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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 Fear of God

The Fear of GodR. C. Sproul:

I recently heard a young Christian remark, “I have no fear of dying.” When I heard this comment I thought to myself, “I wish I could say that.” I am not afraid of death. I believe that death for the Christian is a glorious transition to heaven. I am not afraid of going to heaven. It’s the process that frightens me. I don’t know by what means I will die. It may be via a process of suffering, and that frightens me. I know that even this shouldn’t frighten me. There are lots of things that frighten me that I shouldn’t let frighten me. The Scripture declares that perfect love casts out fear. But love is still imperfect, and fear hangs around.

There is one fear, however, that many of us do not have that we should have. It is the fear of God. Not only are we allowed to fear God, we are commanded to fear Him. A mark of reprobation is to have no fear of God before our eyes.

Martin Luther made an important distinction concerning the fear of God. He distinguished between servile fear and filial fear. He described servile fear as that kind of fear a prisoner has for his torturer. Filial fear is the fear of a son who loves his father and does not want to offend him or let him down. It is a fear born of respect. When the Bible calls us to fear God, it is issuing a call to a fear born of reverence, awe, and adoration. It is a respect of the highest magnitude.

The Most Influential Life

Kenneth Scott LatouretteKenneth Scott Latourette:

As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet.

The Pattern of a Minister’s Life

The Devil's Puppet PreacherPreaching has fallen upon bad times since so little regard for the Biblical requirements for ministers have been largely ignored. Al Martin writes:

Paul says in I Thessalonians 1, ‘Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God, for our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sakes’. He states that there was a direct relationship between the gospel coming ‘in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance’ and the kind of men who preached it. You will find that same thought developed in chapter two of the same letter where Paul says, in verse 10, ‘Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.’ Then he says in verse 13, ‘For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.’ There is a vital relationship between these two things. He says, on the one hand, ‘You know how we conducted ourselves’, and on the other hand, ‘we know how you received the word.’ These two things are not to be isolated. Paul and his companions stood as living embodiments of the power of the Word of God, so that when they spoke that Word it came with authority to their hearers. Notice that the apostle does not shrink to use a testimony as to the manner of his living as a witness to the validity of his preaching ministry.

In Titus two, there is some detailed instruction as to what Titus should preach and teach. Paul commands him in verse 7, ‘In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works.’ In other words, as ministers of God we are not only to proclaim right things by precept, but we are to embody these right things in a right example. Then, of course, there is that classic passage, I Timothy 4:16. ‘Take heed to thyself and to thy teaching; continue in these things. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.’ In essence, Paul is saying: ‘Timothy, carelessness in your own personal life will result in some measure of shoddiness in the discharge of your responsibility to the souls over whom the Holy Ghost has made you an overseer. Failure to take heed to yourself will in some measure result in failure to see the saving purpose of God wrought in the hearts of those to whom you minister.’ I have made these remarks as one who believes without reservation Paul’s statements of truth concerning the immutability of the purpose of God and the certainty of the salvation of all His elect. Yet we must not bleed out of this passage in I Timothy its obvious implication, that Timothy would not be that instrument of God that he could be unless he took heed to himself and then to his teaching. (“What’s Wrong with Preaching?”)

Look to the Sacred Records

John GillJohn Gill:

If the question is concerning the Deity of Christ, his eternal Sonship and distinct personality, look to your way-marks; inquire into the sacred records, and there you will find, that he is the mighty God, God over all, blessed for ever; the great God, the true God, and eternal life (Isa. 9:6; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20); that all divine perfections are in him; that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him; that he is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person; to whom all divine works are ascribed, and all divine worship is given; that he is the only begotten of the Father, the firstborn of every creature; or was begotten before any creature was in being (Heb. 1:3l; Col. 2:9; 1:15); of whom the Father says, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Ps .2:7); that he is the Word which was in the beginning with God; and must be distinct from him with whom he was; and in the fullness of time was made flesh; which neither the Father nor the Spirit were (John 1:1, 14); and the same sacred writings will satisfy you about the deity and personality, as well as the operations of the blessed Spirit.

Jesus Was A Carpenter

Jesus was a CarpenterJesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). He not only grew up in the house of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), but He worked in the trade at least long enough that people knew Him to be a carpenter. There is a question of exactly what the word translated as carpenter really means. The Greek word “tekton” is a generic word for anyone who makes things. This was applied to artisans of various objects. Early writings, tradition, and culture indicate that Jesus probably worked with wood in some form. Therefore, carpenter is a good translation of “tekton” when speaking of Jesus.

Doubts about the Basics?

