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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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Whatever the New Year Brings. . . .

Have a Happy New Year in Christ!

A.W. Tozer:

I do not advise that we end the year on a somber note. The march, not the dirge, has ever been the music of Christianity. If we are good students in the school of life, there is much that the years have to teach us. But the Christian is more than a student, more than a philosopher. He is a believer, and the object of his faith makes the difference, the mighty difference. Of all persons the Christian should be best prepared for whatever the New Year brings. He has dealt with life at its source. In Christ he has disposed of a thousand enemies that other men must face alone and unprepared. He can face his tomorrow cheerful and unafraid because yesterday he turned his feet into the ways of peace and today he lives in God. The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation. (The Warfare of the Spirit)

One Choice at a Time

Trusting GodJerry Bridges:

I realize anew that, just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we must also learn to trust God one circumstance at a time. Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will. I never feel like trusting God when adversity strikes, but I can choose to do so even when I don’t feel like it. That act of the will, though, must be based on belief, and belief must be based on truth.

Anxious for Your Children?

Overprotective ParentsParents naturally wish to save their children from suffering. Often, however, this protective instinct becomes an obsession and is carried to extremes. Such behavior on the parents’ part does more harm than good. Thomas Adams writes:

‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ (Heb. 13:8)

Many persons are solicitously perplexed, how their children shall do when they are dead; yet they consider not how God provided for them when they were children. Is the ‘Lord’s arm shortened?’… Is not ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever?’ ‘I have been young,’ saith David, ‘and am now old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken’—that is granted, nay—’nor his seed begging bread,’ Ps. 37:25.

Many distrustful fathers are so anxious for their posterity, that while they live they starve their bodies, and hazard their souls, to leave them rich. To such a father it is said justly: … Like an over-kind hen, he feeds his chickens, and famishes himself. If usury, circumvention, oppression, extortion, can make them rich, they shall not be poor. Their folly is ridiculous; they fear lest their children should be miserable, yet take the only course to make them miserable; for they leave them not so much heirs to their goods as to their evils. They as certainly inherit their father’s sins as their lands: ‘God layeth up his iniquity for his children; and his offspring shall want a morsel of bread,’ Job 21:19.

On the contrary, ‘the good man is merciful, and lends; and his seed is blessed,’ Ps. 37:26. That which the worldling thinks shall make his posterity poor, God saith shall make the good man’s [children] rich. The precept gives a promise of mercy to obedience, not only confined to the obedient man’s self, but extended to his seed, and that even to a thousand generations, Exod. 20:6. Trust, then, Christ with thy children; when thy friends shall fail, usury bear no date, oppression be condemned to hell, thyself rotten to the dust, the world itself turned and burned into cinders, still ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’

Now then, as ‘grace and peace are from him which is, and which was, and which is to come;’ so glory and honor be to him, which is, and which was, and which is to come; even to ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,’ Rev. 1:4. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

Madison Avenue Christians

Christianity for SaleJames Montgomery Boice:

If Madison Avenue executives were trying to attract people to the Christian life, they would stress its positive and fulfilling aspects…Unfortunately, we who live in the West are so conditioned to this very thinking (and to precisely this type of Christian evangelism or salesmanship) that we are almost shocked when we learn that the first great principle of Christianity is negative. It is not, as some say, “Come to Christ, and all your troubles will melt away.” It is as the Lord himself declared, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Mt. 16:24-26). (Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology, p. 459)

The Logic for God

R. C. SproulLogic and God:

The logic for God is so overwhelming that the philosopher/theologian R. C. Sproul insists that a reasonable man must acquiesce to this conclusion. The evidence is so compelling, that one must override his senses to deny Him. It is only the person who is blinded by his own agenda that refuses to accept it. A thinking person who denies God must do so on the basis of preferring to believe there is no God in order to try to escape His judgment, thus irrationally seeking autonomy. Our challenge to the skeptic: At some point you must be willing to rationally consider the evidence and honestly seek with an open mind details about the God who made you.

The Old Paths

John Gill

John Gill

The scriptures are the only external guide in matters of religion; they are the road signs we should follow. John Gill writes:

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)

In this chapter the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians is threatened and foretold, and the causes of it assigned; in general, the great abounding of sin and wickedness among the people; and in particular, their neglect and contempt of the word of God; the sin of covetousness, which prevailed among all sorts; the unfaithfulness of the prophets to the people, and the people’s impenitence and hardness of heart; their want of shame, their disregard to all instructions and warnings from the Lord, by the mouth of his prophets, and their obstinate refusal of them; which last is expressed in the clause following the words read; and which, though an aggravation of it, show the tender regard of the Lord to his people, and may be considered as an instruction to such who had their doubts and difficulties in religious matters; who were halting between two opinions. . . .

