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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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LIGHT

There is no light, no knowledge, no wisdom, apart from God. All existence and all knowledge depend on God. If we have life, we live by Him. (Acts 17:28) If we have any knowledge, we know by Him. (Romans 11:36) We do not shed light on Him by the light we see. He is the origin, the source. If we have any measure of light, it is He who is shedding light on what we see, not we.

(John Piper, A Peculiar Glory, Crossway, 2016, p.160)

SHALL WE KNOW ONE ANOTHER IN HEAVEN?

Thomas WatsonThomas Watson:

Some have asked whether we shall know one another in heaven. Surely, our knowledge will not be diminished, but increased. The judgment of Luther and Anselm, and many other divines is, that we shall know one another; yea, the saints of all ages, whose faces we never saw; and, when we shall see the saints in glory without their infirmities of pride end passion, it will be a glorious sight.

 

 

Faith and Knowledge

According to J. Gresham Machen:

“Faith is indeed intellectual; it involves an apprehension of certain things as facts; and vain is the modern effort to divorce faith from knowledge. But although faith is intellectual, it is not only intellectual. You cannot have faith without having knowledge; but you will not have faith if you have only knowledge.”

Truth

Quoting Blaise Pascal:

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.

The Two Best Lessons

Robert G. Lee

Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) helps us to understand wisdom and the heart in the excerpts below:

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

“I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly.” (Ecclesiastes 1:17)

Solomon knew everything as nearly as mortal man could know everything. His was no capsule brain capable of tidbits only. He was a scientist. He was a philosopher. He was a moralist and a historian. He was a publicist and a poet. He had a mind trained to observe…to meditate.

He had an imagination by which he interpreted the facts of history and built upon the premise of these facts the deductions of science. He walked familiarly through the fields of botany. “He spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall” (I Kings 4:33). He brought forth the treasures of the mine. He knew nature’s choir made up of the voices of birds, the wind in the boughs, and the sea on the shore. He interpreted the messages of the heavenly bodies. He sailed the seas. He knew the birds. He wrote parables from the fields and the forests. He gathered great wealth of gold and precious stones. He wrote and published books. He wrote thousands of imperishable proverbs. He interpreted human experience. He philosophized about divine revelation.

But with all this, he missed the one essential and found no rest for his heart. It is he, this great Solomon with all his glory, who, after roaming through all the realms of thought and imagination, of human wisdom and human knowledge, cried “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!”

“And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly; I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit (Ecclesiastes 1:17).

Once, a man traveled a long way? A journey of many miles to interview a distinguished scholar. The butler ushered him in, upon the presentation of his card, into the study of the great scholar. He was cordially greeted. Before seating himself he asked this question of the noted scholar:

“Doctor, I have come a long way to ask you just one question. I observe that the walls of your room are filled with books. This room is literally lined with them from ceiling to floor. I suppose you have read them all. I know you have written many books. You have traveled the world over; you have held intimate converse with the world’s wisest men, its leaders of thought, and its creators of opinion. Tell me, if you will, after the years you have spent in study, out of the things you have learned, what is the one thing best worth knowing? “

The great scholar’s face flushed with emotion. He placed, with clumsy gentleness, both hands over the hands of his caller. And he said:

“My dear sir, out of all the things I have learned there are only two lessons best worth knowing. The first is, I am a great sinner. The second is, Jesus Christ is a great Savior. In the knowledge of these two facts as applied in my own personal experience lies all my happiness and all my hopes! “

Thus we learn in that man’s answer, in many ways, that men may know some things and not the best things-the things best worth knowing. Thus we see that men may treasure rags and throw away treasures. . . . (“Paths of Disappointment”)

God Knows

Thomas Watson

We cannot write our sins in such small letters that God cannot read them. He understands our hearts. He knows all our treachery. None of us can climb so high or dig so low to find a hiding place where God cannot see us and know our secret thoughts. All such efforts are in vain. Here are a few words from Thomas Watson (1620-1686) to guide us in our understanding of this great truth:

“But all Things are naked and open unto the Eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)

All things are naked. It is a metaphor from the taking off the skin of any beast, which doth then appear naked. Thus our hearts are said to be naked; they lie open to the eye of God, they have no covering; there is no veil over the heart of a sinner, but the veil of unbelief; and this covering makes him naked.

This is not all, the apostle goes higher: they are naked and open. It alludes to the cutting up of the sacrifices under the law, where the priest did divide the beast in pieces, and so the intestines, the inward parts, were made visible. Or it may allude to an anatomy, where there is a dissection and cutting up of every part, the mesentery, the liver, the arteries. Such a kind of anatomy doth God make; an heart-anatomy: he doth cut up the inwards, and make a difference; this is flesh that is spirit; this is faith, that is fancy. He makes a dissection, as the knife that divides between the flesh and the bones, the bones and the marrow, the sinews and the veins. ‘All things are open;’ they are cut up before him.

The next word is all things. There is nothing escapes his eye: and herein God’s knowledge doth infinitely differ from ours. We cannot see in the dark, nor can we see many things at once; but it is not so with him; there is nothing so deep, but God will bring it above-board, ‘who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness;’ and he sees many things at once, nay, all are as if they were but one. All things being represented to him in the pure crystal of his own essence are but as one individual thing. . . .

