Brighter and Brighter

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, 

which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

Proverbs 4:18

The Bible is uncomplimentary of those who are outside of Christ. The non-Christian is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), under the enslaving powers of sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:20), without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12), and hostile to God (Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21). Their way of life is like deep darkness (Proverbs 4:19). They stumble and fall as they live wickedly on this cursed earth (Proverbs 4:19; Ephesians 5:11). Indeed, it is shameful to even speak about the things ungodly people do with their built-up enmity towards God (Ephesians 5:12).

The Light Shines in our Dark World

While it is plain that the Scriptures are unflattering in their portrayal of non-Christians, it is also unmistakably clear that the God who inspired the Scriptures is incomprehensibly merciful and gracious to unbelievers. While the world dwelled in darkness, God sent Jesus Christ, the true light, to be born of virgin (John 1:9). Christ’s purpose was to shine into the darkness and to bring life to those who were dead in sin (John 1:4-5). This God given mission could only be accomplished by destroying the works of the Devil, the prince of darkness (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 1:8). Through His obedient life, substitutionary death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, Christ crushed the head of the Evil One.

The Light Shines in Our Dark Hearts

After Christ’s earthly ministry, He filled His church with the Spirit and sent them to take the gospel message to this dark and evil world. As they preached the gospel, the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” penetrated deep into “our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Now that God has mercifully given us a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we have been delivered from Satan’s domain of darkness and transferred into the bright and radiant kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). Instead of being darkness, now we “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Rather than being dead in sin, now we are alive in Christ Jesus. By the grace of God we now belong to those who, through faith in Christ, are righteous (Romans 1:17).

The Light Grows Brighter and Brighter

Because of God’s sovereign grace, we are now new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new spiritual life we have brings about incredible results. As Archibald Alexander says, “The implantation of spiritual life in a soul dead in sin, is an event, the consequences of which will never end.” In light of this God wrought spiritual life that He has given us through the indwelling Spirit, we no longer walk in darkness. As the proverb above says, the Christian life is “like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18).

Like the sun at the break of dawn, we as Christians begin to radiate with holiness and good works. This does not happen all at once. Much like the sun at the break of dawn, it is rather faint at the beginning of our Christian journey. We die to some sins. We eagerly obey God in certain areas of our lives. As time goes on, though, we get brighter and brighter. 

Through the ministry of the Spirit, we begin to be further conformed into the image of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2; Romans 8:29). Just as the sun progressively makes its way to noon day, the Christian, by the grace of God, progressively makes his way to complete conformity into the image of Christ. Nevertheless, though many of our graces will be strengthened a great deal by the end of our lives, we will never reach complete conformity into the image of Christ on this side of heaven.

The Light is Brightest at Full Day

God has ordained that our complete conformity into the image of Christ will happen at the second coming of Jesus. We are promised that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2-3). It at the second coming of Christ that we will shine like the sun at full day. Even our Lord Jesus promised this when he told his disciples that on the New Earth “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). This is the great hope that we have as Christians. Until the second coming of Christ, though, let us cast off the works of darkness and pursue righteousness that we may shine brighter and brighter in this dark world (Romans 13:12-14).

The Outward Varnish of Religion

“I had to offer sacrifices, 

and today I have paid my vows.”

Proverbs 7:14

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known Christian apologist, speaker, and evangelist. His books have been widely read, his YouTube videos have been widely watched, and his conferences have been widely attended. As one listens to him, he seems to exude Christian humility and gentleness. However, ever since his death in 2020, there has been an extensive investigation into Ravi Zacharias’ sexual misconduct. And just last week, the twelve-page report that reveals the findings of the independent investigation into his sexual wrongdoing was released (you can also find the latest Christianity Today article here). Ravi’s sexual misconduct has been made manifest now, and it has become apparent that he was a sexual predator.

As I read through the evidence in the report my stomach churned, and my face cringed. Ravi’s sexual sin is deplorable and sickening. One of the worst parts is that he seems to have used his ministry as a cover for sin. He utilized his Christian faith to his advantage in manipulating and coercing young ladies into certain sexual acts. In light of these recent revelations, this week I wanted to write on Proverbs 7:14 to reveal that the Bible actually talks about this evil tactic of using religion to coerce and seduce someone.

Proverbs 7 – The Adulteress

Within the book of Proverbs, chapters 5-7 deal extensively with sexual sin. In each chapter, there are warnings against the sin of adultery (Proverbs 5:9-14, 21-23; 6:26-35; 7:22-27) and the enticing allure of the adulteress (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24-25; 7:5, 10-21). Though these chapters present a wealth of wisdom, I want to focus on the fact that the adulteress in Proverbs 7:14 presents herself in the garments of religion in hopes to entice the simple man to drink the poison of sexual sin with her.

When the adulteress launches her attack in Proverbs 7, she is “dressed as a prostitute” (7:10), “loud and wayward” (7:11), and waiting for a man whom she can satisfy her sinful lusts with (7:12). Once she discovers her next victim, she lays hold of him and “kisses him” (7:13). Though this is a bold sexual encounter in and of itself, she wants to go further. It is at this point that she uses religion as a means to coerce and entice the simple man to bring this initial sexual encounter to its full consummation. She says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows” (7:14).

Most translations translate “sacrifices” as peace offerings. The peace offering was a unique sacrifice because it was one of the only offerings where the offeror was given a large portion of the sacrifice so that they might return home and partake in it in a celebratory way with both friends and family (Leviticus 7:11-21). And in our passage, the adulteress has just offered up peace offerings at the temple, the dwelling place of God. She is now headed back home to feast on the remaining parts of the sacrifice.

