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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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Do We Honor God Sufficiently?

“The Lord says, Those who honor Me I will honor.” (1 Sam. 2:30)

It is dangerous to study the Bible in any other light than its own. Guided by this precept, let us consider the words of God which suggest our present meditation–“Those who honor Me I will honor.” God is justly jealous of His honor. He would not be God, righteous and pure, were He to part with one molecule of His glory. The how may I, trusting that, through electing love and sovereign grace, I am His adopted child and His chosen servant–best honor Him?

We must fully believe in the divinity of His revealed Word. To cast a doubt upon the truth of God’s Word, is to cast the highest dishonor upon God himself. Beware of low views of inspiration and tampering with the Bible. We must stand in awe of its divinity and bow unquestioningly to its authority. God will then honor you, by making His Word your light in darkness and your joy in grief. The Gospel must be fully accepted, then it will soothe you in life, support you in death. Therefore, if you honor God in His Word, God will honor you by making that Word the joy and rejoicing of your soul.

There is not a more God-glorifying grace than the faith that rests in Him, with a childlike and unquestioning confidence. This is a faith that trusts His power to perform all that He is pledged in His covenant and Word to do. Now is the time to bring honor and glory to His great Name by a simple, unhesitating trust in His power, faithfulness, and love. Then will your God honor you. The faith that trusts in God, believing His promise, though not yet performed, and that the prayer, not answered, still will be, shall be crowned with a full realization of all it needed.

Honor Christ by fully accepting His salvation. What a dishonor I bring to the Savior to doubt the efficacy of His blood to pardon, and the merit of His righteousness to justify the very chief of sinners. We honor God that He has put upon us the grace to believe–to accept–to be saved!

Sola Gratia

Quoting Dr. K. Riddlebarger:

Simply stated, if the Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves or even prepare themselves to be saved, the Scriptures are equally clear that it is God who saves by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. This means that it is God who acts first, upon the sinner, while the sinner is dead in sin. For as we have seen, the sinner is enslaved to the sinful nature and its passions, and will not come to God, as Paul declares. But the good news is that while sinners do not seek God, God seeks sinners. And this is what we mean by the phrase, grace alone.

George Washington On The Public Debt

Philadelphia - Old City: Second Bank Portrait ...

George Washington

Quoting George Washington:

“No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable.”

More On The Cultural Preacher

Many preachers today do not emphasize repentance in any real sense. They make a wide gate leading to salvation and a broad highway leading to heaven. Don’t worry about sinfulness; you do not need to understand your sinful nature. Just make a decision for Christ and you are now safe. It is entirely unlike the evangelism of the Puritans, Whitefield and others, where men who taught the terrifying  judgment of God.

Repentance means you know you are a guilty sinner in the presence of God. You know that you deserve the wrath of God. True repentance acknowledges that you are hell-bound. You realize that this thing called sin is in you and you long to get rid of it. You are now willing to turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world system that operates in sin no matter the cost. You take up your cross and you follow Christ. You may suffer for following Christ but that is the price of repentance.

The false preacher does not teach it like this. He counsels the hurts of his congregation in order to temporarily heal them through psychological encouragement. He promises that things are OK and you simply need to make a decision for Christ and all will be well. Therefore, circumstances govern their attempt at conversion rather than the conviction of the Holy Spirit who demands it. God, give us men obedient to the Holy Spirit to fill our pulpits!

We Must Know God

It is one thing to say that God reveals nothing to His people apart from the Bible, but is it true that He makes known to His people only what is there directly revealed? We must not expect to know the mind of God but by means of the written word. The Scriptures must be our only guide. Dr. John Kennedy writes of this:

True Christians differ from all others because with them only is “the secret of the Lord.” “The secret” which is within them is hidden in the mind of God from all to whom He does not reveal it. “Thou hast hid these things,” saith Jesus to the Father, “from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes.” (Matthew 11:25)

This surely means more than that they have the Bible in their hands. True, in it, there is a complete revelation of the will of God. It is by it, too, that God communicates all the knowledge of His mind to which men shall attain on earth. But many have the Bible in whom the fear of the Lord is not found, and to whom the secret of the Lord is not given. They who fear the Lord have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they might know the things that are freely given to them of God. It is thus that they are made to differ.

