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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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A LITTLE OF CHRIST, PLEASE!

D. A. Carson:

D. A. CarsonSome Christians want enough of Christ to be identified with him but not enough to be seriously inconvenienced; they genuinely cling to basic Christian orthodoxy but do not want to engage in serious Bible study; they value moral probity, especially of the public sort, but do not engage in war against inner corruptions; they fret over the quality of the preacher’s sermon but do not worry much over the quality of their own prayer life. Such Christians are content with mediocrity. (A Call To Spiritual Reformation,121)

CRITICISM

Jonathan EdwardsJonathan Edwards:

“Be advised to consider what others say of you and improve it to this end, to know whether you do not live in some way of sin…And though the imputation may seem to us to be very groundless and we think that they, in charging us so, are influenced by no good spirit; yet if we act prudently, we shall take so much notice of it as to make an occasion of examining ourselves … it is most imprudent as well as most unchristian, to take it amiss, and resent it, when we are thus told of our faults: we should rather rejoice in it, that we are shown our spots … we should improve what our enemies say of us. If they from an ill spirit reproach and revile us to our faces, we should consider it, so far as to reflect inward upon ourselves and inquire whether it not be so, as they charge us … they are likely to fix on real faults, they are likely to fall upon us where we are weakest and most defective.” (“The Necessity of Self Examination”)

HERE IS THIS SIN

philpotJ. C. Philpot:

Here is this sin,
Save me from it!
Here is this snare,
Break it to pieces!
Here is this lust,
Lord, subdue it!
Here is this temptation,
Deliver me out of it!
Here is my proud heart,
Lord, humble it!
Here is my unbelieving heart,
Take it away and give me faith—give me submission to Your mind and will. Take me as I am with all my sin and shame and work in me everything well pleasing in Your sight!

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“)

DO NOT AVOID THE TOPIC OF SIN

paulwasherPaul Washer:

As stewards of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we do no service to men by making light of sin, skirting around the issue, or avoiding it altogether. Men have only one problem: they are under the wrath of God because of their sin. To deny this is to deny one of the most foundational doctrines of Christianity. It is not unloving to tell men that they are sinners, but it is the grossest form of immorality not to tell them! In fact, God declares that their blood will be on our hands if we do not warn them of their sin and the coming judgment. To seek to preach the gospel without making sin an issue is like trying to heal the brokenness of people superficially, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.”

Holiness by Grace

HolinessByGraceBryan Chapell:

If we have become bogged down in a guilty depression, have begun to equate religious piety with endless despondency over our shame, or have identified holiness with unrelenting sadness, then we have not grasped the grace that marks the gospel. Grace distinguishes its possessors by their joy. The good news proclaimed in the Bible neither slights the seriousness of sin nor shades the wonders of the pardon and power God provides his people. This full gospel message must also characterize the attitudes of God’s people, because those with whom we share Christ’s living water will be affected by the springs from which we drink. If we are guilt-driven, then so will be our spouses, children, and coworkers. If we pretend to be guiltless, then we will encourage shameless behavior. However, if we exhibit joyful gratitude for the grace of God that pardons our guilt, then we will reproduce grateful spouses, children, and fellow believers who are zealous for God’s purposes. (Holiness by Grace)

Defining Sin

The Discipline of GraceJerry Bridges:

A large part of our problem as evangelical believers is that we have defined sin in its more obvious forms — forms of which we are not guilty. We think of sin in terms of sexual immorality, drunkenness, lying, cheating, stealing, and murder. And in more recent years we’ve tended to focus on the societal sins of abortion and homosexuality. We see the ever-increasing pervasiveness of these more flagrant sins, and we see ourselves looking good by comparison.

Certainly these more gross sins of society are deep cause for concern, and I am grateful for the prophetic voices God has raised up to expose these moral cancers in our society. But we must not become so preoccupied with the sins of modern-day culture that we ignore the needs in our own lives. (The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness)

The Great Division

R.C. Sproul“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided; three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

R.C. Sproul:

In Luke 12:49-57 Jesus told His disciples that He had not come to bring peace, but division. He told them that He was bringing a baptism of fire to the earth, warning the crowd to flee the wrath to come.

