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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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Sacrifice Or Sin?

I would like to ask you something: What is “sacrifice”? People think of the word “sacrifice” in many ways. There are many who will tell you that sacrifice is giving up something of greater value for something of lesser value. However, when it comes to the spiritual discipline of sacrifice in the Christian life – we must be on the same page as God. If you wish to live a life of righteousness, there must be sacrifice.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 ESV)

In all that exists, God is of supreme value. So in one sense the Christian is always called on to sacrifice something of lesser value to honor God who is the greatest value. The problem is that the nature of sin in our souls very often blinds us to the reality of God’s glory and we begin to glory in the lesser things which are self-destructive. Therefore, our darkened minds refuse to sacrifice sin and so lose the benefits of the “pearl of great price”.

If we are to live rightly, we must sacrifice our lust for the things of the kingdom of Satan. How foolish we must seem to that demon’s eyes. It looks upon us and enjoys a jolly good laugh as we frantically chase after worldliness. So, is our idea of a “sacrifice” the same as what the Bible calls a “sacrifice”? Another important question to ask yourself would be; “Is your sacrifice completed with an unwilling heart?” If so, God will not accept it.

“All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.” (Exodus 35:29 ESV)

Partial sacrifices will not do. Do I remind you that sacrificial animals had to die? They did not suffer for just a little while. Yet this is the way that people are today. Christians will not mind suffering a bit. On the other hand, they are not willing to die for the cause of Christ. We try to bargain with God and seek a more beneficial compromise. We forget that God does not compromise.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 ESV)

These verses tell us that many rich people gave generous amounts of money. Later, a poor widow came to the offering box and put in two small copper coins. The Lord then called His disciples to Him and said, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The rich gave, but they had given out of their abundance. Because the rich had given out of their abundance, they made no sacrifice in their giving. The widow, however, put only two copper coins of the smallest value into the offering box. Yet, this offering was more than all the rich together. She had cast in all she had and all she had to live on. Her gift was a true sacrifice because it was completely given.

A true sacrifice costs something. It cost our Lord Jesus Christ as He made the greatest sacrifice ever given. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15 ESV) Because of His love for us, He freely lay down His life.

Christ gave His all. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 ESV) The Lord wants us to offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice unto Him. He is asking nothing less than for you to give up your secret sins! Are you willing to make such a sacrifice to honor Jesus Christ or do you give up God’s glory for petty lusts?

What Power Does God Have Over Evil Actions?

B.H. Carroll

Providence is an effective, all-comprehensive, divine agency that touches every event in the physical and spiritual world. Many of God’s saints, in the hardest and darkest times of their lives, have had peace by their understanding of and faith in the Lord’s providential care. The Lord God omnipotent reigns! B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains further:

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

The providence of God is not only preventive and permissive of evil but is also directive. What do I mean by directive? I mean that God so directs evil actions as to disappoint the purpose and expectation of the sinner and his tempter. Let us get that very clear. Two scriptures will serve to show that God’s providence is directive with reference to the actions of evil men when it so operates that this evil action shall miss its issue, shall come to another issue neither intended nor desired by the perpetrator.

The first scripture is from the book of Genesis. The wicked brothers of Joseph, who had sold him into Egypt, are now in trouble in that very land. Their consciences accuse them:

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother,in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.” (Genesis 42:21, 22.)

This was the human side. On the other hand, hear Joseph: “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life *** to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” That is, you meant evil. God directed that action so as to change it into an issue that was not foreseen nor purposed by you. The other scripture is from the fourth chapter of Acts. These two will answer for a thousand. They equal in importance any in the Bible:

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou has anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:24-28.)

Now here was an entirely independent purpose and expectation on the part of Herod, on the part of Pilate, on the part of the Jews. They meant death and ruin and yet God’s providence governed their very malice to an issue neither foreseen, desired nor purposed by them, in that it accomplished not only His own predetermined purpose, working not for the ruin but for the salvation of the world.

Yet another term may be employed to show how the providence of God touches evil actions, to-wit, determinative. Terminus means a boundary, a limit, and to determinate is to set a boundary. The providence of God then touches evil actions by putting a limit upon them. An illustrative case or two may be rapidly stated. The devil wanted to get hold of Job, to worry and destroy him. He asked the Lord for an opportunity. God, having purposes of His own to accomplish concerning Job and others, gave the permission but set a limit at Job’s life: “You may take his cows; you may take his camels; you may take his children so far as their earthly health and existence is concerned; you may touch Job himself and cover his body with loathsome ulcers, but the life of Job, the soul of Job, the spiritual standing of Job in the sight of God, oh, devil, you cannot touch.” There God puts an impassable barrier.

In the same direction are the words of the Psalmist:

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our soul; blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped. . . .” (Psalm 124:1-7)

Leave out the determinative providence of God, that feature of God’s providence that sets a limit to the wrath of evil men and the devil, and the foundation would be removed, and then what could the righteous do?

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 19 – OF THE LAW OF GOD

Westminster Assembly

In 1643, the English “Long Parliament” convened an Assembly of Divines at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to advise Parliament on how to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship. One chapter of the Confession follows:

CHAPTER 19

1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

3. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

6. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

7. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.

How May We See Our Real And Proper Likeness?

