Spurgeon On Church Membership

Have you ever met a fellow Christian that showed an indefatigable zeal in their pursuit of church membership? I didn’t think so. However, if you had lived near a teenage boy named C.H. Spurgeon in the 19th century, you may have answered that question differently. Because, if you had run across this young boy named Spurgeon, you would have witnessed a freshly converted Christian that was tireless in his pursuit of membership within a local church.

After Spurgeon was born again, he desired to become a member of a local church. When he reached out to the minister, though, he never received a reply. Spurgeon sought to contact the lackadaisical minister three to four more times, still to no avail. So, Spurgeon reached out again. This time he informed the minister that, as a follower of Christ, he had done his Christian duty. If the minister continued to ignore him, Spurgeon vouched to call a church meeting himself where he would notify the church that he had believed in Christ and then ask if they would receive him as a member. As you can see, Spurgeon, even at a young age, saw it as his Christian duty and privilege to be a healthy member of a local church.[1]

In the same sermon that Spurgeon recounted this somewhat humorous story—I don’t know if Spurgeon intended for it to be humorous, but I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the account—he addressed certain excuses that kept many Christians from pursuing membership within a local church. And though this sermon was preached in the 1800s, we hear the same excuses today. With that said, in the remainder of this blog, you’ll discover how Spurgeon addressed these apparently timeless excuses with wisdom and boldness.

Excuse #1: I do not need to join a church “because I can be a Christian without it.”

Now, are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? Well, suppose everybody else did the same, suppose all Christians in the world said, “I shall not join the Church.” Why there would be no visible Church, there would be no ordinances. That would be a very bad thing, and yet, one doing it—what is right for one is right for all—why should not all of us do it? Then you believe that if you were to do an act which has a tendency to destroy the visible Church of God, you would be as good a Christian as if you did your best to build up that Church? I do not believe it, sir! nor do you either. You have not any such a belief; it is only a trumpery excuse for something else. There is a brick—a very good one. What is the brick made for? To help to build a house with. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick; until it is built into the wall, it is no good. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose; you are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.

Excuse #2: “If I were to join the Church, I should feel it such a bond [i.e., heavy commitment] upon me.”

Just what you ought to feel. Ought you not to feel that you are bound to holiness now, and bound to Christ now? Oh! those blessed bonds! If there is anything that could make me feel more bound to holiness than I am, I should like to feel that fetter, for it is only liberty to feel bound to godliness, and uprightness, and carefulness of living.

Excuse #3: “If I were to join the Church, I am afraid that I should not be able to hold on.” 

You expect to hold on, I suppose, out of the Church—that is to say, you feel safer in disobeying Christ than in obeying him! Strange feeling that! Oh! you had better come and say, “My Master, I know thy saints ought to be united together in church-fellowship, for churches were instituted by thine apostles: and I trust I have grace to carry out the obligation: I have no strength of my own, my Master, but my strength lies in resting upon thee: I will follow where thou leadest, and leave the rest to thee.”

Excuse #4: “I cannot join the Church; it is so imperfect.” 

You, then, are perfect, of course! If so, I advise you to go to heaven, and join the Church there, for certainly you are not fit to join it on earth, and would be quite out of place.

Excuse #5: I do not want to join the Church because “I see so much that is wrong about Christians.”

There is nothing wrong in yourself, I suppose! I can only say, my brethren, that if the Church of God is not better than I am, I am sorry for it. I felt, when I joined the Church, that I should be getting a deal more good than I should be likely to bring into it, and with all the faults I have seen in living these twenty years or more in the Christian Church, I can say, as an honest man, that the members of the Church are the excellent of the earth, in whom is all my delight, though they are not perfect, but a long way from it. If, out of heaven, there are to be found any who really live near to God, it is the members of the Church of Christ.

Excuse #6: I do not want to join the Church because “there are a rare lot of hypocrites.” 

You are very sound and sincere yourself, I suppose? I trust you are so, but then you ought to come and join the Church, to add to its soundness by your own. I am sure, my dear friends, none of you will shut up your shops to-morrow morning, or refuse to take a sovereign when a customer comes in, because there happen to be some smashers about who are dealing with bad’ coins. No, not you, and you do not believe the theory of some, that because some professing Christians are hypocrites, therefore all are, for that would be as though you should say that, because some sovereigns are bad, therefore all are bad, which would be clearly wrong, for if all sovereigns were counterfeits, it would never pay for the counterfeiter to try to pass his counterfeits; it is just the quantity of good metal that passes off the bad. There is a fine good quantity of respectable golden Christians still in the world and still in the Church, rest assured of that.

