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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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Luke as a Historian

Opinion of Sir William Ramsay, one of the outstanding Near Eastern archaeologists:

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length…In short, this author should be placed among the very greatest of historians.”

 

A Right Heart Feels Conflict

According to J. C. Ryle:

A right heart is a heart that feels CONFLICT within it (Gal. 5:17). It finds within itself two opposing principles contending for the mastery – the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. It knows by experience what Paul means when he says, “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind” (Rom. 7:23). The wrong heart knows nothing of this strife. The strong man armed keeps the wrong heart as their palace, and their goods are at peace (Luke 11:21). But when the rightful King takes possession of the heart, a struggle begins which never ends until death. The right heart may be known by its warfare, quite as much as by its peace.

The Love of Christ

Christ knew how bitter His cup was to be. He understood how unworthy and hateful the wickedness and corruption of mankind could be. Yet His love won the victory. Jonathan Edwards explains further.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

The strength of Christ’s love more especially appears in this, that when he had such a full view of the dreadfulness of the cup that he was to drink, that so amazed him, he would notwithstanding even then take it up, and drink it. Then seems to have been the greatest and most peculiar trial of the strength of the love of Christ, when God set down the bitter portion before him, and let him see what he had to drink, if he persisted in his love to sinners; and brought him to the mouth of the furnace that he might see its fierceness, and have a full view of it, and have time then to consider whether he would go in and suffer the flames of this furnace for such unworthy creatures, or not. This was as it were proposing it to Christ’s last consideration what he would do; as much as if it had then been said to him, ‘Here is the cup that you are to drink, unless you will give up your undertaking for sinners, and even leave them to perish as they deserve. Will you take this cup, and drink it for them, or not? There is the furnace into which you are to be cast, if they are to be saved; either they must perish, or you must endure this for them. There you see how terrible the heat of the furnace is; you see what pain and anguish you must endure on the morrow, unless you give up the cause of sinners. What will you do? is your love such that you will go on? Will you cast yourself into this dreadful furnace of wrath?’ Christ’s soul was overwhelmed with the thought; his feeble human nature shrunk at the dismal sight. It put him into this dreadful agony which you have heard described; but his love to sinners held out. Christ would not undergo these sufferings needlessly, if sinners could be saved without. If there was not an absolute necessity of his suffering them in order to their salvation, he desired that the cup might pass from him. But if sinners, on whom he had set his love, could not, agreeably to the will of God, be saved without his drinking it, he chose that the will of God should be done. He chose to go on and endure the suffering, awful as it appeared to him. And this was his final conclusion, after the dismal conflict of his poor feeble human nature, after he had had the cup in view, and for at least the space of one hour, had seen how amazing it was. Still he finally resolved that he would bear it, rather than those poor sinners whom he had loved from all eternity should perish. (“Christ’s Agony”)

The Spirit Of The Tax Collector

What is the spirit that Jesus loves? Are you an indifferent cultural Christian? Bishop J. C. Ryle describes the spirit that Jesus loves:

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, extortionists, 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)

Let us . . . consider the different BEHAVIOR of these two worshipers. Behold the Pharisee. “He stood and prayed thus with himself.” Observe this: he went to some conspicuous part of the temple, where he could stand alone near the altar, separate from the rest of men, that all might see what a devout man he was, and not lose sight of him in the crowd. He stood “with himself,” not among the congregation, lest he should be defiled by touching them; he was too good for them. We do not read of anything like humility here; we do not learn that he even bowed his head, as a mark of respect to his Creator—but there he stood erect, like one who felt that he had done all that God required of him, that he had no sin to repent of, that he had a right to expect a blessing as a profitable servant.

Turn now to the tax collector. “Standing afar off, he would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven—but smote upon his bosom.” He stood afar off probably in the outward court, as one who did not feel himself worthy to come beyond the threshold of Him whose name is Holy. “He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.” He felt the remembrance of his sins so grievous and the burden of them so intolerable, that, like a child who has offended its father, he dare not look his Almighty Maker in the face. “He smote upon his bosom.” He could not control the feelings that arose in his mind: he recollected the mercies he had received and his own neglect of them, the life he had led and the God he had despised; and, like those who saw Jesus hanging on the cross, “he smote his bosom,” in sorrow, self-abasement and godly fear. Beloved, the posture of the body and the expression of the face are certainly not always sure signs of the state of a man’s heart—but you may rest assured that a truly humble and devout worshiper will generally be distinguished by his conduct in the house of God.

