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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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Controversial Teachings

The Pleasures of God Meditations on God's Delight in Being GodJohn Piper:

Can controversial teachings nurture Christ-likeness? Before you answer this question, ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial? I cannot think of even one, let alone the number we all need for the daily nurture of faith. If this is true, then we have no choice but to seek our food in the markets of controversy. We need not stay there. We can go home and feast if the day has been well spent. But we must buy there. As much as we would like it, we do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgment on all that is controversial and feed our souls only on what is left, we are living in a dream world. There is nothing left. The reason any of us thinks that we can stand alone on truths that are noncontroversial is because we do not know our history or the diversity of the professing church. Besides that, would we really want to give to the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy? (The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, Revised and Expanded Edition, p. 121-22)

Subdued by Grace

Even the hardest of hearts may be subdued by grace. Look to Christ for all your needs and find rest. Charles H. Spurgeon was one who drank deeply of the Lord’s grace which is evident in the following excerpt:

The hearts of the children of Israel had grown hard as an adamant stone. Luther used to think it impossible to convert a Jew. We are far from agreeing with him, and yet we must admit that the seed of Israel have been exceedingly obstinate in their rejection of the Savior during these many centuries. Truly did the Lord say, “Israel would none of me.” “He came to his own and his own received him not.” Yet on behalf of Israel our Lord Jesus is exalted for the giving of repentance and remission. Probably my reader is a Gentile; but yet he may have a very stubborn heart, which has stood out against the Lord Jesus for many years; and yet in him our Lord can work repentance. It may be that you will yet feel compelled to write as William Hone did when he yielded to divine love. He was the author of those most entertaining volumes called the “Everyday Book,” but he was once a stout-hearted infidel. When subdued by sovereign grace, he wrote:

The proudest heart that ever beat

Hath been subdued in me;

The wildest will that ever rose

To scorn Thy cause and aid Thy foes

Is quell’d my Lord, by Thee.

Thy will, and not my will be done,

My heart be ever Thine;

Confessing Thee the mighty Word,

My Saviour Christ, my God, my Lord,

Thy cross shall be my sign.

The Lord can give repentance to the most unlikely, turning lions into lambs, and ravens into doves. Let us look to Him that this great change may be wrought in us. Assuredly the contemplation of the death of Christ is one of the surest and speediest methods of gaining repentance. Do not sit down and try to pump up repentance from the dry well of corrupt nature. It is contrary to the laws of mind to suppose that you can force your soul into that gracious state. Take your heart in prayer to Him who understands it, and say, “Lord, cleanse it. Lord, renew it. Lord, work repentance in it.” The more you try to produce penitent emotions in yourself, the more you will be disappointed; but if you believingly think of Jesus dying for you, repentance will burst forth. Meditate on the Lord’s shedding His heart’s blood out of love to you. Set before your mind’s eye the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion; and, as you do this, He who was the bearer of all this grief will look at you, and with that look He will do for you what He did for Peter, so that you also will go out and weep bitterly. He who died for you can, by His gracious Spirit, make you die to sin; and He who has gone into glory on your behalf can draw your soul after Him, away from evil, and toward holiness.

I shall be content if I leave this one thought with you; look not beneath the ice to find fire, neither hope in your own natural heart to find repentance. Look to the Living One for life. Look to Jesus for all you need between Hell Gate and Heaven Gate. Never seek elsewhere for any part of that which Jesus loves to bestow; but remember, Christ is all. (All of Grace)

The Correct View of the Law

According to David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“We tend to have a wrong view of law and to think of it as something that is opposed to grace. But it is not. Law is only opposed to grace in the sense that there was once a covenant of law, and we are now under the covenant of grace.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Christ Will Reign

There is only one way into the kingdom of God. It is the message of Hebrews and the Bible as a whole. There is only one way. It is by believing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. It is by believing that Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon Himself and borne our punishment and thus reconciled us to God and opened to us the gate of the kingdom of God. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:27-29 ESV)

A babe was born in a stable, not in a king’s palace, in a stable in a place called Bethlehem.

Why was He born in a stable? Because there was no room for them in the inn. Everybody booked their rooms in the hostelries, in the inns and though a poor pregnant woman comes along on the verge of giving birth to a baby, nobody would vacate the room. They would not do it then, they would not do it now! They said, ‘She should have booked her room earlier! Why should I go out?’ The selfishness of mankind. So the babe was born amidst the straw in a stable and the little child was put into a manger because there was no crib. Who is this? This is God’s eternal Son. They called Him Jesus, but He is very God of very God. God has visited and redeemed His people! ‘God so loved the world’ that had rebelled against Him and spat in His face as it were. ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ [John 3:16]. He is the King of the kingdom and He says so. He heals in the name of the kingdom; He invites people to come into His kingdom. ‘Come unto me’, He says, ‘all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ [Matthew 11:28]. And He has and He does and He alone can do so and the whole story of true Christianity is of this kingdom being extended. Men and women in every age and generation being added unto it. The kingdom of God is going on.

