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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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Knowing Truth

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. (1 Kings 12:25-31 ESV)

I believe God put stories in the Bible for a purpose. One interesting story is about how Jeroboam sinned by changing how God was to be worshiped. Jeroboam changed the place of worship, the qualifications for priests, the date of the feast, and so forth. He was guided by his heart in these decisions.

Eventually, Jeroboam believed he should be a priest and planned to offer incense on his new altar at Bethel. Through this bit of Bible history, we learn about the destructive nature of a lie.

Too many people today need to understand that believing a thing to be true, does not make it true. If you were told that one church is just as good as another and you believed it, does that make it true? A good church is one that obeys and teaches God’s Word. Our emotions and desires for various activities and programs should never outweigh the pure teaching of God’s Word and obedience to it.

A thing cannot be judged as absolutely true of God by the simple word of your fellow creature. Believing a lie has terrible consequences. We must learn that no matter how high an I.Q. we may boast of, we can still be deceived. We must always test what is said by God’s Word.

If you wish to be godly-wise, you must read and study the Bible for yourself. Never misuse or misapply the word. There are all kinds of lies being preached and followed today. If we do not develop a love for God’s truth, we will listen to the lies of mere men and forsake the God of the Scriptures. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6 ESV) Jesus is the “way” to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is also truth. What better source can you find than the Author of all truth? Jesus is life because His life purchased “rebirth” and access to “eternal life” for God’s elect. Let us pray and discipline ourselves to love God’s truth. It is the persevering and consistent Bible student who is equipped to discern the truth from a lie.

Why I Believe in God: Part One

Dr. Cornelius Van Til was professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia for 43 years. He was graduated from Calvin College (A.B., 1922), Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.B., 1924; Th.M., 1925) and Princeton University (Ph.D. 1927). He served as the pastor of the Christian Reformed Church in Spring Lake, MI, 1927-28. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from 1936 until his death. He is perhaps best known for the development of a fresh approach to the task of defending the Christian faith which we will sample here:

You have noticed, haven’t you, that in recent times certain scientists like Dr. James Jeans and Sir Arthur Eddington, as well as some outstanding philosophers like Dr. C.E.M. Joad, have had a good deal to say about religion and God? Scientists Jeans and Eddington are ready to admit that there may be something to the claims of men who say they have had an experience of God, while Philosopher Joad says that the “obtrusiveness of evil” has virtually compelled him to look into the argument for God’s existence afresh. Much like modernist theologian Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr who talks about original sin, Philosopher Joad speaks about evil as being ineradicable from the human mind.

Then, too, you have on occasion asked yourself whether death ends all. You have recalled, perhaps, how Socrates the great Greek philosopher, struggled with that problem the day before he drank the hemlock cup. Is there anything at all, you ask yourself, to the idea of a judgment after death? Am I quite sure, you say, that there is not? How do I know that there is no God?

In short, as a person of intelligence, having a sense of responsibility, you have from time to time asked yourself some questions about the foundation of your thought and action. You have looked into, or at least been concerned about, what the philosophers call your theory of reality. So when I suggest that you spend a Sunday afternoon with me discussing my reasons for believing in God, I have the feeling that you are basically interested in what I am proposing for discussion.

To make our conversation more interesting, let’s start by comparing notes on our past. That will fit in well with our plan, for the debate concerning heredity and environment is prominent in our day. Perhaps you think that the only real reason I have for believing in God is the fact that I was taught to do so in my early days. Of course I don’t think that is really so. I don’t deny that I was taught to believe in God when I was a child, but I do affirm that since I have grown up I have heard a pretty full statement of the argument against belief in God. And it is after having heard that argument that I am more than ever ready to believe in God. Now, in fact, I feel that the whole of history and civilization would be unintelligible to me if it were not for my belief in God. So true is this that I propose to argue that unless God is back of everything, you cannot find meaning in anything. I cannot even argue for belief in Him, without already having taken Him for granted. And similarly I contend that you cannot argue against belief in Him unless you also first take Him for granted. Arguing about God’s existence, I hold, is like arguing about air. You may affirm that air exists, and I that it does not. But as we debate the point, we are both breathing air all the time. Or to use another illustration, God is like the emplacement on which must stand the very guns that are supposed to shoot Him out of existence. However if, after hearing my story briefly, you still think it is all a matter of heredity and environment, I shall not disagree too violently. My whole point will be that there is perfect harmony between my belief as a child and my belief as a man, simply because God is Himself the environment by which my early life was directed and my later life made intelligible to myself.

To be continued tomorrow. . . .

Useful Servants In The House Of God

From Charles H. Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening:

He did it with all his heart and prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:21)

This is no unusual occurrence; it is the general rule of the moral universe that those men prosper who do their work with all their hearts, while those are almost certain to fail who go to their labor leaving half their hearts behind them. God does not give harvests to idle men except harvests of thistles, nor is He pleased to send wealth to those who will not dig in the field to find its hid treasure. It is universally confessed that if a man would prosper, he must be diligent in business. It is the same in religion as it is in other things. If you would prosper in your work for Jesus, let it be heart work, and let it be done with all your heart. Put as much force, energy, heartiness, and earnestness into religion as ever you do into business, for it deserves far more. The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities, but He does not encourage our idleness; He loves active believers. Who are the most useful men in the Christian church? The men who do what they undertake for God with all their hearts. Who are the most successful Sabbath-school teachers? The most talented? No; the most zealous; the men whose hearts are on fire, those are the men who see their Lord riding forth prosperously in the majesty of His salvation. Whole-heartedness shows itself in perseverance; there may be failure at first, but the earnest worker will say, “It is the Lord’s work, and it must be done; my Lord has bidden me do it, and in His strength I will accomplish it.” Christian, art thou thus “with all thine heart” serving thy Master? Remember the earnestness of Jesus! Think what heart-work was His! He could say, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.” When He sweat great drops of blood, it was no light burden He had to carry upon those blessed shoulders; and when He poured out His heart, it was no weak effort He was making for the salvation of His people. Was Jesus in earnest, and are we lukewarm?

