Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Heidelberg Catechism: Guilt, Grace, Gratitude

I wept the first time I read through the Heidelberg Catechism in the Spring of 1999 at a nearby park on the Lord's Day. It was a beautiful day and I had been starving for someone, anyone, to teach me the Bible. I had so many questions about so many things. I stumbled across a radio program that was archived on the Internet called The White Horse Inn. It was a lifeline to me. They introduced me to these marvelous documents call "The Reformed Confessions." I must have burned through an entire ink-cartridge on my computer printing all of them out: The Westminster Standards, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Second Helvetic Confession. I printed all of them off, punched 3 holes in all of them, and put them in a three-ring binder. I spent weeks and weeks reading all of those documents, looking up all the passages, and growing by leaps and bounds in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, Dr. Joel Beeke and Dr. Sinclair Ferguson have compiled all of them into a wonderful, systematically arranged book available here: CLICK HERE

All of those documents are precious jewels of our Christian and Reformation heritage. They are truly doormen to the Word of God. They represent the crystallization of the finest Christians minds God had given to the church in its entire history up to that point. They are the culmination of the best of Christian scholarship and expertise in the Word of God, its backgrounds, historical theology, church history, and the most careful exegetical analyses ever done. For me personally, the Heidelberg Catechism was particularly special and helpful. I'd like to explain why.

There are two grave errors people make with regard to understanding the basics of Biblical truth when it comes to human sinfulness, the grace of God in our redemption, and then what the proper response is to that grace. Here are those two grave errors:

1. Guilt - Grace - Guilt

Legalism does not understand grace. The book of Galatians addresses this error in exacting detail and condemns it in shocking and unmerciful terms (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:16-21; 4:21-31; 5:1-6). Man is guilty before God as a sinner. The grace of God comes to man in Jesus Christ and the gospel of a full and free justification by faith alone apart from any works of any kind done by the sinner. But for these false teachers, if grace is truly free then it must lead to loose moral living. If grace is really grace and our works do not figure into our salvation in any way at all, then grace is going to cause people to live immoral lives. Therefore, we must suppress people with more and more law even as a part of the very gospel. This will keep them in check. Sadly, this heretical and deadly view can only have two results: 1) Pharisee-ism - People who really do think they are obeying enough law to enter heaven on their own merits (yes, made possible only by grace), or 2) Neurotic Depression - People under the conviction of the Holy Spirit always feel condemned and lost because in their hearts they know they could never live well enough to curry the favor of God. Guilt - Grace - Guilt is fatal to the biblical gospel, to the church, and to the Christian life. It is not Christianity at all but simply the religion of the natural man dressed up in Christ garb.

2. Guilt - Grace - License

Easy-believism - or licentiousness is also a grave misunderstanding of biblical grace. Jude warned about it explicitly:

Jude 1:4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

This deadly error sees the grace of Christ as a license to live an immoral life. Everyone who has been in American Christianity for long knows the following stories: "My uncle who is 60 years old 'walked an aisle' at a revival when he was 15 years old and 'got saved.' But he's been living with girlfriends ever sense, never opens a Bible, never attends church, and has no apparent interest in personal holiness at all." "My son 'prayed the prayer' when he was 7 and 'got saved,' but he's gone off into drugs and sex and is now in his 20s and hasn't been to church since he left home. But I'm so thankful he prayed that prayer."

This error turns the grace of God into license and has no understanding of the fact that every person God saves and justifies by faith alone will always also and without fail be: born again and will begin the lifelong process of sanctification, and will be conformed to the image of Christ. A "Christian" who is not a member of a church, who has no interest in personal holiness, and has no longing to know the Word of God and to worship Christ with God's people on the Lord's Day is, frankly, not a Christian at all.

What is the truth of the matter? Guilt - Grace - Gratitude. Those three terms represent the 3 major divisions of the Heidelberg Catechism. As a catechism it is divided up into those three major headings. And the first two questions spell it out beautifully:

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own, but belong— body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Q2. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Notice those "Three things" you need to know to live and die in the joy of this comfort. Guilt - Grace - Gratitude. The entire exposition of the Ten Commandments is under the glorious category of "Gratitude." in the catechism. Isn't that beautiful? Why do I obey God? Out of guilt? Out of fear that if I don't I won't go to heaven? Of course not! I obey out of thankfulness and gratitude. My entire life is an act of thanksgiving to God for His amazing grace. Listen to the way Paul said it:

2 Corinthians 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 

What does "grace" cause? Guilt? Licentiousness? No. "Thankgiving to abound to the glory of God."

