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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 HEALTHY CHURCH

Samuel A CainSo then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV)

What makes a healthy church? Many people have ideas about this, but are they Biblical? Luke writes this about the early church:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 ESV)

These are healthy examples, but isn’t there more? The members of the church should be growing in holiness. (Hebrews 12:14 ESV) Evangelism must be a priority. (Mark 16:15 ESV) The emphasis of the church must be on Christ – not on the building or numbers. (Philippians 3:8-10 ESV) Continue reading

MIND WHAT YOU HEAR

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Hear the Gospel, only mind that what you hear is the Gospel. You can hear some very smart sermons and very clever sermons and, as a rule, I may say that the cleverer they are, the worse they are! Where you see so much of the man, you will see very little of His Master.” (1893, Sermon #2327)

Jesus Did Not Use Worldly Power

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles Haddon Spurgeon:

[Jesus] He did not use that form of power which is peculiar to the world even for unselfish purposes. I can conceive a man even apart from the Spirit of God rising superior to riches, and desiring only the promotion of some great principle which has possessed his heart; but you will usually notice that when men have done so, they have been ready to promote good by evil, or at least they have judged that great principles might be pushed on by force of arms, or bribes, or policy. Mahomet had grasped a grand truth when he said, “There is no God but God.” The unity of the godhead is a truth of the utmost value; but then here comes the means to be used for the propagation of this grand truth, — the scimitar. “Off with the infidels’ heads! If they have false gods, or will not own the unity of the godhead, they are not fit to live.

Can you imagine our Lord Jesus Christ doing this? Why then the world would have conquered him. But he conquered the world in that he would not employ in the slightest degree this form of power. He might have gathered a troop about him, and his heroic example, together with his miraculous power, must soon have swept away the Roman empire, and converted the Jew; and then across Europe and Asia and Africa his victorious legions might have gone trampling down all manner of evil, and with the cross for his banner and the sword for his weapon, the idols would have fallen, and the whole world must have been made to bow at his feet. But no, when Peter takes out the sword, he says, “Put up thy sword into its sheath, they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Well did he say, “My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight.”

And he might if he had pleased have allied his church with the state, as his mistaken friends have done in these degenerate times, and then there might have been penal laws against those who dared dissent, and there might have been forced contributions for the support of his church and such like things. You have read, I dare say, of such things being done, but not in the Gospels, nor in the Acts of the Apostles. These things are done by those who forget the Christ of God, for he uses no instrument but love, no sword but the truth, no power but the Eternal Spirit, and, in the very fact that he put all the worldly forces aside, he overcame the world. (Sermon: “Christ, The Overcomer Of The World,” delivered December 3, 1876)

Thinking of Ourselves

thinking capRobert Kellemen:

Sometimes Christians assume that we should never think of ourselves. That is not what Paul teaches in Romans or Philippians. In Romans 12:3, he tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but rather with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given each of us. Paul is teaching us to ground our sense of self in our identity in Christ—who we are in and to Christ. Paul does not highlight self-image or self-esteem; he emphasizes our Christ-image and Christ-esteem. (The Gospel for Real Life)

Christian Boldness

Bishop J. C. RyleThe truth is, that many believers today are afraid of being criticized and have lost boldness in their faith. They have become victims of secular and religious wet blankets who object to anything that might be considered as Christian fire. According to J. C. Ryle:

“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)

Where is your zeal for the glory of God? Where is your zeal for extending Christ’s Gospel through an evil world? Zeal, which was the characteristic of the Lord Jesus—zeal, which is the characteristic of the angels—zeal, which shines forth in all the brightest Christians; where is your zeal, unconverted reader—where is your zeal indeed? You know well it is nowhere at all. You know well you see no beauty in it. You know well it is scorned and cast out as evil by you and your companions. You know well it has no place, no portion, and no standing ground, in the religion of your soul. It is not that you know not what it is to be zealous. You have zeal—but it is all misapplied. It is all earthly. It is all about the things of time. It is not zeal for the glory of God. It is not zeal for the salvation of souls. Yes! many a man has zeal for the newspaper—but not for the Bible—zeal for the daily reading of the “Times,” but no zeal for the daily reading of God’s blessed Word. . . .

