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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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BIBLE READING

Bible StudyJ.C. Ryle:

“Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. By reading that book we may learn what to believe, what to be, and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace.”

Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!”

 

THE BIBLE

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

We are warned by the Word both of our duty, our danger, and our remedy. On the sea of life there would be many more wrecks if it were not for the divine storm-signals which give to the watchful a timely warning. The Bible should be our Mentor, our Monitor, our Memento Mori, our Remembrancer, and the Keeper of our Conscience.

 

 

“All Scripture is Profitable”

J. C. Ryle writes:

Read all of the Bible — and read it in an orderly way. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. “All Scripture is profitable.” [2 Timothy 3:16]. To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people’s Bible-reading is a system of perpetual ‘dipping and picking’. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book.

How Best to Read the Bible

From the pen of J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application. Sit down to the study it with a daily determination that you will live by its rules, rest on its statements, and act on its commands. Consider, as you travel through every chapter, “How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?” It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes — in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best — which is practiced most!

Don’t Dictate – Just Listen!

Quoting Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible with child-like faith and humility. Open your heart — as you open God’s book, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!” Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth — whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall — they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God’s Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind — that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand — you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray — that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture — that God is speaking to you, and you are not to “dictate,” but to listen!

A Bible Not Understood

Quoting Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood — is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, “What is this all about?” Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.

Christians Have a Reading Problem

George Gallop once said, “Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it.” People in the church or in the world typically do not read the Bible.

For instance: Can you name the four Gospels? Can you name four of the 12 disciples? Can you tell us what five of the Ten Commandments are? Is “God helps those who help themselves” a Bible verse? The majority of people today cannot answer these questions correctly. (George Barna) America seems to be growing into a nation of Bible illiterates.

Don’t misunderstand me – because I do not think you have to be a Bible trivia expert to be a Christian, but I do believe that Bible illiteracy is a breeding ground for heresy in the church and a toxin to individuals and families.

“Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” (Hosea 4:1-2 ESV) “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6 ESV)

How many lives are being destroyed, because Churches lack true Bible teachers? How often are churches led astray by false teachers and false doctrines because those in the church do not read the Bible? How many people who because they cannot determine what is true Bible preaching fall prey to false teachers who promise “you can become a better you”?

To counteract these continuing trends, Christians must spend more time in the Scriptures. To end Bible illiteracy and to move with a discerning spirit through this world, one would do well to set up a daily time for personal Bible reading and reading together with the family.

Attend church on a regular basis: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another. . . .” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV) Consider Sunday School or Bible studies because in a smaller group you have a chance to discuss and ask questions.

Parents should not simply allow the church to take responsibility for all the spiritual training children receive. For God’s Word says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV) Parents and other adults should also be keen to minister by helping with the children’s program at church.

Pastors, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV) “ I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Therefore, cling hard to the Word of Truth. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9 ESV) What a great blessing it is to share the light of the gospel with people in dark places! (Luke 1:79) My friends, read the Bible and the Holy Spirit will help you to read, understand, and remember. Then, by the grace of God, you will become a literate Christian who will not be deceived for lack of wisdom and Truth.

Contempt of Religion

From the desk of J. C. Ryle:

“This also is one of your special dangers. I always observe that none pay so little outward respect to Christianity as young men. None take so little part in our services, when they are present at them—use Bibles so little—sing so little—listen to preaching so little. None are so generally absent at prayer meetings, Bible Studies, and all other weekday helps to the soul. Young men seem to think they do not need these things—they may be good for women and old men, but not for them. They appear ashamed of seeming to care about their souls: one would almost fancy they considered it a disgrace to go to heaven at all.”

The Bible

In the words of Charles H. Spurgeon:

The Bible is a vein of pure gold, unalloyed by quartz or any earthly substance. This is a star without a speck, a sun without a blot, a light without darkness, a moon without it’s paleness, and a glory without a dimness.

O Bible! It cannot be said of any other book that it is perfect and pure, but of the Bible we can declare that all wisdom is gathered up in it without a particle of folly.

This is the judge that ends the strife where wit and reason fail. This is the Book untainted by any error, but is pure, unalloyed, perfect truth.

Humility And Prayer

In the words of John MacDuff:

It is not merely the pleadings of patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, men strong in faith giving glory to God. Neither is it the prayers enshrined and intoned in imposing ritual, rising from the great congregation amid ornate temples, and borne on the wings of enchanting music – but the groan, the glance, the tear, the tremulous aspiration of smitten penitents, the veriest lisping of infant tongues; the unlettered petitions morning and evening of the cottage home, where the earthen floor is knelt upon, where the only altar is the altar of the lowly heart, and the sacrifice that of a broken and contrite spirit.

