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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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  • Recommended Reading

FEELING RIGHT WHEN WE ARE SO WRONG

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

Narcissus

Narcissus

Christian men and women are human and therefore often pray, worship, and read the Bible without consideration of the personal prejudices which influence their thinking about these practices. We allow our feelings to become the unassailable doctrines of our belief without the Berean’s objectivity and careful study of the Word of God. This is a self-centered theology driven by our emotions and personal whims. The basis upon which we decide what the Scriptures actually mean is driven by how it makes us feel. To any thinking Christian, this system is unacceptable.

God requires that we seek Him as He has presented Himself in the Bible. As Jesus said:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

Christians must learn to depend on the Scriptures which offer truth and reason to guide our prayer, worship, and Bible study. Although these practices may give rise to emotions, they must not be guided by selfish emotionalism. Seek instead to become a Bible-saturated and Holy Spirit filled Christian. Jesus reminds us that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN THE BIBLE?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

sword_imageThere are always people who think they are smarter than the Word of God. They believe they have evolved intellectually far beyond the men and women who lived in centuries past. They disregard the Bible as an ancient book written by a primitive people. Some, who claim to be Christians, believe the Gospel needs to be modernized to give it more relevance to contemporary life.

While many ignore the Bible, others try to bring it “up to date” by inserting false teachings; delivered by deceitful men who bring destruction upon themselves and those who follow them. (2 Peter 2:1 ESV) They relativize and suppress truth in order to avoid living under the rule of God. (Romans 1:18-20)

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CELEBRATING THE LIGHT

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

lightI love light because it makes vision possible and generally makes me feel better. Have you ever heard of seasonal affective disorder? It may be caused by the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter. This decrease in sunlight disrupts the body’s internal clock and leads to feelings of depression. December, January, and February are my usual months for dealing with this problem. When the sun does come out during these months, you can bet I surely want to get outside to soak it up if possible.

The apostle John describes Jesus in terms of light:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

In this context, Jesus is described as light. Light and darkness symbolize good and evil; godly wisdom and worldly wisdom; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man (devil). We were all once enslaved to the darkness, but Christians are now able to walk in the light. On the road to Damascus, Jesus told Paul that He was sending him to the gentiles to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God; to receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Him. (Acts 26:18 ESV)

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WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)

salvation jesusA Christian is someone who has been born again in Christ to eternal life and salvation. His sins have been pardoned and he is in a state of grace. He now desires to obey God in order to please Him and glorify Him. He has the Holy Spirit to strengthen his desire and ability to live out his obligation to Jesus Christ. The Christian seeks to live life sincerely before God and to walk worthy of Christ.

Authenticity is the path of Christian sanctification. A Christian is not perfect. A Christian’s good works are the result of God’s saving grace. Good works do not save anyone; they are the consequence of having been saved. Even faith is the gift of God. Christians still err, but they are grieved when they do. The Christian’s grief leads to repentance. Sincere repentance leads to God’s forgiveness. God is faithful and just to forgive sins and to cleanse the Christian from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV) Continue reading

CHRISTIAN, REJOICE!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

cranky christianHave you ever meet a cranky Christian? Of course you have. These are Christians who have allowed circumstances to rob them of their joy. Paul tells us that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22 ESV)

You should not confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is created by what happens to us. It is a product of circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is the result of our covenant relationship with God. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV) Christian joy is impossible without a loving relationship with God:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is why a Christian can have eternal joy. We should not worry about circumstances or what we have or don’t have in this world. Take joy in the eternal pleasure of knowing God and being one of His family. If you have been saved from your sins in order to spend eternity in His household, do you not have sufficient reason to be full of Joy?

THE FOUNDATION OF WORSHIP

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 ESV)

WorshipMany of the unchurched public visited places of worship during the recent Holidays. What did they see and hear at your church? In some churches, I think they saw only a poor reflection of the secular world. How then will they be saved if the pastor’s message is not God-centered, sin-exposing, self-convicting and life-challenging?

Of course, this is the opposite of the popular sermons that seek only to entertain and promote a Christianized self-help philosophy. In such places the congregation becomes sovereign; ignoring what God has said on the subject, they dictate how worship will be conducted by what makes them feel better.

Thank God there are other churches where people meet to engage in God-centered, Scripture-directed worship. Those churches remind us that God wants us to worship Him in truth. (John 4:24 ESV) These are churches where you find the expository preaching of God’s Word. Indeed, all of worship is regulated by the Bible. Which of these churches do you attend?

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy Bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
(“The Church’s One Foundation” by Samuel John Stone)

WORSHIP IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (Matthew 15:8-9 ESV)

Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,  Therefore behold … the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” (Isaiah 29:13-14 NASB)

Narcissus

Narcissus

I believe that when Christians and unbelievers attend church they should hear the Bible preached and sing songs that reinforce the biblical message. This is worship that glorifies God. However, the modern church has altered worship to the current tastes of the unchurched. The advent of the “Church Growth Movement” (CGM) in evangelical circles has generated changes in corporate worship to attract the unchurched. Churches who adopt CGM are driven to find the answer to the question, “What do people want?”

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