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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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  • July 2020
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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)

CHEAP GRACE

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Cheap grace allows the church to flirt with the world’s value system. It is the evidence of untransformed hearts and minds. This love of the world is not from God and blinds them to the love of God. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV) This is why Paul writes:

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GODLY LIVING

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)

With the passing of time, many Christians tend to lose their sense of the wonder of God’s grace. We begin to forget the sinfulness that destined us for eternal punishment. We may even begin to ignore the source of our faith.

Look at how gracious God has been to us. We may never fully understand God’s mercy, but such a boundless benevolence surely deserves a grateful response. Living a godly life is such a response.

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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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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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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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TRUST AND LIFE’S JOURNEY TO THE END

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The verse above makes it clear that only God is worthy of our utmost trust in all things. Do not put your ultimate hope in fallible man; strength diminishes with age and wisdom is the gift of God. Trust not in wealth because it may vanish in a moment, nor personal advantage because there are always others who have more. Only God deserves all our confidence.

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EVIL IS REAL

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 ESV)

Many in today’s world do not believe in evil. They believe that such ideas are based on cultural beliefs relative to various societies in different places and times. The paradigm key here is the word “relative”. Ethics, morals, right or wrong, and good or evil are considered “relative” to the circumstances people encounter in life. The idea of a spiritual being named Satan or the devil, who is an embodiment of evil, is viewed with contempt as the product of ignorant superstitious minds.

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SUFFICIENT GRACE

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)

God’s grace is always sufficient in times of extraordinary troubles. We, however, are not very patient and quickly begin to despair when our prayers for relief are not answered in the time and manner we desire. These are the times when we discover the divine power to persevere in spite of our own weakness. God’s power is manifested in our endurance. Self-righteousness, worldly wisdom, and trusting in your own strength will ultimately fall flat. Trusting in Jesus Christ will never fail you. Jesus said:

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FROM THIRST TO LIVING WATERS

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In the verses above, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus announces the source of true satisfaction for spiritual thirst. The crowd around Him are like the woman of Samaria who was standing by the side of the true well of living water and did not know it. Jesus invited all who were in need of spiritual comfort to come to Him by faith and receive living water. This flowing, living water represents new life and the comforting graces of the Holy Spirit.

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IMMEASURABLE BLESSINGS

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

blessings

I believe it is impossible for Christians to find themselves in such appalling circumstances – where the promises of God hold no encouragement to those who love God and obey Him. According to the verses above, God’s power gives everything needed for life and godliness. Christians are the beneficiaries of immeasurable blessings when they grow in the knowledge of and obedience to God. Through Jesus Christ, these precious and very great promises are given in order that the elect may participate in the divine nature and obtain holiness.

However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts. (John Calvin)

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THE EXCELLENCE OF HIS MIGHT

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

Sometimes a Christian will surprise me when it becomes evident that he or she has no true understanding of the great power of God. In the life of such Christians (if they are Christians at all), God is used primarily like a 911 call. Maybe they do not put it into words, but their attitudes reflect the belief that God doesn’t involve Himself in day to day life. Note, in the verse above, that by this power He has given us all we need concerning life and godliness. This is accomplished daily by His grace and the work of the Holy Spirit.

The knowledge of God is eternal life. (John 17:3 ESV) The Christian should desire, above everything else, to know God through Jesus Christ. If we glory in anything, let us glory in understanding and knowing God. (Jeremiah 9:23) He called us into His kingdom to become “partakers of the divine nature”.

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IMMEASURABLE RICHES

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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

The Scriptures teach that Christians are created in Jesus Christ for good works. At one time, we were all in rebellion against God because we each wanted our own way and to pursue our sinful passions with unrestrained lust. We were all spiritually dead. Yet, because of God’s great love, He has made us alive through Jesus Christ.

We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. In the above verses we are taught (as previously stated) that we are created for good works. Man cannot do, perfectly, enough good works to earn his salvation. Salvation is a work of grace through faith. Therefore, good works are a sign of the grace we have been given and our gratitude for the gift of salvation. Good works are done to glorify God, not to gain anything from Him. Since only God knows the spirit of a man, good works are a witness to others confirming our faith in Him.

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A NEW YEAR’S CALL TO ENTER BY THE NARROW WAY

Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:24 ESV)

… Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

goals-for-new-year-2016-year-resolutionsThe year 2015 has now given way to the arrival of January 1st, 2016. What will become of us in this New Year? What is God’s will for us? This is the time of year when many people make resolutions they believe will improve their lives.

Jesus Christ has said, “… One thing is necessary”. (Luke 10:42 ESV) Yet, this “one thing” is of cosmic and eternal significance. Like Mary, the sister of Martha, we need to choose the good thing which will not be taken away. (Luke 10:42 ESV) We must struggle to enter through the narrow way. The narrow way represents living a holy life before God and man. Paul describes his personal struggle in these words:

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CHRISTMAS JOY

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy …” (Luke 2:10 ESV)

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come – Let earth receive her King!” (“Joy to the World,” G. F. Handel, Isaac Watts)

christmas joyThe angelic messenger in Luke said to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy …” (Luke 2:10 ESV) This joy resulted from the birth of a Savior who would deliver His people from the consequences of their sins. The joy of Christmas was created in the heart of God. True joy is a gift of God. It is the result of a life with God.

I love the Christmas hymns that celebrate the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ. They announce hope for a sinful world. Although we deserved condemnation, God did not send Jesus to condemn us. God sent Jesus that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17 ESV)

The joy of Christmas works from the inside out; not just on one day, but on every day. It is the joy of the Holy Spirit abiding with and in us. It is joy in the faith that is God’s gift to us. It is the joy found in the Scriptures. It is the joy of knowing Jesus Christ and the new life He has given us. This Christmas, make time to share the joy.

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