Reader, if this is your case, awake; I do beseech you, to see your gross folly. You cannot live forever. You are not ready to die. You are utterly unfit for the company of saints and angels. Awake! Be zealous and repent. Awake to see the harm you are doing. You are putting arguments in the hands of infidels by your shameful coldness. You are pulling down as fast as ministers build. You are helping the devil. Awake! Be zealous, and repent. Awake to see your childish inconsistency. What can be more worthy of zeal than eternal things—than the glory of God—than the salvation of souls? Surely if it is good to labor for rewards that are temporal, it is a thousand times better to labor for those that are eternal. Awake! Be zealous, and repent. Go and read that long-neglected Bible. Take up that blessed Book, which you have, and perhaps never use. Read that New Testament through. Do you find nothing there to make you zealous, to make you earnest about your soul? Go and look at the cross of Christ. Go and see how the Son of God there shed His precious blood for you—how He suffered and groaned, and died for you. How He poured out His soul as an offering for sin, in order that you, sinful brother or sister, might not perish—but have eternal life. Go and look at the cross of Christ, and never rest until you feel some zeal for your own soul—some zeal for the glory of God—some zeal for extension of the Gospel throughout the world. (Be Zealous)

The Cross is the Strength of the Minister

The cross is the secret of the churches’ success. Nothing but the cross has ever moved the hearts of pagan men. When the cross is lifted up the church has prospered. This is the weapon which has won victories over the hearts of mankind. Bishop J. C. Ryle writes:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

The cross is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts, forms and ceremonies, rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Savior. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone. Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man, who teaches in this way, might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun.

The cross is the strength of a minister. I for one would not be without it for all the world. I should feel like a soldier without weapons—like an artist without his brush—like a pilot without his compass—like a laborer without his tools . . . . [G]ive me the cross of Christ! This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made people forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. . . . Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Spirit delights to bless. He loves to honor those who honor the cross. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Grace Reigns

It is here we find peace for the guilty and rest for the weary. Behold what His blood has done for the generations of man in order that unworthy sinners may find paradise. According to Andrew Bonar:

“It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17: 11).

“There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat” (Exod. 25: 22).

The broken law proclaims that the wages of sin is death. The sinner’s hope is not a hope procured upon any other terms. If it were so, where. or when for a moment, would the sinner be safe? It would be but a saying, “Peace, peace,” while the law said there was no peace. No. Salvation is not an unrighteous compromise between the law and the Gospel. The law’s terms to the sinner are, “The wages of sin is death.” And the law’s terms to the sinner’s Surety are, “The wages of sin is death.” God does not take the believer’s five talents for the hundred which he owed, and call them a hundred, in order that his saving love might reach him. But for the hundred talents which he owed, Christ has paid a hundred to the uttermost farthing. The law required perfect obedience, and blood. Christ, as the sinner’s Surety, has rendered perfect obedience, and blood.

“Do we, then, make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3. 31). There is nothing in all the universe which so proclaims God’s holy wrath against sin, as that blood of Christ, which is the only meeting-place between an unholy sinner and a holy God. The law proclaims that the wages of sin is death; the Gospel proclaims, through that blood not only that wages of sin is, but has been, death. That blood tells every one that believeth, not only that the wages of his sin is death, but that the wages has been paid, and that now the bitterness of that death is past. Reader! see in that blood that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so now grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5. 21). (“The Mercy Seat”)

He Took Our Sicknesses upon Himself

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus used no other remedy in healing our sin-sickness, but that of taking our sicknesses and infirmities upon himself! This is the one great cure-all! Blessed be Jesus, that the medicine, bitter as it is, is not for us to drink, but was all drained by himself!

He took the terrible cup in Gethsemane, and drank it dry on our account! The sharp but healing cuts of the lancet are not made in our bodies, but he bore them in his own flesh! When the ploughers made deep furrows, those furrows were not upon the sinner’s shoulders, but upon the shoulders of the sinner’s Substitute!

Did you ever hear, O Earth, of such a Physician as this?

Jesus heals us by suffering himself! His pains, and sorrows, and griefs, and pangs, and torments, and anguish, and death are the only medicine by which he removes the woes of men! My friend, whatever your disease may be, this great Physician can heal you. Since he is God, there can be no limit to his infinite power; there can be no boundary to the majesty of his might. Come then with the blind eye of your understanding, come with the limping foot of your energy, come with the maimed hand of your faith, come just as you are, for he who is God can certainly heal you! The utmost length of your soul- sickness can be reached by this great Physician.

Have confidence, O poor doubting heart! Have unstaggering confidence in the Divine Healer! Blessed Son of God, how I will love you! With what gratitude will I look up to your cross and view you, while those blessed founts of health are streaming crimson floods, and while your heart is pouring forth a heavenly torrent, efficacious to wash the sinner from all his sicknesses! Come hither, all you sin-sick ones, and behold the glorious Son of God, breathing out his life upon the cross!

