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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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Come to Jesus

 

John A. Broadus (1827-1895) encourages us to come to the Great Savior in the article below:

There are many to testify that they have come [to Jesus] 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.”

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 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”)

 

The Need for Rebirth

The Lord declares that a great and wondrous change is needful to salvation. It is not merely an alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. Archibald Alexander explains:

Men are satisfied commonly if they can so regulate their lives as to escape the censure of men, and the disgrace which follows wicked actions, but they pay little attention to their hearts which are as a cage of unclean birds. Most men are not in the habit of judging of their thoughts, imaginations and feelings, by the holy law of God, which condemns every wandering of desire, every unhallowed temper, and every want of supreme and perfect love. If we look upon our own hearts we must be convinced that all is not right within. If our hearts are naturally good, why do they turn away with strong secret aversion from the spiritual service of God? If our hearts are not dead to God, why are we not daily delighted with the contemplation of his glorious attributes? Why is prayer a burden? Why are we so entirely engrossed with sensible and worldly pursuits and pleasures? And if the moral and amiable need regeneration, what shall we say of the multitudes who are living in open rebellion against God? The profane, the unjust, the intemperate, the licentious, the scoffer, the false-swearer, the defrauder of the widow and the orphan, the sabbath-breaker, the liar, the neglecters of God’s worship, the slanderer, and a multitude of others who live habitually in known sin, surely need to be reformed, and they will never be thoroughly reformed until they are regenerated. Such must put off the old man with his corrupt deeds, and put on the new man. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God who will abundantly pardon.” There is an urgent necessity that every sinner should repent, for true repentance is unto life. And what our Lord declared to the Jews is true of all, and was intended for all. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” and Paul preached to the Athenians that “God now commandeth all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, of which he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Evangelical repentance, conversion and regeneration, are substantially the same. They all signify a thorough change of views, affections, purposes and conduct; and this change is every where declared to be essential to salvation. And this is not a merely arbitrary constitution. No one is capable of the enjoyment of heavenly felicity who has never been born again. Without spiritual life, what would the sinner do in heaven? If men have no love to God, nor relish for his service, heaven is no place for them. Heaven is a holy place, and all the exercises and employments are holy, therefore, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” And to be holy, ye must be born again. (“A Practical View of Regeneration”)

J. C. Ryle: The Pharisee And The Tax Collector

We may know a man by his outward behavior, but only God can truly see the man’s heart. J. C. Ryle writes:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

The parable—or rather narrative, for it is probably a true story, adapted by our Lord to the purpose of the moment—begins by stating that “One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.” Now, it is almost impossible to imagine a more striking contrast, in the opinion of a Jewish congregation. The PHARISEES were the strictest sect among the Jews: “I was of the strictest sect of the Pharisees,” says Paul. They prayed often—which was very right—but they also made long prayers for a pretense, and they would pray at the corners of the streets where two roads met, that they might be seen by people going and coming both ways and so get a name for uncommon sanctity. There is no reason for supposing they were generally anything but moral men—but their grand fault was that they relied on their good works, as a ground of acceptance before God. They seem to have been indifferent as to the real state of their hearts, and to have cared only for keeping up a fair appearance before men, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

We may get some idea of their real character from our Lord’s saying, that they gave tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy and truth; and from His comparison of them to whitened sepulchers, which outwardly appear beautiful before men—but inwardly are filled with dead men’s bones and all corruption. They “made broad the borders of their phylacteries,” they had pieces of parchment sewed to the edge of their long robes, on which some texts of Scripture were written, that people might see them and infer that they were great lovers of the law of God. They were very strict about outward purifications, and set great value on the washing of pots, brazen vessels and tables, and many other such-like things that they did. They were particularly zealous for the traditions of the fathers, and for the observation of the rites and ceremonies of the Church, and yet they often made the law of God void by their traditions. They were exceeding exact in the outward observation of the Sabbath—so much so that they called our Lord a sinner, and said he was not of God, because on the Sabbath day He had healed a man who was born blind.

And for all these reasons they were held in high esteem by the people; for men always prefer the things of sight to the things of faith, and think more of outward service than of heart; they had the uppermost places in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces, and were called of men Rabbi. In short, they got such a reputation for piety, that it became a proverb among the Jews that if there were but two men saved, one of them must be a Pharisee.

