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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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FROM THIRST TO LIVING WATERS

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In the verses above, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus announces the source of true satisfaction for spiritual thirst. The crowd around Him are like the woman of Samaria who was standing by the side of the true well of living water and did not know it. Jesus invited all who were in need of spiritual comfort to come to Him by faith and receive living water. This flowing, living water represents new life and the comforting graces of the Holy Spirit.

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GAINING GOSPEL PROGRESS

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, (Philippians 1:27)

I must thank a former pastor of mine, Kurt Gebhards, for the title of this post. He preached an outstanding series of sermons on this subject a number of years ago. I have included a link if you wish to hear those sermons.

As Christians our lives are to be saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to abide in Christ as the branch abides in the vine. (John 15:1-4) By His word of truth, we are brought forth as a new creation. (James 1:18 ESV) Our way of living is sanctified by the truth of the gospel (John 17:17 ESV) because the word of God is at work within us. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV) It is by the reading, careful study, and meditation of the Scriptures, along with constant prayer and hearing the Word preached, that we are trained in righteousness to produce godly lives.

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EMOTIONS AND SELF-CONTROL

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28 ESV)

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

Emotions are a part of human life. They may change because of changing circumstances or the conscious decisions we make, but often it may seem that our feelings have a mind of their own. In any given situation (good or bad) if we are not consciously making rational decisions about what is happening around us, our subconscious emotions may quickly fill the gap. Sometimes the results are not pretty.

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UNDERSTANDING THE END FOR WHICH WE WERE MADE

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

There are many people, including Christians, who do not  godhave a clear understanding of the purpose for which God made them.The Westminster Shorter Catechism states this doctrine by way of a question and answer:

Q: “What is the chief end of man?”

A: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

The ultimate end or chief purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God. Too few people have any concern for the glory of God and therefore, certainly cannot enjoy Him.

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GOD’S WORD

Charles Haddon SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

“It is God’s Word that saves souls, not our comment upon it, however correct that comment may be! Let us, then, be scrupulously careful to honor the Holy Spirit by taking the weapon which He has prepared for us, believing in the full Inspiration of the sacred Scriptures and expecting that God will prove their Inspiration by their effect upon the minds and hearts of men.” (1892, Sermon #2246)

THE CHRISTIAN MIND

Samuel A CainSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, (Colossians 3:2 ESV)

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (Psalm 119:15 ESV)

My college philosophy professor once said, “The man who does not know truth will not recognize evil when it comes. The man who knows truth will also know evil.” It is through the mind of Christ that we know truth. Paul writes in Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Natural man is born with the predisposition to set his mind on desiring the pleasures of this world, even though they bring him sorrow. (Romans 8:5-6 ESV) If a man is born again, he has access to the mind of Christ in a way which was impossible before the Holy Spirit came to dwell in him. (1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV) This partnership of the Holy Spirit and man seeks the wisdom of Christ in order to live a holy life like Jesus. Such wisdom enables us to avoid vain “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 ESV) Continue reading

THE PURE WORD OF GOD

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“What can you do, you children, playing with your little wooden swords – what can you do against men covered from head to foot with the steel mail of the habit of sin? Sunday school teachers, teach your children more and more the pure Word of God! And preachers, do not try to be original, but be content to take of the things of Christ and show them to the people, for that is what the Holy Spirit, Himself does – and you will be wise to use His method and His sword. No sinner around you will be saved except by the knowledge of the great Truths contained in the Word of God. No man will ever be brought to repentance, to faith and to life in Christ, apart from the constant application of the Truth through the Spirit.” (1891, Sermon #2201)

FILLED WITH FIRE

Samuel A CainBut you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8 ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)

An interesting feature of the modern American mainline church is its reluctance to teach on the Holy Spirit who mediates the power of the risen Christ. Perhaps they are being overly cautious because of the excesses of some television ministries.

