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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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Life

Don't Waste Your LifeJohn Piper:

“You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.” (Don’t Waste Your Life)

Dying Thoughts

Richard BaxterRichard Baxter:

“My Lord, I have nothing to do in this World, but to seek and serve thee; I have nothing to do with a Heart and its affections, but to breathe after thee. I have nothing to do with my Tongue and Pen, but to speak to thee, and for thee, and to publish thy Glory and thy Will. What have I to do with all my Reputation, and Interest in my Friends, but to increase thy Church, and propagate thy holy Truth and Service? What have I to do with my remaining Time, even these last and languishing hours, but to look up unto thee, and wait for thy Grace, and thy Salvation?” (Dying Thoughts on Philippians 1:23)

Idols

John Angell JamesThe heart may be turned away from God in many ways. How subtle are the workings of evil; how hidden are it motives; and therefore its influence is extensive. According to John Angell James:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21 ESV)

The apostle John closes his first epistle with the following tender and solemn admonition —”Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” Those to whom he thus addressed himself had been converted from Paganism, and needed to be cautioned against relapsing into their former idolatry, and against every practice, which would in the smallest degree seem to countenance it. There is no need that I should warn you against this sin in its literal import. You have never bowed the knee to a graven or molten image, and never will — but is there no such thing as SPIRITUAL idolatry? The first commandment of the Decalogue says —”You shall have no other gods before me.” The meaning of this precept, which is the foundation of all religion, is not merely that we shall not acknowledge any other God besides Jehovah — but also that we shall treat him as God! That is, we must love him with all our hearts, serve him with all our lives, and depend upon him for our supreme felicity. It is obvious that all this, as well as prayer and praise, is the worship that God requires.

The bended knee, whether this be done to God or an idol, is of no value—but as the expression of the state of the mind and heart at the time. The affections are a much more sincere and expressive homage than bodily attitudes and outward forms of devotion. Hence, it is obvious that — whatever we love most, and are most anxious to retain and please — whatever it be we depend most upon for happiness and help — whatever has most of our hearts — that is, in effect, is our God! — whether it be Jehovah or Jupiter, or whether it be friends, possessions, or our own desires, or our own selves! Is it not, therefore, to be feared that the hearts of many professors are going too much after other objects of worship than God, and need the admonition, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” (“Spiritual Idolatry)

Grace

Thomas GoodwinThomas Goodwin:

“Grace” is more than mercy and love, it super-adds to them. It denotes, not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendently superior, one that may do what he will, that may wholly choose whether he will love or no. There may be love between equals, and an inferior may love a superior; but love in a superior, and so superior as he may do what he will, in such a one love is called grace: and therefore, grace is attributed to princes; they are said to be gracious to their subjects, whereas subjects cannot be gracious to princes. Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no, for Him to love us, this is grace.

Preaching

The Devil's Puppet PreacherLeonard Ravenhill:

“If Jesus preached the same message minister’s preach today, He would have never been crucified.”

Trust in Christ

Charles H. SpurgeonThe great righteousness of God is made plain in Jesus Christ. How extraordinary it is that men refuse to receive what is so generously provided. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

You have only to trust Christ, and you shall live. Whoever, or whatever, or wherever you are, even though you lie at hell’s dark door to despair and die, the message comes to you: “God hath made Christ to be a propitiation for sin. He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” He who believes no longer has a curse upon him. He may have been an adulterer, a swearer, a drunkard, a murderer; but the moment he believes, God sees none of those sins in him. He sees him as an innocent man, and regards his sins as having been laid on the Redeemer, and punished in Jesus as he died on the tree. If you believe in Christ, though you are one of the most damnable wretches who ever polluted the earth, you shall not have a sin remaining on you after believing. God will look at you as pure; even Omniscience shall not detect a sin in you, for your sin shall be put on the scapegoat, even Christ, and carried away into forgetfulness.

Put away your accursed and idolatrous dependence upon yourself; Christ has finished salvation-work, altogether finished it. Do not hold your rags in competition with his fair white linen. Christ has borne the curse; do not bring your pitiful penances, and your tears all full of filth, to mingle with the precious fountain flowing with his blood. Lay down what is your own, and come and take what is Christ’s. Put away now everything that you have thought of being or doing by way of winning acceptance with God; humble yourselves, and take Jesus Christ to be the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning and end of your salvation. If you do this, not only will you be saved, but you are saved. Rest, O weary one, for your sins are forgiven; rise, you lame man, lame through want of faith, for your transgression is covered; rise from the dead, you corrupt one, rise, like Lazarus from the tomb, for Jesus calls you! Believe and live. (Advice for Seekers)

The Wicked

Joseph HallJoseph Hall:

The wicked is a very coward, and is afraid of everything; of God, because He is his enemy; of Satan, because he is his tormentor; of God’s creatures, because they, joining with their Maker, fight against him; of himself, because he bears about with him his own accuser and executioner. The godly man contrarily is afraid of nothing; not of God, because he knows Him his best friend, and will not hurt him; not of Satan, because he cannot hurt him; not of afflictions, because he knows they come from a loving God, and end in his good; not of the creatures, since “the very stones in the field are in league with Him;” not of himself, since his conscience is at peace.