John GillThere is a rest for souls to be found in the Scriptures. When men search the scriptures, their minds are made easy by the truth; and in consequence, they walk therein. 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)

[If you doubt] the doctrine of Election, read over the sacred volumes, and there you will find, that this is an eternal and sovereign act of God the Father, which was made in Christ before the foundation of the world; that it is to holiness here, and happiness hereafter; that the means are sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; that it is irrespective of faith and good works, being before persons had done either good or evil; that faith and holiness flow from it, and that grace and glory are secured by it; Whom he did predestinate, then; he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 9:21; 8:30).

If you have any hesitation about the doctrine of Original Sin, look into your Bible; there you will see, that the first man sinned, and all sinned in him; that judgment, through his offense, came upon all men to condemnation; and that by his disobedience many were made sinners; that men are conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity; that they are transgressors from the womb, go astray from thence, speaking lies, and are by nature children of wrath (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19; Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Isa. 48:8, Eph. 2:3).

If the matter in debate is the Satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ, read over the epistles of his holy apostles, and they will inform you, that he was made under the law, and became the fulfilling end of it, in the room of his people; that he yielded perfect obedience to it, and bore the penalty of it, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in them; that he was made sin for them, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him; and a curse for them, that he might redeem them from the curse of the law; that he offered himself a sacrifice for them, in their room and stead to God, for a sweet-smelling savor; that he suffered, the just for the unjust, to bring them nigh to God; and died for their sins according to the scriptures, and made reconciliation and atonement for them (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3, 4; 10:4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 5:2; l Pet. 3:18; l Cor. 15:3; Heb. 2:17). (“The Scriptures: The Only Guide in Matters of Faith”)

May God’s Plans be Defeated?

Loraine Boettner in 1917 at the age of 16Loraine Boettner D.D.:

The Arminian idea which assumes that the serious intentions of God may – in some cases at least – be defeated, and that man, who is not only a creature but a sinful creature, can exercise veto power over the plans of Almighty God, is in striking contrast with the Biblical idea of His immeasurable exaltation – by which He is removed from all the weaknesses of humanity. That the plans of men are not always executed is due to a lack of power or a lack of wisdom; but since God is unlimited in these and all other resources, no unforeseen emergencies can arise, and to Him the causes for change have no existence. To suppose that His plans fail and that He strives to no effect is to reduce Him to the level of His creatures. (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

Archaeology and the Philistines

Ancient Philistine City of Gath

Genesis 10:14 – The Philistines:

The existence of the Philistines in the bible was once doubted in some academic circles. Today there have been 28 sites and 5 major Philistine cities discovered in Palestine.

Respect for the Doctrine of Christ’s Saving Power

J. Gresham MachenThere exists a body of facts at the very foundation of the Christian religion, which have to be treated with respect. These facts are called doctrine. J. Gresham Machen writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)

It is vain, then, to speak of reposing trust in the Person without believing the message. … Without the eighth chapter of Romans, the mere story of the earthly life of Jesus would be remote and dead; for it is through the eighth chapter of Romans, or the message, which that chapter contains, that Jesus becomes our Savior today.

The truth is that when men speak of trust in Jesus’ Person, as being possible without acceptance of the message of His death and resurrection, they do not really mean trust at all. What they designate as trust is really admiration or reverence. They reverence Jesus as the supreme Person of all history and the supreme revealer of God. But trust can come only when the supreme Person extends His saving power to us. ‘He went about doing good,’ ‘He spake words such as never man spake,’ ‘He is the express image of God’—that is reverence; ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me’—that is faith.

But the words ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me’ are in historical form; they constitute an account of something that happened. And they add to the fact the meaning of the fact; they contain in essence the whole profound theology of redemption through the blood of Christ. Christian doctrine lies at the very roots of faith. It must be admitted, then, that if we are to have a non-doctrinal religion, or a doctrinal religion founded merely on general truth, we must give up not only Paul, not only the primitive Jerusalem Church, but also Jesus Himself. (Christianity and Liberalism)

The Security of the Believer

Sinclair B. FergusonSinclair B. Ferguson:

There is no mere doctrine of “the security” of the believer, as though God’s keeping of us took place irrespective of the lives we live. Indeed, there is no such thing in the New Testament as a believer whose perseverance is so guaranteed that he can afford to ignore the warning notes, which are sounded so frequently.

 

The Very Center of History

H.G. WellsH.G. Wells once said:

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

Joy in the Midst of Trials

Chinese Symbol for CrisisCount it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8 ESV)

Perhaps you have heard the following quote, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.” (John F. Kennedy) Of course, it is easier to agree with the quote than practice it. However, the basic attitude of the statement is sound.

