RTI RTOW: Evidence of Growth in Grace

Topics regularly posted by RTI staff for members to discuss.

RTI RTOW: Evidence of Growth in Grace

Presbyterian Deacon
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Joined: January 3rd, 2009, 1:43 pm

January 28th, 2018, 2:11 pm #1

Looking back over the years since your conversion, how have you grown in grace?
What areas of life have been most changed by the Spirit of God as your sanctification is being worked out? 
What evidence do you see, or have others mentioned that show progress in your Christian walk?
What are some areas that still need work?
Sterling A. Harmon, Jr.
Ruling Elder, Presbyterian Church of Coventry (PCA)
Follow me on Twitter: @sterling_harmon

" 'Always uplifting...never discouraging.' -- Bah Humbug! It's not easy being a Puritan in a K-LOVE world!" -- Me
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Ask Mr. Religion
Site Founder
Joined: July 28th, 2008, 9:13 am

January 29th, 2018, 9:26 pm #2

Much introspection required here, brother. Thank you!

Since my conversion, the vinegar that possessed me has become a wine, not quite yet a fine wine, but something far less bitter than a lad of fourteen years of age. What I took to be but a checking of the box (walked the aisle, said the prayer, etc.), as it were, has become a way of life for me now. Today, in most that I do, think, or say, begins with thinking about how I may glorify God beforehand. That by no means implies I succeed in my efforts, but I have tried to discipline my mind along those lines. Forget WWJD?, rather think WTGG? (will this glorify God). ;)

The most significant area of my life that has changed in my walk of faith (sanctification), has been the control of my emotional disposition (intemperateness). I was once a man given over to temper about all things. Persons around me simply did not like me. Who could blame them? The details are not important, only that I was not someone you would want to know.

It is in this area that most comment is received from others that have the opportunity to observe me in my walk of faith. They have commented to me or to others that have passed it along to my ears, that I am quite unflappable, almost too taciturn. A man that can be relied upon be listened to, when I eventually get around to actually speaking. I have learned that not everything that pops into my noggin is worthy of coming out of my mouth or put down on paper, or the computer screen. It probably stems from my years of study of the faith that I hold dear, wherein I discover just how much I do not know what I think I know. It is humbling, yet frustrating at the same time (Romans 11:34), for I have always considered myself to me a discerning and rapid learner.

Unprofitable servant that I am, I continue to distance myself from many social functions and interactions. My reticence has become a prison of sorts. My wife would complain often about my desire to not be seen or heard, despite her very social nature. 

I am also very deficient in my prayer life. Coming to the Lord often seems to take a second seat behind what new topic of interest crosses my desk. The discipline of completing needed tasks around my home often outweighs the need for prayer and supplication. Part of this is due to my desire to spend much time in prayer when I do so. Perhaps this is a side-effect of my past experiences in the Jesuits, wherein hours were spent throughout the day in prayer as a young novitiate. I still like to pray, when I formally declare "private prayer time", for long periods. The occasion sometimes looms as a drudgery, and I am quick to find a reason to avoid it or substitute some short and often vapid uplifting of prayer.

Lastly, I have struggled with depression my entire life. Sometimes mere ennui turns inward and festers into depression as I examine my life in order to make my assurance of my faith certain. The irony of the matter is not lost on me, as I sometimes counsel others on their own depression. (Perhaps one who experiences depression and has managed to deal with it has a perspective worth considering.)

There are times that I honestly wonder why I must continue to fight the good fight, run the good race. Have I not done enough, O Lord? Seriously, who may say they have done so, other than Paul. The world around me seems to be well on its way to hell in a hand basket. The news each day sends me reeling into despair. My personal life often seems rife with disappointment, suffering, and tragedy. In my foolishness, there are times that I think Job was on a Disney vacation while the devil tormented him compared to my own trials and tribulations. The hubris of the thought! Pray for me, beloved, often. I objectively and rationally know the errors I partake of herein, yet, in the solitude of my ordinary existence, they often overwhelm me. The "release" or "outlet" to stem these overwhelming feelings comes from keeping myself engaged in public forums, where my mind is forced to focus on the needs of others, their questions about what we hold dear, that lead me to learn more and not give in to what leads me to despair.
AMR (a.k.a. Patrick)
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Markus Leoninus
Sustaining Member
Markus Leoninus
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Joined: April 2nd, 2009, 3:11 pm