The Bible

C. S. LewisC.S. Lewis:

In most parts of the Bible, everything is implicitly or explicitly introduced with “Thus saith the Lord”. It is… not merely a sacred book but a book so remorselessly and continuously sacred that it does not invite — it excludes or repels — the merely aesthetic approach. You can read it as literature only by a tour de force… It demands incessantly to be taken on its own terms: it will not continue to give literary delight very long, except to those who go to it for something quite different. I predict that it will in the future be read, as it always has been read, almost exclusively by Christians.

Christian Boldness

Bishop J. C. RyleThe truth is, that many believers today are afraid of being criticized and have lost boldness in their faith. They have become victims of secular and religious wet blankets who object to anything that might be considered as Christian fire. According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

Where is your zeal for the glory of God? Where is your zeal for extending Christ’s Gospel through an evil world? Zeal, which was the characteristic of the Lord Jesus—zeal, which is the characteristic of the angels—zeal, which shines forth in all the brightest Christians; where is your zeal, unconverted reader—where is your zeal indeed? You know well it is nowhere at all. You know well you see no beauty in it. You know well it is scorned and cast out as evil by you and your companions. You know well it has no place, no portion, and no standing ground, in the religion of your soul. It is not that you know not what it is to be zealous. You have zeal—but it is all misapplied. It is all earthly. It is all about the things of time. It is not zeal for the glory of God. It is not zeal for the salvation of souls. Yes! many a man has zeal for the newspaper—but not for the Bible—zeal for the daily reading of the “Times,” but no zeal for the daily reading of God’s blessed Word. . . .

Reader, if this is your case, awake; I do beseech you, to see your gross folly. You cannot live forever. You are not ready to die. You are utterly unfit for the company of saints and angels. Awake! Be zealous and repent. Awake to see the harm you are doing. You are putting arguments in the hands of infidels by your shameful coldness. You are pulling down as fast as ministers build. You are helping the devil. Awake! Be zealous, and repent. Awake to see your childish inconsistency. What can be more worthy of zeal than eternal things—than the glory of God—than the salvation of souls? Surely if it is good to labor for rewards that are temporal, it is a thousand times better to labor for those that are eternal. Awake! Be zealous, and repent. Go and read that long-neglected Bible. Take up that blessed Book, which you have, and perhaps never use. Read that New Testament through. Do you find nothing there to make you zealous, to make you earnest about your soul? Go and look at the cross of Christ. Go and see how the Son of God there shed His precious blood for you—how He suffered and groaned, and died for you. How He poured out His soul as an offering for sin, in order that you, sinful brother or sister, might not perish—but have eternal life. Go and look at the cross of Christ, and never rest until you feel some zeal for your own soul—some zeal for the glory of God—some zeal for extension of the Gospel throughout the world. (Be Zealous)

Pride and Humility

Satan Cast Down From Heaven“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5 ESV)

Edwin Chapin wrote, “Pride is the master sin of the devil.” I think that most of us have some experience with the form of pride discussed in the verse above, but I know I am very familiar with pride. It is a meal that I have feasted upon many times. I have made mistakes because of the sin of pride. Pride has cost me some great opportunities. It has taken its toll on relationships as well.

I knew I was in trouble the very first time I read 1 Peter 5:5: “God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.” Then I read Proverbs 16:18, which says, “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall.” C. S. Lewis could have described my early life when he said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

I can tell you exactly when God saved me from my atheistic lifestyle, but I believe I thought I was taking a consulting position with Him. I’m sure the angels were astonished by God’s grace to me. The Holy Spirit began to change me and continues His work some thirty-three years later.

Pride is very deceitful. It continues to plague our culture of self-worship. Pride is seen as an entitlement by many. We believe we should be treated with a level of respect we have not earned and worshiped in spite of the fact we are the created – not the Creator. Where pride and arrogance reign, men are consumed by the fear of losing status. On the other hand, God “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.” (Psalm 25:9) God’s way offers life eternal and greater contentment in the here and now. St. Augustine spoke wisely, when he said, “The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.” The proud man will never enjoy the peace of God.

