Five Reasons From John Bunyan To Strive For Heaven

From Great Difficulty Of Going To Heaven by John Bunyan,

1. Because the thing for which you are here exhorted to strive, is worth the striving for; it is for no less than for a whole heaven, and an eternity of felicity there. How will men that have before them a little honor, a little profit, a little pleasure, strive? I say again, how will they strive for this? Now, they do it for a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. Methinks this word heaven, and this eternal life, ought verily to make us strive, for what is there again either in heaven or earth like them to provoke a man to strive?

2. Strive, because otherwise the devil and hell will assuredly have thee:

“He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” 1 Peter 5:8.

These fallen angels, they are always watchful, diligent, unwearied; they are also mighty, subtile, and malicious, seeking nothing more than the damnation of thy soul. Oh, thou that art like the heartless dove, strive!

3. Strive, because every lust strives and wars against thy soul. The flesh lusteth against the spirit:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you (said Peter), as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul,” Galatians 5:17.

It is a rare thing to see or find out a Christian that indeed can bridle his lusts; but no strange thing to see such professors that are not only bridled, but saddled too, yea, and ridden from lust to sin, from one vanity to another, by the very devil himself, and the corruptions of their hearts.

4. Strive, because thou hast a whole world against thee. The world hateth thee if thou be a Christian; the men of the world hate thee; the things of the world are snares for thee, even thy bed and table, thy wife and husband, yea, thy most lawful enjoyments, have that in them that will certainly sink thy soul to hell, if thou dost not strive against the snares that are in them, Romans 11:9.

The world will seek to keep thee out of heaven with mocks, flouts, taunts, threatenings, gaols, gibbets, halters, burnings, and a thousand deaths; therefore strive. Again, if it cannot overcome thee with these, it will flatter, promise, allure, entice, entreat, and use a thousand tricks on this hand to destroy thee; and observe, many that have been stout against the threats of the world, have yet been overcome with the bewitching flatteries of the same. There ever was enmity between the devil and the church, and betwixt his seed and her seed too; Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels, these make war continually, Genesis 3; Revelation 12. There hath been great desires and endeavors among men to reconcile these two in one, to wit, the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; but it could never yet be accomplished. The world says, they will never come over to us; and we again say, by God’s grace, we will never come over to them. But the business hath not ended in words; both they and we have also added our endeavors to make each other submit; but endeavors have proved ineffectual too. They, for their part, have devised all manner of cruel torments to make us submit; as, slaying with the sword, stoning, sawing asunder, flames, wild beasts, banishments, hunger, and a thousand miseries. We again, on the other side, have labored by prayers and tears, by patience and long-suffering, by gentleness and love, by sound doctrine, and faithful witness-bearing against their enormities, to bring them over to us; but yet the enmity remains: so that they must conquer us, or we must conquer them. One side must be overcome; but the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.

5. Strive, because there is nothing of Christianity got by idleness:

“Idleness clothes a man with rags, and the vineyard of the slothful is grown over with nettles,” Proverbs 23:21; Proverbs 24:30-32.

Profession that is not attended with spiritual labor cannot bring the soul to heaven. The fathers before us were not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord:

“Therefore be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” Romans 12:11; Hebrews 6:12.

“Strive to enter in.” Methinks the words, at the first reading, do intimate to us, that the Christian, in all that ever he does in this world, should carefully heed and regard his soul, — I say, in all that ever he does. Many are for their souls by fits and starts; but a Christian indeed, in all his doing and designs which he contriveth and manageth in this world, should have a special eye to his own future and everlasting good; in all his labors he should strive to enter in:

“Wisdom (Christ) is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and in all thy gettings get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7.

Holiness John Owen

John Owen on training oneself to be negligent

…for although men do not choose and resolve to be negligent and inadvertent, yet if they choose the things that will make them so, they choose inadvertency itself as a thing may be chosen in its cause. And let not men think that the evil of their hearts is in any measure extenuated because they seem, for the most part, to be surprised into that consent which they seem to give unto it; for it is negligence of their duty in watching over their hearts that betrays them into that surprise. John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Holiness John Owen Sin

