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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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  • Recommended Reading

FAITH IN AN EVIL WORLD

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4 ESV)

Maintaining a true Christian faith is not easy in this world. Life offers so many paths of compromise that it is easy to lose your way. John Murray wrote the following on this subject:

If the faith we profess is a faith that allows us to walk in the ways of this present evil world, in the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, in the fellowship and works of darkness, then our faith is mockery and deception. Repentance results in constant contrition. The broken spirit and contrite heart are abiding marks in the believing soul. Not one that we progressively get, but abiding. They are there from the beginning and they’re ongoing. A new attitude. Not just about Jesus and who He is, but about our sin, who we are, what we deserve, and the hating of the things we used to love. Without it, there is no salvation. (John Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary)

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GODLY LIVING

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)

With the passing of time, many Christians tend to lose their sense of the wonder of God’s grace. We begin to forget the sinfulness that destined us for eternal punishment. We may even begin to ignore the source of our faith.

Look at how gracious God has been to us. We may never fully understand God’s mercy, but such a boundless benevolence surely deserves a grateful response. Living a godly life is such a response.

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SALVATION AND SOVEREIGNTY

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

In this verse is one of the great mysteries that theologians and believers have argued about for centuries. How far do man’s will and God’s sovereignty go in determining the salvation of the Christian?

Salvation is certainly a demonstration of God’s glory. We know that God is absolutely sovereign over everything that exists because He created anything that does exist. (Colossians 1:16 ESV) God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is also evidence of the degree to which that sovereignty stretches. Jesus said:

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SUFFICIENT GRACE

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)

God’s grace is always sufficient in times of extraordinary troubles. We, however, are not very patient and quickly begin to despair when our prayers for relief are not answered in the time and manner we desire. These are the times when we discover the divine power to persevere in spite of our own weakness. God’s power is manifested in our endurance. Self-righteousness, worldly wisdom, and trusting in your own strength will ultimately fall flat. Trusting in Jesus Christ will never fail you. Jesus said:

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IMMEASURABLE RICHES

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

The Scriptures teach that Christians are created in Jesus Christ for good works. At one time, we were all in rebellion against God because we each wanted our own way and to pursue our sinful passions with unrestrained lust. We were all spiritually dead. Yet, because of God’s great love, He has made us alive through Jesus Christ.

We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. In the above verses we are taught (as previously stated) that we are created for good works. Man cannot do, perfectly, enough good works to earn his salvation. Salvation is a work of grace through faith. Therefore, good works are a sign of the grace we have been given and our gratitude for the gift of salvation. Good works are done to glorify God, not to gain anything from Him. Since only God knows the spirit of a man, good works are a witness to others confirming our faith in Him.

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HE CAME FOR US

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

Christ and ChristmasOn the first Christmas night a Savior was born. The One born that night would change the course of history. At Bethlehem we find an event of cosmic significance. God became man that we might be redeemed from sin.

Jesus Christ was the best gift mankind could possibly receive. We were sinners. Yet, He came for us. We were in rebellion against God. Yet, He came for us. We were bound to Satan. Yet, He came for us. We were lawless. Yet, He came for us. God gave us grace through Jesus Christ in the condition He found us. Through grace we may now become children of God.

This event was sufficient for an angel to declare:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

IF GOD IS HOLY AT ALL . . .

R.C. SproulR. C. Sproul:

“If God is holy at all, if God has an ounce of justice in His character, indeed if God exists as God, how could He possibly be anything else but angry with us? We violate His holiness; we insult His justice; we make light of His grace. These things can hardly please Him.” (The Holiness of God, 176)

WATSON ON THE POOR IN SPIRIT

Thomas WatsonThomas Watson:

