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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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True Christians

J. C. RyleJ.C. Ryle (Commenting on Mt. 2:13-23):

True Christians should never be greatly moved by the persecution of man. Their enemies may be strong, and they may be weak; but still they ought not to be afraid. They should remember that “the triumphing of the wicked is but short.” What has become of the Pharaohs and Neros and Diocletians, who at one time fiercely persecuted the people of God? Where is the enmity of Charles the Ninth of France, and Bloody Mary of England? They did their utmost to cast the truth down to the ground. But the truth rose again from the earth, and still lives; and they are dead, and moldering in the grave. Let not the heart of any believer fail. Death is a mighty leveler, and can take any mountain out of the way of Christ’s church. “The Lord lives” forever. His enemies are only men. The truth shall always prevail. (Expository Thoughts on Matthew)

 

Charles Spurgeon on Preaching

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? I have preached my very heart out. I could not say any more than I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the Church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? Oh dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer.Charles H. Spurgeon

All originality and no plagiarism make for dull preaching.

Whatever subject I preach, I do not stop until I reach the Savior, the Lord Jesus, for in Him are all things.

“You preached well,” said a friend to John Bunyan one morning. “You are too late,” said honest John, “The devil told me that before I left the pulpit.” (“A Jealous God”, Sermon 502, March 29, 1863)

The Ministry

Charles SpurgeonThe ministry is a very serious business. Preaching is not about a speaker talking to an audience as if it were a motivational seminar. It is not about making people feel better as they walk out of the church. The ministry is preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Charles Spurgeon had this to say about the ministry:

A sermon often does a man most good when it makes him most angry. Those people who walk down the aisles and say, “I will never hear that man again,” very often have an arrow rankling in their breast.

He that can toy with his ministry and count it to be like a trade, or like any other profession, was never called of God. But he that has a charge pressing on his heart, and a woe ringing in his ear, and preaches as though he heard the cried of hell behind him, and saw his God looking down on him–oh, how that man entreats the Lord that his hearers may not hear in vain!

I always say to young fellows who consult me about the ministry, “Don’t be a minister if you can help it,” because if the man can help it, God never called him. But if he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.

If any man will preach as he should preach, his work will take more out of him than any other labor under heaven.

If I only had one more sermon to preach before I died, it would be about my Lord Jesus Christ. And I think that when we get to the end of our ministry, one of our regrets will be that we did not preach more of Him. I am sure no minister will ever repent of having preached Him too much. (Sermon 54.149)

God Works in You

Archibald T. RobertsonArchibald T. Robertson:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

A boy of four said joyfully to his mother, “When we do anything, it’s really God doing it.” So then, in one sense God does it all. God is the one who energizes in you both the impulse and the energy to carry out the impulse. . . .

We are in league with God. God’s grace is not an excuse for doing nothing. It is rather the reason for doing all. In religion as in nature, we are co-workers with God. We plant the seed, plant the plant, hoe it, and harvest it. But God gave us the seed and the soil and sends the rain and the sunshine and supplies that wondrous thing that we call life and makes it grow to perfection. “God has more life than anybody,” said a child. … Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith (Heb. 12: 2). Happy is the man who finds God’s plan for his life and falls in with it. (“Realizing God’s Plan in Life”)

Authenticity Established

Sir Frederic KenyonSir Frederic Kenyon (Director and principal librarian of the British museum, foremost expert on ancient manuscripts):

“The interval between the dates of original composition (of the N.T.) and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible and the foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed; both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the N.T. may be regarded as firmly established.”

How was Jesus made a Curse?

Charles H. SpurgeonJesus in his sufferings performed the payment of a ransom, the giving to justice a quid pro quo for what was due on our behalf for our sins. He suffered what we ought to have suffered. The sins that were our’s were made His; He was made a curse for us. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

How was Christ made a curse? In the first place, he was made a curse because all the sins of his people were actually laid on him. “He made him to be sin for us”; and let me quote from Isaiah, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”; and yet another statement from the same prophet, “He shall bear their iniquities.” The sins of God’s people were lifted from off them and imputed to Christ, and their sins were looked upon as if Christ had committed them. He was regarded as if he had been the sinner; he actually and in very deed stood in the sinner’s place. Next to the imputation of sin came the curse of sin. The law, looking for sin to punish, with its quick eye detected sin laid upon Christ and, as it must curse sin wherever it was found, it cursed the sin as it was laid on Christ. So Christ was made a curse.

