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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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If The Lord Be On Our Side

Thomas Watson

From the pen of Thomas Watson:

If the Lord be on our side He can save us in that very way in which we think He will destroy us. Would not any have thought the whale’s belly should have been Jonah‘s grave? But God made the fish a ship, in which he sailed to the shore . . . If the Lord of Hosts be on our side, He can make the Church’s affliction a means of her augmentation, ‘The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied.’ (Ex.1:12) (Watson, Religion Our True Interest, 91)

A Godly Man Loves Talking About God’s Word

When you need sound advice, do you consult the Word of God? When evil is strong in the land, do you take up the ‘sword of the Spirit’ to hew it down? When all seems against you, do you drink from the fountain of life? If so, you are a lover of God’s Word! However, most people could not carry on a conversation about the Word of God for five minutes. Thomas Watson explains the need for witnesses who can talk about Christ:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All that he ever hopes to be worth is contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father’s will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?

‘Your word I have hidden in my heart’ (Psalm119:11) – as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must

Thomas Watson

be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory, but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? ‘That I might not sin against you.’ As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice, but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?

A wise man will not let his land be taken from him but will defend his title. David looked upon the Word as his land of inheritance: ‘Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.’ (Psalm 119:111) And do you think he will let his inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute for the Word but die for it: ‘I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God.’ (Rev 6:9)

‘I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.’ (Job. 23:12). ‘The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.’ (Psalm 119:72). Memorable is the story of King Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms, the king said, ‘There is still one sword missing.’ On being asked what that was, he answered, ‘The Holy Bible, which is the ‘sword of the Spirit’ and is to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty.’

‘My tongue shall speak of your word.’ (Psalm 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never speak of God’s Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.

The Word is his compass, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: ‘I have kept the faith’ (2 Tim. 4:7). St Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life of faith.

Question: Why is a godly man a lover of the Word?

Answer: Because of the excellence of the Word.

The Word written is our pillar of fire to guide us. It shows us what rocks we are to avoid; it is the map by which we sail to the new Jerusalem. The Word is a spiritual mirror through which we may see our own hearts. The mirror of nature, which the heathen had, revealed spots in their lives, but this mirror reveals spots in the imagination; that mirror revealed the spots of their unrighteousness, this reveals the spots of our righteousness. ‘When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died’ (Rom. 7:9). When the Word came like a mirror, all my opinion of self-righteousness died.

The Word of God is a sovereign comfort in distress. While we follow this cloud, the rock follows us. ‘This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.’ (Psalm 119:50). Christ is the fountain of living water; the Word is the golden pipe through which it runs. What can revive at the hour of death but the word of life (Phil. 2:16)? (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

We Are Travelers

Thomas Watson

From the desk of Thomas Watson:

The world is a great inn; we are guests in this inn. Travelers, when they are met in their inn, do not spend all their time in speaking about the inn; they are to lodge there but a few hours and are gone. They speak about their home and the country to which they are traveling. So when we meet together, we should not be talking only about the world; we are to leave this presently. We should talk about our heavenly country. (Watson, Heaven Taken By Storm, 38)

The Freedom To Choose

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 ESV)

If you have ever heard a conversation on free will, what did you think about it? Do you think human beings have free will? If you were asked to define “free will”, what would you say? The question of free will is very important when you try to understand salvation.

Martin Luther wrote that; “If anyone ascribes salvation to the will, even in the least, he knows nothing of grace and has not understood Jesus Christ aright.”

Man is born with a self-centered heart. We want to do things our way. We wish to be “the masters of our fate’ and “the captains of our soul”. (William E. Henley)

So, if man has free will and God has free will, what does it matter anyway? Because a man has free will, can he do anything he chooses? Suppose a man chooses not to drink water or any form of liquid. What will be the result? He will die. A man may choose to drink water or not, but if he chooses “not” – he will die. A man’s choices are limited by his nature. Therefore, his free will is limited by the nature of who or what he is. Adam was the federal head and perfect moral representative of the human race. When Adam sinned, we all sinned. All die in him (First Adam), but those who belong to Christ (Second Adam) are made alive in Him.

Now please read this closely: God has free will, but even His will is limited by His nature. God is pure, holy, and cannot sin. This is what makes God –God – along with omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and so forth. God makes choices according to His holy nature. Man makes choices based on his sin nature inherited from the fall.

This is the problem with saying, “By my free will, I have decided for Christ.” Man’s will is spiritually dead according to its nature and so the inclination of his heart is to choose to go on sinning. Man is free to choose, but he is not free to choose not to sin.  Here we need the power of rebirth through the Holy Spirit. Then we have the ability to choose Christ. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” No man is able to come to Christ without His Divine intervention. It is the works of the Holy Spirit to change the inclination of men’s hearts and make God’s elect willing to come.

