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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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  • September 2012
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Hearing the Word

Bishop J. C. Ryle:

It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing better, but rather worse. “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how you hear.” Would any one know how to hear properly? Then let them lay to heart three simple rules.

1) We must hear with FAITH, believing implicitly that every word of God is true, and shall stand. The word in old time did not profit the Jews, since it was “not mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2).

2) We must hear with REVERENCE, remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul’s message, “not as the word of men, but the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).

3) We must bear with PRAYER, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing, and so they have none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.

Summary:

Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared; as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we will hear with profit, and return with praise. (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 258-259)

Vocation

According to J. Gresham Machen:

“For Christians to influence the world with the truth of God’s Word requires the recovery of the great Reformation doctrine of vocation. Christians are called to God’s service not only in church professions but also in every secular calling. The task of restoring truth to the culture depends largely on our laypeople.

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture. The church needs to cultivate Christian artists, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, attorneys, teachers, scientists, business executives, and the like, teaching its laypeople the sense in which every secular vocation-including, above all, the callings of husband, wife, and parent–is a sphere of Christian ministry, a way of serving God and neighbor that is grounded in God’s truth. Christian laypeople must be encouraged to be leaders in their fields, rather than eager-to-please followers, working from the assumptions of their biblical worldview, not the vapid clichés of pop culture.”

The Eternal Sufficiency of the Blood of Christ

Christ is our Mediator through His blood; by it our conscience, is freed from sin in the sight of God. Martin Luther writes in this excerpt to help us understand:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-15 ESV)

According to Leviticus 16, the high priest must once a year enter into the holy place with the blood of rams and other offerings, and with these make formal reconciliation for the people. This ceremony typified that Christ, the true Priest, should once die for us, to obtain for us the true atonement. But the former sacrifice, having to be repeated every year, was but a temporary and imperfect atonement; it did not eternally suffice, as does the atonement of Christ. For though we fall and sin repeatedly, we have confidence that the blood of Christ does not fall, or sin; it remains steadfast before God, and the expiation is perpetual and eternal. Under its sway grace is perpetually renewed, without work or merit on our part, provided we do not stand aloof in unbelief.

Christ, in God’s sight, purifies the conscience of dead works; that is, of sins meriting death, and of works performed in sin and therefore dead. Christ purifies from these, that we may serve the living God by living works. (“Christ Our Great High Priest”)

Prayer Changes Things

Quoting R.C. Sproul:

“Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.” (The Prayer of the Lord)

Lord Be Our Strength!

The world is a howling wilderness for many Christians. Some are greatly indulged and blessed by the providence of God, while others have a hard fight to just make do. It is God who keeps us alive on the brink of death. Many will be amazed to see us enter the kingdom of heaven, but we have been kept blameless in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

If we had the tongues of men and of angels, if we did not receive fresh grace, where should we be? If we had all experience till we were fathers in the church – if we had been taught of God so as to understand all mysteries – yet we could not live a single day without the divine life flowing into us from our Covenant Head. How could we hope to hold on for a single hour, to say nothing of a lifetime, unless the Lord should hold us on? He who began the good work in us must perform it unto the day of Christ, or it will prove a painful failure.

This great necessity arises very much from our own selves. In some there is a painful fear that they shall not persevere in grace because they know their own fickleness. Certain persons are constitutionally unstable. Some men are by nature conservative, not to say obstinate; but others are as naturally variable and volatile. Like butterflies they flit from flower to flower, till they visit all the beauties of the garden, and settle upon none of them. They are never long enough in one place to do any good; not even in their business nor in their intellectual pursuits. Such persons may well be afraid that ten, twenty, thirty, forty, perhaps fifty years of continuous religious watchfulness will be a great deal too much for them. We see men joining first one church and then another, till they box the compass. They are everything by turns and nothing long. Such have double need to pray that they may be divinely confirmed, and may be made not only steadfast but unmovable, or otherwise they will not be found “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” All of us, even if we have no constitutional temptation to fickleness, must feel our own weakness if we are really quickened of God. Dear reader, do you not find enough in any one single day to make you stumble? You that desire to walk in perfect holiness, as I trust you do; you that have set before you a high standard of what a Christian should be – do you not find that before the breakfast things are cleared away from the table, you have displayed enough folly to make you ashamed of yourselves? If we were to shut ourselves up in the lone cell of a hermit, temptation would follow us; for as long as we cannot escape from ourselves we cannot escape from incitements to sin. There is that within our hearts which should make us watchful and humble before God. If he does not confirm us, we are so weak that we shall stumble and fall; not overturned by an enemy, but by our own carelessness. Lord, be thou our strength. We are weakness itself. (All of Grace)

Persistence in True Doctrine

According to John Calvin:

This is why Paul upholds the teaching of the gospel in such a forceful way … Seeing such an example and such a picture of man’s great weakness and fickleness, Paul states that the truth of the gospel must supersede anything that we may devise … he is showing us that we ought to know the substance of the doctrine which is brought to us in the name of God, so that our faith can be fully grounded upon it. Then we will not be tossed about with every wind, nor will we wander about aimlessly, changing our opinions a hundred times a day; we will persist in this doctrine until the end. This, in brief, is what we must remember.”