He who is duly sensible of his own guilt, and is ever coming to Jesus as his Advocate; he who is acquainted with the sinfulness of sin and the devices of Satan, and the value of the means of grace and the necessity of using them if he would save his soul—such a one will never show any lack of reverence, any levity or carelessness of manner, when he has entered any place where prayer is accustomed to be made and the gospel preached, and Christ Himself is standing in the midst. But if a person comes to church with an air of indifference, as if he did the minister a favor by coming and cared not if he never came again, and does not join in the prayers, and looks as if he would be ashamed if any one thought he did, and does not listen to the word of God, and does not pay attention to the sermon; if he employs himself with looking at other people’s dress—or deliberately goes to sleep—or talks to his neighbors—or makes plans for the next week—he may have his own reasons for coming here—but it is pretty clear to me that he does not come in the way that Jesus loves, as a miserable sinner who sees nothing but evil in himself, nor in the spirit that Jesus loves, that is in the spirit of the tax collector. (“Self-Righteousness”)

J. C. Ryle: Self-Righteousness

You should not believe that all who pray have a godly spirit or that outward service cannot be done unless you have Jesus Christ as your savior. There are people who use the same prayers, bow their knees, move their lips along with others; and yet they are as different as light and darkness. All are not Christians who name the name of Christ. Bishop J. C. Ryle shares some thoughts on this matter:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (Luke 18:9 ESV)

We have daily proof that the disease spoken of in our text is as deep-seated and hard to cure as ever, and of all the mischievous delusions that keep men out of heaven, of all the soul-destroying snares that Satan employs to oppose Christ’s Gospel, there is none we find so dangerous, none so successful, as self-righteousness!

Perhaps you think this strange, and I dare say there are few who would not say, if asked the ground of their hopes, and how they expect to be saved, “We trust in the merits of Christ.” But I fear that too many of you are making the Lord Jesus but half your Savior, and could never stand the sifting of an inquiry which would draw out into daylight the secrets of your hearts. How much would then come out by degrees about ‘doing as well as you could’, and ‘being no worse than others’, and ‘having been sober and industrious and well-behaved’, and ‘having attended church regularly’, and ‘having had a Bible and a Prayer book of your own ever since you can remember’, and the like; besides many other self-approving thoughts, which often never appear until a death-bed. And all prove the root of all evil, which is pride, to be still vigorous and flourishing within.

Oh this pride of heart, beloved!—it is fearful to see the harm that it does, and the carelessness with which it is regarded. It is melancholy indeed to think of a man, weak frail man, the descendant of fallen Adam, the inheritor of a corrupt nature, forgetting his own countless sins, shortcomings and backslidings, trusting in himself, and despising those who are his brethren according to the flesh. And wisely has our Lord spoken the parable immediately following my text—”Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14).

 Observe now how much more striking the lesson sounds when conveyed to us in the form of an example. How little many people would have been affected if our Lord had given a general discourse about the ‘evil of pride’ and the ‘excellence of humility’; about the danger of formality and the importance of a truly penitent frame of mind, if he had merely said, “Be not self-righteous in your dealings with God—but be lowly and self-abased!” And how much more are our hard hearts likely to be moved when we see, as it were, living specimens of two sorts of worshipers, placed vividly before our eyes!

May God the Holy Spirit direct the instruction here contained to the awakening of the self-righteous, to the comfort of those who labor and are heavy-laden, and to the edification of all! (“Self-Righteousness”)

The Christian Against A World Of Darkness

John Bunyan

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)

Since there are people who hate Christ and true Christianity, did you never suspect there would be people who hate you as well? John .Bunyan (1628-1688) points out this truth below:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

Verse 21: ‘And he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: the dogs came also and licked his sores.’

By these words our Lord Jesus doth show us the frame of a Christian’s heart, and also the heart and carriage of worldly men towards the saints of the Lord. The Christian’s heart is held forth by this, that anything will content him while he is on this side glory. And ‘he desired to be fed with the crumbs’; the dogs’ meat, anything. I say a Christian will be content with anything, if he have but to keep life and soul together; as we used to say, he is content, he is satisfied; he hath learned–if he hath learned to be a Christian–to be content with anything; as Paul saith, ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content’ (Phil 4:11). He learns in all conditions to study to love God, to walk with God, to give up himself to God; and if the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table will but satisfy nature and give him bodily strength, that thereby he may be the more able to walk in the way of God, he is contented. And he ‘desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.’ But mark, he had them not; you do not find that he had so much as a crumb, or a scrap allowed unto him. No, then the dogs will be beguiled, THAT must be preserved for the dogs. From whence observe that the ungodly world do love their dogs better than the children of God. You will say that is strange. It is so indeed, yet it is true, as will be clearly manifested; as, for instance, how many pounds do some men spend in a year on their dogs, when in the meanwhile the poor saints of God may starve for hunger? They will build houses for their dogs, when the saints must be glad to wander, and lodge in dens and caves of the earth (Heb 11:38). And if they be in any of their houses for the hire thereof, they will warn them out or eject them, or pull down the house over their heads, rather than not rid themselves of such tenants. Again, some men cannot go half a mile from home but they must have dogs at their heels, but they can very willingly go half a score miles without the society of a Christian. Nay, if when they are busy with their dogs they should chance to meet a Christian, they would willingly shift him if they could. They will go on the other side the hedge or the way rather than they will have any society with him; and if at any time a child of God should come into a house where there are but two or three ungodly wretches, they do commonly wish either themselves or the saint out of doors; and why so? Because they cannot down with the society of a Christian; though if there come in at the same time a dog, or a drunken swearing wretch, which is worse than a dog, they will make him welcome; he shall sit down with them and partake of their dainties. And now tell me, you that love your sins and your pleasures, had you not rather keep company with a drunkard, a swearer, a strumpet, a thief, nay, a dog, than with an honest-hearted Christian? If you say no, what means your sour carriage to the people of God? Why do you look on them as if you would eat them up? Yet at the very same time if you can but meet your dog, or a drunken companion, you can fawn upon them, take acquaintance with them, to the tavern or ale house with them, if it be two or three times in a week. But if the saints of God meet together, pray together, and labor to edify one another, you will stay till doomsday before you will look into the house where they are. Ah! friends, when all comes to all, you will be found to love drunkards, strumpets, dogs, anything, nay, to serve the devil, rather than to have loving and friendly society with the saints of God. (“The Groans of a Damned Soul”)

