The Despair of Religion

[Religious people] combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all their days.  They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which profits not [Isa. 55:2].

This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in.  A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but has no strength for the combat.  They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer, they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain.  The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.  Sometimes they think, indeed, that they have foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust that they see it not; that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered when it is not touched.  By that time they are cold, they must go to the battle again; and the lust which they thought to be slain appears to have no wound.

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin in Believers

The only way to kill sin is by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13).  We must trust in the absolute sovereignty of God, that if he has given us new birth and called us to himself, he will finish the work he has started in us and he will work in us that which is pleasing to his sight (Phil. 1:6; Heb. 13:21).

Truly, religion will only bring pride or despair — and for most, it only brings despair.  Jesus, on the other hand, brings hope, life, joy, peace, and victory.  Let’s not turn to religious behavior for holiness, for then our sins will have mere flesh wounds.  Instead, let us turn to Jesus, so that the sins we slay might have bleeding, deep, to-the-bone wounds which have no hope of recovery.

Life Theology

Matthew Henry on Killing Sin

It is our duty to mortify our members which incline to the things of the world. Mortify them, kill them, suppress them, as weeds or vermin which spread and destroy all about them. Continual opposition must be made to all corrupt workings, and no provision made for carnal indulgences. Occasions of sin must be avoided: the lusts of the flesh, and the love of the world; and covetousness, which is idolatry; love of present good, and of outward enjoyments. It is necessary to mortify sins, because if we do not kill them, they will kill us. The gospel changes the higher as well as the lower powers of the soul, and supports the rule of right reason and conscience, over appetite and passion.

– Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Colossians 3:5-10


Out of the Valley of Achor into a Door of Hope

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.  And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.  And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:14-15)

God says he will allure his people into the wilderness.  So often, God leads his people to where it is dry, lonely, and dark in order to bring them to himself.  God has to bring us to a place where sin is no longer appealing, no longer satisfying so that we might hate it and want more of Christ.

When Israel arrived in the wilderness, God gave “her her vineyards and [made] the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”  And so it is for us today.  There God will bring us back to spiritual vibrancy and prosperity. He will take our trouble and turn it into hope — “Achor” in Hebrew means “trouble.”  Valley of Achor references Joshua 7:10-26 and Achan’s sin of plundering spoils in battle.  Achan had silver hidden in his tent and Joshua’s men found it. Achan, his wife, his sons and daughters, and his oxen, donkeys, sheep and all his possessions were stoned by Joshua and all of Israel for their sin. They were stoned in the Valley of Achor (v. 24). They broke the very command that God made in 6:17-19. God said, “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD” (vv. 18-19).  After Achan and all his family and possessions were stoned, God’s anger was lifted. In verse 26, it says, “Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor,” because in verse 25, Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.”

So, in Hosea, when we read that God has made the “Valley of Achor a door of hope” it is no small thing. He will take Israel from a place where they deserve to be stoned because of idolatry, sexual immorality, false worship, and wicked hearts to a place where hope is all they see.

In the same way, God has taken us from the trouble of our own sins that we once were in as children of wrath and sons of disobedience and given us mercy found in his Son Jesus. God took us from a place where we should have been stoned to a place where Christ reigns with the hope of glory.  Only Christ can lift the trouble that we have on our hands because of our transgressions and give us life. Now we can believe what Titus 3:7 says: “Being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

At the end of Hosea 2:15, it says that God’s people will answer him when he gives them this hope.  When God gives his people back their vineyards and gives them hope in spite of their trouble, they will answer to God, “as in the days of her youth” (meaning when God and his Bride were first married), with the song of Moses, a song of exodus from their sin.  After Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to escape Egypt, they finally sang praise to God for deliverance (Ex. 15:1-21).  This is the same song that all God’s people will sing before the throne for eternity (Rev. 15:3-4). This song in Revelation is called “the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”  The song of the Lamb.  It is the song of Jesus, the one who bore all of our trouble in his body of flesh on our behalf, so that we might have a true and lasting hope.

Who is the Savior who brought Israel out of Egypt in Exodus? Jesus. Who is the Savior that will bring Israel out of their idolatry in Hosea? Jesus. Who is the Savior that has rescued us from the domain of darkness and the kingdom of Satan? Jesus.

How awesome is our God!  Let us worship the Lord Jesus who has brought us out of the Valley of Achor and given us a living hope that we might be redeemed and live with him forever.

Life Theology

Weekly Spurgeon

From Morning and Evening

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light.”
-1 John 1:7

As He is in the light! Can we ever attain to this? Shall we ever be able to walk as clearly in the light as He is whom we call “Our Father,” of whom it is written, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all”? Certainly, this is the model which it set before us, for the Saviour Himself said, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect”; and although we may feel that we can never rival the perfection of God, yet we are to seek after it, and never to be satisfied until we attain to it. The youthful artist, as he grasps his early pencil, can hardly hope to equal Raphael or Michael Angelo, but still, if he did not have a noble beau ideal before his mind, he would only attain to something very mean and ordinary. But what is meant by the expression that the Christian is to walk in light as God is in the light? We conceive it to import likeness, but not degree. We are as truly in the light, we are as heartily in the light, we are as sincerely in the light, as honestly in the light, though we cannot be there in the same measure. I cannot dwell in the sun, it is too bright a place for my residence, but I can walk in the light of the sun; and so, though I cannot attain to that perfection of purity and truth which belongs to the Lord of hosts by nature as the infinitely good, yet I can set the Lord always before me, and strive, by the help of the indwelling Spirit, after conformity to His image. That famous old commentator, John Trapp, says, “We may be in the light as God is in the light for quality, but not for equality.” We are to have the same light, and are as truly to have it and walk in it as God does, though, as for equality with God in His holiness and purity, that must be left until we cross the Jordan and enter into the perfection of the Most High. Mark that the blessings of sacred fellowship and perfect cleansing are bound up with walking in the light.


CCEF 2008 Conference

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation is hosting their annual conference this November 14-16 at the Valley Forge Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The theme of this year’s conference is “The Addict in Us All.”  This should be a liberating time of learning how to experience the freedom from addiction that only Jesus can give.  If you are in the Philadelphia area (or can get there), this conference will be worth your time.

Speakers include Ed Welch, Mark Driscoll, David Powlison, and Tim Lane.

Register for the conference.