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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

OF FLAGS, STATUES, AND FOOLISHNESS

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

Ignore history at your own peril. Banning flags and tearing down statues will not hide sin; make us more righteous; or prevent hate. All this is simply the outside of the cup. Americans must change within. This is the true change that Christ promised. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) There is salvation in no other name. It is the gift of God confirming the love of God and those who are loved by God love one another.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)

LOOKING BACK

I had lived with no idea how thoroughly sin had penetrated every area of my life. Even the idea that I needed some kind of forgiveness was ridiculous to me. God, however, is merciful.

I was His enemy, yet God brought me to Him. Paul said:

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)

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CONSIDERING SIN

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV)

Consider sin. It twists and disfigures the soul. The image man once reflected of God is now shattered by sin. It disfigures man and destroys the image of God as though it were despised. Every sin flies in the face of God’s wisdom. All sin is a declaration of war against God.

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THE LIBERTINE

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)

A libertine is described (especially from the 17th century on) as a person with an immoral lifestyle who is primarily interested in sexual pleasure. (see Merriam-Webster) This definition was once considered to apply chiefly to men, but in our lifetime, it is equally applicable to women. Today’s culture glorifies the libertine as a hero. Sexual sins have become man’s declaration of independence from God.

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WHEN FORGIVENESS IS DIFFICULT

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

Have you ever been hurt by someone? When we are hurt, we often desire for the offender to suffer as we have. We call it “justice”. Yet, how often do we offend God or grieve the Holy Spirit by our addictions to various sins? Christians know the hunger for forgiveness when we sin. We pray for mercy for our transgressions, not justice.

How can we ask God for forgiveness when we fail to offer forgiveness to others? Paul writes:

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A LIFESTYLE OF FORGIVENESS

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

unforgivenessUnforgiveness can affect every facet of your personal life. It impacts the mind and spirit, and creates tension and anxiety. Most importantly, unforgiveness is the disobedience of God’s Word. (Matthew 6:15 ESV)

Unforgiveness may lock the mind in an ongoing stressful state. (“The Negative Effects of Unforgiveness on Mental Health”, Theravive April 28, 2014) Researchers report that people who tend to be unforgiving reported higher rates of heart disease, elevated blood pressure, stomach ulcers, arthritis, back problems, headaches, and chronic pain than those who reported they do not have this characteristic. (Feldman and Kravetz, “Grudge Match: Can Unforgiveness Be Bad For Our Health?Psychology Today 2013)

Unforgiveness is not a desirable characteristic for either the physical or spiritually healthy life. Jesus said:

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THE OVERFLOWING MERCY OF GOD

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9 ESV)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

Samuel A CainGod possesses mercy and love in abundance. He chose to make us alive together in Christ. Through the mercy of His love, God raises us to heavenly places. We are delivered from the power of darkness. God proves His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We were dead, yet He was full of mercy. He stretched out His hand and made us alive. He made us worthy. Although we were sinners, He made us righteous. He reconciled us with Himself. Our abode was in the kingdom of darkness, yet, He called us into the kingdom of light. Continue reading

DRAWING NEAR TO GOD

J.C.-RyleJ. C. Ryle:

I would offer counsel, first, to all who are anxious and troubled respecting their soul’s salvation, and yet know not what to do. Reader, if you are such a person, I charge you and entreat you, I beseech you and invite you, to come into the way of which I have been speaking in this tract. I beseech you to come to God by the old and tried way,–the way of faith in Jesus Christ. Draw near to God, pleading the name of Jesus. Begin this very day to cry mightily unto God, in the name of Jesus, on behalf of your soul. Say not you have anything to plead for yourself. You have nothing to plead. Your life, your thoughts, your ways, all alike condemn you. Say nothing about yourself but this,–that you are a sinner, a great sinner, a guilty sinner, a condemned sinner; but because you are a sinner, you turn to God. Come unto Him in the name of Jesus, saying, you have heard that through Jesus a sinner may come near Him. Tell Him that you are a sinner, a great sinner, and an unworthy one. But tell Him that you come in the faith of His promises, in the confidence of His own Bible invitation; and in the name of Jesus, and for the sake of Jesus, and on account of Jesus, you ask to be received, heard, pardoned, forgiven, and accepted. Tell Him that you wish to have your name–even that name of yours, connected hitherto with worldliness, thoughtlessness, carelessness, and sin added to the list of God’s dear children. (“Able to Save“)

THE EFFECTUAL FERVENT PRAYER

Jonathan EdwardsJonathan Edwards:

When God is displeased by sin, he manifests his displeasure, comes out against us in his providence, and seems to oppose and resist us. In such cases, God is, speaking after the manner of men, overcome by humble and fervent prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” Jam. 5:16. It has a great power in it: such a prayer-hearing God is the Most High, that he graciously manifests himself as conquered by it. Thus God appeared to oppose Jacob in what he sought of him. Yet Jacob was resolute and overcame. Therefore God changed his name from Jacob to Israel, for says he, “as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed,” Gen. 32:28. A mighty prince indeed! Hos 12:4, “Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; He wept and made supplication unto him.” — When his anger was provoked against Israel, and he appeared to be ready to consume them in his hot displeasure, Moses stood in the gap, and by his humbled and earnest prayer and supplication, averted the stroke of divine vengeance, Exo. 32:9, etc. Num. 14:11, etc.

