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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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Temptation and Chocolate

ChocolateI am often tempted by the desire to have just one more piece of chocolate. I might also speak of temptation, as my inability to resist a delicious looking dessert. However, in such matters as these, modern man has trivialized the word “temptation” in our language and culture by referring to it as something that is naughty but not serious. The Bible always speaks of temptation as a very serious matter because it is the wish to oppose the moral law of God in act or attitude.

An extra piece of chocolate pie may really be a problem for me (sin of gluttony). Everyone who loves to watch the Food Channel, however, may see it only as a small temptation (or peccadillo) and certainly not the want to rebel against God. Richard Sibbes makes an important point when he writes, “Satan gives Adam an apple, and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.” Temptation offers the illusion of happiness but its consequences yield only torment.

We all are tempted, but we should never treat temptation in a light or frivolous manner. Temptation is serious! Jesus told his disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Once we yield to temptation, it grows in power. Another reason that makes this difficult is that we don’t want to discourage temptation completely. We want to play around its edges as a small boy plays with fire. We deceive ourselves into believing that we can play carelessly in the flames and not be burned.

Paul writes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) If you honestly and firmly decide to do your best to avoid temptation and pray with all your heart for God’s deliverance, He is faithful to give you the means to stand against Satan’s clever devices.

If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God will help you resist the temptation to sin. However, if you are a Christian who does not daily strengthen himself in the disciplines of Christ – you will be weak when temptation comes upon you. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:12-16 ESV)

Samuel at Gilgal

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God’s Holiness

Sinclair B. FergusonSinclair B. Ferguson:

God’s holiness means He is separate from sin. But holiness in God also means wholeness. God’s holiness is His “God-ness.” It is His being God in all that it means for Him to be God. To meet God in His holiness, therefore, is to be altogether overwhelmed by the discovery that He is God, and not man.

Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament‘s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.

Stomping on Jesus

Stomp on Jesus?Christopher White writes:

In early March, Ryan Rotela, a junior at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, refused to participate in a class exercise in which members of the class were instructed to write the name “JESUS” on a sheet of paper and then to stomp on it. When Rotela complained a few days later to university officials, he was informed he had been suspended from the class for not participating in the exercise.

In recent weeks this story has shocked the nation as reports of this story began to make its ways around local news networks and newspapers. The online website Mediate confirmed that the exercise that Rotela refused to participate in was, indeed, listed in the instructor edition of the college textbook: Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.

Continue reading this article here. . . .

When the Content of our Preaching is Weak

False ConvertWe must set before our congregations the scriptural distinctions between a true believer and a false believer. This type of preaching never harms the true child of God. The only thing that stands to be harmed by an inspection is the counterfeit. According to Al Martin:

[One] area where the content of our preaching is weak in specific application, is in the matter of presenting the whole Christ to the whole man. It is to be feared that we have returned to a Romish concept of faith in our day. We must never forget that one of the great issues which the Reformers brought into focus was that faith was something more than … a mere nodding of the head to the body of truth presented by the church as ‘the faith.’ The Reformers set forth the biblical concept that faith was ‘fiducia’. They made plain that saving faith involved trust, commitment, a trust and commitment involving the whole man with the truth which was believed and with the Christ who was the focus of that truth. The time has come when we need to spell this out clearly in categorical statements so that people will realize that a mere nodding of assent to the doctrines that they are exposed to is not the essence of saving faith. They need to be brought to the understanding that saving faith involves the commitment of the whole man to the whole Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, as He is set forth in the gospel. If this is done, we shall no longer hear all this talk about ‘believing’ but not ‘surrendering.’ Our evangelical circles are filled with evidences of unbiblical attempts to divide Christ as Savior and as Lord. Much of the deceptive heresy based on this concept of a divided Christ would be swept away by the dear preaching of the whole Christ to the whole man.

[Another] area of weakness is content. This is a very sensitive area, and one in which we are woefully weak in contemporary Reformed circles. The area to which I refer, is that of the necessity of setting forth the distinguishing traits of a true believer. Involved in this is the need for dearly stating the difference between the grounds of salvation and the assurance of salvation. I have found in my experience of moving in Reformed circles, that the moment a few people begin to do some scriptural self-examination, when they begin to obey II Corinthians 13:5 that men look upon this scriptural exercise as second cousin to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. People look upon doubt as the most terrible thing in the world. What we fail to realize is that doubts which are produced by honest self-examination in the light of the objective standard of the Word of God, may be the best thing that ever happened to some people. I have often said that doubts will never damn a man, but sinful presumption will. As long as the Scripture says again and again, ‘Let no man deceive you . . . let no man deceive himself . . . be not deceived,’ we dare not presume or lead others to presume that all is well. What are these exhortations for? If self-deception is not a very real possibility, then why is the Bible replete with exhortations against self-deception? All of these warnings become meaningless gibberish if they are merely talking about a hypothetical possibility. However, if people could come into the circle of the external church and be deceived under the ministry of the apostles, so that they felt it necessary to say, ‘Brethren, make your calling and election sure’, much more do we ourselves need to face up to the fact that we may have some deceived people coming into the professing church under our anemic ministries. When this conviction grips us, then we will cry out to them, exhorting them to make their calling and election sure, to examine and prove them selves whether they be in the faith. (“What is Wrong with Preaching Today?”)

Follow Christ

Don't Waste Your LifeJohn Piper:

“Don’t follow a defeated foe. Follow Christ. It is costly. You will be an exile in this age. But you will be free.”

“There is a warning. The path of God-exalting joy will cost you your life. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” In other words, it is better to lose your life than to waste it. If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full. This is not a book about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life. Some of you will die in the service of Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy.”

The Bible has never Failed

Robert E LeeRobert E. Lee:

“In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.”

Faith’s Work in Prayer

William GuthrieFaith assures the soul that what God has promised in His Word, He will provide and carry out. William Guthrie writes:

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 ESV)

Faith’s work in prayer is to take hold of the least meaning, may-be, or intimation from the Lord, and to lay hold of the least ground of hope of mercy; as a poor man takes hold of the least meaning of mercy from man. It was the exercise of the woman of Canaan in her prayer, when Christ upbraided her, saying, “What have I to do with thee? Should I give the children’s bread to dogs?” “Truth, Lord,” says she, “Thou hast given me some ground to expect help from Thee.” Truth, Lord, I acknowledge that I am a dog; but it is as true that dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Whereupon Christ says unto her, “0 woman, great is thy faith. Thy faith hath taken hold of the least intimation, or may-be, as a ground of hope. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” And this reproves those who fret if they get not what dish of meat they please; or if it pleases them not – they cast it from them. But if thou knew what thou art, and how little thou deserve, thou wouldst bless God, that thou art not in hell already.

Faith’s work in prayer is to enjoin every praying faculty, or all that is within the soul, before God. For faith sets its Humble Prayerdesires in order. Faith makes it desire nothing but what God hath allowed in His Word and it will be nothing short of this. Again, it orders our zeal, so that it is not blind and preposterous: where faith rules it orders humility, so that the soul does not say in a sullen fit, “Lord, depart from me for I am a sinful man.” It orders sorrow for sin neither to be too little nor too great. It is faith’s work to make the soul sorrow heartily before God: on the other hand, it makes us guard against anxious sorrow. Then it orders hope that the soul may wait patiently for the answer or accomplishment of prayer. Thus, it is faith’s work to order all things within the soul, and put all things in a composed temper. So commanding is the grace of faith in a soul where it is, that it will let nothing be out of order.

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