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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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  • August 2015
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GRACE AND HOLINESS

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV)

Samuel A CainThis was the cry of Isaiah ben Amoz when he was confronted with the holiness of God. Isaiah was a well-respected man who was also a member of Israel’s royal family. By the traditions of Israel and its Law, Isaiah was considered to be a righteous man.

So, why would a man like Isaiah call down a curse of doom on himself? The next thing he says is, “I am ruined!” Older translations used the phrase, “For I am undone.” The idea being communicated by Isaiah is that he is coming apart at the seams and falling to pieces. Everything he thought about himself: his self-image; his standing in the Jewish community, his self-respect; his moral character and self-confidence came crashing down in that moment. (Isaiah 6:5 ESV)

Can you imagine standing in the gaze of a holy, holy, holy God? The repetition of the word “holy” three times by the seraphim in their worship chorus exalts God to the highest level of perfect holiness. (Isaiah 6:3 ESV) In Hebrew, the repetition of a word is a technique for placing a higher level of degree or emphasis on it.

Isaiah ben Amoz is instantly aware that the LORD sees right through the pretentious defense mechanisms that guard his self-esteem. All his secrets and sins are revealed to God’s instantaneous scrutiny – everything! Isaiah feels filthy and vile. This is the reason Isaiah would curse himself. He would rather the mountains fall on him than endure the gaze of God. Indeed, who of us could bear it? Continue reading

FREE CHOICE

Martin Luther:

Martin Luther“If we are unwilling to let this term go altogether – though that would be the safest and most God-fearing thing to do – let us at least teach men to use it honestly, so that free choice is allowed to man only with respect to what is beneath him and not what is above him. That is to say, a man should know that with regard to his faculties and possessions he has the right to use, to do, or to leave undone, according to his own free choice, though even this is controlled by the free choice of God alone, who acts in whatever way he pleases. On the other hand in relation to God, or in matters pertaining to salvation or damnation, a man has no free choice, but is a captive, subject and slave either of the will of God or the will of Satan.” (The Bondage of the Will)

THE PERFECTIONS OF GOD

Richard Baxter:

baxter“Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy.”

MISERIES

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Charles H. SpurgeonOften in this present world, the most wicked men are the most prosperous, while the most holy are the most afflicted. This present world is not the place where the Judge of all usually punishes sin. He ordinarily reserves his wrath for the Day of Judgment, and the world to come. This is not the land of punishment, and your having more afflictions than others, may be because God loves you; certainly it is not because he hates you.

Some of God’s people are chastened every morning, and vexed every evening and the Lord’s hand lies heavy on them. Yet there is God’s goodness in that heavy hand, and infinite loving kindness in their tribulations. God only gives the wicked prosperity as we give husks to swine– he gives them this world’s transient things because he loves them not. I beg you then, do not misconstrue your sufferings of body and mind– they may be tokens of mercy; they certainly are not indicators of any special wrath.

THE HIGHEST GOOD

Jonathan Edwards:

Works of Jonathan Edwards“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733)

LIFE IS TOO SHORT!

John Piper:

John Piper“Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, and too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, and eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.”

MATERIALISM!

Bishop J. C. Ryle:

J.C.-Ryle
Greatness and riches are a perilous possession for the soul. Those who seek to have them, know not what they seek. They lead men into many temptations. They are likely to fill the heart with pride, and to chain the affections down to things below.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. (1 Corinthians 1:26 ESV)

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23 ESV)

Do we envy the rich and the great? Does our heart sometimes say, “oh, that I had their place, and rank, and substance?” Let us beware of giving way to such feelings. The very wealth which we admire may be gradually sinking its possessors down into hell. A ‘little more money’ might be our ruin. Continue reading

SHAKY FOUNDATIONS

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3 ESV)

Samuel A CainSound moral character and right living are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His righteousness. Without faith, the ungodly are undone. They have no God to comfort them; no God to trust in; no God to forgive them; no absolute truth to rely on; no eternal moral standard, and no hope for heaven. Every man simply does as he pleases and finds no pleasure in the end. (Judges 21:25)

The foundation of morality begins with the character of God. God has created us as moral beings who are to live in relationship with Him. This requires us to exhibit the moral character found in Jesus Christ. A moral Christian character is the consequence of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the true believer will manifest Jesus in his actions. A strong character is proven by a diligent devotion to the moral values advocated. Continue reading