Wonderful and awful words, but, as they are scriptural words, we must receive them. Sin being on Christ, the curse came on Christ, and in consequence, our Lord felt an unutterable horror of soul. . . .

We have been accustomed to divide the penalty into two parts, the penalty of loss and the penalty of actual suffering. Christ endured both of these. It was due to sinners that they should lose God’s favor and presence, and therefore Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It was due to sinners that they should lose all personal comfort; Christ was deprived of every consolation and even the last rag of clothing was torn from him and he was left, like Adam, naked and forlorn. … As for the second part of the punishment – namely, an actual infliction of suffering – our Lord endured this also to the extreme, as the evangelists clearly show. You have often read the story of his bodily sufferings; take care that you never depreciate them. There was an amount of physical pain endured by our Savior, which his body could never have borne unless it had been sustained and strengthened by union with his Godhead; yet the sufferings of his soul were the soul of his sufferings. That soul of his endured a torment equivalent to hell itself. . . .

The consequences are that he has redeemed us from the curse of the law. Those for whom Christ died are forever Charles H. Spurgeonfree from the curse of the law; for when the law comes to curse a man who believes in Christ, he says, “What have I to do with you, O law? You say, ‘I will curse you,’ but I reply, ‘You have cursed Christ instead of me. Can you curse twice for one offence?’ And the law is silenced! God’s law having received all it can demand is not so unrighteous as to demand anything more. All that God can demand of a believing sinner, Christ has already paid, and there is no voice in earth or heaven that can accuse a soul that believes in Jesus after that. … Here is a glorious bottom to rest upon! Here is a rock upon which to lay the foundation of eternal comfort! Let a man get to this truth: my Lord outside the city’s gate bled for me as my Surety, and on the cross discharged my debt. Why then, great God, I no longer fear your thunder. How can you condemn me now? You have exhausted the quiver of your wrath; every arrow has already been used against my Lord, and I am in him clear and clean, absolved and delivered, as if I had never sinned. (“Advice for Seekers”)

Law in the Life of the Christian

Sinclair B. FergusonSinclair B. Ferguson:

So what is the place of the Law in the life of the Christian? Simply this: We are no longer under the Law to be condemned by it; we are now “in-lawed” to it because of our betrothal to Christ! He has written the Law, and love for it, into our hearts! (“Tabletalk”)

The Holy Spirit and the Word

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“The gospel is preached in the ears of all men; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher otherwise; men would be converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise, it could consist of the wisdom of men. We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it – the Holy Ghost changing the will of man. O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the word, to give it power to convert the soul.”

God is never Frustrated

Jerry BridgesGod is never frustrated. “… [H]e does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35 ESV) No one or no thing is outside God’s sovereign control. Jerry Bridges writes:

It should be evident … that God’s sovereignty does not begin at death…His sovereign direction in our lives even precedes our births. God rules as surely on earth as He does in heaven. He permits, for reasons known only to Himself, people to act contrary to and in defiance of His revealed will. But He never permits them to act contrary to His sovereign will.

In support of the statement, I have just made — God never permits people to act contrary to His sovereign will — consider the following passages of Scripture:

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD. (Proverbs 21:30)

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

Who can speak and have it happen if the LORD has not decreed it? (Lamentations 3:37)

(Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)

In the Shadow of Evil

Shadow of EvilEven though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 ESV)

A radio program titled “The Shadow” officially premiered in 1937. Each show was introduced with the unmistakable lines: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” Psalm 44:21 tells us that God also knows the secrets of the heart. “But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 11:21)

Evil is not simply a “boogey man” of some sort; it is spiritual parasitic action. As C. S. Lewis said, “Badness is only spoiled goodness.” Evil choices and actions darken the mind and cloud sound judgment. The presence of evil leads to destruction, subversion and rebellion. The Scriptures also specifically warn us about the devil; “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV) However, the existence of the devil does not allow us to justify our sins by crying out “The devil made me do it!”

Evil is a grave matter. The slightest indulgence of evil in our habits may seduce the course of our lives to follow destruction. Evil leads to pride, lust, lies and crime. These are all traits of rebellion against God. The Bible tells us, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20) God declares, “I will punish the world for its evil. . . .” (Isaiah 13:11)

Karl Barth wrote, “Sin is not confined to the evil things we do. It is the evil within us, the evil which we are.” It is our thoughts and feelings. It is against this dark background that God’s great compassion is revealed to us by the cross. The cross of Christ fully answers the problem of evil. It is by the cross that God breaks the chains of sin and sets us free.

