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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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We Need Christians With The Convictions Of The Reformation

Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

From the pen of Charles Spurgeon:

Beware of a religion without holdfasts. But if I get a grip upon a doctrine they call me a bigot. Let them do so. Bigotry is a hateful thing, and yet that which is now abused as bigotry is a great virtue, and greatly needed in these frivolous times. I have been inclined lately to start a new denomination, and call it “the Church of the Bigoted.”

Everybody is getting to be so oily, so plastic, so untrue, that we need a race of hardshells to teach us how to believe. Those old-fashioned people who in former ages believed something and thought the opposite of it to be false, were truer folk, than the present timeservers. . . .

Yes, and as these gentlemen always find it unpleasant to be unpopular, they soften down the hard threatenings of Scripture as to the world to come, and put a color upon every doctrine to which worldly-wise men object.

The teachers of doubt are very doubtful teachers. A man must have something to hold to, or he will neither bless himself nor others. (Sermon: “Laying the Foundations”)

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The Salem Witch Trials And Historical Perspective

What's So Great About ChristianityFrom the pen of Dinesh D’Souza:

“And the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings? Contemporary historians have now established that the horrific images of the Inquisitions are largely a myth concocted first by the political enemies of Spain-mainly English writers who shaped our American understanding of that event-and later by the political enemies of religion. Henry Kamen’s book The Spanish Inquisition is subtitled “A Historical Revision”, and it is a long book, because Kamen has a lot of revising to do. One of his chapters is called “Inventing the Inquisition.” He means that much of the modern stereotype of the Inquisition is essentially made up. How many people were executed for heresy by the Inquisition? Kamen estimates that it was around 2,000. These deaths are all tragic, but we must communist-posterremember that they occurred over a period of 350 years. Religion-inspired killings simply cannot compete with the murders perpetrated by atheist regimes. Taken together, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings killed approximately 200,000 people over a five-hundred year period. We have to recognize that atheist regimes have in a single century murdered more than one hundred million people.” (What’s So Great About Christianity)

Leaders Of The Protestant Reformation

Research by ChristopherBarnette.com:

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Martin Luther is widely considered the father of the Protestant Reformation and of Protestantism itself. In his studies as a Monk and university professor, Luther began to develop a sense that the Roman Church had abandoned several essential doctrines of the Christian faith; among these was what he considered to be the chief article of Christian Doctrine: Justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide). This doctrine states that justification is entirely a work of God (monergism) and is received by men through faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah alone. This runs contrary to the understanding espoused by the Roman Church that justification is an act of cooperation between God and man (synergism). In addition to the 95 Theses, Luther also translated the Scriptures into the vernacular (that is, from Latin to German), authored several instructional materials and catechisms, and founded what is now known as the Lutheran Church.

Huldrych Zwingli

Huldrych Zwingli

Huldrych Zwingli was a contemporary of Martin Luther and the leader of the Swiss Reformation. Although much less recognized, Zwingli was developing many of the same conclusions concurrently with Luther. In fact, he rejected the Roman Catholic priesthood only a few short years after Luther. Although very similar in much of their doctrine, Zwingli and Luther differed greatly on the issue of the Eucharist. While Luther strongly affirmed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Zwingli taught a strictly memorial understanding of the sacrament. Zwingli was killed in a battle against the Roman Cantons at Kappel am Albis in October of 1851.

John Calvin

John Calvin

John Calvin is the much celebrated and almost equally maligned father of Calvinism and much of what we now call Reformed Christian theology. While Calvin is singled out for his teachings on election and predestination, he was hardly an innovator in the area as many of the earlier reformers held similar views. The overarching theme of Calvin’s teaching was an emphasis on the sovereignty of God, or that God is absolutely sovereign in all things. His book Institutes of the Christian Religion and voluminous commentaries on the books of the Bible are still widely used as instructional tools today. In addition to his enormous doctrinal contributions, Calvin also founded the Academy of Geneva (now the University of Geneva) and the Collège Calvin, opened a hospital for the indigent, and laid the foundation for many Reformed and Presbyterian Churches.

