A Drink from Brooks: The Supernatural Flower of Repentance

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“Repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power. There is no power below that power that raised Christ from the dead, and that made the world, that can break the heart of a sinner or turn the heart of a sinner. Thou art as well able to melt adamant, as to melt thine own heart; to turn a flint into flesh, as to turn thine own heart to the Lord; to raise the dead and to make a world, as to repent. Repentance is a flower that grows not in nature’s garden. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil,’ Jer. 13:23. Repentance is a gift that comes down from above. Men are not born with repentance in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths.” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices

Poorly Hung Church Doors (Colossians 4:2–6)

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” —Colossians 4:3 (ESV)

Paul’s “open door” has been installed in many churches incorrectly. This phrase has been hijacked in an attempt to sanctify a horrid way to seek God’s will. In his excellent little book, Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung quotes a Lark New satire piece,

TUPELO — Walter Houston, described by family members as a devoted Christian, died Monday after waiting 70 years for God to give him clear direction about what to do with his life.

‘He hung around the house and prayed a lot, but just never got that confirmation,’ his wife Ruby said. ‘Sometimes he thought he heard God’s voice, but then he wouldn’t be sure, and he’d start the process all over again.’

Houston, she says, never really figured out what his life was about, but felt content to pray continuously about what he might do for the Lord. Whenever he was about to take action, he would pull back ‘because he didn’t want to disappoint God or go against him in any way,’ Ruby says. ‘He was very sensitive to always remain in God’s will. That was primary to him.’

Friends say they liked Walter though he seemed not to capitalize on his talents.

‘Walter had a number of skills he never got around to using,’ says longtime friend Timothy Burns. ‘He worked very well with wood and had a storyteller side to him, too. I always told him, ‘“Take a risk. Try something new if you’re not happy,” but he was too afraid of letting the Lord down.’

To his credit, they say, Houston, who worked mostly as a handyman, was able to pay off the mortgage on the couple’s modest home.

Do you know how Paul found open doors? He prayerfully tried a bunch of handles. When one opened, he went through.

What are the open doors Paul asks for? Opportunity for the gospel, to declare the mystery of Christ. Upon returning to Antioch following his first missionary journey, we read that, “when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).” The open door for the word then isn’t just the opportunity to declare the gospel, but receptivity to believe the gospel. Listen to the same truth in different garb. In Acts 11 Peter reports of this same open door of faith for the Gentiles. When the church “heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’ ” (Acts 11:18)

Paul desires prayer because He knows the work is the Lord’s. All opportunity and all receptivity for the gospel are gifts from God’s hand. Paul isn’t asking for prayer so that he might know who to marry, where to go to school, or what job to take. Paul’s personal request isn’t that personal at all. Paul doesn’t ask for an open door for himself, but for the gospel.

Why is Paul’s door installed incorrectly in so many churches? Because we are idolatrously bent in on ourselves. The crooked can’t hang straight doors.

A Religious Assassination (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Why was Paul saved? “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Paul’s salvation wasn’t accidental. Paul didn’t chance upon the opportune place at the opportune time where and when grace happened to burst through the earth’s crust. Nor was it that Paul had a core of virtue beneath a veneer of vileness so that universal grace found a ready subject.

Saving grace isn’t a shotgun; it’s a sniper rifle. God is a hunter, a sniper, who has a specific target to make a loud statement. This is an assassination to make a religious statement. The assassination was followed by resurrection. Saul became Paul because of Jesus, and Jesus killed and resurrected Paul to communicated this to wretched sinners: He can kill and resurrect any one of you.

God has a galaxy of grace to match your Jupiter of sin. Do you feel the crushing, unbearable weight of your sins? Do distress if God’s grace can match them? This is as brainless as fretting if there is enough Milky Way for Jupiter. Jupiter’s covered, and so are you if you are in Jesus.

Your thirst isn’t bigger than this ocean. Your darkness isn’t as potent as this Son’s light. Your stain is not as set as His blood is cleansing. Your sin isn’t bigger than Jesus’ atonement.

The Blessed Brought and the Cursed Comer (Matthew 19:13-26)

In all three synoptic gospels Jesus’ blessing the children is followed by the account of the “rich young ruler”. Noticing that these two incidents are paired is both helpful and hurtful. It is helpful in that it makes you look for a connection. It is hurtful because you prematurely label this man. Matthew wants to grab you with something easily overlooked, “behold, a man.” You don’t learn that this man is young and rich till much later. You only learn that he is a ruler from Luke. You have just seen children brought to Jesus, and now you see a man come.

The other gospels are helpful in creating even more contrast. In Matthew Jesus says, “little children;” how little are they? In Mark He takes them in His arms (Mark 10:16). In Luke it is said that they are “bringing even infants to Him (Luke 18:15).” These children have to be brought to Jesus, they cannot come otherwise, and the kingdom is made of such.

Critically dependent children are brought to Jesus and are blessed. A self-reliant man comes to Jesus and is cursed. If you are truly blessed it is because you were brought.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).”

When Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom note carefully the disciples question. They don’t want to know how a rich man then can be saved. They want to know how anyone can be saved. Jesus says that man cannot act; man must be acted upon. Man must be brought. God, by the Spirit must bring you to His Son, and then in the Son, you are brought to God as Father.