While she’s headed home, she invites the simple man to come along with her. She wants him there so that he might partake in the rest of the sacrifice with her . . . . as well as some carnal love. It seems like she believes that, because of her sacrificial offering, God is rewarding her by satisfying her sinful passions (Proverbs 7:15-20). At the end of the day, it is apparent that the adulteress is covering up the sexual mischievousness of her heart with the outward varnish of religion.

Sadly, the simple man falls prey to her carnal passions that are robed in religious garments. He follows her “as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a stag is caught fast” (Proverbs 7:22), and “as a bird rushes into a snare” (Proverbs 7:23). The simple man of Proverbs 7 is seen as another casualty in the adulteress’ hunt to satisfy own her fleshly appetite (Proverbs 7:26).

Ravi – The Adulterer

Like the adulteress of Proverbs 7, Ravi Zacharias also used his religious garments to help him fulfill his sexual passions. Because Ravi had significant backpain, he would frequently go to receive a massage. While he was receiving these massages from young ladies, he would strike up casual conversations with them. 

One massage therapist said that these conversations led her to think of Ravi as a “father figure” to her. He would speak to her about spiritual things and would inquire about her financial situation. Upon hearing that she was struggling financially, he secured ministry funds to help her out. Shortly after this, he elicited sex from her. In recounting this time in her life, the lady said that Ravi would use “religious expressions to gain her compliance.” He would make her pray with him. He would call her his “reward” from God because of his faithful service to the Lord. Indeed, Ravi drove home the point that “the Lord understood what he had sacrificed” and implied that “their sexual exchanges were God’s way of rewarding him.” He then warned her not to speak out against him because that would “damage his reputation” and lead “millions of souls” to hell.

Another lady said that Ravi groomed her in a similar way. Throughout their conversations, Ravi “gained her trust as a spiritual guide, confidante, and notable Christian statemen.” As she began to see Ravi as a spiritual authority in her life, he started using his influence “to exploit her vulnerability to satisfy his own sexual desires.” Though Ravi and this lady were never physically intimate, intimate photos were shared. 

As you can see, Ravi was enslaved to sexual sin and he used his ministry platform to coerce young ladies. With his worldwide Christian ministry, he groomed women to respect him. This was all, of course, so that he might gratify his flesh with them. Then, with his worldwide Christian ministry platform, he warned the women to stay silent about it. At the end of the day, Ravi abused the Christian faith as a means to fulfill his godless passions. In doing so, he betrayed his wife, victimized many women, delegitimized his worldwide ministry, and dishonored the name of Christ.

Since seemingly godly people use the Christian faith as a means to satisfy their sinful lusts, may we all learn to “beware of any voice, though from the most revered quarter, that manifestly encourages forbidden indulgence.” And may we, those of us that have a ministry platform, learn to leverage our authority and influence for the edification of the church rather than the indulgence of the flesh. For we serve a God that will one day wipe away the outward varnish of religion and expose us for who we truly are.

Beastly Beauty

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout 

is a beautiful woman without discretion.”

Proverbs 11:22

Though our contemporary culture would be accused of toxic masculinity for saying something like this, the Spirit inspired biblical author believes this is a wise and profitable teaching. Whereas we would have said that a beautiful woman lacking discretion is a bit of a disappointment, Solomon regards her as a monstrosity. As one thinks through the meaning of such a vivid and graphic proverb, they quickly realize that this is a lesson often neglected in our society that prizes beauty over discretion. We would be wise to wean ourselves from the present-day culture’s way of thinking and to lay this biblical wisdom to heart.

External Beauty

External beauty, like a gold ring, is a gift from God. As one makes their way through the Bible, they will quickly notice that Rachel was beautiful in appearance (Genesis 29:17), that Job’s daughters were more beautiful than all others (Job 42:15), that Esther had a stunning figure (Esther 2:7), that Joseph was handsome in form (Genesis 39:6), that Moses was beautiful in the Lord’s eyes (Acts 7:20), and that David had lovely eyes and was regarded as good-looking (1 Samuel 25:33). It is evident that external beauty is not an anathema in the eyes of the Lord. Like a gold ring, beauty is both valuable and desirable. It is a good gift from a benevolent God.

Gold Rings on Pigs

Nevertheless, just as a gold ring loses its outwards appeal and desirability when it is attached to an unclean pig’s snout, so external beauty loses its attractiveness and allure when it is attached to a woman that lacks discretion. A pig takes the gold ring that is pierced through his snout and begins to root up the ground. The shine of the gold ring loses its charm as it gets covered with the mire and mud of the earth. The valuable and beautiful ring becomes unbecoming and undesirable as one looks at the filthy creature behind it.

Beauty Without Discretion

And so it is when external beauty is attached to a woman lacking discretion. To have discretion is to have godly wisdom and discernment that allows one to act in a way that honors the Lord. Discretion is what the beautiful Abigail had when she counseled King David not to avenge himself but to leave vengeance to the Lord (1 Samuel 25:33). On the other hand, to lack discretion is to lack godly wisdom and discernment. This, in turn, causes one to act in a way that is distasteful to Christ.

