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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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  • August 2020
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  • Recommended Reading

UNBELIEF

No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keeps us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief. (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts 2:21)

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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PRESSING FORWARD

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 ESV)

Life is often about moving forward. If we stop moving forward, our lives frequently become stagnant and pointless. Even our spiritual lives often suffer from failing to move forward. I’m not talking about embracing every new idea or popular fad that comes along; this article is about God’s calling upon your life and not stopping short of the goal.

In the verse above, we find Paul describing his own efforts to move forward in the Christian life. He is certainly not the man he was but he is not yet the man he should like to be either. Doesn’t he sound very human – just like us? Paul recognizes his shortcomings and yet he presses on striving to become more like Jesus.

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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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TAKE YOUR SINS TO CHRIST

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42 ESV)

Jesus_healing_lepersLeprosy is a terrible disease in which the early symptoms are almost imperceptible and occur slowly. It may begin with a single small red dot on the skin which eventually multiplies into painless skin lesions over the entire body. One form destroys the nerve endings so that parts of the body lose the feelings of touch and pain. Pieces of the body begin to rot and drop off. This includes the ears, nose, fingers, toes, and other parts of the flesh. Leprosy also increases vulnerability to all kinds of infectious diseases.

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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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THOUGHTS FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! (Psalm 25:7 ESV)

Physical beauty is fleeting. Physical strength is used up by time. Even the mind of a genius is slowed by age. Yet, in our youth we often carry a false sense of immortality in which we view ourselves as invincible. We demonstrate this by magical thinking (i.e. self-absorbing daydreams & fantasies) and through foolish actions that may injure us or change our lives for the worse in years to come. We blind ourselves to inevitable consequences for a few moments of pleasure. We too quickly reject the traditional beliefs of our parents and the church without really trying to understand them. We reject anything that is not popular or the current fad. Our lives are consumed by sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, jealousy, envy, strife, and drunkenness, which prevent our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV) If we ever, over the years, learn the truth of these matters, the majority of our lives may have passed us by. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the Chinese proverb: “Too soon old; Too late wise.”

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SALVATION AND SOVEREIGNTY

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)

In this verse is one of the great mysteries that theologians and believers have argued about for centuries. How far do man’s will and God’s sovereignty go in determining the salvation of the Christian?

Salvation is certainly a demonstration of God’s glory. We know that God is absolutely sovereign over everything that exists because He created anything that does exist. (Colossians 1:16 ESV) God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is also evidence of the degree to which that sovereignty stretches. Jesus said:

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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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THE FALSE DISCIPLE

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)


There are many people who claim to be Christians, call Jesus Lord, preach, teach Sunday school and give to the church, however, they are false disciples. Someday, Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me.”

While the false disciple claims to be a man of God, he actually represents his own self-deceptions. He is of his father the devil and his fruit will betray his words. While he may deceive others and even himself, he cannot fool the omniscient God who will judge him. Therefore, examine yourself to make sure you are doing the will of God and not just speaking idle words.

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A REASON FOR GRATITUDE

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

At one time we were slaves to sin and darkness, but now we wish to serve and obey God to prove our thankfulness for His gift of redemption. Our gratitude follows the astonishing deliverance we received by Christ’s mercy. If we truly understand the depth of our sins, all our gratitude must follow. Justification and sanctification have been graciously imputed to us. The Holy Spirit has made us eternally alive, even though we continue to live in this world filled with corruption. Christ did everything for us – to free us – that we might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Therefore, it is our pleasure to demonstrate our gratitude by witnessing to His glory in a fallen world that hates God.

Samuel A Cain (2)God’s grace has delivered us without any good works of our own. This is why we desire to please Him with good works that exalt His name and the name of Jesus. We are spiritually prompted by our new sanctified attitudes to give thanks to God for reconciling us to Himself when we were His enemies. We were sinners, but having been renewed by the Holy Spirit we grow daily into the image of Christ. Such a great salvation enlarges the soul with gratefulness.

REFORMING MANKIND

John Newton:

John NewtonThe Gospel of Christ, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God—is the only effectual means for reforming mankind.

To the man who possesses and knows the use of this grand, this wonderful machine—if I may be allowed the comparison—what is otherwise impossible becomes easy.

The Gospel removes difficulties insurmountable to human power. It causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear; it softens the heart of stone, and raises the dead in trespasses and sins to a life of righteousness! Continue reading

THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

Archibald Alexander:

Archibald AlexanderThe strength of the principle of life in the new birth, as in the natural birth, is exceedingly various; for while some are brought into the world of grace in the clear light of day, and are from the first active and vigorous, and enjoy much comfort in their pious exercises; others give very obscure evidence of being in possession of life, and remain long in a state of feebleness. Indeed, some are like children who seem at birth to be dead, but afterwards revive, and by degrees acquire vigor and maturity. But it by no means is a uniform fact that the children who are most healthy and vigorous at birth, continue to be so throughout life. Disease or other disasters may check their growth, and debilitate their constitution; while those who commence life in extreme weakness may acquire strength, and grow prosperously from year to year; so that, in mature age, they may have greatly surpassed many who were much more healthy and vigorous in the earliest stage of existence. Analogous to this are the facts observable in the spiritual life.

PREACH CHRIST TO SINNERS

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Charles H. Spurgeon“My message to every man or woman who desires salvation, ‘Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.’ Do not begin by hoping in mercy and redemption, for these are not to be found apart from the Lord—but go at once to that Divine Person with whom there is mercy and plenteous redemption—then both of those will be granted to you. I wish I knew how to put this so plainly that every bewildered and cast-down spirit would catch my meaning and accept its counsel. I would also have preachers learn a lesson from the point I have been driving at. Let them not so much preach sinners to Christ as preach Christ to sinners. I am persuaded that a full and clear declaration of what Jesus is, as to His Person, offices, Character, work and authority would do more to produce faith than all our exhortations. ‘Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life’—but how shall they believe unless they hear of Him?” (1891, Sermon #2199)

MADNESS IN THE LIGHT OF GOD

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23 ESV)

Samuel A CainThe natural man is mad. This madness is always within him. His emotions and his thoughts are inclined by his hatred of God. The Bible tells us that men’s hearts are completely wicked and full of self-deception. (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV) His thoughts are continuously sinful. Yet, life is fleeting and time moves all too hastily. We are here for a moment and then like a vapor of mist disappear awaiting the Great Day of Judgement.

It is madness to rebel against God. It is madness to trade God’s blessings for the temporary pleasures of this world. Nevertheless, the world calls Christians mad. There are many who say that it is the Cross of Christ that is madness; the atonement through His blood is madness; grace is madness; heaven and hell are madness; and even that belief in God is madness. They are futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become the greatest fools. (Romans 1:21-23 ESV) Continue reading

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