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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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THINKING ABOUT JESUS

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

Christmas-ChurchI’ve been thinking about Jesus. Many people do this time of year. Deeply touched by the sentiments of the season, they resolve to get to know Him better. However, the emotions that spark this resolve may soon pass as time moves beyond Christmas Day.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus. Isn’t there danger in broken promises to Him? People say they desire to be close to Christ, but their devotion is often hollow. A shallow desire for fellowship with Him leads to a cold heart. Commitment requires self-discipline and it is more than some can humanly muster.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus during this Christmas season. He has come that we might have life. (John 10:10 ESV) We are saved through faith which is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) His Spirit gives us the ability to keep our vows to Him. His divine power gives us all things that relate to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3 ESV) Isn’t it time to put on the new self which is after the likeness of Christ? (Ephesians 4:24 ESV) Continue reading

HE CAME FOR US

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

Christ and ChristmasOn the first Christmas night a Savior was born. The One born that night would change the course of history. At Bethlehem we find an event of cosmic significance. God became man that we might be redeemed from sin.

Jesus Christ was the best gift mankind could possibly receive. We were sinners. Yet, He came for us. We were in rebellion against God. Yet, He came for us. We were bound to Satan. Yet, He came for us. We were lawless. Yet, He came for us. God gave us grace through Jesus Christ in the condition He found us. Through grace we may now become children of God.

This event was sufficient for an angel to declare:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS

R. C. SproulR. C. Sproul:

I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. (Ligonier.org)

GOD WITH US

John MacArthurJohn MacArthur:

“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”

CRAZY ABOUT CHRISTMAS?

Samuel A CainAnd suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)

Do you know someone who is crazy about Christmas? I bet you do. Many Americans have lost their ability to think rationally when it comes to Christmas. Materialism is rampant everywhere during this season of the year. How else would you explain 200 – 300 people waiting outside a store at 4:00 AM in the freezing cold for an early opening sale? Once the doors are open, the scene is like finding yourself in the middle of a reindeer stampede. The shoppers push and trample over anything or anyone in their way. They sometimes grab items out of other shoppers’ hands or carts and curses proliferate from their mouths.

Christmas revelers go to great lengths in order to decorate their homes with all the familiar symbols of a secular Christmas. They turn their front yards into extravagant light shows to attract attention and win the approval of others. Then, they borrow money to pay for it all. Their goal is to live a crazy fantasy for a short time each year which, in reality, has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas. The story of the birth of Jesus Christ is particularly a story of love. Christmas is all about love; a love that restores our relationship with God. Continue reading

CHILDREN AND THE CHRIST OF CHRISTMAS

Samuel A CainFor to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 ESV)

Christmas is a good time to share the Word of God with your children. Of course, as we see in Deuteronomy 11, every day and every moment is, in general, a good time to do this. So, what are your children learning about the Christ of Christmas this year? What are you teaching them? Is there more talk in your home about Santa Claus than Jesus? Continue reading

COMFORTABLE UNBELIEVERS

Christ and ChristmasCharles R. Biggs:

No one should ever be too comfortable with the truths of Scripture any time of the year! I think it is important for the truths of Scripture to keep believers all uncomfortably ever-depending upon Jesus Christ alone for our righteousness throughout the year (one of the purposes of gospel preaching). I especially think it is good for unbelieving friends and relatives to be uncomfortable this time of year when we celebrate God becoming flesh in order to save those who believe. When unbelievers become comfortable this time of year, it is time to ask ourselves as the Church whether we are speaking and proclaiming the gospel in clear, pointed, penetrating ways as Jesus, John, and Paul preached it. (“An Uncomfortable Christmas Card for Unbelievers Comfortable at Christmas”)

 

THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST

Billy GrahamBilly Graham:

The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.