The beautiful woman that lacks discretion spends her days wallowing in the sewage and sludge of the world. Rather than pleasantly speaking about spiritual things, she gives her tongue to gossip and slander. Instead of adorning herself with good works that are pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, she gives unbridled reign to her sensual passions. When she could be tenderly tending to other’s for Christ’s sake, she selfishly seeks her own self-interest. While she lives this life, she lives for her own sinful lusts. 

And as she lives a life that lacks discretion, her external beauty becomes as unbecoming and undesirable as a gold ring in a pig snout. While the godly, virtuous wife is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30), the woman without discretion is to be pitied. If she were in Christ and filled with the Spirit, she could be pictured as the crown of her husband and as far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 31:10), but while she remains apart from Christ and lacking discretion, she is pictured as nothing more than an undesirable gold ring in a pig’s snout.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold!

The simple believes everything, 

but the prudent gives thought to his steps.”

Proverbs 14:15

In the 1500s there was an English seaman and privateer named Sir Martin Frobisher. He made numerous voyages to the new world. On his first voyage he stumbled across what he believed to be gold. As you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of excitement to folks back in his homeland. Before long, he was sending copious amounts of this “gold” back to his home country. He was a rockstar. He was even garnering the Queen’s attention!

Before long, though, it was discovered that the mineral that he was mining was not gold. It was nothing more than a bunch of invaluable minerals combined to make up a rock that looked like gold. As we would say today, it was fool’s gold. Sir Martin Frobisher learned the hard way that all that glitters is not gold. 

The Simple

And from the proverb above we learn that all that is said is not true. Nevertheless, like Sir Martin Frobisher on his first voyage, the simple man has not yet learned this lesson. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the simple man is the one who lacks godly wisdom and understanding. This causes him to be easily deceived and persuaded. Since he does not have enough godly wisdom and understanding to discern the truthfulness of a statement, he believes everything that anybody says.

This is certainly the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living. The Bible teaches that false teachers will always exist. The first false teacher, Satan, appears in Genesis three. Other false teachers rise up throughout both the Old and New Testament. Many false teachers appear throughout church history. Today, countless false teachers continue to spring up.

Paul warns that these false teachers will arise from within local churches “speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:26). The author of Hebrews warns Christians not to “be led away by diverse and strange teachings (Hebrews 13:9). Peter told the churches he was writing to that false teachers will be among them “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:10). As one reads the Bible, it seems inevitable that Christians and local churches will meet with false teachers at some point.

And the simple man does not stand a chance against these false teachers. As he hears twisted things that are contrary to the clear testimony of the Bible, he will believe them. He will mistake the elaborate doctrinal innovations of man as the revelation of God. When this occurs, it will be just as the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4. The simple man will be “tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, and by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Ultimately, just as the Spirit said through Paul, the simple-minded Christian will “be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The Prudent

This is not the case with the prudent. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the prudent man is the one that has godly wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 13:16; 14:18). This goldy wisdom and understanding allows him to act in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Proverbs 13:16; 14:15; 27:12). This is especially the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living.

The prudent man has learned that all that is said is not true. As our Proverb says, “the prudent gives thoughts to his steps” (14:15). Like the Bereans of old, the prudent man eagerly listens to a teacher all the while “examining the Scriptures daily” to see if the teaching lines up with the Bible (Acts 17:11). He is aware that he needs to test a teaching before he trusts it (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). For the prudent man, this is not a matter of unhealthy skepticism. Rather, it is a matter of prayerful and careful consideration. Unlike the simple man, he knows that his soul is at stake so he “gives thoughts to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).

Life Giving Water

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, 

that one may turn away from the snares of death.”

Proverbs 13:14

In our day, there is a tendency to think about the Christian life as a life of ease. This mainstream way of thinking, however, is at odds with the Bible. Rather than being a life of ease, the Christian life is filled with numerous snares that will lead to eternal death. 

Within the pages of Scripture, we see sin as a vicious predator lurking at our door with an intense desire to devour us (Genesis 4:7). We are taught that sinful passions are consistently waging war against our souls (Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 2:11). We are informed that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion that would love to have us as his next victim (1 Peter 5:8). We are warned of the fact that we live within an evil world system that is seeking to allure and entice us to embrace its ungodly ways (Revelation 18). And we are clearly taught that there are false teachers that are “waterless springs” and “fruitless trees” that will seemingly promise us life but that will ultimately lead us to death (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12-13).

As you can see, the Christian life is not a life of ease. Rather, from beginning to end, it is a war filled with many battles. The Christian life is lived out in enemy territory, it is fraught with many dangers, and the snares of eternal death are everywhere. In fact, it is so difficult that those who make it out alive end up exclaiming, “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)!

The Dangerous Christian Pilgrimage

Few men have understood this concept of the Christian life more clearly than John Bunyan. In his famous allegorical work Pilgrim’s Progress, he portrays the Christian life as a difficult journey consisting of many dangers, toils, and snares. Christian, the main character in the allegory, is constantly attacked by the world, the flesh, and the devil as he makes his way to the Celestial City. 

Christian runs into people like Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Worldly Wiseman gives Christian worldly counsel in hopes to lead him off the narrow path that leads to life. As Christian makes his way up The Hill of Difficulty, he falls prey to the sin of sluggishness. Rather than pressing on through difficulty, he gives in and falls asleep. When Christian descends into The Valley of Humiliation, he encounters the mighty Apollyon (Satan). Apollyon opposes Christian with great nastiness. 