If you believe that the motivation to do good works and obey the commandments of God are to save yourself or that they are motivated by guilt that those laws might condemn you, then you cannot possibly understand the biblical gospel. If you believe that the grace of God in Christ's cross gives you a license to sin all you want and still go to heaven, my friend, you have been deceived. The Scriptures gives us the clear teaching that we are in a state of sin and misery. We are utterly helpless and hopeless apart from the electing grace of God in Jesus Christ which was given to us before time began (Ephesians 1:3-11; John 6:37-39; John 17:2; Romans 8:28-39; 2 Timothy 1:8-12). That effectual grace justifies the sinner by faith alone and not by our obeying the law of God (Romans 3:20-31; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:3-5; Romans 4:1-8). And every single person who is justified by faith alone has been set free from the tyranny of bondage of sin (Romans 6:1-18) and will live the balance of their remaining life in this world in a constant war with remaining indwelling sin (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:14-25). But in Jesus Christ, no matter how great that struggle and war with sin is, there is no condemnation because Christ's redeeming sacrifice and imputed righteousness are perfect and will not allow any judicial charges of sin ever to be made against us (Romans 8:1, 33; Galatians 3:13; Romans 4:6-8). But the key question is this: What motivates a true Christian to love their neighbor and obey God's law? Gratitude. If it is guilt-motivated, then why am I really helping my neighbor? For myself. Any motivation other than gratitude for our good works will always be self-centered. And if you think God can't smell that a mile away, you are just plain wrong! Remember how Paul said it: "that grace... may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God." 

What motivates your personal holiness? If it is something other than gratitude, perhaps you do not fully understand the grace of God in Christ. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

John Brown of Haddington's Death Bed Thoughts (From the Preface to his "Systematic Theology")

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1788), a man always reluctant to speak of his own religious experience, while on his death-bed wrote 45 pages of thoughts before his death. They are recorded in his personal "Memoir" his son, William, edited. I've not read many men who understood the gospel as well and as clearly as this man did. But reading through some of his final expressions has been a treat for my soul. A few of these sayings really got to me....
"My life is and has been a kind of almost perpetual strife between God and my soul. He strives to overcome my enmity and wickedness with his mercies, and I strive to overcome his mercy with my enmity and wickedness. Astonishingly kind on his side, but worse than diabolically wicked on mine! After all, I wish and hope that he, not I, may obtain the victory at last."
"I know the outrageous wickedness of my heart; such wickedness as would have provoked any but a God of infinite love to have cast me into hell."
"I see such weakness, such deficiency, such unfaithfulness, such imprudence, such unfervency and unconcern, such selfishness, in all that I have done as a minister or a Christian, as richly deserves the deepest damnation of hell. I have no hope of eternal happiness but in Jesus' blood, which cleanseth from all sin - in 'redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of my sins, according to the riches of his grace.'"
[Patrick writing again here] It's encouraging to me to read such things as I feel them in my heart as well. And it's also encouraging that he derived such comfort from the same passage that I often do: Ephesians 1:7. I recorded a video on my YouTube channel awhile back reflecting on that verse:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Noah's Ark and Its Contents - Genesis 6:9-22

There are times in world history when it seems as though God pulls His hand of restraint on man’s fallen nature back a bit to give the world a glimpse of the horrors men are able to commit against one another. When men no longer believe in absolute right and wrong and believe they can do whatever is right in their own eyes, they becomes devils and beasts to one another. It is important to notice that in this passage of Scripture we are told that the earth was “corrupt” or ruined before God. God is always watching the sons of men - watching what they do and what they think. Although men work hard to suppress from their own minds God’s ever watchful presence, His divine and all-knowing eyes never close toward men. Speaking of what the wicked tell themselves in their hearts, the Scripture informs the world:

Psalm 10:11 He has said in his heart, "God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see."

But the world was ruined in God’s sight and God looked at all of the violence that filled the earth. On account of it, He made the decision to destroy everything that breathes except 8 people in the ark and 2 of each kind of animal. What is so remarkable about the level to which mankind had descended at this particular point is that God did not look down upon a city and see corruption. He did not look down upon a country, a kingdom, or an empire and see corruption. God looked at the earth – this entire planet – and saw that it was filled with corruption, and the earth was filled with violence. People were abusing and exploiting one another - and it was a horrendous sight to God.