Eyes are ascribed to God, not properly, but metaphorically: idols have eyes, ‘yet they see not;’ God hath no eyes, yet he sees; the eye of God is put in scripture for his knowledge; all things are naked to his eye, that is, they are obvious to his knowledge. We cannot sin, but it must be in the face of our Judge. . . .

The proposition I shall dilate on is this – Doctrine: That the most secret cabinet-designs of man’s heart are all unlocked and clearly anatomized before the Lord.

I might produce a whole cloud of witnesses, giving in their full vote and suffrage to this truth. I shall rest in two or three, that in the mouth of three witnesses this great truth may be established.

‘He knows the secrets of the heart,’ Psalm. 42.21. In the original it is, the hidden things of the heart; those which are most veiled and masked from human perception.

And Psalm. 139.2. ‘Thou knowest my thoughts afar off.’ Here are two words that set out the infiniteness of God’s knowledge. . . .

God knows our thoughts before we ourselves know them. He knows what designs are in the heart, and men would certainly pursue, did not he turn the wheel another way. God knew what was in Herod’s mind before Herod himself knew it, viz. that he would have destroyed the child Jesus. God knew his thoughts afar off: he sees what blood and venom is in the heart of a sinner, though it never comes to have vent: he looks at the intention, though it be not put in execution. . . .

God knows our thoughts when we have forgotten them: they are afar off to us, but they are present with him. ‘These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest I was such an one as thyself,’ &c. That is, that I had a weak memory, ‘but I will reprove thee, and set thy sins in order before thee,’ Psalm 50.21. Millions of years are but as a short parenthesis between: and that we may not think God forgets, he keeps a book of records, Rev. 20.12. ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before the Lord, and the books were opened:’ God writes down, Item, such a sin; and if the book be not discharged, there will be an heavy reckoning: to every believer, the debt-book is crossed; the black lines of sin are crossed out in the red lines of Christ’s blood. (“God’s Anatomy Upon Man’s Heart”)

Alexander MacLaren: The Greatness Of God’s Power

Alexander MacLaren

I find it difficult to believe that we can live active and happy Christian lives without God’s power in us. After all, it is the power of God that delivers us from the despair of a negative, fallen world. Alexander MacLaren discusses this power as he preaches on Ephesians 1:19-20:

“[A]nd what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. . . .” (Ephesians 1:19-20)

I need only remind you, in reference to this matter, that the knowledge which is here in question is not the intellectual perception of a fact as revealed in Scripture but is that knowledge to which alone the New Testament gives the noble name, being knowledge verified by inward experience and the result of one’s own personal acquaintance with its object. How do we know a power? By thrilling beneath its force.

How are we to know the greatness of the power but because it comes surging and rejoicing into our aching emptiness and lifts us buoyant above our temptations and weakness? Paul was not asking for these people theological conceptions. He was asking that their spirits might be so saturated with and immersed in that great ocean of force that pours from God as that they should never, henceforth, be able to doubt the greatness of that power which works in them. The knowledge that comes from experience is the knowledge that we all ought to seek. It is not merely to be desired that we should have right and just conceptions but that we should have the vital knowledge which is and which comes from life eternal.

And that power, which thus we may all know by feeling it working upon ourselves, though it be immeasurable, has its measure; though it be in its depth and fullness unknowable and inexhaustible, may yet be really and truly known. You do not need a thunderstorm to experience the electric shock; a battery that you can carry in your pocket will do that for you. You do not need to have traversed all the length and breadth and depth and height of some newly discovered country to be sure of its existence and to have a real, though it may be a vague, conception of the magnitude of its shores.

And so, really, though [limited], we have the knowledge of God and can rely upon it as valid, though partial; and similarly, by experience, we have such a certified acquaintance with Him and His power as needs no enlargement to be trusted and become the source of blessings untold. We may see but a strip of the sky through the narrow chinks of our prison windows, and many a grating may further intercept the view. Much dust that might be cleared away may dim the glass, but yet it is the sky that we see, and we can think of the great horizon circling round and round and of the infinite depths above there which neither eye nor thought can travel unwearied. Though all that we see but an inch in breadth and a foot or two in height, yet we do see. We know the unknowable power that passes knowledge. (“The Measure of Immeasurable Power”)

The Knowledge Of Our Lord

Charles Spurgeon

From the Desk of Charles Spurgeon:

The people that do know their God shall be strong. (Daniel 11:32)

