Total depravity 7

It is neither the materially poor nor the materially rich whom the Bible calls blessed.  It is the spiritually poor: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3).  To be poor in spirit means firstly to begin to realise one’s inability to give anything to God.  There is nothing we might think, say or do that isn’t tainted with our original sin nature inherited from Adam.  We have nothing to give and so we hold out our hands in impotent supplication.  Even this supplication isn’t giving anything to God so much as showing that not any strength, not any goodness nor any righteousness dwells within.

Secondly, to be poor in spirit means to realise that our account stands not merely at zero; we are not merely neutral or null and void, so much as hideously indebted by an exorbitant amount that defies calculation.  Even by the time we are a young child, the number of thoughts, words and deeds which have violated the holy law of God and been debited from our account constitutes an iceberg in the soul, weighing us down and taking us far away from God.  This status is alarming, and starts to trouble those whom the Bible calls blessed.

Thirdly, to be poor in spirit means to begin to behold that most awful, spiritually towering inferno of a task which fell to our sinless Substitute, the holy Lamb of God.  The apostle Paul speaks for all saved souls when he confesses himself to be less than the least of all saints (Eph 3:8), one who can only begin to fathom what his blessed Sin-bearer did for him.  Once we feel our spiritual poverty, we marvel with Paul at the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8).  We rejoice and yet follow the next link in that sacred eightfold chain:  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (Mt 5:4).

The illuminating joy of our justification is too often clouded by the presence of ongoing, indwelling sins.  Behold therefore, that glorious, everlasting realm to come, in which there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying (Rev 21:4), and the Lamb is the light thereof (Rev 21:23).


That holy fountain

Oh but there’s a terrible darkness

threatening my deepest parts,

a glimpse of it I sometimes get

I call on Christ and it departs.


Oh but there’s abomination

waiting in the wings for me,

not often seen but sometimes felt

I cry for Him on Calvary.


Oh but there’s a shocking evil

lurking there within my thoughts,

a wicked seed, all for conception

Christ is there, my sin aborts.


Oh but there’s residual hatred

my own poison in my well,

again I need that holy fountain

in His blood I’m saved from hell.

Soli Deo Gloria 7

It is very much not a part of our human make-up to simply believe in God, treasuring one pearl of great price (Mt 13:46) and being consistently and prayerfully content. We have to be up and doing, more Martha than Mary, too often damaging the fruit that should be growing within by our fretting, frowning or entangling frustrations.

Systematic theologies and confessions of faith bound in great tomes certainly have their place, but in our daily lives it can be a simple hymn such as John Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace’ that stirs the soul, or a simple parable that sends the mind into deep and profound meditations. We grow older and to the world appear more authoritative, and yet we gladly confess ourselves to have become born again babes who require the sincere milk of the word (1 Pe 2:2) to nourish our souls.

We confess that we are neither wise nor prudent in ourselves nor do we want to be, for such humanistic cleverness and godless intellectualism is condemned by the Lord Jesus in no uncertain terms: At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes  (Mt 11:25).

70 times does the Holy Spirit use the word ‘sing’ in the Psalms, even though much of it was penned by a man who was being hunted down by his father-figure king, by his own lusts and by his own beloved son. 63 times does the word ‘joy’ appear in the New Testament, despite much disappointment, sorrow and persecution being described therein. As we behold the precious pearl of knowing God, may we hold on to and open up our powerful Bibles with meekness, seeking to be led by the glorious Triune One:

Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand.  

(Ps 149:5-6)

Oh sing

Oh sing a song of simple praise

to God, holy Creator,

stand up and sing, but do not raise

a limb, God’s arm is greater.


Oh sing a song of humble thanks

to God, Almighty Father,

put not your trust in tanks or banks

God’s reach goes vastly farther.


Oh sing a song of aching joy

to God, loving Provider,

go not through customs, just enjoy

being no more an outsider.


Oh sing a song of saving strength

to God who sinners turns,

keep this vain world at an arm’s length

for Satan for it burns.

Solo Christo 7

The final verse of Romans 7, meditated upon, is quite shocking: I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin (v 25). There are two forms of service going on within the believer at any given time; that which pertains to the holy kingdom of God, and that which pertains to the perishing kingdom of man. At any point one form of service is dominating; as long as we dwell in bodies of flesh there will inevitably be undulations as we navigate this world’s treacherous times and tides.

Only through Jesus Christ our Lord can any thought, word or deed be sanctified and of service to the kingdom of God.  An action, activity, form of work or play which is done prayerlessly or carelessly is done Christlessly. Worse still, it is actually serving the interests of this perishing world which is under judgement.  It is like investing paper bills of money directly into a rubbish bin, or pouring out precious ointment or perfume into a toilet.

This is easy to say yet hard to do, for it if were easy we wouldn’t have all the wrestlings of Scripture in the Psalms or painfully honest Pauline epistles.  The greatest saints of the past have come to realise that if something is to be of any value in the sight of God it must pass through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Our flesh cannot be utterly conquered in this world, but it can be brought into subservience to the law of God, as the mind thinks, re-thinks and prays through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The tree of life

Oh Lord how lonely I in me,

a man of sorrows, as wert Thee,

rejected and despised of men,

dejected by my own amen.


I think upon the tree of life,

how plain, how unlike Adam’s wife,

and those, Thine eyes, from barren cross,

staring through hell’s infinite loss.


Oh Lord to Thee what’s heaven, earth,

just so much depth in so much dearth,

if we could grasp one part of You,

we’d never need another view.


I think upon the seed of life,

how true, how unlike Adam’s wife,

and then my mind’s eye, inner hell,

sees You are all, then I am well.

Sola gratia 7

The Arminian might want to emphasise Moses’ choice:  And Moses said, I will now turn aside … (Ex 3:3), but the preceding verse shows no hint of Moses doing anything other than responding when the Lord first starts preparing him for that mighty mission:  And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him … (Ex 3:2). The preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ appears to Moses, for Moses neither knew not sought Him.  The bush was not consumed points to the ultimate crucifixion and resurrection of the uncreated Son of God, who dwelt in a human body to withstand the fires of hell for multitudes like us.

The Lord deals in such a condescending and fatherly way to Moses, as Moses’ initial reluctance and weakness tests the limits of His parental patience:  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses (Ex 4:14).  However, Moses is soon convicted of his foolishness and like the initially reluctant son in the parable, He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went (Mt 21:29).

Half a millennium later, the people of God would cry out … quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved (Ps 80:18-19).  Three millennia later we are reminded of our inability even to turn ourselves to the Lord again, after many years of believing.  Like Asaph, as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped (Ps 73:2).  Yet it is in these moments, when we are in the backside of the desert (Ex 3:1) of our affliction, difficulty or temptation that the Lord, sola gratia, appears and calls us again.  And we follow him: for we know his voice (Jn 10:4) not in a mystical sense, but burning in His word.