Such were the Pharisees. But what was the character given to the TAX COLLECTORS? It was very different in every respect. They were generally Jews who were employed to collect the Roman taxes. And as the Jews always disliked to pay tribute to the Gentiles, their office as tax collectors was looked upon as disgraceful and disreputable. Besides this, it is pretty clear that they used to exact much more than their due, and to amass much wealth by false accusations, to the great disgust of their fellow-countrymen. On these accounts they were so universally notorious, that our Lord Himself tells His disciples that if any man would not listen to the church, he must be to them as a heathen man and a tax collector. The enemies of Jesus thought it a heavy charge against Him that He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners; and in one place we find the tax collectors and harlots mentioned together, as people of like reputation.

On the whole, then, we may fairly conclude that in teaching the nature of acceptable worship, our Lord could not have chosen two examples more unlike each other than a Pharisee and a tax collector. One is of great repute with his fellow-creatures, while the other is peculiarly offensive—but which will God accept? (“Self-Righteousness”)

Another excerpt from this sermon will be posted soon.

John Calvin On Following The Rule Of God

John Calvin

When Jesus Christ comes into our hearts, we know that we shall be cleansed from our filthiness; for by His grace we are taken for His children. There is nothing from the unbeliever that is not defiled. Without God’s grace, we have no righteousness that allows us to stand before God. Our actions, words, and thoughts are corrupt and not acceptable to God because they are infected by sin. Can such a creature gain righteousness by his obedience to Old Testament law and ritual that has been revoked by God? Can he follow the rules of men to heaven? John Calvin provides us with the answers:

Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him: being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)

[I]t is faith that must cleanse us. Then will all meats be clean to us: that is, we may use them freely without wavering. If men enjoin spiritual laws upon us, we need not observe them, being assured that such obedience cannot please God, for in so doing, we set up rulers to govern us, making them equal with God, who reserves all power to Himself. Thus, the government of the soul must be kept safe and sound in the hands of God. Therefore, if we allow so much superiority to men that we suffer them to enwrap our souls with their own bands, we so much lessen and diminish the power and empire that God hath over us.

And thus the humbleness that we might have in obeying the traditions of men would be worse than all the rebellion in the world; because it is robbing God of His honor, and giving it, as a spoil, to mortal men. St. Paul speaketh of the superstition of some of the Jews, who would have men still observe the shadows and figures of the law; but the Holy Ghost hath pronounced a sentence which must be observed to the end of the world: that God hath not bound us at this day to such a burden as was borne by the old fathers; but hath cut off that part which He had commanded, relative to the abstaining from meats; for it was a law but for a season.

Seeing God hath thus set us at liberty, what rashness it is for worms of the earth to make new laws; as though God had not been wise enough. When we allege this to the papists, they answer that St. Paul spoke of the Jews, and of meats that were forbidden by the law. This is true, but let us see whether this answer be to any purpose, or worth receiving. St. Paul not only saith that it is lawful for us to use that which was forbidden, but he speaketh in general terms, saying, all things are clean. Thus we see that God hath here given us liberty, concerning the use of meats; so that He will not hold us in subjection, as were the old fathers.

Therefore, seeing God hath abrogated that law which was made by Him, and will not have it in force any longer, what shall we think when we see men inventing traditions of their own; and not content themselves with what God hath shown them? In the first place, they still endeavor to hold the church of Christ under the restrictions of the Old Testament. But God will have us governed as men of years and discretion, which have no need of instruction suitable for children. They set up man’s devices, and say we must keep them under pain of deadly sin; whereas God will not have His own law to be observed among us at this day, relative to types and shadows, because it was all ended at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Shall it then be lawful to observe what men have framed in their own wisdom? Do we not see that it is a matter which goeth directly against God? St. Paul setteth himself against such deceivers: against such as would bind Christians to abstain from meats as God had commanded in His law. If a man say, it is but a small matter to abstain from flesh on Friday, or in Lent, let us consider whether it be a small matter to corrupt and bastardize the service of God! For surely those that go about to set forth and establish the tradition of men, set themselves against that which God hath appointed in His Word, and thus commit sacrilege.

