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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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The Whole of Our Lives

In the words of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“If we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the only begotten Son of God and that He came into this world and went to the cross of Calvary and died for our sins and rose again in order to justify us and to give us life anew and prepare us for heaven – if you really believe that, there is only one inevitable deduction, namely that He is entitled to the whole of our lives, without any limit whatsoever.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

The Yoke of Sin

I pray that all who are burdened with sin and sinfulness, and desire to know how their sins may be forgiven and their souls saved – would hear the gracious words of the following text, and come to Jesus. John A. Broadus (1827-1895) writes:

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

But it is impossible that men should be without subjection to some higher power; by our very nature we look up to some Being that is above us. All who are not subject to God are the subjects of Satan: and they who wish to be delivered from the dominion of the Evil One, must find such deliverance in having God himself for their King, as he intended they should when he made them. Accordingly, when the Savior offers to give rest, he bids them take his yoke upon them, and learn of him, and they shall find rest unto their souls. And then he concludes the invitation by encouraging them to believe that this exchange will be good and pleasant; they labor under the galling yoke of Satan, and are heavy laden with the grievous burdens of sin, but his yoke is easy. This burden is light. . . .

The same bountiful and gracious Being who suits the blessings of his providence to our various wants, does also adapt the invitations of his mercy to the varied characters and conditions of men. Are men enemies to God? – they are invited to be reconciled. Have they hearts harder than the nether millstone? – he offers to take away the stone, and give a heart of flesh. . . Are they sleeping the heavy sleep of sin? – “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.” Are men hungering with a craving hunger? – he tells them of the bread that came down from heaven. Are they thirsty? – he calls them to the water of life. And are they burdened with sin and sinfulness? – he invites them to come to Jesus for rest. It is those who are “bowed down beneath a load of sin,” that are here especially invited to come to Jesus.

Sin is great and grievous burden: and no man can ever see it as it is and feel it in its weight without wishing to be relieved of it. My hearers, are there not many among you who have often felt this – who have often felt heavy laden with the load of your transgressions, and the burden of your sinfulness? Are there not those among you who feel this now? If you do not all feel so, it is because your perceptions are blunted, you do not see things as they are. You have been servants of sin for a long time – have you not found it a hard master? You have been wearing the yoke of Satan lo! These many years – have you not found that his yoke is indeed galling and grievous? How many things you have done at his bidding that you knew to be wrong? How often you have stifled the voice of your conscience, and listened to the suggestions of the Tempter! How often you have toiled to gratify sinful desires and passions, and found that still the craving, aching void was left unfilled!

What has sin done for the world and for you that you should desire it? It brought death into the world, and all our woe. It has filled the earth with suffering and sorrow. It has made it needful that Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, should suffer and die, to make atonement for it. It has brought upon you much of unhappiness now, and many most fearful apprehensions for the future. By your sins you have incurred the just anger of Him that made you-already they rise mountain high, and yet still you go on in your sinfulness, accumulating more and more, heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. You shudder when you think of death, you tremble when you think of God, for you know well that you are not prepared to die, that you cannot meet your Maker and Judge in peace. And not only has sin brought on you all these sufferings and fears, but you cannot rid yourself of it. . . .

If so, hear the Savior’s own invitation, and come to him. He will take off the heavy load that crushes you, and you shall find rest to your souls. He will intercede in your behalf before God, he will take away your guilt by the sacrifice he has offered, and he will “wash you thoroughly from your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sin.” (“Come Unto Me”)

The Deep Implications of Sin

Quoting R.C. Sproul:

Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgment is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.” (The Holiness of God)

The Problem of Anger

Do you have a problem with anger? In my opinion, more and more people today seem to have difficulty with anger. We are becoming a people of very low “Emotional IQs”. Does “Reason” leave the room when you become angry? When people with low “Emotional IQs” become angry, the rational part of the mind seems to shut down and their anger becomes destructive. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly. . . .” (Proverbs 14:17 ESV)

Such people actually lose control of themselves. “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV) Most people have learned and are mature enough, fortunately, to keep their anger under control. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV) Here we see that a person can be angry without sin. Even Jesus became angry on some occasions toward the sinful disobedience of men. The anger of God the Father and Son is a righteous anger, but today – I’m writing about sinful anger – not righteous anger.

Whereas righteous anger is all about things of the Will, Honor, and Glory of God; sinful anger is really all about us, our inconvenience, our pride, and our will. So, what does the Bible say we are to do about sinful anger?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV) “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10 ESV) In verse after verse, it becomes obvious that this type of ongoing anger is incompatible with the Christian life. Note too that anger is put into a class which includes wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lies.

Unlike God the Father and Son, human beings are filled with the imperfections of sin. Our anger is often wrong and unnecessary because of false presumptions. We become angry over personal issues and yet remain silent when God is dishonored and sin is exalted.

However, man’s sinful inclinations can be transformed; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV) This does not mean that a Christian will now live a sin-free life, but it does mean that we are no longer compelled by sin as we were before we received grace.