At every turn, the world, the flesh, and the devil are laying snares to keep Christian from making it to Christ’s Celestial City. This always leads the reader to ask, “Will Christian make it? Will he be able to stay on the straight and narrow path even though there are dangers all around him?” From all of this, it is clear that Bunyan believed that followers of Christ are always within close proximity to the snares of death.

A Godly Pastor as an Aid

Thankfully, throughout the allegory, Bunyan conveys that Christian, with the aid of Christ the King, will make it. At one point in Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named The Interpreter informs Christian of one aid that Christ is pleased to use to keep Christian away from the snares of death and on the narrow path that leads to everlasting life. The aid is a godly pastor; a pastor who rightly divides the word of God.

In the mind of Bunyan, a godly pastor is one who “begets” and “nurses” Christians in the faith, has his eyes “lifted to heaven,” has the Bible in his hands, and “has truth on his lips.” His desire is to know and unfold biblical truth to sinners, to plead with men about spiritual realities, and to press on people’s consciences the certainties of the world to come. This is the man whom Christ has “authorized to be your guide in all the difficult places that you may encounter on the way.” The Interpreter wants Christian to stay close to the godly pastor because, as he journeys to the Celestial City, many people will pretend to lead him down the right path, “but their way goes down to death.” 

In Christian’s encounter with The Interpreter, it is evident that Bunyan himself thoroughly believed that “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14). One of the main aids that God has given Christians to avoid the snares of death and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling is the consistent intake of godly teaching (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). When Christians sit under the faithful teaching and preaching ministry of a man that God has gifted with wisdom and knowledge, they find that such preaching is a fountain, a source, of spiritual life. They find that such teaching nourishes their souls and leads them away from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

A Blessed Memory

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, 

but the name of the wicked will rot.”

Proverbs 10:7

The righteous are those who belong to God, have godly wisdom, and live in accordance with God’s ways. Throughout Proverbs, the righteous are those who fear God (1:7), carry out justice (8:20), increase in learning (9:9), speak profitable things (10:11, 21), remain steadfast (10:30), bear fruit like a tree (11:30), care for their neighbor (12:26), hate falsehood (13:50), and walk in integrity (20:7). 

The righteous live eminently godly lives filled with acts of service to King Jesus. They offer up their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Their lives are filled with such godly virtues that they become paradigms of some of the virtues that God works in us by the Spirit. In essence, the righteous are those who truly live in this life.

Nonetheless, though the righteous truly live in this life, they still end up dying. Once they are gone, all we have are memories of them. These memories become blessings to the people of God. This is one of the ways that God honors those who honor him (Psalm 112:6). God sees to it that blessed men and women leave behind blessed memories; memories that are so profitable to the people of God that they are regarded as blessings from God.

We are blessed when we remember how Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac because he was confident that God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-20). Our spirits are encouraged when we think about how Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-25). Our souls are renewed with zeal when we remember the steadfastness of Job in the midst of an onslaught of fiery trials (James 5:11).

Sweet Memories of William Tyndale

This is also one of the chief reasons so many Christians have benefited from reading biographies of righteous men and women throughout history. Just the other day I was reading about William Tyndale. Throughout the 1520s and 1530s, Tyndale’s main ambition was to translate both the Old and New Testament into English. Though this was illegal and punishable by death during his time, he was filled with a godly resolve to get the Bible into the language of the common man. Before he began this extraordinarily difficult task, Tyndale famously said to a very learned man, “If God spare my life, in a few years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do.”

To enable the plough boy to know more Scripture than the learned man proved to be an audacious endeavor. Tyndale had to live as a fugitive on the run, he had to master the Greek and Hebrew language, and he had to find men that would print his translations even though it could cost them their lives. In all of this, Tyndale did not waver. Before long, his English Bible was circulating throughout England. As the Bible was placed into the plough boy’s hands, the plough boy began to know more Scripture than the Pope!

Although this was a remarkable feat, it proved to cost Tyndale his life. Because of his translation work, in 1536 he was tied to a stake, strangled to death by an iron chain, and then burned. William Tyndale gave up his life for the cause of Christ, the Word of God, and the building up of the church. Even though he is gone, we still hear his voice every time we read our English Bible. As you can see, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7).

Not so With the Wicked

This is not so with the wicked. For those who do not belong to God, lack godly wisdom, and rebel against God’s good design, their names will rot. When they die, both their body and their names will decay. God will see to it that the wicked are either forgotten (2 Kings 9:30-37; Job 18:5-17; Psalm 9:5), or that they will be remembered with shame and detestation (Romans 9:13; 2 Timothy 3:8-9; Revelation 2:20).

The Stench of Henry Phillips

Take Henry Phillips for example. This is the wicked man who was hired to befriend William Tyndale for the express purpose of betraying him. The same money loving spirit that drove Judas to betray the Son of God fueled Henry Phillips to betray Tyndale, a translator of the Word of God. After Phillips gambled away a large sum of money that his father had entrusted to him, he was willing to do anything to pay off his debt. Knowing this, a wealthy man that abhorred the reformers offered Phillips a sizable amount of money to spy on, befriend, and betray Tyndale. In love with money, Phillips agreed. 

He proved to be remarkably successful in this endeavor. Before long, he lured Tyndale into a trap. Tyndale was then arrested and jailed. As we mentioned earlier, he was then tied to a stake, strangled to death, and then set ablaze. For the church, the memory of Tyndale is a blessing. The memory of Henry Phillips, however, has faded into oblivion. Even when Henry Phillips’ name is mentioned, it is remembered with sense of disgrace.

