Consider Christ in Affliction (VII): The Purposes of Christ

When suffering affliction, consider the purposes of Christ. He lived to do His Father’s will, to be sanctified through suffering, to merit salvation for His own, to present His church without spot or wrinkle to His Father. In a word, His life was God-centered.

His God-centered goals are numerous for you, too, in sanctified affliction: Sanctified affliction humbles you (Deut. 8:2), teaches you what sin is (Zeph. 1:12), and causes you to seek God (Hos. 5:15). Affliction vacuums away the fuel that feeds your pride. Bell-like, the harder you are hit, the better you sound. You learn more under the rod that strikes you than through the staff that comforts you. You discover the truth of Robert Leighton’s words: “Affliction is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.”

Sanctified affliction serves to keep you in Christ’s communion, close by His side—to conform you to Him, making you partaker of His suffering and image, righteousness and holiness (Heb. 12:10–11). Stephen-like, the stones that hit you only knock you closer to your chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ, opening heaven the wider for you. Affliction rubs the rust off your locked heart and opens your heart’s gates afresh to your King’s presence-chamber. Yes, the rod of affliction is God’s pencil for drawing Christ’s image more fully on you.

Sanctified affliction serves to wean you from the world and to cause you to walk by faith. A dog bites strangers, not homeowners. Perhaps affliction bites you so deeply because you are too little at home with the Word and ways of God, and too much at home with the world. “God,” says Thomas Watson, “would have the world hang as a loose tooth which, being twitched away, does not much trouble us.” In prosperity, you often talk of living by other-worldly faith, but in adversity, you live your talk.

The Legacy of My God-Fearing Mother (IV)

This post is the last installment of my reflections upon the godliness of my late mother, Johanna Beeke (d. July 23, 2012).

4. Contentment. When I was about 12 years old, I had a friend who mentioned that he didn’t want to ask his mother for a favor at the moment because she wasn’t in “a good mood.” That comment puzzled me greatly. I honestly didn’t know what the word “mood” meant; I had never seen my mother moody or frustrated.

Mother always seemed cheerful and content—in fact, so content that at times it frustrated me. If something bad happened to me, and I would come to her for pity, she would often respond by saying, “It could be worse.” One day this was too much for me: “But Mother,” I said with great irritation, “you can say that about everything.” “That’s right,” she calmly replied, without a hint of irritation, “it always could be worse because God never gives us things as bad as we deserve.” “But Mother…” I protested. Calmly she interrupted me, quoting Paul: “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” That text stopped the pity party in a moment.

Mother’s contentment was also evident in her thankfulness. She was one of the most thankful people I have ever known. She would thank you for everything you did for her, even the smallest thing. Thanksgiving filled her heart, and spilled over into her life with ease. She could thank as easily as she could say, “I’m sorry”—even when she had nothing to be sorry about!

5. Purity—that is, in terms of devoutness and godliness. Mother, by Christ’s grace, developed not only holy habits, but even natural habits that revealed a simple, almost naïve, purity. She was disciplined not only in her Bible-reading, but also in her eating habits (to a fault!), disciplined in her daily walks, disciplined in her daily routines of exercise. She was still exercising her arms and legs only a few months before her death. Everything about her life seemed so organized, so simple, so pure, so clean, so sweet, that it seemed like the aroma of Christ exuded from her.

Actually, there may be no better way to describe Mother than to cite the list in Galatians 5:22–23 of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Each of these fruits was abundant in her life.

I thank God that by His grace, He gave me a mother whose life displayed the fruit of the Spirit.

The legacy, the heritage, the mantle is now passed on to us. We now become the older generation. Time waits for no one; no mere human being is the master of time. Sooner than we know, someone will be conducting our funerals. May we, by God’s grace, be found worthy of such a legacy, and faithful in receiving such a mantle. Mother left her mark on our lives, all of us, and the best monument we can raise to her memory is to follow her as she followed Christ, and extend her influence to many other lives, and to the generations to come.

Doctrine for Life

A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for LifeNot doctrine and life, like two fish swimming in separate streams. Not doctrine or life, as if we must choose between dead orthodoxy or mindless activity. Doctrine for life. As our Lord said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31). That’s the goal.

I wear several different hats. I’m the President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I am the editorial director for Reformation Heritage Books. I serve as a pastor at Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My goal in life is to promote intelligent, Reformed piety (to borrow a phrase from John Murray). I intend to use this blog to do just that, to seek the coming of God’s kingdom to head, heart, and hands. Hence the title of  this blog, Doctrine for Life.

The Puritans excelled in applying truth to our lives. William Ames wrote almost four centuries ago, “Theology is the doctrine of living to God” (Theologia est doctrina Deo vivendi). From the days of John Calvin, godliness or piety has been the lifeblood of Reformed Christianity. Truth comes down from heaven like rain upon us, and we spring up like trees reaching for the skies, reaching for God in practical, daily holiness.

The title of the blog coincides with the subtitle of a book that has gladly consumed a great deal of my time lately. Co-authored with Dr. Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, is the first attempt to provide a systematic theology of Puritan doctrine. It covers sixty areas where the Puritans made significant contributions to Reformed theology, organized by the six traditional loci of the doctrines of God, man, Christ, salvation, church, and the end of the age. It concludes with eight chapters on how the Puritans put their theology into practice.

I am excited to report that today we have just sent this 1000+ page book away to have it indexed. It’s hard to believe that this project is finally coming to an end. We hope that it will be released in October. You can pre-order the $60 book at a discount rate of $40 if you call Reformation Heritage Books at 616-977-0599.

Early tomorrow morning I’ll be leaving for London, England. I’ll be doing a conference on Saturday the Evangelical Reformed Church, an all black church in the heart of London. Then on Sunday, God willing, I’ll preach for Dr. Peter Masters at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the morning and evening (often called Spurgeon’s church or Met Tab). From Tuesday to Thursday I hope to attend and speak four times on sanctification at the Met Tab School of Theology.

I’ll be posting regularly on this blog about my conference experiences.

Welcome to my blog! Please pray that my posts will glorify God, help God’s people to grow, and be used to the salvation of the lost.