There are times like the present when it almost seems to be invisible – but it is still there and when men begin to deliver their obituary orations over the death of the Christian church, God revives her again and on she goes and thousands are added and the kingdom is going on and on and on – and it will go on until it is finally completed and the kingdoms of this world shall have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. (Revelation 11:15). Thank God in spite of all that is happening in this world tonight and it is black and it is dark, but as certainly as we are here God’s purposes are ever sure and Christ is going to reign over the whole world from shore to shore and pole to pole – and nothing will be able to resist Him. It is an absolute. (“A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken”)

Freedom and the Blood of Christ

Martin Luther, in the excerpt below, explains the necessity for the blood of Christ:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-15 ESV)

Under the old law, which provided only for formal or ritualistic pardon, and restored to human fellowship, sin and transgressions remained, burdening the conscience. It–the old law–did not benefit the soul at all, inasmuch as God did not institute it to purify and safeguard the conscience, nor to bestow the Spirit. It existed merely for the purpose of outward discipline, restraint and correction. So Paul teaches that under the Old Testament dispensation man’s transgressions remained, but now Christ is our Mediator through his blood; by it our conscience, is freed from sin in the sight of God, inasmuch as God promises the Spirit through the blood of Christ. All, however, do not receive him. Only those called to be heirs eternal, the elect, receive the Spirit.

We find, then, in this excellent lesson, the comforting doctrine taught that Christ is he whom we should know as the Priest and Bishop of our souls; that no sin is forgiven, nor the Holy Spirit given, by reason of works or merit on our part, but alone through the blood of Christ, and that to those for whom God has ordained it. This matter has been sufficiently set forth in the various postils. (“Christ Our Great High Priest”)

With Christ in View

Written by Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

The Christian’s Interest Hindered

Men often complain they are in darkness concerning their position in Christ and this often because they have not believed and given credit to the record which God has given of the Son. As long as people neglect these things, they can hardly come to the knowledge of the gracious state. William Guthrie guides us through some issues that hinder our understanding of these matters:

Men must resolve to be determined by Scripture in this matter of their interest in Christ. The Spirit speaking in the Scripture is judge of all controversies’ – To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’ (Isa. 8: 20) – and of this also, whether a man be savingly in covenant with God or not. Therefore do not mock God whilst you seem to search after such a thing. If we prove from Scripture, which is the uncontroverted rule, that you are gracious, and have made a covenant savingly with God, then resolve to grant so much, and to acquiesce in it. . . .

[A]lthough the matter of a man’s interest in Christ be of so great importance, and the way to attain to the knowledge of it so plainly held forth in the Scriptures, yet there be but few who reach the distinct knowledge of it. And that this may not discourage any person from attempting it, I shall hint some few reasons why so few come to the clear knowledge of it. . . .

The first thing which hinders many from the knowledge of their interest in Christ is their ignorance of some special principles of religion; as,

That it was free love in God’s bosom, and nothing in man, that moved Him to send a Savior to perfect the work of redemption (John 3: 16). . . .

They are ignorant how that love effectually discovers itself to a man’s heart, so as he has ground to lay claim to it. . . .

Many are also ignorant of this, that God alone is the hope of His people; He is called ‘the hope of Israel.’ (Jer. 14: 8.) Although inherent qualifications are evidences of it, yet the staying of the heart upon Him, as a full blessing and satisfying portion, is faith. . . .

They are ignorant of the different degrees and ways of that work of the law, by which God ordinarily dealeth with men, and of the different ways in which the Lord bringeth people at first to Christ. . . .

There is one thing or other wherein their heart, in some respect, does condemn them, as dealing deceitfully and guilefully with God. It is not to be expected that those can come to clearness about their interest, whose heart does condemn them for keeping up some known transgressions against the Lord, which they will not let go, neither are using the means which they know to be appointed by God for delivering them from it. . . .

[Another hindrance] is a spirit of sloth and careless negligence. They complain that they know not whether they are in Christ or not; but as few take pains to be in Him, so few take pains to try if they be in Him. It is a work and business which cannot be done sleeping: ‘Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves.’ (2 Cor. 13: 5.) The several words used here, namely, Examine, prove, know–intimate that there is a labor in it: Diligence must be used to make our ‘calling and election sure. . . .’ (2 Peter 1: 10)

Be ashamed, you who spend so much time in reading of romances, in adorning your persons, in hawking and hunting, in consulting the law concerning your outward state in the world, and it may, be in worse things than these; – Be ashamed, you that spend so little time in the search of this, whether ye be an heir of glory or note whether you be in the way that leadeth to heaven, or that way which will land you in darkness for ever? You who judge this below you, and unworthy of your pains, any part or minute of your time, it is probable, in God’s account, you have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, so that you shall have no lot with God’s people in this matter.