A Celebration of Christ

Christian+Christmas

George Whitefield:

 “And she shall bring forth a Son, and then shalt call his Name Jesus: For he shall save his People from their Sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

The celebration of the birth of Christ hath been esteemed a duty by most who profess Christianity. When we consider the condescension and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, in submitting to be born of a virgin, a poor sinful creature; and especially as he knew how he was to be treated in this world; that he was to be despised, scoffed at, and at last to die a painful, shameful, and ignominious death; that he should be treated as though he was the off-scouring of all mankind; used, not like the son of man, and, therefore, not at all like the Son of God; the consideration of these things should make us to admire the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was so willing to offer himself as a ransom for the sins of the people, that when the fullness of time was come, Christ came, made of a woman, made under the law: he came according to the eternal counsel of the Father; he came, not in glory or in splendor, not like him who brought all salvation with him: no, he was born in a stable, and laid in a manger; oxen were his companions. … What love is this, what great and wonderful love was here, that the Son of God should come into our world in so mean a condition, to deliver us from the sin and misery in which we were involved by our fall in our first parents!

Therefore, if we do but consider into what state, and at how great a distance from God we are fallen; how vile our natures were; what a depravity, and how incapable to restore that image of God to our souls, which we lost in our first parents: when I consider these things, my brethren, and that the Lord Jesus Christ came to restore us to that favor with God which we had lost, and that Christ not only came down with an intent to do it, but actually accomplished all that was in his heart towards us; that he raised and brought us into favor with God, that we might find kindness and mercy in his sight; surely this calls for some return of thanks on our part to our dear Redeemer, for this love and kindness to our souls. … [L]et us celebrate and keep this festival of our church, with joy in our hearts: let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s love never be forgotten! But may we sing forth all his love and glory as long as life shall last here, and through an endless eternity in the world above! May we chant forth the wonders of redeeming love, and the riches of free grace, amidst angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, without intermission, for ever and ever! And as, my brethren, the time for keeping this festival is approaching, let us consider our duty in the true observation thereof, of the right way for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls, to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; an event which ought to be had in eternal remembrance. (“The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of all Christians; or the True Way of Keeping Christmas”)

God With Us

John MacArthurJohn MacArthur:

“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”

The Hope of Christmas

Christ and ChristmasI am writing today about the hope of Christmas. Hope is something we need all year-long, but maybe you especially need it just now. Perhaps, you are allowing the stress and turmoil of the world’s secular Christmas expectations to get you down. The Bible tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV) We must all remember that God is working in our circumstances in ways we cannot see and He can make good come out of what is seemingly hopeless.

We need to see that Christmas is part of God’s eternal plan. We may not understand it, but God is working out His purpose for each of us. Christianity teaches that history is headed somewhere and that it is “His-story”. Life has meaning and God rules over it. God is not asleep somewhere, He is watching over us. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV)

Hope invaded our world over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. But, like the shepherds so long ago, we must go and humble ourselves in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do – “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV) There is great hope in what the future holds for the children of God. Hope means better days are coming. Christmas is a declaration of God’s faithfulness. Paul writes to Timothy, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

Jesus was actually a very common Jewish name often given in memory of Joshua (Hebrew form of the name Jesus). Jesus (Joshua) means “God is Savior”. Jesus would save people from their sins.

He saves from the guilt of sin by offering His blood as the atonement for sins. (Romans 5:8-9) Jesus also saves us from the power of sin by sending the Holy Spirit to break sin’s dominion through sanctification. (Romans 8:1-2 and 12-14) Only Jesus can save us from the wrath of God to come. This is the hope of Christmas.

The name of Jesus should, therefore, fill us with hope. We may have salvation through this name. Through Jesus we find mercy as He intercedes on our behalf. For us, the name of Jesus is the very hope of Christmas.

Many people think about Jesus during this time of year and are often deeply moved. However, the season passes and soon they are caught up again in the secular pressures of this world. It is sad to see people come so close to the manger only to be distracted and lured away by the things of this passing world. I pray that God will someday place in their hearts the true hope of Christmas.

Christmas is a Time for Telling

“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”  (Mark 5:19)

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“Go home and tell your friends what the Lord hath done for your souls, and how he hath had compassion on you.” For my part, I wish there were twenty Christmas days in the year. It is seldom that young men can meet with their friends; it is rarely they can all be united as happy families; and though I have no respect to the religious observance of the day, yet I love it as a family institution, as one of England’s brightest days, the great Sabbath of the year, when the plough rests in its furrow, when the din of business is hushed, when the mechanic and the working man go out to refresh themselves upon the green award of the glad earth. . . .

