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    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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Respecting God’s Judgment

R.C. SproulR.C. Sproul:

One of the most poignant episodes of the judgment of God occurred in the Old Testament case of Eli. Eli was a judge and priest over Israel. He was, for the most part, a godly man. But his sons were wicked and profaned the house of God. Eli rebuked them but did not fully restrain them. God revealed to Samuel that He would judge the house of Eli:

“Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.” (1 Sam. 3:11-13)

When Eli persisted in asking Samuel what God had said, Samuel finally told him. When Eli heard the words, he said: “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (v. 18).

What seemed good to God was to punish the house of Eli. Eli recognized the Word of God when he heard it because he understood the character of Him whose word it was. A God before whom we need to have no fear is not God but an idol made by our own hands.

Eli said: “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Can you make this affirmation from the depths of your heart in difficult times as well as good times?

The mission, passion and purpose of Ligonier Ministries and Dr. R.C. Sproul is to help people grow in their knowledge of God and His holiness. For more information, please visit www.ligonier.org or call them at 800-435-4343.
© R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved.

Study of the Old Testament is Profitable

Old TestamentI am often frustrated with myself for not spending as much time studying the Old Testament as I believe I should. After having read the Old Testament through several times, I still find that most of the time I spend there is in Psalm and Proverbs. When looking at the books of the Old Testament for study, it is good to remember the words of Paul:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV)

The Apostle was speaking of the Old Testament scriptures when he spoke of “profitable for teaching” in the above verses. The Old Testament, Paul said, was “breathed out by God” and would make the man of God “complete, equipped for every good work.” Contrary to some contemporary Christian fads that tend to ignore it – the Old Testament will “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The Old Testament (OT) is a very valuable sacred writing authored by God the Holy Spirit to help us know Jesus Christ and live righteously.

The OT provides us with important knowledge of the nature of sin and the fall of man. There we find the ongoing revelation of God’s covenant of redemption and the Messianic prophecies. The OT helps us to understand the New Testament.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV) Paul discussed in the previous verses the fall of Israel in the wilderness. He notes that although these things happened to Israel, “they were written down for our instruction”. Consider – the OT was written for our instruction. Do you complain when your pastor preaches from the OT? When was the last time you read the OT? “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching. . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV) The Scriptures are not simply the words or thoughts of mere men, they are from God who guided men by His Spirit. The Scriptures are profitable. You must know the truth to be convinced of error, and to do what is right. It is wise to be concerned about your salvation. Look at these verses and let them inspire you to study the Word of God which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17 ESV)

The source for the following story escapes me, but I think it brings us to an appropriate conclusion of this article: There was a prophet of God who told his disciples that if they studied the Scriptures, the words would be written on their hearts. One day, a disciple asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The prophet thoughtfully replied, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But the careful study and reading of God’s Word can put it on your heart, and then when your heart breaks, the Holy Words will fall inside.”

Samuel at Gilgal

Self-Righteousness

The Discipline of GraceJerry Bridges:

The problem with self-righteousness is that it seems almost impossible to recognize in ourselves. We will own up to almost any other sin, but not the sin of self-righteousness. When we have this attitude, though, we deprive ourselves of the joy of living in the grace of God. Because, you see, grace is only for sinners.

After love and humility, there are at least twenty-five more Christian virtues to put on, among which there is surely a lot of room for all of us to grow. Yet to the extent that we miss the mark in those positive Christian character traits, we are sinners in need of God’s grace. . . .

While not surprised by the primacy of love in New Testament teaching, I was surprised by the almost forty references to humility. either in the use of the word itself or in concept, and the obvious importance both Jesus and the apostles put on that virtue. Yet how little attention do most of us give to growing in humility. The opposite trait of humility, of course, is pride, and there is no pride like that of self-righteousness, feeling good about our own religious performance and looking down on others’. (The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness)

The Egocentric Church

Wolf in Sheep's ClothingFor the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

The influence of the modern egocentric church may be found in the popular fad of minimizing preaching to pursue highly sensual worship experiences with God. The egocentric church does not find the study of Scriptures emotionally appealing. Such church-attenders may believe all the Bible says about Jesus is true without reading it for themselves. They ask, “What would Jesus do?” and they answer “Jesus would do what I feel is right.” They think that the Bible says what they believe it should say and act as if it were true. They refuse to be confused by the facts.

A primary principle of the Protestant Reformation was Sola Scriptura; Scripture alone is the final authority. Reformation Christianity maintains that the only infallible guide to the knowledge of God is in the inspired, written Word. The Christian life always begins with the Scriptures. The Bible is the authority and final standard with regard to the knowledge of God and living the Christian life. Reformation doctrine tells us not to trust our hearts but to look into the Word of God.