“He will manifest to them His covenant.” This covenant – the covenant of grace – was once known only to God Himself. It was then written only in the volume of the book which contained a record of the eternal counsels of the Godhead, and on which no eye looked but that of God Himself. But He gradually revealed the plan and provision of that covenant, when the earth was formed, and men were, and then were sinners, on it. The revelation of that covenant, intended for men on earth, is now complete. A clearer light from heaven shall never shine on earth than that which now illumines these last Gospel days. The word of the Lord, as it now is, abideth for ever. But not only does the Lord shine with Gospel light on them that fear Him, as He does on all around them; He hath also shined into their hearts, giving them the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) He has taught them their need of the grace of the everlasting covenant. He has made known to them its plan and its provision. They, and they only, have tasted that the Lord is gracious. But they know only a very little. They need that He would still continue to manifest His covenant to them. And He will do so. Into all truth the Spirit of God shall guide them. All the lessons appointed by their Father shall be learned by them; and all their darkness and folly shall, at the last, be utterly removed. (John 16:13) (“The Secret of the Lord”)

Richard Baxter On Diligence With God

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

Richard Baxter

Quoting Richard Baxter:

The ministerial work must be carried on diligently and laboriously, as being of such unspeakable consequence to ourselves and others. We are seeking to uphold the world, to save it from the curse of God, to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ’s death, to save ourselves and others from damnation, to overcome the devil, and demolish his kingdom, to set up the kingdom of Christ, and to attain and help others to the kingdom of glory. And are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? O see, then, that this work be done with all your might! Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow. . . . But especially be laborious in the practice and exercise of your knowledge. Let Paul’s words ring continually in your ears, ‘Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! ’ Ever think with yourselves what lieth upon your hands: ‘If I do not bestir myself, Satan may prevail, and the people everlastingly perish, and their blood be required at my hand. By avoiding labor and suffering, I shall draw on myself a thousand times more than I avoid; whereas, by present diligence, I shall prepare for future blessedness.’ No man was ever a loser by God. (The Reformed Pastor, Banner of Truth, 1981)

 

C. S. Lewis On Tyranny

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

Quoting British author C.S. Lewis (1898-1963):

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The Promises Of God

J. C. Ryle

The Lord shall give to him, who comes to Him by faith, an abundant supply of everything that he needs for the relief of his own soul. The Holy Spirit will give to him an abiding sense of pardon, peace, and hope. He shall feel so satisfied with “the things of Christ,” which the Spirit shall show Him, that he shall have peace from spiritual anxiety about death and judgment. He may have seasons of darkness and doubt, but, generally speaking, a man who has come to Christ by faith shall find the promises of God an unfailing consolation. Bishop J. C. Ryle writes:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)

I turn, in the last place, to the promise held out to all who come to Christ. “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

The careful student of Scripture cannot fail to observe that God is continually holding out inducement to man to listen to Him, obey Him, and serve Him; and undertaking to do great things, if man will only attend and believe. In short, as St. Peter says, “There are given to us exceeding great and precious promises.” (2 Pet. i. 4.) He who has mercifully caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning, has shown His perfect knowledge of human nature, by spreading over the Book a perfect wealth of promises, suitable to every kind of experience and every condition of life. He seems to say, “Would you know” what I undertake to do for you? Do you want to hear my terms? Take up the Bible and read.”

The promises of God, on the contrary, are certain to be kept. He is Almighty: nothing can prevent His doing what He has said. He never changes: He is always “of one mind,” and with Him there is “no variableness or shadow of turning.”-(Job xxiii. 13; James i. 17.) He will always keep His word. There is One thing which, as a little girl once told her teacher, to her surprise, God cannot do: “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. vi. 18.) The most unlikely and improbable things, when God has once said He will do them, have always come to pass. The destruction of the old world by a flood, and the preservation of Noah in the ark, the birth of Isaac, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the raising of David to the throne of Saul, the miraculous birth of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the scattering of the Jews all over the earth, and their continued preservation as a distinct people,-who could imagine events more unlikely and improbable than these? Yet God said they should be, and in due time they all came to pass. In short, with God it is just as easy to do a thing as to say it. Whatever He promises, He is certain to perform. (“If Any Man!”)