Seeing God will be served with obedience, let us beware and keep ourselves within those bounds which God hath set; and not suffer men to add any thing to it of their own. There is something worse in it than all this: for they think it a service that deserves something from God to abstain from eating flesh. They think it a great holiness: and thus the service of God, which should be spiritual, is banished, as it were, while men busy themselves about foolish trifles. As the common saying is, they leave the apple for the paring.

We must be faithful, and stand fast in our liberty; we must follow the rule which is given us in the Word of God, and not suffer our souls to be brought into slavery by new laws, forged by men. For it is a hellish tyranny, which lesseneth God’s authority and mixes the truth of the gospel with figures of the law; and perverteth and corrupteth the true service of God, which ought to be spiritual. Therefore, let us consider how precious a privilege it is to give thanks to God with quietness of conscience, being assured it is His will and pleasure that we should enjoy His blessings: and that we may do so, let us not entangle ourselves with the superstitions of men, but be content with what is contained in the pure simplicity of the gospel. Then, as we have shown concerning the first part of our text, unto them that are pure, all things will be pure. (“The Word Our Only Rule”)

Pray And Then Pray Again

Do you want the blessings that are necessary for the success of the church? Do you understand that prayer is both a privilege and a necessity? Does prayer power your ministry? Charles Spurgeon believed that we should abound in prayer, so that our preaching will go forth in power:

Asking is the rule of the kingdom. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” It is a rule that never will be altered in anybody’s case. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the elder brother of the family, but God has not relaxed the rule for him. Remember this text: Jehovah says to his own Son, “Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” If the royal and divine Son of God cannot be exempted from the rule of asking that he may have, you and I cannot expect the rule to be relaxed in our favor. Why should it be? What reason can be pleaded why we should be exempted from prayer? What argument can there be why we should be deprived of the privilege and delivered from the necessity of supplication? I can see none: can you? God will bless Elijah and send rain on Israel, but Elijah must pray for it. If the chosen nation is to prosper Samuel must plead for it. If the Jews are to be delivered Daniel must intercede. God will bless Paul, and the nations shall be converted through him, but Paul must pray. Pray he did without ceasing; his epistles show that he expected nothing except by asking for it. If you may have everything by asking, and nothing without asking, I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is, and I beseech you to abound in it. . . .

Prayer must be in action, or else those blessings which are vitally essential to the success of the church can never come to it. Prayer is the great door of spiritual blessing, and if you close it you shut out the favor. . . .

Do you know, brothers, what great things are to be had for the asking? Have you ever thought of it? Does it not stimulate you to pray fervently? All heaven lies before the grasp of the asking man; all the promises of God are rich and inexhaustible, and their fulfillment is to be had by prayer. (“Ask and Have,” a sermon on James 4:2-3)

Charles Spurgeon: People Have Not Changed All That Much!

Charles H. Spurgeon

There is not much difference in our times to the times of Haggai. God’s message to His people often has to be repeated over the years. The Lord always provides a timely word in a present crisis. So, like the people of Haggai’s time, we put ourselves first as Charles H. Spurgeon points out in the following excerpt:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubabbel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remains among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

Satan is always doing his utmost to stay the work of God. He hindered these Jews from building the temple; and to-day he endeavors to hinder the people of God from spreading the gospel. A spiritual temple is to be built for the Most High, and if by any means the evil one can delay its uprising he will stick at nothing: if he can take us off from working with faith and courage for the glory of God he will be sure to do it. He is very cunning, and knows how to change his argument and yet keep to his design: little cares he how he works, so long as he can hurt the cause of God. In the case of the Jewish people on their return from captivity he sought to prevent the building of the temple by making them selfish and worldly, so that every many was eager to build his own house, and cared nothing for the house of the Lord. Each family pleaded its own urgent needs. In returning to a long-deserted and neglected land, much had to be done to make up for lost time; and to provide suitably for itself every family needed all its exertions. They carried this thrift and self-providing to a great extreme, and secured for themselves luxuries, while the foundations of the temple which had been laid years before remained as they were, or became still more thickly covered up with rubbish. The people could not be made to bestir themselves to build a house of God, for they answered to every exhortation, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” A more convenient season was always looming in the future, but it never came. Just now it was too hot, further it was too cold; at one time the wet season was just setting in, and it was of no use to begin, and soon the fair weather required that they should be in their own fields. Like some in our day, they saw to themselves first, and God’s turn was very long in coming; hence the prophet cried, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”

