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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

BIBLICAL TRUTH OR EMOTIONALISM?

More and more churches are being led into emotionalism and not Biblical Truth, and, as a result, these congregations have no spiritual power of discernment.  They are willing to compromise Biblical truth for emotionalism and experience as they are taught to seek after a god who is not the God of the Bible.  (Justin Pierce, The Importance Of Truth and Standing Against Apostasy)

MENDACIOUS OR MIGHTY IN TRUTH?

There was a popular preacher who often called out the names of a few people in his audience during the service and described their physical problems. The evangelist claimed that God was speaking to him and giving him information about the individuals he spoke to. According to him, he had never met or spoken to prior to calling out their names. However, it was later discovered that employees of the evangelist would talk to people in the crowd before the service and gather facts about the people attending. They would give this information to the preacher’s wife. She, in turn, would talk to her husband through a tiny receiver in his ear. By this means their ministry became a financial success. (Information from James Randi, The Faith Healers)

We have all run into liars from time to time. Usually, they are harbingers of serious disappointment. It is especially disappointing when we discover we have been lied to by someone we counted on as a friend. We all want to believe that there are certain individuals in society in whom we can put our trust, such as family; friends; our heroes; teachers; doctors; government authorities; and men and women who are spiritual leaders.

Let us consider, specifically, spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership has traditionally been a highly respected role in American history and culture. The Christian preacher or pastor’s responsibility is to make known the truth of God. However, there are people who claim this position who are liars. This should not be totally surprising since even Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light”. (2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV)

Continue reading

AVOIDING FALSE PROPHETS

Samuel A CainBut false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

Jesus warned us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15 ESV) False prophets secretly bring destructive heresies into the church. They often deny Jesus. Because of their fleshly desires, the way of truth is blasphemed. They are covetous and manipulate people with their false words. (2 Peter 2:1-22 ESV) God did not send them nor command them nor speak to them. False prophets speak from the deceit of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14-16 ESV) “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” (2 Peter 2:18-19 ESV) They pervert the grace of God into sensuality and teach a false Christ. (Jude 1:4 ESV) Continue reading

CHURCH GROWTH

Samuel A CainAnd let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47 ESV)

Often, Christian leaders seek to encourage church growth by preaching messages that will be popular in our post-modern culture. Yet, the Apostle John writes:

“They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:5-6 ESV) Continue reading

PREACHING SCRIPTURE

John PiperJohn Piper:

“All Christian preaching should be the exposition and application of biblical texts. Our authority as preachers sent by God rises and falls with our manifest allegiance to the text of Scripture.”

 

SOUND TEACHING

preachingBut as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1 ESV) For 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)

A huge problem in the modern church is the “itching ears” disease. Many of our churches have accumulated pastors who believe that preaching is giving a talk on what you think the congregation wants to hear. These pastors know that the people in the pews want to feel good about themselves. This is why we hear of such sermon titles as “How to Command Angels,” “Secret Sources of Power,” “Dream and You Will Win the World,” and “You Can Have Your Best Life Now.” Most of these sermons contain more pop-psychology than the Gospel.

Too many preachers are basing their sermons on modern psychology and philosophy along with a couple of phrases of Scriptures. These sermons focus on the hearer and not the Glory of God. They fail to teach Christian doctrine and promote a self-conceived (unbiblical) notion of Jesus. After all, the congregation is more interested in emotionalism than sound teaching. Continue reading

Shepherd of the Flock

PreacherSo I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3 ESV)

In the verses above, Peter urges pastors to care for God’s flock like a shepherd (1 Peter 5:2). Caring is sharing in the joys and burdens of the individual members of the congregation: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Biblical pastoral care requires not only knowledge of the Scriptures, but also an active caring concern for the spiritual welfare of each member of the congregation. Continue reading

The Christian Disciple

jesus-teaching-disciplesA disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40 ESV)

If you are a disciple, you have submitted to the authority of another in order to receive instruction in wisdom, knowledge, proper conduct, and behavior. People today may consider the concept of Christian discipleship to be old-fashioned, legalistic, or “out of style”. However, Christianity promotes a change in our behavior, through discipleship, which can be seen by the world. To do this, we must strive to be more like our teacher – Jesus Christ.

Discipleship and the philosophy of instant gratification do not mix well. Too often, the church focuses on “winning” others to Christ and then fails to teach converts how to live like Christ. Fewer sermons take up the subject of working “out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12, ESV) There is, certainly, a clear lack of concern for Paul’s appeal “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2, ESV) Continue reading

Spiritual Leadership

 Samuel Brengle

Quoting Samuel Brengle:

Spiritual leadership is not won by promotion, but by prayers and tears.

It is attained by much heart searching and humbling before God; by self-surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold, uncompromising, and uncomplaining embracing of the cross, and by an eternal, unfaltering looking unto Jesus crucified.

This is a great price, but it must be unflinchingly paid by him who would be a real spiritual leader of men, a leader whose power is recognized and felt in heaven, on earth and in hell.

Thinking of Entering the Ministry?

A. W. PinkArthur Pink:

How diligently should they scrutinize their motives, who think of entering the ministry; for thousands have abused this Divine institution through love of ease, desire for authority and reputation, or love of money–and brought upon themselves “greater damnation” (James 3:1). Thousands have invaded the pastoral office in an unauthorized manner, to fleece sheep rather than feed them, robbing Christ of His honor and starving His people.