Widespread disregard and mistreatment of the image-bearers of God is a surefire way of seeing cultural or world-wide abandonment of God. When men and cultures depart from communion with God, they engage in their campaigns of absolute destruction and spread misery, despair, hate, poverty, suffering, alienation, and violence among men everywhere they go. Man without God is a monster – worse in his ruthlessness than any animal. It is soul-stirring to know that it came to this in earth history – that it came to the point wherein the remedy to man’s fast-track into the cesspool of wickedness was to kill everyone. Men – these remarkable beings created by the genius of God – created a little lower than an angel – had become a plague upon the earth. It was the wicked against the wicked, man against man, hate against hate. And it was for this that the Word of God describes what took place in very succinct terms:

2 Peter 3:6 …the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.

Noah’s flood is of monumental importance to understanding earth history. Outside of biblical revelation, we know very little about what the world was like before the flood. Many people today have very important and very serious questions about details relating to Noah’s ark. How big was the ark? How could Noah have built such a gigantic sea-going vessel? How did he round up all the animals? How did so many animals fit on a boat even that size? Were there dinosaurs on the ark? How did Noah take care of all the animals? Could a flood really destroy every living thing? How could Noah’s ark survive the devastation of waves and tsunamis so powerful that the entire globe was covered with water when it was all over? Where did all the water come from? Where did all of it go? Is there evidence of the flood today? Where is Noah’s ark now?

1. How Big was Noah’s Ark? Genesis 6:14-15 "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. [15] And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.

It is sad that so many drawings of Noah’s Ark make it look like a floating toy with smiling elephants waving their trunks and giraffes sticking their heads out of what look like sun-roofs on a sportscar. Ken Ham and Tim Lovett write:
Unlike many whimsical drawings that depict the Ark as some kind of overgrown houseboat (with giraffes sticking out the top), the Ark described in the Bible was a huge vessel. Not until the late 1800s was a ship built that exceeded the capacity of Noah’s Ark. The dimensions of the Ark are convincing for two reasons: the proportions are like that of a modern cargo ship, and it is about as large as a wooden ship can be built. The cubit gives us a good indication of size.[ 1] With the cubit’s measurement, we know that the Ark must have been at least 450 feet (137 m) long, 75 feet (23 m) wide, and 45 feet (14 m) high. In the Western world, wooden sailing ships never got much longer than about 330 feet (100 m), yet the ancient Greeks built vessels at least this size 2,000 years earlier. China built huge wooden ships in the 1400s that may have been as large as the Ark. The biblical Ark is one of the largest wooden ships of all time — a mid-sized cargo ship by today’s standards.

2. How could Noah Build the Ark?

God’s Word does not tell us he built it by himself or that he and his sons were the only ones who built it. Noah could easily have hired help and may have even had relatives help him like Methuselah and Lamech. But even if Noah and his sons built it by themselves, the physical strength and mental intelligence they possessed was likely a lot greater than we do today. One or two men can build a large house today in about 12 weeks. How much more could three or four men do in several years? Ham and Lovett write:
History has shown that technology can be lost. In Egypt, China, and the Americas the earlier dynasties built more impressive buildings or had finer art or better science. Many so-called modern inventions turn out to be re-inventions, like concrete, which was used by the Romans.

Ancient men even after the flood were geniuses. How much more were they before the flood? Think of men and women who studied the various disciplines they were interested in for nearly 1000 years. How good at an instrument can a young person become if they are given lessons and practice hard for 10 years? Pretty good. What if someone was given lessons for 250 years and then perfected their skills for 450 more years by practicing every day? Remember this passage from before the flood:

Genesis 4:20-22 And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. [21] His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. [22] And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. …

Application: Wouldn’t it have been remarkable to hear their music? What an incredible loss that we don’t have it! Wouldn’t it have been amazing to see the gadgets and machines they made from bronze and iron? My dear friends, brothers and sisters, you must remove from you mind forever this idea that ancient men were savage brutes who didn’t know anything! The fact is, we are the savage brutes who don’t know anything! We just have clever gadgets and Internet access.