J. C. Ryle On Why Our Churchmen Fall Short

J. C. Ryle

J. C. Ryle notes that the church no longer has the men and the message of previous centuries. No wonder if we do not see the same results. What sort of man do you expect to see in the pulpit this morning? Will the message you hear be true to God’s Word? Give us the likes of Whitefield and Edwards, of Nettleton and Spurgeon and a truth inspired message, and I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit would grant us similar results. Why do our present churchmen fall short of their great predecessors? Bishop J. C. Ryle seeks to answer this question:

They fall short in doctrine. They are neither so full nor so distinct, nor so bold, nor so uncompromising. They are afraid of strong statements. They are too ready to fence, and guard, and qualify all of their teaching, as if Christ’s gospel was a little baby, and could not be trusted to walk alone.

They fall short as preachers. They have neither the fervor, nor fire, nor thought, nor illustration, nor directness, nor holy boldness, nor grand simplicity of language which characterized the last century.

Above all, they fall short in life. They are not men of one thing, separate from the world, unmistakable men of God, ministers of Christ everywhere, indifferent to man’s opinions, regardless of who is offended, if they only preach truth, always about their Father’s business. (Christian Leaders of The 18th Century)

Spurgeon On When The Preacher’s Sermon Falls Flat

Charles H. Spurgeon

It is inspiring to hear a really good local preacher tell his experience of how he came to Christ and tell it from his heart. The natural leading of the Holy Spirit casts down the fine art of public speaking to nothing. God give us sermons, and save us from clever essays! Do you not all know the superior brother? Every sentence of his sermon cost him hours of toilsome composition and yet it falls flat. Perhaps it would be better for some preachers to be locked out of their studies and spend time visiting their people. Charles H. Spurgeon discusses this further:

Closely adhering to the truth by a dogged faith, we are in the condition in which God is likely to bless us. But then, there must be in the preaching a concentration of heart upon the business in which we are engaged. We shall never do well in our sacred calling if half our energy goes to something else. The man who is doing half-a-dozen things generally fails in them all. Of course he does. . . .

Do not some show by their preaching, that their heart is not in it? They have come to preach, and they will get through what they have to say: but their deepest thoughts and liveliest emotions would come out better at a political meeting. They have not all their wits about them when preaching. . . . Have you never seen such preachers? They are “not there”—their minds are in the profound abysses of critical unbelief. The Holy Ghost will not bless men of this sort. He spake by an ass once, but that ass showed its sense by never speaking any more. I know creatures of like kind not half so wise.

Now, dear friends, see what I am driving at. I hope that I shall not miss it. It is plain to every thoughtful mind, that if we are not altogether in our work, we cannot expect a blessing. God the Holy Ghost does not work by a torso, or a bust; he uses our whole manhood. See a tradesman in our poorer quarters, on a Saturday night, outside his shop. He walks up and down, and cries, “Buy, buy,” with vehemence; he salutes every passer-by; he presses his commodities; he is everywhere at once; he compels men to come in; he urges each one to be a purchaser. So, also, must we serve the Lord with all diligence, if we hope for success in our sacred calling. (“The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining it.”)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones On Illustrations And Story-Telling In The Pulpit

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Stories and illustrations are only meant to illustrate truth, not to call attention to themselves. This whole business of illustrations and story-telling has been a particular curse during the last hundred years. I believe it is one of the factors that accounts for the decline in preaching because it helped to give the impression that preaching was an art, an end in itself. There have undoubtedly been many who really prepared a sermon simply in order to be able to use a great illustration. . . . The illustration had become the first thing; you then find a text which is likely to cover this. In other words the heart of the matter had become the illustration. But that is the wrong order. The illustration is meant to illustrate truth, not to show itself, not to call attention to itself; it is a means of leading and helping people to see the truth that you are enunciating and proclaiming still more clearly. The rule therefore should always be that the truth must be pre-eminent and have great prominence, and illustrations must be used sparsely and carefully to that end alone. Our business is not to entertain people. . . .