January 30th, 2018, 1:28 am #3

Well, they say that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.
Indeed, it is so for me.
I could fill several pages of the thread simply enumerating (even quite apart from describing in full) my faults, sins, shortcomings.
Though, by God's grace, I know that over the years I have grown in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, the majestic and merciful Lord Christ.
In general, I pray constantly for a balance of mind, heart, and will. I want to know and understand our God, through His infallible and inerrant Word, to the fullest extent of the intellect. But I want equally to love Him and His truth, and to be so enamored of Him and it, that I am determined by grace to will and to live accordingly. I learned the necessity of this balance years ago, especially while reading material by D.M. Lloyd-Jones. They called him "the doctor" for good reason.
Among other things, I still struggle with anger, and with what some call "anger turned inwards", i.e., depression. Though I lose a battle now and then, I know that I shall, by the grace of God, win the war against our never-dying foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil
And so will you, dear brother and/or sister.

Which leads me to respond to what Patrick has said above... begging the reader's patience, of course.

Patrick, I hope it doesn't seem that I'm merely currying favor here, but I find that not a little of what you've said about yourself applies to me as well. We appear to be quite similar.
Your statements about depression got my attention quick.
Brother... you are definitely not alone in this.
And is it not amazing how easily you or I might counsel others who we know to be depressed, despite our own struggles? We know such struggle and pain of spirit, and can spot it a mile away. So, our hearts are moved for them; specially as it seems to us that we are tougher than they, and that we'd  better do what we can to bail them out lest they waste away to the point of no return. We seem to know exactly how to minister a good word in due season to them. We can pray fervently for and with them. We know of extensive pamphlets or books that can help them, so we suggest these for their perusal.
And yet guys like us have a very hard time applying the same counsel to ourselves!
Somehow, we also imagine at times that our case is utterly unique; and we maintain a semblance of happiness, while privately suffering from almost relentless despair.
No doubt you've found, however, that helping others lightens our own load pretty much every time. And so, we press on by the grace of God.

Brother, because you know and understand depression as personally and deeply as you do, God makes you an able minister to others who are in a bad way. And that is thus a terrible thing, but a good thing, also.

I'm confident the following is true of you, Patrick:

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; 11 ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

Take ample heart, brother. God is doing aplenty through you, depression and all.


Struggles over assurance of salvation... oh, how I have had to battle with that!

But in my quieter and stronger moments I consider that the "accuser of the brethren" has often erred, despite his nefarious and cruel self, by being so strident in his attacks; for his attacks drive us to study again... and again... and yet again, the great truth of our justification on the basis not of anything in us but purely upon that of the Person and Work of our infinitely Just and Merciful Sponsor on our behalf, in our stead; and, be it said, to study and rejoice again and again in the grace of the Infinitely Just and Merciful Father who sent His precious one and only begotten Son to really save us, not hypothetically, but actually; and to study and rejoice in, over and over again, the work of the Infinitely Just and Righteous Holy Spirit who, in His fearful and tender Might, wooed us and called us effectually, regenerated us, and does not cease to work in us both to will and do of the Holy Trinity's good pleasure.
Oh the power of these great facts of sovereign grace as we pour our hearts and minds over them and, by illuminating grace, our hearts and minds overflow with the joy and consolation these truths afford ... of the Father's electing love from all eternity; of the imputation of our Savior's spotless merits and righteousness to us, of the transference as well of our guilt which He atoned for in His Cross Work in due course of time, dealing decisively and finally with all our sin, past, present, future; of the Spirit's regenerating and sanctifying grace... all which work of the Triune God cannot be thwarted or overthrown, insuring that we shall in due time be glorified, to sin and suffer no more!

Incidentally, some of the most noteworthy evangelical and Calvinist leaders that the Church has produced suffered greatly from depression. Charles Haddon Spurgeon is one of these. Two short articles take note of it and, though not exhaustive, do prove helpful, simply by showing us that depression afflicts the greatest as it does the less.

Spurgeon Can Help Your Depression
 https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-libra ... depression

11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed
https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-libra ... -depressed

Brother, take up Spurgeon's Treasury of David and go with Spurgeon and company over the 130th Psalm. There are other Psalms and solid expositions in the same Treasury useful to this end, but for me Psalm 130 comes readily to mind as a salve for all our sores.