LAW AND GOSPEL

David Clarkson:

David ClarksonThe righteousness of Christ turns the law into gospel to a believer, and of a doctrine full of dread and terror, renders it the most acceptable message that ever was brought to the world. The law, which stands as the angel with a flaming sword, to bar all flesh out of paradise, when the righteousness of Christ is applied, it becomes an angel to carry every believer into Abraham’s bosom; Christ’s righteousness added, it loses its name, and we call it gospel. The way in both seems to be the same for substance; perfect obedience is requisite in both. They differ in the circumstances of the person performing this obedience. In the law it was to be personal, in the gospel his surety’s performance is sufficient.

However, if there be any terror, dread in the law, Christ’s righteousness removes it; if any grace, comfort in the gospel, Christ’s righteousness is the rise of it. Take away Christ’s righteousness, and the gospel can give no life; take it away, and the law speaks nothing but death; no life, no hope of life without it, either in law or gospel. (Works, 1:315)

A CHRISTIAN’S LIFE

Charles Hodge:

Charles HodgeTo be in Christ is the source of the Christian’s life; to be like Christ is the sum of His excellence; to be with Christ is the fullness of His joy.

A Christian is one who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as God manifested in the flesh, loving us and dying for our redemption; and who is so affected by a sense of the love of this incarnate God as to be constrained to make the will of Christ the rule of his obedience, and the glory of Christ the great end for which He lives.

GO DOGS AND EAT

Charles Spurgeon:

That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:15 ESV)

Charles H. SpurgeonI believe that one reason why the church at this present moment has so little influence over the world, is because the world has so much influence over the church! Nowadays, we hear professors pleading that they may do this, and do that—that they may live like worldlings. My sad answer to them, when they crave this liberty is, “Do it if you dare. It may not cost you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you are hungering after such dogs food—go dogs, and eat the garbage!

Worldly amusements are fit food for pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God’s children, you would loathe the thought of the world’s evil joys. Your question would not be, “How far may we be like the world?” but your cry would be, “How can we get away from the world? How can we come out of it?” (“The Soul Winner”)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

AMUSING OURSELVES

J. R. Miller:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

J. R. Miller

J. R. Miller

Amusements are proper, both as to kind and degree—just so far as they make us better Christians. Whenever they become hindrances to us in our Christian living or in our holy walk – they are harmful, however innocent they may be in themselves.

How do your amusements influence your spiritual life? They may be very pleasing to you. They may afford great gratification. But what is their effect on you, as a Christian? Are they hindering your love for Christ, and your growth in grace? We ought to be honest enough with ourselves, to answer these questions truthfully, and then act accordingly. (“In Green Pastures”)

TRUTH IN THE WILDERNESS

J.C. Ryle:

Bishop J. C. RyleDo not put implicit confidence in any man’s opinion, merely because he is a minister.

What are the best of ministers but men; dust, ashes and clay, men with a nature like our own, men exposed to temptations, men liable to weaknesses and failings.

They have often driven the truth into the wilderness, and decreed that to be true, which was false. The greatest errors have been begun by ministers.

Peace without truth is a false peace; it is the very peace of the devil. Unity without the gospel is a worthless unity; it is the very unity of hell. Continue reading

REFORMING MANKIND

John Newton:

John NewtonThe Gospel of Christ, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God—is the only effectual means for reforming mankind.

To the man who possesses and knows the use of this grand, this wonderful machine—if I may be allowed the comparison—what is otherwise impossible becomes easy.

The Gospel removes difficulties insurmountable to human power. It causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear; it softens the heart of stone, and raises the dead in trespasses and sins to a life of righteousness! Continue reading

A HEART FOR GOD

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10 ESV)

Samuel A CainThe Christian faith teaches us that Christians are to be God-fixated; that is, savoring our satisfaction in God is a chief attribute of the Christian man or woman. The Christian’s life glorifies God and makes much of Jesus Christ paying the cost of our redemption. By grace through faith we become the children of God. By the Holy Spirit, we grow in righteousness that we may please God and be a witness to our neighbors.

A Christian who understands the principles of Christianity will live in constant awareness of God’s glory, and joy will be his companion. The desire to magnify God’s glory leads to living a holy life. We demonstrate our faith in God by our conduct. When we have a heart for God, we have a heart for others as well. Continue reading

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