Posts tagged ‘sinner’

March 20, 2015

Daily Devotionals: (March 20th) The Compassion of Patrick

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Romans 12:15

Nowhere in the New Testament does the Apostle Paul lift his voice against the institution of slavery. Paul knew that such a pervasive and embedded sin in society could be conquered only by purely spiritual means and so he sent Onesimus back to the service of his master—with letters that would demolish the spirit of slavery in the Colossian church.

The early church fathers followed the same principle as Paul—“that [the slave] might obtain from God a better liberty.” Ignatius, who writes to Polycarp, “Despise not slaves,” at the same time writes, “Let them [the slaves] submit themselves the more for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 7:20–22). The early church fathers writing in the  Didache, however, speak of individual Christians purchasing slaves to save souls, and the Apostolic Constitutions, written around the time of Patrick’s birth (ad 380), speaks of the slaves resting on the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day (Saturday and Sunday).

For all of the ways the church tried to ameliorate the slave’s sad lot in life, Patrick of Ireland was the first to raise an unequivocal voice against the cruel industry in his letter to Coroticus. It was a letter wet with tears, not only for the physical loss of those killed in the raids and the danger faced by those who survived, but for the spiritual danger of the Christians taken into “distant lands, where sin is rife, openly, grievously and shamelessly; and there freeborn men have been sold, Christians reduced to slavery” (Letter, sec. 15).

He says, “I do not know what more to say or speak concerning those of the sons of God who have departed, whom the sword struck all too hard.  For it is written: ‘Weep with those that weep’; (Romans 12.15) … Therefore the church mourns and weeps for its sons and daughters” (Letter, sec. 15).

Does the church still mourn and weep for its sons and daughters, for those who have fallen on hard times, fallen into sin, or suffered lost? How often do I mourn and weep for the saints, or am I more prone to murmur than mourn?

“Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.”—Francis Schaeffer

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

March 12, 2015

Daily Devotionals: (March 12th): “I do not trust myself”

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  Romans 8:13 

If there was one thing that Patrick feared in this life more than anything else it was his own sinful flesh when faced with temptation. He says, “I do not trust myself for as long as I am in this mortal body” (Confession, sec. 44). This fear of sin was not weakness of character; it was strength. It was no lack of faith, but a strong faith. Patrick had a healthy respect for sin in his own flesh. He knew that even as a child of God there was the presence of remaining corruption. He had felt the pain of sin and experienced the lingering consequences of sin from his youth, and he “dread[ed] with great fear and trembling” its judgments (Confession, sec. 8).

Patrick’s doctrine of total depravity was not just part of his creed but a felt reality. To him depravity was a fearful thing. He knew that “the hostile flesh is always dragging me down to death” (Confession, sec. 44), and he said with regard to avoiding bribery and flattery, “I did so for the hope of eternity, to safeguard myself carefully in everything so that they would not catch me out or the ministry of my service under some pretext of my dishonesty and so that I would not give unbelievers the slightest opportunity for denigration or disparagement” (Confession, sec. 49).

Lord, give me a healthy fear of sin and distrust in self. Help me to “safeguard myself carefully in everything,” so that sin will not catch me out or overtake me. Help me to fear sin and not flirt with it so that I can say with the ancient saint, “I give untiring thanks to my God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation” (Confession, sec. 34).

“Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: ‘God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.’ When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.”—John Owen

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

March 11, 2015

Daily Devotionals: (March 11th): “Before I was humbled”

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Throughout his Confession Patrick gives a number of insights into the nature of salvation. He told the starving sailors that conversion is an exercise of “faith with all your heart to my Lord God.” He referred to his own experience of conversion as an “opening of my mind to an awareness of my unbelief.” And he speaks of his life before conversion as that time “before I was humbled” (Confession, sec. 12).

It is this being humbled that seems to have stuck with Patrick throughout his life and work. Salvation humbled him and kept him humble. He says that before he knew the Lord he was “like a stone lying in deep mud” (Confession, sec. 12). When the Lord humbles us He does not bring us down into the mire. He makes us aware that without Him we are already there and without Him we would slip back into the mire.

It was this God-given self-awareness that caused Patrick to see his own sinfulness and unbelief and to call out to God. He continually refers to his own worthlessness, inadequacy, and failures, and it was this awareness that kept him looking to God for his strength and for the confidence that he could not find in himself. A self-awareness of sin, a sense of inadequacy ought not to defeat us; it ought to make us strong as it did Patrick, by causing us looking to Christ.

