Posted tagged ‘Discussion’

Open Thread: Your Thoughts on The Bruised Reed

January 31, 2008

* Note: I will do the random drawing for the winner of January’s giveaway tomorrow, and I will announce the winner Monday. If you do not have your name on the list, be sure to sign up by tomorrow by commenting on the introductory post!

As I shared in my introductory post to the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge, the goal behind the reading is precisely the goal of the Puritans, namely that it would be useful to your Christian life. No doctrine is without application, and no truth is not without uses. As the Puritans were passionate about not only rightly dividing God’s Word but also rightly applying it to their lives (i.e. “experimental” Christianity), so we too want to follow in that tradition of being doers and not hearers (or readers!) only.

The purpose of this post is to serve as an open thread for you to respond by sharing how The Bruised Reed has encouraged and ministered to you. More specifically, it would be great if you could answer the question,

“What use(s) will The Bruised Reed have in your personal relationship with Christ and/or your ministry in the future?”

In 500 words or less, please take a moment and exhale what you have inhaled for the past month. Let others hear what God has taught you, challenged you, helped you, or provoked you. Perhaps your words could be an encouragement and inspiration to others.

Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts!

What Shall We Say Then? – Discussion 3

January 28, 2008

There are numerous places that I would like to continue the discussion regarding The Bruised Reed, but time is running out and February is right around the corner. I would like to post one more, however, from Sibbes’ chapter on “Quench Not the Spirit.”

Excerpt from Sibbes

Instead of putting a detailed outline, I would like to quote Sibbes at length to set the stage for the discussion. Below is a portion of his section dealing with “Presuming on Christ’s Mercy.” Sibbes writes (emphasis mine):

“You know the apostle’s prohibition, notwithstanding, `Quench not the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19). Such cautions of not quenching are sanctified by the Spirit as a means of not quenching. Christ performs his office in not quenching by stirring up suitable endeavors in us; and there are none more solicitous in the use of the means than those that are most certain of their good success. The reason is this: the means that God has set apart for the effecting of any thing are included in the purpose that he has to bring that thing to pass. And this is a principle taken for granted, even in civil matters; for who, if he knew before that it would be a fruitful year, would therefore hang up his plough and neglect tillage?

Hence the apostle stirs us up from the certain expectation of a blessing (1 Cor. 15:57-58), and this encouragement from the good issue of victory is intended to stir us up, and not to put us off. If we are negligent in the exercise of grace received and the use of the means prescribed, suffering our spirits to be oppressed with many and various cares of this life, and take not heed of the discouragements of the times, for this kind of neglect God in his wise care suffers us often to fall into a worse condition in our feelings than those that were never so much enlightened. Yet in mercy he will not suffer us to be so far enemies to ourselves as wholly to neglect these sparks once kindled. Were it possible that we should be given up to abandon all endeavor wholly, then we could look for no other issue but quenching; but Christ will tend this spark and cherish this small seed, so that he will always preserve in the soul some degree of care.

. . . As we look, therefore, for the comfort of this doctrine, let us not favor our natural sloth but exercise ourselves rather to godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), and labour to keep this fire always burning upon the altar of our hearts. Let us dress our lamps daily, and put in fresh oil, and wind up our souls higher and higher still. Resting in a good condition is contrary to grace, which cannot but promote itself to a further measure. Let none turn this grace `into lasciviousness’ (Jude 4). Infirmities are a ground of humility, not a plea for negligence, nor an encouragement to presumption. We should be so far from being evil because Christ is good that those coals of love should melt us. Therefore those may well suspect themselves in whom the consideration of this mildness of Christ does not work that way” (69-72).

I find this passage in The Bruised Reed to be one of the most important parts of his treatise, because it is here that Christ’s offices and promises could be taken advantage of and the promises of God presumed upon in a deadly way. Let me set the table for discussion.

Personal Commentary

Sibbes present the person of Christ as a gentle Savior with tender words–a Savior who is meek and mild in heart. If there is mercy to be found anywhere, Sibbes rightly argues, it is found in Jesus Christ. To be sure, there is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in us (13). Perhaps Sibbes was thinking of Paul, when speaking to the Romans, stated,

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21).

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more! Is that not a wondrous comfort to those who are bruised by the misery of their sin? Yet, consider how some may twist such sweet sayings to rationalize their own sinful pursuits:

“I can go ahead and do it because God will forgive me anyway.”
“God loves me no matter what, so _____________ .”
“If God’s love towards me is unconditional, then it does not matter that I _____________ .”

Do you see where I am getting? If there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, then someone might argue that we can be great sinners, and Christ’s mercy will be greater still! Or, in Paul’s quote, we can increase in sin because grace will abound all the more!

Paul recognized this line of thinking, and the very next verse following Romans 5:21, he writes,

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2)

What Paul was arguing regarding our right response to God’s grace, Sibbes was arguing in our right response in not quenching the Holy Spirit in presuming upon the mercy that is in Christ. Rather than thinking that such a mild and tender Savior as a license or loose living, Sibbes affectionately tells us that such tenderness should stir us up to “suitable endeavors,” to “exercise ourselves for the purpose of godliness,” to give ourselves to the “right use of means,” and to “labour to keep the fire burning always upon the altar of our hearts.”