Every believer understands that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge; and this spiritual knowledge is a source of strength to the Christian. It strengthens his faith. Believers are constantly spoken of in the Scriptures as being persons who are enlightened and taught of the Lord; they are said to “have an unction from the Holy One,” and it is the Spirit’s peculiar office to lead them into all truth, and all this for the increase and the fostering of their faith. Knowledge strengthens love, as well as faith. Knowledge opens the door, and then through that door we see our Savior. Or, to use another similitude, knowledge paints the portrait of Jesus, and when we see that portrait then we love Him, we cannot love a Christ whom we do not know, at least, in some degree. If we know but little of the excellences of Jesus, what He has done for us, and what He is doing now, we cannot love Him much; but the more we know Him, the more we shall love Him. Knowledge also strengthens hope. How can we hope f or a thing if we do not know of its existence? Hope may be the telescope, but till we receive instruction, our ignorance stands in the front of the glass, and we can see nothing whatever; knowledge removes the interposing object, and when we look through the bright optic glass we discern the glory to be revealed, and anticipate it with joyous confidence. Knowledge supplies us reasons for patience. How shall we have patience unless we know something of the sympathy of Christ, and understand the good which is to come out of the correction which our heavenly Father sends us? Nor is there one single grace of the Christian which, under God, will not be fostered and brought to perfection by holy knowledge. How important, then, is it that we should grow not only in grace, but in the “knowledge” of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Spurgeon’s Morning Devotions)

Consider The Dangers Ahead!

I once heard a man, who when asked “Don’t you want to grow as a Christian and in your faith?” he replied “No! I am satisfied where I am right now!” I am not sure what the satisfaction was like that he was enjoying, but I know that I never want to stop growing in holiness and the knowledge of my God. I have faltered many times and sinned many times along the way, but through Christ my God has held on to me and does not let me slip too far. What a glorious God! I want to grow in my knowledge of Him and enjoy Him forever. Samuel Davies writes below on the indifference of those who do not see the danger ahead:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Ye modern Laodiceans, are you not yet struck with horror at the thought of that insipid, formal, spiritless religion you have hitherto been contented with? And do you not see the necessity of following the advice of Christ to the Laodicean church, be zealous, be fervent for the future, and repent, bitterly repent of what is past. . . . Consider the difficulties and dangers in your way. Oh, sirs, if you know the difficulty of the work of your salvation, and the great danger of miscarrying in it, you could not be so indifferent about it, nor could you flatter yourselves such languid endeavors will never succeed. It is a labor, a striving, a race, warfare; so it is called in the sacred writings: but `would there be any propriety in these expressions, if it were a course of sloth and inactivity? Consider, you have strong lusts to be subdued, a hard heart to be broken, a variety of graces, which you are entirely destitute of, to be implanted and cherished, and that in an unnatural soil, where they will not grow without careful cultivation, and that you have many temptations to be encountered and resisted. In short, you must be made new men, quite other creatures than you now are. And oh! Can this work be successfully performed while you make such faint and feeble efforts? Indeed God is the Agent, and all your best endeavors can never affect the blessed revolution without him. But his assistance is not to be expected in the neglect, or careless use of means, nor is it intended to encourage idleness, but activity and labor: and when he comes to work, he will soon inflame your hearts, and put an end to your lukewarmness. Again, your dangers are also great and numerous; you are in danger from presumption and from despondency; from coldness, from lukewarmness, and from false fires and enthusiastic heats; in danger from self-righteousness, and from open wickedness, from your own corrupt hearts, from this ensnaring world, and from the temptations of the devil: you are in great danger of sleeping on in security, without ever being thoroughly awakened; or, if you should be awakened, you are in danger of resting short of vital religion; and in either of these cases you are undone for ever. In a word, dangers crowd thick around you on every hand, from every quarter; dangers, into which thousands, millions of your fellow-men have fallen and never recovered. . . . Oh that you knew the true state of the case! Such knowledge would soon fire you with the greatest ardor, and make you all life and vigor in this important work. (“The Danger of Lukewarmness In Religion”)

The Hand Of Providence

Charles H. Spurgeon

From the writings of Charles H. Spurgeon:

We know that all things work together for good to them that love God. (Romans 8:28)

Upon some points a believer is absolutely sure. He knows, for instance, that God sits in the stern-sheets of the vessel when it rocks most. He believes that an invisible hand is always on the world’s tiller, and that wherever providence may drift, Jehovah steers it. That re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything. He looks over the raging waters and sees the spirit of Jesus treading the billows, and he hears a voice saying, “It is I, be not afraid.” He knows too that God is always wise, and, knowing this, he is confident that there can be no accidents, no mistakes; that nothing can occur which ought not to arise. He can say, “If I should lose all I have, it is better that I should lose than have, if God so wills: the worst calamity is the wisest and the kindest thing that could befall to me if God ordains it.” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” The Christian does not merely hold this as a theory, but he knows it as a matter of fact. Everything has worked for good as yet; the poisonous drugs mixed in fit proportions have worked the cure; the sharp cuts of the lancet have cleansed out the proud flesh and facilitated the healing. Every event as yet has worked out the most divinely blessed results; and so, believing that God rules all, that He governs wisely, that He brings good out of evil, the believer’s heart is assured, and he is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes. The believer can in the spirit of true resignation pray, “Send me what thou wilt, my God, so long as it comes from Thee; never came there an ill portion from Thy table to any of Thy children.”

“Say not my soul, ‘From whence can God relieve my care?

Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere.

His method is sublime, His heart profoundly kind,

God never is before His time, and never is behind.'”

(Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions)

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