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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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What Are You Building Your Life On?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49 ESV)

Above is one of the more sobering quotes from Jesus. I believe Jesus is saying here that there are people who think they are Christians but are not. They are counterfeit or perhaps “cultural” Christians.

They may say “Lord! Lord!” and even teach Sunday School and preach sermons, however, they are not real Christians. Jesus will someday say to them “I never knew you.” We see in the verses above that obedience is greater than just words. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. It might sound like I am saying good works are more important than grace and faith, but to say that would be to contradict the Scriptures by taking these verses out of context.

There is only one way to be saved from sin; it is through personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. “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 ESV) These two verses make it absolutely clear that there is nothing we can do to earn, somehow deserve, or add to our salvation. Jesus has done everything.

Christians are not perfect and still sin, but they make every effort to conduct themselves like Christians. If you are really a Christian, there will be evidence of your continuing growth in sanctification. A true Christian does not consistently behave like an unbeliever. This does not mean that doing good makes a person a Christian, but living righteously is a good sign of whether someone really is a Christian. The Bible teaches: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17 ESV) We are saved by faith alone, but it is a faith that is accompanied by changes in the way we live and worship.

Imagine two men looking for locations to build their homes. They both narrow their search down to two choices. One place is on rocky ground that is higher up, but it will take a lot of time and work to prepare a foundation there. However, lower down is a second site where the ground is sandy and soft. Building a home in this location would require less time, work, and money.

The two men make their choices. One chooses the solid rocky ground and the other chooses the soft sand. It is then that we find there are storms in the locations where these men built their homes. Indeed, we also have storms in our lives that hit us suddenly, unexpectedly, and sometimes overwhelmingly.

However, the point of the story is Jesus’ description of people who come to Him and hear His words and then obey them. They are like the man who built his foundation and home on rock. When the storm struck that house, it could not be shaken because it had been well-built. This is a description of those who live in obedience to Christ. When Jesus is your rock and the storms of life come, you will not be overwhelmed. Another point is that the time to obey the words of Jesus is before the storms of life actually come. If you build your life on anything else but faith in Jesus Christ, it will eventually collapse.

Let us look at our lives for any signs that we may be counterfeit Christians. Lord, help us to believe and obey. Help us to become Christians who are solidly standing on the rock of Jesus Christ. Let us say with the psalmist; “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2 ESV)

The Duty of Self-Examination

The true Christian has a thorough work of grace and sanctification wrought in his heart. Regeneration is a whole change. The old things are done away, while all things become new. M. Meade writes:

Here are two questions of very great importance which we should every one of us put to ourselves: “What am I?” and “Where am I?” Am I a child of God or not? Am I sincere in religion, or am I only a hypocrite under a profession? Am I yet in a natural state, or in a state of grace? Am I yet in the old root, in old Adam, or am I in the Root, Christ Jesus? Am I in the covenant of works that ministers only wrath and death, or am I in the covenant of grace that ministers life and peace? I press this upon you that are professors, because many rest in a notion of godliness and an outward show of religion, and yet remain in their natural condition. Many are hearers of the Word and not doers of it, and so deceive their own souls (James 1:22). He that slights the ordinances cannot be a true Christian, but yet it is possible a man may own them and yet be no true Christian.

Errors in the first foundation are very dangerous. If we be not right in the main, the fundamental work, if the foundation be not laid in grace in the heart, all our following profession comes to nothing. The house built upon a sandy foundation, though it may stand for a while, yet when the floods come and the winds blow and beat upon it, great will be the fall of it. There are many things like grace that are not grace.

Now it is the likeness of things that deceives. Many take gifts for grace; common knowledge for saving knowledge; whereas a man may have great gifts and no grace, great knowledge and yet not know Jesus Christ. Some take common faith for saving; whereas a man may believe all the truths of the gospel, all the promises, all the threatenings, all the articles of the creed to be true, and yet perish for want of saving faith. Some take morality and restraining grace for renewing grace; whereas it is common to have sin much restrained where the heart is not at all renewed. Some are deceived with a half-work, making many mermaid Christians, or like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, head of gold and feet of clay. Endless are the delusions that Satan fastens upon souls for want of this self-search. Satan will try us at one time or other. He will winnow us and sift us to the bottom, and if we now rest in a groundless confidence, it will then end in a comfortless despair. Nay, God Himself will search and try us, at the Day of Judgment especially, and who can abide that trial, that never tries his own heart?