John Knox

John Knox

John Knox was the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and a student and contemporary of John Calvin. Prior to his instruction in Geneva, he was an influential reformer in the Church of England, serving under King Edward VI and introducing reformed modifications to the newly released Book of Common Prayer. During one of his frequent exiles he settled in Geneva where he was instructed in the particulars of Calvin’s Reformed theology and Presbyterian church government. Upon returning to Scotland, he was influential in the Scottish Reformation and in creating the Kirk (now Church of Scotland), instituted after Scotland’s break with Rome in 1560. Knox’s Kirk was responsible for several social reforms in Scotland and he is recognized as the father of the Presbyterian Church.

Reformation Day Emphasizes Implementing The Word Of God In Our Lives

5_solasOn October 31, 1517, Martin Luther did not realize how his 95 theses nailed to the church door in Wittenburg would be used by God to change the world. His desire was to see the Catholic Church reform in terms of God’s Word. It didn’t and so, the Reformation was born.

We continue to desire our lives and God’s church to be reformed by God’s Word. No area of life can be left untouched. History records that Luther, Calvin and other reformers were not readily greeted with open arms in appreciation for their work. In fact, they faced much opposition. Many were martyred for holding to reformation principles.

The tenets of the Reformation – such as the sufficiency of scripture for all of life, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone – are found in the Old Testament as well as the New. One sola of the Reformation, “sola scripture”, includes the emphasis on the entire Bible being implemented in our living out our lives.

Reformation Day Reminds Us That Salvation Is By Faith Alone Through Grace Alone

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

In the words of Shane Vander Hart:

If you are not familiar with Reformation Day it celebrates the day that the Reformation began in Europe with Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the Wittenburg church door in protest to the selling of indulgences.

Martin Luther as a monk struggled to find peace with God. As a monk he would dedicate himself to fasting, flagellation, long hours in prayer, pilgrimage and constant confession. Even with all of that he still didn’t feel at peace with God. He was ordered to pursue an academic career and in doing so studied Scripture in depth.

It was actually in his tower experience when he rediscovered and believed the Biblical gospel. He described that light broke upon him when reading Romans 1:17.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith,” (ESV).

It is in the Gospel, (Romans 1:16), that righteousness is revealed. Luther had been struggling to be righteous based on his own merit, but he continually failed. It dawned on him that this righteousness God freely gives to those who believe in the Gospel. The sinner is declared righteous by God through faith, not works. It is accomplished by the work of Christ’s death upon the cross, not by our work or us keeping the Law. The Apostle Paul describes to the Church at Corinth:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).

The word righteousness once made Luther feel nothing but dread, but after realizing this central truth of Scripture his perspective changed, he said:

“I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word ‘righteousness of God.’ Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.”

We can celebrate on Reformation Day the same truth that Luther rediscovered then: that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone.

Continue reading. . . .

Tomorrow Is Reformation Day 2009

martin-luther1Saturday, Oct. 31, marks the anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the chapel at Wittenburg, igniting what would come to be known as the Reformation. The JollyBlogger writes:

[T]he Reformation marked the recovery of the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. It marked the recovery of the gospel. While it is true that these things are taught in the Scriptures and that no reformer or other human being should be given credit for the doctrines themselves, it is also true that these precious truths had been all but lost before the time of the Reformation. In His providence, God chose certain men at a certain time in history to recover the very gospel itself. It is this gospel by which we are saved. And we who confess the evangelical faith in our day are remiss in forgetting this important aspect of our history. . . .

The thing I love the most about the reformed tradition is that Christ is preeminent in that the focus is always on what He has done for me. The fact of the matter is that Romans 7 is the story of my life and while I lived with a focus on what I must do for Christ I slowly lost the joy of my salvation because such a focus can’t respond effectively to the Romans 7 struggle. It can only tell you to try harder.