Even the people who lived shortly after the flood like the ancient Egyptians did things we still do not understand today. I’ve watched documentaries on the pyramids at Giza and structural engineers and architects of modern cities have said that even with cranes, and the most sophisticated cutting tools available, we could not build something like the pyramids at Giza in terms of their orientation, direction, and mathematical precision. And think about this: Most of what we rely on computers to do for us today, the ancients did themselves. Ham and Lovett write: “One of the most recent tools is the computer, which compensates a great deal for our natural decline in mental performance and discipline, since it permits us to gather and store information as perhaps never before.”

3. How did Noah get all the animals onto the ark and how did He take care of them? Genesis 6:19-22
[19] And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. [20] Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. [21] And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them." [22] Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.

The Gathering of the Animals: There is absolutely nothing good that can come from trying to explain naturalistically the fact that animals came two by two, male and female, to the ark.  They were supernaturally directed by the hand of God to do so.  John Whitcomb points out an amusing illustration of why the gathering of animals must be viewed as entirely supernatural:
In the very nature of the case, it would have been quite impossible for Noah and his family to have gathered thirty or forty thousand animals ... into the Ark, even if they had spent the entire century doing nothing else.  A rather amusing illustration of this fact occurred in Italy, a few miles south of Rome, when a film producer attempted to depict the story of the animals and the Ark.  Much time and effort were expended in training a few zoo animals to walk two by two up a ramp into a model of the Ark.  When the time came for the filming, however, “a water buffalo charged up the gangway, crashed through the ark and headed for Rome at full snort.”  After that, as the report continued, “the jungle’s rougher embarkees were filmed behind glass.”  All of which simply confirms the obviously supernatural factors at work in this phase of the Flood event. 

There is a popular idea that only domesticated animals were brought onto the Ark.  Those who suggest this do it in the name of not requiring a miracle for the gathering of the animals into the ark.  In one work by Donald Patten called: The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch he suggests that all of the animals were impelled toward the Ark by a series of microvibrations in the crust of the earth caused by the planet Mercury as it swept past the earth into its present orbit.  Whitcomb asks:
Is this the kind of help that the secular, sophisticated mind of the twentieth century needs in order to begin taking the Genesis account seriously?  The answer seems obvious.

“Scholars” in the name of appealing to the modern supposedly scientific mind of man – in order to make the biblical accounts of such incredibly miraculous events more credulous have by and large not been helpful. Here are a couple of examples of these ideas I was introduced to in seminary regarding other miraculous biblical narratives:

1)   Passing through the Red Sea because of a long east wind that temporarily dried up a shallow patch of the sea and made it dry??

2)   Jesus walking on floating timbers instead of water??

3)   When Jesus fed the 5,000, what really happened was everyone else saw the little boy with his 5 barley loaves and 2 fish sharing… and then a spirit of sharing just overwhelmed everyone, and so everyone was sharing… 

There is absolutely nothing good that can come from trying to create naturalistic explanations of what are clearly miraculous, supernatural interventions by the hand of God. 
Says Whitcomb in response:
Why is it that so many Christian scholars hesitate to cut the Gordian knot of endless speculation and to simply acknowledge that God, and God alone, had the power to bring two each of the basic kinds of air-breathing creatures to the Ark?  Noah’s task was to construct the Ark and to warn the world of God’s judgment.  Multitudes who had laughed at Noah’s warnings must have been profoundly impressed and even terrified by this ominous spectacle of tens of thousands of animals coming to the Ark, obviously led by the power of God. 

Consider what a unique sight it would have been to see all of those animals coming, two by two, in orderly fashion, and entering the Ark. 

Still others argue that just the carrying away of manure and bringing food to the animals would have been impossible for Noah and his family to do for a year.  There is a critical verse in the flood narrative we must bear in mind as we walk through flood narrative:

Genesis 8:1 Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.

4)   A key theological question we must always ask:  Did God have a purpose for which He commanded Noah to build this Ark?  Yes, and God Himself tells us that purpose in Scripture.  Please notice in the Word of God here:

Genesis 6:19-20 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. [20] Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.

5)   There is the answer:  The Ark was built to keep Noah, his family, and all of these animals alive.  That was God’s stated purpose

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.

