A Wealthy Believer Objects

“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”  II Corinthians 4:10-11

Last week we saw how two wealthy believers reacted differently to the sudden loss of their wealth. The carnal man became depressed and discontented while the spiritual man remained content because he understood God’s purpose. Today, Jeremiah Burroughs addresses an objection of the carnal man who was distressed at his loss – Why did this happen to me? I could serve God better with my wealth if He had let me keep it!

The carnal man’s objection misses God’s ultimate purpose in the lives of believers. While God certainly wants us to honor Him with what He has given us (wealth, health, skills, intelligence, social status, etc.), that is not His higher purpose: to manifest Jesus Christ in the world. regardless of our wealth, health, skills, intelligence, social status, etc. The fact is that God doesn’t need those things to reveal who He is to those around us. God wants to work in and through us to make His glory known to the world and to draw souls to Himself. The spiritual man in Burrough’s illustration understands God’s purpose.

“You must know that the special honor which God has from his creatures in this world is the manifestation of the graces of his Spirit. It is true that God gets a great deal of honor when a man is in a public place, and so is able to do a great deal of good, to countenance godlessness, and discountenance sin, but the main thing is in our showing forth the virtues of him who has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9b)

“If I can say that, through God’s mercy in my affliction, I find the graces of God’s Spirit working as strongly in me as ever they did when I had my wealth, I am where I was; indeed, I am in quite as good a condition, for I have the same good now that I had in my prosperous estate. I reckoned the good of it only in my enjoyment of God, and honoring of God, and now God has blessed the lack of it to stir up the graces of his Spirit in my soul.

“This is the work that God calls me to now, and I must consider God to be the most honored when I do the work that he calls me to; he set me to work in my prosperous estate to honor him at that time in that condition, and now he sets me to work to honor him at this time in this condition; God is most honored when I can turn from one condition to another, according as he calls me to it.”

Hymn: Complete in Thee

One of the keys to learning spiritual contentment is knowing that we have all that we need for life and godliness. (II Peter 1:3) The second thing is that we are eternally settled in our position in Christ through faith in His shed blood on the cross. We are complete in Him and thus have every reason to be content in Him!

Complete in Thee

by Aaron Robarts Wolfe *

Complete in Thee! no work of mine

May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;

Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,

And I am now complete in Thee.

Refrain

Yea, justified! O blessed thought!

And sanctified! Salvation wrought!

Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,

And glorified, I too, shall be!

Complete in Thee! no more shall sin,

Thy grace hath conquered, reign within;

Thy voice shall bid the tempter flee,

And I shall stand complete in Thee. (Refrain)

Complete in Thee–each want supplied,

And no good thing to me denied;

Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be,

I ask no more, complete in Thee. (Refrain)

Dear Saviour! when before Thy bar

All tribes and tongues assembled are,

Among Thy chosen will I be,

At Thy right hand, complete in Thee. (Refrain)

* Aaron Robarts Wolfe (1821–1902) was born at Mendham, New Jersey and educated at Williams College and the Union Theological Seminary, New York. In 1851, he was licensed by the Third Presbytery of New York. For some time he had charge of a school for young ladies at Tallahassee, Florida; and in 1859 he established “The Hillside Seminary for Young Ladies” at Montclair, New Jersey.

      He gave his friends this account of an in­ci­dent which seriously shaped his later life and made “Complete in Thee” a personal hymn: When he left Flo­ri­da in the sum­mer of 1855 he put all his ef­fects—lib­ra­ry, notes, and things of that sort—on board a sail­ing-ves­sel, and with a sim­ple grip­sack re­turned North by way of Nash­ville and Chi­ca­go. Reaching New York af­ter some two weeks spent in jour­ney­ing, he sought his goods at the com­mis­sion house to which they had been con­signed. There he learned that, on the day ap­point­ed for sail­ing, the ves­sel with his goods had been struck by light­ning, the mate killed at the foot of the mast, and the ves­sel, la­den with tur­pen­tine, burned to the wa­ter’s edge. Books, papers, notes, ev­ery­thing of past trea­sure had gone up in smoke.

