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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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Sanctification by Doctrine

James Montgomery Boice:

Paul’s “method” of sanctification is biblical doctrine. That is, to live as Christians we must know what God has done to us in making us Christians. We must know what has happened, and the only way we can know what has happened is to know the Bible. Then, because we know what God has done to us, we are to go on with God, acting on the basis of what has been done for us and in us. We can express it this way: We cannot go back to being what we were before. We are new creatures in Christ. And if we are new creatures in Christ, the only thing we can do is get on with living the Christian life. In other words, there is no way for us to go but forward…..This has nothing to do with either method or an experience. It has everything to do with knowing and living by the sufficient Word of God. Is it not true that one reason we see such immature and even sinful behavior among Christians today is that they have not really been taught what God has done to them and for them when he saved them? Aren’t our churches immature precisely because the pastors are not teaching Bible doctrines? (Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World, pp. 80-81)

Overcoming Our Present Difficulty

Quoting :

“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

The Duty of Ministers

In the words of Jonathan Edwards:

It is not only our great duty, but will be our greatest honor, to imitate Christ, and do the work that he has done, and so act as co-workers with him.

The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of—the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world.

They should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God. They should follow the example of his prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of his retiring from the world, away from the noise and applause of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father.

Ministers should be persons of the same quiet, lamb like spirit that Christ was of, the same spirit of submission to God’s will, and patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men; of the same calmness and composure of spirit under reproaches and sufferings from the malignity of evil men; of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries; of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence; the same disposition to pity the miserable, to weep with those that weep, to help men under their calamities of both soul and body, to hear and grant the requests of the needy, and relieve afflicted; the same spirit of condescension to the poor and lowly, tenderness and gentleness toward the weak, and great and effectual love to enemies. . . .

And in order to our imitating Christ in the work of the ministry, in any tolerable degree, we should not have our hearts weighed down, and time filled up with worldly affections, cares, and pursuits. The duties of a minister that have been recommended are absolutely inconsistent with a mind much taken up with worldly profit, glory, amusements, and entertainments.

Martyrdom and Controversy

One of the masters of Reformed Theology was Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921). While defending the truth of the gospel, he was no stranger to controversy. The following is an example of his thoughts on martyrdom and controversy:

“Martyrdom” and “controversy!” If the collocation sounds strange in our ears it can only be because we have failed to realize how inevitable is their connection, how necessarily they appear as twin fruits of the one fair tree of faithfulness. There never was a martyrdom save as the result of controversy. The spirit which would still contention for the truth never yet went to the stake. There is a sentiment abroad indeed which decries controversy. The same sentiment should certainly decry martyrdom also. An anemic Christianity which is too little virile to strive for the truth can never possess the nerve to die for it. And the contradiction of loving the one and hating the other is glaring. Says Dr. Mandell Creighton strikingly: “The age of the martyrs has a powerful attraction even to the casual reader; the age of the heresies leaves him bewildered and distressed. Yet the agents in both were discharging an equally necessary function. Both were upholding the truth of the gospel; the one against the power of the world, the other against the wisdom of the world. The martyrs had this advantage that the force of their testimony was concentrated in one supreme moment, was expressed in one heroic act, which commands universal sympathy. The controversialists had to live through a protracted struggle and are judged by all their utterances, and all their human weaknesses which the conflict remorselessly revealed.”

