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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

Spurgeon On Substituting Rubbish For The Word Of God

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

Reckon that every sermon is a wasted sermon which is not Christ’s word. Believe that all theology is rotten rubbish which is not the Word of the Lord. Do not be satisfied with going to a place of worship and hearing an eloquent discourse, unless the sum and substance of it is the Word of the Lord. My brothers and sisters, whether you teach children or their parents, do not think you have done any good unless you have taught the Word of the Lord. For saving purposes we must have the Lord’s Word, and nothing else. (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 33, p. 440)

“Stonewall” Jackson On Bravery

General "Stonewall" Jackson

Quoting General Stonewall Jackson:

“[M]y religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”

Your Only Relief May Be Found In Christ

Caricature of John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 -...

Bishop J. C. Ryle

There is a simple solution to the greatest problem (Where will you spend eternity?) facing humanity. Faith in Christ is the only medicine for man’s spiritual disease, and the only bridge from earth to heaven. J. C. Ryle explains its importance:

“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)

The efficacy of a medicine depends in great measure on the manner in which it is used. The best prescription of the best physician is useless if we refuse to follow the directions which accompany it. Suffer the word of exhortation, while I offer some caution and advice about the Fountain of living water.

He that thirsts and wants relief must come to Christ Himself: He must not be content with coming to His Church and His ordinances, or to the assemblies of His people for prayer and praise. He must not stop short even at His holy table, or rest satisfied with privately opening his heart to His ordained minister. Oh, no! he that is content with only drinking their waters “shall thirst again.” (John iv. 13.) He must go higher, further, much further than this. He must have personal dealings with Christ Himself: all else in religion is worthless without Him. . . . The hand of man may take the stone from the grave and show the dead; but none but Jesus can say to the dead, “Come forth and live.”

He that thirsts and wants relief from Christ must actually come to Him. It is not enough to wish, and talk, and mean, and intend, and resolve, and hope. Hell, that awful reality, is truly said to be paved with good intentions. Thousands are yearly lost in this fashion, and perish miserably just outside the harbour. Meaning and intending they live; meaning and intending they die. . . . [We must] “come to ourselves” and think, but we must actually come to the High Priest, to Christ. We must come to the Physician. (Sermon: “If Any Man!”)

The Doctrine Of The God Who Never Changes

John Calvin

We should fall before the majesty of our great God and acknowledge our faults. Repentance will grow and increase our faith. The Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our redemption. May we be led by Him to persevere in the truth of His Word and doctrine. May we glory in nothing other than the salvation which he has purchased for us. John Calvin carries this thought to the ultimate conclusion as he explains the following verses:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

Because Paul speaks in such bold language in defence of his teaching, this should make it all the more genuine to us. He does not speak with human arrogance or presumption, but in the name of God. Indeed, there is no question here of his boasting about himself; he proves this by saying, ‘if I’. He puts himself first, as if he is saying: ‘Even I myself, if I change my doctrine, or if you find I have swerved in any way, let me be regarded as a devil.’ Here, Paul is showing that he was not seeking to gain a reputation for himself, nor was he fighting for his own cause, so that people would say how intelligent, wise and gifted he was. No; he puts himself on the level of all believers and says: ‘Let us all embrace the whole of our Master’s teaching, which God has entrusted to us, and to which we must submit our conduct. For although I have taught you this doctrine, yet it is not mine, but it is of God, who never changes. If I change, do not be shaken, nor surprised about this, but treat me as a devil, count me accursed. As for yourselves, remain grounded in the truth that you have always known. I would rather you saw me as accursed and abominable, and even the angels from heaven also, than that you forsake the truth about the Son of God and turn away from it.’ We can see from this what Paul desired: that God’s truth should be revered amongst men, as it deserves to be, and that it should be esteemed in such a way, that all our senses, thoughts, desires and affections should be subdued and held captive to it. It is not lawful for any living creature to change anything in the gospel, for God has spoken by the mouth of his only Son. May he be our master indeed, and may each of us obey him without question. This is what Paul desired.

