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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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A Purpose for All Believers

Trusting GodJerry Bridges:

God has an over-arching purpose for all believers: to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29). He also has a specific purpose for each of us that is His unique, tailor-made plan for our individual life (see Ephesians 2:10). And God will fulfill that purpose. As Psalm 138:8 says, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me.” Because we know God is directing our lives to an ultimate end and because we know He is sovereignly able to orchestrate the events of our lives toward that end, we can trust Him. We can commit to Him not only the ultimate outcome of our lives, but also all the intermediate events and circumstances that will bring us to that outcome. (Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)

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God’s Kindness

Grace - KindnessOr do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:4-11 ESV)

Have you lived your life with little regard for the kindness of God? Most people probably do not give much thought to this aspect of God’s character. They take His blessings for granted. Yet, God’s kindness is shown to us in many ways throughout our lives.

The verses above speak of the riches of His kindness. What do these riches consist of? The Bible teaches us that God is rich in grace (Ephesians 1:7), in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), in supplying need (Philippians 4:19), in giving things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), and rich in the strength He provides to the Christian (Ephesians 3:16 & 21).

These verses also teach us about God’s forbearance and patience in holding back His day of wrath so many may repent. God’s Salvationkindness is meant to lead us to repentance; to turn us from sin to God. Eternal life will be given to those who by God’s kindness are led to repent and do good. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

However, many will despise God’s kindness and remain impenitent. For these there will be a day of wrath bringing tribulation and distress. Paul writes, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. . . . (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 ESV)

This is the outcome of those who do not properly respond to God’s kindness as manifested through the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no partiality with God. Those who do evil will be punished and those who do good will be blessed. “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22 ESV)

Allow the kindness of God to lead you to repentance by turning from selfishness, disobedience to the truth, and unrighteousness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV) As you go about your life this day, remember the kindness of God which He has so graciously given in order that you may be in Christ and Christ in you.

Samuel at Gilgal

What is Adoption?

Adoption is taking someone outside the natural family into the relationship of a son and heir. Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. We, who were strangers and aliens (Ephesians 2:12), God has taken and made sons and heirs with Christ Jesus. According to L.R. Shelton, Jr., God does three things in adoption:

(1) He gives us His name. He who is adopted bears the name of Him who adopts Him—“I will write upon him the name of my God” (Rev 3:12).

(2) He sanctifies us by His Spirit. When He adopts, He anoints; when He makes sons, He makes saints. When a man adopts another for his son and heir, he may put his name upon him, but he cannot put his disposition into him; if he be of a sullen, gloomy, sulky nature, he cannot alter it; but whom God adopts He sanctifies. He not only gives a new name, but a new nature. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). He infuses into us His Spirit of holiness. He turns the wolf into a lamb; He makes the heart humble and gracious; He works such a change as if another soul dwelt in the same body (2 Cor 5:17).

(3) Where the Holy Spirit enters, there is a cry: “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6). It is the Spirit of God that cries. Romans 8:15 tells us that it is our cry, but a cry prompted and inspired by the Holy Spirit because He is the Spirit of adoption. He anoints us in some manner so that we are able to pray aright. He puts His divine energy into us so that we cry, Abba, Father, in an acceptable manner. There are times when we cannot cry at all, and then He cries in us. There are seasons when doubts and fears abound, and so suffocate us with their fumes that we cannot even raise a cry, and then the indwelling Spirit represents us, crying in our name, and making intercession for us according to the will of God (Rom 8:26,27). Thus does the cry, “Abba, Father,” rise up in our hearts even when we feel as if we could not pray, and dare not think ourselves children. Then we may each say: “I live, yet not I, but the Spirit of Christ that dwelleth in me.” On the other hand, at times our soul gives such a sweet assent to the Spirit’s cry that it becomes ours also, but then we more than ever own the work of the Spirit, and still ascribe to Him the blessed cry, “Abba, Father.” It is literally the cry of the Son. God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, and that Spirit cries in us exactly according to the cry of the Son. (“Adoption”)

No Such Thing as Chance

Think about this: God could not be sovereign, if chance existed. God cannot be sovereign unless He is sovereign over all things. If God is not sovereign, He is not God.  A. A. Hodge weaves a discussion of “chance” into the following article on God’s providential care:

The providence of God over his rational creatures involves three elements: First, his working in the entire sphere of their environment, presenting external motives and influences, molding character and stimulating to action. Secondly, his working in their bodies and souls through the natural laws of their organizations, through the entire process of their growth. And thirdly, his immanent working within their will, whereby his directive energy becomes confluent with their own spontaneity, and “he turns the hearts of men as the rivers of water are turned,” and “works in us to will, and be willing to do, of his own good pleasure.”