Old Testament History

Archaeology and the Bible:

“There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition. . . .” (Quoting Dr. William F. Albright, premier archaeologist for Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem)

Spending the Day with God Part IV

Matthew Vogan provides us with an updated version of Richard Baxter’s (1615 – 1691) “How to Spend the Day with God”:

A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.

The Only Motive:

Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.

Redeeming The Time:

Place a high value upon your time; be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, television, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.

Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life that would rob you of your time than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.

Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.

Eating and Drinking:

Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.

Remember the sin of Sodom: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness” – Ezekiel 16:49.

The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ” – Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh lest you die (Romans 8:13). (“How to Spend the Day with God”)

The Work of God in the Holy Spirit

Written by Bishop J. C. Ryle:

“Let us settle it in our minds that His work is no uncertain invisible operation on the heart: and that where He is, He is not hidden, not unfelt, not unobserved. We do not believe that the dew, when it falls, cannot be felt, or that where there is life in a man it cannot be seen and observed by his breath. So is it with the influence of the Holy Spirit. No man has any right to lay claim to it, except its fruits and its experimental effects can be seen in his life. Where He is, there will ever be a new creation, and a new man. Where He is, there will ever be new knowledge, new faith, new holiness, new fruits in the life, in the family, in the world, in the Church. And where these new things are not to be seen we may well say, with confidence, there is no work of the Holy Spirit.”

Wealth and Christianity

Individuals may commendably be employed in following their respective callings; but yet, if they are occupied so deeply in this, as to hinder their salvation and sanctification, they may forfeit their seats at Christ’s table. George Whitefield explains further:

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22 ESV)

A covetous miser, who neglects religion by being continually intent on seeking great things for himself and those of his own household, flatters himself he herein acts most wisely; and at the same time will censure and condemn a young prodigal, who has no time to be devout, because he is so perpetually engaged in wasting his substance by riotous living and following of harlots. But yet a little while, and men will be convinced, that they are as much without excuse who lost their souls by hunting after riches, as those who lose them by hunting after sensual pleasures. For though business may assume an air of importance, when compared with other trifling amusements, yet when put in the balance with the loss of our precious and immortal souls, it is equally frivolous, according to that of our Savior, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lost his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

And now what need we any further proof? We have heard the decision out of Christ’s own mouth. But because it is so difficult to convince such of this important truth, whose hearts are blinded by the deceitfulness of riches, that we had need cry out to them in the language of the prophet, “O earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord,” I shall lay before you one passage of scripture more, which I could wish were written on the tables of all our hearts. In the 14th of St. Luke, the 18th and following verses, our blessed Lord puts forth this parable, “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many, and sent his servant at supper-time, to call them that were bidden: but they all, with one consent, began to make excuse. The one said, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it, I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought a yoke of oxen, and I must needs go and prove them, I pray thee therefore have me excused. So the servant returned, and showed his master all these things.” And what follows? Did the master accept of their excuses? No, the text tells us the good man was angry, and said, “that none of those which were bidden, should taste of his supper.” And what does this parable teach, but that the most lawful callings cannot justify our neglect; nay, that they are no longer lawful when they in any wise interfere with the great concerns of religion? For the marriage supper here spoken of, means the gospel; the master of the house is Christ; the servants sent out, are his ministers, whose duty it is, from time to time, to call the people to this marriage-feast, or, in other words, to be religious. Now we find those that were bidden, were very well and honestly employed. There was no harm in buying or seeing a piece of ground, or in going to prove a yoke of oxen; but here lay their faults, they were doing those things, when they were invited to come to the marriage feast. (“Worldly Business no Plea for the Neglect of Religion”)

Scriptures and Practice

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“We accept what Scripture teaches as far as our doctrine is concerned; but when it comes to practice, we very often fail to take the Scriptures as our only guide. … Dare I give an obvious illustration? The question of women preaching, and being ordained to the full ministry.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Morality and Religion

Good advice from George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796):

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

The Church Deceived

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1, ESV)

I am often dismayed when I hear about people I know or their friends who are being deceived by some new teaching that provides shortcuts to the victorious Christian life. You do not often hear that they have presented this new teaching to their orthodox pastors and elders – and then, after a careful search of the Scriptures, they have decided to follow this new prophet and his books. As a matter of fact, what I mostly hear as justification for following these teachings (which are usually old heresies) is something like, “All my friends are reading his books and listening to his sermons. They say he makes Christianity so simple!”