By the mouth of His servant Haggai stern rebukes were uttered, and the whole people were aroused. We read in verse twelve of the first chapter, “Then Zerubabbel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord.” All hands were put to the work; course after course of stone began to rise. . . . (“The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

That You May Know Everlasting Life

We are all born spiritually blind. We are all ignorant of God by nature. We know nothing of the gift of salvation. We do not know the way of eternal life and the gospel of salvation. Only God can make us see the way as Maurice Roberts describes here:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

[L]et me take a moment just to tell you what the entire chapter here is all about. It’s all about the most important thing in the world, which is how we can be saved, how we can get to heaven. Now the Old Testament and the New Testament both speak about the same subject – how we can be saved. And therefore of course – of course – they both talk about the Lord Jesus Christ because he is the Savior, there is no other. So you can think of the Bible like that, like a pyramid. Here’s the Old Testament, looking forward to the coming of Christ to die upon the cross for us. And here’s the New Testament, looking back to Jesus Christ and what he has done for us in dying on the cross. So there’s your symbol of the Bible – Old Testament looks forward to Christ, New Testament looks back to Christ, and it all is given to explain to us how you can become a Christian, how you can have faith, how you can be saved. Because that obviously is the most important thing God has to say to us.

All right, take that with you, and let me tell you now what this chapter is all about, very quickly, just in a few words. In the first part of this chapter, all the way down to verse 18, he is talking about the coming of Christ. We know that because of the language, “Behold my servant” and there we have a description of Christ who is the Servant of God to save us, to die for us, who loved us and came to bring salvation to us. So there’s Christ, right at the beginning. Up to verse 18, all that deals with Christ’s bringing salvation to the nations of the world – leaving aside the Jews for a moment. So those first 18 verses of the chapter deal with what Christ would do: he would die in order that the light of the gospel would shine throughout the world. And of course these nations are called the gentiles – you get it in verse 1, “he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles”. That means he’s going to tell us, in Scotland and England and Wales and Ireland and America and Australia and Russia, and the other gentile nations, how we can be saved. That’s what Jesus came to do. And you get the same thing really again in verse 18 when it says, “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” See, he’s talking to the gentiles who were deaf in those days and blind; we had no idea how to be saved. Maybe some of you have seen the Callanish stones in Lewis. Well the people that put them up centuries and centuries ago had no idea how to get to heaven. They lived and died in darkness. Same with the stones down at Stonehenge in Wiltshire in England; they had these great monuments of some sort of religious symbolism – they had no idea how to get to heaven. They lived and died in darkness because that was before Christ came. But when Christ came the gospel began to go throughout all the world and the Holy Spirit and preachers with the Holy Spirit in them brought the gospel to Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, America, and Australia; and all over the world this message has gone out to the gentiles. Well that’s what you get in verses 1-18.

But then at verse 19 to the end of the chapter you get a change of emphasis. What do you get here? He is talking now at verse 19 about the Jews, “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? …. Seeing many things, but thou observest not.” He means when Jesus Christ would come the Jews would kill him. That’s exactly what they did because they were spiritually blind. They had the Old Testament but they didn’t understand its meaning, they were spiritually blind. So here’s the interesting thing about the chapter: the first 18 verses deal with the salvation of the world; and verses 19 to the end deal with the blinding of the Jews, and that’s been true ever since. For two thousand years the Jews have rejected Christ – blind, blind, blind because they didn’t accept him as their Messiah.

So that’s the gist of what this whole chapter is about. And its relevance to your life is this: that here God is telling us how you personally may know everlasting life, and that’s why I chose my text at verse 16. Let me read it again. God is speaking: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” In other words God says, “I’m going to take a message to the whole of mankind which will utterly change their lives.” (Sermon: “God’s Grace to Blind Sinners”)

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