John Owen on rationalizing sin by remembering God’s faithfulness

When upon thoughts, perplexing thoughts about sin, instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, a man searches his heart to see what evidences  he can find of a good condition, notwithstanding that sin and lust, so that it may go well with him. For a man to gather up his experiences of God, to call them to mind, to collect them, consider, try, improve them, is an excellent thing—a duty practiced by all the saints, commended in the Old Testament and the New. This was David’s work when he “communed with his own heart,” and called to remembrance the former lovingkindness of the Lord [Ps. 77:6-9, 10, 11]. This is the duty that Paul sets us to practice (2 Cor. 13:5). And as it is in itself excellent, so it has beauty added to it by a proper season, a time of trial or temptation, or disquietness of the heart about sin, it is a picture of silver to set off this golden apple, as Solomon speaks [Prov. 25:11]. But now to do it for this end, to satisfy conscience, which cries and calls for another purpose, is a desperate device of a heart in love with sin. When a man’s conscience shall deal with him, when God shall rebuke him for the sinful distemper of his heart, if he, instead of applying himself to get that sin pardoned in the blood of Christ and mortified by his Spirit, shall relieve himself by any such other evidences as he has, or thinks himself to have, and so disentangle himself from under the yoke that God was putting on his neck, his condition is very dangerous, his wound hardly curable. Thus the Jews, under the gallings of their own consciences and the convincing preaching of our Savior, supported themselves with this, that they were “Abraham’s children,” and on that account accepted with God; and so countenanced themselves in all abominable wickedness, to their utter ruin.

— John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation


Christian Reflections on the suicide of Robin Williams

Regardless of the circumstances, the suicide of actor Robin Williams is a terrible tragedy. I won’t remark on William’s particular case, because the truth is that I don’t know. I didn’t know him personally. I do know that suicide is almost always complicated, and I can readily sympathize with others who have also struggled with suicidal thoughts, since I myself have entertained the question of ending my own life.

Each one’s journey in this world is met with difficulty. Some have it far more difficult than others, yet no one escapes the harsh affects of the world. There is no one free from regrets or experiences that harmed their lives. Especially when one contemplates bad choices, “what ifs,” wrong turns, and permanent scars resulting from the actions and words of ourselves or others who’ve influenced us, it is easy and even natural to be swept under the tide of hopelessness and despair. And when one reaches the point where he wholeheartedly believes in his own mind that there is absolutely no hope of escape or relief, and that death is the only logical release from such despair, suicide becomes a reasonable option. When there is no end in sight from all the pain of the past, the fresh wounds of the present, and inevitable abuses of the future, one can easily rationalize that whatever comes after death couldn’t possibly be any worse than this life.

And even if one has a seemingly perfect life — plenty of money, supportive family and friends, physical and mental health, and all the trimmings — there are still many problems elsewhere in the world. Even if I have it all, millions upon millions are suffering all around me every single day and night. Families grieve, starve, and mourn. Children are abandoned, abused, and unloved. The innocent are annihilated by bombs, bloodied by wars, and left homeless by natural disasters. Even if I myself have a perfect life, others suffer injustice and evil around me every single day. So then the reality is that my life is not actually perfect because I live in an imperfect and cruel world. The fact that my life is without hardship, while my neighbors are tormented unjustly day and night, is itself a profound cruelty of this world. Then even the one with the perfect life has much to depress his spirits.

But even though the world is inevitably cruel under the best of circumstances, there is a Savior from all of these things. There is One Jesus Christ Who knows about every disease, injustice, and cruelty, and He is doing something about it, even this very moment. Soon He will destroy all evil and will hold to account every wicked deed ever committed, and He is coming to right every wrong and lift up every man, woman, and child who calls upon His Name. Everyone Who puts their hope in Him will be saved from the sin and the brokenness of the world. So the Christian naturally hates the cruelty of the world and becomes full of sorrow by the all that is broken around him and longs to be with Christ through the escape of death. Even the apostle Paul said,

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23) 

Even the Christian is looking for a better world — a world free of all the cruel atrocities taking place here. And that new world is as much a reality as is the ground underneath my feet, and it is for that new world that the Christian hopes. It is because of the promise of that new world that the Christian presses on in this one, following the call of Christ to endure in Him, to seek first His righteousness and His goodness, because it is only by his goodness that this new and perfect world will be established. And it will only be inhabited by those who love His goodness and righteousness. As the apostle Peter said,

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)

So the Christian is no better off than the non-Christian. Every single individual is suffering on this earth, longing for escape from its evils within and without. The difference for the Christian is that the Lord God in His mercy has shown to him the escape he has been longing for — the riches of the salvation that come through righteous restoration with God, having a new heart, and trusting in Him by faith. And the Christian has not earned this, but has received it entirely as a gift, through an invitation that is open to anyone who calls on the name of Christ,

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11) 

I have no right to judge Robin Williams. Except by the grace of God I would follow the same course. But I know Who is my Redeemer. He lives, and He answers all who call on His name.

Against Federal Vision

Van Til — The Federal Vision Connection

 The connection is in Van Til’s thought we cannot know what God knows. There can be no identity of content. All the Reformed confessions are the Christian system, but they’re not the divine system of theology. And, if that’s the case, that leaves theologians, or whoever, open to interpreting Scripture in various ways. If we have no objective and absolute word from God, then theologians can run off in all directions, and they have run off in all directions from Westminster.  You find some sound men who have graduated from the seminary, and you find people who have run off in various directions.  And, it’s all because we have no clear word from God. 