C. H. Spurgeon On Sympathy With God

 

Charles H. Spurgeon

C. H. Spurgeon gives an excellent explanation of why God honors those who are in perfect sympathy with Him. Have you ever wept because people would rather see a drama skit at church than listen to the preacher’s sermon? Have you ever cried out to God because people would rather argue over worship music than hear and discuss the Word of God? Spurgeon writes:

We hear much nowadays of sympathy with man; and in a measure we agree with it. Sympathy with the fallen, the suffering, the lost, is good. But my sympathies are also with the Lord my God. His name is dishonored; his glory is trailed in the mire. It is his dear bleeding Son that is worst used of all. Oh, to think that he should love so well and be refused! That such beauty as his should be unacknowledged, such redemption rejected, such mercy scorned! What are men, after all, compared with God? If they are like myself, it were a pity that they were ever made! As for God, does he not fill all things with goodness as well as with being! To me Calvinism means the placing of the eternal God at the head of all things. I look at everything through its relation to God’s glory. I see God first, and man far down in the list. We think too much of God to please this age; but we are not ashamed. Man has a will, and oh, how they cry it up! One said the other day—and there is some truth in it, too,—“I attribute a kind of omnipotence to the will of man.” But, sirs, has not God a will, too? What do you attribute to that will? Have you nothing to say about its omnipotence? Is God to have no choice, no purpose, no sovereignty over his own gifts? Brethren, if we live in sympathy with God, we delight to hear him say, “I am God, and beside me there is none else.”

I can hardly tell you how high a value I set upon this enthusiasm for God. We must be in harmony with all his designs of love towards men, whilst in secret we receive his message. To become apparently warm in the pulpit is not of much account unless we are much more intense when alone with God. . . . Sermons are never baked by the fire and flash at the month; they must be prepared through the heating of the inmost soul. That precious Word, that divine shewbread, must be baked in the centre of our nature by the heat that is put there by the indwelling Spirit. (“The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining it”)

Is It Possible To Hear God’s Voice?

Many people, no matter their religious background, say they want to hear from God when they have difficult decisions to make. Whether they use god as a “rabbit’s foot” or “wishing well” they sometimes want to manipulate circumstances through their “buddy,” god. This is why they find the God of Christianity so unacceptable. The Christian God is omnipotent and will not be manipulated. There are “cultural” Christians, however, who call on God without really knowing Him. They have never truly tried to understand God by reading what He says about Himself in the Bible.

What do you think the voice of God would sound like if He were speaking to you today? I have never heard the audible voice of God, so I do sometimes wonder if God is leading me in this or that direction or if I’m missing His guidance altogether.

The Bible gives us many examples of the ways in which God has spoken to His people. God has spoken through a donkey. God spoke through His prophets. His angels have spoken to various persons for Him. He has spoken through His Holy Spirit. He speaks to all of us through His Word. Is God speaking to you?

There is no three step formula to hearing from God. We must, however, diligently read the Scriptures and pray. God’s written word is our most certain teacher.

If God were speaking to you today, would you be ready to obey His call? What would be your response? Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Is this relationship your greatest treasure? If so, God will give you the guidance you need. Be patient.

Know this above all, however: Jesus Christ was born into this world and lived a perfect life in order to die and pay the price for our sins. He has risen from the dead in order that He may be the first born of many who will share eternal life in the kingdom of God. This relationship is the “pearl of great price.”

Yet, there are still many who have heard God’s word, but are not ready or willing to fully obey. They, somehow, believe that life won’t be as much fun if they do what God asks. The source of this lie is Satan who hates and fears your obedience to God. To refuse to obey God is to obey Satan and fall into sin. Many have been deceived by following the voice of Satan instead of discerning the word and voice of God.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

God’s Guiding Of Providence

Octavius Winslow

Quoting Octavius Winslow:

We live in a world of mysteries. They meet our eye, awaken our inquiry, and baffle our investigation at every step.

Nature is a vast arcade of mysteries. Science is a mystery. Truth is a mystery. Religion is a mystery. Our existence is a mystery. The future of our being is a mystery.

And God, who alone can explain all mysteries, is the greatest mystery of all. How little do we understand of the inexplicable wonders of a wonder working God, “whose thoughts are a great deep,” and “whose ways are past finding out.”

But to God nothing is mysterious.

In His purpose, nothing is unfixed. In His forethought, nothing is unknown. In His providence, nothing is contingent. His glance pierces the future as vividly as it beholds the past. “He knows the end from the beginning.” All His doings are parts of a divine, eternal, and harmonious plan.