Irrational anger may now be defeated! “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 ESV) Discipline the way you think. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV) For it is now possible to: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

The Christian life is all about the inner transformation that begins with salvation. As you consistently read and meditate on the Scriptures, praying to God for wisdom and understanding, the Holy Spirit will help you grow in holiness. Anger problems can be overcome – but the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Word of God and prayer. If you are not a consistent reader of God’s Book and do not attend church regularly, then you are not fulfilling your part in the process of sanctification. You must take an active part in renewing your mind through the Word of God.

And so, dear Christian, are you still often overcome by sinful anger? Continue then to renew your mind and keep a firm grip on God’s Holy Word. By this, “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. . . .” (Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV)

A Nation of Heretics

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes that American Christians have fallen from faithfulness into heresy in his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

According to Douthat, Americans create and experiment with a variety of offshoot religions. We are no longer orthodox. We are influenced by Christianity, but we are not traditionally Christian. We are heretics.

Ross Douthat

For instance; believers often commit to political causes at the expense of their faith convictions. Americans have also bought into the self-help journey and finding the god within. Many believers now blush at the exclusive claim that “I am the way and the truth and the life.” They are more interested in the “pray and grow rich” gospel than the journey from spiritual impoverishment.

Julia Thompson writes a most interesting review of Douthat’s book titled, “Have we Become Heretics?” You will find it here at tothesource. . .

Mercy and Justice

In the words of John Calvin:

“God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”

What Have You Done With Your Soul?

Every one of us will stand before God and give an account of our lives. Think of it! God holds us responsible and accountable. We will stand before God and He will ask us, “What have you done with your soul?” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes on this subject:

This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:27-29 ESV)

Well, this Book [the Bible] tells you, this is the word of God. It tells us about God, Himself. As I told you He is the creator, He is the sustainer of everything. Yes, and He made man. Man is not an accident, you know, it is an insult to say that man is a creature that has evolved from the animal. It is not true. The Bible tells me that man has a dignity that makes him the lord of creation. Why? He has been created in the image and the likeness of God. We have an animal part but God has put something of Himself into us. When He came to make man He said, ‘Let us make man in our own image and likeness.’ He gave us reason, understanding, certain faculties and propensities that none of the animals have. And man is able to look on at himself and evaluate himself. Man! Yes and he is a responsible being to God. The popular theory is, as I say, that when a man dies that is the end. He is finished with. No! No! Says the Bible. Man is bigger than the universe; he has these qualities and potentialities in him. God has put them there and God holds man responsible and He is going to ask man at the end, ‘What have you done with the soul that I gave you? You may have made a lot of money; you may have garnered a lot of knowledge – what have you done with the soul – that part of you that was meant to commune with Me and to be my companion? What have you done with it?’ God is going to ask us – that is the judgment. (“A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken”)

The Purified Heart

Quoting J. C. Ryle:

A right heart is a PURIFIED heart (Acts 15:9; Matt. 5:8). It loves holiness, and hates sin. It strives daily to cleanse itself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1). It abhors that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. It delights in the law of God, and has that law engraved on it, that it may not forget it (Psalm 119:11). It longs to keep the law more perfectly, and takes pleasure in those who love the law. It loves God and people. Its affections are set on things above. It never feels so light and happy as when it is most holy; and it looks forward to heaven with joy, as the place where perfect holiness will at length be attained.

God gave us Life and Liberty

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence:

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; that a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237)

Commit Your Cause to Christ

Charles H. Spurgeon, once again, reminds us of the great Savior in whose hands grace abounds:

Jesus has nothing which He will not use for a sinner’s salvation, and there is nothing which He will not display in the aboundings of His grace. He links His princedom with His Savior-ship, as if He would not have the one without the other; and He sets forth His exaltation as designed to bring blessings to men, as if this were the flower and crown of His glory. Could anything be more calculated to raise the hopes of seeking sinners who are looking Christward?

Jesus endured great humiliation, and therefore there was room for Him to be exalted. By that humiliation He accomplished and endured all the Father’s will, and therefore He was rewarded by being raised to glory. He uses that exaltation on behalf of His people. Let my reader raise his eyes to these hills of glory, whence his help must come. Let him contemplate the high glories of the Prince and Savior. Is it not most hopeful for men that a Man is now on the throne of the universe? Is it not glorious that the Lord of all is the Savior of sinners? We have a Friend at court; yea, a Friend on the throne. He will use all His influence for those who entrust their affairs in His hands. Well does one of our poets sing:

He ever lives to intercede

Before His Father’s face;

Give Him, my soul,

Thy cause to plead,

No doubt the Father’s grace.

Come, friend, and commit your cause and your case to those once pierced hands, which are now glorified with the signet rings of royal power and honor. No suit ever failed which was left with this great Advocate. (All of Grace)

Magnify His Grace!

Quoting David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“How easy it is to read the Scriptures and give a kind of nominal assent to the truth and yet never to appropriate what it tells us!”