He that is poor in spirit is lowly in heart. Rich men are commonly proud and scornful, but the poor are submissive. The poor in spirit roll themselves in the dust in the sense of their unworthiness. ‘I abhor myself in dust’ (Job 42:6). He that is poor in spirit looks at another’s excellence and his own infirmities. He denies not only his sins but his duties. The more grace he has, the more humble he is, because he now sees himself a greater debtor to God. If he can do any duty, he acknowledges it is Christ’s strength more than his own. As the ship gets to the haven more by the benefit of the wind than the sail, so when a Christian makes swift progress, it is more by wind of God’s Spirit than the sail of his own endeavor. The poor in spirit, when he acts most like a saint, confesses himself to be ‘the chief of sinners’. He blushes more at the defect of his graces than others do at the excess of their sins. He dares not say he has prayed or wept. He lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He labors, yet not he, but the grace of God. (The Beatitudes)

He Will Watch Over You

John GillJohn Gill:

For the eyes f the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him. (2 CHRONICLES 16:9)

The Omniscience of God reaches throughout the world, and to all creatures. He looks down from heaven, and beholds the sons of men; he looks upon the inhabitants of the earth, and considers all their works, whether they be good or bad. His eyes are upon the ways of men, whether right or wrong. He beholds all their goings, every step they take, whether in or out of the way of God. There is no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves for the darkness and the light are both alike to him. He fills heaven and earth with his presence. His general providence reaches to all creatures. He preserves man and beast; not only upholds them in their beings, but supplies their wants. The eyes of all are upon him, and he satisfies the desire of every living thing. As in one age of the world and another, he has a people in various parts of the earth: so the all-seeing eye of his providence has been concerned, in a special manner with them; and extends to them, be they where they will. The children of God, those whom he hath predestined to the adoption of children, according to the council of his will from everlasting, are said to be scattered abroad; some are in once place, and some in another. Hence Christ is said to come to gather these together, to reconcile them to God, by being a propitiation, not for the sins of the Jews only, but for all the people of God throughout the whole world: therefore, when he gave a commission to his ministering servants, he bid them go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; He so orders it in providence, that he either sends the gospel to them, or he brings them to it; or, however, calls them by his grace, and encourages them to look unto Christ, who says, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Hence we read of songs of praise from the uttermost parts of the earth (Isa. 24:16); songs of electing, redeeming, justifying, pardoning, adopting, regenerating, and sanctifying grace, from persons in the uttermost parts of the earth, that are partakers of his grace. . . .

When, therefore, his eyes are said to run to and fro throughout the whole earth, on the behalf of these; we are not to suppose any local motion, or change of place, in God; for he is omnipresent. Though he is said, sometimes, in condescension to our capacities, to bow the heavens and come down, and to return to his place; yet these expressions are to be understood after the manner of men; and not as true in a literal sense. When his eyes are said to run to and fro, it is expressive of his watchfulness over his people. As those who are watchful look here and there, and are very diligent in their observations; so the Lord watches over his people. … He opens his eyes upon such poor worthless creatures as we are; for he that keeps Israel that watches over them, neither slumbers nor sleeps. The phrase is expressive of his readiness, and swiftness, to assist his people in times of difficulty and distress; and answers to that request of the church, where she says, Make haste, my Beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart, upon the mountains of spices. Thus the Lord is a present help in time of trouble. He is ready at hand to assist his people: he helps them, and that right early. His eyes run to and fro, here and there, on their behalf; and this in order to counter-work Satan, who is said to go to and fro in the earth (Job 1:7); and is by the apostle represented as a roaring lion, that goes, about seeking whom he may devour. Now the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the earth, to counter-work this adversary; to watch over his people, that they may not be hurt and destroyed by him. He hath, as before observed, those that are the objects of his love and care, in various parts of the earth and his eyes run to and fro everywhere on their behalf. Fear not, I will be with thee, I will bring thy seed (spiritual converts) from the East, and gather them from the West. I will say the North give up, and to the South keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends the earth. Thus you see what is the meaning of this figurative expression, and the propriety of using this phrase; because of the people of God being in different parts of the world, and because of the exquisite care the Lord takes of them. They are under his special notice; and therefore let them be where they will, his eyes are upon them. (“THE EYES OF THE LORD UPON, AND HIS POWER ENGAGED ON THE BEHALF OF THOSE WHO’S HEARTS ARE UPRIGHT TOWARDS HIM”)