He may make ”darkness his secret place; His pavilion round about him dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies,” and to human vision His dispensations may appear gloomy, discrepant, and confused. Yet He is “working all things after the counsel of His own will,” and all is transparent and harmonious to His eye! (Octavius Winslow’s, “My Times in God’s Hand”)

The Insanity Of Hiding From God

God is sovereign. It is extremely important to get this right. God is the sovereign ruler of the universe who created all matter! We can deny that He is present and can try to hide from Him like Jonah, but the consequences of these actions are very grave.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-21, ESV)

Existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, writes in his essays titled The Words that “I had been playing with matches and burned a small rug. I was in the process of covering up my crime when suddenly God saw me. I felt his gaze inside my head and on my hands. I whirled about in the bathroom, horribly visible, a live target. Indignation saved me. I flew into a rage against so crude an indiscretion, I blasphemed, I muttered like my grandfather: ‘God damn it, God damn it, God damn it.’ He never looked at me again.” (p. 64)

All human beings know that God exists. We cannot hide from Him. He sees our every indiscretion. In spite of Sartre’s claim, he never escaped the watchful eyes of God. Sartre became an atheist precisely because he understood that God does exist. It was the inevitable conclusion that God’s existence requires our accountability to Him that Sartre could not tolerate. Therefore, Sartre – like millions of human beings before and since – (including myself at one time) chose to suppress the knowledge of God rather than to acknowledge God’s right to absolute sovereignty over us and our accountability to Him.

The guilt of unrighteousness drives us to a form of insanity in which we conclude that we can lock God away in some dark corner of the universe. We are driven to suppress the truth of a supremely righteous, holy God because we know that our desires and actions fall far short of His holy standards. Fallen man is like the mythical vampire exposed to light. We fear the burning exposure of the presence of God. Consequently, we choose to hide in the darkness.

Nevertheless, like the mad, self-deluded Jean-Paul Sartre, we too will one-day face the inescapable judgment of God. All that we have said, failed to say, done, and failed to do will be weighed on the scales of justice. The standard of God’s holy law will cast a light that overwhelms our illusions of self-righteousness.

Unless! And this word, “unless,” is supremely important. Unless we stand before almighty God in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins by His death on the cross – we will be like a people who wish the mountains would fall on them to cover them and hide them away. God’s wrath is real and terrible.

You must, therefore, suppress the truth no longer. Acknowledge the truth of God and your accountability to Him as your Creator. Do not incorrectly assume that you can continue postponing this day of reckoning. Flee quickly to Christ for His mercy and righteousness (John 3:16).

The Old Truth Of Christ Alone Is Everlasting

How do you respond to change? Are you one of those people who is naturally excited by change and always ready to embrace modern improvements? One of the hardest things to change in the church is the attitude of people who say, “This is the way we have always done things.” The counter part to this, however, is that some people love to change things just for the sake of change or to put their personal imprint on their job. We have all heard criticism of some of the new ways people are doing church. New movements such as “the emergent/emerging church” and “sonship theology” have certainly earned their share of critics. Some very notable theologians have warned us about efforts to turn the sanctuary into a theater. These new movements often neglect the preaching of the Word as they try to appeal to the emotions of the unchurched with an upbeat style of music. This approach is more focused on how we feel rather than God-centered worship.

We cannot simply dismiss these orthodox theologians with that tired saying, “We must make the Church relevant to modern culture.” Instead, we must heed the wisdom which tells us that Christianity is to reform the culture; not vice versa. The older, wiser, and most orthodox of Christian theologians are not simply naysayers to the new methodologies; they are here to warn us if we are straying from the true path. They help us to identify false teaching and to avoid violating the Word of God. It is clearly pride that makes us leap ahead where Angels fear to tread.

Charles Spurgeon teaches here a valuable lesson. “We preach today what was preached 1800 years ago, and wherein others make alterations they create deformities, and not improvements. We are not ashamed to avow that the old truth of Christ alone is everlasting; all else has gone or shall go, but the gospel towers above the wrecks of time.”

The Most Timid Christian Will Be Given A Greater Boldness

There are many of us who are born to this life with a tendency to develop an introverted personality. How does this introverted personality affect your life as a Christian? It may be difficult for this person to witness his faith in a hostile worldly environment. God will, however, provide for the most timid of us. Has God made you bold in the Gospel since your conversion? On the other hand, do you worry about being offensive to this friend or to that acquaintance if you share the good news of Jesus Christ? Is boldness a spiritual quality we should seek or is it inappropriate for our culture and times?

After a confrontation with the local religious authorities – Peter, John, and company once prayed, “‘And now, Lord, . . . grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29-31, ESV)

Paul had faced cultural conflict but revealed his source of strength in these words, “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” (1 Thessalonians 2:2, ESV) Paul had found boldness in God. We see that the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak of Christ with boldness.

How long has it been since you prayed, “Lord, give that kind boldness to me. Help me to open my mouth and to speak as boldly of Jesus Christ as I ought to speak”? Have you never prayed that way? The verses above demonstrate that it is a spiritual characteristic greatly to be desired. Should we be less bold than these disciples were?

