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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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Sanctification by Doctrine

James Montgomery Boice:

Paul’s “method” of sanctification is biblical doctrine. That is, to live as Christians we must know what God has done to us in making us Christians. We must know what has happened, and the only way we can know what has happened is to know the Bible. Then, because we know what God has done to us, we are to go on with God, acting on the basis of what has been done for us and in us. We can express it this way: We cannot go back to being what we were before. We are new creatures in Christ. And if we are new creatures in Christ, the only thing we can do is get on with living the Christian life. In other words, there is no way for us to go but forward…..This has nothing to do with either method or an experience. It has everything to do with knowing and living by the sufficient Word of God. Is it not true that one reason we see such immature and even sinful behavior among Christians today is that they have not really been taught what God has done to them and for them when he saved them? Aren’t our churches immature precisely because the pastors are not teaching Bible doctrines? (Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World, pp. 80-81)

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Faking It!

Confucius once said, “I have yet to meet a man as fond of high moral conduct as he is of outward appearances.” I believe that Confucius was right about this. It is a part of our fallen nature; I suppose we all tend to care too much about appearances. After all, there are certain ways we want people to see and think about us. If we find ourselves unable or unwilling to actually live up to this way of life – we try to fake it.

Jesus pointed out to us an example of this lifestyle: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28 ESV)

How do we avoid this obvious hypocrisy in our own lives? Jesus proclaimed our need for a new birth: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 ESV) “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) In believing and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ we know that we abide in Christ and Christ in us. (1 John 3:24 ESV) We can obey because He has given us His Spirit.

Now we can begin to put away all those sins and lies which have made us hypocrites in the past. Paul writes, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth… 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 3:7-10 ESV) We are being renewed in the spirit of our minds and created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV) Paul declares, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

Based on my understanding of the Scriptures, I do not expect to ever live a life of perfect obedience and holiness. Yet, the Bible plainly teaches that: “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22 ESV) I know by faith in Jesus Christ that the inner change was applied to me at the moment of my salvation. I know also that the outer change in my daily life, sanctification, will continue throughout my life. The pursuit of holiness is a process wherein I am a coworker with the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit works in and with me, but I too am responsible for casting off the sin and hypocrisy in my life.

We cannot, however, sanctify ourselves any more than we can justify ourselves. The Bible speaks of God as the one who brings growth or sanctification to the believer’s life. Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV) In these two verses some important issues are addressed. You and I are commanded to pursue the things of God, but these verses also say that any obedience we have is ultimately from God. He gives us the will and enables us to work for His good pleasure. Yes, God is the source of my sanctification and yours, but we are responsible for cooperating in this growth.

I am sad to say that I am often embarrassed by some failure of mine to live up to the high calling of Jesus Christ. I too, have the tendency to want to pretend that I have grown more in Christ than I actually have. I am tempted to put on the mask of the hypocrite when I am more worried about what people think than I am concerned about my relationship with God. Please do not allow yourself to be caught up in this web of self-deceit.

If you find yourself tempted to “fake it” rather than repent of your disobedience, your own failed righteousness, and your willingness to pretend that you are something more than you actually are – run to the cross and to Christ. Only there do we find righteousness and ultimately, who we really are.

My hope is built on nothing less   

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,

Oh may I then in Him be found.

Dressed in His righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne.

(From: “MY HOPE IS BUILT” by Edward Mote)

Provision

Quoting John Calvin:

“Thus it is that we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles – content with this one thing: that our King [Jesus] will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph.”

Worldly Wealth and Honor

Sometimes I think it is good to meditate on the short span of our lives here on earth. “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Hebrews 1:10-12 ESV) Thomas Adams writes:

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

His wrath is short, his goodness is everlasting. ‘The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee,’ verse 10. The mountains are stable things, the hills steadfast; yet hills, mountains, yea the whole earth, shall totter on its foundations; yea the very ‘heavens shall pass away with a noise, and the elements shall melt with heat,’ 2 Pet. 3:10; but the covenant of God shall not be broken. . . .

As this meditation distills into our believing hearts much comfort, so let it give us some instructions. [It readily teaches us a dissuasive caution.]

It dissuades our confidence in worldly things, because they are inconstant. . . Solomon compares wealth to a wild fowl. ‘Riches make themselves wings, they fly away as an eagle toward heaven,’ Proverbs 23:5. Not some tame house-bird, or a hawk that may be fetched down with a lure, or found again by her bells; but an eagle, that violently cuts the air, and is gone past recalling.

Wealth is like a bird; it hops all day from man to man, as a bird doth from tree to tree; and none can say where it will roost or rest at night. It is like a vagrant fellow, which because he is big-boned, and able to work, a man takes in a-doors, and keeps him warm; and perhaps for a while he works hard; but when he spies opportunity, the fugitive servant is gone, and makes away more with him than all his service came to. The world may seem to stand thee in some stead for a season, but at last it irrevocably runs away, and carries with it thy joys; thy goods, as Rachel stole Laban’s idols; thy peace and content of heart goes with it, and thou art left desperate.