Behold the Cross of Christ

The cross tells us that Jesus is a mighty, loving, and complete Savior of men. Surely this should improve our confidence in Him. Believer, you will learn holiness at Calvary. Bishop J. C. Ryle offers us these words:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Hear, I beseech you, what I say to you this day, “Behold the Cross of Christ.” See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation. Yes—careless men and women, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are those whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. Oh, that it might be so this very day! Oh, that you would come at once to that Savior who died for you, and is willing to save! Come, and cry to Him with the prayer of faith, and I know that He will listen. Come, and lay hold upon the cross, and I know that He will not cast you out. Come, and believe on Him who died on the cross, and this very day you shall have eternal life. How will you ever escape if you neglect so great salvation? None surely will be so deep in hell as those who despise the cross!

Are you inquiring the way toward heaven? Are you seeking salvation—but doubtful whether you can find it? Are you desiring to have an interest in Christ—but doubting whether Christ will receive you? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Here is encouragement if you really want it. Draw near to the Lord Jesus with boldness, for nothing need keep you back. His arms are open to receive you—His heart is full of love towards you. He has made a way by which you may approach Him with confidence. Think of the cross. Draw near, and fear not. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Let Him who is Athirst Come

If you are a great sinner, know that Jesus is a great Savior. John A. Broadus once preached the excerpt below:

Come with the same confidence in his [Christ’s] power that they felt who asked him to heal their disease. There are many to testify that they have come and been heard, and none been sent empty away – do you come, and you too shall hear him say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Come with the same humility the Syrophoenician woman felt, when she pled that the dogs, though they should not eat the children’s food, might yet have the crumbs that fell under the table-and that she, though a Gentile, might yet have some humble share in that salvation which was of the Jews. Come with all the earnestness the poor blind man felt. He heard that Jesus was passing, and none could hinder him with all their charges, from crying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” And when the compassionate Savior stopped, and commanded him to be called, they said to him, “Be of good comfort, rise! he calleth thee.” Even so, my hearer, Jesus commands you to be called, as you sit in your spiritual blindness. Just as Bartimaeus threw away his cloak that nothing might hinder him, and went eagerly to Jesus, so you come at once unto him, and ask that you may receive your sight. You too shall hear him say, “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”

All must come from him. Let him be your Lord, your life, your sacrifice, your Savior and your all. You are a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

It is said (many here have doubtless read the account) that a brother of the famous Whitefield was once conversing, in great distress, with Lady Huntingdon. She told him of the infinite love and mercy of Jesus, but he replied, “I know all that; but there is no mercy for me – I am lost, I am lost.” “I am glad to hear it, Mr. Whitefield, very glad to hear it.” “How, my dear Madam, glad to hear that I am lost?” “Yes, Jesus came to save the lost.” That word moved him; he believed on Jesus, and lived and died a Christian. And so may you, if you believe on him who is the Savior of the lost and ruined. Then come to Jesus, come earnestly, come just as you are.

Just as I am, without one plea

Save that thy blood was shed for me,

And that thou bidst me come to thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Come, and you will be heard – you shall find rest. He will not send you away. He came into the world to save sinners – he suffered and died to save sinners – he invited burdened sinners to him. Then take this blessed, this precious invitation to yourself, come to Jesus, and your soul shall live. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (“Come Unto Me”)

Knowing You have a Saving Interest in Christ

Knowing that you are saved in Christ is a matter of the highest importance. Yet many ignore this subject while others foolishly think they have assurance without any solid ground. There are few walking the narrow way. Certainly people should be more serious about this matter since they may deceive themselves. William Guthrie (1620-1665) writes:

Since there are so many people living under the ordinances, pretending, without ground, to a special interest in Christ, and to His favor and salvation, as is clear from the words of our Lord–‘Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’ (Matt. 7: 22, 23). ‘Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.’ (Matt. 25: 11, 12.) ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.’ (Luke 13: 24.) And since many who have good ground of claim to Christ, are not established in the confidence of this favor, but remain in the dark, without comfort, hesitating concerning the reality of godliness in themselves, and speaking little in the commendation of religion to others. . . .