Come hither, you that mourn for sin, you who are palsied and diseased with iniquity! There is power, power still present in the dying Savior to heal you, whatsoever your diseases may be. The costly balm of his atonement has lost none of its power!

Jesus, the great physician, works cures very suddenly – he touches, and the deed is done at once. He works cures of all kinds – all soul diseases have been readily overcome by him. He never fails – he has not in his diary, one single case that has over-matched his mighty power. He heals effectually – the disease never again reigns when he has once dethroned it. He has no hospital for incurable souls, for there are no incurables for him. The Friend of sinners is “able to save unto the uttermost those that come unto God by him.” Cases of sin so putrid that men say, “Put them out of sight;” vice so detestable that the very mention of it makes the cheek of modesty to blush – such as these the master-hand of Emmanuel can heal!

With Jesus nothing is difficult. He can save the chief of sinners, and the vilest of the vile. Come, poor sinner, and behold him who is able to heal you of your deadly wounds; come look upon him now and live. (“The Gospel’s Healing Power” No. 720)

The Church and the Hypocrite

We must be careful when looking for evidence that someone else is a Christian. We make the mistake of thinking that every Christian should look exactly like us. There is a much higher standard! Are you consistently trying to walk in holiness? Does even a “little sin” in your life bring you to your knees to ask forgiveness? Charles Spurgeon, in the following article, takes an uncompromising stand on the great gap between holiness and hypocrisy:

Oh! The great thing the Church needs is more holiness. The worst enemies of the Church are the hypocrites, the formalists, the mere professors, the inconsistent walkers.

It is shocking to think how persons dare to remain members of Christian churches, and even to enter the pulpit, when they are conscious that their private life is foul. Oh, how can they do it? How is it that their hearts have grown so hard? What! Has the devil bewitched them? Has he turned them away from being men, and made them as devilish as himself, that they should dare to pray in public, and to sit at the sacramental table, and to administer ordinances, while their hands are foul, and their hearts unclean and their lives are full of sin?

I charge you, if there are any of you whose lives are not consistent, give up your profession, or else make your lives what they should be. May the eternal Spirit, who still winnows his Church, blow away the chaff, and leave only the good golden wheat upon the floor!

And if you know yourselves to be living in any sin, may God help you to mourn over it, to loathe it, to go to Christ about it tonight; to take hold of him, to wash his feet with your tears, to repent unfeignedly, and then to begin anew in his strength, a life which shall be such as becomes the gospel. (“The Gospel’s Power in a Christian’s Life” No. 640)

A Family at Worship

Quoting Paul David Tripp:

We have found it important not to enter the family worship time with rigid expectations and a rigid plan. We want an atmosphere of freedom, where our teenagers feel free to ask questions, verbalize doubts, express confusion, debate applications, and try to draw inferences and applications, all without the fear of being silenced, rebuked, or ridiculed. We want the truth to connect, to convict, and to capture our teenagers, so we are in no hurry. We want to give them time to understand and the Spirit time to work. This time is for them. We have no expectations about the amount of material we cover and our goal is not to get our teenagers to agree with us. The goal is to stimulate in them a hunger for God, so we want to be relaxed, patient, and creative.

Summary Of The Gospel

Huldrych Zwingli

Quoting Huldrych  Zwingli:

The summary of the gospel is that our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has revealed the will of His heavenly Father to us, and with His innocence has redeemed us from death, and has reconciled us with God. Therefore, Christ is the only way to salvation for all those who have been, are, and will be.

John MacArthur On Evolution And Morality

John MacArthur

Quoting John MacArthur:

Evolution is simply the latest means our fallen race has devised in order to suppress our innate knowledge and the biblical testimony that there is a God and that we are accountable to Him (cf. Romans 1:28). By embracing evolution, modern society aims to do away with morality, responsibility, and guilt. Society has embraced evolution with such enthusiasm because people imagine that it eliminates the Judge and leaves them free to do whatever they want without guilt and without consequences. (The Battle for the Beginning, W Publishing Group, 2001, p. 24)

Charles Spurgeon: What If Our Preaching Never Saves?

Charles H. Spurgeon

Most of us know some able ministers who are wonderful expositors of the Word. You recognize this because you always bring something away of the Gospel when you hear them. There are souls to be saved, and these saved souls must be fed from the deep things of God. Charles Spurgeon writes about this necessity below:

We have all great need of much hard study if our ministry is to be good for anything. We have heard of the French peasants who sent to the Pope for a cure: “[One] who had finished his education.” They complained that their pastor was always studying, and they wanted a man who knew all that was necessary, and consequently needed no time for books and thoughts. What fools they must be in that part of France! We need exactly the kind of preacher whom they despised. He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit. . . .