John writes that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth…” (14:15-17) Luke also quotes Jesus on this topic: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) There are two important steps found here: First, the Holy Spirit is sent to the church; second, the church is sent into the world. Continue reading

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Charles H. Spurgeon by Ron AdairCharles H. Spurgeon:

“All the good that is ever done in the world is worked by the Holy Spirit and, as the Holy Spirit honors Jesus Christ, so He puts great honor upon the Holy Spirit. If you and I try, either as a Church or as individuals, to do without the Holy Spirit, God will soon do without us. Unless we reverently worship Him and believingly trust in Him, we shall find that we shall be like Samson when his locks were shorn. He shook himself as he had done before, but when the Philistines were upon him, he could do nothing against them. Our prayer must always be, ‘Holy Spirit, dwell with me! Holy Spirit, dwell with Your servants!’ We know that we are utterly dependent upon Him. Such is the teaching of our Master and Jesus Christ is ‘the same yesterday, and today, and forever.’” (1894, Sermon #2358)

The Problem of Anger

Do you have a problem with anger? In my opinion, more and more people today seem to have difficulty with anger. We are becoming a people of very low “Emotional IQs”. Does “Reason” leave the room when you become angry? When people with low “Emotional IQs” become angry, the rational part of the mind seems to shut down and their anger becomes destructive. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly. . . .” (Proverbs 14:17 ESV)

Such people actually lose control of themselves. “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV) Most people have learned and are mature enough, fortunately, to keep their anger under control. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV) Here we see that a person can be angry without sin. Even Jesus became angry on some occasions toward the sinful disobedience of men. The anger of God the Father and Son is a righteous anger, but today – I’m writing about sinful anger – not righteous anger.

Whereas righteous anger is all about things of the Will, Honor, and Glory of God; sinful anger is really all about us, our inconvenience, our pride, and our will. So, what does the Bible say we are to do about sinful anger?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV) “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10 ESV) In verse after verse, it becomes obvious that this type of ongoing anger is incompatible with the Christian life. Note too that anger is put into a class which includes wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lies.

Unlike God the Father and Son, human beings are filled with the imperfections of sin. Our anger is often wrong and unnecessary because of false presumptions. We become angry over personal issues and yet remain silent when God is dishonored and sin is exalted.

However, man’s sinful inclinations can be transformed; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV) This does not mean that a Christian will now live a sin-free life, but it does mean that we are no longer compelled by sin as we were before we received grace.

Irrational anger may now be defeated! “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) Discipline the way you think. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV) For it is now possible to: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

The Christian life is all about the inner transformation that begins with salvation. As you consistently read and meditate on the Scriptures, praying to God for wisdom and understanding, the Holy Spirit will help you grow in holiness. Anger problems can be overcome – but the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Word of God and prayer. If you are not a consistent reader of God’s Book and do not attend church regularly, then you are not fulfilling your part in the process of sanctification. You must take an active part in renewing your mind through the Word of God.

And so, dear Christian, are you still often overcome by sinful anger? Continue then to renew your mind and keep a firm grip on God’s Holy Word. By this, “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. . . .” (Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV)

Pride

In the words of J. C. Ryle:

“Young men, do not be too confident in your own judgment. Stop being so sure that you are always right and others wrong. Don’t trust your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older men, and especially to that of your own parents. Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect.”

Resurrection Power

Even though the secular world may cast us out and laugh at our profession of faith, yet Jesus Christ will walk with, and abide in us. George Whitefield writes:

[T]hat I may know him and the power of his resurrection. . . . (Philippians 3:10 ESV)

By the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are new-born to a heavenly inheritance amongst all them which are sanctified; but our own corrupt wills, would tempt us to sell this glorious birth-right for the vanities of the world, which, like Esau’s red pottage, may please us for a while, but will soon be taken away from us. God knows this, and therefore rather bids us renounce them . . . [than lose] the privilege of that glorious birth-right, to which, by knowing the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are entitled.

O the depth of the riches and excellency of Christianity! Well might the great St. Paul count all things but dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of it. Well might he desire so ardently to know Jesus, and the power of his resurrection. For even on this side of eternity it raises us above the world, and makes us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Well might that glorious company of worthies, recorded in the Holy scriptures, supported with a deep sense of their heavenly calling, despise the pleasures and profits of this life, and wander about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, in dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.

And O that we were all like minded! That we felt the power of Christ’s resurrection as they did! How should we then “count all things as dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord!” How should we then recover our primitive dignity, trample the earth under our feet, and with our souls be continually gasping after God?

And what hinders but we may be thus minded? Is Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, altered from what he was? No, “he is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” And though he is exalted to the right hand of God, yet he is not ashamed to call us brethren. The power of his resurrection is as great now as formerly, and the Holy Spirit, which was assured to us by his resurrection, as ready and able to quicken us who are dead in trespasses and sins, as any saint that ever lived. Let us but cry, and that instantly, to Him that is mighty and able to save; let us, in sincerity and truth, without secretly keeping back the least part, renounce ourselves and the world; then we shall be Christians indeed.