Whatsoever a man’s state be, whether he be altogether a Christian or not, yet it is good to examine his own heart. If he finds his heart good, his principles right and sound, this will be a matter of rejoicing. If he finds his heart rotten, his principles false and unsound, the discovery may be in order to a renewing. If a man have a disease upon him and know it, he may send to the physician in time, but what a sad vexation it will be not to see the disease till it is past cure! So for a man to be graceless and not see till it be too late, to think himself a Christian when he is not; that he is in the right way to heaven when he is in the ready way to hell, and yet not know it till a death bed or a judgment day confute his confidence, this is the most irrecoverable misery. These are the grounds upon which I press this duty of examining our state. Oh, that God would help us in doing this necessary duty! (“Almost a Christian”, 1661)

Put On the Armor of Light

INTRODUCTION: The language of this text is borrowed from natural sleep, in which a person is in a great measure unaware of what is happening around him but life remains in the body. This condition is applied to Christians who have grown insensitive to divine things–they sleep, but life remains in their souls. In particular, the exhortation is for those who find themselves in a state of spiritual slumber to shake off their drowsiness and awake to spiritual realities.

“Now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Rom. 13:11).

Asahel Nettleton writes:

Parents, consider your children. Are they all securely within the safety of the covenant? Do you pray with them and for them? Have you taught them that they are sinners in need of new birth? Are you urging them to remember their Creator in the days of their youth? Were you to depart with one of your children today, could you rest satisfied that you have done your duty? Have you not one more word of instruction, of counsel, or of warning for your children before you meet them at the bar of God? If so, then it is time for you to awaken to your duty to order your home.

Consider the activity of unbelievers. The men of this world shame us by their conduct. They rise up early and sit up late. They plan and execute. Labor, fatigue, and hardship are nothing to them if they can but collect a little of this world before they leave it. They are laying up treasure on earth. And will you not be as earnest to lay up for yourselves treasure that will endure in heaven? Do you not feel reproved by their conduct to think that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light?

Consider the power of your enemy. My brethren, you are on the field of battle against the prince of darkness. The malice of evil legions is directed against the Redeemer’s kingdom in this world. Satan is already in possession of the hearts of all wicked men. While you sleep, he is sowing tares and destroying about us. Snares and temptations are laid thick around you, and unless you are awake, you will certainly be ignorant of his devices. I would blow the trumpet and sound the alarm: Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light! (“Professing Christians, Awake!”)

The Heretics

According to David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The heretics were never dishonest men; they were mistaken men. They should not be thought of as men who were deliberately setting out to go wrong and to teach something that is wrong; they have been some of the most sincere men that the Church has ever known. What was the matter with them? Their trouble was this: they evolved a theory and they were rather pleased with it; then they went back with this theory to the Bible, and they seemed to find it everywhere.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

The Neglect of Moral Training

Quoting Chuck Colson:

Our culture is disintegrating before our very eyes because we have neglected moral training. We need look no further than the latest news headlines to see a world overtaken by greed, corruption, fraud, deceit and scandal.

Our youth have become desensitized to evil and lost sight of what is good, with few personal or public role models for ethical behavior. If left unchecked, this pervasive wrongdoing will soon become the norm.

Live to God’s Glory

According to Richard Sibbes:

The whole life of a Christian should be nothing but praises and thanks to God; we should neither eat nor sleep, but eat to God and sleep to God and work to God and talk to God, do all to His glory and praise.

Why Wars?

Quoting David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“Why are there wars in the world? Why is there this constant international tension? What is the matter with the world? Why war and all the unhappiness and turmoil and discord amongst men? According to this Beatitude, there is only one answer to these questions – sin. Nothing else; just sin.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Nonconformity

In the words of R.C. Sproul:

“The simplistic way of not conforming is to see what is in style in our culture and then do the opposite. If short hair is in vogue, the nonconformist wears long hair. If going to the movies is popular, then Christians avoid movies as “worldly.” The extreme case of this may be seen in groups that refuse to wear buttons or use electricity because such things, too, are worldly.