Excuse #7: I do not want to join the Church because “it is so looked down upon.”

Oh! what a blessed look-down that is! I do think, brethren, there is no honour in the world equal to that of being looked down upon by that which is called “Society” in this country. The most of people are slaves to what they call “respectability.” Respectability! When a man puts on a coat on Sunday that he has paid for, when he worships God by night or by day, whether men see him or not: when he is an honest, straightforward man—I do not care how small his earnings are, he is a respectable man, and he need never bend his neck to the idea of Society or its artificial respectability.[2]

Conclusion

As you can see, from the time Spurgeon tirelessly pursued membership within that local church to the time he preached this sermon, he regarded church membership as both the duty and privilege of every Christian. Since the visible church, the church on earth, is not optional, church membership is not optional. Until the return of Christ, church membership makes the distinction—a legitimate but imperfect distinction—between the church and the world visible.[3] Therefore, every Christian should visibly make themselves distinct from the world by becoming a healthy member of a healthy local church.


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, “Joining the Church,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 60 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1914), 294-295.

[2] Ibid., 296-297.

[3] Geoffery Chang, Spurgeon the Pastor: Recovering a Biblical & Theological Vision for Ministry (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2022), 110.

Refraining Wisdom

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, 

but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

Proverbs 10:19

If you are anything like me, and I am confident that I am not the exception here, then you love to hear yourself talk. According to the Bible though, this is not a good thing. Lately, this particular sin pattern of mine has been at the forefront of my thinking—it has caused me to examine myself. And I figured one of the best ways to examine myself was to ponder and meditate on Proverbs 10:19. In this blog, I’ll just mention a few of my thoughts on this popular but poorly applied, at least in my case, verse.

The Untamed Tongue

It should not surprise us, biblically or experientially, that our hearts are evil (Gen. 6:5). And when we consider that our words flow from our evil and wicked hearts (Matt. 12:34), “we cannot conceive of words, much less a multitude of words, without sin.”[1] It is as though our tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8). Sure, the tongue is a small member of our body, but it is a small member that has catastrophic affects—much like a small spark that causes a devastating wildfire (Jas. 3:5). Even though the tongue is a slender portion of flesh, it contains a whole world of iniquity[2], defiles and stains the whole body, sets our lives on fire, and is fueled by the very flames of hell (Jas. 3:6). 

Therefore, proverbial wisdom concludes that the increase of words inevitably leads to the increase of transgressions. In other words, the more we talk the more we sin! And I am sure that by now, if we are honest, we have come to realize that no other “member” of our body wreaks more havoc to our Christian lives as our tongues do.[3]

Godly Restraint

Thankfully, this verse does not just teach us that the increase of words leads to an increase of transgressions. The Spirit of God goes on to tell us that “whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Prov. 10:19). To restrain means to keep back, withhold, or hold off. Prudence is simply the God given wisdom that enables us to live a life that magnifies the Lord. And it is the one who has enough self-control to restrain his lips that is prudent. So godly wisdom reveals that it is far better to largely keep our mouths shut than it is to incessantly open our mouths and multiply transgressions against our good and gracious God.

But how come so many Christians, including myself, do not restrain their lips? Well, I believe it is because we are not nearly as spiritually mature as we think we are. We think that if we put away sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, drunkenness, murder, and things like these, then we are spiritually mature—and to an extent this may be true. We forget, though, that few things clearly reveal the credibility and maturity of our Christian faith like how we manage our tongues (Mt. 12:33-37; Jas. 1:26; 3:1-4). 

So do some self-examination. Evaluate your spiritual maturity based on how you govern your tongue. How are you doing with these sins: grumbling, complaining, lying, crude joking, quarreling, degrading humor, gossip, slander, flattery, destructive sarcasm, and irritable responses? And do not just evaluate your spiritual maturity based on how you speak to co-workers and strangers; evaluate it based on how you speak to those closest to you, i.e., your friends, family, and spouse.

Gospel Comfort

This type of self-examination is helpful. Regarding sins of speech, self-examination enables us to see that these sins are not trivialities—they are treasonous acts against our Sovereign Lord that deserve a sentence of condemnation. Self-examination alone, though, is never good. It must also be paralleled with an examination of the grace of God in Christ.

