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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « If One Confesses the Apostles' Creed, is this Authentic Faith? | Main | Dr. James White's web site »

    The Hidden Treasure (2 -- Setting Out for the Field)

    When a man desires to build a tower, he must first sit down and calculate what he should require to bring the project through to completion, and determine if he is both able and willing to spend so much. How foolish would they consider that man who, having concluding that he had just enough to build, and no more, laid the foundation and then consumed the rest of his stores on riotous living, and was never able to complete what he had begun! But are not very many professors of religion so foolish even today? They want the consolation of the gospel, and would fain be disciples of Christ, and so they set out to follow him, but scarcely give him one day a week, while spending the rest of their passions on worldly and ephemeral amusements. They have not counted the cost, nor considered that, if one would be accounted Christ’s at all, he must belong to him wholly. He must forsake father and mother and goods and kindred, yes, and even his own life, and press hard behind him to the ends of the earth. But those who make a show of seeking him, when they have not counted the cost, will find out in the judgment that they do not have him at all. Oh, how bitter will be those words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who work iniquity”!

    Such a one was the rich young ruler, who sought Jesus out, but upon hearing his hard demands, went away sorrowing. He considered his earthly goods too high a price to pay for the heavenly Treasure, inasmuch as its surpassing worth was still hidden to him. But in our churches today, how many are the same as he?

    Before we set out for the treasure fields, then, let us ask ourselves whether we are really willing to give up everything in order to find the buried gold. God will not honor our selfish requests to add the comforts of religion to our storehouse of worldly joys. He will either give us his own storehouse, full and overflowing with riches that cannot rust or fade away, or let us sit on our little dung-heap, which we refuse to leave. But he will not let us profane his treasuries with the rubbish that we would bring thither. He will not let us dishonor his Son by accepting him as one gift to add to the many good things we already delight in. When he gave us the Son, he gave us every good thing that heaven has to offer; and if heaven have no more riches than are to be found in him, where will we find them upon the earth?

    Let us set out then! The fields are rich, the treasure is to be had, and the Father is ever willing to strengthen our feeble efforts, and crown them with good success. But if we go, let us be sure that we must leave all of our accumulated treasures, and carrying nothing in our hands, hope that they will be replaced with something better. Let us steel ourselves for the labor, cry out for God’s strengthening hand, plug our ears and stop our eyes to the burning Sodom behind us, and run for our lives to the gospel-fields, determined that whether he should take us home tomorrow or leave us here another hundred years, when he comes he will find us digging still.

    Now that we have counted the cost, and have cried out in our hearts, “Take the world, but give me Jesus,” we are ready to begin our labors. But before we take even the first step, we must be sure that it is in the right direction. Consider how they would mock him who, having heard of the gold rush in California, determined to have his share of the goods, packed his things, and set out eastward! Or suppose he was eager to begin his digging right away, and with pick and shovel in hand, started carving up his own back yard! But how many unsuspecting Christians have done that very thing? They have felt a hunger to know their Savior, and so have turned to the latest religious fad, or the newest bestseller in the Christian market. But Christ is not to be found in the heaps of gilded trends which delight to make much of man’s own goodness, his self esteem, the power of positive thinking, and many other such things which are nowhere to be found in God’s Word. Some day, God will judge these false shepherds, who lead the guileless sheep into the cliffs and crags of false gospels – the prosperity gospel, the gospel of self-esteem, and may others beside – and turn them aside from the rich meadows where they might find true sustenance. But until that day, O simple believer, avoid them, flee from them, do not listen for a moment to their lies! Be as the noble Bereans, who tested every word by God’s own Word, and cast aside all which rang false. If one is digging in the right field, his labor will be richly rewarded; but if he dig elsewhere, he will find only sorrow and travail for his labors, and will fall to his ruin in the pit which he has dug in the hopes of striking gold.