 

George Whitefield Preaching

George Whitefield was probably the most famous religious figure of the eighteenth century. Whitefield was a preacher capable of commanding thousands on two continents through the sheer power of his oratory. In his lifetime, he preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers. The spiritual revival he ignited, the Great Awakening, became one of the most formative events in American history. His last sermon on this tour was given at Boston Commons before 23,000 people, likely the largest gathering in American history to that point. In this excerpt from one of his sermons, Whitefield helps his audience to understand their true nature and their necessity for Christ in order to gain salvation:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:1-6)

I am sensible, that many are offended, when mankind are compared to beasts and devils. And they might have some shadow of reason for being so, if we asserted in a physical sense, that they were really beasts and really devils. . . . But when we make use of such shocking comparisons . . . we would be understood only in a moral sense; and in so doing, we assert no more than some of the most holy men of God have said of themselves. . . . Our stupidity, proneness to fix our affections on the things of the earth, and our eagerness to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof, evidence us to be earthly and brutes!; and our mental passions, anger, hatred, malice, envy, and such like, prove with equal strength, that we are also devilish. Both together conspire to evince, that in respect to his affections, as well as his understanding and will, man deservedly may be termed a piece of marred clay. . . .

But this is not all, we have yet more evidence to call; for do the blindness of our understandings, the perverseness of our will, the rebellion of our affections, the corruption our consciences, the depravity of our reason prove this charge; and does not present disordered frame and constitution of our bodies confirm the same also? Doubtless in this respect, man, in the most literal sense of the word, is a piece of marred clay. For God originally made him of the “dust of the earth.” So that notwithstanding our boasting of our high pedigrees, and different descent, we were all originally upon a level and a little red earth was the common substratum out of which we were all formed. Clay indeed it was, but clay wonderfully modified, even by the immediate hands of the Creator of heaven and earth. One therefore hath observed, that it is said “God built the man;” he did not form him rashly or hastily, but built and finished him according to the plan before laid down in his own eternal mind. . . .

This is the account, which the sacred volume gives us of this interesting point. This, this is that blessed book, that book of books, from whence, together with an appeal to the experience of our own hearts, and the testimonies of all past ages, we have thought proper to fetch our proofs. For, after all, we must be obliged to divine revelation, to know what we were, what we are, and what we are to be. In these, as in a true glass, we may see our real and proper likeness. . . . Had we kept our original integrity, the law of God would have yet been written in our hearts, and thereby the want of a divine revelation, at least such as ours, would have been superseded; but being fallen, instead of rising in rebellion against God, we ought to be filled with unspeakable thankfulness to our all bountiful Creator, who by a few lines in his own books hath discovered more to us, than all the philosophers and most learned men in the world could, or would, have discovered, though they had studied to all eternity. (Sermon: “The Potter and the Clay”)

Richard Baxter: Remember That Christ Has Conquered Satan!

Have you ever had a troubling moment when you felt the presence of evil as a living supernatural, yet unseen, being? At such times your fears may be real or imaginary but evil exists and there are devils or demons under the command of a “being” named Lucifer in the spiritual world that surrounds us. Often, however, we give the Devil more attention than is due him. Richard Baxter reminds us of this by providing Christians with advice concerning the fear of Satan:

Remember that the devil is chained up and wholly at the will and beck of God. He could not touch Job, or an ox, or an ass of his, till he had permission from God, Job 1. He cannot appear to thee nor hurt thee unless God give him leave.

Labor therefore to make sure of the love of God, and then thou art safe; then thou hast God, his love and promise, always to set against the devil.

Remember that Christ hath conquered the devil in his temptations, on the cross, by his resurrection and ascension. He “destroyed through death him that had the power of death, even the devil, that he might deliver them who through fear of death were their entire lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb. 2:14-15. The prince of this world is conquered and cast out by him, and wilt thou fear a conquered foe?

Remember that thou art already delivered from his power and dominion, if thou be renewed by the Spirit of God. And therefore let his own be afraid of him, that are under his power, and not the free-men and redeemed ones of Christ. God hath delivered thee in the day that he converted thee, from a thousand-fold greater calamity than the seeing of the devil would be; and having been saved from his greatest malice, you should not over-fear the less.

Remember what an injury it is to God and to Christ that conquered him, to fear the devil, while God is your protector (any otherwise than as the instrument of God’s displeasure): it seems as much as to say, I fear lest the devil be too hard for God; or lest God cannot deliver me from him.

Remember how you honor the devil by fearing him, and pleasure him by thus honoring him. And will you not abhor to honor and please such an enemy of God and you? This is it that he would have; to be feared instead of God. He glories in it as part of his dominion: as tyrants rejoice to see men fear them, as those that can destroy them when they will, so the devil triumphs in your fears as his honor. When God reprehended the idolatry of the Israelites, it is as they feared their idols of wood and stone. To fear them, showed that they took them for their gods, 2 Kings 17:38-39; Dan. 6:26.

Consider that it is a folly to be inordinately fearful of that which never did befall thee, and never befalleth one of many hundred thousand men: I mean any terrible appearance of the devil. Thou never sawest him; nor hearest credibly of but very few in an age that see him (besides witches). This fear therefore is irrational, the danger being utterly improbable.

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