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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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FAITH IN AN EVIL WORLD

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4 ESV)

Maintaining a true Christian faith is not easy in this world. Life offers so many paths of compromise that it is easy to lose your way. John Murray wrote the following on this subject:

If the faith we profess is a faith that allows us to walk in the ways of this present evil world, in the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, in the fellowship and works of darkness, then our faith is mockery and deception. Repentance results in constant contrition. The broken spirit and contrite heart are abiding marks in the believing soul. Not one that we progressively get, but abiding. They are there from the beginning and they’re ongoing. A new attitude. Not just about Jesus and who He is, but about our sin, who we are, what we deserve, and the hating of the things we used to love. Without it, there is no salvation. (John Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary)

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WILL I EVER BE RIGHTEOUS?

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. (1 Peter 3:12 ESV)

The God of the Bible is righteous and takes sin so seriously that our own efforts cannot erase the guilt of our iniquity. Yet, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God has forgiven our sins that we may participate in His righteousness. In Christ, we see the righteousness of the invisible God lived out in human conduct and character. Righteousness is the fruit of a life in Christ.

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INEXHAUSTIBLE POWER

The Old and New Testament clearly demonstrate the power of God working through His saints. Example after example is provided for our moral and spiritual guidance. The Bible exhorts us to be conformed to the pattern of life that God has made possible through the power of His grace. His grace is sufficient for all our needs because His power increases in us when we are too weak to overcome the obstacles before us. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV) We have been made alive together with Christ and this changes everything.

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JESUS CAME FOR US

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. (Mark 2:14 ESV)

Every culture has people who are unpopular for one reason or another. How would you feel if you answered the door bell to find an agent of the IRS who has come to audit your taxes? However, Levi was a very different type of tax collector than we have experienced.

Levi was considered to be a traitor and collaborator by the Jews because he worked for the occupying Romans who ruled Israel during this time. Tax collectors in Israel were hated men because they not only worked for the enemy, they were thieves. The Romans sold tax collecting franchises to anyone who could afford them. Once you owned the right to collect taxes, you would collect so much to give to the Romans and then you were allowed to add whatever amount you wanted to the tax for your fee.

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WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM THE BIBLE?

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. (II Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Many of us read the Bible with the purpose of knowing it better. Often, however, we read the Bible without allowing it to change our lives. We may scan the Scriptures daily looking for some reinforcement of our own “core values” but without allowing the Scriptures to speak to us personally about sin and righteousness.

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THE FAITH THAT SAVES

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 2:8-9 ESV)

There are many Christians who never know the assurance of their salvation because they do not believe they have been good enough to earn it. Such people have confused ideas about the meaning of grace and the role of faith and works.

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TRAVELING ON THE GOOD WAY

Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.’ (Jeremiah 6:16, ESV)

In this age of the Global Positioning System (GPS), we may navigate our cars to any place we desire and enjoy a large measure of certainty that our GPS devices will guide us to the correct location. However, it is often not so easy to navigate the highways of life. The decisions we make in finding our way may put us far from Bunyan’s “Celestial City”.

The verse above provides wisdom for the journey of life. Where various routes meet and we are unsure of the way, we should look to the Scriptures to guide our travel. The Scriptures will lead us to Christ and salvation. This ancient book, the Bible, is the best map and directory.

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WHAT IS STRONG FAITH?

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5 ESV)

I think it is interesting to note here that Jesus responds to the statement above by telling His apostles they need faith “like a grain of mustard seed.” Jesus makes the point that even a small amount of faith may accomplish wonderful things if it is placed in God. One of the most important things we learn is that what we place our faith in matters most.

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GOD’S WILL BE DONE

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Most Christians are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. If you attended Sunday School as a child, you are probably able to recite it. I have prayed this prayer many times over the years and have often meditated on these verses and what they mean. I sometimes wonder when we say the words of this prayer if, in the secret places of our hearts, we are really thinking: “MY kingdom come, MY will be done…” Submission to the will of another is very difficult for most of us; even submission to the will of God.

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GAINING GOSPEL PROGRESS

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, (Philippians 1:27)

I must thank a former pastor of mine, Kurt Gebhards, for the title of this post. He preached an outstanding series of sermons on this subject a number of years ago. I have included a link if you wish to hear those sermons.

As Christians our lives are to be saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to abide in Christ as the branch abides in the vine. (John 15:1-4) By His word of truth, we are brought forth as a new creation. (James 1:18 ESV) Our way of living is sanctified by the truth of the gospel (John 17:17 ESV) because the word of God is at work within us. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV) It is by the reading, careful study, and meditation of the Scriptures, along with constant prayer and hearing the Word preached, that we are trained in righteousness to produce godly lives.

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FAITH ACCOMPANIED BY WORKS

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 ESV)

Is James contradicting Paul? Paul writes:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (Romans 4:5 ESV)

Both James and Paul are addressing the topic of true saving faith. What is real faith? What is the relationship of works to faith and salvation?

In Romans, Paul is addressing a faith problem. Apparently, some thought that salvation was earned by good deeds. They acknowledged God and Jesus Christ, but they were still in bondage to the Law. The overriding motive for their good deeds was to earn a place in Heaven rather than to glorify God and live righteously. Paul is pointing out that righteousness before God is obtained by faith alone.

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PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 ESV)

Evening PrayerPraying is difficult for many people. Some don’t think about it because they lead such busy lives. It is certainly not #1 on their “To-Do List”. Francis de Sales wrote:

Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.

Martin Luther said on this subject:

I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that it is God’s Will that we should pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1 ESV) Prayer leads to greater intimacy with God. Prayer changes things and my personal experience has been that God changes me through prayer. God’s desire is for us to pray. (1 Timothy 2:8 ESV) Studying the Bible and hearing God’s Word helps to make our prayer life more effective. If we are slack in seeking wisdom from God’s Word, our prayers may become an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 28:9 ESV)

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STANDING IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. (Acts 5:19-21 ESV)

Apostles in jailThe High Priest envied the popularity of the Apostles and resented them for teaching in the temple. Therefore, he ordered them to be arrested and locked up in the public jail. However, an angel came during the night and set them free. Some of the Apostles may have wanted to run and hide at this point. After all, they were human like us.

The angel spoke to them and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Despite whatever fears they may have had, they risked the possibility of punishment and even death by deciding to enter the temple at daybreak and teach the words of life. These men were convinced in their hearts that it is better to obey God than men. They trusted in Jesus Christ. Do you?

DEPRESSION

Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 143:7 ESV)

Samuel A Cain (2)I have learned that depression is like a long, torturous interrogation.  You confess your fears, failures, and flaws over and over again like a broken record. The mountain of pain is too great to bear. Yet, the sadistic interrogator is never satisfied with your answers – because he is you and the truth lies outside yourself. Too much talking to yourself about yourself means you are talking too little to God.

YOUR REWARD IS GREAT IN HEAVEN

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (James 1:2 ESV)

Samuel A CainNo one passes through this world without experiencing problems. Even David had to fight Goliath and then overcome many other tribulations. Do not believe that because you are a Christian you will never face obstacles in your life.

God had a Son who was sinless. He was despised, rejected, and a man of sorrows. (Isaiah 53:3 ESV) You too, will suffer insults, adversities, persecutions, and calamities in this world. (2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV) Yet, you must persevere to the end. Everyone born of God overcomes the world. (1 John 5:4-5 ESV) Rejoice and leap for joy, for your reward is great in heaven! (Luke 6:22-23 ESV) He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

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