DO GOOD

JohnCalvinJohn Calvin:

The Lord enjoins us to do good to all without exception, though the greater part, if estimated by their own merit, are most unworthy of it. But Scripture subjoins a most excellent reason, when it tells us that we are not to look to what men in themselves deserve, but to attend to the image of God, which exists in all, and to which we owe all honor and love. But in those who are of the household of faith, the same rule is to be more carefully observed, inasmuch as that image is renewed and restored in them by the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, whoever be the man that is presented to you as needing your assistance, you have no ground for declining to give it to him.

Say he is a stranger. The Lord has given him a mark which ought to be familiar to you: for which reason he forbids you to despise your own flesh, (Gal. vi. 10.) Say he is mean and of no consideration. The Lord points him out as one whom he has distinguished by the luster of his own image, (Isaiah lviii. 7.) Say that you are bound to him by no ties of duty. The Lord has substituted him as it were into his own place, Continue reading

GRACE AND SIN

sinnerFor all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 ESV).

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

We are all in need of forgiveness from God. We have all sinned. The just penalty for our sins is death. However, 1 John 1:9 holds forth the comforting promise of forgiveness and cleansing for all of us who have struggled with sin. Blessed is the man whose sins have been forgiven. He has received the foundation of all happiness. This is a gift from God. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:8 ESV)

You may hide your sins from others, but God sees the heart. Your heart condemns you. Have you experienced the condemnation of the heart? “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20 ESV) “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV) Otherwise, the justice and holiness of God would require an account of our actions. We can only be forgiven by Him against whom we have sinned. It is against God we have sinned. We must go to Him and confess our sins. There is no other remedy. There is everlasting forgiveness for you if you come to Christ by faith. Continue reading

CHRIST: THE ONE REAL SACRIFICE

In Christ AloneSinclair Ferguson:

“When I know that Christ is the one real sacrifice for my sins, that His work on my behalf has been accepted by God, that He is my heavenly Intercessor – then His blood is the antidote to the poison in the voices that echo in my conscience, condemning me for my many failures. Indeed, Christ’s shed blood chokes them into silence!” (In Christ Alone, 151)

When People Hurt You

HurtLet all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)

Have you been hurt by someone you thought you could trust? Was it a spouse, a relative, a friend, a group of friends, or people you respected? It is often hard to live in a world where honor, loyalty, and trust exist only in literary fiction. Our response to the pain of a broken trust may be anger for the lack of integrity revealed in the other person. Even if the relationship is mended and you forgive the offender, can the same level of trust that once existed be restored?

Trust is very fragile and can be lost instantly. Playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal.” Is this the answer? People who feel the hurt of betrayal may sometimes seek vengeance (which they consider justice) for the pain they have suffered. Do we really feel better when we hurt others because of the pain we have felt? Paul writes, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19 ESV)
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Acquitted

J. C. RyleJ. C. Ryle:

I remember reading a story in ancient history which may help to illustrate the truth on which I am now dwelling. It is the story of one who was put upon trial for a capital charge, at Athens, shortly after the great battle of Marathon. In that famous battle the Athenians had preserved, by their valour, liberty for their little state, against the mighty hosts of the Persians; and among those who had distinguished themselves greatly, the brother of the prisoner was one; and had been sorely wounded in the fight. The man was put upon his trial. The evidence against him was strong and unanswerable; there seemed no chance of the prisoner escaping condemnation. Suddenly there came forward one who asked to be heard on his behalf. And who was this? It was his own brother. When he was asked what evidence he had to give, or what reason he had to show why the prisoner at the bar ought not to be found guilty, he simply lifted up his mutilated arms–nothing but stumps–the hands completely cut off; the wounded stumps alone remaining. He was recognised as a man who, at the battle of Marathon, had done prodigies of valour, and in the service of the State had lost his hands. By those wounds he had helped to win the victory which was then ringing in Athenian ears. Those wounds were the only evidence he brought forward. Those wounds were the only plea he advanced why his brother ought to be set free, and sentence ought not to be passed upon him. And the story states that for the sake of those wounds–for the sake of all his brother had suffered, the prisoner was acquitted. The case was dismissed at once, and the prisoner obtained his liberty. Reader, in like manner the wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ are ever before God the Father. The nail-prints in His hands and feet–the marks of the spear in His side–the thorn marks upon His forehead–the marks of all that he suffered as a lamb slain, are ever before God the Father in heaven. While Christ is in heaven, the believer’s sins will never rise in judgment against him. Think not with fear upon those old sins of yours, my believing brother or sister. Christ lives, and those old sins will not condemn you. We have an ever-living, ever-interceding Priest. Christ is not dead, but alive.

“I Will Help Thee”

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

I will help thee, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 41:14)

This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: “I will help thee.” “It is but a small thing for Me, thy God, to help thee. Consider what I have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with My blood. What! not help thee? I have died for thee; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help thee? It is the least thing I will ever do for thee; I have done more, and will do more.” “Before the world began I chose thee. I made the covenant for thee. I laid aside My glory and became a man for thee; I gave up My life for thee; and if I did all this, I will surely help thee now. In helping thee, I am giving thee what I have bought for thee already. If thou hadst need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it to thee; thou requirest little compared with what I am ready to give. ‘Tis much for thee to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. ‘Help thee?’ Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of thy granary asking for help, it would not ruin thee to give him a handful of thy wheat; and thou art nothing but a tiny insect at the door of My all-sufficiency. ‘I will help thee.'” O my soul, is not this enough? Dost thou need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity? Dost thou want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring hither thine empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up thy wants, and bring them here – thine emptiness, thy woes, thy needs. Behold, this river of God is full for thy supply; what canst thou desire beside? Go forth, my soul, in this thy might. The Eternal God is thine helper!

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismay’d!
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid.”
(Morning & Evening)

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