Justification by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Christ alone is a prerequisite for knowing God and having fellowship with Him. Scripture is clear that communion with God does not come by men’s imaginative attempts to ascend to God, or by a “tingle” running up and down your spine – but by hearing and believing the Word of God. Egocentric theology seeks the good feelings of the moment, not the deep abiding presence of Jesus Christ.

Unlike the Christianity of the Reformers and the Puritans, egocentric theology is the product of a narcissistic, secular culture dominated by consumerism. The self-centered church glorifies man not God. Biblical Christianity requires a paradigm shift in the minds of Christians. It takes men’s eyes off of the mirror and the riches of this world in order that they may see God as the greatest of all treasures. How sad it is to see true worship devolve into “make me feel good about myself” meetings.

Samuel at Gilgal

Worship

A Heart for GodSinclair B. Ferguson:

For worship is, essentially, the reverse of sin. Sin began (and begins) when we succumb to the temptation, “You shall be as gods.” We make ourselves the center of the universe and dethrone God. By contrast, worship is giving God his true worth; it is acknowledging Him to be the Lord of all things, and the Lord of everything in our lives. He is, indeed, the Most High God! (A Heart for God, 1987)

The Chief End of Man

Hugh Binning 1Hugh Binning:

“Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever.” (Romans 11:36)

“Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

We have read two scriptures, which speak to the ultimate and chief end of man, which is the glorifying of God by all our actions and words and thoughts. In which we have these things of importance: 1. That God’s glory is the end of our being. 2. That God’s glory should be the end of our doing. And, 3. The ground of both these; because both being and doing are from him, therefore they ought to be both for him. He is the first cause of both, and therefore he ought to be the last end of both. ‘Of him, and through him, are all things;’ and therefore all things are also for him, and therefore all things should be done to him. . . .

Dependence is the proper notion of a created being,—dependence upon that infinite independent Being, as the first immediate cause, and the last immediate end. You see then that this principle is engraved in the very nature of man. It is as certain and evident that man is made for God’s glory, and for no other end, as that he is from God’s power, and from no other cause. (“The Common Principles of the Christian Religion”)

Born Arminian

Charles SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.

Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. (A Defense of Calvinism)

The Eyes of Faith

Jerry BridgesJerry Bridges:

In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense. And just as the faith of salvation comes through hearing the message of the gospel (see Romans 10:17), so the faith to trust God in adversity comes through the Word of God alone. It is only in the Scriptures that we find an adequate view of God’s relationship to and involvement in our painful circumstances. It is only from the Scriptures, applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that we receive the grace to trust God in adversity. (Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)

Pleasing God

WorshipHave you ever found yourself wondering how to please God? This is an age-old question and I am certainly not the first to ask it. Men have humiliated themselves and cast themselves down in abject misery for this purpose. People of every land have starved themselves, slept on stones, lacerated their flesh and subjected themselves to all forms of torture, thinking that such actions are pleasing to God.

Others attempt to please God through worship, sacrifices, by observing certain feasts and fasts, and elaborate forms of rituals. But even worship becomes monotonous and sacrifices lose their meaning. Yet, according to Paul, man does not please God by physical degradation or ecclesiastical ceremony, or by obeying the Decalogue. There is nothing, he asserts, a man can do to please God. It is impossible. Pleasing the Eternal Father, therefore, is not accomplished even by obedience to the law, but is simply a matter of grace. Paul 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. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-39 ESV)

When Paul says that Christians are no longer under the law, he means that they are no longer under the law as an external restraint. When he says that the law has passed away, he means that it has passed away as a measure of coercion, but he does not mean that the life of man can ever safely depart from these principles ordained by God. It is no longer an external restraint but an internal constraint, no longer an external compulsion but an internal impulsion that is pleasing to the heart of God.

In our present day, too many people in the church do not understand how to benefit from the grace given them. There is mayhem in the modern church because men misuse grace to please the flesh. Without the internal constraint and guidance of the Holy Spirit, those who profess to be Christians shipwreck their souls on the rocks of their own vanity. No love of Christ constrains them. Their “Cultural Christianity” betrays them.

How do we please God? We trust Jesus Christ for our salvation and receive the Spirit of God who sets us free from the Law by grace. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV) We do not conform ourselves to this world, but we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds to know God and please Him. (Romans 12:2) The indwelling Holy Spirit will teach us these things. (John 14:26 ESV) The Psalmist writes, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10 ESV) Therefore, focus your mind on the things of the Spirit and grow in spiritual wisdom and faith if you wish to live a life pleasing to God. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

Samuel at Gilgal

Begin Your Day With God

Thomas_Case_(1598–1682)Thomas Case:

It is no small advantage to the holy life to “begin the day with God.” The saints are wont to leave their hearts with Him over night, that they may find them with Him in the morning. Before earthly things break in upon us, and we receive impressions from abroad, it is good to season the heart with thoughts of God, and to consecrate the early and virgin operations of the mind before they are prostituted to baser objects. When the world gets the start of religion in the morning, it can hardly overtake it all the day.