    Let us not head to the wrong field, and neither let us stay at home in our own backyard! Certain persons have thought that they could advance in religion by meditating in their own heart, and spending their days in quiet solitude, when they knew not where to find the substance of their meditations. Others have thought that they might profitably study the bible in their home groups by reading a passage at random, and going around the circle, declaring “what it means to me”. But a hermit or mystic who has spent his life in pensive reflection is no more a saint than the worldly man, unless he has been meditating upon the Truth, which is Jesus. And what the bible means to me is bringing me to the brink of ruin, unless it also be what it means to God. Let us beware, then, of forming our religious principles from our own thoughts or intuitions, for if we do so, we will be as that foolish miner who was caught digging for gold in his backyard, when the fields were in another country.

    We will set off then for the right field, which is the word of God as he intended for it to be understood; but as we head out, we must be certain that we are carrying the right tools. A miner who scratches in the earth with his fingernails will soon fall behind him who has a pick! What are the tools that we must bring? Mark carefully, for they are not such tools as one might counsel you to carry, but they are nonetheless essential for the task. The first tools that any believer must bring with him to the field of God’s word are only faith and humility. Without these, we will never advance the space of a footstep into God’s promised land. When we approach the word humbly, we are confessing that we have a desperate need, that we cannot find the wherewithal to fulfill it, that our own thoughts and strategies and efforts are bankrupt and futile. When we approach the word in faith, we are confessing that the solution to that need is to be found therein; and moreover, that God will be pleased to reward us with the knowledge of it as we cry out to him. Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are sick. So the humble alone need a Savior, and the penniless alone need a great Treasure. Those who distrust the physician’s skill will look to themselves for their own remedy, but they who believe he has the medicines and knowledge to effect a cure will spend all their livelihood on hiring him. Likewise, they who are in desperate straits, having squandered all their substance, when they believe their father will be compassionate to them, and redeem them from their troubles, will run back to him, prodigal though they be. Let us likewise turn to the Father in humility and faith, confessing that we are penniless, and holding fast our confidence that he has great riches, and will give them to us lavishly. For the Father is always pleased to give the treasure of his Son to those who seek him thus.

    There are many other valuable tools which one might bring with him to dig into the riches of God’s Word, but these are essential. How many scholars have been skilled in Greek, Hebrew, exegesis, etc., and have not had humility and faith? For all their labors, they will see no profit, but heap up wrath for the day of judgment. But the simplest believer, who has not access to these other tools, may nevertheless treasure up great riches, and acquire an abundant knowledge of their Savior, with them alone. Let us not despise the tools of education and learning. If we have given our lives to pursue the Savior, then as God gives us opportunity, we can – no, we must – make profitable use of them. But let us always remember that, without humility and faith, the sharpest intellects in the world will only hasten to their own ruin.

    We have gathered our tools and set out to the fields; let us not be negligent to learn from the experience of others, once we get there. The miner but freshly arrived to the hills would do well to learn from the grizzled veteran, who knows which outcroppings and geological formations hint at the presence of gold underneath, and who has tested the best methods of digging and searching. We too, when we arrive at the storehouses of God’s Word, will find that we have been preceded by many who have labored long and hard, and uncovered many rich things. How foolish we should be, if we did not learn from them! Let us be careful to examine the insights of the church fathers, the reformers, the puritans, the aged and godly men in our own congregations; but let us always be testing and comparing their words to the pages of the scriptures. Even the godliest of men have sometimes a wrong thought, and have sometimes mistaken a worthless rock for a precious gem. Let us value their insights, but not hold them infallible at all.

    Finally, let us be instructed by the Holy Spirit. If a treasure-seeker were looking for a buried pirate’s chest, he might search long and wide and never find it. But if he came across a map, scratched out by the pirate who hid the gold, he could be sure of good success. The one who hid the gold is the best guide for him who would find it. But who has hidden the gold in the scriptures? Is it not the Holy Spirit, he who carried along the holy men of old, and who spoke by the mouth of David and all the prophets? Is he not the One who reveals Christ to men, and who brings to their remembrance all that he had taught them? And, moreover, is not the Father good to give the Spirit to them who ask diligently, and is not the Spirit gracious to give an anointing to all who are his, so that they might know the truth indeed? Every day, then, as we approach the Word of God, let us cry out the Father, to send his Spirit, that he might open our eyes to the Son. Then, we will find the buried treasure, and cry out for joy.

    Posted by Nathan on January 24, 2008 12:39 PM

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