The redeemed Christian is a child already at home in his Father’s house. All these beauties and all this abundant wealth belong to our Father, and are set apart for our use. All things whatsoever that come to pass, however dark and enigmatical, are expressions of our Father’s will, and are wisely designed to promote our welfare in the present and to secure it with infallible certainty in the great Hereafter. The word “chance” expresses simply a relation. An event happens by “chance” when the causes which produce it are so complex or so unusual as to be incapable of rational expectation by us. Hence, as far as God is concerned, there is absolutely no such thing as chance. As far as we are concerned, all events which lie beyond the reach of scientific prediction fall into the category of chance. But by faith we embrace the infinitely wise will of God and accept all events as the excellent will of our heavenly Father. Creation and providence are seen to be the preparatory work which culminates in redemption. We read all the means in the light of the glorious end, even in him. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV) “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

The Problem of Anger

Do you have a problem with anger? In my opinion, more and more people today seem to have difficulty with anger. We are becoming a people of very low “Emotional IQs”. Does “Reason” leave the room when you become angry? When people with low “Emotional IQs” become angry, the rational part of the mind seems to shut down and their anger becomes destructive. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly. . . .” (Proverbs 14:17 ESV)

Such people actually lose control of themselves. “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV) Most people have learned and are mature enough, fortunately, to keep their anger under control. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV) Here we see that a person can be angry without sin. Even Jesus became angry on some occasions toward the sinful disobedience of men. The anger of God the Father and Son is a righteous anger, but today – I’m writing about sinful anger – not righteous anger.

Whereas righteous anger is all about things of the Will, Honor, and Glory of God; sinful anger is really all about us, our inconvenience, our pride, and our will. So, what does the Bible say we are to do about sinful anger?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV) “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10 ESV) In verse after verse, it becomes obvious that this type of ongoing anger is incompatible with the Christian life. Note too that anger is put into a class which includes wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lies.

Unlike God the Father and Son, human beings are filled with the imperfections of sin. Our anger is often wrong and unnecessary because of false presumptions. We become angry over personal issues and yet remain silent when God is dishonored and sin is exalted.

However, man’s sinful inclinations can be transformed; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV) This does not mean that a Christian will now live a sin-free life, but it does mean that we are no longer compelled by sin as we were before we received grace.

Irrational anger may now be defeated! “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) Discipline the way you think. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV) For it is now possible to: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

The Christian life is all about the inner transformation that begins with salvation. As you consistently read and meditate on the Scriptures, praying to God for wisdom and understanding, the Holy Spirit will help you grow in holiness. Anger problems can be overcome – but the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Word of God and prayer. If you are not a consistent reader of God’s Book and do not attend church regularly, then you are not fulfilling your part in the process of sanctification. You must take an active part in renewing your mind through the Word of God.

And so, dear Christian, are you still often overcome by sinful anger? Continue then to renew your mind and keep a firm grip on God’s Holy Word. By this, “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. . . .” (Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV)

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?

Faith, Peace, and Joy

Faith can do what nothing else can; it gives us joy and peace. Faith is the key which opens the gates of heaven. How can there be an objection to this means of salvation which is established by the mercy and the wisdom of God? Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Even in common things faith of a certain sort lies at the root of all. I wonder whether I shall be wrong if I say that we never do anything except through faith of some sort. If I walk across my study it is because I believe my legs will carry me. A man eats because he believes in the necessity of food; he goes to business because he believes in the value of money; he accepts a cheque because he believes that the bank will honor it. Columbus discovered America because he believed that there was another continent beyond the ocean; and the Pilgrim Fathers colonized it because they believed that God would be with them on those rocky shores. Most grand deeds have been born of faith; for good or for evil, faith works wonders by the man in whom it dwells. Faith in its natural form is an all-prevailing force, which enters into all manner of human actions. Possibly he who derides faith in God is the man who in an evil form has the most of faith; indeed, he usually falls into a credulity which would be ridiculous, if it were not disgraceful. God gives salvation to faith, because by creating faith in us He thus touches the real mainspring of our emotions and actions. He has, so to speak, taken possession of the battery and now He can send the sacred current to every part of our nature. When we believe in Christ, and the heart has come into the possession of God, then we are saved from sin, and are moved toward repentance, holiness, zeal, prayer, consecration, and every other gracious thing. “What oil is to the wheels, what weights are to a clock, what wings are to a bird, what sails are to a ship, that faith is to all holy duties and services.” Have faith, and all other graces will follow and continue to hold their course.

Faith, again, has the power of working by love; it influences the affections toward God, and draws the heart after the best things. He that believes in God will beyond all question love God. Faith is an act of the understanding; but it also proceeds from the heart. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness”; and hence God gives salvation to faith because it resides next door to the affections, and is near akin to love; and love is the parent and the nurse of every holy feeling and act. Love to God is obedience, love to God is holiness. To love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ; and this is salvation.

Moreover, faith creates peace and joy; he that hath it rests, and is tranquil, is glad and joyous, and this is a preparation for heaven. God gives all heavenly gifts to faith, for this reason among others, that faith worketh in us the life and spirit which are to be eternally manifested in the upper and better world. Faith furnishes us with armor for this life, and education for the life to come. It enables a man both to live and to die without fear; it prepares both for action and for suffering; and hence the Lord selects it as a most convenient medium for conveying grace to us, and thereby securing us for glory. (All of Grace)

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