The Counsel of God: “Why I Believe in God” – Part Nine

Even though he may be hard to read at times, Van Til has a masterful way with words. Van Til wrote, “The Reformed apologist throws down the gauntlet and challenges his opponent to a duel of life and death from the start. He does not first travel in the same direction and in the same automobile with the natural man for some distance in order then mildly to suggest to the driver that they ought perhaps to change their course somewhat and follow a road that goes at a different slant from the one they are on. The Reformed apologist knows that there is but one way to the truth and that the natural man is traveling it, but in the wrong direction.” (“The Defense of The Faith”) Let us continue now with this next to the last article:

It ought to be pretty plain now what sort of God I believe in. It is God, the All-Conditioner. It is the God who created all things, Who by His providence conditioned my youth, making me believe in Him, and who in my later life by His grace still makes me want to believe in Him. It is the God who also controlled your youth and so far has apparently not given you His grace that you might believe in Him.

You may reply to this: “Then what’s the use of arguing and reasoning with me?” Well, there is a great deal of use in it. You see, if you are really a creature of God, you are always accessible to Him. When Lazarus was in the tomb he was still accessible to Christ who called him back to life. It is this on which true preachers depend. The prodigal [son] thought he had clean escaped from the father’s influence. In reality the father controlled the “far country” to which the prodigal had gone. So it is in reasoning. True reasoning about God is such as stands upon God as upon the emplacement that alone gives meaning to any sort of human argument. And such reasoning, we have a right to expect, will be used of God to break down the one-horse chaise of human autonomy.

But now I see you want to go home. And I do not blame you; the last bus leaves at twelve. I should like to talk again another time. I invite you to come to dinner next Sunday. But I have pricked your bubble, so perhaps you will not come back. And yet perhaps you will. That depends upon the Father’s pleasure. Deep down in your heart you know very well that what I have said about you is true. You know there is no unity in your life. You want no God who by His counsel provides for the unity you need. Such a God, you say, would allow for nothing new. So you provide your own unity. But this unity must, by your own definition, not kill that which is wholly new. Therefore it must stand over against the wholly new and never touch it at all. Thus by your logic you talk about possibles and impossibles, but all this talk is in the air. By your own standards it can never have anything to do with reality. Your logic claims to deal with eternal and changeless matters; and your facts are wholly changing things; and “never the twain shall meet.” So you have made nonsense of your own experience. With the prodigal you are at the swine-trough, but it may be that, unlike the prodigal, you will refuse to return to the father’s house.

On the other hand by my belief in God I do have unity in my experience. Not of course the sort of unity that you want. Not a unity that is the result of my own autonomous determination of what is possible. But a unity that is higher than mine and prior to mine. On the basis of God’s counsel I can look for facts and find them without destroying them in advance. On the basis of God’s counsel I can be a good physicist, a good biologist, a good psychologist, or a good philosopher. In all these fields I use my powers of logical arrangement in order to see as much order in God’s universe as it may be given a creature to see. The unities, or systems that I make are true because [they are] genuine pointers toward the basic or original unity that is found in the counsel of God. (“Why I Believe in God”)

Continue reading the final words of this article later this afternoon. . . .

Should We set Out To Change Men’s Opinions Or the Regeneration Of Their Natures?

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles Spurgeon:

“The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. . . . We  value our Lord’s ordinances; we would labor earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free-will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth, and not upon the sand of imagination; but, at the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures. We would bring men to Christ and not to our own peculiar views of Christianity. Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterwards to secure them for our various folds. To make proselytes, is a suitable labor for Pharisees: to beget men unto God is the honorable aim of ministers of Christ.”