Assurance

Quoting John Newton:

“Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord’s power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance; for even assurance has degrees.”

The Good Pastor

I have no doubt that it is much easier to write about what a good pastor should be than it is to live up to the expectations. I almost attended seminary once about 25 years ago. I believed that God was creating the providential circumstances to encourage me to become a preacher/pastor. People told me that they believed they were really learning the Bible when I filled the pulpit for an absent pastor or taught an adult Sunday School class. The seminary even offered me a 75% scholarship and a part-time job working in the education department if I would attend their school. As all this was coming together, the Lord made it clear to me one day that I was not pastor material. You see, I could teach a lesson or preach a sermon, but I did not have in my nature the social skills that a pastor must possess to demonstrate how much he personally cares for and loves the members of his congregation. My ability, by God’s grace, to teach or preach and my good listening and counseling skills were simply not enough to serve God in the capacity of a pastor over a church. I began to understand that my “calling” was to be a Bible teacher working with adult classes or small groups. This was the way for me to develop personal relationships in which I could also grow in Christ.

So, when I look for a good pastor – just what am I expecting to see? You cannot give a good pastor too much credit. A pastor is a man with many tasks set before him; however, his primary task is the preaching of the Gospel. God uses him to build the church and to assist in converting sinners. The pastor is to expound and explain the truths found in the Scriptures (including doctrines) and to guide men to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. A true pastor is a man of mercy from a God Who loves us.

The Bible must be preached to the mind and heart. It must be understood as well as felt. A pastor must understand his congregation’s intellectual ability. He should know that many of his flock are weighed down with the troubles of life. All must be considered if his preaching is to be successful. All men and women want to hear preaching that will warm their hearts with the love of Christ; to be encouraged as they face their troubles; and to be armored against temptations. It is a grand mistake to preach exclusively for intellectuals or the illiterate. The object of preaching is to focus attention on the subject of the preaching; not the pastor, but Jesus Christ our Savior.

The pastor in the pulpit should not come across as a cold fish. His preaching should make the congregation feel the power of God’s Truth. The preacher must devote time to discovering the true meaning of his selected text. He must be zealous to show forth the burning truths that he has learned in his studies. The pastor must cultivate his thought and speech to the utmost, but it must all be for the glory of God.

A good pastor will read much, meditate on God’s Word and pray much for God to bless his preaching and his congregation. He will do his best every time he preaches to exalt Christ and save men’s souls. After all, he is preaching to dying men. Who knows if someone is listening to the last sermon he will ever hear! The pastor must take into account all the sudden sicknesses and accidents that may occur to prevent members from attending church again. With that in mind, his congregation must witness the love of Christ in their pastor’s conduct.

The great value of a man’s immortal soul should motivate all Christians to passion and faithfulness; especially the pastor. The salvation of one soul merits the focused attention of your life, strength, and your most faithful labors. The pastor will one day have to give an account for the souls that have been under his ministry. The author of Hebrews reminds us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

In conclusion, I recognize that there are many more duties a Pastor performs than what has been mentioned here; but pastors I admonish you before Jesus Christ to remember that you are called to preach the truth of God. You are to preach the whole truth even if it is unpopular in your age. Your message must be absolute Bible truth. Don’t wander into the assertions of popular magazines, the trends that are in, or copying other churches because they are popular and have big crowds. If you are faithful in preaching God’s Word and ministering to your congregation, the Holy Spirit will build a Christian Church.

Truth

Our modern Christians want little to do with controversy and I dare say they are likely to shun martyrdom as well. It is certain that such a weak Christianity will never fight for truth until Christians have the nerve to die for it. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) explains below:

It is the primary claim of Christianity that it is “the truth.” Jesus Christ, its founder, calls himself significantly “the truth” (John xiv. 6), and sums up his mission in the world as a constant witness-bearing to “the truth” (John xviii. 37). It is accordingly as “the truth” that the gospel offers itself to men; and it seeks to propagate itself in the world only as “truth,” and therefore only by those methods by which “truth” makes its way. Not the sword but the word is Christianity’s weapon of defense and instrument of conquest. “Cut me off that old man’s head” was Caliph Omar’s answer to the arguments with which the aged Christian priest met him as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem: and in this scene we have revealed the contrast between Christianity and all other religions. “That old man,” says Dr. James MacGregor, “with no shield but faith, no sword but the word, setting himself alone to stem the then raging lava-torrent of fanaticism, with its brutish alternative of the Koran or death, is typical of the fact that Christianity is an apologetic religion.” Confident that it is the only reasonable religion, it comes forward as pre-eminently the reasoning religion. The task it has set itself is no less than to reason the world into acceptance of the “truth.”

If the world were only as eager to receive the truth as the truth is to win the world, the function of Christian men might well be summed up in the one word, proclamation. But the typical responses of the world to the proclaimed truth are the cynical sneer of Pilate, “What is truth?” and the brutal commend of Omar, “Cut me off that old man’s head!” So, proclamation must needs pass into asseveration, and asseveration into contention, that the truth may abide in the world. “Bear witness to the truth”; “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”: these are the twin exhortations by which every Christian man’s duty is declared for him. How early did the Christian proclamation produce its double fruitage of martyrdom and controversy! The old Greek word “martyr,” “witness” soon took on a specific Christian meaning, and became more and more confined to those who had sealed their testimony with their blood; and everywhere the irritated world complained of these persistent reasoners that they were turning the world upside down. (“Christianity: The Truth”)

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.”

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