If the Lord counted these sins of speech against us, who could stand on the day when we must give an account of every careless word we have ever spoken (Ps. 130:3; Mt 12:36)? None of us. Thankfully, in Christ, the Lord does not count these sins against us. Christ, with His single and efficacious sacrifice for sins, has made complete atonement for our sins, even our sins of speech (Heb. 10:11-13). Now we can exclaim with the Psalmist, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Praise the Lord!

Gospel Obedience

Gospel obedience is an obedience that is rooted in God’s love for us in Christ. Well, what does gospel obedience look like regarding Proverbs 10:19? Let me mention four ways this may look in the lives of Christians.

First, we need to have a biblical view of the seriousness of speech sins. We must never think of these sins “as anything less than the nails that pierced” Christ’s hands and feet. This will lead us to pray for an increase of “refraining wisdom.” [4] Second, we should be prudent and restrain our lips, “not indeed in silence, but in caution; to weigh our words before uttering them; never speaking, except when we have something to say; speaking only just enough; considering the time, circumstances, and person; what is solid, suitable, and profitable.”[5] Third, we must exercise the same level of refraining wisdom on social media, email, text, and any other medium we use to communicate these days. And fourth, when we hastily open our lips and use our tongues in destructive ways, we need to repent and cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24).


[1] Charles Bridges, Proverbs, Geneva Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 2008), 102.

[2] John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 320.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 159.

[4] Charles Bridges, Proverbs, 103.

[5] Ibid.

To The Novice Reader of Christian Books

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a novice reader of Christian books. That’s okay! Seriously, The Hatchet is the only book I recall reading before I came to faith in Christ. This means I read a total of ONE book from the time I was born to the time I was eighteen years old (that’s kind of humiliating. . . . I know!). But I wasn’t interested in reading. I was all about myself, baseball, working out, television, and Call of Duty.

This all changed about eleven years ago during my freshmen year of college. In 2010, while I was at Faulkner State Community College in the little town of Bay Minette, Alabama, God decided to graciously call me to Himself through faith in Christ. In other words, I became a Christian. And as a new and ignorant follower of Christ, I began reading books.

I read ten to twelve books the first couple of years of my Christian life (some of which were really bad—I remember reading Heaven is for Real and The Shack—praise the Lord for increased discernment!). And for the last nine years or so, I’ve read anywhere between thirty to fifty books a year. So, even though I’m not a very impressive reader of Christian books, I’ve consistently read a decent number of books over the last eleven years. And my aim in this blog is to give novice readers of Christian books some helpful advice.

1st – Read Good Books

We “are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We have a limited amount of time here on this vast, beautiful earth, so we don’t have time to read everything that’s been written. To be honest, with the ample responsibilities that we have, it’s really not even a good idea to spend most of our time reading books.

So, if we’re going to spend some of our brief lives reading books, and we should, then we need to make sure that we read good books. As a matter of fact, we should carefully choose the books we read like we choose the friends we hang out with. Here’s a few easy ways to do this:

  • Read books that are recommended by trustworthy Christians.
  • Read books that reputable Christian scholars wrote in their field of expertise.
  • Read books that have impacted Christians for centuries.
  • Read books that are historically proven.
  • Read books by a Christian author you’ve grown to love.

2nd – Don’t Finish Bad Books

You may not have thought about this, but books have been published every single day. . . . for thousands of years! It’s mind boggling to think about how many books are out there. I remember walking into the library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and being overwhelmed by the amount of Christian literature shelved in there. I was dumbfounded when I thought about the small percentage of Christian books I’d be able to read in my life. Just imagine how I’d feel if I walked into the Library of Congress—a library containing over 170 million works!

And trust me, all these books aren’t good. As you strive to strictly read good books, you’ll discover that some of the books you thought would be good are actually bad. When this happens, don’t try to muster through it so that you can check that book off your list. Just put the bad book down and start another book that you think will be good. Honestly, why waste countless hours reading a bad book when there are so many good ones out there?!

3rd – Quality over Quantity

For a long time, I thought that the quantity of books I read was more important than the quality. I’d finish any book I started because I wanted to make sure I read a certain number of books in a year. I’d also gravitate away from larger books because I knew it would take me longer to read them . . . which would then cause me to read less books throughout the year. This was spiritually immature thinking (looking back, I was being pretty legalistic—as though God’s approval of me increased based on the number of books I read)!

I no longer have this thought process. I’ve learned that the quality of the books we read far outweighs the quantity of the books we read. The return of perusing a lengthy, historically proven book is way better than the return of reading many short, unproven books. For example, reading Spurgeon’s Lecture to My Students and Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry is more valuable that reading every present-day book on pastoral ministry out there (and there are some really good contemporary books on pastoral ministry out there!).

