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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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  • Recommended Reading

The Inside Problem And The Outside God

Quoting Michael S. Horton:

The problem, of course, is that we have an outside God and an outside redemption. Everything inside of us is the problem. The good news, however, is that the God who is completely other than we are became one of us, yet without succumbing to our selfish pride. He fulfilled the law, bore its judgment, and rose again as our solution to the curse of sin, death, and condemnation. Furthermore, he sent his Spirit to indwell us, making us new from the inside out, until one day our very bodies are raised. In one sense, of course, the Enlightenment was right: the law is in us by nature, since we are created in God’s image. The gospel is surprising, good news that has to come to us from the outside.

Guarding Your Heart

The heart is key to holiness concerning the eyes, the mouth, and the feet, and disciplining our minds and bodies. Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37). David says, ‘Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee’ (Psa. 119:11). Al Baker offers us his insights into this area of our lives:

Watch over your own heart with diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

I have known men who began well, who began their careers and families with a steadfast commitment to honor God, to be faithful to their wives and children, and to keep a lid on their fleshly desires. Sadly, many of those men, as their careers wind down and they move into their retirement years are divorced, estranged from their children, and giving little evidence of the commitment to Christ they so long ago professed. I have often wondered, if asked to preach their funerals, what I would say. Would I tell their loved ones and friends, ‘Yes, I know he was a Christian and I can give you biblical assurance that he is now with Jesus.’ Would I be able to say that?

What went wrong? How did this happen? And what can I say to instruct you so that the same does not happen to you, so that you finish your race well without bringing shame to Christ, your family, or yourself? Solomon is instructing his son on how to live in the midst of a plethora of temptations, not the least of which are lurid women and bad friends. Within this context he tells his son what he must do, how he must do it, and what results from it. Note first of all his instruction. ‘My son, watch over your own heart.’ By heart he means the very citadel of his soul, the gateway to the rest of his body. A citadel is a military fortress which serves to protect an army and the people they serve. . . .

To watch over one’s heart is to pursue a personal inquisition of the heart. David asked God to search him, to know his heart, to try him and know his anxious thoughts, to see if there is any hurtful way in him, and to lead him in the everlasting way (Psa. 139:23-24). And in order to pursue this personal inquisition of the heart you must know yourself well, your sinful proclivities, your patterns of recurring sin, those things that seem constantly to bring you down. A recovering alcoholic knows he cannot be around alcohol or anyone who drinks. He must stay away from them. A man who is tempted to sexual sin while on business trips must ask his friends to pray for him, even to check in with him each night in his hotel room, or if possible and practical to take his wife with him. A man tempted to spend money frivolously learns that he cannot carry a credit card with him, except perhaps his business credit card, that he must pay cash for only what he needs.

And how can you guard your heart, the citadel of your soul? Solomon says we do it with all diligence. I suggest three things, the first of which I have just mentioned. First, you must nightly pursue a personal inquisition of the soul. By this I mean, at the end of the day, as you prepare for bed that night, ask yourself a series of questions like these — ‘how have I sinned in my speech today, how have I sinned in my thoughts, what have I done contrary to God’s law, what are the deep seated idols that manifest themselves in sinful values, words, and deeds? And when the Holy Spirit shows you your sin, be quick to humble yourself, to confess it as sin, to ask Jesus for his grace and holiness, and once again to claim Christ’s mercy and renewal. (“Pursuing a Personal Inquisition of the Heart”)

What Would Your Community Look Like If Satan Took Over?

The article below offers contrasting results of Satan’s war on Christianity. The warning to us here is to beware of the cultural church as much as we would avoid the obvious sin. Michael S. Horton writes:

What would things look like if Satan actually took over a city? The first frames in our imaginative slide show probably depict mayhem on a massive scale: Widespread violence, deviant sexualities, pornography in every vending machine, churches closed down and worshipers dragged off to City Hall. Over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church, gave his CBS radio audience a different picture of what it would look like if Satan took control of a town in America. He said that all of the bars and pool halls would be closed, pornography banished, pristine streets and sidewalks would be occupied by tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The kids would answer “Yes, sir,” “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full on Sunday … where Christ is not preached.

