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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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DO NOT TREAT DOCTRINE LIGHTLY

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)

After over thirty years of teaching Christian adults in several churches, I cannot tell you how often I have heard statements in various forms similar to this: “I don’t want to know doctrines. I just want to know Jesus.” This clever response gives the appearance of a deep spirituality but often I have found that the Jesus they are seeking to know is more the idol of their imaginations than the Jesus found in the Bible.

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Spirituality in Action

sailing-shipFor this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labor in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. Continue reading

Born Arminian

Charles SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.

Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. (A Defense of Calvinism)

The Preacher and Preaching

PreachingIn the following excerpts, Al Martin describes how we may begin to distinguish great preaching from poor:

A thing is judged to be good or bad in terms of its proximity to an absolute standard. Of course, in the realm of what is effective or good preaching, there is no single, comprehensive standard. However, I believe we can glean from the Scriptures an accurate standard as to what good preaching is by examining the preaching of the prophets, of the apostles, and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another basis of comparison is to be found in the lives, ministries, and sermons of the great preachers of past ages. When I use the term ‘great preachers’, I am not thinking of men who are renowned primarily for their ability to embellish the truth of God with great rhetorical effects, or who are known for their proficiency in the art of elocution. Rather, I am thinking of men who were instruments of God in moving other men Godward. Into this particular category I would place such men as Whitefield, M’Cheyne  Spurgeon, Edwards, Baxter and Bunyan. . . .

Let us consider together this matter of what is wrong with preaching in terms of the man who preaches. I wish to state a principle, illustrated from the Scriptures, and then to apply it in several specific areas. The principle is this: that unless we would degrade preaching to a mere elocutionary art, we must never forget that the soil out of which powerful preaching grows is the preacher’s own life. This is what makes the art of preaching different from all other arts of communication. A well-known actress may be famous for her ‘moral’ escapades. She may live like a common harlot. Yet she can enter the theatre at eight o’clock on a Wednesday night and play the role of Joan of Arc in such a way as to move the entire audience to tears. The way in which she lives may have no direct relationship with the exercising of her professional art. . . .

It is readily admitted that the Scriptures teach that there are times when men appear on the scene who have great ministerial gifts, but who are devoid of sanctifying grace [See Matthew 7:21-23]. The history of the church also records the deeds of men who were used sovereignly by God in the exercise of ministerial gifts who proved ultimately to be devoid of sanctifying grace. I believe, however, that this particular problem of deception would primarily apply to those engaged in the kind of ministry where they are not domiciled among their hearers long enough for their lives either to add or detract from the impact of their ministry. Therefore, limiting this principle to the context of pastoral preaching, I believe it is a valid rule [with some few exceptions] that powerful preaching is rooted in the soil of the preacher’s life. It has been said, ‘A minister’s life is the life of his ministry.’ If preaching is the communication of truth through a human instrument, then the particular truth thus communicated is either augmented or reduced in its effect by the life through which it comes.

The secret of the preaching power of Whitefield, M’Cheyne  and the other men I have already mentioned, is found not primarily in the content of their sermons or in the manner of their delivery. Rather, it is found in their lives. Their lives were so clothed with power, and they lived in such vital communion with God that the truth became a living principle when it came through such vessels. Their anointed lives became the soil of their anointed ministries. This principle is particularly true in the life of a resident pastor. The more you and I are known by our people; our influence will increase or diminish according to the tenor of our lives. (“What’s Wrong with Preaching”)

Coming to Terms with the Fear of Man

Very few people in this culture are willing to take a stand for their Christian beliefs. Their pride is addicted to the praise of men and therefore they fear ridicule as if it could cause them to loose their imaginary high social standing in the community. This is a fear of men. Will we ever overcome our sins with such ideas hindering us? Charles H. Spurgeon tells us:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 ESV)

Personally, I could never have overcome my own sinfulness. I tried and failed. My evil propensities were too many for me, till, in the belief that Christ died for me, I cast my guilty soul on Him, and then I received a conquering principle by which I overcame my sinful self. The doctrine of the cross can be used to slay sin, even as the old warriors used their huge two-handed swords, and mowed down their foes at every stroke. There is nothing like faith in the sinner’s Friend: it overcomes all evil. If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who hath redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil which slew my best Friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?