4th – Read to Learn

It’s so easy to think that a well-stocked library leads to a well-furnished mind—that a vast amount of reading entails vast amounts of learning. This, though, couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply reading a book doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve learned what the author is teaching.

Instead, it is important to digest the material we read so that we can really wrestle with the information the author is trying to teach us. We don’t simply want to be parrots that repeat what the writer says. We want to think and meditate on the material to such an extent that we’d be able to converse with the author about the arguments he’s making. Essentially, we want to read to learn, not read to read. And as we do this, let us keep in mind that one book mastered is better than a hundred books skimmed. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Pause and reflect on profound sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
  • Write reviews on what you read.
  • Evaluate the authors arguments with the Bible.
  • Read numerous books on the same topic.
  • Don’t be obsessed with finishing books. Let your curiosity push you to read all types of material on the same topic.

5th – Use What You Read

All learning, especially the accumulation of Christian knowledge, should lead to application. Some books will lead us to thank God. Others will encourage us to begin practicing a discipline that we’ve long forgotten. Others will motivate us to strengthen our marriages and our parenting. And other books will help us have rock solid biblical arguments against unbiblical teachings. So don’t just let the knowledge you gain through reading lie dormant in your mind. Insofar as the author is using biblical truth to impact you, make good use of what you read. Here’s how this might look practically:

  • Read books with other people.
  • Teach, if you have an avenue to teach, on what you read.
  • Talk about what you read with other people throughout the week.
  • Neatly summarize what the author was hoping to get his/her readers to do, and, insofar as it’s Biblical prudent, strive to do it.
  • If the book is really good, buy an extra copy and give it to a friend.

A Final Word

As you become more intentional in reading good Christian books, never forget to spend time mastering the Bible. The Word of God is more valuable than gold. The fact that most of us have it within arm’s reach is astounding. With that said, be sure to visit all kinds of good Christian books, but make sure you live in the Bible.

Get Self-Control!

A man without self-control 

is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

The Bible teaches that we have three great enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These three adversaries have done more damage to the human race than all the communist regimes throughout history. The world, this godless age that we live in, is a prostitute constantly seeking to allure and entice us to commit spiritual adultery on the Lord (James 4:1-5). The flesh, our sin nature that rages against all that’s godly, is consistently seeking the fleeting pleasures of sin (Romans 8:5-8; Hebrews 11:25). And the devil, that fierce nemesis of our souls, is actively tempting us to rebel against God. These enemies are forcefully trying to infiltrate our souls, to corrupt every aspect of our being, and to leave us desolate before God. 

A City Without Walls

And the proverb above teaches us how instrumental self-control is when these adversaries rage against us. You see, when we possess self-control, we can exercise control over our sinful desires and passions. On the other hand, when we lack self-control, we cannot exercise control over our sinful desires and passions. As you can see, without self-control we lie open to our enemies’ every attack. We are “like a city broken into and left without wall” (Proverbs 25:28). A city without walls is a city without a defense. It is easily taken, plundered, and conquered. This is how it is when we lack self-control. We have no line of defense against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Perfect For Conquering

When we cannot control our sinful passions and desires, every worldly enticement can lead us into spiritual adultery, every fleshly desire can lead us into heinous sin, and every temptation can lead us to rebel against God. Periods of anger have potential to lead to murder (Genesis 4:8). Moments of inward lust can lead to acts of adultery (2 Samuel 11:2-5). Envy and jealousy can lead to gossip, slander, and false accusations (Matthew 27:18). Desire for worldly glory, honor, and power can lead to genocide (Esther 3:1-6). Unrestrained sensual passions can lead to incestuous rape (2 Samuel 13:11-14). A desire for continual pleasure can lead to poverty (Proverbs 21:17). Though more examples could be given, it should be apparent by now that without self-control, the world, the flesh, and the devil arrive at the city of our souls to find it lacking walls and ready to be easily taken over!

Where Do I Find Self-Control?

But how are we to get self-control? And we are not talking about the self-control it takes to wake up early in the morning to go to the gym. We are talking about the self-control it takes to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God — to say “no” to worldly enticements, the lust of the flesh, and the temptations of the evil one, and to say “yes” to righteousness, holiness, purity, and godliness! How are we to get this kind of self-control?