A preacher should go into the pulpit to . . . proclaim the Truth itself. . . . Everything else is but to minister to this end. Illustrations are just servants. . . . I am prepared to go so far as to say that if you use too many illustrations in your sermon your preaching will be ineffective. To do so always means loss of tension. There is the type of preacher who after saying a few words says, ‘I remember’ – then out comes the story. Then after a few more remarks again, ‘I remember’. This means that the theme, the thrust of the Truth, is constantly being interrupted; it becomes staccato, and in the end you feel that you have been listening to a kind of after-dinner speaker or entertainer and not to a man proclaiming a grand and a glorious Truth. If such preachers become popular, and they frequently do, they are popular only in a bad sense, because they are really nothing but popular entertainers. (Preaching and Preachers (Zondervan: 1971), p. 232-234)

To Be Born Again Is The Work Of God

Five Solas

In John 3, Jesus is telling us about our condition – telling us that something must happen to us if we are to see and then enter the kingdom of God. In the same gospel, our Lord tells us that “we must cross over from death to life” (John 5:24), and that none can even come to Him unless the Father not only draw them (6:44), but also enables them to come to Him (6:65). It is clear in John 3:3-8, that “flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Looking at John chapter one, we see that “we are born not of natural descent, nor of a human decision or a husband’s will, but [we are] born of God (John 1:13).” We often quote the first part of the verse, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” and we then interpret this to mean, that unless we first choose God we cannot be saved. But the very next clause tells us just the opposite, namely, “we are born not of natural descent, nor of a human decision or a husband’s will, but [we are] born of God.” Kim Riddlebarger explains this teaching further:

Many Evangelicals identify themselves as “born again” Christians. And indeed, as our Lord expressly states in John 3:3-7, “unless one is born again,” they cannot see, much less enter into the kingdom of God.” What then, does it mean to be “born again?” Historic Protestants, both the Lutherans and Reformed, have not placed the notion of being “born again” at the center of the Christian faith in the way in which many of our Evangelical contemporaries do. The reason for this is not because Lutheran and Reformed Christians reject the idea of being “born again.” Instead, they equate John’s teaching on being born again with the larger Biblical category of “regeneration.” That is, being “born again,” is a synonym for being “regenerate,” or “being made alive,” and therefore, while an essential aspect of the Christian life, it is approached from the perspective that regeneration is something God does, not man.

Another reason historic Protestants have not stressed being “born again,” is because regeneration is an act of God upon the sinner, whereas the New Testament, on the other hand, stresses that the Gospel is something that God has done for us in Christ outside of ourselves, and that the Gospel alone – the message that Christ died and rose again for sinners (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) – is the power of God unto salvation. It is through preaching the Gospel, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for sinners, that God gives the new birth, or causes one to be “born again,” to use John’s phrase. The new birth, it is important to note, does not come through preaching the new birth, it comes through the preaching of Christ crucified!

If being “born again” or “regenerated” is an essential aspect of the Christian faith, what exactly do we mean by the term? The noted Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof, defines regeneration as “a work in which man is purely passive, and in which there is no place for human co-operation….The creative work of God produces new life, in virtue of which man, made alive with Christ, shares the resurrection life, and can be called a new creature.” Indeed, no one will ever see heaven if they are not regenerate or “born again.” (“What the Scriptures say about Sola Gratia”)

Drinking From The Fountain Of Life

We Americans should be thankful that we live in a land where the great remedy for spiritual thirst is known. We live in a land of Bibles, the preached Gospel, and where the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is still proclaimed. We take too little notice of our privileges. Like Israel, we have become unimpressed with God’s daily supply of manna. (Num. xxi. 5.) Yet, the humblest man who grasps the Scriptures knows more about peace with God than Plato and all the philosophers of the Athenian sage. . . . We must learn to be thankful that our lot is cast in this Christian land. Do not give God cause to have controversy with us because of our unthankful ness. Bishop J. C. Ryle gives us cause to hope:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)

But, simple as this remedy for thirst appears, it is the only one for man’s spiritual disease, and the only bridge from earth to heaven. Kings and their subjects, preachers and hearers, masters and servants, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all must alike drink of this water of life, and drink in the same way. For eighteen centuries men have labored to find some other medicine for weary consciences; but they have labored in vain. Thousands after blistering their hands and growing grey in hewing out “broken cisterns which can hold no water.” (Jer. ii 13); have been obliged to come back at last to the old Fountain, and have confessed in their latest moments that here, in Christ alone, is true peace.