     Aaron Wolfe looked up­on this event as a spe­cial pro­vi­dence of God, shap­ing his life, and fix­ing his home. For it made him a teach­er of the young ra­ther than a pas­tor of a church; and soon the way was op­ened for the be­gin­ning of one of the most use­ful en­gage­ments with Dr. Ab­bott, and so his life was fa­shioned…Thus the Lord made up his pet­ty loss­es by a rich re­ward.

 

(Personal note: When I was a teenager, and not saved, a tragic house fire resulted in loss of most of our family’s possessions and shaped the lives of each member of my family. My father worked for Pan American Airways in Jamaica when our family house was burned to the ground by an arsonist and we lost almost everything. Some photos, papers, and valuables stored in a metal box to preserve them from the tropical humidity were the only possessions that survived. Now that I have been saved for more than forty years, I look back and see how much this loss shaped my early life. Worldly goods may have less of a grip on my life today because of that incident years ago even before I came to Christ. God has been faithful in everything and I know that I am complete in Him.)

 

Two Wealthy Men

 

“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1:20-22

It is a mystery to me that Christians can view wealth in such contrasting ways. A brief story from Jeremiah Burroughs illustrates how two wealthy Christian men (one carnal and one spiritual) view their wealth and prosperity differently. Jesus told a parable that addressed the folly of a man consumed with his riches. The parable in Luke 12:16-23 did not end well for this man:  “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21) The second man in Burroughs’ illustration is spiritually content and when he loses his wealth is equally content as when he was rich. What a difference!

“If there is any good in wealth or in any comfort in this world, it is not so much that it pleases my sense or that it suits my body, but that it has reference to God, the First Being, that by these substances somewhat of God’s goodness might be conveyed to me, and I may have a sanctified use of the substance to draw me nearer to God, that I may enjoy more of God, and be made more serviceable for His glory in the place where He has set me: this is the good of the substance.

“Suppose that a man had great wealth only a few years ago, and now it is all gone. I would only ask this man, ‘When you had your wealth, in what did you reckon the good of that wealth to consist?’ A carnal heart would say, ‘Anybody might know that. It brought me in so much a year, and I could have the best fare, and be a man of repute in the place where I live, and men regard what I said; I might be clothed as I would, and lay up portions for my children: the good of my wealth consisted of this.’ “Now such a man never came into the school of Christ to know in what the good of an estate consisted, so no marvel if he is disquieted when he has lost his estate.

But when a Christian, who has been in the school of Christ, and has been instructed in the art of contentment, has some wealth, he thinks, ‘In that I have wealth above my brethren, I have an opportunity to serve God the better, and I enjoy a great deal of God’s mercy conveyed on my soul through the substance, and hereby I am enabled to do a great deal of good. In this I reckon the good of my wealth. And now that God has taken this away from me, if He will be pleased to make up the enjoyment of Himself some other way, will call me to honor Him by suffering, and if I may do God as much service now by suffering, that is by showing forth the grace of His Spirit in my sufferings as I did in prosperity, I have as much of God as I had before. So if I may be left to God in my low condition, as much as I was in my prosperous condition, I have as much comfort and contentment as I had before.’”

 

Conflict – from “The Valley of Vision:

Conflict

from The Valley Of Vision *

O LORD GOD

Thou art my protecting arm,

            fortress, refuge, shield, buckler.

Fight for me and my foes must flee;

Uphold me and I cannot fall;

Strengthen me and I stand unmoved, unmovable;

Equip me and I shall receive no wound;

Stand by me and Satan will depart

Anoint my lips with a song of salvation

            and I shall shout thy victory.

