High-minded Self-sufficiency (Kuyper)

 Here’s another great excerpt from Abraham Kuyper’s devotional, To Be Near Unto God:

High-minded self-sufficiency is the canker which gnaws at the root of all religion. It is the futile dream of a little, insignificant world, of which self is the great center, whose mind understands everything, whose will controls everything, whose money can buy everything, and whose power carries everything before it. This makes self a miniature god in a little temple. In this sinful isolation one is, of necessity, icy cold, frozen away from the living God and unfit to dwell under the shadow of his wings.

If in all honesty we can say: Such is not my case, because I feel my dependence, my lack of strength and my utter helplessness, then that we might have fellowship with God, we must unlearn our sinful leaning on people. We need not necessarily cut ourselves loose from every one. Far from it. The faith of another strengthens ours. The courage of another shames us out of cowardice. The example set by another can double our strength. We are disposed to society both in matters of life and belief. But we must give up all sinful dependence upon others. Dependence that takes a man for more than an instrument appointed of God for our help, as long as he allows it, is sinful. We must not build on man, in order when human help fails to turn to the Divine. Our help must always be from God, whether power to save springs from ourselves or comes to us from without. Even in this way, that when at length all human help fails, nothing is lost. For the unchangeable God always remains the same.

 Kuyper, A. (1918). To Be Near unto God (pp. 78–79). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002


With the Strength God Gives You (Or: Nothing Depends on Your Weakness)

Faith and LifeWith the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News” (2 Tim. 1:8b NLT).  Paul wrote these words to Timothy to encourage him to press on in his Christian calling despite suffering and hardship.  B. B. Warfield has some great words on Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:8-10:

“…We shall certainly take notice that he [Paul] places beneath Timothy the eternal arms of God Almighty.  He lifts the eyes of Timothy from himself to God, and says to him in effect, There, there is your strength.”

“And observe the pains Paul is at to impress on Timothy that the relation in which he stands to this God, by virtue of which God becomes his strength, is not, in any sense – not in the remotest degree, not in the smallest particular – dependent on Timothy himself, or anything that he has done, is doing, or can do.  He would withdraw Timothy utterly from the least infusion of dependence on self and cast him wholly on his dependence to God, that he may realize that his weakness is not in question, but the whole strength of God is behind him to uphold him and bear him safely through.”

“…What Paul is doing is so completely to take away Timothy’s consideration of himself in this whole matter of the Gospel that he will trust exclusively in God and feel that, therefore, there can be no failure – just because it is God alone and not he himself on whom the performance rests.”

“[It was as if Paul was saying to Timothy,] do you not remember how you were brought into relations with this God?  Was it of yourself that you were called with this holy calling?  Nay, no works of your own entered in.  It was of his own purpose that he called you; the grace that has come to you was given you from all eternity.  What has come to you in time is only the manifestation of what was eternally done.  It is this Almighty God who is using you as his instrument and organ.  Nothing depends on your weakness; all hangs on his strength.  Take courage and go onward.”

B. B. Warfied, Faith and Life, p. 407-8.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI , 54015


Every Real Martyr A Conqueror

One of the many volumes Abraham Kuyper wrote is called His Decease At Jerusalem.  It’s an excellent collection of devotional essays on Christ’s passion and death.  This morning I ran across the following paragraphs, in which Kuyper discussed the fact that Jesus’ followers slept while he labored in prayer concerning his upcoming suffering:

“Seeing them asleep, did He not realize that from that very moment He would be treading the wine-press all alone?  Not for a single hour could He draw encouragement or strength from His followers.”

Kuyper extends the thought:

You see how this is so when the Scriptures talk of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Without so much as one word of complaint, he received the rough-hewn stones that are hurled at him, with a bearing of unswerving faith.  But by what power did Stephen, and every other martyr after him, triumph?  Is it not by the  power and grace Jesus poured into their souls?  Every martyr dies with Jesus back of him, with Jesus by the side of him, with Jesus to strengthen and reassure.  In fact, it is not the martyr who triumphs, but Jesus in the martyr conquers.

All this is different with your Savior.  When He faced Calvary He stood alone to face the unbroken power of the curse of sin and Satan.  He had not Savior to shield Him, no Savior to draw nigh and comfort in the trying hour.  He was Himself the Savior!

Others triumphed by looking back to the Cross; but He must mount that Cross to bear in His own body the sin of all the world.  He was not a martyr, but the victory He won at Golgotha makes every real martyr a conqueror.

Abraham Kuyper, His Decease At Jerusalem (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1945), p. 30.

shane lems

Jesus our Pilot

Product Details Based on the stories of Jesus calming the wind and the waves (e.g. Luke 8:22-25), Christian teachers throughout history have referred to Jesus as the pilot, or helmsman, of the church (or the Christian’s life).  Below is a short list of examples from several periods in history – examples I find quite edifying and encouraging.

Hippolytus (3rd C.): The Church is like a ship tossed in the deep, but not destroyed, for she has with her the skilled Pilot, Christ.

Athanasius (4th C): Our Lord Christ, like an excellent Pilot, steers and preserves and orders all things by his Wisdom and Word.

John Calvin (16th C): Our course in the world is like a dangerous sailing between many rocks, and exposed to many storms and tempests, and so no one arrives at the port except he who has escaped a thousand deaths. It is certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our Pilot.

John Owen (17th C): He is the great Pilot of the whole creation, who steers all things according to the counsel of his will.

Thomas Boston (18th C): Believers are committed into Christ’s hand as the great Pilot, to guide them through the sea of this world, to the shore of Immanuel’s land.

In a letter to his daughter, John Newton (18th C) told her that storms would come up in her life, much like storms come when crossing the ocean.  Then he wrote, ““But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at his command! Under his care I know that you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, rocks, and dangers, and bring you at last safely to the haven of eternal rest.”

Augustus Toplady also wrote a hymn based on Matthew 8:25 which is called “Pilot of the Soul.”  Many hymnbooks also have Edward Hopper’s hymn called “Jesus Savior Pilot Me.”  Traveling on the seas isn’t nearly as dangerous as it once was, but it still makes sense (and is comforting!) to think of Christ as the Pilot, or Helmsman, of the church and the Christian life.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Grace In and Through Affliction

 In the Christian classic, Knowing God, J. I. Packer explains how God graciously helps Christians through trials and heartaches.  He says that the “work of grace aims at an ever deeper knowledge of God, and an ever closer fellowship with him.  Grace is God drawing us sinners closer and closer to himself.”

“How does God in grace prosecute this purpose?  Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor by shielding us from trouble created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely.  This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another – it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast.  The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak, is that God spends so much of his time bringing home to us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find, or to follow, the right road.  When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, as likely as not we shall impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm getting up and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we shall thankfully lean on him.  And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on him.  Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself – in the classical scriptural phrase for the secret of the godly man’s life, to ‘wait on the Lord.'”

Found on page 227 of Knowing God.

shane lems