The mercy found in Christ should never encourage us to be slothful in pursuing holiness, but quite the contrary. For in Romans 12:1, it says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It should be the mercies of God, when in full view, that should lead us to offer ourselves entirely to God as a sacrifice. The mercy we found when we first saw Christ our Redeemer brought about genuine repentance and faith as a response to such richness of mercy and greatness of love, and such a response of repentance and faith never ceases until we are perfected in glory.

Because we know that Christ will cherish the little spark in us does not give us freedom to live in a contrary manner. In the words of Paul, “May it never be!” Instead of presuming upon God’s mercy with indifference or apathy, we are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12-13), knowing that such a working is brought about both by God’s will and working within us and by the uniting of our affections and will to walk in obedience to God’s commands which have been sweetened by grace. When we labor and grow in Christ, we confess with the apostle Paul that we are what we are by the grace of God, for it was not us, but the grace of God that is with us (1 Cor. 15:10). Such grace does not merely provide a free ticket to heaven and the freedom to live as you choose; rather, such grace works with such perseverance to carry us upward and onward into deeper humility, greater dependence, and higher affections for treasuring Jesus Christ until that day.

Discussion

1. Sibbes several times mentioned the use of means in this excerpt. What are some examples of such means that are prescribed to prevent us (and others) from presuming upon God’s mercy and grace?

2. What would you say to the person who views salvation as a “Get out of hell free” ticket? How would you counsel the unconverted sinner who simply wants to be “left off the hook” and adopt a minimalist attitude to the Christian life? (Feel free to use Sibbes’ quotes if you like.)

About Those Bruised Reeds – Discussion 1

January 16, 2008

So here’s the deal. I am going to post some random discussion posts for anyone who would like to talk about the portion of the book I cover here. Each month, I am going to wait until the 15th (or two weeks) before posting discussion posts so that everyone will have a chance to get some reading done. Obviously, there is no way that we can discuss everything in the book, so I am going to my selective and sometimes random. My guess is that I will post somewhere between 4-6 discussion posts for each month, but don’t hold me to it!

An Outline of Chapters 1-2:

> Text: Isaiah 42:1-3

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

> Thesis:

“In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break nor quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals” (7).

> The Promises of God in Christ:

A. As seen in the Trinitarian work of redemption, our grounds of comfort:

“What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ! . . . Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, an in him God’s love, and build our faith safely on such a Saviour that is furnished with so high a commission. See here, for our comfort, a sweet agreement of all three persons: the Father gives a commission to Christ; the Spirit furnishes and sanctifies it, and Christ himself executes the office of Mediator. Our redemption is founded upon the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity” (2).

B. As seen in Christ’s offices:

“As a prophet, he came with blessings in his mouth . . .” (8).
“He came to die as a priest for his enemies” (8).
“He is a meek king; he will admit mourners into his presence . . .” (8).
“He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart” (8).

[Commentary]

See here how Christocentric and Trinitarian Sibbes is! His focus is preeminently on Christ, his character, offices, and work of redemption. Other times you will hear Sibbes speak of Christ as Mediator, Friend, Husband, Shepherd, and Brother. It is clear that he wants us to be assured and comforted that God is for us in His Son wherein all the promises of God, even the one in Isaiah 42:1-3, are “yes and amen” to the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:20). The starting point we must have is not our corruption but God’s character which is infinitely good, loving, and faithful.

> The Bruised Reeds:

A. Who Are the Bruised Reeds:

“The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another . . .” (3-4).

The bruised reed represents a man who experiences the time “when conscience is once awakened, all former sins and present crosses join together to make the bruise the more painful” (11).

B. Bruising Before Conversion:

“This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by levelling [sic] all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. . . . Our hearts, like criminals, until they are beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the Judge” (4).

C. Bruising After Conversion:

“After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy” (5).

D. Counsel for Bruised Reeds:

“Hence we should learn that we must not pass too harsh judgment upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising” (5).

“Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, ‘If I may but touch his garment’ (Matt. 9:21)” (9).

E. The Goal of Bruising – That We Might Treasure Christ!

“A set measure of bruising of ourselves cannot be prescribed, but it must be so far as (1) that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be had; and (2) that we reform that which is amiss, though it be the cutting off of our right hand, or pulling out of our right eye” (12).

“But if we have this for a foundation of truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, or pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things” (12-13).

Discussion:

1. A bruised reed is “sensible of sin and misery,” but how does a sinner come to this point? We know that sinners often have a seared conscience, hard heart, and depraved mind. So how does the Spirit of God bring about the bruising before conversion?

2. Sibbes’ argued that God bruises after conversion, to deal with indwelling sin and corruption. Have you ever experienced such post-conversion bruising? Care to share?

May we all feel the weight of the words, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us”! Are you bruised? Be of good comfort. He calls you . . . to treasure Him, sweetest of all. O that we may taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8)!

Amen.