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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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Moving Beyond The Milk

Quoting Keith Mathison:

In the early centuries of the church’s existence, Christian apologists would sometimes appeal to the distinctively holy lives of Christians as evidence for the truth of Christianity. Would such an appeal be of any use today? According to numerous surveys, the behavior of professing Christians is not discernibly different from the behavior of those who profess other religions or no religion at all. The phrase one often hears on the lips of pagans who observe contemporary Christian behavior is: “The church is full of hypocrites.” This should not be. We worship a holy God who calls His people to be holy and who has provided the means by which they may be holy.

The problem of lax and hypocritical Christianity is not a new one, and one of the best treatments of the entire subject is a classic written by J.C. Ryle (1816–1900), who served as the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool for twenty years. Ryle was a deeply committed and non-compromising evangelical Christian. In fact, Charles Spurgeon referred to him as an “evangelical champion.” His book Holiness has been reprinted numerous times since its original publication in 1879. It is deservedly considered a Christian classic on the subject of sanctification. It ranks up there with the work of John Owen on the mortification of sin.

I first read Bishop Ryle’s Holiness some twenty years ago. The book was deeply convicting and made a lasting impact on my thinking. Ryle’s work is convicting because he does not appeal to silly gimmicks and other manmade answers to the problem of sin. He appeals over and over to Scripture, to the Word of the living God, and he drives the Word of God home through careful and direct application. If you are complacent in your sin and do not want to be disturbed in your enjoyment of it, do not read Ryle. This is a book about the necessity of sanctification, the necessity of holiness. It deals with weighty subjects, the weightiest in fact: God, sin, Jesus Christ, the gospel, the Holy Spirit, justification, sanctification, heaven, and hell. It is a book for those who want to move beyond milk and get to the meat of the Word.

What Power Does God Have Over Evil Actions?

B.H. Carroll

Providence is an effective, all-comprehensive, divine agency that touches every event in the physical and spiritual world. Many of God’s saints, in the hardest and darkest times of their lives, have had peace by their understanding of and faith in the Lord’s providential care. The Lord God omnipotent reigns! B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains further:

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

The providence of God is not only preventive and permissive of evil but is also directive. What do I mean by directive? I mean that God so directs evil actions as to disappoint the purpose and expectation of the sinner and his tempter. Let us get that very clear. Two scriptures will serve to show that God’s providence is directive with reference to the actions of evil men when it so operates that this evil action shall miss its issue, shall come to another issue neither intended nor desired by the perpetrator.

The first scripture is from the book of Genesis. The wicked brothers of Joseph, who had sold him into Egypt, are now in trouble in that very land. Their consciences accuse them:

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother,in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.” (Genesis 42:21, 22.)

This was the human side. On the other hand, hear Joseph: “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life *** to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” That is, you meant evil. God directed that action so as to change it into an issue that was not foreseen nor purposed by you. The other scripture is from the fourth chapter of Acts. These two will answer for a thousand. They equal in importance any in the Bible:

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou has anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:24-28.)

Now here was an entirely independent purpose and expectation on the part of Herod, on the part of Pilate, on the part of the Jews. They meant death and ruin and yet God’s providence governed their very malice to an issue neither foreseen, desired nor purposed by them, in that it accomplished not only His own predetermined purpose, working not for the ruin but for the salvation of the world.

Yet another term may be employed to show how the providence of God touches evil actions, to-wit, determinative. Terminus means a boundary, a limit, and to determinate is to set a boundary. The providence of God then touches evil actions by putting a limit upon them. An illustrative case or two may be rapidly stated. The devil wanted to get hold of Job, to worry and destroy him. He asked the Lord for an opportunity. God, having purposes of His own to accomplish concerning Job and others, gave the permission but set a limit at Job’s life: “You may take his cows; you may take his camels; you may take his children so far as their earthly health and existence is concerned; you may touch Job himself and cover his body with loathsome ulcers, but the life of Job, the soul of Job, the spiritual standing of Job in the sight of God, oh, devil, you cannot touch.” There God puts an impassable barrier.

In the same direction are the words of the Psalmist:

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our soul; blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped. . . .” (Psalm 124:1-7)

Leave out the determinative providence of God, that feature of God’s providence that sets a limit to the wrath of evil men and the devil, and the foundation would be removed, and then what could the righteous do?

In The Hands Of A Holy God

From the desk of R. C. Sproul:

The problem is simply this: If God is just and requires perfection from me and I come short of that perfection and he is going to deal with me according to justice, then I am looking at a future punishment at the hands of a holy God. If the only way I can escape punishment is through a Savior and if I want to escape that, then I need a Savior. Some people will say that we’re just trying to preach Jesus as a ticket out of hell, as a way to escape eternal punishment. That’s not the only reason I would commend Jesus to people, but that is one of the reasons.

I think that many people in today’s culture don’t really believe that God is going to hold them accountable for their lives—that God really does not require righteousness. When we take that view, we don’t feel the weight of the threat of judgment. If you’re not afraid to deal with God’s punishment, then be happy as a clam if you want. I would be living in terrible fear and trembling at the prospect of falling into the hands of a holy God.

Salvation’s Need Of The Scripture

James Montgomery Boice

There is no doubt that faith needs the Word of God just as fruit needs the living root of a tree. The knowledge of God is not the product of anyone’s imagination, but only what God reveals to us in the Bible. So there is a relationship between faith and the Word which leads to salvation. The Word is used by God in the process of salvation. How then can the preacher led anyone to God without preaching the whole Word of God? James Montgomery Boice gives a more complete explanation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Divine truthfulness was the rock beneath [the Apostles’] approach to Scripture. Their study of the Bible led them to this conclusion, and thereafter they approached the difficulties of biblical interpretation from this premise. This approach has characterized the majority of their heirs in the Reformation churches down to and including many at the present time, although not all inerrantists feel obligated to use this approach. In fuller form, the argument has been presented as follows:

The Bible is a reliable and generally trustworthy document. This is established by treating it like any other historical record, such as the works of Josephus or the accounts of war by Julius Caesar.