The Work Of God

Charles H. Spurgeon

 

 

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

True religion is supernatural at its beginning, supernatural in its continuance, and supernatural in its close. It is the work of God from first to last. (Spurgeon, All Of Grace, 114)

The Gift Of God

Quoting Claude Duval Cole:

Salvation is by grace, which means that it is undeserved, and also that there is no divine obligation to save any sinner. Salvation by grace means that it is not of debt or reward, but is the free gift of God. God might have left every one of us to his fate, to perish in his sins. It was love in God and not loveableness in the sinner that accounts for salvation. “God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Salvation is, therefore, the gracious and sovereign work of God. All our graces are children of His grace and the fruit of His Spirit “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23). From foreknowledge in eternity past to glorification in eternity future, salvation is all of grace, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). God thinks so much of His only begotten Son that He has determined to make all His sons just like Him. And there is no human merit or human strength at any stage or in any aspect of salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Future Worry

Quoting Bill Elliff:

Future worry is overwhelming. There’s a reason. We don’t have grace today for tomorrow. One of Satan’s simplest tricks and most effective devices is to draw our attention to things we can do nothing about. There’s nothing worse than a crisis that can’t be fixed. If our hours are spent with thoughts of tomorrow’s problems, which are not accessible today and which we know we cannot touch with today’s resources, we are doomed to worry. And worry wears us out… [Yet] our calling is today. It’s not that we don’t think of tomorrow, but it must consistently be filed under “future grace.” The tide of confidence in God’s sufficiency must wash out worry. In fact, it’s a command. “Do not be anxious for tomorrow.” To go there is to disobey a directive from the One who holds every moment in His hand. (“The Sufficiency of Daily Grace”, Christian Communicators Worldwide)

A Sovereign Love

John MacDuff

From the pen of John MacDuff, 1864:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love! Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Here we have an everlasting thought of God, “in the beginning, before ever the earth was.” Believer, travel back in imagination to the ages of the past. Before the trance of eternity was broken by any visible manifestation of power — before one temple was erected in space, before one angel waved his wing, or one note was heard of seraph’s song — when God inhabited alone, these sublime solitudes — then there was a thought of you — and that thought was — Love!

Think of the sovereignty of that love. He says not, ‘You have loved Me with your poor earthly love — therefore have I drawn you.’ No, no! It is from nothing in you — no foreseen goodness on your part. Grace is the reason for all He has done, “God who is rich in mercy for His great love with which He loved us.” “I will have mercy,” is His own declaration — on whom I will have mercy!” “Jacob,” (that cunning, scheming, crafty youth) “Jacob I loved — but Esau I hated!”

Manasseh, (that miserable man who has defiled his crown, dishonored his throne, and deluged Jerusalem with blood) “I have loved.” That dying thief — fresh from a life of infamy, breathing out his blasphemies on a felon’s cross, “I have loved.” And why, let each of us ask, am I not a Cain or a Judas? Why am I not a wrecked and stranded vessel, like thousands before me? Here is the reason; “Yes, I have loved you.” Before you had one thought of Me, yes, when your thoughts were those of hatred, rebellion, and enmity — My thoughts towards you were thoughts of love!

And that Sovereign love, as it is from everlasting, so is it to everlasting — endless in duration — enduring as eternity. The love of the creature is but of yesterday — it may be gone tomorrow — dried like a summer-brook when most needed. But the love of God is fed from the glacier summits — the everlasting hills. We may estimate its intensity, when the Savior could utter regarding it such a prayer as this, “That the love with which You have loved Me — may be in them.”

Oh, amid the often misgivings of my own doubting heart, with its frames and feelings as vacillating as the shifting sand, let me delight to ponder this precious thought — the long line of unbroken love — every link love — connecting the eternity that is past with the eternity to come — God thinking of me before the birth of time — even then mapping out all my future happiness and heavenly bliss — and standing now, with the hoarded love of that eternity in His heart, seeking therewith to “draw” me!

It is “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus” — which is the moral gravitation-power of the cross, by which His true people have ever been drawn. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth — will draw all men unto Myself!” Draw me, Lord — and I will run after You. Show me Your loving-kindness thus enshrined and manifested in Your dear Son. Constrain me to love You in Him, because You have first loved, and so loved, me! “How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”

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