Baptism Baptist Theology Credobaptism Paedobaptism

A Baptist rebuttal to Dr. R. Scott Clark’s 117-word explanation of paedobaptism

Dr. Clark’s statement:

The Abrahamic covenant is still in force. The administration of the Abrahamic covenant involved believers and their children (Gen 17). That’s why Peter said, “For the promise to you and to your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). That’s a New Testament re-statement of the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 17 and in the minor prophets (e.g., Joel 2). Only believers have ever actually inherited, by grace alone, through faith alone, the substance of the promise (Christ and salvation) but the signs and seals of the promise have always been administered to believers and their children. It’s both/and not either/or.

Answer: Correct, the Abrahamic covenant is still in force, but what exactly is the Abrahamic covenant, and what do physical children have to do with it? Are there any benefits merely for being born into a family of believing parents? To answer that, let’s look at how Paul explains the nature and purpose of the Abrahamic covenant in Romans chapter 4,

And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised. This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, so that righteousness may be credited to them also. … For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. [Rom 4:11, 13 HCSB]

As Paul says, the Abrahamic covenant was not through the law, but entirely based on faith. The Abrahamic covenant is a covenant of faith. It is an agreement based on the righteousness which comes by faith alone. It is important then to distinguish between the Abrahamic covenant benefits, which are based purely on faith, with the sign of God’s promise to fulfill that covenant, which is circumcision. This distinction is essential in determining who is included in the Abrahamic covenant and who is to receive any benefits of the Abrahamic covenant.

To observe this distinction one must first notice in Paul’s statement that the inheritance of the covenant comes through faith, not through circumcision. The promise is based on faith; circumcision is based on the law. The promise is based on belief; circumcision is based on code. The covenant promise to Abraham, entirely based on faith, is completely distinct from the physical sign of that covenant, entirely based on the law. Also Paul says that the inheritance of the covenant promise to Abraham comes through faith, not circumcision. As for circumcision, it guarantees no benefits of the covenant promise to Abraham. It does not represent, guarantee, or symbolize that one is a child of Abraham or that such a child receives any of the covenant blessings of the promise. Paul is emphatic on this point when he writes, “This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised.” The benefits of having Abraham as father do not come to those who are circumcised. Quite the opposite. The benefits of having Abraham as a father of many nations come through belief, not circumcision! That is because Abraham is the father of spiritual children, not physical. And it is upon this spiritual based promised that the covenant is built and benefits enjoyed, not on the physical sign of circumcision. It is for this reason that Paul said, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”[Rom 9:6 HCSB]

Now remember that the promise to Abraham was that he would become the father of many nations. Those nations would represent Abraham’s offspring, who are his children. The crucial question then is, who are Abraham’s children? Who are his descendants? Those who believe. Not those who are circumcised. As Paul says in Romans 4, Abraham is the father of those who believe. Abraham is not the father of those who are circumcised. That is why Jesus said to the physical people of Israel, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.”  And this is nowhere more clearly stated than by Paul in Romans 9, “That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.” Children who physically descend from believing parents are not necessarily the offspring of Abraham. Unless they believe, they cannot inherit any of benefits of the Abrahamic covenant reserved for his true offspring, Who is Christ, and those that are in Him. Paul explains this to the Galatians,

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16 ESV)

The promise then, is to Abraham’s Offspring, not to his “offsprings.” The promise of God to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations by his Offspring, Who is Christ. Abraham is not the father of a physical people, but the father of a spiritual people born from his Offspring, Who is Christ. That is why Paul said, “Not all Israel is Israel.” The Abrahamic covenant is the promise of Christ who would fulfill the righteousness that comes through faith. The Abrahamic covenant privileges are based entirely on being in Christ. Those outside of Christ cannot receive any benefits of this promise. Circumcision therefore has nothing to do with true inheritance of the benefits Abrahamic covenant, which pertains to the righteousness of Christ through faith. Inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant comes only through faith by those who believe, whether circumcised or not. Those that exercise true faith, then, receive the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant, not those that are circumcised. The true descendants and children of Abraham have always been the people of faith, not of circumcision.

Circumcision did not mark someone as a descendant of Abraham or symbolize that they already were his descendent. Rather, circumcision was simply the sign that God would fulfill his promise to Abraham through the righteousness that comes by faith, in the work of Christ. Circumcision conferred no special privileges to the physical descendants of Abraham. Paul said very clearly to the Galatians, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” All that matters, says Paul, are the benefits that come through being a new creation in Christ.