On the basis of the history recorded by the Bible we have sufficient reason for believing that the central character of the Bible, Jesus Christ, did what he is claimed to have done and therefore is who he claimed to be. He claimed to be the unique Son of God.

As the unique Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is an infallible authority. Jesus Christ not only assumed the Bible’s authority; he taught it, going so far as to teach that it is entirely without error and is eternal, being the Word of God: “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).

If the Bible is the Word of God, as Jesus taught, it must for this reason alone be entirely trustworthy and inerrant, for God is a God of truth. Therefore, on the basis of the teaching of Jesus Christ, the infallible Son of God, the church believes the Bible also to be infallible. . . .

Not only does God exalt his name and his very words in the Scriptures and likewise in the preaching of that Word, but he also exalts his Word in the saving of men and women. For it is by his Word and Spirit, and not by testimonies, eloquent arguments, or emotional appeals, that he regenerates the one who apart from that regeneration is spiritually dead. Peter states it thus: “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

Transforming Life

Quoting Albert N. Martin:

B. B. Warfield describes Calvinism as ‘that sight of the majesty of God that pervades all of life and all of experience’. In particular as it relates to the doctrine of salvation its glad confession is summarized in those three pregnant words, God saves sinners. Now whenever we are confronted with great doctrinal statements in Holy Scripture, God does not leave us merely with the statement of doctrine. The end of God’s truth set before the minds of God’s people is that, understanding it, they might know its effect in their own personal experience. So the grand doctrinal themes of Ephesians, chapters 1, 2 and 3 are followed by the application of those doctrines to practical life and experience in Ephesians, chapters 4, 5 and 6. The end for which God gave his truth was not so much the instruction of our minds as the transformation of our lives. But a person cannot come directly to the life and experience, he must come mediately through the mind. And so God’s truth is addressed to the understanding and the Spirit of God operates in the understanding as the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge. He does not illuminate the mind simply that the file drawers of the mental study may be crammed full of information. The end for which God instructs the mind is that he might transform the life. (Albert Martin is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Essex Fells, New Jersey)

Discerning God’s Will For You

If you study the operations of the Holy Spirit, you will notice that He always guides us by sending us to the Word of God and His Providence. Between the two, they will lead us to the path we should choose. We can certainly say, in general, that after serious deliberation and earnest supplication, if our choice is not in accord with the Word of God or is impracticable, or immoral; it certainly is not the will of God for us. If our choice is in accord with the Word of God and allows us to go ahead while walking in holiness and honoring God, this may be perceived (at least to some degree) as a proper sign of His Will.

Let us take our employment as an example. Sometimes providence may begin to make our present jobs very uncomfortable. It may become unprofitable to us or make our continuance impractical. In such conditions we may certainly seek to alter our circumstances. Maybe in our present condition the work is easy and profitable. However, there are changes to be made which violate the Word of God. By this action, we know that this is a business in which we cannot continue our employment.

If we are offered employment in two places (I know this is a touchy issue considering the economy just now) we must seek to learn all we can about both businesses. After much prayer and considering biblically related issues, if we find that one of the businesses engages in unbiblical moral practices then the answer is obvious as to which job to take. If both chances of employment are evil, flee from them both as quickly as possible.

What if we are offered two good jobs that do not conflict with the God’s Word? In this case, we should choose the one where we can honor God most in our duty and achievements.

If we are to discern God’s Will for us in such areas of life, we must look away from riches and pleasures because they will deceive us and turn us from God’s good and perfect will. Always check your motives carefully.

After prayer, careful thought, and study of the Scriptures, if we find our way is still not clear to us – wait; wait upon the Lord in prayer. Ask God to hedge up the wrong way and in His providential care to make known the right path.

In general, we must put temptation out-of-the-way. We must use the Bible for our rule of action. We must be earnest with God and seek to saturate our minds with His Truth. We cannot seriously believe that the Holy Spirit will give us discernment of God’s Will, if we do not even study the Bible. This would be like trying to turn a flashlight on without batteries. Dear Christian, if you truly want the light of the Holy Spirit to shine on the decisions you must make; you must first be sure you are a Christian; consistently study the Bible; and be constant in prayer.

Charles Spurgeon On The Will

Charles H. Spurgeon

From the desk of Charles Spurgeon:

Blessed be the God of grace that it is so! He has a people whom He has chosen from of old to be His peculiar portion. These by nature have wills as stubborn as the rest of the froward sons of Adam; but when the day of His power comes and grace displays its omnipotence, they become willing to repent and to believe in Jesus. None are saved unwillingly, but the will is made sweetly to yield itself. What a wondrous power is this, which never violates the will and yet rules it! God does not break the lock, but He opens it by a master key which He alone can handle. Now are we willing to be, to do, or to suffer as the LORD wills. If at any time we grow rebellious, He has but to come to us with power, and straightway we run in the way of His commands with all our hearts. May this be a day of power with me as to some noble effort for the glory of God and the good of my fellowmen! LORD, I am willing; may I not hope that this is a day of Thy power? I am wholly at Thy disposal; willing, yea, eager, to be used of Thee for Thy holy purposes. O LORD, let me not have to cry, “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would, I find not”; but give me power as Thou givest me will. (“Faith’s Checkbook”)

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