Righteousness Receives The Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31

Even at a very young age, C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. As pastors throughout the area became aware of how powerfully Spurgeon preached, they would invite him to come preach in their pulpits. One of the pastors that invited Spurgeon to come fill his pulpit was Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. Though Sutton had never placed his eyes on Spurgeon, he was eager for Spurgeon to come preach one of his anniversary sermons.

When Sutton’s eyes finally landed on Spurgeon, Sutton was a bit shocked to find that Spurgeon was only a teenager. He immediately regretted inviting this boy preacher to come preach one of his anniversary sermons to a congregation that was jam packed in the sanctuary. The gray-haired Mr. Sutton told Spurgeon, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy.” To which the young fiery eyed Spurgeon quipped, “I can go back as easily as I came.” Mr. Sutton, however, did not ask Spurgeon to leave. He unexcitedly went ahead and let Spurgeon address his congregation. Though he did rudely and impolitely let Spurgeon know that he didn’t expect much from a young preacher that still had his mother’s milk in his mouth!

When it came time for Spurgeon to preach, he picked up the book of Proverbs and read aloud, “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (16:31a). After reading he looked at the congregation and said, “I doubt it, for, this morning, I met with a man who has a hoary (gray) head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Then Spurgeon proceeded to read the second half of the verse, “it is gained in a righteous life” (16:31b). He then said boldly, “Ah! that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other color.” 

A Saucy Dog!

After these initial comments, Spurgeon went on to preach the sermon he had originally planned to herald. Mr. Sutton came up afterwards and said, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life, but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in the pulpit.”

Spurgeon was a saucy dog, and this saucy dog taught Mr. Sutton two lessons that day. The first lesson was that gray hair is only a crown of glory when it is gained by years of righteous living. This is the main meaning of the proverb above. The second lesson was that a dark headed teenager with a passion for righteousness is worth listening to! This is an implication of the proverb that Spurgeon felt the freedom to draw out. For our purposes, we will focus on the main meaning.

Gray Hair – Crown of Glory

The Christian that lives a righteous life enters into his latter years with gray hair that is a crown of glory. They have spent decades meditating on and memorizing the Bible. Their constant devouring of the word of God allows them to speak the word of Christ to those around them. As they have lived in God’s world, God has refined and further conformed them into the image of Christ through fiery trials. Faced with difficult situations where it actually costs them to obey God, they have steadfastly remained faithful to Christ despite the costs.

Throughout all of this, God has slowly rid them of pride and produced within them ever increasing humility. They “flourish like the palm tree”, they “grow like a cedar”, and “they bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12,14). Spending time with them is one of the greatest blessings in this earthly life. Their gray hair is a crown of glory, and those within the church ought to esteem them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Gray Hair – Not Necessarily a Crown Of Glory

Nevertheless, just because a person is aged does not mean they possess the crown of glory. Apart from a righteous life, their gray hair is merely a crown that lies debased in the dust of the earth. Rather than living righteously to attain the crown of glory, they have lived wickedly storing up the wrath of God. Their “white hairs of ungodliness bespeak ripeness for wrath.” With this in mind, Charles Bridges said, “For what is a more lamentable spectacle, than a graceless old man.” Bridges is right. There is not a more lamentable sight that a graceless old man that has squandered decades of his life in service to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This is not to say that the young are not to honor and respect even the ungodliest of older men. As followers of Christ, younger Christians should honor and respect them. However, nobody should be so foolish as to think that, just because someone is older, they possess godly wisdom, understanding, and counsel. If they have not live righteously, they lack the crown of glory that comes with old age. This means that Christians should not view them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

2020 In Books

One of my favorite parts of the year is when prominent Christian pastors, theologians, and websites begin posting their top ten book lists. This allows me to peruse these lists in hopes to find some good books to read in the upcoming year.

In what follows, I’ll post the ten books that I most enjoyed reading this year (in no particular order), and then I’ll post a link to top ten book lists from other pastors, theologians, and websites. My list will include books from any particular year, while other people’s lists will usually pertain to books that came out in 2020. My hope is that you will find some good Christian books to read throughout 2021 that will stir your affections for Jesus.

My List

Tethered to the Cross: The Life and Preaching of Charles Spurgeon by Thomas Breimaier – Though this will probably not appeal to some readers, as a lover of all things Spurgeon, it certainly appealed to me. Breimaier navigates Spurgeon’s writings and sermons to show his readers that Spurgeon’s hermeneutic, no matter what Scripture he was looking at, was crucicentric and conversionistic. For me, this book had the same result as Spurgeon’s sermons and writings do, it made me want to love Christ more!

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson – If you lost your job, depleted your savings account, and lost all your investment in cryptocurrency, you should still find a way to buy this book. I find biographies on missionaries to be gripping, and Anderson’s To the Golden Shore was the best missionary biographies that I’ve ever read. It was thrilling reading about the life and ministry of Adoniram Judson. Few men have accomplished so much for the name of Christ as Judson. And few men have endured so much suffering for the name of Christ as Judson. After reading this book, you will find Adoniram Judson to be one of your heroes in the Christian faith.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund – The puritans used to say that certain books were a balm to every wound. In contemporary terms, I guess this book would be Neosporin for your every spiritual wound. Ortlund uses the Bible and voices from the past to show his readers that Christ is not a Savior that reluctantly deals with sinners. Rather, Christ is a gentle and lowly Savior that delights in showing mercy and steadfast love to sinners. You will find this book immensely encouraging. Make sure you have it on your reading list for 2021!