The spirit of the martyr and the spirit of the controversialist are therefore one. Both alike are the sport of the indifferent, and the scorn of the worldly-wise to whom opportunism is the last word of wisdom, and “convictions” the disease of fools. “Conviction,” cries the “Master-Devil” of Gilbert Parker‘s The Seats of the Mighty—”conviction is the executioner of the stupid. When a man is not great enough to let change and chance guide him he gets convictions and dies a fool.” Christian men may call him a martyr: but the world at best a fanatic, at worst a well-punished disturber of the peace. The issue does not seem to the world worth fighting for and certainly not worth dying for. If it did, the verdict would assuredly be different. At least whenever the issue seems to it worth fighting and dying for, even the worldly-wise can find ground enough for admiration and praise of that spirit of faithfulness, by which it is that the martyr and the controversialist alike are dominated. We find this anecdote in General Sir John Adye‘s Recollections of a Military Life: “An English soldier coming on duty was heard to say to his comrade, ‘Well, Jim, what’s the orders at this post?’ Jim replied, ‘Why, the orders is you’re never to leave it till you’re killed, and if you see any other man leaving it, you’re to kill him.’ ” There burns (in its own coarse form) the spirit both of the martyr and of the controversialist—or, to put it in one word, the spirit of the faithful man ready to do his duty, all his duty, and his duty to the end. Let us permit one who himself trod the thorny path to its goal make for us the application. “In Tynedale, where I was born, not far from the Scottish border,’ writes Nicholas Ridley, “I have known my countrymen watch night and day in their harness, such as they had, that is, in their jacks, and their spears in their hands (you call them northern gads), especially when they had any privy warning of the coming of the Scots. And so doing, although at every such bickering some of them spent their lives, yet by such means, like pretty men, they defended their country. And those that so did, I think that before God they died in a good quarrel, and their offspring and progeny, all the country loved them the better for their fathers’ sakes. And in the quarrel of Christ our Savior, in the defense of his own divine ordinances, by the which he giveth us life and immortality, yea, in the quarrel of faith and Christian religion, wherein resteth our everlasting salvation, shall we not watch? Shall we not go always armed, ever looking when our adversary (which, like a roaring lion, seeketh whom he may devour) shall come upon us by reason of our slothfulness? Yea, and woe be unto us, if he can oppress us unawares, which undoubtedly he will do, if he find us sleeping.” (“Christianity: The Truth”)

Worship Energizes The Heart

Quoting Sam Storms:

Worship is eminently practical because adoring and affectionate praise is what restores our sense of ultimate value. It exposes the worthless and temporary and tawdry stuff of this world. Worship energizes the heart to seek satisfaction in Jesus alone. In worship we are reminded that this world is fleeting and unworthy of our heart’s devotion. Worship connects our souls with the transcendent power of God and awakens in us appreciation for true beauty. It pulls back the veil of deception and exposes the ugliness of sin and Satan. Worship is a joyful rebuke of the world. When our hearts are riveted on Jesus everything else in life becomes so utterly unnecessary and we become far less demanding.

The First Mover Of All Good

From the desk of Robert Bolton:

“Were the holiest heart upon earth enlarged to the vast comprehension of this great world’s wideness; nay, made capable of all the glorious and magnificent hallelujahs and hearty praises offered to Jehovah, both by all the militant and triumphant church, yet would it come infinitely short of sufficiently magnifying, admiring, and adoring the inexplicable mystery and bottomless depth of this free, independent mercy, and love to God, the Fountain and First Mover of all our good.”

Forgetful Of Jesus?

From the pen of Charles H. Spurgeon:

“Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should have your eye steadily fixed upon the cross. It is the incessant round of world, world, world; the constant din of earth, earth, earth, that takes away the soul from Christ. Oh! my friends, is it not too sadly true that we can recollect anything but Christ, and forget nothing so easy as him whom we ought to remember? While memory will preserve a poisoned weed, it suffereth the Rose of Sharon to wither.”

J. Edwards: Labor To Understand

Quoting Jonathan Edwards:

“You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure. God hath spoken much to you in the Scripture; labor to understand as much of what he saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with having so much knowledge as is thrown in your way, and as you receive in some sense unavoidably by the frequent inculcation of divine truth in the preaching of the word, of which you are obliged to be hearers, or as you accidentally gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search for it, and that with the same diligence and labor with which men are wont to dig in mines of silver and gold.”

Faith In Not Having Faith

From the writing of humorist Frank J. Fleming:

“Richard Dawkins says he can’t be sure God doesn’t exist. Well, you know what I do when I’m not sure about something? I go on a big crusade about it and write a bunch of books on the subject. No, wait, that sounds more like what someone with a mental disorder would do. That’s one of the crazy things about lots of atheists: Their whole movement is supposed to be about being logical and reasonable, yet they tend to rail against religion in a very mindless way that doesn’t seem to serve any more purpose than a tantrum. Perhaps I just don’t understand their strong faith in not having faith.”