As to the argument that benefits are conferred through physical circumcision, this is impossible. The fact remains that only males were circumcised, not all children. If taken to its natural conclusion, only the males should have received benefits, because only they received the sign. Moreover, it was not the children of believers who were circumcised. Rather, it was every male born among them, and not even just their own children, but also the male children of slave parents who lived in an Israelite household. Even the male children of foreigners were included. Males and only males were circumcised, regardless of the belief of the parents. The parents could have faith or not have faith. There was no conditional requirement for faith. And not only the male children of Israelite parents, but the male children of slaves, who were not physically descended from Abraham. This destroys the paradigm given by Dr. Clark that the “administration” of the Abrahamic covenant involved believers and their children. By “administration” Clark means circumcision. But circumcision did not involve only believing parents and their children. It involved all parents, both non-believing and believing, both Israelite and non-Israelite. It did not involve their children. It involved only some of their children. It involved males only. The females were excluded. So the paradigm simply does not work.

Why then was circumcision administered to those outside of the Abrahamic covenant? Paul answers this in Romans 3,

So what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the spoken words of God.What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness?  [Rom 3:1-3 HCSB]

The only universal benefit of circumcision then, was that those who received it were part of a physical people who were entrusted with the spoken word of God, according to Paul. Circumcision did not confer any privileges of the Abrahamic covenant beyond that. Circumcision, then, is the sign (and only a sign) of God’s promise of righteousness that comes through faith by the work of Christ, Who was to come as Abraham’s Offspring. That was the covenant with Abraham. Circumcision was the sign that God would keep this promise, but benefits of that promise only came through those who believed. God has kept His promise, and now we look to the already-not-yet fulfillment of that promise in Christ as God’s holy nation and royal priesthood, through whom there will not pass any who are unclean.


An encouraging quote from Bunyan on the difficulty of prayer

“May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought, it is enough to make your poor, blind, carnal men to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loth to go to God, and when it is with him, so loth to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers, first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there. Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only, blessed be grace, the Spirit helps our infirmities (Psa 86:11).” 

John Bunyan — A Discourse Touching Prayer


D.A. Carson on the balance of already-not-yet New Testament eschatology.

In one sense, therefore, the church lives in a remarkable tension between what is “already” and what is “not yet”: Christians already enjoy something of the kingdoms benefits—acquittal before God, possession of eternal life, the presence of the Holy Spirit as the down payment of the final inheritance, the forgiveness of their sins, deep fellowship with other children of God, assurance that their risen Savior and Lord is already reigning with all of his Father’s authority; yet Christians do not yet enjoy all the blessings that will one day be theirs—the abolition of death, the utter destruction of the power of sin, possession of resurrection bodies, free scope in a new heaven and a new earth, untarnished worship of the triune God, the bliss of undiluted love and unblemished holiness, the perfection of fellowship. Thus, New Testament eschatology is not a restricted focus on the last things but includes the wonderful news that the last things have in certain respects already arrived. New Testament eschatology deals alternately with what is yet to come and with what has shatteringly, unexpectedly, magnificently arrived. In other words, New Testament eschatology is simultaneously futuristic and realized.

Failure to keep the balance breeds not only theological error but also moral and lifestyle problems of considerable severity. Overemphasis on the futuristic aspects of eschatology, e.g., at the expense of the realized aspects, may foster unhealthy speculation regarding what God has not revealed, date-setting as to when Christ will return, a denial of the graces and benefits we have already received, and a depreciation of the importance of living together as Christians who constitute a kind of outpost of the new heaven and new earth. The opposite imbalance may prompt us to neglect the promises the Bible gives us regarding the future, to forget to live lives that look forward to and long for Christ’s return, and to act as if the fullness of all Christ provided by his cross-work is already our due.

D.A. Carson — A Model of Christian Maturity, p. 52


Kill all lust, not just the lust which bothers you most.

Hence is that of the apostle: “Cleanse yourselves from all pollution of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). If we will do anything, we must do all things. So, then, it is not only an intense opposition to this or that peculiar lust, but a universal humble frame and temper of heart, with watchfulness over every evil and for the performance of every duty, that is accepted. John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Salvation Sin

John Owen on the need to be constantly fighting against sin

Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion. Sin doth not only abide in us, but “the law of the members is still rebelling against the law of the mind,” Rom. vii. 23; and “the spirit that dwells in us lusteth to envy,” James iv. 5. It is always in continual work; “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” Gal. v. 17; lust is still tempting and conceiving sin, James i. 14; in every moral action it is always either inclining to evil, or hindering from that which is good, or disframing the spirit from communion with God. It inclines to evil. “The evil which I would not, that I do,” saith the apostle, Rom. vii. 19. Whence is that? Why, “Because in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” And it hinders from good: “The good that I would do, that I do not,” verse 19; — “Upon the same account, either I do it not, or not as I should; all my holy things being defiled by this sin.” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would,” Gal. v. 17. And it unframes our spirit, and thence is called “The sin that so easily besets us,” Heb. xii. 1; on which account are those grievous complaints that the apostle makes of it, Rom. vii. So that sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? And this trade will it drive more or less all our days. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world.

John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers