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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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THE DEVIL AT CHURCH

J. C. Ryle:

“The seed is the Word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:11-12)

Bishop J. C. RyleThe devil, that malicious spirit, is unwearied in his efforts to do us harm. He is ever watching for our halting, and seeking occasion to destroy our souls. But nowhere perhaps is the devil so active as in a congregation of Gospel hearers. Nowhere does he labor so hard to stop the progress of that which is good, and to prevent men and women being saved.

From him come: wandering thoughts; roving imaginations; listless minds; dull memories; sleepy eyes; fidgety nerves; weary ears; and distracted attention. In all these things Satan has a great hand. People wonder where they come from, and marvel how it is that they find sermons so dull, and remember them so badly!

They forget the parable of the sower. They forget the devil. Let us take heed that we are not wayside hearers. Let us beware of the devil. We shall always find him at Church! He never stays away from public ordinances. Let us remember this, and be upon our guard. (“The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

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Escaping Sinful Thoughts

Christ laid down His life for us even though we did not believe in Him, nor were able to believe in Him. He died for us, not as believers, but as sinners. Christ died to make sinners into saints while we were utterly without strength. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 ESV)

I have heard another [man] say, “I am tormented with horrible thoughts. Wherever I go, blasphemies steal in upon me. Frequently at my work a dreadful suggestion forces itself upon me, and even on my bed I am startled from my sleep by whispers of the evil one. I cannot get away from this horrible temptation.” Friend, I know what you mean, for I have myself been hunted by this wolf. A man might as well hope to fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his own thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted soul, assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveller I have read of, about whose head and ears and whole body there came a swarm of angry bees. He could not keep them off nor escape from them. They stung him everywhere and threatened to be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you are without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts which Satan pours into your soul; but yet I would remind you of the Scripture before us—“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Jesus knew where we were and where we should be; He saw that we could not overcome the prince of the power of the air; He knew that we should be greatly worried by him; but even then, when He saw us in that condition, Christ died for the ungodly.

Cast the anchor of your faith upon this. The devil himself cannot tell you that you are not ungodly; believe, then, that Jesus died even for such as you are. Remember Martin Luther’s way of cutting the devil’s head off with his own sword. “Oh,” said the devil to Martin Luther, “you are a sinner.” “Yes,” said he, “Christ died to save sinners.” Thus he smote him with his own sword. Hide you in this refuge, and keep there: “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” If you stand to that truth, your blasphemous thoughts which you have not the strength to drive away will go away of themselves; for Satan will see that he is answering no purpose by plaguing you with them.

These thoughts, if you hate them, are none of yours, but are injections of the Devil, for which he is responsible, and not you. If you strive against them, they are no more yours than are the cursings and falsehoods of rioters in the street. It is by means of these thoughts that the Devil would drive you to despair, or at least keep you from trusting Jesus. The poor diseased woman could not come to Jesus for the press, and you are in much the same condition, because of the rush and throng of these dreadful thoughts. Still, she put forth her finger, and touched the fringe of the Lord’s garment, and she was healed. Do you the same.

Jesus died for those who are guilty of “all manner of sin and blasphemy,” and therefore I am sure He will not refuse those who are unwillingly the captives of evil thoughts. Cast yourself upon Him, thoughts and all, and see if He be not mighty to save. He can still those horrible whisperings of the fiend, or He can enable you to see them in their true light, so that you may not be worried by them. In His own way He can and will save you, and at length give you perfect peace. Only trust Him for this and everything else. (All of Grace)

The Power of God

[A]nd what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23 ESV)

We see in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians a desire that they increase their understanding on: “the hope of His calling” – “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” and “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe”

Let us think about the last item above and try to discover what kind of power Paul is writing about and how this power may be seen in the lives of Christians. Reflect on this; the nature of God’s power in believers is the same that worked in Christ. 

This power was seen when Jesus was raised from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20) and we see this power again when God seated Jesus at his right hand in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 1:20) We also see it when God puts all things under the feet of Jesus. (Ephesians 1:21-23)

Meditate on this; God’s power gave life to His crucified Son and raised Him to the highest position in the universe. As Christians, how have we seen such power in our own lives?

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

These verses tell us that we were once dead in our trespasses and sins. We lived our lives in the way of the world and were servants to Satan. We only cared to live according to the passions of our flesh and the desires of our bodies and minds. We deserved only wrath and even though we were dead in our sins, God gave us life according to the power of His grace through Jesus Christ.

Through God’s power He has saved us and raised us up to be seated with Him in His Kingdom. We are sitting with Christ at God’s right hand and are being strengthened by God’s power. (Ephesians 3:16) His power is evident in us when the fruit of the spirit is displayed in our lives. His power gave us a new birth by which we were transformed into a new life as the children of God. Therefore, what Christian – who is indeed a Christian – can say that he has never experienced the power of God in his life?