The Waning Pulpit

Quoting J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1917):

This opinion may or may not be correct; the one who gave it evidently thinks it is, and unquestionably he represents a certain element in the Church. Whether true or not, it is the sort of criticism facing the preacher today. It is claimed that we have failed to give sufficient emphasis to the importance of prayer, and we read that this was the secret of true greatness in the pulpit of other days. It is said we have lost our power because we have not given sufficient attention to Bible study; not Bible study in the preparation of sermons, but Bible study in the development of our own spiritual life. Unquestionably the secret of Spurgeon’s power was found just here. During the days of the week we must become saturated with the Scriptures so that on Sunday the message comes flowing forth like the current of a mighty river. Men tell us we have lost this, that we preach about God’s Word, but not the Word itself.

It has been said that we have given up personal work, and depend too much upon our pulpit efforts to turn men to God. “How do you like your minister?” said one of my friends to a plain woman in the mountains of Kentucky. She hesitated a moment and replied: “We don’t like him so very well. He preaches well enough, but he has the college habit, and studies so much that we do not see him except on Sundays,” “and,” she said, “you know a minister must speak to you out of the pulpit as well as in it if he is to influence you. . . .”

[W]e must have a message to preach, not for the sake of preaching, but for the sake of convincing men of their sins, as the Spirit of God may lead us. When asked one day his opinion regarding sermons of ministers, Hon. William J. Bryan said: “I desire my minister to preach every Sabbath the simple gospel. The old, old story never wearies the average congregation, if it comes from a devout mind with preparation in the message. My ideal sermon is one which has an appeal to the unconverted and a spiritual uplift for the Christian. I want my minister to be abreast of the times on all new theological questions and research, but I do not want him to bring them into the pulpit. I have formed certain fixed views of Christ, His gospel, and the inspiration of the Bible from a careful reading of that Book of books and of the Shorter Catechism, and it will not make me a better Christian or profit my spiritual life to unsettle these views by a discussion in the pulpit of new theories of Christ and the Holy Scriptures. Finally, I want my minister to act on the belief that Christ’s gospel is the surest cure of all social and political evils, and that his best method of promoting temperance, social morality, and good citizenship, is to bring men into the Church. In a word, I want my minister to emphasize in the lifework the declaration of the most successful preacher, Paul: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Discerning God’s Will For You

If you study the operations of the Holy Spirit, you will notice that He always guides us by sending us to the Word of God and His Providence. Between the two, they will lead us to the path we should choose. We can certainly say, in general, that after serious deliberation and earnest supplication, if our choice is not in accord with the Word of God or is impracticable, or immoral; it certainly is not the will of God for us. If our choice is in accord with the Word of God and allows us to go ahead while walking in holiness and honoring God, this may be perceived (at least to some degree) as a proper sign of His Will.

Let us take our employment as an example. Sometimes providence may begin to make our present jobs very uncomfortable. It may become unprofitable to us or make our continuance impractical. In such conditions we may certainly seek to alter our circumstances. Maybe in our present condition the work is easy and profitable. However, there are changes to be made which violate the Word of God. By this action, we know that this is a business in which we cannot continue our employment.

If we are offered employment in two places (I know this is a touchy issue considering the economy just now) we must seek to learn all we can about both businesses. After much prayer and considering biblically related issues, if we find that one of the businesses engages in unbiblical moral practices then the answer is obvious as to which job to take. If both chances of employment are evil, flee from them both as quickly as possible.

What if we are offered two good jobs that do not conflict with the God’s Word? In this case, we should choose the one where we can honor God most in our duty and achievements.

If we are to discern God’s Will for us in such areas of life, we must look away from riches and pleasures because they will deceive us and turn us from God’s good and perfect will. Always check your motives carefully.

After prayer, careful thought, and study of the Scriptures, if we find our way is still not clear to us – wait; wait upon the Lord in prayer. Ask God to hedge up the wrong way and in His providential care to make known the right path.

In general, we must put temptation out-of-the-way. We must use the Bible for our rule of action. We must be earnest with God and seek to saturate our minds with His Truth. We cannot seriously believe that the Holy Spirit will give us discernment of God’s Will, if we do not even study the Bible. This would be like trying to turn a flashlight on without batteries. Dear Christian, if you truly want the light of the Holy Spirit to shine on the decisions you must make; you must first be sure you are a Christian; consistently study the Bible; and be constant in prayer.