Blessed Lord Jesus, at thy cross,

            may I be taught the awful miseries from which I am saved,

                        ponder what the word ‘lost’ implies,

                        see the fires of eternal destruction;

Then may I cling more closely to thy broken self,

            adhere to thee with firmer faith,

            be devoted to thee with total being,

            detest sin as strongly as thy love to me is strong,

And may holiness be the atmosphere in which I live.

 

* From The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975

“The prayers in The Valley of Vision are steeped in Scripture, yet never succumb to mere formula. They are theologically fresh and vibrant, yet they are rooted in confessionalism. They range over a huge sweep of Christian experience and devotion… They brim with deep emotion and transparent passion, but they carefully avoid mere sentimentalism. This is a book that teaches readers to pray by example.” — D. A. Carson

 

Photo courtesy of Mark Francis, Beirut; Scripture annotation by Michael Vetter

Hymn: Jesus Is All The World To Me

This hymn came to me a few days ago when I was awake in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. The words of the first two lines repeated in my mind until I fell asleep later. When I got up in the morning I immediately had to look up the tune and the other verses in a hymnal. It was such a blessing to hum the words (I don’t actually sing, you understand) and fragments of the hymn stuck with me during the day. I may not remember many of the words today, but I can attest that having the tune and words of a hymn going through your mind during the day does wonders for your thinking and attitude!

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” Ephesians 5:19

Jesus Is All The World To Me

by Will L. Thompson

Jesus is all the world to me:

  My life, my joy, my all.

He is my strength from day to day;

  Without Him I would fall.

When I am sad, to Him I go;

No other one can cheer me so.

When I am sad, He makes me glad;

  He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,

  My Friend in trials sore.

I go to Him for blessings, and

  He gives them o’er and o’er.

He sends the sunshine and the rain;

He sends the harvest’s golden grain:

Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain—

  He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,

  And true to Him I’ll be.

Oh, how could I this Friend deny

  When He’s so true to me?

Following Him I know I’m right;

He watches o’er me day and night.

Following Him by day and night,

  He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,

  I want no better friend.

I trust Him now; I’ll trust Him when

  Life’s fleeting days shall end.

Beautiful life with such a Friend;

Beautiful life that has no end!

Eternal life, eternal joy,

  He’s my Friend.

Will L. Thompson, (1847-1909) was a noted American composer. Thompson graduated from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, in 1870. In 1873, he attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and later continued his musical studies in Leipzig, Germany. Rebuffed in an ear­ly at­tempt to sell his secular songs to a com­mer­cial pub­lish­er, Thomp­son start­ed his own pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He founded the W. L. Thompson Music Company and tried his hand with some success at secular compositions before finding his forte in hymns and gospel songs.

Both a lyr­i­cist and com­pos­er, he would al­ways record words or mel­o­dies that came to him at odd times:  “No mat­ter where I am, at home or ho­tel, at the store or tra­vel­ing, if an idea or theme comes to me that I deem wor­thy of a song, I jot it down in verse. In this way I ne­ver lose it.” Thompson took ill dur­ing a tour of Eur­ope and his fam­i­ly cut short their tra­vels to re­turn home. He died a few weeks lat­er in New York City.

His most well-known work is the classic and enduring gospel song, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” which has been translated into countless languages. The Thompsons built a large hilltop mansion on Park Boulevard in East Liverpool, Ohio. The house still stands and is known locally as “the Softly and Tenderly House.”

 

The Believer is a Sojourner in the World

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14

In his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs observes that contentment comes only when the believer understands his relationship to the world. He explains, “By that I mean as follows: God comes to instruct the soul effectually through Christ by His Spirit, on what terms it lives here in the world, in what relation it stands. While I live in the world, my condition is to be but a pilgrim, a stranger, a traveler, and a soldier. …God has set me in this world, not as in my home but as a mere stranger and a pilgrim who is traveling to another home, and that I am here a soldier in my warfare. I say that a right understanding of this is a mighty help to contentment in whatever befalls one.”

