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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Church Is To Emphasized Teaching Not Activities

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

No doubt, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981) is one of my heroes of the Christian faith. He was brought up in Welsh Calvinistic Methodism. His career was medicine. He went from school to Barts, one of the great London teaching hospitals, and was brilliantly successful. After he began studying the Bible, his mind was gripped by the Christian gospel, its compelling power and its balanced logic. He had no dramatic crisis of conversion, but there came a point when he had committed himself entirely to Christ. As he practiced medicine, he realized that what many of his patients needed was no ordinary medicine, but the gospel he had discovered for himself. Increasingly he felt that the best way to use his life and talents was to preach that gospel.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones was not another young minister fresh out of a liberal theological college, altering his message to the contemporary opinion of his congregation. He was determined to preach the message with the crystal clarity in which it had come to him. That was too much for some of the congregation and they left. But in their place – slowly at first- there came increasing numbers who were gripped by the truth. There were no dramatic appeals, just a young man with the clear message of God’s justice and his love, which brought one hard case after another to repentance and conversion.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ church in Aberavon grew with a steady stream of conversions. Notorious drunkards became glorious Christians while men and women came to the Bible classes which he and his wife conducted to learn the doctrines of their new-found faith.

In his approach to the work of the pulpit, Dr. Lloyd-Jones believed in working steadily through a book of the Bible. He took a verse or part of a verse at a time, showing what it taught; how that fitted into teaching on the subject elsewhere in the Bible; how the whole teaching was relevant to the problems of our own day; and how the Christian position contrasted with currently fashionable views. People would walk out, determined never to come again; but despite themselves, they would be back in the pew the next Sunday until, no longer able to resist the message, they became Christians.

Below, Dr. Lloyd-Jones addresses a problem in the church that continues to this day: What is the primary purpose of the church?

In Acts 2, what did the Christians come together for? Here were these people, who had come out of the world to join the group of people called disciples, and they formed the first church, but what is the Christian church for? What does she do? What does she provide? Do Christian people come together for socials, dances, raffles, dramatic performances, lectures on politics, literature, and sociology? There was nothing like that in the early church. It is not my objective to denounce these things. But I do want to show how far removed they are from the Christian church. You can get all that in the world, and you can get it very much better there. The Christian church makes a fool of herself when she attempts these things–she does them so badly. If you want activities like that, then go and get them organized professionally. But that is not the Christian church. It is a travesty.

I do not want to defend Christendom or advocate any particular section of the church or any particular local church. I want to hold before you the pictures of the New Testament church. That is the only church I recognize. Those people did not come to the church to do things like that. And when true revival takes place, those are the first things to go; people lose interest in them. A church that can only exist by resorting to things like that is utterly different from the New Testament church.

“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [teaching] and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”–purely spiritual activities. And that is the pattern for the church at all times.

So let us look at this. First, doctrine. The apostles’ teaching is put first in this list–that is why we must start with it, and it is very important that we should, because today there is real opposition to what we read here. The first thing these Christians desired was further teaching from the apostles. They coveted this with the whole of their being. Before we go any farther, let us ask ourselves a simple question: Do we desire “the apostles’ doctrine”? God grant that we may.

This longing for “the apostles’ doctrine” tells us something tremendously important. It is that Christianity is not only an experience. Now I have been emphasizing that it is an experience and not merely an intellectual point of view. When men and women become Christians, they undergo the most profound change they can ever know; it is indeed a profound experience. But it is not only that, and I must emphasize this because there are other agencies in the world that can give people experiences.

How do you tell the difference between becoming a Christian and some other experience, an emotional experience or a change as the result of psychotherapy or something like that? The teaching put out by the cults can produce a change. Adherents of a cult talk about their lives being transformed. How, then, do you tell the difference between an experience that is Christian and one that is not? There is only one answer, and that is the cause of the experience. Christians experience change as the result of believing the truth about Jesus Christ. Two people may say, “I’m very happy.” They may both say, “I used to do such and such, but not any longer. I’ve been delivered from it all.” But it does not follow that they are both Christians. How, then, do we know who is? The only test, I repeat, is the source of the experience.

As we have seen, the people in Acts came together because they had had the same experience. But the thing that strikes us at once about them is that they had had the same experience because they had believed the same teaching, the same message.

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” There would never have been an early church but for a particular teaching. So we are bound to emphasize that the teaching must come first because it was that which led to the conversions, the change. It was Peter’s preaching, his teaching, and his doctrine that brought these people together. They “gladly received his word” and were baptized. And we are told in verse 44, “And all that believed were together.” What did they believe? The same teaching. (Authentic Christianity)

Why China Will Be Getting Iraq’s Oil And Not The US

The following was written by Frederick W. Kagan for The Daily Standard. It is his account of his participation in a hearing before the House Budget Committee on the situation in Iraq:

One question came up repeatedly in the hearing that deserves more of an answer than it got, however: Why, after all the assistance we’ve given to Iraq over the past five years, was the first major Iraqi oil deal signed with China and not with an American or even a western company? The answer is, in part, because three Democratic senators intervened in Iraqi domestic politics earlier this year to prevent Iraq from signing short-term agreements with Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Chevron, and BP.

The Iraqi government was poised to sign no-bid contracts with those firms this summer to help make immediate and needed improvements in Iraq’s oil infrastructure. The result would have been significant foreign investment in Iraq, an expansion of Iraqi government revenues, and an increase in the global supply
of oil. One would have thought that leading Democratic senators who claim to be interested in finding other sources of funding to replace American dollars in Iraq, in helping Iraq spend its own money on its own people, and in lowering the price of gasoline for American citizens, would have been all for it. Instead, Senators Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and Claire McCaskill wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rice asking her “to persuade the GOI [Government of Iraq] to refrain from signing contracts with multinational oil companies until a hydrocarbon law is in effect in Iraq.” The Bush administration wisely refused to do so, but the resulting media hooraw in Iraq led to the cancellation of the contracts, and helps to explain why Iraq is doing oil deals instead with China.

