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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

WILL I EVER BE RIGHTEOUS?

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. (1 Peter 3:12 ESV)

The God of the Bible is righteous and takes sin so seriously that our own efforts cannot erase the guilt of our iniquity. Yet, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God has forgiven our sins that we may participate in His righteousness. In Christ, we see the righteousness of the invisible God lived out in human conduct and character. Righteousness is the fruit of a life in Christ.

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THE GOSPEL SEED

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 ESV)

How do we make Jesus known to the world? The parable above guides us in this regard. In order to make Him known, we must sow the words of Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus are the promise of salvation.

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OVERCOMING SATAN

For some have already strayed after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:15 ESV)

Not only are you fighting against normal human problems, but you now have engaged in war with Satan and demons and sin itself. (John MacArthur)

Many no longer believe in Satan. They think that he is the product of the uneducated, superstitious mind. The Scriptures are largely ignored concerning Satan and his minions in our current free-thinking culture. We look at evil with enlightened eyes and see a disease which only needs the right medicine to cure it.

Evil thrives on being unacknowledged. It separates man from God. It is an unrelenting malevolence against mankind. This is a spiritual battle on a cosmic scale and most are blind to its existence. (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV) How is the master of evil overcome? James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, writes:

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EVIL IS REAL

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 ESV)

Many in today’s world do not believe in evil. They believe that such ideas are based on cultural beliefs relative to various societies in different places and times. The paradigm key here is the word “relative”. Ethics, morals, right or wrong, and good or evil are considered “relative” to the circumstances people encounter in life. The idea of a spiritual being named Satan or the devil, who is an embodiment of evil, is viewed with contempt as the product of ignorant superstitious minds.

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OBEDIENCE REQUIRES HUMILITY

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8 ESV)

In the verse above, we see that Jesus left His glory in heaven to become a human man. He came in the form of a servant; not a ruler. He was a man like other men, but He did not sin. Yet, He humbled Himself in obedience to die on the cross. Such a death was considered the most degrading and most humiliating kind of death. This was the penalty for the most wretched of slaves and the wickedest of criminals who were considered cursed by God.

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MADNESS IN THE LIGHT OF GOD

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23 ESV)

Samuel A CainThe natural man is mad. This madness is always within him. His emotions and his thoughts are inclined by his hatred of God. The Bible tells us that men’s hearts are completely wicked and full of self-deception. (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV) His thoughts are continuously sinful. Yet, life is fleeting and time moves all too hastily. We are here for a moment and then like a vapor of mist disappear awaiting the Great Day of Judgement.

It is madness to rebel against God. It is madness to trade God’s blessings for the temporary pleasures of this world. Nevertheless, the world calls Christians mad. There are many who say that it is the Cross of Christ that is madness; the atonement through His blood is madness; grace is madness; heaven and hell are madness; and even that belief in God is madness. They are futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become the greatest fools. (Romans 1:21-23 ESV) Continue reading

FAITH

John PiperJohn Piper:

“Faith is being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ.”The Pleasures of God, 254)

The Grace of Faith

William Guthrie

Grace and faith are linked together in Scripture. Both are gifts of God. God’s grace gives us the desire and power to do His will. “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) According to William Guthrie:

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 ESV)

This grace of faith is a knowing and intelligent grace, so that they, in whom it is, know somewhat of God, and of Jesus Christ, who is the immediate object of faith, and of the promises of the Gospel, and of their own case and condition. . . .

This grace is a lively, operative, and working grace. It makes the soul in which it is lively, diligent, and active in working the work of God. It is called “the work of faith.” It puts folk upon working.

This grace is a most precious grace in respect of God, the author of it; in respect of Christ, the object of it; and in respect of the Gospel, the means of attaining to it; and in respect of salvation, the end of it. Oh, but it is precious, and makes those that have it precious unto God.

It is a most conquering and overcoming grace; “It overcometh the world and the devil;” it is the shield that quenches all his fiery darts.

I shall add that it is a purifying and cleansing grace, for it gives the person no rest until he has recourse unto the fountain of His blood. Says John, “He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” Not only to be reformed outwardly, but inwardly. By these things ye may see what this grace of faith is; and by some of them ye may know if ye have it, and how ye may get it. Withal ye may see the need ye have of it. If ye would go to God acceptably – if ye would bear a storm – if ye would have life – then study faith. If ye get it not, ye shall never see life, and nothing that ye do shall be acceptable to God. Remember these things, lay them to heart, and do not think that it will be enough to hear them; for how will ye look death in the face who never studied this grace! How will ye wade the fords of Jordan to eternity? And how shall ye be able to answer God in the great day of accounts? If ye would get safe through all these, labor to obtain this grace of faith. The Lord help you so to do.

Anxious for Your Children?

