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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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SAMUEL AT GILGAL: CHANGE IN FORMAT

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.

UNDER THE SPIRIT’S INFLUENCE

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV)

The Holy Spirit dwells within me. These are wonderful words. All who live by faith in the Son of God may truthfully say this. Anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:9 ESV)

The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth because He is the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures are the true words of God. (John 16:13 ESV) The Holy Spirit persuades us that the Bible is the source of truth about Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things and reminds us of the words of Jesus. (John 14:26) The Spirit guides us in our everyday lives and helps us to avoid those things which displease God. Jesus said:

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MENDACIOUS OR MIGHTY IN TRUTH?

There was a popular preacher who often called out the names of a few people in his audience during the service and described their physical problems. The evangelist claimed that God was speaking to him and giving him information about the individuals he spoke to. According to him, he had never met or spoken to prior to calling out their names. However, it was later discovered that employees of the evangelist would talk to people in the crowd before the service and gather facts about the people attending. They would give this information to the preacher’s wife. She, in turn, would talk to her husband through a tiny receiver in his ear. By this means their ministry became a financial success. (Information from James Randi, The Faith Healers)

We have all run into liars from time to time. Usually, they are harbingers of serious disappointment. It is especially disappointing when we discover we have been lied to by someone we counted on as a friend. We all want to believe that there are certain individuals in society in whom we can put our trust, such as family; friends; our heroes; teachers; doctors; government authorities; and men and women who are spiritual leaders.

Let us consider, specifically, spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership has traditionally been a highly respected role in American history and culture. The Christian preacher or pastor’s responsibility is to make known the truth of God. However, there are people who claim this position who are liars. This should not be totally surprising since even Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light”. (2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV)

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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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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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THE CHURCH POLICE

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Have you ever run afoul of the church police? These are your brothers and sisters in Christ who believe they have obtained the perfection that Paul did not. (Philippians 3:7-16) These are the people who judge quickly by external appearances. They share some similarities with the Pharisees. You can bet they know if you attend church regularly; belong to a Bible study; volunteer for church projects; or dress appropriately. They set Christian standards for others by their own interpretation of the Biblical principles of conduct which they believe they have mastered. They believe they have been called to set others on the straight and narrow path.

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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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IGNORING SCRIPTURE

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)

As a former educator, I have met many adults who do not like to read. There are many college graduates who never read another book after they graduate. I have also met people who have proclaimed their faith in Christ and attend church regularly, however, they say they cannot focus long enough to read the Bible. They are absolutely dependent upon the good will of others to teach them the truth of the Scriptures.

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PATIENCE

And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. (Hebrews 6:15 ESV)

The Scriptures tell us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22 ESV) Paul writes that patience is a quality that we should put on. (Colossians 3:12 ESV) Patience is an important characteristic of the Christian life. It requires submission to God’s Word and Will. We are like clay and He is our Potter. We are the work of His hands. (Isaiah 64:8 ESV) Impatience opposes God’s work in us. Our obsession with getting results quickly – often leads us to take shortcuts that actually inhibit spiritual growth.  On the other hand, godly patience encourages spiritual growth as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

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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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SOME THOUGHTS ON CHARACTER

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:11-16 ESV)

character of founding fathersHave you ever really thought about the many qualities of your own character? The quality of a Christian’s character is extremely important because it should reflect the glory of God. Would people describe you as manifesting the character of Jesus? Romans 12:11-16 describes the character of a mature Christian. I have listed a few of the important characteristics I find in the verses above:

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THE GOSPEL SEED

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 ESV)

How do we make Jesus known to the world? The parable above guides us in this regard. In order to make Him known, we must sow the words of Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus are the promise of salvation.

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MEANINGFUL WORSHIP

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! (Psalms 150:1-2 ESV)

How much attention do you give to your personal and corporate worship of God? If your worship is to glorify God, have you examined yourself to make certain that glorifying God is actually what you are doing? According to Jesus:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 ESV)

Without true worship, we cannot continue to grow in the blessing of His grace. Our consciousness of God’s presence in our lives begins to fade. Worship is not simply an outward act; it is the demonstration of a heart on fire for God. Have you experienced the joy of His pleasure in your worship? We need to reflect on our worship because it should be done according to God’s will, not ours.

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