Come, then; I will try and argue with you, to induce you to do so, that I may send you home this Christmas-day, to be missionaries in the localities to which you belong, and to be real preachers, though you are not so by name. . . .

When you are at home on Christmas-day, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if you friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them; and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God. (“Going Home” — A Christmas Sermon)

Celebrating Christmas

The Birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords

We really do not know the exact day of Jesus’ birth. However, on December 25th millions of people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is an annual holiday and one of the most important on the modern Christian calendar. The birth of Jesus is a worthy subject to occupy our minds during any season of the year. Therefore, let us consider the significance of the birth of Christ and what it means to us.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV) The name Immanuel signified that God would live among men and set up His kingdom. (Isaiah 9:6-7) Micah tells us that a ruler would be born in Bethlehem who would bless Israel and the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:2-5)

Jesus’ name signifies salvation from sin. (Matthew 1:18-21) John the Baptist acknowledged, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV) Jesus’ birth means that God was about to set up His kingdom as promised by the prophets. (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Daniel 2:44)

In Bethlehem, the world was presented with its Savior and Lord. His birth offers peace to those with whom God is pleased. (Luke 2:8-14 ESV) His birth would give light to the Gentiles and glory to Israel while resulting in the fall and rising of many in Israel. (Luke 2:25-35)

Christmas is significant to us because it made possible our salvation from the curse of sin. The birth of Jesus made Easter possible – with the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross – followed by His glorious resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God.

Consider our present culture’s materialistic approach to this celebration. Are we seeking to please God or the world during this Advent season? What should be our response to Jesus’ birth? Are you truly filled with the desire to worship Him in spirit and in truth?

Samuel at Gilgal

Is this Your Christmas Attitude?

John MacArthurJohn MacArthur:

This then is the supreme attitude of Christmas. This is the spirit of Christmas and it is the supreme time of worship for Christians as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. This time of all times is a time of worship. Worship…let me give you a brief definition…is an attitude. It is a spirit, something on the inside. It is an attitude of the heart that is so filled with wonder and gratitude at what God has done that there is not a thought of personal needs or personal blessings, only total abandonment to God in praise and adoration. That’s worship. It is the most selfless thing we do. It is, as the hymn writer puts it, to be lost in wonder, love and praise. It is to be so grateful and so filled with wonder at what the Lord has done that we lose ourselves in adoring worship, adoring praise. What better time for this than Christmas when we focus on the very giving of Christ who is our Savior …?

In fact, external, shallow observance of the birth of Christ is distasteful to God and most of what goes on at the Christmas season breaks His heart. Superficial worship finds no place of acceptance with Him.

This entire sermon may be read at Grace to You. . . .

A Savior Has Been Born to You

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)

Christmas is here at last! Has it met your expectations thus far? I think that we too often try to find the joy of Christmas under the Christmas tree. As hard as we search, however, it will not be found in pretty wrapping under the brightly colored lights.

Today is a day to celebrate with joy that Christ became a man that we may become like Him. Yet, He was God. He was the Ancient of Days. He created the universe full of stars and worlds; but He chose to be born a man of earth that He might live among men. He was eternal, but born by a woman – a virgin; He was almighty, but carried in His mother’s arms. Saint Augustine wrote:

Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise,
He is wisely speechless.
Filling the world,
He lies in a manger.
Ruler of the stars,
He nurses at his mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
And small in the form of a servant.

Therefore, let us consider this dependent human baby who needed to be fed and taught to walk like any other child. What if that birth had never happened? Since the birth of Jesus did happen, what has been the result? The Child of Bethlehem made possible a new way of understanding life and a new way of living it. Paul writes, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV) Here is the real Christmas gift for you this day; your life can be changed through Jesus Christ. For twenty centuries, millions of men and women have heard the message of Christ and have been intensely changed by their relationship with Him.

What God did at Christmas is of pure grace. All praise, glory, and honor are due Him. Jesus Christ our Lord came forth into the world to bring hope of a new life in Him. The exchanges of Christmas gifts on Christmas Day may be enjoyable, but let us never forget the greatest gift of all; Jesus Christ “came into the world to save sinners”!

Merry Christmas,

Samuel

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
(The words and lyrics of “Joy to the World” were written in 1719 by Isaac Watts.)

Samuel at Gilgal

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