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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)

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).

Be Like Christ at all Times

Charles Spurgeon writes:

My brethren, let me say, be like Christ at all times. Imitate him in “public.” Most of us live in some sort of public capacity—many of us are called to work before our fellow-men every day. We are watched; our words are caught; our lives are examined—taken to pieces. The eagle-eyed, argus-eyed world observes everything we do, and sharp critics are upon us. Let us live the life of Christ in public. Let us take care that we exhibit our Master and not ourselves—so that we can say, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.”

Jesus Christ Gives Repentance to the Most Unlikely People

You may have a very stubborn heart, which has stood against our Lord Jesus Christ for many years; and yet in you our Lord can work repentance. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

When our Lord Jesus was exalted, He not only gave us repentance by sending forth the Holy Spirit, but by consecrating all the works of nature and of providence to the great ends of our salvation, so that any one of them may call us to repentance, whether it crow like a cockerel for Peter, or shake the prison like the jailer’s earthquake. From the right hand of God our Lord Jesus rules all things here below, and makes them work together for the salvation of His redeemed. He uses both bitters and sweets, trials and joys, that He may produce in sinners a better mind toward their God. Be thankful for the providence which has made you poor, or sick, or sad; for by all this Jesus works the life of your spirit and turns you to Himself. The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our hearts on the black horse of affliction. Jesus uses the whole range of our experience to wean us from earth and woo us to Heaven. Christ is exalted to the throne of Heaven and earth in order that, by all the processes of His providence, He may subdue hard hearts unto the gracious softening of repentance.

Besides, He is at work at this hour by all His whispers in the conscience, by His inspired Book, by those of us who speak out of that Book, and by praying friends and earnest hearts. He can send a word to you which shall strike your rocky heart as with the rod of Moses, and cause streams of repentance to flow forth. He can bring to your mind some heartbreaking text out of Holy Scripture which shall conquer you right speedily. He can mysteriously soften you, and cause a holy frame of mind to steal over you when you least look for it. Be sure of this, that He who is gone into His glory, raised into all the splendor and majesty of God, has abundant ways of working repentance in those to whom He grants forgiveness. He is even now waiting to give repentance to you. Ask Him for it at once.

Observe with much comfort that the Lord Jesus Christ gives this repentance to the most unlikely people in the world. He is exalted to give repentance to Israel. To Israel! In the days when the apostles thus spoke, Israel was the nation which had most grossly sinned against light and love, by daring to say, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Yet Jesus is exalted to give them repentance! What a marvel of grace! If you have been brought up in the brightest of Christian light, and yet have rejected it, there is still hope. If you have sinned against conscience, and against the Holy Spirit, and against the love of Jesus, there is yet space for repentance. Though you may be as hard as unbelieving Israel of old, softening may yet come to you, since Jesus is exalted, and clothed with boundless power. For those who went the furthest in iniquity, and sinned with special aggravation, the Lord Jesus is exalted to give to them repentance and forgiveness of sins. Happy am I to have so full a gospel to proclaim! Happy are you to be allowed to read it! (All of Grace)

Let Him who is Athirst Come

If you are a great sinner, know that Jesus is a great Savior. John A. Broadus once preached the excerpt below:

Come with the same confidence in his [Christ’s] power that they felt who asked him to heal their disease. There are many to testify that they have come and been heard, and none been sent empty away – do you come, and you too shall hear him say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Come with the same humility the Syrophoenician woman felt, when she pled that the dogs, though they should not eat the children’s food, might yet have the crumbs that fell under the table-and that she, though a Gentile, might yet have some humble share in that salvation which was of the Jews. Come with all the earnestness the poor blind man felt. He heard that Jesus was passing, and none could hinder him with all their charges, from crying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” And when the compassionate Savior stopped, and commanded him to be called, they said to him, “Be of good comfort, rise! he calleth thee.” Even so, my hearer, Jesus commands you to be called, as you sit in your spiritual blindness. Just as Bartimaeus threw away his cloak that nothing might hinder him, and went eagerly to Jesus, so you come at once unto him, and ask that you may receive your sight. You too shall hear him say, “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”

All must come from him. Let him be your Lord, your life, your sacrifice, your Savior and your all. You are a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

It is said (many here have doubtless read the account) that a brother of the famous Whitefield was once conversing, in great distress, with Lady Huntingdon. She told him of the infinite love and mercy of Jesus, but he replied, “I know all that; but there is no mercy for me – I am lost, I am lost.” “I am glad to hear it, Mr. Whitefield, very glad to hear it.” “How, my dear Madam, glad to hear that I am lost?” “Yes, Jesus came to save the lost.” That word moved him; he believed on Jesus, and lived and died a Christian. And so may you, if you believe on him who is the Savior of the lost and ruined. Then come to Jesus, come earnestly, come just as you are.