“When you are at sea, though you have  not as many things as you have at home, you are not troubled at it; you are contented. Why? Because you are at sea. Thus it should be for us in this world, for the truth is, we are all in this world but as seafaring men,, tossed up and down on the waves of the sea of this world, and our haven is Heaven here we are traveling, and our home is a distant home in another world. We are going away to another country; you are as it were, only lodging here for a night. If you were to live a hundred years, in comparison to eternity, it is not as much as a night, it is as though you are traveling and had come to an inn.”

“Then again, we are not only travelers, but soldiers; this is the condition in which we are here in this world and therefore we ought to behave ourselves accordingly. The Apostle Paul makes us of this argument in writing to Timothy, ‘Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,’ (II Timothy 2:3) When a soldier is away, he does not enjoy such comforts in his quarters as he has in his own home. He must lie out in the fields when he is a soldier and the very thought of the condition in which he stands calms him in all things. This only suitable to the condition in which God has put him. What an unseemly thing it would be to see a soldier go whining up and down with his finger in his eye, complaining that he does not have hot meat at every meal and his bed warmed as he had at home!”

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

 

Hymn: Is Your All on the Altar?

Elisha Hoffman’s hymns hold a special place in our evangelical hymnals alongside the uplifting melodies and edifying words written by well-known hymnists like Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Ira Sankey, Robert Lowry, and others. “Is Your All on the Altar?” is a congregational singing favorite at Salem Bible Church because it reminds us of the Biblical identification truths in Romans chapter 6, John chapter 15 and elsewhere that teach the way to sanctification through the believer’s death to self and complete surrender to God’s will.

Is Your All on the Altar?

by Elisha Hoffman *

You have longed for sweet peace,

And for faith to increase,

And have earnestly, fervently prayed.

But you cannot have rest,

Or be perfectly blest,

Until all on the altar is laid.

Refrain:

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?

Your heart does the Spirit control?

You can only be blest,

And have peace and sweet rest,

As you yield Him your body and soul.

Would you walk with the Lord

In the light of His Word,

And have peace and contentment alway?

You must do His sweet will

To be free from all ill–

On the altar your all you must lay. [Refrain]

Oh, we never can know

What the Lord will bestow

Of the blessings for which we have prayed,

Till our body and soul

He doth fully control,

And our all on the altar is laid. [Refrain]

Who can tell all the love

He will send from above,

And how happy our hearts will be made,

Of the fellowship sweet

We shall share at His feet

When our all on the altar is laid! [Refrain]

* Elisha Hoffman (1839-1929) was the son of an Evangelical minister and grew up singing sacred hymns both in church and in the home with his parents. Hoffman furthered his education at Union Seminary in New Berlin, Pennsylvania, and was subsequently ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1873. Following his seminary education, Hoffman began work with the publishing branch of the Evangelical Association in Cleveland, Ohio. After serving in this position for eleven years, he held several pastoral positions in the Midwest. He pastored churches in both Cleveland and Grafton, Ohio, in the 1880s; moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan and the First Presbyterian Church in the mid-1890s; and finished his ministry in Cabery, Illinois from 1911-22. He died in 1929 in Chicago, Illinois.

During the course of his life, Hoffman composed over 2,000 hymns, and edited over 50 song books, including: Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meetings and the Sunday School, 1878; Temperance Jewels, 1879); Bells of Victory, 1888; Favorite Gospel Songs: A Tune Book, 1894; and Jubilant Voices, 1907.

You will recognize the following as some of his most popular hymns:

    • “Are You Washed in the Blood?” words

    • “Christ Has for Sin Atonement Made,” words & music

    • “Down at the Cross,” words

    • “Glory to His Name,” words

    • “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” words

    • “I Must Tell Jesus,” words and music

    • “Is Your All on the Altar?” words and music

    • “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” words

    • “What a Fellowship,” words

    • “What a Wonderful Savior,” words and music

Self-denial and Contentment

Jeremiah Burrough’s thoughts on self-denial as the path to contentment needs some explanation. The Biblical concept that he termed self-denial at the turn of the 17th century is the theological term we would today call co-crucifixion from verses in Romans Chapter six and Galatians 2:20.