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance-Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson – I know what you are thinking, “What a remarkably long and uninteresting title!” Before you scroll past, though, listen to what Alistair Begg said about this work, “I know of no one other than Sinclair Ferguson who has the capacity, patience, and skill to unearth an ancient debate, set in a Scottish village with an unpronounceable name, and show its compelling relevance to gospel preaching and Christian living. This may be Sinclair’s best and most important book. Take up and read!” This book really is an important read. It reveals how we can indiscreetly fall into legalism. It teaches us how we are prone to separate the benefits of salvation from union with Christ. And it reveals how we, as Christians, can gain gospel assurance.

The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod – This book was written in 1998. I determined to read a lot of books on the person of Christ this year, and the newer books I was reading were regularly referencing Macleod’s The Person of Christ. I light of this, I went and bought it. Let’s just say that I was not disappointed. As a matter of fact, I was so pleased with Macleod’s insights in The Person of Christ that I bought and read two more of his books. Anyhow, I found this book to be very good!

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer – The Puritans believed that all biblical knowledge should lead to godly living. As they read the Bible, they believed that God was teaching them how to live as exiles here in this wilderness of a world. When they preached sermons, they drove home the main point of the passage and then labored extensively to apply it to their hearers. Needless to say, the Puritans knew how to live God honoring lives. In this book, Packer teaches us how we might imitate the Puritans in their quest for godliness.

Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves – Here is the thing, I love Charles Spurgeon and I love Michael Reeves. And God, in his grace, made Michael Reeves a Spurgeon scholar. This means that whenever Michael Reeves writes a book on Spurgeon, I must read it. So what about this book? I don’t think it is the best biography on Spurgeon, but I think it is a great book to introduce people to Spurgeon’s life, ministry, and teachings. If you don’t know much about how God mightily used this 19th century English Baptist pastor, then this book will give you a good introduction to him.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden – This is considered one of the most important biographies ever written about Jonathan Edwards. I, personally and embarrassingly, had never read a biography about Jonathan Edwards, so Marsden’s biography was a bit overwhelming! Marsden shows EXTENSIVE knowledge of the times of Edwards, the life of Edwards, and the impact of Edwards. So this is probably not the best biography to introduce you to Edwards, but it is certainly an important book for knowing and understanding Edwards. If I were you, I would read some shorter biographies about Edwards first. Then I would read this one a little later on.

The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson – Just the other day I was talking with a man entrenched in the Charismatic Movement. His claim was that Baptists are scared of the Holy Spirit. My claim was that Baptists aren’t scared of the Holy Spirit, but have a completely different understanding of the role of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. He placed overwhelming emphasis on his experiences (being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, slithering on the floor like a snake, etc.), while I placed my emphasis on the biblical teaching of the Spirit. I say all that to say this; Ferguson, in the pages of this book, will give you a healthy understanding of the Holy Spirit. This book is thoroughly biblical and grounded in good sound theology.

Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind by Owen Strachan – This is an important and timely book. Throughout history, major current events usually lead to greater theological precision in the church. For example, in the days of the Reformation, there was greater theological precision on the biblical doctrine of justification. During the 19th and 20th century, there was greater theological precision on the inspiration of the Bible. Current events fueled the church to be more precise! And in our day, where women claim to be men and where men claim to be women, the church needs greater theological precision in what it means to be human. This book will help the church in this area.

My Wife’s Top Three

My wife always wants me to put a few of her favorite reads of 2020 on here, so here are a few that my wife thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer – In 2006, Christianity Today said that Knowing God was one of the top fifty books that have most shaped evangelicals. Though Christianity Today said that in 2006, it is still true today, fourteen years later. Packer is both precise and lucid in Knowing God. He will teach you a great deal about the triune God that we, as Christians, know, love, and serve.

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies – It is hard to overstate the simple fact that, behind many of the great men throughout church history, there were godly mothers. These women loved the Bible, Christ, and their families. They relentlessly evangelized and taught their children all that they could about the Christian faith. And God, in his grace, used their ministry to shape their children for the remarkable labor He would use them for later on. This book will allow you to learn more about these stories.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Since this book has been published many times throughout hundreds of years, there are a ton of different versions of it. I prefer the classic with the old English. Others prefer a modernized version. The link that I have attached is to the modern version. With all that said, Pilgrim’s Progress used to be one of the most popular Christian books of all time. Sadly, however, we may be the first generation of Christians that are largely unfamiliar with this book. In all honesty, the more I talk to people, it seems like our generation is even unfamiliar with the title of this book. . . . . which is incredibly sad. I say all that to say this; as a Christian, you need to read or listen to this book at least once. There is a reason the majority of Christians have had this on their bookshelves over the last three hundred years!

Other People’s List

Kevin Deyoung’s Top Ten Book List

The Gospel Coalitions 2020 Book Awards

For the Church | The 2020 FTC Book Awards

Tim Challies’ Top Ten Book List

Trevin Wax’s Top Ten Book List

9Marks Pastor’s Talk on a Bunch of Fun Biographies

More Lists Will Come

There will be more lists that come out. As they do, I will try to add them to this blog. I hope this allows you to find some good books!

The Different Christians on Social Media

As Jesus addressed the religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). In saying this, Jesus is informing us that our words reveal our hearts. Whether our heart is evil or good will be evidenced by our words. Simple enough, huh? But what about social media? Would Jesus say, “For out of the abundance of the heart the fingers type and post?”