Just as I am, without one plea

Save that thy blood was shed for me,

And that thou bidst me come to thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Come, and you will be heard – you shall find rest. He will not send you away. He came into the world to save sinners – he suffered and died to save sinners – he invited burdened sinners to him. Then take this blessed, this precious invitation to yourself, come to Jesus, and your soul shall live. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (“Come Unto Me”)

Daily Reading

From the pen of Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls — as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday’s food will not feed the laborer today; and today’s food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God’s Word every day.

Nonconformity

In the words of R.C. Sproul:

“The simplistic way of not conforming is to see what is in style in our culture and then do the opposite. If short hair is in vogue, the nonconformist wears long hair. If going to the movies is popular, then Christians avoid movies as “worldly.” The extreme case of this may be seen in groups that refuse to wear buttons or use electricity because such things, too, are worldly.

A superficial style of nonconformity is the classical Pharisaical trap. The kingdom of God is not about buttons, movies, or dancing. The concern of God is not focused on what we eat or what we drink. The call of nonconformity is a call to a deeper level of righteousness that goes beyond externals. When piety is defined exclusively in terms of externals, the whole point of the apostle’s teaching has been lost. Somehow we have failed to hear Jesus’ words that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of that mouth. We still want to make the kingdom a matter of eating and drinking.” (The Holiness of God)

How Best to Read the Bible

From the pen of J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application. Sit down to the study it with a daily determination that you will live by its rules, rest on its statements, and act on its commands. Consider, as you travel through every chapter, “How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?” It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes — in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best — which is practiced most!

Forgiveness and Repentance

The Holy Ghost creates repentance in us by supernaturally renewing our nature, and taking away the heart of stone out of our flesh. Repentance comes not from unwilling nature, but from free and sovereign grace. According to Charles H. Spurgeon:

Both forgiveness and repentance flow from the same source, and are given by the same Savior. The Lord Jesus in His glory bestows both upon the same persons. You are neither to find the remission nor the repentance elsewhere. Jesus has both ready, and He is prepared to bestow them now, and to bestow them most freely on all who will accept them at His hands. Let it never be forgotten that Jesus gives all that is needful for our salvation. It is highly important that all seekers after mercy should remember this. Faith is as much the gift of God as is the Savior upon whom that faith relies. Repentance of sin is as truly the work of grace as the making of an atonement by which sin is blotted out. Salvation, from first to last, is of grace alone.

You will not misunderstand me. It is not the Holy Spirit who repents. He has never done anything for which He should repent. If He could repent, it would not meet the case; we must ourselves repent of our own sin, or we are not saved from its power. It is not the Lord Jesus Christ who repents. What should He repent of? We ourselves repent with the full consent of every faculty of our mind. The will, the affections, the emotions, all work together most heartily in the blessed act of repentance for sin; and yet at the back of all that is our personal act, there is a secret holy influence which melts the heart, gives contrition, and produces a complete change. The Spirit of God enlightens us to see what sin is, and thus makes it loathsome in our eyes. The Spirit of God also turns us toward holiness, makes us heartily to appreciate, love, and desire it, and thus gives us the impetus by which we are led onward from stage to stage of sanctification. The Spirit of God works in us to will and to do according to God’s good pleasure. To that good Spirit let us submit ourselves at once, that He may lead us to Jesus, who will freely give us the double benediction of repentance and remission, according to the riches of His grace. “By grace are ye saved.” (All of Grace)

Love and the Character of Man

Who and what you love tells us much about you. It helps define the purpose for which you are living. If you would sell all you have to buy a field under which lies a great treasure of gold, that action reveals something about you. If you would give up all you have to serve Christ that reveals something else. Thomas Doolittle educates us on this subject:

Love shows the true character of a man, according to the object which he loves more than anything else: for as is the love, so is the man. According to his love, so might you confidently designate the man. If he is a lover of honor, he is an ambitious man; a lover of pleasure, a sensual man; and if he chiefly loves the world, he is a covetous man. If a man loves righteousness, he is a religious man; if the things above, a heavenly-minded man; and if he love Christ with a pre-eminent love, he is a sincere man: “Rightly do they love you.,” Song of Songs 1:4.

If Christ has our love, he has our all; and Christ never has what he deserves from us, till he has our love. True love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon him. If we actually love him, he will have our time, and he will have our service, and he will have the use of all our resources, and gifts, and graces; indeed, then he shall have our possessions, freedom, and our very lives, whenever he calls for them. In the same way, when God loves any of us, he will withhold nothing from us that is good for us. He does not hold back his own only begotten Son, Rom.8:32. When Christ loves us, he gives us everything we need– his merits to justify us, his Spirit to sanctify us, his grace to adorn us, and his glory to crown us. Therefore, when any of us love Christ sincerely, we lay everything down at his feet, and give up all to be at his command and service: “And they loved not their lives unto the death,” Rev. 12:11. (“Love to Christ Everlasting”)

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