And take in also John Owen's exposition of Psalm 130. Owen was, as Spurgeon called him, surely "the prince of Puritan divines". He was a theological and scholarly genius, and intensely practical as all the Puritans in their way are. But he was no ivory tower scholar who knew nothing of the struggles of the Psalmist and the common man. Owen himself had been brought to the point of death with depression, and despair of ever being right with God. When the Lord delivered him, he set about his exposition of Psalm 130. That this contributes to his skill with the Psalm there is no doubt.
Says the summary of the work at CCEL, "Owen’s massive Exposition of Psalm 130, contains some two hundred pages devoted to forgiveness and assurance. He writes here as one who, himself, has longed to know these privileges. This section is, in the words of one of his biographers, ‘As full of Christian experience as of rich theology … to a great extent the unconscious transcript of his personal wanderings and perplexities, and final deliverance.’ Possibly no better work exists on this area of Christian experience."
We read in the preface to the work:
The circumstances in which this Exposition of Psalm cxxx. originated are peculiarly interesting. Dr Owen himself, in a statement made to Mr Richard Davis, who ultimately became pastor of a church in Rowel, Northamptonshire, explains the occasion which led him to a very careful examination of the fourth verse in the psalm. Mr Davis, being under religious impressions, had sought a conference with Owen. In the course of the conversation, Dr Owen put the question, “Young man, pray in what manner do you think to go to God?” “Through the Mediator, sir,” answered Mr Davis.” That is easily said,” replied the Doctor, “but I assure you it is another thing to go to God through the Mediator than many who make use of the expression are aware of. I myself preached Christ,” he continued, “some years, when I had but very little, if any, experimental acquaintance with access to God through Christ; until the Lord was pleased to visit me with sore affliction, whereby I was brought to the mouth of the grave, and under which my soul was oppressed with horror and darkness; but God graciously relieved my spirit by a powerful application of Psalm cxxx. 4, ‘But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;’ from whence I received special instruction, peace, and comfort, in drawing near to God through the Mediator, and preached thereupon immediately after my recovery.” The incident to which he refers had occurred at an early period in his public life; and it is probable this Exposition is the substance of the discourses which he preached on his recovery from affliction, under the influence of enlivened faith in the mediation of Christ. We cannot wonder that the particular verse which had proved to Owen a spring of refreshment in a weary place, should receive prominent and prolonged consideration in this work. The exposition of it constitutes nearly three-fourths of the whole treatise.
(from the Preface to Owen's exposition upon Psalm 130)

See, at length, the full exposition:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/psalm130

Another great read is J.C. Ryle book on Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ryle/holiness.html

J.I. Packer said that it was Owen and Ryle that squared him away when he struggled to seemingly no end early in his Christian walk. Truth is, of course, we can all be attacked and troubled to no small degree at any time no matter how far along we are, and may need to turn regularly to men of God like Owen, Spurgeon, and Ryle who will well remind us of how to deal with it all as often as proves necessary.
Owen in particular shows me to myself like few other writers do, save for Jonathan Edwards. As John "Rabbi" Duncan said to his students once to whom he was recommending Owen... "Prepare for the knife".
But these men; or, rather, the gracious God they knew and served so well, can do us good like a medicine, time and time again, if need be.

See also:
The Soul's Conflict and Victory Over Itself by Faith, by Richard Sibbes
http://www.archive.org/stream/soulsconf ... 5/mode/2up
The Bruised Reed,  by  Richard Sibbes
http://www.onthewing.org/user/Sibbes%20 ... pdated.pdf

You mentioned that, "The world around me seems to be well on its way to hell in a hand basket. The news each day sends me reeling into despair."
Indeed.
And, trust me, I go daily over the news from many sources, and it stirs every emotion in my breast, the full gamut. I have literally cried out when going over some of it. Further, I study cryptocrasy, deep politics, the machinations of the power elite; the tremedous power of evil that Satan works over and in them, and which affects and trickles down to, and into, all who are deceived by them. It goes all the way from the oligarchical top, from the very money-masters and lawless lawmakers themselves, and slips and slides and slimes its way right on down to the derelicts living homelessly under bridges in the concrete jungles that dot our continent, and the world, and affects and drives many another soul in between to a kind of massive, corporate madness.
Technocracy, oligarchy, rule by "experts", scientific dictatorship, the breakdown of the rule of law, the corruptions of leaders who never seem to ever be really brought to justice, the constant threat of war and rumours of war, indeed, of nuclear war which, in view of the kind of firepower the superpowers have at hand now, could make the detonations over Nagasaki and Hiroshima seem like a July 4 celebration by comparison... though, as a terrible matter of fact, the events of 1945 over Japan are absolutely heart-rending, to be sure. What happened there is horrible. Let any see the films and photos, and if there's a heart in them at all, they will cringe at the sight of man's inhumanity to man, and will recognize all leaning in that direction amongst leaders today as a sign of trouble such that beggars description. Einstein said something along the line that if there is a 3rd world war with nukes, any surviving remnants that launched a 4th world war would fight with sticks and stones. No one will win a full-scale ICBM exchange. Not the ones who delievr first strike, not the ones who retaliate. All will lose, and lose miserably.
And this multi-faceted madness of our fallen world is but the tip of the iceberg, as we say, as terrible as it is real.