“[W]e must never look at any sin in our past life in any way except that which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Christ Jesus.” (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures)

Christianity and American Independence

John Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

Providence, Prophets, and Pretenders

We are often careless Christians when it comes to attributing the reasons behind certain acts of God’s providential workings. A. A. Hodge offers this explanation:

There are two extreme tendencies to which different persons are inclined when regarding the course of events in the world, each of which is evidently false when exclusively indulged, but both of which together, when combined, lead to the true attitude which every Christian should cultivate: the view of the mere naturalist, in which the supernatural is altogether merged in the natural, and, conversely, the view of the pantheist, in which the natural is altogether merged in the supernatural. And these apparently opposite extremes virtually come to the same thing, because they both equally exclude a personal God and human freedom, and maintain a naturalistic fatalism. But both present a side of the one truth. The natural is the fixed and regulated method which the personal heavenly Father has laid down for his own guidance; the supernatural does neither exclude nor supersede the natural, but it is the self-revelation of the heavenly Father, who works through natural law, as the personal Agent who, having ordained law, uses it to accomplish his spiritual purposes. The universe has a personal basis. The laws of nature are the methods self-ordained of a personal Agent. The true scientists are the sons of God, who were not created for the laws of nature, but the laws of nature for them.

After the Charleston earthquakethe Christian preachers endeavored to enforce upon their hearers the scriptural lessons of the event viewed as a divine dispensation. The visiting scientists are represented as

having scoffed contemptuously, maintaining that the preachers should have confined themselves to an exposition of the laws of nature and drawn comfort from the proven exceptional character of such experiences. These men of mere science may have been able and useful in their narrow specialty, but they were certainly very absurd philosophers. They were perfectly right in confining their own investigations to the scientific aspects of the phenomena, and the preachers had an equal authority in calling the attention of the Christian people to the aspect which the light of the inspired Scriptures, when thrown upon the providential facts, presented. We say, advisedly, that the preachers’ authority in the premises is limited to the application of the light of the inspired Scriptures to the current facts. They have no right to assume the role of prophets, as too many are at times inclined to do; and no man not the subject of plenary inspiration should dare to explain the ultimate divine purpose in any particular event or its relation to human guilt. The Master himself said, “Suppose ye that those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

Christian Art?

According to R.C. Sproul:

“What makes art Christian art? Is it simply Christian artists painting biblical subjects like Jeremiah? Or, by attaching a halo, does that suddenly make something Christian art? Must the artist’s subject be religious to be Christian? I don’t think so. There is a certain sense in which art is its own justification. If art is good art, if it is true art, if it is beautiful art, then it is bearing witness to the Author of the good, the true, and the beautiful.” (Lifeviews)

What Christian Teens Really Believe

I recently read about a survey designed to discover the opinions of teens regarding the trustworthiness of the Bible and what it says about Jesus. Is Jesus God? Did Jesus physically live, die, and come back to life? Is Jesus is the only way to heaven? Troy Anderson, an award-winning journalist at The Press-Enterprise, Los Angeles Daily News, Reuters, Newsmax, Christianity Today, Charisma, and many other magazines and online publications, writes:

One in three Christian teenagers doesn’t believe Jesus is the only way to heaven.

And about two-thirds of teens in church youth groups have measurable doubts about the trustworthiness of the Bible or disbelieve it entirely.

These are just a couple of the findings in a survey of Christian teenagers in youth groups from 16 denominations. . . .

In a book examining the findings – The Jesus Survey: What Christian Teens Really Believe and Why – former youth pastor and bestselling author Mike Nappa wrote the results left him a “bit shell-shocked.”

“Among these Christian kids in our youth ministries, a full 10 percent have decided that the biblical accounts about Jesus simply can’t be trusted. . . .”

And the clear majority of the rest (60 percent) are either uncertain or unsettled and confused about whether or not the Bible can be trusted. . . .

In the book, Nappa cites an illuminating passage from Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, a book by Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor of youth, church and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dean lays part of the blame for the “blasé religiosity” of many teenagers on a “watered-down gospel.”

You may read this entire article here. . . .

I have come to believe that most youth groups tend to emphasize activities over the Scriptures. The youth in these groups need a solid diet of apologetics during this time of life. More and more they will find themselves in the company of people who are determined to challenge their faith in God. Some movies, television programs, and books will always be around to provide negative views of Christianity. However, many of the teenagers in our youth groups will soon be in colleges where the over-abundance of liberal, atheistic, and agnostic professors delight in making themselves seem wise and superior by belittling students who are not prepared to have their faith challenged.

Our youth departments are failing our teenagers. Our ministries must begin preparing our youth to defend their faith in an antagonistic world. Perhaps then, fewer of our youth will walk away from Christianity during the college years. I repeat – give our youth a curriculum which teaches them how to defend their Christian faith.

I am reminded that in the times of Hosea God complained and promised His wrath upon the Hebrew priests who had failed to teach the laws of God correctly to the people: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6 ESV) Evidently, God takes the matter of teaching his people much more seriously than we seem to!

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