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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”)

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