Overprotective ParentsParents naturally wish to save their children from suffering. Often, however, this protective instinct becomes an obsession and is carried to extremes. Such behavior on the parents’ part does more harm than good. Thomas Adams writes:

‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ (Heb. 13:8)

Many persons are solicitously perplexed, how their children shall do when they are dead; yet they consider not how God provided for them when they were children. Is the ‘Lord’s arm shortened?’… Is not ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever?’ ‘I have been young,’ saith David, ‘and am now old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken’—that is granted, nay—’nor his seed begging bread,’ Ps. 37:25.

Many distrustful fathers are so anxious for their posterity, that while they live they starve their bodies, and hazard their souls, to leave them rich. To such a father it is said justly: … Like an over-kind hen, he feeds his chickens, and famishes himself. If usury, circumvention, oppression, extortion, can make them rich, they shall not be poor. Their folly is ridiculous; they fear lest their children should be miserable, yet take the only course to make them miserable; for they leave them not so much heirs to their goods as to their evils. They as certainly inherit their father’s sins as their lands: ‘God layeth up his iniquity for his children; and his offspring shall want a morsel of bread,’ Job 21:19.

On the contrary, ‘the good man is merciful, and lends; and his seed is blessed,’ Ps. 37:26. That which the worldling thinks shall make his posterity poor, God saith shall make the good man’s [children] rich. The precept gives a promise of mercy to obedience, not only confined to the obedient man’s self, but extended to his seed, and that even to a thousand generations, Exod. 20:6. Trust, then, Christ with thy children; when thy friends shall fail, usury bear no date, oppression be condemned to hell, thyself rotten to the dust, the world itself turned and burned into cinders, still ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’

Now then, as ‘grace and peace are from him which is, and which was, and which is to come;’ so glory and honor be to him, which is, and which was, and which is to come; even to ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,’ Rev. 1:4. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

Manifest in the Flesh

John CalvinIt is impossible for us to truly know Jesus Christ unless we understand His manhood. We must know that Jesus Christ is God and man, and likewise that He is one person. According to John Calvin:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Christ was made manifest in the flesh: that is to say, became man; like unto us in all things, sin only excepted (Heb. 4:15). Where he saith, sin only excepted, he means that our Lord Jesus was without fault or blemish. Yet notwithstanding, He refused not to bear our sins: He took this burden upon Himself, that we through His grace might be unburdened. We cannot know Jesus Christ to be a mediator between God and man, unless we behold Him as man. When St. Paul would embolden us to call upon God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he expressly calls Him man.

St. Paul saith, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). Under this consideration, we may in His name and by His means come familiarly to God, knowing that we are His brethren, and He the Son of God. Seeing there is nothing but sin in mankind, we must also find righteousness and life in our flesh. Therefore if Christ The Birth of Jesushas not truly become our brother, if He has not been made man like unto us, in what condition are we? Let us now consider His life and passion.

It is said (speaking of Christ), “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). And why so? St. Paul shows us the reason in Romans 5:18. “As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” If we know not this, that the sin which was committed in our nature, was repaired in the self-same nature, in what situation are we? Upon what foundation can we stay ourselves? Therefore, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ could not profit us one whit, unless He had been made man, like unto us.

Again, if Jesus Christ were only God, could we have any certainty or pledge in His resurrection, that we should one day rise again? It is true that the Son of God rose again; when we hear it said, that the Son of God took upon Him a body like unto ours, came of the stock of David, that He is risen again (seeing our nature is of itself corruptible), and is lifted up on high unto glory, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, “we are made to sit Christmas Pointsettiastogether in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6) Therefore, those that went about to bring to naught man’s nature, in the person of the Son of God, are to be the more detested. For the devil raised up in old times some individuals who declared that Jesus Christ appeared in the shape of man, but had not man’s true nature: thereby endeavoring to abolish God’s mercy towards us, and utterly destroy our faith. (“The Mystery of Godliness”)

Knowing Jesus

Is Jesus Christ God? John Calvin writes:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Do what we can, we shall never have any hope, or be able to lay hold of the bounty and goodness of God, to return to Him, and call upon Him, until we know the majesty of God that is in Jesus Christ; and likewise the weakness of man’s nature … The devil hath bestowed all his art to pervert this doctrine; seeing that our salvation is grounded thereon. We should therefore be so much the more confirmed and strengthened in it; that we may never be shaken, but stand steadfast in the faith, which is contained in the gospel.

First of all we have this to note, that we shall never know Jesus Christ to be our Savior, until we know that He was God from everlasting. That which was written of Him by Jeremiah the prophet, must needs be fulfilled: “Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord” (Jer. 9:24). St. Paul shows that this must be applied to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ: and thereupon he protests that he made no account of any doctrine or knowledge, only to know Jesus Christ.