The Spirit of God

First, the Bible teaches that we must be born again by the Spirit of God. Apart from the new birth, we are in the flesh, and we live in accordance with our fleshly desires (John 3:6; Romans 6:5-7). And to be in the flesh and living in accordance with our fleshly desires is to be hostile to God (Romans 6:7), enslaved to sin (Romans 6:15-19), and under the dominating power of sin (Romans 6:6-11). 

However, once we are born again by the Spirit, we are in the Spirit, liberated from slavery to sin, and released from the dominating power of sin (Romans 8:1-11). By the Spirit of God, we are enabled to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. Simply put, we are enabled to have self-control when it comes to saying “no” to worldly enticements, the lust of the flesh, and the temptations of the evil one, and “yes” to righteousness, holiness, purity, and godliness.

Secondly, as the Spirit of God leads us, we are to “walk by the Spirit,” and to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25). As we do this, the Spirit of God will increasingly produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). So, as we “walk by the Spirit,” and “keep in step with the Spirit,” we will progressively have the Spirit empowered ability to exercise control over our sinful desires and passions. Rather than being like a city without walls, we will be like fortified city with impenetrable walls. 

Thirdly, we must know what it means to “walk by the Spirit,” and to “keep in step with the Spirit.” I mean, how are we to live in such a way that the Spirit will increasingly produce His fruit in our lives? And I think J.I. Packer is particularly helpful here, so I am just going to let him teach us:

The Spirit works through means—through the objective means of grace, namely, biblical truth, prayer, fellowship, worship, and the Lord’s Supper, and with them through the subjective means of grace whereby we open ourselves to change, namely, thinking, listening, questioning oneself, examining oneself, admonishing oneself, sharing what is in one’s heart with others, and weighing any response they make. . . . Habit forming is the Spirit’s ordinary way of leading us on in holiness. . . . Love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are all of them habitual. . . . ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Packer goes on to emphasize that, “Holiness by habit forming is not self-sanctification by self-effort, but simply a matter of understanding the Spirit’s method and then keeping in step with Him.” Essentially, Packer is teaching us that the Spirit works through means. The more we make use of these means, the more the Spirit produces His fruit in our lives. Therefore, if we want to grow in self-control, lets habitually make use of the means the Spirit has promised to bless.

A City With Walls

This is the key to having ever increasing self-control in the Christian life. And if we are faithful to do this, the world, the flesh, and the devil will show up at the city of our souls to find unscalable, impenetrable, and sturdy walls built around it. These ancient foes will not find a city without a defense. They will find a city aware of their schemes, defended on every side, and ready to make an offensive attack by the power of the Spirit of God.

Don’t Overstay!

Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, 

lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”

Proverbs 25:17

Just the other day I was meditating on this proverb while I was sitting in my office. As one of our custodians came in to straighten up, I mentioned it to her to see what she thought about this bit of proverbial wisdom. Let’s just say that she was tickled by it. She had no idea that the Bible directed us in such small and seemingly insignificant matters of the Christian life. But this is an amazing aspect of the Bible, isn’t it? The Word of God expounds great and glorious doctrines like the Trinity, and it also give us seemingly insignificant instructions that aid us in our relationships with others.

Enjoyment to Hatred

When the proverb above tells us that our foot should “be seldom in our neighbor’s house,” it is telling us that we shouldn’t frequent our neighbor’s house too regularly. Solomon then gives us the reason for this when he says, “lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” And this idea of having one’s “fill” of something was just used in the prior verse when Solomon said, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit” (Proverbs 25:16). The idea is simple — eating just enough honey brings sweet contentment, while eating too much honey brings disgust. Considering verse 16, it is evident that verse 17 is teaching us not to overstay our welcome.

Though we may think spending significant amounts of time with ourselves is a foretaste of heaven on earth, our neighbor may not think so! In fact, overstaying our welcome may lead our neighbor out of the realm of love and into the realm of hatred. Just as too much honey may lead out of the land of enjoyment and into the land of to vomit, so too much Philip may lead my neighbor from delightful enjoyment of me to an utter hatred for me.

Considering our Neighbor

This wisdom, however, was not given to keep us out our neighbor’s house. God would never instruct us to do something that would halt the flow of neighborly love. Instead, God is teaching us that, in all our interactions, we must show consideration for those whom we are interacting with. 

Our neighbors typically have a spouse that needs to be loved, children that need to be cared for, business that needs to get done, and a good night’s sleep that needs to be enjoyed.  Aside from these, our neighbors may simply want to enjoy the creaturely comforts of being in their home without hosting a guest. Moreover, even the godliest of neighbors still have a sin nature that rears its head from time to time. 

