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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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Martin Luther: We Have A Great Confidence And Refuge In God Through Christ

People are sometimes presumptuous and disrespectful of God when they put themselves, too easily, forward in lightheartedness or pride as a Christian. Martin Luther believed that Christians should be serious about their relationship with Christ and approach the subject with more humility:

Those who only cry: “Christ is my brother! Christ is my brother!” are not true Christians. A Christian acts quite differently, and it is very wonderful, so that the flesh shudders at it and dares indeed neither speak of it nor confess it.

We should bestir ourselves to hear this, not only with the natural ear, but also to experience it in our hearts, for then we would not be so forward and impudent, but would be surprised and amazed over it. True and godly Christians go along in life in contempt of themselves and in fear; they think thus: Ah, shall I, a poor, miserable person, who am steeped in sin, be now so exalted that God’s Son becomes my brother? Ay, how is it that I, a miserable poor creature, am thus honored? I am at once confounded before it and feed upon it; for it truly requires a great effort to believe it; yea, when one experiences it thus, how it is in truth, he must from that hour die; for man, since he is flesh and blood, cannot understand it. Here in this life man’s heart is in too great straits to lay hold of it; but after death, when the heart becomes larger and broader, we experience what we have heard through the Word.

In the Gospel of John, Christ tells Mary Magdalene of the benefit and use of his death and resurrection still more plainly, when he says: “But go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” Jn 20,17. This is one of the great and comforting passages upon which we can venture, and of which we dare boast. As if Christ had said: Go hence, Mary, and say to my disciples who have deserted me on the field of battle, and who have well merited punishment and eternal condemnation, that my resurrection has taken place for their benefit; that is, by my resurrection I have brought it to pass that my Father is their Father, and my God is their God. These are few words and very short; but they contain a great thought, namely, that we have as great a confidence and refuge in God as Christ his Son himself has. Who can grasp such exceeding joy, unless one speaks of himself when he says a poor, corrupt sinner can and may call God his Father and his God, just like Christ himself does? (“The Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection”)

The Hardened Heart

R. C. Sproul

Quoting R. C. Sproul:

All that God has to do to harden people’s hearts is to remove the restraints. He gives them a longer leash. Rather than restricting their human freedom, He increases it. He lets them have their own way . . . It is not that God puts His hand on them to create fresh evil in their hearts; He merely removes His holy hand of restraint from them and lets them do their own will. (Sproul, Chosen By God, 145)

Christ And The Truth

Pontius Pilot and Jesus

When you look at the cross and see a man stripped naked, beaten, facing an ignominious death, people mocking Him and spitting upon Him, do you wonder about the truth of His claims? Do you wonder about the truth of His promises? Are you left wondering, like Pontius Pilot, in our culture of relativism, “What is truth?” Gavin Beers writes an insightful sermon concerning these questions in the excerpt below:

This evening can I take you to an eastern outpost of the Roman Empire. The scene is a trial and Pontius Pilot is under severe pressure. A great congregation of Jews has gathered and they are very angry. He feels that he must appease them because they are baying for the blood of Jesus. Pilot’s problem is that he can’t find any fault with this man, although at the same time, he cannot understand the claims that this man makes. “My kingdom is not of this world”, he says. Pilot then asks Him, “Are you declaring yourself a king?” Jesus replies, “No, you are saying that. I am come to bear testimony to the truth. Those that hear me are of the truth”. Pilot is challenged with this, he is confused and under pressure, and he is beginning to get angry. To our Lord Jesus Christ he replies, “What is truth?”

Earlier in the Gospel of John we discover that the Lord Jesus Christ has already answered this question (John 14, 6). The question on this occasion was posed by Thomas – Thomas is doubting again – and Jesus says that He is going unto the Father. Thomas is panicking and saying, “But how do we know where you are going? How do we know the way?” Jesus reassures him and says to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14, 6). Pilot asks, “What is truth?” Jesus answers the question: “I am the truth”.