Most of these false teachers are simply rehashing the “word-of-faith” teachings mixed with their own particular flavors. The bottom line of these movements seems to always be a concoction focusing on success, prosperity, and health. If bad things happen to you, then you simply do not have enough faith or you are using the Word incorrectly.

Some of these teachings imply the godhood of man and the possibility of superhuman powers. Some of these false teachers adopt faith rituals and positive prayer formulas guaranteed to get results – if you just have enough faith. In these movements you often find some sound doctrine mixed with false teachings to attract those who are overly confident in their own Bible knowledge.

One such book, titled Destined to Reign, has been called to my attention recently. In this book, the author gives the following credit: “I give thanks to God for my roots in the Word of Faith teachings. It is truly on the shoulders of great men of God like Brother Kenneth E. Hagin (see the addendum below to find out more about Kenneth Hagin) that we are able to see further into the Word of God today. Growing up, I learned a lot about faith from Brother Hagin who truly had a special revelation of faith from the Lord. I deeply honor and respect him for all that he has taught me.” (Destined to Reign: The Secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living p.271)

The author of this book is Joseph Prince. He is, as quoted above, a product of the “word-of-faith” movement. Prince promotes the false idea that because of grace believers only get blessings. All sins were forgiven at the cross for the believer, therefore repentance or confession of sin is not necessary. He teaches that wealth is for all Christians. He believes God is restoring NEW TRUTHS to the church. Prince also teaches that the “moral law” no longer applies to Christians and has ceased along with the “ceremonial law”.

However, if I am faithfully following after the teachings of Joseph Prince and am still having problems with health, money, and relationships, then I am not in God’s grace. Thus, we see what an utter failure Paul was when he wrote by the Spirit of God, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13 ESV) Should we assume then that Paul was not in God’s grace?

We have only to apply the test of the Scriptures to measure the truth or deceitfulness of any teaching found in Destined to Reign: The Secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living – or any other of Joseph Prince’s writings or sermons.

Yet, people continue to choose to follow what their neighbors think or like and not search the Scriptures themselves or at least discuss it with a sound teacher of the Word of God. We are deceived by the sin of pride and the lust for “effortless success”. The truth is that most of us do not want to hear that wealth is seldom achieved or held on to effortlessly. Thus we are willing to accept a little heresy mixed with the strong drink of true Christian doctrine to make Christianity more palatable to our tastes and current frame of mind.

We are given this warning by Peter, “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” (2 Peter 2:1-3, ESV)

Addendum:

Kenneth Hagin seems to have taken many of his teachings from E. W. Kenyon. Kenyon was born on April 24, 1867, in Hadley, New York. The origin of Kenyon’s positive confession teaching (word of faith) can be traced back to his introduction to the philosophical ideas of positive confession at Emerson College of Oratory in Boston in 1880. Emerson College taught New Thought metaphysics, which is a system of cultic belief that taught that the human mind through positive mental attitude and positive confession has the power to create its own reality: either health and wealth, or sickness and poverty. Kenyon’s beliefs centered on faith in faith; guaranteed health; wealth/prosperity; the spiritual death of Christ and the belief that Christians are little gods.

Word of Faith preacher, Kenneth Hagin, claimed to be a prophet called by God Himself. He also believed that Christians are little gods and that if they are not healthy and wealthy it is because of their lack of faith or knowledge. Hagin taught that Christians have control over their lives by the words that they speak.

Interesting Quotes from Hagin:

The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth. (“The Word of Faith”)

Man…was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God’s presence without any consciousness of inferiority…. God has made us as much like Himself as possible…. He made us the same class of being that He is Himself…. Man lived in the realm of God. He lived on terms equal with God…. [T]he believer is called Christ….That’s who we are; we’re Christ! (“Zoe: The God-Kind of Life”, pp. 35-36, 41)

Holy, Holy, Holy!

According to R. C. Sproul:

“If you don’t delight in the fact that your Father is holy, holy, holy, then you are spiritually dead. You may be in a church. You may go to a Christian school. But if there is no delight in your soul for the holiness of God, you don’t know God. You don’t love God. You’re out of touch with God. You’re asleep to his character.” (Choosing My Religion)

Pleiades and Orion

Science and the Bible:

God asked Job “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the belt of Orion?” (Job 38:31) In the last century astrophysicists have discovered that the stars of Pleiades move in unison with each other, and are thus gravitationally bound. They have also discovered that the stars in the belt of Orion are free agents that are not gravitationally bound!

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