If we frequently enter our neighbor’s house without due consideration of these things, then they may become weary of us —perhaps even degusted with us! However, if we enter our neighbor’s house giving due consideration to these aspects of our neighbor’s life, then we won’t overstay our welcome.

Frequently Come Before God

Though our neighbors may have their fill of us, God will not. Our neighbors have a sin nature and creaturely limitations, but God is a perfectly pure being that has no creaturely restrictions. While God causes the grass to grow, provides food for the birds of the air, and sustains the life of every human being, He can still give undivided attention to all who enter the throne room of grace. Though millions pray to Him at the same time, He can give wholehearted attention to each one with loving care. This led Charles Bridges to say:

Blessed be God! There is no need of this caution and reserve in our approach unto him. Once acquainted with the way of access, there is no wall of separation. Our earthly friend may be pressed too far. Kindness may be worn out by frequent use. But never can we come to our heavenly Friend unseasonably….The more frequent the visits, the more welcome, and the more fruitful.

What an incredible thought! May we never forget that this kind of access to God the Father is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16).

What A Nuisance!

“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, 

so is the sluggard to those who send him.”

Proverbs 10:26

Throughout the book of Proverbs, the sluggard is actually portrayed in amusing and pitiful ways. The sluggard is depicted as a person who is perpetually lazy and inactive. He does not have any discipline, self-control, or initiative. He has a hard time both starting and finishing his work (Proverbs 19:24; 21:25; 24:30-34; 26:15). Instead of starting his work, he voices excuses so that he can postpone his labors (Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 26:15). And whenever he actually does start his work, he has a difficult time doing his work well (Proverbs 10:26).

This humorous and pitiful depiction of the sluggard is not meant to minimize the sin of laziness. Instead, it is to heighten the seriousness of it. God wants us to know that the sluggard is someone that lacks biblical wisdom (Proverbs 24:30). He wants to teach us that laziness is a moral failing (Proverbs 15:19; Matthew 25:26).

An Annoying Employee

With this in mind, in our proverb above we are given a “lively figure of the vexation of the sluggard to his employers!” Those who send the sluggard are those who employed the lazy bones and sought to put him to work. While the sluggard works, though, he is a constant nuisance and hindrance to his bosses. He is pictured as “vinegar on the teeth and smoke to the eyes” (Proverbs 10:26) – both of which are very irritating and agitating!

The sluggard does not “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). While a Christian has the glory of God as his commanding interest in all his labors, the sluggard has no commanding interest. The sluggard’s chief desire is the gratification of his own sinful flesh.

This leaves his bosses constantly concerned about him. They have to constantly ask themselves, “What is the lazy bones doing? Is he doing what he is supposed to be doing? Is he doing it well? Will he ever finish?” As bosses spend countless hours concerned about the sluggard, they find that hiring a sluggard is like drinking vinegar. They find that employing a sluggard is like having smoke constantly agitating the eyes.

Diligence that Adorns

The Spirit filled Christian should not be like the sluggard though. Rather than being like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, an employed Christian should be like a well-oiled machine. They should show up to work with an earnest desire to bring glory to God, to labor for Christ, and to love their neighbor. Their reputation for working diligently should allow their employers to rest well knowing that the job is being done in an honorable way.

This type of diligent labor allows Christians to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ while they are at work. Through their diligent labor, they are sincerely loving their employers. Even more importantly, they are showing their employers that they genuinely believe Christ’s Lordship extends to every aspect of their lives – even to their daily labors.

It’s God’s Fault

“When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, 

his heart rages against the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:3

In the beginning, God made us upright (Genesis 1:26; Ecclesiastes 7:29). Ever since the fall of Adam, however, we have inherited a sin nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:19). With this sin nature, we live out folly. According to the book of Proverbs, folly is what happens when we act without heavenly wisdom and knowledge – it is what happens when we give full reign to our sinful passions and begin to obey them (Proverbs 5:23; 12:23; 13:15; 14:1). And though living in folly may lead to momentary pleasure at times (Hebrews 11:25), it ultimately leads to ruin (Proverbs 19:3). This is clearly seen in the first three chapters of Genesis.

Adam’s Folly Leads to Ruin

God created Adam and Eve to be vice regents, to rule over the world, and to exercise a god-like dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30). At the outset of their rule, however, God gave them one prohibition. God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). This prohibition was wisely given by God in order to keep Adam and Eve in their proper place. As they functioned as vice-regents of the world, this prohibition reminded them that they were not THE REGENT of the world. It reminded them that they were always to use their kingly rule in a way that honored the one true king, the Lord God Almighty.