The direction given to stand in or on the ways, etc. to do as men do when they are come to a place where two or more ways meet, make a stand, and view the roads, and see which they should take; they look about them, and consider well what course they should steer; they look up to the way-marks, or way-posts, and read the inscriptions on them, which tell them whither such a road leads, and so judge for themselves which way they should go. Now in religious matters, the way-marks or way-posts to guide and direct men in the way are the scriptures, the oracles of God, and they only. Not education-principles. It is right in parents to do as Abraham did, to teach their children to keep the way of the Lord (Gen. 18:19). The direction of the wise man is an exceeding good one; Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6); that is, easily and ordinarily: and it becomes Christians under the gospel dispensation to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4); and a great mercy and blessing it is to have a religious education; but then, as wrong principles may be infused as well as right ones, into The Old Pathspersons in their tender years, it becomes them, when come to years of maturity and discretion, to examine them, whether they are according to the word of God, and so judge for themselves, whether they are to be abided by or rejected. I know it is a grievous thing with some persons to forsake the religion they have been brought up in; but upon this foot, a man that is born and brought up a Turk or a Jew, a Pagan or a Papist, must ever continue so. Sad would have been the case of the apostle Paul, if he had continued in the principles of his education; and what a shocking figure did he make whilst he abode by them. . . .

Nor are the customs of men a rule of judgment, or a direction which way men should take in matters of religion; for the customs of the people are for the most part vain (Jer. 20:3), and such as are not lawful for us, being Christians, to receive or observe (Acts 16:21); and concerning which we should say, We have no such custom, neither the churches of God (1 Cor. 11:16). Custom is a tyrant, and ought to be rebelled against, and its yoke thrown off.

Nor are the traditions of men to be regarded; the Pharisees were very tenacious of the traditions of the elders, by which they transgressed the commandments of God, and made his word of no effect; and the apostle Paul, in his unregenerated state, was zealous of the same; but neither of them are to be imitated by us: it is right to observe the exhortation which the apostle gives, when a Christian (Col. 2:8); beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Take care you are not imposed upon, under the notion and pretense of an apostolic tradition; unwritten traditions are not the rule, only the word of God is the rule of our faith and practice. (“The Scriptures: The Only Guide in Matters of Faith”)

The Atonement

Jerry BridgesJerry Bridges:

Our entire confidence in our acceptance before God is based solely upon the fact that Jesus was our legal representative in His sinless life and obedient death.

Never Be Idle!

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson:

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.”

Rejoice in Election

Charles H. SpurgeonWhat claim could I possibly have on God? I am a sinner and any good that I try to do is as filthy rags in His sight. His justice demands a guilty verdict and a terrible punishment. Yet, in His mercy He chooses to show His grace to some. Therefore, I have hope in His sovereign kindness. Charles H. Spurgeon wrote:

For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Romans 9:15)

In these words the Lord in the plainest manner claims the right to give or to withhold His mercy according to His own sovereign will. As the prerogative of life and death is vested in the monarch, so the Judge of all the earth has a right to spare or condemn the guilty, as may seem best in His sight. Men by their sins have forfeited all claim upon God; they deserve to perish for their sins-and if they all do so, they have no ground for complaint. If the Lord steps in to save any, He may do so if the ends of justice are not thwarted; but if He judges it best to leave the condemned to suffer the righteous sentence, none may arraign Him at their bar. Foolish and impudent are all those discourses about the rights of men to be all placed on the same footing; ignorant, if not worse, are those contentions against discriminating grace, which are but the rebellions of proud human nature against the crown and scepter of Jehovah. When we are brought to see our own utter ruin and ill desert, and the justice of the divine verdict against sin, we no longer cavil at the truth that the Lord is not bound to save us; we do not murmur if He chooses to save others, as though He were doing us an injury, but feel that if He deigns to look upon us, it will be His own free act of undeserved goodness, for which we shall for ever bless His name. How shall those who are the subjects of divine election sufficiently adore the grace of God? They have no room for boasting, for sovereignty most effectually excludes it. The Lord’s will alone is glorified, and the very notion of human merit is cast out to everlasting contempt. There is no more humbling doctrine in Scripture than that of election, none more promotive of gratitude, and, consequently, none more sanctifying. Believers should not be afraid of it, but adoringly rejoice in it. (Morning & Evening, November 25)

Paganism

Paganism writes:

“Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.” (Christianity and Liberalism)

Jesus in History

JosephusJosephus:

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.” (Josephus—The Essential Works, P. L. Maier ed./trans.).

The Golden Rule

J. Gresham Machen

The more we study the Sermon on the Mount we begin to realize, like all the rest of the New Testament; it really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross. J. Gresham Machen writes:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

This passage is in some respects a favorite with modern liberal teachers; for it is interpreted—falsely, it is true, yet plausibly—as meaning that all that a man needs to attain standing with God is an approximately right performance of his duties to his fellow-men, and not any assent to a creed or even any direct relation to Jesus. But have those who quote the passage triumphantly in this way ever stopped to reflect upon the other side of the picture—upon the stupendous fact that in this same passage the eternal destinies of men are made dependent upon the word of Jesus? Jesus here represents Himself as seated on the judgment-seat of all the earth, separating whom He will forever from the bliss that is involved in being present with Him. Could anything be further removed than such a Jesus from the humble teacher of righteousness appealed to by modern liberalism? Clearly it is impossible to escape from theology, even in the chosen precincts of the Sermon on the Mount. A stupendous theology, with Jesus’ own Person at the center of it, is the presupposition of the whole teaching.