We are “free” to do what we want to do, but we are bound in what we want by our evil nature and desires. We cannot use our will to shape our natures, but rather, our natures determine how we will use our wills. We are only free when the Son sets us free. (John 8:36)

Making Your Own God

A. W. Tozer

From the writings of A. W. Tozer:

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is–in itself a monstrous sin–and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. (Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 4)

The Work Of God

Charles H. Spurgeon

 

 

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

True religion is supernatural at its beginning, supernatural in its continuance, and supernatural in its close. It is the work of God from first to last. (Spurgeon, All Of Grace, 114)

Vanity And Human Wisdom

Human wisdom does not satisfy our real needs. We may know many wonderful things and not realize how many things we do not know. I could perhaps write down everything I know and it would produce a small book. If I could just make a list of the things I do not know; what a great library the pages would fill. The fact is that simple human knowledge does not answer the questions of our deepest needs. So what if we gain all this knowledge and do not learn the two things most worth knowing: 1) We are sinners in need of a Savior and 2) Jesus Christ is the only savior. Robert G. Lee helps us to find the rest needed in our hearts:

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Thirty-seven times the word “vanity” occurs in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Moreover, vanity is the key word of the Book of Ecclesiastes; the keynote to its dirge like message.

“Vanity of vanities…All is vanity!” Now these words are not due to a fit of temporary depression. They are not given utterance because of some passing adverse circumstance. They were not born of the quick and passing bitterness begotten by the foul play of some friend who turned traitor. Subtle pride did not prompt this language of Solomon. They are, according to our judgment, the result of experience arrived at after mature and deliberate thought.

They are not the words of a man who walked a few paths, but the words of a man who walked many paths. Nor the words of one bored with the routine of some prosaic task. Nor the words of a man whose courage failed in some steep ascent of toil. Nor the words of one in prostrate rebellion against the tortures of some couch of pain.

Rather let us say that these are the words of one who sailed over many seas of human experience and made, with deliberate care, special notes and charts of his voyages. Words they are of one who drank of every cup and wrote a label for each. And in these words Solomon the wise, Solomon the rich, Solomon the mighty, has left the testimony that even a king could not find and cannot find genuine satisfaction in things finite, in things perishing, in things of the earth.

By what path shall I go to find the home of perfect happiness? Which road must I take to compass heart satisfaction? What must I do to find contentment? What must I do to have a “good time”? What must I do to be superior to the habitations in which I am domiciled? What must I do to have the merry heart within the stern war of things? What must I do to know the intoxication of pleasure without the dissipation of the soul’s finest resources . . . ?

But with all this, he missed the one essential and found no rest for his heart. It is he, this great Solomon with all his glory, who, after roaming through all the realms of thought and imagination, of human wisdom and human knowledge, cried “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!” (“Paths of Disappointment”)

God Is Angry

English: Theologian, pastor and radio teacher ...

From the pen of R. C. Sproul:

If God is holy at all, if God has an ounce of justice in His character, indeed if God exists as God, how could He possibly be anything else but angry with us? We violate His holiness; we insult His justice; we make light of His grace. These things can hardly please Him. (Sproul, The Holiness of God, 176)

 

He Is Able To Accomplish All His Will

Before a man can be saved, he must have a new spirit. Before a man can possess righteousness, the chains that bind him to sin must be broken. Is a dead man able to bring these things to pass? Charles H. Spurgeon gives us the answer in the article below:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. . . . (Romans 4:5)

In this place I would say a plain word or two to those who understand the method of justification by faith which is in Christ Jesus, but whose trouble is that they cannot cease from sin. We can never be happy, restful, or spiritually healthy till we become holy. We must be rid of sin; but how is the riddance to be wrought? This is the life-or-death question of many. The old nature is very strong, and they have tried to curb and tame it; but it will not be subdued, and they find themselves, though anxious to be better, if anything growing worse than before. The heart is so hard, the will is so obstinate, the passions are so furious, the thoughts are so volatile, the imagination is so ungovernable, the desires are so wild, that the man feels that he has a den of wild beasts within him, which will eat him up sooner than be ruled by him. We may say of our fallen nature what the Lord said to Job concerning Leviathan: “Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?” A man might as well hope to hold the north wind in the hollow of his hand as expect to control by his own strength those boisterous powers which dwell within his fallen nature. This is a greater feat than any of the fabled labours of Hercules: God is wanted here.