God’s purposes and intentions are never thwarted.  And we do not need to attempt to figure out naturalistic ways of explaining the fine details of what are plainly and obviously miraculous events.  Had God wanted to, He could have given us a detailed explanation of everything He did related to how these animals were kept alive for an entire year – but obviously, He has not chosen to give us such an explanation.  However, Whitcomb offers a helpful scenario I think is helpful as a possibility but would hesitate to become dogmatic about it:
But the question must then be asked, How did God control the animals in the Ark so that Noah and his family would not be burdened with a humanly impossible task?  We believe that he supernaturally imposed on the animals a year-long hibernation or estivation experience, whereby their bodily functions were reduced to a minimum. 

Some have responded to this by asking: “Why then was all of the food ordered to be brought on board in Genesis 6:21 ‘And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.’ ”?  Whitcomb responds:
Our response is that the food stored for the animals was not to be eaten throughout the Flood year, but especially at the beginning, as God led them into the thousands of “rooms” (literally, “nests” – Gen. 6:14) which he had instructed Noah to build for them.  Since the anitmals were gathered to the Ark during a seven-day period, at least some of the animals would have been exhausted and hungry when they arrived at the Ark, and they would have gorged themselves on the food Noah had provided, before God put them into a state of hibernation.  … 

Whitcomb offers two very strong lines of evidence for this view:
·      God obviously supernaturally controlled the bodily functions of the animals in such a way to bring them to the Ark in the first place.
·      There was no reproduction, even among the rabbits, on the Ark – and with male and females together – this obviously implies God’s restraint of that natural instinct to reproduce.  It is not until after the flood subsides and the Ark lands that the animals are given the divine command:

Genesis 8:17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth."

6)   This implies divine restraint during the flood-year.  Certainly God could have preserved all the animals alive without them needing normal food supplies as well if needed.

Again, we must always ask: Does God have a stated purpose?  Is He able to accomplish it?  In this case, God did have a stated purpose – to keep men and animals alive on the Ark.  Was He able to accomplish it?  Yes – and He did so. 

4.    Were there Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?

Yes, there were. But weren’t dinosaurs huge? Only a few of them were when they were full grown. Ham and Lovett write: “Juveniles of even the largest land animals do not present a size problem, and, being young, they have their full breeding life ahead of them. Yet most dinosaurs were not very large at all — some were the size of a chicken (although absolutely no relation to birds, as many evolutionists are now saying). Most scientists agree that the average size of a dinosaur is actually the size of a sheep. For example, God most likely brought Noah two young adult sauropods (e.g., apatosaurs), rather than two full-grown sauropods. The same goes for elephants, giraffes, and other animals that grow to be very large. However, there was adequate room for most fully grown adult animals anyway. As far as the number of different types of dinosaurs, it should be recognized that, although there are hundreds of names for different varieties (species) of dinosaurs that have been discovered, there are probably only about 50 actual different kinds.”

5.    How could all those animals fit on the ark?

Several points that must be understood on this question. First, the ark did not need to carry every kind of animal. It carried only air-breathing, land-dwelling animals, creeping things, and winged animals such as birds. Aquatic life survived in the water. Ham and Lovett write:
Another factor which greatly reduces the space requirements is the fact that the tremendous variety in species we see today did not exist in the days of Noah. Only the parent “kinds” of these species were required to be on board in order to repopulate the earth.[ 5] For example, only two dogs were needed to give rise to all the dog species that exist today. Creationist estimates for the maximum number of animals that would have been necessary to come on board the Ark have ranged from a few thousand to 35,000, but they may be as few as two thousand if the biblical kind is approximately the same as the modern family classification. [Just breaking from the quotation here, remember how we classify animals in our modern terminology: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Noah did not need two of each specicies. In our modern taxonomy, Genesis “kinds” are 2 rungs up that chain. One thing I learned in the “Evolution’s Achilles Heals” DVD is all the animals that can interbreed – lions/tigers, dolphins/whales, land iguanas/sea iguanas – they are all reproducing “according to their kinds” – not according to our modern classification of “species.”] As stated before, Noah wouldn’t have taken the largest animals onto the Ark; it is more likely he took juveniles aboard the Ark to repopulate the earth after the Flood was over. These younger animals also require less space, less food, and have less waste. Using a short cubit of 18 inches (46 cm) for the Ark to be conservative, Woodmorappe’s conclusion is that “less than half of the cumulative area of the Ark’s three decks need to have been occupied by the animals and their enclosures.”[ 6] This meant there was plenty of room for fresh food, water, and even many other people.