See what a splendid help this is to you that are without strength, to know and believe that in due time Christ died for such ungodly ones as you are. Have you caught the idea yet? It is, somehow, so difficult for our darkened, prejudiced, and unbelieving minds to see the essence of the gospel. At times I have thought, when I have done preaching, that I have laid down the gospel so clearly, that the nose on one’s face could not be more plain; and yet I perceive that even intelligent hearers have failed to understand what was meant by “Look unto me and be ye saved.” Converts usually say that they did not know the gospel till such and such a day; and yet they had heard it for years. The gospel is unknown, not from want of explanation, but from absence of personal revelation. This, the Holy Ghost is ready to give, and will give to those who ask Him. Yet when given, the sum total of the truth revealed all lies within these words: “Christ died for the ungodly.” I hear another bewailing himself thus: “Oh, sir, my weakness lies in this, that I do not seem to keep long in one mind! I hear the word on a Sunday, and I am impressed; but in the week I meet with an evil companion, and my good feelings are all gone. My fellow workmen do not believe in anything, and they say such terrible things, and I do not know how to answer them, and so I find myself knocked over.” I know this

Plastic Pliable very well, and I tremble for him; but at the same time, if he is really sincere, his weakness can be met by divine grace. The Holy Spirit can cast out the evil spirit of the fear of man. He can make the coward brave. Remember, my poor vacillating friend, you must not remain in this state. It will never do to be mean and beggarly to yourself. Stand upright, and look at yourself, and see if you were ever meant to be like a toad under a harrow, afraid for your life either to move or to stand still. Do have a mind of your own. This is not a spiritual matter only, but one which concerns ordinary manliness. I would do many things to please my friends; but to go to hell to please them is more than I would venture. It may be very well to do this and that for good fellowship; but it will never do to lose the friendship of God in order to keep on good terms with men. “I know that,” says the man, “but still, though I know it, I cannot pluck up courage. I cannot show my colours. I cannot stand fast.” Well, to you also I have the same text to bring: “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” If Peter were here, he would say, “The Lord Jesus died for me even when I was such a poor weak creature that the maid who kept the fire drove me to lie, and to swear that I knew not the Lord.” Yes, Jesus died for those who forsook him and fled. Take a firm grip on this truth—“Christ died for the ungodly while they were yet without strength.” This is your way out of your cowardice. Get this wrought into your soul, “Christ died for me,” and you will soon be ready to die for Him. Believe it, that He suffered in your place and stead, and offered for you a full, true, and satisfactory expiation. If you believe that fact, you will be forced to feel, “I cannot be ashamed of Him who died for me.” A full conviction that this is true will nerve you with a dauntless courage. Look at the saints in the martyr age. In the early days of Christianity, when this great thought of Christ’s exceeding love was sparkling in all its freshness in the church, men were not only ready to die, but they grew ambitious to suffer, and even presented themselves by hundreds at the judgement seats of the rulers, confessing the Christ. I do not say that they were wise to court a cruel death; but it proves my point, that a sense of the love of Jesus lifts the mind above all fear of what man can do to us. Why should it not produce the same effect in you? Oh that it might now inspire you with a brave resolve to come out upon the Lord’s side, and be His follower to the end! (All of Grace)

Divine Grace

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“The black foils of trouble shall bring out the brighter jewel of divine grace.”

Almighty God

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes; that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit as well as the sun in the heavens; that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as surely as the stars in their courses; that the creeping of an insect over a rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence; and the fall of leaves from the poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling avalanche.

He who believes in God must believe this truth. There is no standing point between this and Atheism. There is no halfway between an Almighty God, who works all things according to the good pleasure of his will, and no God at all!”

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