Let me look to Christ and find salvation, and in that salvation let me find humility to be strong and bold in Christ, so that out of my weakness I will be made strong. This was the faith of Patrick. The Lord lifted him up, and, as he testified, “placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure” (Confession, sec. 12). 

When the corn is nearly ripe it bows the head and stoops lower than when it was green. When the people of God are near ripe for heaven, they grow more humble and self-denying…. Paul had one foot in heaven when he called himself the chiefest of sinners and least of saints.”John Flavel

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

March 6, 2015

Daily Devotionals: (March 6th): Patrick’s Signature: “I Patrick, a Sinner”

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke 18:13

The generally accepted date for Patrick’s captivity in Ireland is around A.D. 406. He was sixteen years of age, in his own words, “almost a boy without a beard” (Confession, sec. 10). About this time a pivotal debate was raging in the Christian church. Pelagius, a British monk, denied the doctrine of original sin. He taught that a man has the ability to live a holy life with the direction of the law and the example of Christ. Between 412 and 415 Augustine of Hippo, in North Africa, wrote against Pelagius’ teaching, showing from Scripture that man is a sinner by nature and not just in certain actions. He taught that man has no ability to please God in himself and that he is dependent alone on divine grace for his salvation.

The Pelagian controversy raged on in Britain between 420 and 450, and it is very probable that these are the years of Patrick’s ministry in Ireland. Patrick wrote his Confession with the knowledge of this controversy and evidently was Augustinian in his view of sin.

“I Patrick, a sinner” are the first words of Patrick’s Letter and his Confession. We might say then that it is Patrick’s signature. It is evident that this thought of personal and native sinfulness followed Patrick through his life. But Patrick did not get stuck on man’s sinfulness—what some have called the “dark side of Christianity”; he looked to the “bright side” to God’s gracious salvation freely offered in Christ. Patrick says, “The Lord opened up my awareness to my unbelief.” He came to a spiritual understanding of himself and, like the sinner in Luke 18:13, cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Do you know, like Patrick, that you are a sinner? Have you a sense of the mercy of God in Christ? Then, like Patrick, trust in the only sufficient Saviour. Take the advice that Patrick gave to the sailors on his escape from Ireland: “Turn trustingly and with all your heart to the Lord my God—because nothing is impossible for Him” (Confession, sec. 19).

“Depend on it, my hearer, you never will go to heaven unless you are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God.”C. H. Spurgeon

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

March 17, 2014

Daily Devotionals: (March 17th) The Compassion of Patrick

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Romans 12:15

Nowhere in the New Testament does the Apostle Paul lift his voice against the institution of slavery. Paul knew that such a pervasive and embedded sin in society could be conquered only by purely spiritual means and so he sent Onesimus back to the service of his master—with letters that would demolish the spirit of slavery in the Colossian church.

The early church fathers followed the same principle as Paul—“that [the slave] might obtain from God a better liberty.” Ignatius, who writes to Polycarp, “Despise not slaves,” at the same time writes, “Let them [the slaves] submit themselves the more for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 7:20–22). The early church fathers writing in the  Didache, however, speak of individual Christians purchasing slaves to save souls, and the Apostolic Constitutions, written around the time of Patrick’s birth (ad 380), speaks of the slaves resting on the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day (Saturday and Sunday).

For all of the ways the church tried to ameliorate the slave’s sad lot in life, Patrick of Ireland was the first to raise an unequivocal voice against the cruel industry in his letter to Coroticus. It was a letter wet with tears, not only for the physical loss of those killed in the raids and the danger faced by those who survived, but for the spiritual danger of the Christians taken into “distant lands, where sin is rife, openly, grievously and shamelessly; and there freeborn men have been sold, Christians reduced to slavery” (Letter, sec. 15).

He says, “I do not know what more to say or speak concerning those of the sons of God who have departed, whom the sword struck all too hard.  For it is written: ‘Weep with those that weep’; (Romans 12.15) … Therefore the church mourns and weeps for its sons and daughters” (Letter, sec. 15).

Does the church still mourn and weep for its sons and daughters, for those who have fallen on hard times, fallen into sin, or suffered lost? How often do I mourn and weep for the saints, or am I more prone to murmur than mourn?

“Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.”—Francis Schaeffer

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

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