The reformed tradition reminded me that no amount of self-striving on my part could enable me to win the battle against indwelling sin. Salvation and sanctification are by grace, through faith, because of Christ from first to last. . . .

This is what I think is the beauty of the reformed tradition. It reminds us that the focus is always on Christ, we always proclaim what Christ has done for man, not what man must do for Christ. And we understand that this simple proclamation is sufficient to make all the difference in the world.

Read more. . . .

Resolving Disagreements And Conflict Within The Church Congregation

Church-split-5One of the sad realities of church life is that disagreements and conflict seem to be present among Christians just as much as non-Christians. The unity and peace of the Church may be destroyed over the color of choir robes and other “indifferent” matters. Jesus prayed to the Father: 22 “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17) Churches today are still striving to obtain the unity of oneness that Jesus spoke of. We have this high calling to be a witness to the world in our relationships with other Christians. Why is this so difficult and what do we do about it?

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. . . . God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:14-26)

The body of Christ (the church) is made up of many members. The people found in your local church have different talents and gifts. They also have different personalities and backgrounds. They have similar and different problems that they face each day. Each has a personal point of view through which they evaluate what is taking place within the church; and because they are sinners, continuing in need of growth in grace, they each have their own personalized church agenda. Unfortunately, that agenda may not always be Biblical or pursued in a Scriptural manner.

Nevertheless, the church is blessed by the gifts and talents which God distributes throughout the congregation. This same diversity of gifts and people, however, can also be the source of disagreements about how worship and other areas of ministry should be conducted in the body of Christ. We may all be Christians, but we are still works in progress. The level of Christian maturity and holiness varies from one Christian to another. None of us are without sin. Nor do we make the best decisions consistently. Often, these disagreements destroy the unity and bond of peace within the church.

So, what do we do when we find ourselves or the members of our congregation in conflict?

23” So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:22-24)

All conflict within the church must be approached from the teachings of the Scriptures. This is important because our worship of God is spoiled by disunity and unforgiveness.

For instance, conflict is a source of anger which is the response of a person’s frustration with things not going the way he believes they should. His anger may be justified or not. How he handles his anger determines his level of maturity as a Christian.

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4)

Imagine that we disagree with the way a certain ministry is being done or a decision that our church officers have made. What are we to do? Do we remember the commitments we made when we joined our church?

In our church denomination, new members covenant with God and His Church by affirming questions asked in front of the congregation. One of those questions asks: “Do you submit yourself in the spirit of love to the government and discipline of this church, and seek the peace, purity and prosperity of this congregation so long as you are a member of it?”

When we disagree over an issue in the church, we must not forget our vows.

We should also ask ourselves, “Is this disagreement over an ethical/moral issue? Does it concern the truth of the Scriptures?” If it is either, it certainly raises the level of seriousness with which the issue should be approached.

If, however, the issue centers on one way of doing something versus another way of doing it, I would recommend that we tread softly (This is my primary concern in this article. I believe that most disputes within the church are based on personal preferences.). This is when we should ask ourselves, “Why do we join a church?” A person should not become a member of a church for its great music program or because its youth ministry takes the kids on great field trips. We should choose to become a member of a church because of its faithfulness to the Word of God. Otherwise, we have made music or the youth ministry our god (idol).

16 Never be wise in your own sight. . . . 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12)

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3)

5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5)

Have we considered that we might be wrong? Have we considered that we have made this issue more important in our lives and thinking than it is to God? Heaven forbid, but it is easy to make such a dispute more important than God and His Word.

Through the church, God builds a Christian community. God desires for us to continue in that community and avoid “church hopping.” A legitimate reason to leave a church (for example) is that the Word of God is not being taught or immorality is openly practiced and the leadership of the church fails to enforce church discipline. The process of settling differences of opinion may be difficult, but when it comes to “indifferent” preferences – we must allow the Holy Spirit to bring us to reconciliation; not winning an argument or getting our way. Through this community, God is using other Christians to shape us for His purposes. A brother in Christ may rub us the wrong way, but God has placed him in our church life for a purpose. We should pray to understand what God is teaching us through His providential care.