And simple as the old remedy for thirst may appear, it is the root of the inward life of all God’s greatest servants in all ages. What have the saints and martyrs been in every era of Church history, but men who came to Christ daily by faith, and found His flesh meat indeed and His blood drink indeed. (John vi. 55.) What have they all been but men who lived the life of faith in the Son of God, all drank daily out of the fullness there is in Him (Gal. ii. 20.) Here, at all events, the truest and best Christians, who have made a mark on the world, have been of one mind. Holy Fathers and Reformers, holy Anglican divines and Puritans, holy Episcopalians and Nonconformists, have all in their best moments borne uniform testimony to the value of the Fountain of life. Separated and contentious as they may sometimes have been in their lives, in their deaths they have not been divided. In their last struggle with the king of terrors they have simply clung to the cross of Christ, and gloried in nothing but the “precious blood,” and the Fountain open for all sin and uncleanness. (Sermon: “If Any Man!”)

John Stott On Feeding The Sheep

Quoting John Stott:

We who are called to be Christian preachers today should do all we can to help the congregation to grow out of dependence on borrowed slogans and ill-considered clichés, and instead to develop their powers of

John Stott

intellectual and moral criticism, that is, their ability to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil. Of course, we should encourage an attitude of humble submission to Scripture, but at the same time make it clear that we claim no infallibility for our interpretation of Scripture. We should urge our hearers to ‘test’ and ‘evaluate’ our teaching. We should welcome questions, not resent them. We should not want people to be moonstruck by our preaching, to hang spellbound on our words, and to soak them up like sponges. To desire such an uncritical dependence on us is to deserve the fierce denunciation of Jesus for wanting to be called ‘rabbi’ by men. (Matt 23:7, 8) By contrast, the people of Berea are commended as ‘noble’ . . . because they combined enthusiastic receptivity with critical listening. . . . (Acts 17:11)

This kind of open but questioning mind is implicit even in the ‘pastoral’ metaphor. . . . The way in which the shepherd feeds [the sheep] is significant. In reality, he does not feed them at all (except perhaps in the case of a sick lamb which he may take up in his arms and bottle-feed); instead he leads them to good grazing pasture where they feed themselves. (Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century, (Eerdmans, 1982) p. 177)

The Christian And The Mind

There are Christians who make little of man’s intellectual powers, but Biblical Christianity actually does not view the intellect as negative. It actually teaches the value of the intellect. Who can deny the great value in having a brain; even more – the ability to use it rightly? According to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Bible tells us that the highest gift that God has given to men and women in the realm of gifts – I am not talking about the soul and spirit but actual gifts – the highest of all the gifts is mind, reason, and understanding.”

There is this one wonderful fact about being human: We can think about and analyze ourselves. This is why the Christian teacher or preacher must do more than move someone’s emotions. A good teacher or preacher must be able to reason with people. God has given us minds to use. If people are to stay out of trouble in this world, they must be taught how to correctly use their minds.

What is wrong with many “so-called” intellectuals today is that they often put their final confidence in the mind. They become proud. They actually begin to worship the mind. They believe nothing else is needed beyond the mind by human beings. It is good to be wise, but when you are wise in your own eyes, you are headed for trouble.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23)

We see in the above verses that when a man does not acknowledge the Giver of his intellectual ability, that his thinking can actually become futile. There is always the danger of allowing your thinking to make you a fool. The problem is man’s desire to become god. Pride of intellect is a sin. We begin to glory in ourselves. However, a Christian should seek to improve his intellect and even become an “intellectual” to the “Glory of God”. It would be a shame to waste this wonderful blessing of the mind which God has given to us. We must not forget, however, the Source of this blessing.

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