Pontius Pilot is a very fitting picture of our age: he’s confused about the truth. When the truth was before him, Pilot sanctioned His death. Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. But friends, the truth can never die. On the third day He rose again according to the scriptures, victorious over death and now to triumph in His gospel. In a world full of Roman’s like Pilot who were unsure about the truth, in a world full of Greeks who are continuing their elusive search for wisdom and truth, Christ is preached, and the known world we are told in the Acts of the apostle, is turned upside down. We might say it’s the right side up.

What we need to see this evening is that there has always been a conflict between truth and error. But throughout that continual conflict, our Lord Jesus Christ has always been winning, every day and all of the day; even when it doesn’t appear to you and me that He is winning, be sure of it, He is winning. (“Christ the Truth”, John ch.14 v.6)

The Need For Thirst

J. C. Ryle

Light was the first thing God called into being in the material creation. Light from the Holy Spirit about our own state is the first work in the new creation. If you have a thirsting soul, you should be thanking God, because the kingdom of God is near you. Bishop J.C. Ryle explains this from John 7:

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)

Bodily thirst is notoriously the most painful sensation to which the frame of mortal man is liable. Read the story of the miserable sufferers in the black hole at Calcutta.-Ask any one who has traveled over desert plains under a tropical sun. Hear what any old soldier will tell you is the chief want of the wounded on a battle field. Remember what the survivors of the crews of ships lost in mid-ocean, like the Cospatrick, went through. Mark the awful words of the rich man in the parable: “Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke xvi. 24.) The testimony is unvarying. There is nothing so terrible and hard to bear as thirst.

But if bodily thirst is so painful, how much more painful is thirst of soul! Physical suffering is not the worst part of eternal punishment. It is a light thing, even in this world, compared to the suffering of the mind and inward man. To see the value of our souls, and find out they are in danger of eternal ruin, to feel the burden of unforgiven sin, and not to know where to turn for relief,-to have a conscience sick and ill at ease, and to be ignorant of the remedy,-to discover that we are dying, dying daily, and yet unprepared to meet God,-to have some clear view of our own guilt and wickedness, and yet to be in utter darkness about absolution, this is the highest degree of pain,-the pain which drinks up soul and spirit, and pierces joints and marrow! And this no doubt is the thirst of which our Lord is speaking. It is thirst after pardon, forgiveness, absolution, and peace with God. It is the craving of a really awakened conscience, wanting satisfaction and not knowing where to find it, walking through dry places, and unable to get rest. . . .

Living as we do in a dying world, knowing, as we must do, if we will confess it, that there is a world beyond the grave, and that after death comes the judgment, feeling, as we must do in our better moments, what poor, weak, unstable, defective creatures we all are, and how unfit to meet God, conscious as we must be in our inmost heart of hearts, that on our use of time depends our place in eternity, we ought to feel and to realize something like “thirst” for a sense of peace with our living God. But alas, nothing proves so conclusively the fallen nature of man as the general, common want of spiritual appetite. For money, for power, for pleasure, for rank, for honor, for distinction, for all these the vast majority are now intensely thirsting. . . . But few indeed, by comparison, are those who thirst after eternal life. No wonder that the natural man is called in Scripture “dead,” and “sleeping,” and “blind,” and “deaf.” No wonder that he is said to need a second birth and a new creation. There is no surer symptom of mortification in the body than insensibility. There is no more painful sign of an unhealthy state of soul than an utter absence of spiritual thirst. (Sermon: “If Any Man!”)

Is Believing A Lie As Valid As Believing The Truth?

37 “I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18)

Can you be a Christian and hold to the politically correct view that truth is a matter of personal opinion? Charles H. Spurgeon wrote that “The glorious charity of the present day is such, that it believes lies to be as good as truth; and lies and truth have met together and kissed each other; and he that telleth truth is called a bigot, and truth has ceased to be honorable in the world!”

It is important for Christians to protect themselves in this culture where truth is relative and words have no meaning. We must carefully research those ideas which are brought into the church in the name of tolerance. These concepts are often presented in vague and unclear language. Scripture, on the other hand, consistently makes definitive statements about good and evil; truth and lies. It is becoming more difficult for Christians to know when they are being taught false doctrine. This is why it is so extremely important for Christians to study the truth of Scriptures.

Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24) Later, Jesus states in John 8:31-32 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Only absolute truth will guide you to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) This excludes personal opinion as the final arbiter of truth.

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