“I could believe that Jesus would forgive sin,” says one, “but then my trouble is that I sin again, and that I feel such awful tendencies to evil within me. As surely as a stone, if it be flung up into the air, soon comes down again to the ground, so do I, though I am sent up to heaven by earnest preaching, return again to my insensible state. Alas! I am easily fascinated with the basilisk eyes of sin, and am thus held as under a spell, so that I cannot escape from my own folly.” Dear friend, salvation would be a sadly incomplete affair if it did not deal with this part of our ruined estate. We want to be purified as well as pardoned. Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean, and leave him to die of his disease; if would forgive the rebellion and allow the rebel to remain an enemy to his king. It would remove the consequences but overlook the cause, and this would leave an endless and hopeless task before us. It would stop the stream for a time, but leave an open fountain of defilement, which would sooner or later break forth with increased power. Remember that the Lord Jesus came to take away sin in three ways; He came to remove the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and, at last, the presence of sin. At once you may reach to the second part—the power of sin may immediately be broken; and so you will be on the road to the third, namely, the removal of the presence of sin. “We know that he was manifested to take away our sins.” The angel said of our Lord, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” Our Lord Jesus came to destroy in us the works of the devil. That which was said at our Lord’s birth was also declared in His death; for when the soldier pierced His side forthwith came there out blood and water, to set forth the double cure by which we are delivered from the guilt and the defilement of sin.

If, however, you are troubled about the power of sin, and about the tendencies of your nature, as you well may be, here is a promise for you. Have faith in it, for it stands in that covenant of grace which is ordered in all things and sure. God, who cannot lie, has said in Ezekiel 36:26:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

You see, it is all “I will,” and “I will.” “I will give,” and “I will take away.” This is the royal style of the King of kings, who is able to accomplish all His will. No word of His shall ever fall to the ground. (All of Grace)

The Hardened Heart

R. C. Sproul

Quoting R. C. Sproul:

All that God has to do to harden people’s hearts is to remove the restraints. He gives them a longer leash. Rather than restricting their human freedom, He increases it. He lets them have their own way . . . It is not that God puts His hand on them to create fresh evil in their hearts; He merely removes His holy hand of restraint from them and lets them do their own will. (Sproul, Chosen By God, 145)

The Success Of The Harvest Is Due To Divine Grace

Samuel Davies

Mankind has always thought too highly of itself and scorns to be dependent on divine grace. God looks on and suffers their arrogant experiments to improve mankind. He withholds his displeasure to let them attempt to carry out their boasts through the powers of their degenerate nature and in so doing, they fail. Today, we are blessed with the instruments to see, hear, and read many sermons. There are churches everywhere. Yet sin is triumphant; and very few people are earnestly seeking to live the true Christian life of holiness. I fear that this condition will continue until our ministers and elders are humbled in the dust before God, acknowledging their own weakness, and professing their entire dependence upon Jesus Christ. Samuel Davies points to preaching as a case in point:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)

Our observation furnishes us with such instances as these: Sometimes a minister who is an universal scholar, a masterly reasoner, and an accomplished orator, and withal sincerely engaged for the conversion of sinners, labors in vain, and all his excellent discourses seem to have no effect; while another of much inferior accomplishments is the successful instrument of turning many to righteousness. This cannot be accounted for without ascribing the distinction to the peculiar concurrence of divine grace; for if it depended upon the instruments, it would be quite the reverse. Sometimes a clear, convictive, and withal solemn and warm discourse has no effect; while at another time the same doctrines, delivered in a weak, incoherent manner, have strange efficacy, and reach the heart.

Sometimes the reading of a sermon has been the means of awakening careless sinners, when at other times the most solemn and argumentative preaching has been in vain. Sometimes we have seen a number of sinners thoroughly awakened, and brought to seek the Lord in earnest; while another number under the very same sermon, and who seemed as open to conviction as the former, or perhaps more so, have remained secure and thoughtless, as usual. And whence could this difference arise but from special grace?

We have seen persons struck to the heart with those doctrines which they had heard a hundred times without an effect. And indeed there is something in the manner of persons being affected with the word, which shows that the impression is not made by the word itself, or by any other power than divine. The truths that make such deep impressions upon their hearts are no new discoveries; they are the old common repeated truths of the gospel, which they had heard before a thousand times; and the manner in which they are represented by the minister may not be clearer than usual. But, to their surprise, these familiar doctrines flash upon them as new discoveries; they appear to them in a quite different light, as though they had never heard them before: and they reach the conscience, and pierce the heart with such amazing energy, that the sinner is cast into a consternation at his own stupidity, that he never had such apprehensions of things before. He was wont to regard the word as a speculation, or a pleasing song, but now he finds it living and powerful, etc., the secrets of his heart are laid open by it, and he is obliged to own that God is with it of a truth.