If We Forsake Truth, God Forsakes Us

We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Of course, I am referring to works that follow faith. There are some, however, that make their works an idol. Charles Hodge (1823-1886) writes:

[One] form of religion in which Christ fails to occupy his proper position is that which assumes God to be merely a moral governor, of infinite power and benevolence. Being infinitely benevolent, he desires the well being of his kingdom. To forgive sin without some suitable manifestation of his disapprobation of sin, would be inconsistent with a wise benevolence. Christ makes that manifestation in his sufferings and death. Then he retires; henceforth we have nothing to do with him; we have to deal with God on the principles of natural religion; we must submit to his authority, obey his commandments, and expect to be rewarded, not merely according to, but for, our works. . . .

They must merit, not forgiveness — for that is granted on account of what Christ has done — but the reward promised to obedience; justification is simply pardon. . . It is hard to see, according to this theory, in what sense Christ is our prophet, priest, and king; how He is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; what is meant by our being in him as the branch is in the vine; or, what our Lord meant when He said, “without me, ye can do nothing;” what was in Paul’s mind when he said, it is Christ for me to live, “it is not I that live, but Christ liveth in me,” and so on to the end. This is a different kind of religion from that which we find in the Bible and in the experience of the church. . . .

Others take the higher ground of theism, or of natural religion, and bring in considerations drawn from our relation to God as an infinitely perfect being, our creator and preserver and father, who has rightful authority over us, who has prescribed the rule of duty, and who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. . . .

This is not the gospel. Christ is the only Savior from sin, the only source of holiness, or of spiritual life. The first step in salvation from sin is our reconciliation to God. The reconciliation is effected by the expiation made by the death of Christ (Rom. 5:10). It is his blood, and his blood alone, that cleanses from sin. As long as men are under the law, they bring forth fruit unto death; it is only when freed from the law, freed from its inexorable demand of perfect obedience and from its awful penalty, that they bring forth fruit unto God (Rom. 7:4-6).

Christ delivered us from the law as demanding perfect obedience, by being made under the law, and fulfilling all righteousness for us; and he redeems us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us — dying the just for the unjust, and bearing our sins in his own body on the tree. Being thus reconciled unto God by his death, we are saved by his life. He sends the Holy Spirit to impart to us spiritual life, and transforms us more and more into his own image. The Spirit reveals to us the glory of Christ and his infinite love. He makes us feel not only that we owe everything to him, but that he himself is everything to us — our present joy and our everlasting portion — our all in all. Thus every other motive to obedience is absorbed and sublimated into love to Christ and zeal for his glory. His people become like him, and as he went about doing good, so do they. . .

[One] important [fact is] to be held in mind. [T]he inward religious life of men, as well as their character and conduct, are determined by their doctrinal opinions. . . Therefore, any system of doctrine which assigns to Christ a lower position than that which he occupies in the New Testament, must, in a like degree, lower the standard of Christianity — that is, the religious life of those calling themselves Christians. . . It is . . . of the last importance to remember, that sound doctrine is, under God, our only security for true religion and pure morals. If we forsake the truth, God forsakes us. (“Christianity without Christ”)

In The House Of God

Quoting Matthew Henry:

Address thyself to the worship of God with a solemn pause, and take time to compose thyself for it, not going about it with precipitation, which is called hasting with the feet (Pro. 19:2). Keep thy thought from roving and wandering from the work; keep thy affections from running out towards wrong objects, for in the business of God’s house there is work enough for the whole man, and all too little to be employed… When we are in the house of God, we are in a special manner before God and in His presence, there where He has promised to meet His people, where His eye is upon us and ours ought to be unto Him.

Service And Worship

From the desk of Donald Whitney:

Worship empowers serving; serving expresses worship. Godliness requires a disciplined balance between the two. Those who can maintain service without regular personal and corporate worship are serving in the flesh. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been serving that way or how well others think they serve, they are not striving according to God’s power, as Paul did, but their own… At the same time, one measure of the authenticity of worship (again, both personal and corporate) is whether it results in a desire to serve… Therefore, we must maintain that to be Godly, we should discipline ourselves for both worship and service. To engage in one without the other is, in reality, to experience neither.

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