To be very clear, Biblical self-denial is NOT the practice of the ancient Greek philosophers – asceticism, cynicism, or stoicism. It is NOT abstinence from material objects or denial of worldly pleasures in order to achieve some spiritual goal or benefit. It is not the payment of some indulgence or performance of an outward penance as taught by religion. Paul taught in Romans 14:5-6, Colossians 2:20-23. and elsewhere that not eating or drinking things has no spiritual value. A painful ritual or elaborate religious ceremony will never gain favor with God. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. (I Samuel 16:7)

The Biblical principle of spiritual self-denial IS surrendering ourselves completely to God and His will. Self (the flesh) and the world (Galatians 5:24; 6:14) are reckoned dead on the cross and alive unto God. (Romans 6:6-18)

With that in mind, Jeremiah Burroughs offers us these gems on how self-denial brings us closer to spiritual contentment:

“Just as no one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABCs, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ’s school, and be learned in this mystery of contentment. The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches those who are seeking contentment.”

“When you strike something soft it makes no noise, but if you strike a hard thing it makes a noise. So it is with the hearts of men who are full of themselves and hardened with self-love. A self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand and makes no noise. That is the first lesson that Christ teaches any soul—self-denial—which brings contentment, which brings down and softens a man’s heart.”

  1. A person must learn that he is nothing—“He comes to this, to be able to say, ‘Well, I see I am nothing in myself.’”

  2. I deserve nothing—“I am nothing and I deserve nothing. We deserve nothing and therefore why should we be impatient if we do not get what we desire?”

  3. I can do nothing—“Christ said, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) Consider of what use you are in the world and if you consider what little need God has of you, and what little use you are, and you will not be much discontented.”

  4. I cannot receive any good—“I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good. I am not only an empty vessel, but a corrupt and unclean vessel that would spoil anything good that comes into it.”

  5. We are worse than nothing—“Sin makes us more vile than nothing and contrary to all good. We are not empty pitchers in respect of good, but we are like pitchers filled with poison and is it much for such as we are to be cut short of our outward comforts?”

  6. Any good I do is nothing without God—If God cleans our vessel and puts in something good, some grace of His Spirit, we can do nothing with it without God.”

  7. If we perish, we will be no loss—If God should annihilate me, what loss would it be to His purposes? God can raise up someone else in my place to serve Him in a different way.” [See Esther 4:14]

“I beseech you to notice this: If a man is selfish and self-love prevails in his heart, he will be glad of those things that suit with his own ends, but a godly man who has denied himself will suit with and be glad of all things that shall suit with God’s ends. When a man is selfish, he cannot but have a great deal of trouble and vexation of spirit, for if I regard myself, my ends are so narrow that a hundred things will come and jostle me and I cannot have room in those narrow ends of my own. Those whose hearts are enlarged and make public things their ends, and can deny themselves, have room to walk and never jostle with one another as others do.”

 

Hymn: At Calvary

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14

At Calvary

by William R. Newell *

Years I spent in vanity and pride,

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.

Refrain

Mercy there was great and grace was free,

Pardon there was multiplied to me,

There my burdened soul found liberty – At Calvary.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned–

Then I trembled at the Law I’d spurned,

Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.

[Refrain]

Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus ev’rything,

Now I gladly own Him as my King,

Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.

[Refrain]

O the love that drew salvation’s plan!

O the grace that brought it down to man!

O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.

[Refrain]

 

* William R. Newell (1868-1956) was born in Savannah, OH. He earned degrees from Wooster College, Princeton and Oberlin Theological Seminary. He served as Assistant Superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. The words for his hymn “At Calvary” came to him on his way to teach a class at the Bible Institute. He slipped into an empty classroom and wrote them quickly on the back of an envelope.