We will stop there, and we might do one more message just on Noah’s ark since it is such a hot-button topic since we now live in the age in which scoffers deny the global flood and promote uniformitarianism: 2 Peter 3:4-5 “…For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” The answers are readily available. We just need to understand them.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Key to Fighting Depression: Tell Yourself The Truth

When I was an undergraduate student and God first began to get a hold of me and really began changing my life, the book of Ecclesiastes was a favorite. When you’re young and on the edge of the nest and are about to become independent and more self-directed in life, Ecclesiastes is a great book to have as your companion. The author, most likely King Solomon, was the man who had every form of pleasure life can give you. And I personally believe Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s meditations upon everything the world has to offer without God. What is pleasure? What is money? What are accomplishments of work? What is unending sexual pleasure? What is laughter? What are huge building projects? What is music and dancing? What is popularity and the praises of men? What is life and everything in it without GodVanity, meaningless, a grasping after the wind, and in all of it there was no profit and nothing was gained under the sun. What an incredible thing to consider. There was one verse that jumped out of the book of Ecclesiastes and it still does every time I read it:

Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The longer we live, the more we increase knowledge and wisdom. And the more wisdom and knowledge we possess, the more we experience sorrow. Not everyone is blessed with a peaceful childhood. Many are forced by hardship to “grow up” much more quickly. But what do we mean by “grow up?” We mean: realize that the world can be a very harsh, dark, ugly, painful, and sad place. One of the reasons the transition from childhood to adulthood is difficult for young people is that they are forced to deal with sin in others and in themselves on a much deeper level. This is often a rather traumatic experience which can lead to a melancholy and hopeless mindset. The church ought to be a shelter against such things, but sometimes it isn’t. Solomon was right, in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. While it is wonderful to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to grow in our relationship with Christ, we also come to greater knowledge of the depth of our own sin and thus grieve over that too. And for those who have walked with Christ for a long time, you can look back just a few years and grieve over the sin that you used to tolerate in your life. In summary, there will always be lots of reasons for us to be genuinely saddened by life in this fallen world. And we must not ever look at those who are more prone to depression and sadness than others as if they are in sin. 

Grieve and lament, but do it in a way that glorifies God. Give yourself time to grieve. Give yourself time to be sad. Those are real human emotions we have to face and walk through in this sin-cursed world. But learn to tell yourself the truth. Recall the truth to your mind – the wondrous truths of the grace and mercy and faithfulness of God. Let meditation upon those things sustain your broken-heart through the sadness you experience.

Psalm 42:1-11 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. [2] My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? [3] My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" [4] These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

You can almost picture the face of the person who is saying this. They are dejected, they’re wearing their heart on their sleeve. Their faces are down. Their eyes are sad. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that at the heart of depression that become debilitating and paralyzing is, simply stated: unbelief. We have lost sight of the truth. We are walking as if we no longer know and believe in a God who truly loves us and always has our best in mind. Because of this fact, the Psalmist, being directed by the Holy Spirit knows exactly how to ward off despair. He confronts himself. He rebukes himself. And He tells himself the truth:

[5] Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
We must learn to take ourselves in hand. This man was not content just to lie down and commiserate with himself. He does something about it, he takes himself in hand. But he does something which is more important still, that is he talks to himself. … I say that we must talk to ourselves insead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. … Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? … The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why are you cast down’ – what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, rebuke yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself; ‘Hope in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’

And then he returns to venting his frustration and terrible sadness again. Watch the progression:

[6] O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. [7] Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. [8] The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life. [9] I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" [10] As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

And then the Psalmist has had enough and issues the same rebukes, the same defiance to himself, and tells himself the truth and rests in it. We must develop the same pattern in our thinking and in the way we deal with our depressed tendencies.

[11] Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

What is the biblical treatment for debilitating and paralyzing depression and sadness? Express that sadness in real words and real grief, but do not lash out at God. Learn to take control of your thoughts and tell yourself the truth. Tell. Yourself. The. Truth. Understand your own thought patterns and what pushes you from sadness into despair and don’t allow those thought patterns to run wild. Learn to check them and rebuke them as the Psalmist does. Learn to “recall” the faithfulness and mercies of God “to your mind” so that you, therefore, will have hope. Remind yourself of the great truths you know. Rebuke yourself with those great questions: ‘Why so downcast, O my soul?’ And then tell yourself the truth: ‘Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.’ God ‘is the health of my countenance and my God.’