Evidently, a pro-environmentalist hydrocarbon law in Iraq is more important to some politicians than the price Americans are paying for gasoline.

Governor Sarah Palin Says Ahmadinejad Must Be Stopped

Governor Sarah Palin’s remarks about President Ahmadinejad of Iran were published in The New York Sun yesterday. Her speech at a protest rally was canceled by rally organizers who decided, after inviting her, that it should be a nonpolitical event. Some of Governor Palin’s comments are below:

Tomorrow, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come to New York – to the heart of what he calls the Great Satan – and speak freely in this, a country whose demise he has called for.

Ahmadinejad may choose his words carefully, but underneath all of the rhetoric is an agenda that threatens all who seek a safer and freer world. . . .

The world must awake to the threat this man poses to all of us. Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust ever took place. He dreams of being an agent in a “Final Solution” – the elimination of the Jewish people. He has called Israel a “stinking corpse” that is “on its way to annihilation.” Such talk cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a madman. . . .

The Iranian government wants nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is running at least 3,800 centrifuges and that its uranium enrichment capacity is rapidly improving. According to news reports, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Iranians may have enough nuclear material to produce a bomb within a year.

The world has condemned these activities. The United Nations Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its illegal nuclear enrichment activities. It has levied three rounds of sanctions. How has Ahmadinejad responded? With the declaration that the “Iranian nation would not retreat one iota” from its nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad

So, what should we do about this growing threat? First, we must succeed in Iraq. If we fail there, it will jeopardize the democracy the Iraqis have worked so hard to build, and empower the extremists in neighboring Iran. Iran has armed and trained terrorists who have killed our soldiers in Iraq, and it is Iran that would benefit from an American defeat in Iraq.

If we retreat without leaving a stable Iraq, Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be bolstered. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons – they could share them tomorrow with the terrorists they finance, arm, and train today. Iranian nuclear weapons would set off a dangerous regional nuclear arms race that would make all of us less safe.

But Iran is not only a regional threat; it threatens the entire world. It is the no. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. It sponsors the world’s most vicious terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. . .

Iran is responsible for attacks not only on Israelis, but on Jews living as far away as Argentina. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are part of Iran’s official ideology and murder is part of its official policy. Not even Iranian citizens are safe from their government’s threat to those who want to live, work, and worship in peace. Politically-motivated abductions, torture, death by stoning, flogging, and amputations are just some of its state-sanctioned punishments.

It is said that the measure of a country is the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. By that standard, the Iranian government is both oppressive and barbaric. Under Ahmadinejad’s rule, Iranian women are some of the most vulnerable citizens.

If an Iranian woman shows too much hair in public, she risks being beaten or killed.

If she walks down a public street in clothing that violates the state dress code, she could be arrested.

But in the face of this harsh regime, the Iranian women have shown courage. Despite threats to their lives and their families, Iranian women have sought better treatment through the “One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws.” The authorities have reacted with predictable barbarism. Last year, women’s rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 20 lashes and 10 months in prison for committing the crime of “propaganda against the system.” After international protests, the judiciary reduced her sentence to “only” 10 lashes and 36 months in prison and then temporarily suspended her sentence. She still faces the threat of imprisonment. . . .

Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad will come to New York. On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech – a right he denies his own people. He will share his hateful agenda with the world. Our task is to focus the world on what can be done to stop him. . . .

Together, we can stop Iran’s nuclear program.

When A False Message Seems Good

William Gurnall addresses the problem of false preachers and teachers in the church. His comments truly reflect the hearts of men as we face in our own time the multitude of “prosperity preachers,” “seeker sensitive” worship services, those who demand that preaching be currently relevant to them – even though it already is, and teachers of positive attitudes with repackaged motivational talks that include a verse or two of Scripture. Gurnall writes:

Christ is not ashamed to call the poorest saints “brethren,” but He despises to have His name seen upon a rotten-hearted hypocrite (Hebrews 2:11). Of all sinners the hypocrite does the most harm in this world and therefore will have the most torment in the other world. And yet it is religion which has constantly proved to be the most effective bait of hypocrites, as they seek to snare others into their error and sin while posing as children of God.

Ehud, for example, could not have chosen a better key to open the doors into King Eglon’s presence than to say he had brought a message from God. This caused such expectation and confidence that Eglon welcomed him. When the two were alone, the king rose to hear the Word of the Lord from the deceiver–but what he received was a brutal death (Judges 3:14-30).

I confess the hypocrite may act his part so well that he may accidentally do some good. His glistening profession, heavenly speech, and eloquent preaching might bring to the sincere a message of real comfort. Like an actor at center stage who stirs up passion in the audience by counterfeit tears, the hypocrite, playing his religious role, may temporally spark the believer’s true graces. But that is when the Christian may be in the most serious danger, for he will not readily suspect the person who once helped him spiritually.

It would have been far better had Sisea the Canaanite done without Jael’s butter and milk than to be nailed to the tent floor, having been fooled by that woman’s seeming hospitality. Thus it is to our advantage not to sample free gifts and give-away graces of stage play saints, applauding and drinking ourselves drunk with their admiration. Sometimes a calculated distance from the hypocrite is the safest way to avoid having our heads nailed by errors. (The Christian in Complete Armour, 1665)

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