Before long, though, the tempter came tempting Eve to disobey this wise prohibition that God had given to her husband (Genesis 3:1-5). I mean, why be a vice regent when you could usurp God’s regency and become THE REGENT? The more Eve thought about this, the more her eyes were captivated by the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food” and “desirable to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6). 

Desiring to have this luscious fruit burst in her mouth, she disobeyed God’s command, laid hold of the fruit, and partook of it (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6). As the juices landed on her palate, she enjoyed the savory flavor. She then took the forbidden fruit and handed it to Adam. Adam, too, acted without heavenly wisdom and knowledge. He foolishly took the fruit from Eve’s hand and began to partake in it himself (Genesis 3:6). Little did they know, though, that their foolishness had already begun to lead to their ruin. Though they thought this would allow them to usurp God’s regency, it ultimately led to their alienation from God.

His Heart Rages Against the Lord

Not long after this the Lord approached them in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. At this point, it would have been wise for the heart of Adam to rage against itself. After all, it was Adam’s own folly that led to his own ruin. Therefore, he should have expressed displeasure in himself, humbled himself, turned away from his sin, and turned to the Lord. Sadly, this is not what happened.

Rather than raging against himself, Adam’s cold dead heart raged against the Lord . . . . just as our proverb above talks about. Even though he was the very author of his own ruin and misery, he laid the charge against God. When the Lord approached Adam inquiring about what had happened with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam blamed the Lord for his very own foolishness by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). This shows “the foolishness of Adam! First he perverted his way; then he charged upon God its bitter fruit.”

Still True Today

As we saw above, our proverbial teaching is perfectly illustrated in the life of Adam. And even though we are far removed from Adam, this proverbial teaching captures exactly how we are prone to respond when our own folly leads to our own ruin. When we begin to suffer some of the ruin that was inevitable based off the sin we were indulging in, our first sinful inclination is to rage against God. We want to blame and be embittered towards the Lord. This is not the way of wisdom.

When we endure any type of ruin, heavenly wisdom would have us examine ourselves to see if there was any known foolishness that led to this ruin. If we discover that our own folly led to this particular ruin in our lives, we ought to repent of our sin, turn to the Lord, and plead for His mercy and grace. This will keep us from raging against the Lord when we should be sorrowfully raging against our own hearts.

Hear Both Sides!

“The one who states his case first seems right, 

until the other comes and examines him.”

(Proverbs 18:17)

Within our sin nature, that old self that we inherited from Adam, there is a tendency to deceive others. This is especially true when we state our case to other people with the aim of getting them to agree with us about someone that we are not particularly happy with.

In an intense desire to get somebody to agree with us, we passionately pour out our case to others. Our hope is that they will see that we are in the right and that the other person is in the wrong. We want them to join us. We want them to defend us and accuse the other person. We passionately want other people to begin viewing us as the innocent party and the other person as the guilty party.

We Seem Right

However, in doing so, we deceptively and perhaps unconsciously “cast a shade over, or even omit, what might seem to balance on the opposite side.” Because we are so zealous in our effort to get others to agree with our case, we deceptively portray the other person in such a way that those who are listening to us will inevitably agree with us. And because we are the lone person that has stated our case against this particular person, those who listen to us think that we are right. They do exactly what we were hoping they would do – they begin thinking that we are innocent and that the other person is guilty.

Until Cross Examination

Until, as the proverb says, “the other comes and examines him.” Those who are acquainted with both the person and situation come and shed light on everything that we misconstrued and omitted. Perhaps even the person that was originally being talked about comes to give their side of the story.

This reveals to all that we were not as in the right as we originally seemed to be. As Charles Bridges said, “The first tale is good, till the second is heard.” The verdict changes once all the facts are known. Through our deception, they joined us for a while. With increasing clarity, however, they begin to realize that everything isn’t as it originally seemed.

Played Out Everyday

Because this is the inspired word of God that exegetes the sinful nature of man with incredible precision, we see this played out every single day. Cops see this played out during arrests. Judges see this played out in court hearings. Marriage counselors see this played out in sessions with embittered married couples. Parents see this played out with their children. And pastors see this played out within the church. When the first person states their case, there is almost always truth mixed with error – there is almost always just enough deceit to get the other person to agree with them! God is not ignorant of this. This is why Proverbs 18:17 is in the Bible.