You see how quickly riches cease to be ‘the same:’ and can any other earthly thing boast more stability? Honor must put off its robes when the play is done; make it never so glorious a show on this world’s stage, it hath but a short part to act. A great name of worldly glory is but like a peal rung on the bells; the common people are the clappers; the rope that moves them is popularity; if you once let go your hold and leave pulling, the clapper lies still, and farewell honor. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

Lord Be Our Strength!

The world is a howling wilderness for many Christians. Some are greatly indulged and blessed by the providence of God, while others have a hard fight to just make do. It is God who keeps us alive on the brink of death. Many will be amazed to see us enter the kingdom of heaven, but we have been kept blameless in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

If we had the tongues of men and of angels, if we did not receive fresh grace, where should we be? If we had all experience till we were fathers in the church – if we had been taught of God so as to understand all mysteries – yet we could not live a single day without the divine life flowing into us from our Covenant Head. How could we hope to hold on for a single hour, to say nothing of a lifetime, unless the Lord should hold us on? He who began the good work in us must perform it unto the day of Christ, or it will prove a painful failure.

This great necessity arises very much from our own selves. In some there is a painful fear that they shall not persevere in grace because they know their own fickleness. Certain persons are constitutionally unstable. Some men are by nature conservative, not to say obstinate; but others are as naturally variable and volatile. Like butterflies they flit from flower to flower, till they visit all the beauties of the garden, and settle upon none of them. They are never long enough in one place to do any good; not even in their business nor in their intellectual pursuits. Such persons may well be afraid that ten, twenty, thirty, forty, perhaps fifty years of continuous religious watchfulness will be a great deal too much for them. We see men joining first one church and then another, till they box the compass. They are everything by turns and nothing long. Such have double need to pray that they may be divinely confirmed, and may be made not only steadfast but unmovable, or otherwise they will not be found “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” All of us, even if we have no constitutional temptation to fickleness, must feel our own weakness if we are really quickened of God. Dear reader, do you not find enough in any one single day to make you stumble? You that desire to walk in perfect holiness, as I trust you do; you that have set before you a high standard of what a Christian should be – do you not find that before the breakfast things are cleared away from the table, you have displayed enough folly to make you ashamed of yourselves? If we were to shut ourselves up in the lone cell of a hermit, temptation would follow us; for as long as we cannot escape from ourselves we cannot escape from incitements to sin. There is that within our hearts which should make us watchful and humble before God. If he does not confirm us, we are so weak that we shall stumble and fall; not overturned by an enemy, but by our own carelessness. Lord, be thou our strength. We are weakness itself. (All of Grace)

Wealth and Christianity

Individuals may commendably be employed in following their respective callings; but yet, if they are occupied so deeply in this, as to hinder their salvation and sanctification, they may forfeit their seats at Christ’s table. George Whitefield explains further:

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22 ESV)

A covetous miser, who neglects religion by being continually intent on seeking great things for himself and those of his own household, flatters himself he herein acts most wisely; and at the same time will censure and condemn a young prodigal, who has no time to be devout, because he is so perpetually engaged in wasting his substance by riotous living and following of harlots. But yet a little while, and men will be convinced, that they are as much without excuse who lost their souls by hunting after riches, as those who lose them by hunting after sensual pleasures. For though business may assume an air of importance, when compared with other trifling amusements, yet when put in the balance with the loss of our precious and immortal souls, it is equally frivolous, according to that of our Savior, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lost his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

And now what need we any further proof? We have heard the decision out of Christ’s own mouth. But because it is so difficult to convince such of this important truth, whose hearts are blinded by the deceitfulness of riches, that we had need cry out to them in the language of the prophet, “O earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord,” I shall lay before you one passage of scripture more, which I could wish were written on the tables of all our hearts. In the 14th of St. Luke, the 18th and following verses, our blessed Lord puts forth this parable, “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many, and sent his servant at supper-time, to call them that were bidden: but they all, with one consent, began to make excuse. The one said, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it, I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought a yoke of oxen, and I must needs go and prove them, I pray thee therefore have me excused. So the servant returned, and showed his master all these things.” And what follows? Did the master accept of their excuses? No, the text tells us the good man was angry, and said, “that none of those which were bidden, should taste of his supper.” And what does this parable teach, but that the most lawful callings cannot justify our neglect; nay, that they are no longer lawful when they in any wise interfere with the great concerns of religion? For the marriage supper here spoken of, means the gospel; the master of the house is Christ; the servants sent out, are his ministers, whose duty it is, from time to time, to call the people to this marriage-feast, or, in other words, to be religious. Now we find those that were bidden, were very well and honestly employed. There was no harm in buying or seeing a piece of ground, or in going to prove a yoke of oxen; but here lay their faults, they were doing those things, when they were invited to come to the marriage feast. (“Worldly Business no Plea for the Neglect of Religion”)

A Contented Man

Arthur W. Pink writes:

Instead of complaining at his lot, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are. Instead of greedily desiring something more than the supply of his present need, he rejoices that God still cares for him. Such an one is “content” with such as he has (Heb. 13:5).

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