17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27)

How do we solve disputes with our fellow Christians? Jesus provides us with an appropriate response (even if sin is not involved):

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18)

What if our disagreement is with a ministry or administrative policy of the church? In this case we should go first to the person who is the immediate supervisor over the area about which we are concerned. This should be done with humility. If this does not resolve the issue, go to your pastor and ask for counsel as to whether you should ask to be on the agenda at the next church officers’ meeting. Ask yourself if you are willing to submit to your church officers’ decision no matter what the outcome. Follow the appropriate steps and remember not to gossip in the meantime.

5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3)

9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3)

Gossip is one of Satan’s most effective tools – particularly when there is disagreement over an issue in the church. Why are Christians, of all people, so willing to believe the worst about a person or issue before they have all the facts? When another person disagrees with our personal agenda, do we automatically assume they have a character flaw and wrong motive? The fact is that we all, Christians and non-Christians, continue to have character flaws throughout our lives. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Yet, we ignore our own character flaws because we are self-centered and we try to hide behind the flaws we so quickly point out in others in order to keep our own selfish motives from being revealed.

Without the facts, some people in the church will sadly spread and believe the most vicious rumors without checking directly the facts for themselves. Instead of going to the persons directly involved and getting the whole story, there is too much of a tendency to accept second hand information as the absolute truth and then go about sharing it as a “prayer request” with others. How many church officers have been confronted by a disgruntled member of the congregation accusing someone or some practice in a particular church ministry as being scandalous? Then, when the facts are checked, the complaint is found to be false because the accuser did not know all the circumstances and facts. The disgruntled member failed to go directly to the person responsible and check the facts.

What do we do when we find out that we have repeated false accusations or rumors to others? Do we go to each person we spoke to afterwards and ask them to forgive us for spreading lies? Do we go to the person who was the subject of our illegitimate rants? We should. We should fall down on our knees and ask God to forgive us for slandering our fellow Christians.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1)

Have we prayed for God to change the person or persons’ minds we are in disagreement with or to please change us? Are we allowing the circumstances to help us grow in our Christian maturity and faith? Have we prayed for reconciliation, unity, and peace in this matter? Have we prayed for God’s Will to be done? Are we willing to accept God’s Will?

9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6)

Do we personalize our disagreement into a dislike of the person or persons involved? Mature Christians separate their feelings towards the person from their feelings about a disagreement. We must be willing to believe that a person has honorable reasons for disagreeing with us.

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5)

If we are experiencing conflict within our church, we must examine ourselves and our motives. We must humbly accept the possibility that we could be wrong or the issue is really an “indifferent” (unrelated to ethics, morals, or Scriptures) matter that may not be as important as we think it is. There may also be many other ways than our’s for dealing with the area of concern.

Problems in the church can be resolved when we allow ourselves to be guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We may also begin to see that what we think of as a problem is not really a problem at all. If we are truly submitted to the authority of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we may see that the problem is really us. We have been declared justified by God and yet we all continue to sin. Let us not forget to remove the plank from our own eyes before we begin surgery on someone else with a sharp tongue.

.1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17)

Just as Christ prayed, we should always pray for our church, its officers, and the congregation. We must pray for the peace, purity, unity and prosperity of our church consistently. We must remember to ask God to conform us to His purpose in order that we may be useful members of the body of Christ. God is faithful.

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4)

If we follow the Biblical principles above, will we still experience conflicts and disagreement within our church? I am certain that we will. However, if these Scriptural teachings are taught and consistently applied in our churches we should experience these problems less. Christians are not a perfect people. On the other hand, should problems arise; mature Christians will quickly resolve them by applying these Biblical teachings.

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