Bow Before the Truth

The Bible bears witness to the fact that the natural man is spiritually dead. He walks in the way of worldliness and has no real love for God or the things of God. He has no fear of God. Self is the center of his life. He is alive to the things of the world, but he is dead to heavenly things. A.W. Pink writes:

“I am the way.” Christ spans the distance between God and the sinner. Man would fain manufacture a ladder of his own, and . . . climb up to God. But that is impossible. That is the way which seems right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Prov. 14:12). It is Satan who would keep the exercised sinner on his self-imposed journey to God. What faith needs to lay hold of is the glorious truth that Christ has come all the way down to sinners. The sinner could not come to God, but God in the person of His Son has come out to sinners. He is the Way, the Way to Heaven, the Way to eternal blessedness.

“I am the truth.” Christ is the full and final revelation of God. Adam believed the Devil’s lie, and ever since then man has been groping amid ignorance and error. “The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). “Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18). A thousand systems has the mind devised. . . “There is none that understandeth” (Rom. 3:11). . . Truth is not to be found in a system of philosophy, but in a Person–Christ is “the truth;” He reveals God and exposes man. In Him are hid “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). What tremendous folly to ignore Him! . . . . with all your learning have you bowed before Him who is the Truth?” (“I am the Way, Truth, Life”)

The Loss Of Heaven

Richard Baxter

Quoting English Puritan preacher, minister and author Richard Baxter (1615-1691):

“A hard heart now makes heaven and hell seem but trifles. We have showed them everlasting glory and misery, and they are as men asleep; our words are as stones cast against a wall, which fly back in our faces. We talk of terrible things, but it is to dead men; we search the wounds, but they never feel it; we speak to rocks rather than to men; the earth will as soon tremble as they. But when these dead souls are revived, what passionate sensibility, what working affections, what pangs of horror, what depths of sorrow will there then be! How violently will they denounce and reproach themselves! How will they rage against their former madness! The lamentations of the most affectionate wife for the loss of her husband, or of the tenderest mother for the loss of her children, will be nothing to theirs for the loss of heaven.” (From: “Lamentations of the Lost,” excerpt from The Saint’s Everlasting Rest)

Afraid Of The Devil?

Quoting Richard Baxter:

Consider that if the devil should appear to thee, yea, and carry thee to the top of a mountain, or the pinnacle of the temple, and talk to thee with blasphemous temptations, it would be no other than what thy Lord himself submitted to. . . .

Remember that if God should permit him to appear to thee, it might turn to thy very great advantage; by killing all thy unbelief, or doubts, of angels, and spirits, and the unseen world. It would sensibly prove to thee that there is indeed an unhappy race of spirits, who envy man and seek his ruin; and so would more convince thee of the evil of sin, the danger of souls, the need of godliness, and the truth of Christianity. And it is like this is one cause why the devil no more appeareth in the world, not only because it is contrary to the ordinary government of God, who will have us live by faith and not by sight; but also because the devil knoweth how much it would do to destroy his kingdom, by destroying infidelity, atheism, and security, and awakening men to faith, and fear, and godliness. The fowler or the angler must not come in sight, lest he spoil his game by frightening it away.

Richard Baxter: Remember That Christ Has Conquered Satan!

Have you ever had a troubling moment when you felt the presence of evil as a living supernatural, yet unseen, being? At such times your fears may be real or imaginary but evil exists and there are devils or demons under the command of a “being” named Lucifer in the spiritual world that surrounds us. Often, however, we give the Devil more attention than is due him. Richard Baxter reminds us of this by providing Christians with advice concerning the fear of Satan:

Remember that the devil is chained up and wholly at the will and beck of God. He could not touch Job, or an ox, or an ass of his, till he had permission from God, Job 1. He cannot appear to thee nor hurt thee unless God give him leave.

Labor therefore to make sure of the love of God, and then thou art safe; then thou hast God, his love and promise, always to set against the devil.

Remember that Christ hath conquered the devil in his temptations, on the cross, by his resurrection and ascension. He “destroyed through death him that had the power of death, even the devil, that he might deliver them who through fear of death were their entire lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb. 2:14-15. The prince of this world is conquered and cast out by him, and wilt thou fear a conquered foe?

Remember that thou art already delivered from his power and dominion, if thou be renewed by the Spirit of God. And therefore let his own be afraid of him, that are under his power, and not the free-men and redeemed ones of Christ. God hath delivered thee in the day that he converted thee, from a thousand-fold greater calamity than the seeing of the devil would be; and having been saved from his greatest malice, you should not over-fear the less.

Remember what an injury it is to God and to Christ that conquered him, to fear the devil, while God is your protector (any otherwise than as the instrument of God’s displeasure): it seems as much as to say, I fear lest the devil be too hard for God; or lest God cannot deliver me from him.

Remember how you honor the devil by fearing him, and pleasure him by thus honoring him. And will you not abhor to honor and please such an enemy of God and you? This is it that he would have; to be feared instead of God. He glories in it as part of his dominion: as tyrants rejoice to see men fear them, as those that can destroy them when they will, so the devil triumphs in your fears as his honor. When God reprehended the idolatry of the Israelites, it is as they feared their idols of wood and stone. To fear them, showed that they took them for their gods, 2 Kings 17:38-39; Dan. 6:26.

Consider that it is a folly to be inordinately fearful of that which never did befall thee, and never befalleth one of many hundred thousand men: I mean any terrible appearance of the devil. Thou never sawest him; nor hearest credibly of but very few in an age that see him (besides witches). This fear therefore is irrational, the danger being utterly improbable.

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