This was the great moment of crisis in history. It was a time of urgency that swept the earth with the appearance of Jesus. Jesus’ coming to this planet in the fullness of time was a time of division, judgment, and separation.

It was a time of personal choosing, when eternal destinies were at stake. Everyone who encountered Jesus had to make a choice, to stand with Him or against Him. Thus, since the time of Jesus’ first appearance, the world has been gripped in a kind of crisis that will continue until the last great crisis, the last judgment.

How do men encounter Jesus today, thus facing their own crisis of history? Jesus is in heaven, but men and women encounter Him through His people, the church. The church is His body and His herald. The fiery baptism Jesus came to bring fell in one sense at Pentecost to ignite the tongues of His people so that they might bring the crisis of decision to all men.

Knowing these things should make us urgent in our proclamation of His name and make us insistent that the generation of our day be exposed to the Lord of lords.

(www.ligonier.org or call them at 800-435-4343, © R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved)

That God May Grant Repentance

Chosen for LifeSam Storms:

If a person is to repent, he or she must be enabled by God to do so. He must be ‘granted’ repentance as a gift. Whether or not a person repents, says Paul, is ultimately up to God. It rests with him and his sovereign good pleasure to give or to withhold that which leads to ‘a knowledge of the truth.’ That God does not bestow this gift universally is self-evident. Were repentance something that God gives to all, Paul would hardly have said that ‘perhaps’ God may grant repentance. Clearly he envisions the real possibility that God may not so grant. (ref. 2 Timothy 2:24-26) (Chosen for Life, A Case for Divine Election)

Repentance

Tim KellerTim Keller:

Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘This disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’ (Church Planter Manual)

Bearers of Light

Archibald T. RobertsonAre you a bearer of light to the present “crooked and perverse generation”? Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934) explains why this is important:

… [T]hat you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:15-16 ESV)

Paul here expresses his purpose about the Philippians. It is a double purpose, their own highest development and the greatest service to others. The first is a prerequisite to the other, though they cannot be wholly separated. They are to become “blameless and harmless.” They are not so in the state of nature and do not easily become so in a state of grace. Certainly, none are absolutely free from blame in the eye of God and men can usually find some fault with most of us. But, at any rate, we can give men as little ground as possible to pick flaws in our character. Whimsical critics cannot be satisfied, but we do have to regard the sober judgment of God’s people in ethical matters. . . .

In Romans 16:19 Paul says; “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil,” a noble motto for young and old. It is a great mistake to feel that one must know evil by experience in order to appreciate good. An unsullied character a man wants in his wife and the wife equally so in her husband. It is this sheer simplicity of character that is so delightful in children and, par excellence in the “children of God” in the full spiritual import of this term. The children of Israel, when they murmured, were not acting like children of God. Paul here quotes Deuteronomy 32:5 and applies it to the Philippians. The children of Israel were full of blemish, while the Philippians are to be “without blemish” like the freewill offering (Lev. 22:21). The Israelites had themselves become “a crooked and perverse generation.” But the Philippians must not fall to that low level, as they will if they give way to inward discontent. They must exhibit marks of perfection “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation”. . . .

Paul changes his figure, but goes on with the same idea, “among whom ye are seen as lights in the world.” These are the very people, the twisted and blinded by the darkness of sin, who need the light. Jesus is the real light of the world (John 8:12), but the followers of Christ also pass on the torch and so bear light to others (Matt. 5: 14). … Every church is a lighthouse in a dark place. The darker the place the more the light is needed. It is sad to see so many churches deserting the downtown districts where they are so much needed. Rescue work must be carried on where sin has done its worst. It is like fighting the plague. Thank God for the men and women who do take the light into the dark corners of our cities. What would our modern cities be like without our churches? The answer is the cities of Japan, of China, of India to-day. The word of life quickens to life and brings light to the darkened soul. (“Realizing God’s Plan in Life”)

Grace for the Humble

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“He giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Humble hearts seek grace, and therefore they get it. Humble hearts yield to the sweet influences of grace, and so it is bestowed on them more and more largely. Humble hearts lie in the valleys where streams of grace are flowing, and hence they drink of them, Humble hearts are grateful for grace and give the LORD the glory of it, and hence it is consistent with His honor to give it to them.