A superficial style of nonconformity is the classical Pharisaical trap. The kingdom of God is not about buttons, movies, or dancing. The concern of God is not focused on what we eat or what we drink. The call of nonconformity is a call to a deeper level of righteousness that goes beyond externals. When piety is defined exclusively in terms of externals, the whole point of the apostle’s teaching has been lost. Somehow we have failed to hear Jesus’ words that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of that mouth. We still want to make the kingdom a matter of eating and drinking.” (The Holiness of God)

The Obnoxious Christian

Quoting David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“It does not say, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are objectionable.’ It does not say, ‘Blessed are those who are having a hard time in their Christian life because they are being difficult.’ It does not say, ‘Blessed are those who are being persecuted as Christians because they are seriously lacking in wisdom and are really foolish and unwise in what they regard as being their testimony.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

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”)

Give Up!

Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

“Be still, and know that I am God. We must not interpret that ‘Be still’ in a sentimental manner. Some regard it as a kind of exhortation to us to be silent; but it is nothing of the sort. It means, ‘Give up (or ‘Give in’) and admit I am God. God is addressing people who are opposed to Him.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

The Path of Pain

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2 ESV)

I think you have probably heard the proverb, “Time heals all wounds.” It appears to me that most people say this because there really are many afflictions that heal over time.

Since Christians have many supports that non-believers lack, I would anticipate that Christians handle tragedy better than non-Christians. In many cases they do. Nevertheless, many other believers do not seem to heal over time.

Many Christians do not have a clear and practical understanding of the doctrine of the chief end of man. Christians, who do know this doctrine, may not have made it a guiding principle for their lives. They may be able to recite it, but they have not learned how to apply it. What does this doctrine have to do with wounds and healing? Without a practical understanding of this doctrine, the Christian will not be prepared to face the inevitable losses he will experience in life.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states this doctrine by way of a question: “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

What is meant by the “end of man”? To speak of the “end of man” is to speak of his goals and the things he wants to accomplish. In the course of daily living, we have many ends. Some ends, however, are more important than others. Look around you. Most people have very little concern for the glory of God. Very few people have the glory of God as the underlying motivation for how they should pursue their ends. This one end, the glory of God, should guide our actions.

How s it that we glorify God? God is glorious already. Our purpose should be to affirm His glory. We must acknowledge the glory that is already there. First, we recognize His glory, and then, we respond to it.

We glorify God in our hearts by bringing every thought and every attitude under the guiding light of the glory of God. We glorify God in our actions. We glorify God every time we choose to obey Him. Even when God deals with us in ways that are mysterious, if we trust in Him, we glorify Him.

Part of our chief end is to enjoy God. We enjoy God by being at peace with Him and taking pleasure in His blessings. We enjoy God as He has revealed Himself in His word. God blesses us with His wisdom. The Holy Spirit teaches us while we read our Bibles. He convicts our hearts when we sin. He leads us in the ways of righteousness. He comforts us when we hurt. The Holy Spirit gave life to our souls; it is His work that keeps us faithful; and it is His guiding work that leads us through the troubles encountered in this life and assures us of the life to come.

This is easier to understand when we consider that we were created not for ourselves but for God. We find in Colossians 1:16-17 ESV, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

We have a glorious motive to persevere through trials and circumstances, if the glory of God is the underlying motivation for all we do. As long as we have a mind to think with, we have the ability to glorify God. We glorify God when we read His word, for when we do this, we affirm that the Word of God is true and reliable. We glorify God when we pray to Him, for when we do this, we acknowledge Who He is and His right to govern us.

Is there anything you would withhold from God: your spouse, your children, your home, your income, and your possessions? All of it belongs to God, and all of it is subject to being taken away by God at any time. It is part of our fallen condition that when trials come, it is easy to look around and wonder whether God is dealing harder with you than with someone else. Well, there is good news and bad news. Some life journeys are harder than others. If you are on a harder journey, I’m sure you see it as bad news. The good news is that the path you are on is the journey God has chosen for you. As you continue down this path, God will be with you to help you through it and His glory shall be magnified through you.

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.

Man’s Troubles

From the desk of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The terrible, tragic fallacy of the last hundred years has been to think that all man’s troubles are due to his environment, and that to change the man you have nothing to do but change his environment. That is a tragic fallacy. It overlooks the fact that it was in Paradise that man fell.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

A Holy Joy

From the works of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The Christian is not superficial in any sense, but is fundamentally serious and fundamentally happy. You see, the joy of the Christian is a holy joy, the happiness of the Christian is a serious happiness. … it is a solemn joy, it is a holy joy, it is a serious happiness; so that, though he is grave and sober-minded and serious, he is never cold and prohibitive.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

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