He most certainly would! Our use of social media evidences a great deal about our hearts. It reveals our passions, our sin patterns, our likes, and even our dislikes. To peruse someone’s social media account is to probe the inner workings of their heart, and it allows you to really get to know them. The sad reality, however, is that our social media usage usually doesn’t reveal the good within us. It usually magnifies the evil in us. As I have followed Christ for ten years, I have noticed this in my own life as well as in the lives of others. In what follows, I have described certain Christian’s use of social media. As I wrote this, I noticed that I myself have been guilty of some of these uses of social media. I am sure you will see that you have been guilty of some of these as well. So let’s look at our first individual.

Mr. Intellect

Mr. Intellect has seen that contemporary evangelicalism is filled with shallow theology and rampant pragmatism. He has perceived that many Christians on his social media timeline spend a bulk of their time grasping after spiritual experiences that will give them glory-bumps (goosebumps from the Holy Spirit). He has become cognizant that most of the Christians he follows look for thrills from the Holy Spirit rather than doctrinal understanding from the Holy Spirit.

As he sees this, he develops a resolve to use his intellect mightily in knowing the things of God. His end, however, is not to know God. It is to know theology, to post about theology, and to destroy those who have neglected to study theology. In every post, Mr. Intellect seems rigid, argumentative, and critical. In his social media interactions, he is precise doctrinally, but he lacks the fruit of the Spirit. Though you find yourself agreeing with him in matters of theology, you also find yourself squirming at the trail of destruction he leaves behind.

Mr. Hypocrite

Mr. Hypocrite knows his stuff. He can tell you that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. As a parent, he can inform you that a parent is to raise their kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And he uses his social media platform to show you that he knows and even seemingly does these things. He’s always posting pictures of both he and his wife with a hashtag saying, “#simplyblessed!” And he’s always eager to share a video of his kids quoting the latest memory verses from Awana.

Before long, though, you find that Mr. Hypocrite has another face. His marriage lies in ruins because he has had an affair with another woman. In the midst of this, he finds himself in a divorce that has become public knowledge. Not only this, it is apparent that his kids have gone off the deep end. Of course, this is not entirely his fault. The kids have a sin nature that pulls them towards sin. However, people can’t help but see that many of their ungodly mannerisms come from their father. Even though Mr. Hypocrite’s other face is becoming public knowledge, he steadily post spiritual things on Facebook in hopes to maintain some semblance of Christian character.

Mr. Doomsday

Mr. Doomsday loves the apocalyptic writings of the Bible, and he has dedicated himself to studying these notoriously difficult sections of Scripture. Finally, his laborious study has paid off. Though Jesus Christ said that no one knows the day or hour of His second coming, Mr. Doomsday has finally unlocked the mysterious time.

After linking his religious, political, and American heritage together, he has discovered that Christ’s second coming is directly linked to the mark of the beast, the conservative party, and America as a whole. After making these remarkably in depth connections, every social media post is used as a means to propagate his understanding of the end times.

Mr. Self-Pity

Mr. Self-pity intellectually believes in a good and sovereign God that is working all things in accordance with His inscrutable will. He intellectually believes that Christ loved him and gave His life for him. These, though, are not enough for him to be content and satisfied in this life. He also needs the pity of others.

With this in mind, he always takes to social media to seek the pity of his followers in regard to his current life circumstances. In his efforts to seek pity, he does what any socially aware person would never do. . . he takes to mainstream social media platforms in order to tell everybody about how terrible his day has been, how unfortunate he is, and how discouraged he has been. Slowly but surely somebody takes the bait and begins to pity him. As this happens, he comforts himself knowing that there are people out there that really care about how terrible his life is.

Mr. Passive Aggressive

Mr. Passive Aggressive prides himself as being a religious zealot. He is fanatically committed to attacking the thoughts and beliefs of other people. . . . especially other Christians. In his own eyes, he is a religious reformer zealously seeking the advancement of truth in the midst of a world of falsehood. Though certain aspects of Mr. Passive Aggressive are admirable, he tends to be somewhat of a spiritual coward.

Rather than attacking the thoughts and beliefs of other people to their face, he takes to his social media platforms to do it. Since he knows that it would be frowned upon to aggressively attack someone directly on social media, he does it passively. Behind all of his posts and tweets there’s a target. Those who know him well know the target he is aiming at. Those who do not know him well are unaware of his target, and of the passive aggressive nature of his post. And after each social media post, he takes off his spiritual armor thinking of himself as a conquering warrior in the battle for the truth.

Mr. Narcissist

Mr. Narcissist believes in a self-giving God that loves and cherishes humility in His children. He prays earnestly and consistently for humility just so that he can be admired for it. And he has an intense desire to advance the kingdom of God so that both he and God might be known among the nations.

One of the key methods that Mr. Narcissist uses for the advancement of the kingdom of God is the promotion of self. His social media pages are laden with pictures and videos of himself. Every single post that he sends out onto the timeline of others has something to do with himself. He knows deep down in the inner recesses of his heart that, if he could just get people to understand that evangelical Christianity looks a lot like him, then the kingdom of God would begin to grow.

Mr. Facetious

Mr. Facetious is a funny guy and he knows it. Though he takes great joy in joking about sports, politics, t.v. shows, and the latest movies, he at times jokes about heavenly things. Granted, there are times where sarcasm and humor can be used well and for the glory of God, but this guy has a knack for being facetious about weighty eternal truths.