Solemn beyond words is it to observe how sternly our Lord denounced these false shepherds of His day. (Matthew 23) As J. C. Ryle rightly said, “Nothing seemed so offensive to Christ as a false teacher of religion, a false prophet, or a false shepherd. Nothing ought to be so much feared by the Church, be so plainly rebuked, opposed and exposed.”

What are the marks of a true shepherd, how are God’s people to identify those called and qualified by Him to minister unto His people? Continue reading

The Unconverted Church Member

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one. . . . (Matthew 13:36-43 ESV)

Church AttendersThere are many unconverted members who attend our churches each Sunday. They attend week after week and year after year; never hearing anything offensive to their unregenerated lifestyles. However, the truth of the Bible is distasteful to the sinner. The cross of Christ is impertinent to the proud. If you have listened faithfully to your pastor’s sermons each Sunday and have never felt a sting of rebuke for some sin brought to light, then you have a heart of stone or need to find a new pastor.

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers. . . . (Matthew 13:37-43 ESV)

Of course, the unconverted do not see themselves as sinners or law-breakers. In the darkness of their minds they see themselves as worthy children of an adoring God. They believe that God loves them because they are not as “bad” as their neighbors. Yet, their lives do not reflect biblical truth. This is because it is impossible for their lives to reproduce a righteousness they do not know or understand. They have set their own standards for what to call sin. Continue reading

Biblical Giants

R.C. SproulR.C. Sproul:

God has given great men and women to the church. The biblical giants serve as valuable models—despite their imperfections. Were we to elevate Paul, Abraham, or David above Christ, we would be guilty of idolatry. The same would be true if we exalted Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, and others above Christ. We respect these saints, but only insofar as they are faithful to Christ and point beyond themselves to Christ. This was certainly the style of the apostle Paul, who labored tirelessly for the cause of Christ. We love and honor him for that labor. Likewise, we honor the giants of church history. But even the theological “giants” are sub-apostolic, never speaking or writing with an authority equal to an apostle.

At the same time, we recognize that a vast gulf separates Augustine from Jim Jones. People like Augustine and Luther have contributed theological insights of such magnitude that their names are representative of key thoughts. Few in church history are worthy of such recognition. The suffixes “ian,” “ist,” or “ite,” (e.g., “Calvinist”) are valuable to identify truth but have little positive and much negative value when applied to personalities. We know that Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were not crucified for us.

Thank God for role models who have influenced your life; then thank Him for the Supreme Model who died for you.

Read more by R.C. Sproul here. . . .

Preaching to the Heart

Sinclair B. FergusonSinclair B. Ferguson:

Preaching to the heart addresses the understanding first, in order to instruct it; but in doing so it also reaches through the mind to inform, rebuke, and cleanse the conscience. It then touches the will in order to reform and transform life and equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).

In the last analysis, this is what preaching to the heart is intended to produce: inner prostration of the hearts of our listeners through a consciousness of the presence and the glory of God. This distinguishes authentic biblical, expository preaching from any cheap substitute for it; it marks the difference between preaching about the Word of God and preaching the Word of God. (Feed My Sheep, Don Kistler, Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, 2002)

The Preacher’s Garment of Salvation

John LelandJohn Leland (1754-1841), a Baptist preacher in Virginia and New England:

It is of primary importance that the preacher should be clothed with the garment of salvation; that he should be filled with a sense of the immense worth of the truth, the guilt, depravity and danger man is in; the unsearchable love of Christ in the bloody purchase, and his ability and willingness to save redeemed penitents. Without this robe, he will preach a distant Jesus, by an unfeeling gospel, and with an unhallowed tongue. (The Writings of Elder John Leland)

Geoffrey Thomas: What then is the Heart of Gospel Proclamation?

Geoffrey ThomasGeoffrey Thomas:

What then is the heart of gospel proclamation? What are we asking men when we preach to them faith in Jesus Christ? . . . It is, first, to show men their need of Jesus Christ. The preacher’s task is to make a person aware of the seriousness of sin. It is not to create false guilt feelings, but it is to show men that the Creator has given laws to those who inhabit His creation, who live and move and have their being in Him, and who must answer to Him for their conduct. There is great power in preaching that addresses the conscience because there is an immediate echo of approval for what is said from within the very being of the hearer. Since men are made in the image of the lawgiver, the things of His law are written in their hearts. Therefore, men’s consciences speak with the preacher to them. It was when Bunyan’s Pilgrim felt the weight of the burden he carried that he realized how great was his need of deliverance. The Lord Jesus Christ invited those who labor and are heavy-laden to come to Him for rest (Matt. 11:28), but to others He said, “You would not come to me that you might have life” (John 5:40). Why would they not entrust themselves to Jesus? Because they felt no need of Him, because they were not heavy-laden with their guilt, and thus, when Jesus spoke of the sinner being enslaved in his sins, they protested what freedom they enjoyed. They would not believe in the only one who could make them truly free because they thought they were already possessors of real liberty. No one comes to Christ unless he has been made consciously aware of this need of Him. It is the great task of the preacher to show to men their state as it is before God, to pursue them from every refuge in which they hide, to persuade them that a holy God takes their actions and thoughts so seriously that He knows their every deviation from His will and intends to hold them accountable. This is the bedrock of powerful preaching, that men are in need of Christ because of their sin. Where has there ever been powerful preaching that muted the divine diagnosis and the plight of every man? (“Powerful Preaching,” chapter 14 in The Preacher and Preaching, edited by Samuel T. Logan [Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986], p. 388-89)

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