The Dangerous Prayer

Samuel Davies

The cultural Christian will find his dangers numerous. He is particularly in danger from pride, presuming upon God, lukewarmness and self-righteousness. His heart is still corrupt and ensnared by the world. He is in danger of resting short of true Christianity. Danger is thick on every side and it is very doubtful whether he will be saved because he rests upon a false assurance. This is evident from his lack of proper earnestness in prayer, Bible study, church attendance, and seeking after holiness. Samuel Davies illustrates below the harm of prayers in the mouths of false believers:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

View a lukewarm professor [claims to be a Christian] in prayer; he pays to an omniscient God the compliment of a bended knee, as though he could impose upon him with such an empty pretense. When he is addressing the Supreme Majesty of heaven and earth, he hardly ever recollects in whose presence he is, or whom he is speaking to, but seems as if he were worshiping without an object, or pouring out empty words into the air: perhaps through the whole prayer he had not so much as one solemn, affecting thought of that God whose name he so often invoked. Here is a criminal petitioning for pardon so carelessly, that he scarcely knows what he is about. Here is a needy, famishing beggar pleading for such immense blessings as everlasting salvation, and all the joys of heaven, so lukewarmly and thoughtlessly, as if he cared not whether his requests were granted or not. Here is an obnoxious offender confessing his sins with a heart untouched with sorrow: worshiping the living God with a dead heart; making great requests, but he forgets them as soon as he rises from his knees, and is not at all inquisitive what becomes of them, and whether they were accepted or not. And can there be a more shocking, impious, and daring conduct than this? To trifle in the royal presence would not be such an audacious affront. For a criminal to catch flies, or sport with a feather, when pleading with his judge for his pardon, would be but a faint shadow of such religious trifling. What are such prayers but solemn mockeries and disguised insults? And yet, is not this the usual method in which many of you address the great God? The words proceed no further than from your tongue: you do not pour them out from the bottom of your hearts; they have no life or spirit in them, and you hardly ever reflect upon their meaning. And when you have talked away to God in this manner, you will have it to pass for a prayer. But surely such prayers must bring down a curse upon you instead of a blessing: such sacrifices must be an abomination to the Lord: Prov. xv. 8; and it is astonishing that he has not mingled your blood with your sacrifices, and sent you from your knees to hell; from thoughtless, unmeaning prayer, to real blasphemy and torture. (Sermon: “The Danger of Lukewarmness in Religion”)

Do You Really Understand The Bible?

John Piper preaches (excerpt) on a classic issue of our times:

The Preacher Under Fire!

John Wilbur Chapman

Criticism of your life’s work is not often easy to listen to. The Minister of the Gospel is no different in this than any other man. Yet, there are judgments made which we all would do well to pause and consider. The following is an excerpt from a message by J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1917) delivered to preachers at the beginning of the 20th century:

This is a day when the minister is under sharpest fire. By some his motives are questioned, his spirit is censured, and his failure to secure such results as came in days gone by, when the gospel was preached, is used as an argument against him. However, in the midst of such criticism it should not be forgotten that it is, by no means, as easy to preach today as in the olden times. The minister formerly was recognized as a man under authority; his words were generally received as the truth; now the genuineness of his message is sharply questioned, and even his authority is subject to criticism. . . . [O]ne must not only preach his sermon, but he must prove his authority and be ready to substantiate the integrity and genuineness of the Book on the basis of which his message is delivered. But a brighter day will come for the minister, and it is only necessary that he should be watchful in these troublesome times, have the approval of his own conscience in the matter of preaching, and also be sure that he has His approval in whose name he speaks and from whom he has received his call to preach.

As an illustration of the sharpness of the criticism it may be well to note the words spoken by a professor of law, in an Eastern university, in an address before a ministers’ conference:

“The waning power of the pulpit is one of the most lamentable signs of the times. The intellectual pre-eminence of the preacher has passed and gone. The pulpit no longer attracts the brightest minds, and theological seminaries swarm with intellectual weaklings. Pulpit deliverances of our day often lack every element of real oratory; they are largely dreary monologues and complacent soliloquy. The speaker’s wits, instead of being sharpened by adversity and defeat, are blunted by his unvaried weekly duel with an imaginary foe. Our present-day divines are not deficient in the arts of finished elocution, but they have dropped the old theme of salvation from an inherited curse of sin. But when the pulpit has moral earnestness, it rises to the loftiest elevation of eloquent expression. It was homely language of a country deacon speaking to a person who had prayed long and loudly for power…”

This opinion may or may not be correct; the one who gave it evidently thinks it is, and unquestionably he represents a certain element in the Church. Whether true or not, it is the sort of criticism facing the preacher today. It is claimed that we have failed to give sufficient emphasis to the importance of prayer, and we read that this was the secret of true greatness in the pulpit of other days. It is said we have lost our power because we have not given sufficient attention to Bible study; not Bible study in the preparation of sermons, but Bible study in the development of our own spiritual life. Unquestionably the secret of Spurgeon’s power was found just here. During the days of the week we must become saturated with the Scriptures so that on Sunday the message comes flowing forth like the current of a mighty river. Men tell us we have lost this, that we preach about God’s Word, but not the Word itself. (“The Waning Pulpit”)

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