Not to be alarmist, but it looks a lot like Satan is in charge right now. The enemy has a subtle way of using even the proper scenery and props to obscure the main character. The church, mission, cultural transformation, even the Spirit can become the focus instead of the means for “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). As provocative as Barnhouse’s illustration remains, it is simply an elaboration of a point that is made throughout the story of redemption. The story behind all the headlines of the Bible is the war between the serpent and the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15), an enmity that God promised would culminate in the serpent’s destruction and the lifting of the curse. . . .

Satan lost the war on Good Friday and Easter, but has shifted his strategy to a guerilla struggle to keep the world from hearing the gospel that dismantles his kingdom of darkness. . . . Wherever Christ is truly proclaimed, Satan is most actively present. (Sermon: “Christless Christianity”)

Charles H. Spurgeon On Preaching

Charles H. Spurgeon

The supernatural force that brings us to salvation is the power of the Holy Spirit. However, it is wonderful that God should condescend to work this miracle of grace through men. God speaks the illuminating word of salvation by our lips. Charles H. Spurgeon reminds preachers that:

[T]hrough the instrumentality of our ministry [preaching]: our hearers have to be born again, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus, or else our preaching has done nothing for them. Ah, dear friends, we get into deep waters when we come to this great mystery does any unregenerate man know the meaning of being born again? Ask the learned doctors whether they know anything about it, and they will try to conceal their ignorance beneath a sneer. . . . Why do they sneer as if they were our superiors? The regenerate in this matter are necessarily their superiors. A person who has only one eye is a king among blind men; let not the blind affect to despise him. If any of us have personally experienced the new birth, even though we may be ignorant of many other things, we are in this point better instructed than those who have never felt the divine change. But, just in proportion as you know what it is to be born again, you will feel that herein is a task indeed. How sublime a position for you to become, under God, the spiritual parents of men! You could not create a fly; much less could you create a new heart and a right spirit. To fashion a world has less difficulty in it than to create a new life in an ungodly man; for in the creation of the world there was nothing in the way of God, but in the creation of the new heart there is the old nature opposing the Spirit. The negative has to be removed as well as the positive produced. Stand and look that matter over, and see if you are at all able in and of yourself to work the conversion or regeneration of a single child in your Sunday-school! My brethren, we are at the end of ourselves here. If we aim at the new birth of our hearers, we must fall prostrate before the Lord in conscious impotence, and we must not go again to our pulpits till we have heard our Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (“The Responsibility Of The Preacher”)

Christopher Love

Christopher Love

Christopher Love was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1618. At the age of fourteen, he went to hear William Erbury, vicar of St. Mary’s in Cardiff, who would later stray into mysticism. His wife later wrote how Love reacted to that sermon: “God met with him and gave him such a sight of his sins and his undone condition that he returned home with a hell in his conscience.” His father noticed his son’s depression and locked him in a room on the second floor of the house to prevent him from attending church the next Sabbath. Love tied a cord to the window, slid down it, and went to church. His earlier convictions deepened and he was soon converted. (Excerpt from Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson)

There Is A Need For Guilt

Only those who are humble in heart will enter the Kingdom of God. Modern philosophy and psychology tell us that we must believe we are “OK” and that others are “OK” also. Thus, modern man would avoid being confronted by the consequences of his sins. The truth, however, is that I am not “OK”. I am a sinner in need of God’s help and I will never enter His Kingdom without the intervention of God. J. C. Ryle elaborates on this thought:

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)

A sense of sin, guilt, and poverty of soul, is the first stone laid by the Holy Ghost, when He builds a spiritual temple. He convinces of sin. Light was the first thing called into being in the material creation. (Gen. i. 3.) Light about our own state is the first work in the new creation. Thirsting soul, I say again, you are the person that ought to thank God. The kingdom of God is near you. It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step towards heaven. Who taught thee that thou was naked? Whence came this inward light? Who opened thine eyes and made thee see and feel? Know this day that flesh and blood hath not revealed these things unto thee, but our Father which is in heaven. Universities may confer degrees, and schools may impart knowledge of all the sciences, but they cannot make men feel sin. To realize our spiritual need, and feel true spiritual thirst, is the A B C in saving Christianity. It is a great saying of Elihu, in the book of Job, – “God looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited not; He will deliver his soul from death, and his life shall see the light.” (Job xxxiii. 27, 28.) Let him that knows any thing of spiritual “thirst” not be ashamed. Rather let him lift up his head and begin to hope. Let him pray that God would carry on the work He has begun, and make him feel more. (Sermon: “If Any Man!”)

Franklin On Preparation

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