Applying This Today

First, if we are stating our case, we must realize that it is very difficult to “state facts and circumstances with perfect accuracy where our own name, or credit is concerned.” More often than not, our sin nature wants to portray facts and circumstances in such a way that we appear to be absolutely right and others appear to be absolutely wrong. We must realize how susceptible we are to this and strive to fight against it. We can do this by distrusting ourselves, examining ourselves to uncover any prejudices that we have, and asking God to search our hearts for any hidden evil that lies within. In turn, this will rid us of deceit and lead us to increasing truthfulness.

Second, we must not establish a verdict too quickly when we are listening to someone make their case. We must hear both sides before we come to a verdict. This is something we have heard since we were children, but it is something we still need to hear today. It is always wise to postpone the casting of a verdict until both sides have been heard. This will keep us from being deceived and led astray. This will also keep us from viewing a particular person wrongly. Therefore, when somebody makes their case, be sure to search for another person that can shed further light on both the person and situation being talked about. Perhaps even approach the person that was being talked about directly to get their side of the story. This will ensure you have all the facts before you cast a verdict.

Applying this proverb in these two ways will allow us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. For in seeking to apply this proverb in these two ways we ensure that we are loving our neighbor well. I’ll end with some advice from Charles Simeon. The more he aged in wisdom and grace, the more he sought to abide by these rules that he laid down earlier in his life.

Favoring the Reprover

“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more

favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”

Proverbs 28:23

To rebuke a man is to inform him that he is in sin – that he is guilty of falling short of the standard of Christian conduct as revealed in the Bible. In a sense, a rebuke is like a verbal spanking. Just as a parent spanks their child in order to let their kid know that he has disobeyed the standard of household conduct that the parents have established, so a rebuke is a verbal spanking that lets a Christian know that he has fallen short of the standard of Christian conduct that God has established in sacred Scripture. And though rebukes are never pleasant, they are greatly needed in the Christian life.

Since a gentle rebuke is so profitable, those who give godly rebukes should “afterward find more favor” in the eyes of the ones whom they reproved. Sure, the ones receiving the rebuke may have their pride hurt at first, but they should eventually see the spiritual good that came from the rebuke. Once they see that the well timed reproof served to remind them of the dangers of sin, the value of their souls, and the importance of living in a manner worthy of the gospel, their hearts should favor the reprover. I found this proverbial teaching perfectly illustrated when I read Iain Murray’s short biography on John MacArthur.

The Reprover Finds Favor

During the early years of John MacArthur’s ministry, a flustered lady from his church informed him that her husband had left her in order to go live with another woman. MacArthur knew that this was a spiritually grave situation, so he obtained the house number of the woman this man went to go live with. Upon calling the number, the husband that was messing around with adultery actually answered the phone himself. MacArthur then said to him, “This is John from Grace Church. I’m calling in the name of Christ for you to move out of this woman’s place before you sin against God, your wife, and your church.” Needless to say, the man was utterly shocked. He told MacArthur that he would go right back to his wife. 

On the following Sunday, the man approached MacArthur, embraced him, and said, “Thank you! I didn’t want to be there. I was tempted, and I thought no one would care about that.” Though he did not think that anybody would care about his flagrant sin against God and his willful betrayal of his wife, MacArthur cared enough to actually call and rebuke him about it. Because of this, the man’s affection for MacArthur increased. In light of this stinging rebuke, MacArthur found more favor in this man’s eyes.

The Flatterer Does Harm

Whereas a rebuke does a great deal of spiritual good, flattery does a great deal of spiritual harm. To flatter someone is to insincerely complement or praise them out of self-interest. Instead of rebuking someone over a particular sin, the flatterer will generally encourage them in their sin so as not to lose the advantageous nature of their relationship. Before long, though, it becomes apparent that the flatterer never had the spiritual well-being of the one whom they flattered in mind. They only had their own self-interest in mind. In light of this, the flatterer should lose favor in the eyes of the one whom they flattered.

So, this proverbial teaching is clear: the reprover should find more favor than the flatterer. Too often though, “the flatterer finds more favor than the reprover.” One reason for this is because “few people have the wisdom to like reproofs that would do them good, better than praises that do them hurt.” This is a sad reality. May we all seek to have godly wisdom that welcomes the reprover. And if we give a rebuke, may we give it in the spirit of our gracious Master, Jesus Christ. When he wounds his beloved children through rebuke, he then pours healing balm in the wound.

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.