I hope it will never get to be your notion that only a certain class of preachers can be soul-winners. Every preacher should labor to be the means of saving his hearers. The truest reward of our life work is to bring dead souls to life. I long to see souls brought to Jesus every time I preach. I should break my heart if I did not see it to be so. Men are passing into eternity so rapidly that we must have them saved at once. We indulge no secret hope which can make it easy to lose present opportunities. From all our congregations a bitter cry should go up unto God, unless conversions are continually seen. If our preaching never saves a soul, and is not likely to do so, should we not better glorify God as peasants, or as tradesmen? What honor can the Lord receive from useless ministers? The Holy Ghost is not with us, we are not used of God for His gracious purposes, unless souls are quickened into heavenly life. Brethren, can we bear to be useless? Can we be barren, and yet content?

Remember that, if we would win souls, we must act accordingly, and lay ourselves out to that end. Men do not catch fish without intending it, nor save sinners unless they aim at it. The prayer of a certain minister before his sermon was, that God would bless souls by his discourse. After hearing that discourse, I wondered at the prayer. How could the man ask for that which he seemed never afterwards to have thought of? His discourse unprayed his prayer. He might as well have poured water on a fire, and have prayed God to make the fire burn thereby. Unless the Lord had caused the people to misunderstand what the preacher said, they could not have been converted by his utterances. God works by means,—by means adapted to His ends; and this being so, how can He bless some sermons? How, in the name of reason, can souls be converted by sermons that hill people to sleep; by sermons containing mere frivolities; by sermons which say plainly, “See how cleverly I put it;” by sermons which insinuate doubt, and cast suspicion upon every revealed truth? To ask for the Divine blessing on that which even good men cannot commend, is poor work. That which does; not come from our inmost soul, and is not to us a message from the Lord’s own Spirit, is not likely to touch other men’s souls, and be the voice of the Lord to them. (“What We Would Be”)

John Owen On Preaching And Prayer

Quoting Puritan theologian John Owen:

To preach the word . . . and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random. (“The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government”, Works, Vol. 16)

The Man Of Virtue In A Position Of Responsibility

Reverend Samuel Clarke

No matter how persuasive the exhortations of a preacher may be, and how often appeals to live virtuously are given to the young; if the role models who are pointing the way live altogether contrary to the precepts and admonitions they speak of, then such instruction will inevitably end in failure. Human beings need a person of natural influence to provide a virtuous example of home life, social interactions and work. The student really needs to see the teacher demonstrate in his daily life that he really has upon his mind a concern for religion and habitually in all his actions a constant regard to God. Reverend Samuel Clarke continues this line of thought:

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:19)

As a Magistrate or Governor [a man of Christian Virtue] will take care that that weight and power of influencing others, which the superiority of his station gives to his example, shall be directed constantly to the interest of virtue. In the execution of laws, in which matter there is room for great variety of prudent or imprudent exercise of power, he will always endeavor to put the stress of authority, upon urging men to do these things which will really make them better, and deterring them from such practices as are intrinsically in their own nature evil or vicious; that so the laws of God and man may uniformly promote one and the same end, for the punishment only of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well: and with regard to ambition, or the increase of his own power and dominion; he will take much more pleasure in being able to be publicly beneficial to mankind, by maintaining their just rights and properties; than in obtaining to himself power, for power’s sake.

Again: A person of this disposition, if he be in his station a Preacher of the Gospel; he will not have in his view the temporal grandeur of any particular sect or party of men; but will always endeavor to set before men the truth of God in that native simplicity, and represent to them the religion of Christ, in the manner our Lord himself represented it, to be such a reasonable service, as that it may effectually convince the minds of gainsayers, and, by the irresistible force of truth and reason, compel them to submit themselves to the obedience of Christ. And above all things he will take care to give evidence in his whole behavior, that he himself sincerely believes and expects that judgment to come, which he sets forth to others as the great argument that must oblige them to embrace the truths, and to obey the precepts of the Gospel: according to that direction of our Savior, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” If he lives in a corrupt and degenerate age, he will principally set himself, with all meekness and gentleness, to oppose the particular corruption of the age he lives in; endeavoring, by all fair and righteous methods, to bring as many as possible to the acknowledgment of the truth. (“The Character of a Good Man”)

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