But may not that theology still be removed? May we not get rid of the bizarre, theological element which has intruded itself even into the Sermon on the Mount, and content ourselves merely with the ethical portion of the discourse? The question, from the point of view of modern liberalism, is natural. But it must be answered with an emphatic negative. For the fact is that the ethic of the discourse, taken by itself, will not work at all. The Golden Rule furnishes an example. ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you’—is that rule a rule of universal application, will it really solve all the problems of society? A little experience shows that such is not the case. Help a drunkard to get rid of his evil habit, and you will soon come to distrust the modern interpretation of the Golden Rule. The trouble is that the drunkard’s companions apply the rule only too well; they do unto him exactly what they would have him do unto them —by buying him a drink. The Golden Rule becomes a powerful obstacle in the way of moral advance. But the trouble does not lie in the rule itself; it lies in the modern interpretation of the rule. The error consists in supposing that the Golden Rule, with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, is addressed to the whole world. As a matter of fact the whole discourse is expressly addressed to Jesus’ disciples; and from them the great world outside is distinguished in the plainest possible way. The persons to whom the Golden Rule is addressed are persons in whom a great change has been wrought—a change which fits them for entrance into the Kingdom of God. Such persons will have pure desires; they, and they only, can safely do unto others as they would have others do unto them, for the things that they would have others do unto them are high and pure. (Christianity and Liberalism)

 

It Was Included in God’s Plan

Sovereignty of GodLoraine Boettner D.D.:

If the perfection of the divine plan be denied, no consistent stopping place will be found short of atheism. In the first place there was no necessity that God should create at all. He acted with perfect freedom when He brought this world into existence. When He did choose to create, there were before Him an infinite number of possible plans. But as a matter of fact we find that He chose this particular one in which we now are. And since He knew perfectly every event of every kind which would be involved in this particular world-order, He very obviously predetermined every event which would happen when He chose this plan. His choice of the plan, or His making certain that the creation should be on this order, we call His foreordination or His predestination.

Even the sinful acts of men are included in this plan. They are foreseen, permitted, and have their exact place. They are controlled and overruled for the divine glory. The crucifixion of Christ, which is admittedly the worst crime in all human history, had, we are expressly told, its exact and necessary place in the plan (Acts 2:23; 4:28). This particular manner of redemption is not an expedient to which God was driven after being defeated and disappointed by the fall of man. Rather it is “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Ephesians 3:11.

Peter tells us that Christ as a sacrifice for sin was “foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world,” 1 Peter 1:20. Believers were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (or from eternity), Ephesians 1:4. We are saved not by our own temporary works, “but according to His purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,” 2 Timothy 1:9. And if the crucifixion of Christ, or His offering up Himself as a sacrifice for sin, was in the eternal plan, then plainly the fall of Adam and all other sins which made that sacrifice necessary were in the plan, no matter how undesirable a part of that plan they may have been.

History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the unfolding of the eternal purposes of God. His decrees are not successively formed as the emergency arises, but are all parts of one all-comprehending plan, and we should never think of Him suddenly evolving a plan or doing something which He had not thought of before. (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

He Stands Alone

Jesus on the CrossA.T. Pierson:

Jesus stands absolutely alone in history; in teaching, in example, in character, an exception, a marvel, and He is Himself the evidence of Christianity.

His Strength is Sufficient!

And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:4-8 ESV)

Have you had first-hand experience of hopelessness? Have you walked through the valley of despair? I think that most of us have during some time in our lives. Long ago there was a man who was so full of despair that he prayed, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4 ESV)

When you think of Elijah the prophet, you probably think of the man who could pray and stop the rain or start it; perhaps you think of the prophet who could call fire down from the sky to consume the king’s soldiers or an offering to God which had been drenched with water; perhaps you even think of the prophet who was carried to heaven by a whirlwind.

Yet, the distressed man calling out that anxious prayer in 1 Kings 19:4 is none other than Elijah. Basically, Elijah believes he has endured all he possibility can and he asks Elijah the Prophetthe LORD to take his life. He finds himself in the valley of despair and this is just one day after his great victory over the prophets of Baal. Instead of death, however, this becomes a teachable moment in the life of Elijah. 1 Kings 19:5-8 teaches us that God provides the strength we need in our weakest moments.

Isn’t this your way? You anxiously anticipate a crisis and begin doubting that you can handle it. However, when it is over you also wonder how you ever had the strength make it through that problem. But somehow, the strength was there. Whatever problem you may face in life, if God stands with you, His strength will be yours.

Think of Elijah, Moses, and other biblical characters; look at the cross and resurrection: God is there when we suffer. He heals our brokenness. God put the broken pieces back together for Elijah and God will do the same for you. As you live and journey with God, you will discover His strength is always sufficient when you are in need.

Samuel at Gilgal

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