The Paternal Character Of God

From the pen of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847):

[N]ow that the propitiation has been rendered, man is freely invited to rejoice in his God, and God rejoices over man as if man had never fallen. Sin is obliterated by the sacrifice that has been made for it; and now with a clear conscience because now on a consecrated way, might the guiltiest of our world draw nigh and make his requests known unto God. He is now on firm and high vantage ground for prayer; and in the face of Jesus Christ that veil which mantled the aspect of the Divinity is withdrawn. The voice of the intercessor is now added to the voice of the supphant; and while the mercy of the Godhead is all awake to the sinner’s imploring cry, the Truth and the Holiness and the Justice, are all propitiated by the Savior who died for him. This is the mediatorial ground on which the righteous God and His rebellious creatures can commune peaceably and now that the incense of a sweet-smelling savor is between them, He can effuse all the love and liberality of a Father on His redeemed children, and bestow good things on all who ask Him. Forgiveness is yours if you will. The clean heart and the right spirit are yours if you will. Heaven with all its glories is open to receive you. And holiness which is the dress of Heaven is ready to fall, like Elijah’s mantle, from the hand of Him who hath said “Turn unto me and I will pour out my spirit upon you.” Under the economy of the Gospel all the lets and hindrances, which obstructed these generous communications from the upper sanctuary, are now done away. And, kinder far than ever earthly father to his offspring, does the bountiful God who is in Heaven; rejoice in meeting all the wishes, and supplying all the wants of His spiritual family.

Parting With Sin

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

“Sin is naturally exceeding dear to us; to part with it is compared to plucking out our right eyes. Men may refrain from wonted ways of sin for a little while, and may deny their lusts in a partial degree, with less difficulty; but it is heart-rending work, finally to part with all sin, and to give our dearest lusts a bill of divorce, utterly to send them away. But this we must do, if we would follow those that are truly turning to God: yea, we must not only forsake sin, but must, in a sense, forsake all the world, Luke xiv.33 ‘Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.'”

Building Altars to the Lord

Quoting Dr. Sidney Greidanus, professor of preaching emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Have you ever been to Europe and seen the many beautiful cathedrals there? People who see them are impressed by their sheer size. Generation after generation worked on these monuments; sometimes for hundreds of years. It is clear what was central for these people: the worship of God. Life revolved around the Christian religion. The cathedral was the highest building in town; it was also located in the center of town. People were baptized there, worshiped there, confessed their sins there, married there, and were buried there. Worship of God in the cathedral was the focus of their lives.

But what are the highest buildings in our cities today? Not churches but the high-rises of banks and multinational corporations. And these towering high rises also reveal what is considered important in our society. You see, a shift has taken place in modern culture. Life is no longer centered on God and his church. The center has shifted to banks and multinational corporations, the sponsors of materialism and consumerism.

Absolved Only Through the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

Quoting John Calvin

[I]n order to have an abiding place in the church, we need the Lord Jesus Christ as our foundation. There are many who claim to be children of God who have never been born again through that good seed which enlightens, and brings acceptance with God, who then acknowledges us as his children. We must hold fast to the pure doctrine of the gospel if we desire to be truly united to the Lord Jesus Christ. He, as our Head and our Mediator, unites us to God the Father. We have already spoken about the reason why Paul mentions both the servile and the free offspring. He tells us that those who seek justification through their own good deeds are severing themselves from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. For they are binding themselves to perform that which is impossible, that is, to satisfy God by keeping his commandments. Whereas, we are so full of weaknesses that we cannot possibly fulfill the least article of the law, let alone reach the perfection which the law requires. This is why Paul concludes that we must maintain the liberty that was purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Way Of Humility

In the words of Andrew Murray:

The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us. In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. The holiest will be the humblest.

Religious Freedom

Quoting George Washington:

[E]stablish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution. For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience. (“Address to the General Committee, Representing the United Baptist Church in Virginia,” May, 1789)

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