Was not Christ, Himself, bold in delivering His message of judgment and mercy? If we believe in the seriousness of the message, how can we speak of it lightly and timidly to others? Have you ceased to believe in the wonders of heaven? Do you think the torture, agonies, and weeping of hell are uncivilized myths? You cannot. If you count yourself among the converted, pray for a holy boldness to confront the world with the Gospel. Eternal life is a serious matter.

John Owen On Preaching With Power

John Owen, by John Greenhill (died 1676). See ...

John Owen

Quoting the great Puritan, John Owen:

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.

 

Can Christians Live In The World Without Becoming Worldly?

Has worldliness found its way into the Church? Does it really matter how Christians live their lives outside of the church? Can believers live in this world without becoming worldly? I believe it can be done. Why? God has proclaimed it in his Word. What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said:

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:15-18, ESV)

Separation from the world’s value systems is evidence of a work of grace in the heart. A person, who is born of the Spirit, seeks to separate himself from the evils of worldliness. Many church leaders desire to make Christianity easy and to avoid self-denial. We hear professing Christians saying that we should not be too narrow and exclusive. They believe we may go anywhere, and do anything, and still be good Christians. It says in God’s Word, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you. . . .”

If you believe that anyone is a Christian who goes to church, in spite of how he lives or believes, you probably think very little about separating yourself from worldliness. But if you read your Bible, you know there is a difference between believers and unbelievers. An unsaved person thinks mainly on the things of this world. He is more concerned with pleasing man than pleasing God. This is why Christians must be a “peculiar” people, living their lives in a way that separates them from the unsaved.

Paul says to the Corinthians, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

The true Christian refuses to be guided by the world’s standard of right and wrong. The rule of most men is to go with the flow. Whereas, the true Christian will ask, “What does God say in the Bible about this?” He believes that nothing is right that God declares wrong.

An Evening Prayer

O lover of Thy people, Thou hast placed my whole being in the hands of Jesus, my redeemer, commander, husband, friend, and carest for me in Him. Keep me holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; may I not know the voice of strangers, but go to Him where He is, and follow where He leads. Thou hast bathed me once for all in the sin-removing fountain, cleanse me now from this day’s defilement, from its faults, deficiencies of virtue, harmful extremes, that I may exhibit a perfect character in Jesus. O Master, who didst wash the disciples’ feet, be very patient with me, be very condescending to my faults, go on with me till Thy great work in me is completed. I desire to conquer self in every respect, to overcome the body with its affections and lusts, to keep under my flesh, to guard my manhood from all grosser sins, to check the refined power of my natural mind, to live entirely to Thy glory, to be deaf to unmerited censure and the praise of men. Nothing can hurt my new-born inner man, it cannot be smitten or die; nothing can mar the dominion of Thy Spirit within me; it is enough to have Thy approbation and that of my conscience. Keep me humble, dependent, supremely joyful, as calm and quiet as a sucking child, yet earnest and active. I wish not so much to do as to be, and I long to be like Jesus; if Thou dost make me right I shall be right; Lord, I belong to Thee, make me worthy of Thyself. (Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries)

Finally Reaching The Kingdom

Augustine

Quoting Augustine:

“We want to reach the kingdom of God, but we don’t want to travel by way of death. And yet there stands Necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’ Do not hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you.”

The Devil Is In The Doubt

Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

The Temptation of Christ

I find it very easy to doubt many things that I have seen on TV and heard from others, but do you ever have doubts about really important matters? I mean doubts about your faith in God or if there really is a God. Do you have doubts about the Bible being the actual Word of God written down for us? Perhaps you believe there must be a God, but you doubt that He personally cares anything about you. It is easy to doubt when you see evil men prosper and injustice done to good men. When the whole world seems to be running after their own lusts determined to fulfill their every sensuous desire – it becomes easy to doubt that the Christian way is the right way.

James spoke rightly when he said, “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (1:6) The unsettled soul has many doubts which result from a lack of communion with Christ. Do you doubt? Run toward Christ and with every step you will grow in confidence and defeat discouragement. Faith is strengthened by communion with Christ. Charles Spurgeon asks the question, “Where do you live? Many a believer lives in the ‘cottage of doubt,’ when he might live in the ‘mansion of faith.’”

Paul reminds Timothy, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’. . . .” (1 Timothy 6:20) We must ever be on guard against the doubt which destroys faith. Jesus describes what happens to the good seeds of faith when not tended properly: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) These thorns of doubt are planted by Satan and grow quickly when the garden is not kept.

Therefore, guard your faith through regular communion with Christ. Pray and study that you would be full of the Scriptures. Then you will be able to fight the doubts of dark times through confidence in the Word God that He has shared with you in His light.

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