Samuel at Gilgal

Evil

The Five Dilemmas of CalvinismCraig R. Brown:

…there is one thing about which we can be absolutely sure – the source of evil is not God. The Bible declares time after time that God is altogether holy and righteous. He does no evil (Job 34:10) and He hates sin with all His heart (Dent. 25:16; Ps. 5:4; Luke 16:15). Because He is altogether good, everything He made was good, which rules out the idea that evil was somehow inherent in creation. Likewise, everything He does is good, even though it may appear to be evil or calamitous from the human perspective. (The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism)

We are All Foolish Babes

A Narrative of the Revival of Religion in New EnglandJonathan Edwards:

“There is not so much difference before God, between children and grown persons, as we are ready to imagine; we are all poor, ignorant, foolish babes in his sight. Our adult age does not bring us so much nearer to God as we are apt to think. God in this work has shown a remarkable regard to little children; never was there such a glorious work amongst persons in their childhood, as has been of late in New England.” (A Narrative of the Revival of Religion in New England)

True Christian Love

John OwenMany good things may be demonstrated in our lives without the presence of God’s love. We may be patient without love, pardon without love, and show kindness without love to no benefit, if we are not animated by true Christian love. John Owen explains why this is so:

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV)

First, the love I am speaking of is the second great duty that was brought to light by the gospel. There is nothing like it in the world, except what proceeds from the gospel. The world does not have it and doesn’t know what it is. Discord, strife, wrath, and hatred entered by sin. When mankind fell from loving God and from being a special recipient of His love, mankind simultaneously fell into all sorts of hatred, conflict, and discord among one another. The love of God was originally, in the state of innocence, the bond of perfection. When that was broke, all of creation fell into disorder and chaos. In particular, all mankind fell into the state described by the Apostle Paul in Titus 3:3, ‘We were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.’

There is a carnal and natural love still in the world that is based on natural relations. We find this sort of love even among the most debased and brutish. There is also a type of love that arises from a common interest in particular sins and pleasures – from people who partake in the same behaviors or who seek to bind themselves together to advance some political end. All the love of the world may be understood as stemming from one or more of these motives and purposes. None of these are in any way the love that proceeds from the gospel. This is why genuine gospel love has the ability to amaze and attract unbelievers. They should be astonished by the new and different type of love that believers display toward one another. Indeed, one of the first sayings of heathens that observed Christians together was ‘See how they love one another’ For them to see people of different sorts – different races, different personalities, different classes, different financial brackets – all knit together in love was astonishing to them. It was astonishing because of its unique nature.

This love is the means of communion between all the members of the body of Christ, just as faith is the instrument of their communion with the head of the body, Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul joins faith and love together so many times in his writings as the entire means of the communion and fruitfulness of the mystical body of Christ. In one place he so orders his words to show the inseparable nature of these two things. ‘I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints’ (Philemon 5). We are to express both faith and love to Jesus Christ. But it is obvious that the saints are not the objects of our faith. The apostle places them together here to show how inseparable these two things are and to prove that they always go together. Where the one is, the other will be. And where one is not, the other is not.

Love is therefore the life, and soul, and fuel for all the duties that are performed among believers toward one another. Whatever duties you perform toward other believers – no matter how useful or how great – if they are not aroused and animated by this type of love, they are of no value to your communion with Christ or to the edification of the church. (“Gospel Charity”)

Understanding Fear

The Fear of GodDo fears play too large a role in your life? Many fears are irrational. They shut down the mind. Perhaps you are flooded with anxiety when driving over a bridge or when you are somewhere that is overcrowded with people. Some fears are quite rational; such as running out of a house that is on fire or getting out-of-the-way of a speeding car. I believe there is deliverance from irrational fear for Christians: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) “I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) Our hearts are calmed and fear ends when we fully understand that we are always in the middle of God’s sovereign care.

The fear that is most misunderstood is “the fear of the Lord”. This is actually a fear that protects us and is positive because it encourages us to grow spiritually and to become more intimate with God. To fear God, is to understand that there is no need to fear anything else. The psalmist writes, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.” (34:7) Solomon instructs us that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10) The fear of God delivers us from the fear of man and brings with it the knowledge of the Divine.

When we understand the fear of the Lord, we approach God like a respectful child who knows his father cares deeply for him. We must also approach our heavenly Father with the knowledge that He is the Most-High God of all creation. For the Lord has said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely, you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7 ESV) In these verses, we see that God has the last word; and will always have in every controversy. The judgment of man proceeds from Him. It is by His definitive sentence every man stands or falls and every cause is won or lost.

Consider how Jesus walked upon the waves of life keeping its fears beneath His feet. We fear too much of life when we fear God too little. Lord, help us to walk upon the waves.

Samuel at Gilgal

Repentance

Tim KellerTim Keller:

Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘This disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’ (Church Planter Manual)

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