Thus a believer also discerns the doctrines of the gospel in a quite different light at one time than at another: he sees new glories in them. Hence one sermon leaves him cold and hard- hearted, while another, no better in itself, sets him all on fire. Hence also one receives advantage from a discourse which had no effect upon another: and from this proceeds the difference in judgment about the excellency of sermons, which we may observe among Christians. Every one forms a judgment according to his own sensations and not according to the discourse in itself. And indeed when we hear an exercised Christian expatiate in praise of a discourse, it is a happy sign that it was made of special service to him. Many such instances as these familiarly occur in the sphere of our observation; which prove, by matters of fact, which the success of the gospel depends upon the influence of divine grace. But we need not look about us to observe others. Turn your eyes inward upon what has passed in your own minds, and you shall find that your own experience proves the same thing. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

Holiness

 

 

 

Quoting J. C. Ryle:

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. (Ryle, Holiness, 34)

National Happiness Can Only Be Found In Religion

Benjamin Rush

From the letters of Benjamin Rush:

In such a performance you may lay the foundation of national happiness only in religion, not by leaving it doubtful “whether morals can exist without it,” but by asserting that without religion morals are the effects of causes as purely physical as pleasant breezes and fruitful seasons. (Benjamin Rush letter to John Adams – August 20, 1811)

Genuine Saving Faith

Unbelief continues to work in most people whom the way of God is proposed in the gospel. Some are under the power of darkness and ignorance, and so they apprehend not. Some are blinded by Satan since he is the god of this world. Their minds are filled with prejudice, and their hearts with the love of present things. Some would mix in their own works, ways, and duties. John Owen discusses this in the article below:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

The securing of the spiritual comforts of believers in this life is a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and their own advantage by the gospel. For God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive strong consolation, and he has provided ways and means for the communication of it to them; and their participation of it is their principal interest in this world, and is so esteemed by them. But their effectual refreshing enjoyment of these comforts is variously opposed by the power of the remainders of sin, in conjunction with other temptations. Hence, notwithstanding their right and title unto them by the gospel, they are often actually destitute of a gracious sense of them, and, consequently, of that relief which they are suited to afford in all their duties, trials, and afflictions. Now, the root whereon all real comforts do grow, whence they spring and arise, is true and saving faith,–the faith of God’s elect. Wherefore they do ordinarily answer unto, and hold proportion with, the evidences which any have of that faith in themselves; at least, they cannot be maintained without such evidences. Wherefore, that we may be a little useful unto the establishment or recovery of that consolation which God is so abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should enjoy, I shall inquire, what are the principal acts and operations of faith, whereby it will evidence its truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations and storms that may befall believers in this world?

And I shall insist on such alone as will bear the severest scrutiny by Scripture and experience. And,–The principal genuine acting of saving faith in us, inseparable from it, yea, essential to such acting, consists in the: choosing, embracing, and approbation of God’s way of saving sinners, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other ways and means pretending unto the same end of salvation.

This is that which we are to explain and prove. Saving faith is our ‘believing the record that God has given us of his Son,’ 1 John 5:10, ‘And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son,’ verse 11. This is the testimony which God gives, that great and sacred truth which he himself bears witness unto,–namely, that he has freely prepared eternal life for them that believe, or provided a way of salvation for them. And what God so prepares he is said to give, because of the certainty of its communication. So grace was promised and given to the elect in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2. And that is so to be communicated unto them, in and by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, that it is the only way whereby God will give eternal life unto any; which is therefore wholly in him, and by him to be obtained, and from him to be received. Upon our acquiescence in this testimony, on our approbation of this way of saving sinners, or our refusal of it, our eternal safety or ruin does absolutely depend. And it is reasonable that it should be so: for, in our receiving of this testimony of God, we ‘set to our seal that God is true,’ John 3:33; we ascribe unto him the glory of his truth, and therein of all the other holy properties of his nature,–the most eminent duty whereof we are capable in this world; and by a refusal of it, what lies in us, we make him a liar, as in this place, 1 John 5:10, which is virtually to renounce his being. (“Evidences of the faith of God’s Elect”)

Who Gets The Glory?

John Piper (theologian)

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

God is not displeased with the strength of a horse and the legs of a man as good things that He has made. He is displeased with those who hope in their horses and in their legs. He is displeased with the people who put their hope, for example, in missiles or in make-up, in tanks or tanning parlors, in bombs or body-building. God takes no pleasure in corporate efficiency or balanced budgets or welfare systems or new vaccines or education or eloquence or artistic excellence or legal processes, when these things are the treasure in which we hope, or the achievement in which we boast. Why? Because when we put our hope in horses and legs, then the horses and legs get the glory, not God. (Piper, The Pleasures of God, 208)

 

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