The Church

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Ron Adair

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Ron Adair

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

If you go back through the long history of the Church, you will find that it has often counted most, and has been most used by God, when there have been just a handful of people who were agreed in spirit and in doctrine. God took hold of them and used them and did mighty things through them. But when there was only one Church in the whole of western Europe, what did she lead to? The Dark Ages. And yet it seems to me that this great lesson of history is being entirely forgotten and ignored at this present time. I say these things not because I am animated by any controversial spirit, but because I have a zeal for the truth as I find it in the Scriptures, and regard it as tragic to note the way in which Scripture is being twisted and perverted in the interests of a unity which is not a unity. (Great Doctrines of the Bible – The Church)

The Truth Found Us

God is LoveGerald Bray:

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus remains a model for Christians, because although most of us have not had an experience of God as dramatic as his, we can see in it a pattern of knowing God that is as true for us as it was for him. It does not matter what we were in the past—whether we were looking for truth, indifferent to it, or confident that we knew it already. What matters is that now we have found the truth, not because we have stumbled across it or worked our way into it, but because the Truth has found us and made us over into new men and women. As Saul (also known as Paul) was to say in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The words in italics say it all. The man who told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” had met Saul on the road to Damascus, because he loved him. Jesus had given himself up to death so that Saul could live a new life in union with him. When he fell to the ground, Saul died to his old self, and when he got up again it was as if he had been raised from the dead. Everything that followed was an explanation of that experience, a working out of what it meant for his life and for the life of the world. (God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology)

The One True Living Way

Bishop J. C. RyleBishop J. C. Ryle:

Let there be no mistake as to the object which true ministers of the Gospel have in view. We are not set apart merely to perform a certain round of ordinances; to read prayers, to Christen those that are Christened, to bury those that are buried, to marry those that are ruined. We are set apart for the grand purpose of proclaiming the one true living way, and inviting you to walk in it. We ought to labor day and night, until we can persuade you, by God’s blessing, to walk in that way,–the tried way, the good way, the old way,–and to know the peace which passeth all under standing, which in that way alone is to be found.

There is one great work which the Lord Jesus Christ has done and finished completely. That work is the work of atonement, sacrifice, and substitution. It is the work which He did when He suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God. He saw us ruined by the fall, a world of poor, lost, ship-wrecked sinners. He saw and He pitied us; and in compliance with the everlasting counsels of the Eternal Trinity, He came down to the world, to suffer in our stead, and to save us. He did not sit in heaven pitying us from a distance: He did not stand upon the shore and see the wreck, and behold poor drowning sinners struggling in vain to get to shore. He plunged into the waters Himself: He came off to the wreck and took part with us in our weakness and infirmity becoming a man to save our souls. As man, He bore our sins and carried our transgressions; as man, He endured all that men can endure, and went through everything in man’s experience, sin only excepted; as man He lived; as man He went to the cross; as man He died. As man He shed His blood, in order that He might save us, poor shipwrecked sinners, and establish a communication between earth and heaven! As man He became a curse for us, in order that He might bridge the gulf, and make a way by which you and I might draw near to God with boldness, and have access to God without fear. In all this work of Christ, remember, there was infinite merit, because He who did it was not only man, but God. Let that never be forgotten. He who wrought out our redemption was perfect man; but He never ceased for a moment to be perfect God.

For Me to Live is Christ

Morning and EveningCharles H. Spurgeon:

The believer did not always live to Christ. He began to do so when God the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and when by grace he was brought to see the dying Saviour making a propitiation for his guilt. From the moment of the new and celestial birth the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price, for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our love, that it beats alone for Him; to His glory we would live, and in defence of His gospel we would die; He is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character. Paul’s words mean more than most men think; they imply that the aim and end of his life was Christ-nay, his life itself was Jesus. In the words of an ancient saint, he did eat, and drink, and sleep eternal life. Jesus was his very breath, the soul of his soul, the heart of his heart, the life of his life. Can you say, as a professing Christian, that you live up to this idea? Can you honestly say that for you to live is Christ? Your business-are you doing it for Christ? Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage? Do you ask, “Is that a mean reason?” For the Christian it is. He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing a spiritual adultery? Many there are who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dare say that he hath lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did? Yet,this alone is the true life of a Christian-its source, its sustenance, its fashion, its end, all gathered up in one word-Christ Jesus. Lord, accept me; I here present myself, praying to live only in Thee and to Thee. Let me be as the bullock which stands between the plough and the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, “Ready for either.”

The God of Modern Christendom

The Sovereignty of GodAW Pink:

How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence. (The Sovereignty of God)

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