My consolation is in this; my sanity is maintained by consideration betimes of these basic facts...
There is a sovereign, righteous, holy, just God in heaven. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is merciful. Oh, thank God He is merciful, else you and I would be in big trouble, also. And our work is to evangelize rather than despair, that some by God's grace will be well-advised, and flee for refuge to God's grace and Person, just as by grace we have done.
But we know of a surety, no impenitent evil doer in this world shall actually get away with anything. Not one single, solitary thing. Somebody said, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings". More surely, and quite literally, it ain't over until the eternal God is done. He works even now. And will work. The Lord Christ says that men shall give account of their every idle word in the judgment. Of course, He being omniscient and just, no thought or deed will get past Him either. As for the genius for evil conceived privately in their depraved, megalomaniacal, and money-loving minds, discussed privily among themselves in corporate boardrooms and within the arcane, occultic, anti-Christian, Luciferian secret societies that have been developed and that have flourished and served heads of state and priestcraft since the days of ancient Egypt and Babylon, and for the deeds based thereon that follow... they shall answer for it all!
We've read the back of the Book, and the front of it, and at all points in between. We know who shall triumph; who even now triumphs, though fools continue rushing against Him like wild horses, headlong into a battle they can never win.

Well... I'll close there, hoping I haven't  worn out everyone's patience already.
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Cedarbay
Leading Member
Cedarbay
Leading Member
Joined: May 28th, 2014, 2:02 am

January 30th, 2018, 4:34 pm #4

Patrick, your sister in Christ, prays for you daily.  In the joys and sorrows, you are never alone.

Markus, thank you for the many resources you gave.  You are also in my prayers.

The two of you are an example of God's grace in action, as you speak honestly about your afflictions and remain faithful to Him.  Thank you.

Louise
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Ask Mr. Religion
Site Founder
Joined: July 28th, 2008, 9:13 am

January 30th, 2018, 9:02 pm #5

Thank you both for the encouragements, kind words, and prayer.
AMR (a.k.a. Patrick)
Do You Confess?
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My Randomata Blog
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Markus Leoninus
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Markus Leoninus
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Joined: April 2nd, 2009, 3:11 pm

January 31st, 2018, 9:25 am #6

Cedarbay wrote: Patrick, your sister in Christ, prays for you daily.  In the joys and sorrows, you are never alone.

Markus, thank you for the many resources you gave.  You are also in my prayers.

The two of you are an example of God's grace in action, as you speak honestly about your afflictions and remain faithful to Him.  Thank you.

Louise
It is good to see you around, Louise! You, also, evidently remain faithful despite your struggles which you've shared on the site. You are yourself very much an example of God's grace in action. I feel both honored and blessed that you pray for me.
Rest assured of my prayers for you, also, and for all on the site.
Our God is faithful. He has begun a good work in us all, and will perform it until the day of Christ.
Phil. 1:2-6.
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Markus Leoninus
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Markus Leoninus
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Joined: April 2nd, 2009, 3:11 pm

January 31st, 2018, 10:07 am #7

Ask Mr. Religion wrote: Thank you both for the encouragements, kind words, and prayer.
Brother, this site is a good one because you are it's sound and solid founder. God is behind you and it.
You are proficient from the standpoint of computer tech.
And your knowledge of the faith, combined with your skill in expressing it, is second to none that I'm aware of here. You also handle problems that arise from time to time very well.
It can be a load, I'm sure, quite apart from matters in your life not connected to the site. And so, prayer will always be lifted up for you.
  
In a word, we are blessed to have you. God enables you to persevere and, lo, so many others partake of the benefit. RTI is an institute indeed. That you run it so well is a testament to the fact that God's grace is a powerful principle in your life, for His glory, and for the good of all RTI members and visitors.

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