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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)

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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.

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