Child of God, do not despair – but rather persevere against the evil which comes against you. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

One of my favorite quotes is from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

The proof of our faith, when confronted with evil circumstances, is perseverance and trust in God. Christians are not put into this world to avoid suffering. God gives them His strength to face the dark night of the soul. If you have not given your life to God, receiving the saving power of Jesus Christ, you are separated from God. Separation from God is separation from the love, peace, and joy that only God can give. However, if you live in Christ and allow Him to empower you with His strength, He will enable you to overcome evil in yourself and others. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …” (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV) God has commanded us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

Samuel at Gilgal

The Essence of Evil

John PiperJohn Piper:

“What is the essence of evil? It is forsaking a living fountain for broken cisterns. God gets derision and we get death. They are one: choosing sugarcoated misery, we mock the life-giving God. It was meant to be another way: God’s glory exalted in our everlasting joy.”

Context

Miles CoverdaleMiles Coverdale:

It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note – not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows. (From Miles Coverdale’s introduction to his Bible translation)

Love for the Brethren

John OwenHave you considered this? There is no real proof of salvation or evidence of our love for God unless we love the brethren. No matter how kind we are, if we don’t love our fellow Christians our words and deeds are empty. John Owen writes:

‘And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.’ (Colossians 3:14, KJV)

The word ‘agape,’ which is translated in the King James Version as ‘charity’ is the only word used in the New Testament to signify ‘love.’ And I wish that this word had always been rendered as such because in common speech, ‘charity’ – relieving the poor and afflicted – is merely one fruit of love. This is not the main sense of the word in Scripture. So our text could be better rendered, ‘Above all these things put on love.’ Every virtue and duty commanded in the Scriptures is usually placed on equal level with other virtues and duties, but there is one that has precedence over all other commands, as is here stated in our text, ‘Above all these things put on love.’ Other Scriptures state the same truth: ‘Before all things, have fervent love among yourselves’ (1 Peter 4:8). ‘Earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way… the greatest of these is love’ (1 Cor. 12:31, 13:13).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Apostle Paul gives directions for the use of spiritual gifts for the edification of the church (and this is a most excellent thing). But when all is said and done, he emphasizes the ‘more excellent way’ of love, which he describes in detail in chapter 13. Not only is love commanded, but it is shown to have a special preeminence and excellency above all other things.

Therefore, I offer the following observation: Love is the principal grace and duty that is required from, and expected from, the saints of God. This is to be especially evident when they are engaged together in church fellowship. (“Gospel Charity”)

Are You An Intercessor?

HUSBAND AND WIFE PRAYING (Optimized)“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people …” (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV)

Are you an intercessor? What is an intercessor? Prayer is the means that God has ordained for us to communicate with Him the needs of others and ourselves. Austin Phelps writes, “We are never more like Christ than in prayers of intercession.” It is the sweet communion of man with God as we bare our hearts to Him and, as a result, we have a greater knowledge of Him. According to A.T. Pierson, “God has no greater controversy with His people today than this, that with boundless promises to believing prayer, there are so few who actually give themselves unto intercession.”

The difficulty that most of us face in praying for others is that we have little acquaintance with God. We have little faith that God will hear us. John Lake wrote, “There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying.” “Those who know God the best are the richest and most powerful in prayer. Little acquaintance with God, and strangeness and coldness to Him, make prayer a rare and feeble thing.” (E. M. Bounds) Without prayer, we do not have a full understanding of the problems that confront us and others, because we have not sought the Mind of God. Do you pray to know God?

“The true spirit of prayer is no other than God’s own Spirit dwelling in the hearts of the saints. And as this spirit comes from God, so doth it naturally tend to God in holy breathings and pantings. It naturally leads to God, to converse with him by prayer.” (Jonathan Edwards) Intercessory prayer honors and glorifies God. It is a great blessing to pray for others. God works through our prayers and Satan trembles. God allows this wonderful experience to the praying Christian.

Christians are commanded to pray for one another. (James 5:16 ESV) John Calvin believed that making “intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.” It is also an expression of our love for God and His abiding presence in our lives. When the Christian prays earnestly, he will be heard. The Kingdom of God is advanced by the power of prayer. Do you want your neighbors to know Jesus? Pray for them first, and then continue to pray. Your efforts at evangelism will become more successful.

Samuel at Gilgal

Faith Endures

Arthur W. PinkArthur W. Pink:

Faith endures as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:27); endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heartaches of life, by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings—whether in a hovel or prison-dungeon, or at a martyr’s stake—we shall be enabled to say, ” The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places” (Ps. 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight or of sense.

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