Come, dear reader, take a lowly place. Be little in thine own esteem, that the LORD may make much of thee. Perhaps the sigh breaks out, “I fear I am not humble.” It may be that this is the language of true humility. Some are proud of being humble, and this is one of the very worst sorts of pride. We are needy, helpless, undeserving, hell-deserving creatures, and if we are not humble we ought to be. Let us humble ourselves because of our sins against humility, and then the LORD will give us to taste of His favor. It is grace which makes us humble, and grace which finds in this humility an opportunity for pouring in more grace. Let us go down that we may rise. Let us be poor in spirit that God may make us rich. Let us be humble that we may not need to be humbled but may be exalted by the grace of God.

The Necessity and Nature of Repentance

PreachingAn area in which Reformed churches are weak is the failure to explain the necessity and nature of repentance. The duty, nature, and fruits of repentance must be clearly preached to our congregations. According to Al Martin:

[M]uch contemporary preaching is defective in that it lacks solid doctrinal substance. We have suffered from a mentality that has regarded doctrine and theology as some form of a medieval hobgoblin! The fact of the matter is that truth is beautiful in its unity and symmetry. Doctrinal preaching is that preaching which is always disciplined by the framework of the whole counsel of God. It refuses imbalance and lopsidedness, and seeks to set every individual facet of truth into the context of the whole spectrum of divine truth. These first two factors must be fused together in an ever-increasing measure in the life of the true servant of Christ. Doctrinal preaching which is not exegetically founded and textually oriented, will lead to a philosophical orthodoxy. On the other hand, dealing with texts and the exegesis of those texts without showing the inter-relationship of truth, will lead to a disjointed and fragmented concept of divine truth.

[Another] area, in which the substance of contemporary preaching is marked by glaring weakness, is in the matter of practical application. In many ministries, there may be solid biblical content, a great measure of doctrinal substance, but very little practical application in which men are made to see the implications of the content and doctrine, so that they may know how to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. In regard to this general principle, I would like to suggest … areas in which Reformed circles are weak. What I now say applies to those of us who hold, without embarrassment, to that system of doctrine set forth in the great creeds that came out of the Reformation.

[O]ur preaching is weak because of its failure to spell out the necessity and nature of evangelical repentance. In Repentanceour overreaction against a form of ‘works-salvation’ and in our reaction against Arminian activism, I think that some of us have fallen into the philosophical habit of thinking, ‘How can I preach man’s responsibility to repent when I know he has no ability to do this?’ Apparently, this problem did not bother the Apostle Paul. No one spoke more dearly than he of man’s utter inability to do anything spiritually good apart from the direct sovereign work of God. Yet he spoke most dearly of man’s responsibility to repent. … I have had the very unhappy experience of preaching in churches that include the doctrine of repentance in their official creed, in their confessions and in their catechisms, but where it was obviously not a doctrine preached and believed in by the rank and file of the members of those churches. Often, at the conclusion of a series of sermons on the subject of repentance, I have had people come to me expressing great amazement, and saying that they had never heard such things, even though they had spent a number of years within the framework of a good, solid Reformed church. Now, it is not that they did not hear the word ‘repentance’. They had heard it, but because the duty, the nature, and fruits of that repentance were not clearly spelled out, they were not sufficiently convinced of its nature and necessity. All who listen to us preach for any measure of time should come to the conclusion after sitting under our ministries, that unless they repent and bring forth the fruits of repentance, they will perish even though their heads may be packed full of objective and correct orthodoxy. One of the dear marks of the ministries of the men whom God has used in past days is that they all, without exception, spelled out the necessity, the nature, and the fruits of evangelical repentance. (“What is Wrong with Preaching Today?”)

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