[N]ot only may a godly man come to the sure knowledge of his gracious state, but it is more easily attainable than many apprehend. . . A godly man may argue thus, Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God-‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God’ (John 1 12); but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import: for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome the offer of Christ in all His offices, as a King to rule over me, a Priest to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for Him and towards Him, resting on Him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word “receiving”? Therefore may I say, and conclude plainly and warrantably, I am justly to reckon myself God’s child, according to the aforesaid scripture, which cannot fail. (The Christian’s Great Interest)

Faith

According to John Calvin:

“It would be the height of absurdity to label ignorance tempered by humility “faith”!

“…a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous…”

All Things are in the Hands of Christ

The Christian has been given an advantage in Christ; this connection to Christ gives the Christian an interest in God; by which the love of Christ is made manifest. Ralph Erskine gives us food for thought:

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. (John 3:35 ESV)

Nothing in the world, will sweeten the remembrance of Christ’s love to us, so much as the believing remembrance of the Father’s love to him; even as nothing can provoke us more to put honor upon Christ, than to see how much honor the Father puts upon him; and for this end, “That all men might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Why, what honor has the Father put upon him? It is even the greatest honor; and that wherein our greatest happiness lies He hath given all things into his hand.”

Since faith comes by hearing of the object of faith, by hearing what Christ, the object of faith is, and what he hath, let your eye be towards him, and your ear be open to hear what is said of him; that, in hearing, you may believe, without seeking to draw faith out of your own heart and bowels, whence you will never find it. If there be any subject in the world, the hearing whereof tends, through grace, to work saving faith, it is this, that faith, and all grace, all good, all fullness, all things, are in Christ’s hand. . . .

All things are in the hand of Christ, we mean not only generally, all things in the kingdom of providence; because his kingdom rules over all; and, “He is the Head of all things unto the church,” Eph. 1:22, but also, particularly, all things in the kingdom of grace, of which he says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:46. But blessed be God, he hath not said, his spiritual kingdom is not in this world; but it is not of this world: he hath his spiritual invisible kingdom in the hearts of his people in this world; who, though they are in it, yet they are not of it, but chosen out of the world; yet, sometimes this kingdom of his is visible, in the remarkable tokens of his spiritual presence in his ordinances. And, O for many such tokens this day!

If they that inherit Christ, inherit all things; then all things are in his hand; but so it is, they that inherit him, inherit all things, 1 Cor. 3:21-23. For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come: all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. This golden chain, together with all things present, and all things to come, is linked to the believer, because he is united unto Christ. (“Heaven’s Grand Repository”)

Love and the Character of Man

Who and what you love tells us much about you. It helps define the purpose for which you are living. If you would sell all you have to buy a field under which lies a great treasure of gold, that action reveals something about you. If you would give up all you have to serve Christ that reveals something else. Thomas Doolittle educates us on this subject:

Love shows the true character of a man, according to the object which he loves more than anything else: for as is the love, so is the man. According to his love, so might you confidently designate the man. If he is a lover of honor, he is an ambitious man; a lover of pleasure, a sensual man; and if he chiefly loves the world, he is a covetous man. If a man loves righteousness, he is a religious man; if the things above, a heavenly-minded man; and if he love Christ with a pre-eminent love, he is a sincere man: “Rightly do they love you.,” Song of Songs 1:4.

If Christ has our love, he has our all; and Christ never has what he deserves from us, till he has our love. True love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon him. If we actually love him, he will have our time, and he will have our service, and he will have the use of all our resources, and gifts, and graces; indeed, then he shall have our possessions, freedom, and our very lives, whenever he calls for them. In the same way, when God loves any of us, he will withhold nothing from us that is good for us. He does not hold back his own only begotten Son, Rom.8:32. When Christ loves us, he gives us everything we need– his merits to justify us, his Spirit to sanctify us, his grace to adorn us, and his glory to crown us. Therefore, when any of us love Christ sincerely, we lay everything down at his feet, and give up all to be at his command and service: “And they loved not their lives unto the death,” Rev. 12:11. (“Love to Christ Everlasting”)

Christ Crucified

J. C. Ryle reminds us that the church cannot be the Church unless the doctrine of the cross is central in its teaching:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

The cross is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up – nothing whatever can make up for the lack of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order; without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor. But without the cross no good will be done; dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered. Sermons about the Church and an apostolic ministry – sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper – sermons about unity and schism – sermons about fasts and communion – sermons about fathers and saints – such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ. They may amuse some—they will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room, and splendid gold plate on the table, will never make up to a hungry man for the lack of food. Christ crucified is God’s ordinance for doing good to people. Whenever a Church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a Church ceases to be useful. Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a speechless witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Satisfying God’s Justice

Quoting R.C. Sproul:

“There are only two ways that God’s justice can be satisfied with respect to your sin. Either you satisfy it or Christ satisfies it. You can satisfy it by being banished from God’s presence forever. Or you can accept the satisfaction that Jesus Christ has made.” (Choosing My Religion)

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