he pants upon his bed, that worst and most accursed of men—for surely none can be worse than he—there comes up one, a soul from the pit, andlooking him in the face, says, "I came to thee once, trembling on account of sin; "I asked thee the road to heaven, and thou didst say, 'Do such and such good works,' and I did them, and am damned. Thou didst tell me an untruth; thou didst not declare plainly the word of God." He vanishes only to be followed by another; he has been an irreligious character, and as he sees the minister upon his deathbed, he says, "Ah! and art thou here? Once I strolled into thy house of prayer, but thou hadst such a sermon that I could not understand. I listened; I wanted to hear something from thy lips, some truth that might burn my soul and make me repent; but I knew not what thou saidst; and here I am." The ghost stamps his foot, and the man quivers like an aspen leaf, because he knows it is all true. Then the whole congregation arise
before him as he lies upon his bed; he looks upon the motley group; he beholds the snowy heads of the old, and glittering eyes of the young; and lying there upon his pillow, he pictures all the sins of his past life, and he hears it said, "Go thou! unfaithful to thy charge; thou didst no divest thyself of thy love of pomp and dignity; thou didst not speak

'As though thou ne'er might'st speak again, A dying man to dying men.'

"Oh! it may be something for that minister to leave his charge, somewhat for him to die; but worst of all, the sting of death will be his sin: to hear his parish come howling after him to hell; to see his congregation following behind him in one mingled herd, he having led them astray, having been a false prophet instead of a true one, speaking peace, peace, where there was no peace, deluding them with lies, charming them with music, when he ought rather to have told them in rough and rugged accents the Word of God. Verily, it is true, it is true, the sting of death to such a man shall be his great, his enormous, his heinous sin of having deluded others."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Priorities: American Patriotism or Zeal for God

This past July 4th, the blogosphere was alive with talk concerning the appropriateness and inappropriateness of Patriotic displays in Christian worship gatherings. Dr. Russell Moore, guest host of the Albert Mohler Radio Show, even dedicated an entire show to the debate with two guests who do not favor patriotic displays in corporate worship.

I may catch some heat for what I am about to say, but ultimately Christians are supposed to fear God more than they fear man, so here goes...

Personally, I am not in favor of grand displays of patriotism in Christian worship gatherings. I do not believe pledges of allegiance to the American Flag in Christian worship gatherings are helpful. I do not believe the Star Spangled Banner should be sung. I believe if I see one more power point of the American flag as the backdrop with an image of Jesus at the forefront I going to be sick.

I do believe in our Christian corporate worship gatherings we should give thanks unto God for the freedom we have in this country to worship freely and without governmental interference. We should pray for our governmental leaders, including the commander-in-chief. We should pray earnestly for the men and women and the families of those who serve our country admirably in the military. We should pray for peace.

But at the center of every Christian corporate worship gathering should be Jesus Christ. I know this is difficult for previous generations to believe, but people like myself who do not favor grand patriotic displays, are patriotic, however, I am much more zealous to see the Kingdom of Christ increase more than American zeal. I know you can have zeal for Christ and American patriotism, but the problem I see is that most people I run into have a far greater concern for America and its future than Christ's Kingdom and the future of their own local church.

For example...

You are far more likely to find in many Christian churches members who are talking about the increase of gas prices and its impact on Americans than the increase of unbelief in the community and its impact on God's glory.

You are far more likely if the subject of Hispanics is raised in many Christian churches to have members making comments about how Hispanics are taking jobs from Americans and how Hispanics need to learn English than how we might reach them for Christ and bring them into the fellowship of our churches.

You are more likely in many Christian churches to have members extremely more incensed when the nation is attacked than when the nation repeatedly attacks the character of God.

You are more likely in many Christian churches to have tears run down the cheek of a member's face or the stirring of a member's affections when God Bless America is sung than if the hymn There is a Fountain Filled with Blood is sung.

You are far more likely to have Christian members of your local church who will fight and die while serving in the military for their country than you will have members who will die while serving their Lord on the mission field in the hard places.

You are more likely to have many Christian members in your local church who celebrate July 4th weekend more than they celebrate Resurrection weekend.

In some Christian churches you are far more likely to hear a comment about "bombing those Muslims" than "preaching the gospel to those people of the Muslim faith."

You are far more likely in some Christian churches to hear conversations about the problems of America and how to fix them than to hear the problems in the local church and how to fix them.

You are far more likely to hear a heated conversation from a church member in many Christian churches over illegal immigration than a heated conversation about regenerate church membership.

You are far more likely in many Christian churches to hear conversations about the decline of the American economy than to hear conversations concerning the decline of baptisms.

How many readers can quote the pledge of allegiance to the American Flag? Now how many of you who quoted the pledge of allegiance to the American Flag can quote Matthew 22:37-38, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or Acts 4:12?

When I see the day where more Christians are more concerned with the Lord's Kingdom than concern for the future of America I will be less concerned about songs like America the Beautiful being sung on July 4th weekend.