James tells us that we will have trials, but these trials will perfect and complete us. They will even help us to become more steadfast. What is the Christian’s appropriate response to this? James says, “Count it all joy. . . .”

We see examples of this throughout the New Testament: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [Jesus].” (Acts 5:41 ESV) “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. . . .” (Romans 5:3 ESV) Paul writes, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:17-18 ESV) Also, Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. . . .” (1 Peter 1:6-8 ESV)

How can we have joy in the midst of trials? We can still have joy because we know that trials of various kinds produce steadfastness, perfection, and work to complete our faith. A steadfast person is steadfast“unchanging; steady; firmly loyal or constant; and unswerving.” (Wiktionary) Such a person perseveres through suffering. Steadfastness is closely associated with patience.

If you are like me, you want trials and suffering to end quickly. Yet, when we endure with patience the trials that are set before us, we are perfected through them. This text does not mean that you become a perfect Christian who is sinless; it means that you mature in Christ and understanding in spiritual matters. This only occurs through learning steadfastness and patience.

Being steadfast and patient is certainly not easy. It requires that we also have wisdom. When we are suffering through life’s trials, we should ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to use the circumstances or facts of a situation in the best possible way. Wisdom may be received by asking God through prayer. However, you must ask in faith!

When we understand the Christian’s proper response to trials and suffering, we also learn that God is in absolute control of every outcome. Can you trust God enough to stay steadfast and allow adversity to carry out its work in you? Once we do, we can “count it all joy” (James 1:2 ESV) when facing the harshest trials, knowing “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV) Grasp hold of what James teaches in the above verses and you too can have joy in the midst of trials.

Samuel at Gilgal

God is up to Something Good

John PiperJohn Piper:

“The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours.” (Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure)

“The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.” (Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist)

The Name of Christ

Names of Jesus ChristChrist is not actually a name, but a title. When the Bible talks about the Messiah in the Old Testament, it is referring to the same title by which the New Testament calls Christ. Both Messiah and Christ mean, “Anointed one”. Jesus was anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38) and was the promised redeemer. The word “Christ” appears in the Bible more than 500 times.

The Intellect and God’s Excellence

Jonathan Edwards

Seeing God is very agreeable to the Christian. The soul will delight in this wonder. It will be enjoyed with inward peace and tranquility. According to Jonathan Edwards:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

The intellectual sight, which the saints will have of God, will make them as sensible of his presence, and give them as great advantages for conversing with him, as the sight of the bodily eyes doth an earthly friend. Yea, and more too. For when we see our earthly friends with bodily eyes, we have not the most full and direct sight of their principal part, even their souls. We see the qualities, and dispositions, and acts of their minds, no otherwise than by outward signs of speech and behavior. Strictly speaking, we do not see the man, the soul, at all, but only its tabernacle or dwelling.

But their souls will have the most clear sight of the spiritual nature of God itself. They shall behold his attributes and disposition towards them more immediately, and therefore with greater certainty, than it is possible to see anything in the soul of an earthly friend by his speech and behavior. And therefore their spiritual sight will give them greater advantage for conversing with God, than the sight of earthly friends with bodily eyes, or hearing them with our ears, gives us for conversing with them.

I shall now give the reasons why seeing God is that which will make the soul truly happy.

It yields a delight suitable to the nature of an intelligent creature. God hath made man, and man only, of all the creatures here below, an intelligent creature. And his Jonathan Edwardsreason and understanding are that by which he is distinguished from all inferior ranks of beings. Man’s reason is, as it were, a heavenly ray, or, in the language of the wise man, it is “the candle of the Lord.” It is that wherein mainly consists the natural image of God, it is the noblest faculty of man, it is that which ought to bear rule over the other powers. Being given for that end, that it might govern the soul.

Therefore those delights are most suitable to the nature of man, that are intellectual, which result from the exercises of this noblest, this distinguishing faculty. God, by giving man understanding, made him capable of such delights, fitted him for them, and designed that such pleasures as those should be his happiness.

Intellectual pleasures consist in the beholding of spiritual excellencies and beauties, but the glorious excellency and beauty of God are far the greatest. God’s excellence is the supreme excellence. When the understanding of the reasonable creature dwells here, it dwells at the fountain, and swims in a boundless, bottomless ocean. The love of God is also the most suitable entertainment of the soul of man, which naturally desires the happiness of society, or of union with some other being. The love of so glorious a being is infinitely valuable, and the discoveries of it are capable of ravishing the soul above all other love. It is suitable to the nature of an intelligent being also, as it is that kind of delight that reason approves of. (“The Pure in Heart Blessed”)

 

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