Again, how is it possible for us to have our life in Him, unless He is our God, and we are maintained and preserved by His virtue? How can we put our trust in Him? For it is written. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer. 17:5). Again, how can we be preserved from death except by God’s infinite power? Even if Scripture bore no witness to the Deity of Jesus Christ, it is impossible for us to know Him as our Savior, unless we admit that He possesses the whole majesty of God; unless we acknowledge Him to be the true God; because He is the wisdom of the Father whereby the world was made, preserved, and kept in being. Therefore let us be thoroughly resolved in this point, whenever we speak of Jesus Christ, that we lift our thoughts on high, and worship this majesty which He had from everlasting, and this infinite essence which He enjoyed before He clothed himself in humanity. (“The Mystery of Godliness”)

Come Ye Blessed!

Jesus is the same gracious Savior that He was to our fathers. He is gracious to us today and will be so in the future. By faith we must accept this comfort. There is found no insufficiency in Christ. Thomas Adams writes:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

Let the wicked flatter themselves that all is but talk of any coming to judgment; all is but . . . mere scare-babes. [T]hey have written lies, there is no such matter. But when they shall see that Lamb ‘whom they have pierced’ and scorned (Rev. 1:7), “they shall cry to the mountains and rocks, Fall upon us, and cover us,” Rev. 6:16. Now they flatter themselves with his death; Mortuus est, he is dead and gone; and Mortuum Caesarem quis metuit? Who fears even a Caesar when he is dead? But “He that was dead, liveth; behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen,” Rev. 1:18. Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. Quaesitor scelerum veniet, vindexque reorum. (The Judge of wickedness will come and punishment will be done.)

Here is matter of infallible comfort to us: “Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh,” Luke 21:28. Here we are imprisoned, martyred, tortured; but when that great assize and general jail-delivery comes . . . “There shall be no more death nor sorrow, but all tears shall be wiped from our eyes,” Rev. 21:4. “For it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels,” 2 Thess. 1:6, 7. We shall then find him the same;—the same Lamb that bought us shall give us a Venite beati, Come, ye blessed, receive your kingdom. “Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” Rev. 22:20. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

The Docetic Heresy

Docetism and Christianity:

Docetism was a heresy that attracted interest in the third century. Docetists believed that there was one eternal father who was eternally transcendent and unable to experience any sort of human emotion of suffering. The belief that Jesus became human flesh and experienced life as a human was unthinkable.

The early orthodox church opposed Docetism. Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work against Valentinus (136 A.D. – 165 A.D.) who one of Docetism’s prominent teachers. Polycarp condemns the Docetists by saying that “everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an anti-Christ,” echoing 1 John 4:2-3.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus experienced hunger (Matt. 4:2) and thirst (John 19:28), was sympathetic (Matt. 9:36), became weary (John 4:6), felt sorrow to the point of weeping (John 11:35), and grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52). Yet, His humanness never caused Him to sin (Heb. 4:15).

Docetism strikes at the heart of Christianity; as the author of Hebrews plainly teaches, Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV)

The Bible teaches:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 ESV)

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 ESV)

Freedom of Religion

Quoting Patrick Henry (Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution)

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” (The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii)

Why Does God Defer to Answer Prayers?

Prayer has the power to achieve the impossible. Yet, many do not use it regularly, or don’t believe in its efficiency as our Christian fathers certainly did. This is certainly a primary reason why our churches are so cold and, when we do pray, we feel as if our prayers are not penetrating the floor of heaven. John Knox continues this line of thought:

[S]ometimes God defers or prolongs to grant our petitions, for the exercise and trial of our faith, and not that he sleeps or is absent from us at any time, but that with more gladness we might receive that which, with long expectation, we have abidden [awaited]; that thereby we, assured of his eternal providence (so far as the infirmity of our corrupt and most weak nature will permit), doubt not but that his merciful hand shall relieve us in most urgent necessity and extreme tribulation. Therefore, such men as teach us that it is not necessarily required that we understand what we pray, because God knows what we need, would also teach us that we neither honor God, nor yet refer or give unto him thanks for benefits received. For how shall we honor and praise him, whose goodness and liberality we know not? And how shall we know, unless we receive and sometimes have experience? And how shall we know that we have received, unless we know verily what we have asked?

The second thing to be observed in perfect prayer is, that standing in the presence of God, we are found such as bear reverence to his holy law; earnestly repenting [of] our past iniquities, and intending to lead a new life; for otherwise all our prayers are in vain, as it is written, “Whoso withdraweth his ear that he may not hear the law of God, his prayer shall be abominable” (Prov. 28:9). Likewise Isaiah and Jeremiah says thus: “You shall multiply your prayers, and I shall not hear, because your hands are full of blood:” that is, of all cruelty and mischievous works (Isa. 1:15; cf. Jer. 11:14; 14:12). Also the Spirit of God appears by the mouth of the blind (whom Jesus Christ illuminated), by these words, “We know that God heareth not sinners” (John 9:31): that is, such as do glory and continue in iniquity. So that of necessity, true repentance must needs be had, and go before perfect prayer, or sincere invocation of God’s name. (“A Treatise on Prayer, or, a Confession, and Declaration of Prayers”)

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