Mr. Facetious finds the most humorous GIFs or memes when talking about Jesus, hell, unbelief, sexual immorality, and homosexuality. Solemnity is foreign to his social media accounts. As one wades through his social media platforms, it becomes apparent that Mr. Facetious has one agenda. . . . making people laugh. . . .regardless of what heavenly topic he has to trivialize in doing so.

Mr. Political

Mr. Political is a citizen of the kingdom of God, but he is also overwhelmingly preoccupied with current events. He reads, investigates, and evaluates what is going on in the kingdoms of this world. . . . especially with America (God’s chosen kingdom of this world). And Mr. Political is not content to keep this information to himself. He must use his social media platforms to inform everybody of his latest political insights.

As one looks through his social media accounts, it seems that Mr. Political believes that God is sovereign over the rise and fall of kings and their kingdoms, but that he also believes that the latest political event is going to destroy and thwart God’s sovereign plan. He seemingly believes that God works all things for good, but that the current political policies being passed are going to ruin the lives of all Christians. Of all the political pundits one should listen too, Mr. Political tops them all. He has no biases or presuppositions that cloud his judgments, posts, or political ideologies.

Mr. Pot-Stirrer

Mr. Pot-Stirrer is well aware that the Bible contains hundreds, even thousands, of encouraging and edifying teachings. He knows and understands that he could post helpful and encouring insights from the Bible on his social media timeline. This use of social media, however, is unappealing to him.

He would rather use his social media influence to talk about the latest and most controversial topic. In doing this, he knows that heated discussions will follow. His minions will love his posts while his critics will be enraged by them. His minions will be stirred up to like his insights on the latest and most controversial topic. His critics will be stirred up to get in a heated exchange with him over his insights on the latest and most controversial topic. And as his followers, both his minions and his critics, are stirred up, it stirs him up to continue being the pot-stirrer he is!

Who Are You?

We could creatively come up with more, but with what has been said, who are you? How might you strive to use social media in a way that honors God? How might you utilize your social media platforms to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ? A proper use of social media is possible. It just takes intentionality and prayer!

Preach, Teach, and Talk about Christ!

For me, reading C.H. Spurgeon is like hiking up a mountain on a beautiful fall day and taking a breath of that fresh mountain air. His writings invigorate me. They stir my emotions and have a deep impact on my affections. The reason for this is because Spurgeon was so Christocentric.

With almost every sentence, you are learning something about Jesus. He was always striving to place Christ before the eyes of his hearers and readers. Everything was centered upon the person of Jesus. When it came to the law, he focused on how the law was to drive us to Christ. When it came to morality, he focused on how we are to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When it came to prophesy, he focused on how Christ fulfilled it. Christ! Christ! Christ! was the theme of the Prince of Preachers. This was true at the beginning of his ministry as well as the end of his ministry.

In his first sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle Spurgeon said, “I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ.” Then, thirty years later, these are Spurgeons last words from the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit:

It is heaven to serve Jesus. I am a recruiting sergeant, and I would fain find a few recruits at this moment. Every man must serve somebody: we have no choice as to that fact. Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickets part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These forty years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.

This Christocentric approach is also what he wanted other preachers to have. He wanted others to unashamedly lift up Jesus Christ in every part of their ministry. And seeing as how there is a lack of Christ centered teaching and preaching today, I think we need to hear the words of this 19th century English Baptist pastor again. Here are some examples of how Spurgeon would encourage others to preach Christ:

I would never preach a sermon – the Lord forgive me if I do – which is not full to overflowing with my Master. I know one who said I was always on the old string, and he would come and hear me no more; but if I preached a sermon without Christ in it, he would come. Ah! he will never come while this tongue moves, for a sermon without Christ in it – a Christless sermon! A brook without water; a cloud without rain; a well which mocks the traveller; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the root; a sky without a sun; a night without a star. It were a realm of death – a place of mourning for angels and laughter for devils.

Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go hear him preach.

That sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is the sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell to laugh, but might make the angels of God to weep.

The Spirit of God bears no witness to Christless sermons. Leave Jesus out of your preaching, and the Holy Spirit will never come upon you. Why should he? Has he not come on purpose that he may testify of Christ? Did not Jesus say, “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you”? Yes, the subject was Christ, and nothing but Christ, and such is the teaching which the Spirit of God will own.

You do not really preach the gospel if you leave Christ out; if he be omitted, it is not the gospel. You may invite men to listen to your message, but you are only inviting them to gaze upon an empty table unless Christ is the very centre and the substance of all that you set before them.

The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ, and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.

The best way to preach sinners to Christ is to preach Christ to sinners.

Yes, it is Christ, Christ, Christ whom we have to preach; and if we leave him out, we leave out the very soul of the gospel. Christless sermons make merriment for hell. Christless preachers, Christless Sunday-school teachers, Christless class-leaders, Christless tract-distributors – what are all these doing? They are simply setting the mill to grind without putting any grist into the hopper, so all their labour is in vain. If you leave Jesus Christ out, you are simply beating the air, or going to war without any weapon with which you can smite the foe.

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs still to be told of its Saviour, and of the way to reach him.

It has been over a hundred years since Spurgeon said all of these things. Though this may lead some of us to think these are time-bound statements, they are in fact timeless statements. The chief objective of every preacher and teacher should be to preach Jesus Christ in all of his glory. He is a most rare jewel that must be looked at and pondered from every precious facet. The apostles understood this, and so did every faithful preacher and teacher throughout all of church history. We would do well to imitate them.