Christmas Is A Time To Make Christ Known

I grew up loving Christmas; maybe not for all the right reasons, but Christmas was a big deal in our family. I remember the smells of mother’s cooking, the decorations, watching “Miracle on 34th Street”, the music and the excitement of Christmas morning. There are other things that I remember about Christmas and many that I have forgotten. Is there a certain Christmas you remember more than any other? I think of one Christmas in particular when Deb and I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. on Christmas morning putting together a kitchen set for our two little daughters. They loved it, but on that Christmas I decided that I needed to invest in some battery-powered tools.

It is so easy for Christmas to slip by before we know it, because of all the things we feel obligated to do to create a truly Merry Christmas for ourselves and family. Sometimes the true Spirit of Christmas is lost in our busyness. In this article, I want us to look at Luke 2:15-20 to find counsel for celebrating the miracle of Christmas.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16 ESV)

A stable is not often thought of as a likely place to begin a celebration, but this child was no ordinary child. This baby was the “Son of David” (Matthew 15:22), the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), “Savior” (John 4:14), “Author of life” (Acts 3:15), “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:8), the “Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), the “Bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16), the “Word of God” (Revelation 19:13), the “Son of God” (Mark 1:1), and the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16)!

Celebrating Christmas is not about all the parties, presents, and Christmas Trees; it is about Jesus Christ and celebrating Him. Jesus is much more than what he appears to be as He lies in the manger on that first Christmas morning.

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:17 ESV)

Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to make Christ known. This is what the shepherds did. Glorifying God and Jesus Christ is the purpose for which we were made. This is where you will find true Christmas joy.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:18 ESV)

We can see here that these basically uneducated men from a low social class made those who heard them wonder. What will be the testimony of your Christmas this year? Will men wonder about Christ because of the way you celebrate Christmas? Meditate on the true meaning and story of the first Christmas so that you may share it with others.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19 ESV)

Mary treasured the memories of Jesus’ birth. She thought on these things with a serious mind and heart. We too should remember Christmas is about God coming into our time and our world to redeem His people. Christmas is a time of grace that should be a part of our living our lives all year-long.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20 ESV)

What a wonderful statement! Only one visit with the newborn Christ; then sharing the “good news” with others, and returning to their flocks where they spent the rest of their watch praising God. I am reminded here of the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

How will your Christmas this year encourage you and others to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever? Christmas and every other day of the year, for that matter, should be a time of glorifying and praising God for the gift of His Son. Christmas is a wonderful time to praise God for His free gift of Grace. It is appropriate on every day and especially during the Christmas season that we share the message of His gift of grace with others.

I pray that you will have a God Glorifying Christmas this year!

Samuel

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

John Piper

In the words of John Piper:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org.

J. C. Ryle: We Need More Of The Presence Of The Holy Spirit!

So many of our family, friends, and co-workers have yet to be saved, but do not despair of praying for their souls. We are weak. The hand of the Lord is mighty! Pray for the work of the Holy Spirit to be done among them. J. C. Ryle reminds us that there are many surprises as we walk in the Way:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

Once more then, I say, I never despair of any man’s soul being made alive. I would despair—if it depended on man himself. Some seem so hardened, I would have no hope. I would despair if it depended on the work of ministers. Alas, the very best of us are poor, weak creatures! But I cannot despair when I remember that God the Spirit is the agent who conveys life to the soul—for I know and am persuaded that with Him nothing is impossible.

I would not be surprised to hear, even in this life, that the hardest man in the list of my acquaintances has become softened, and the proudest has taken his place at the feet of Jesus as a weaned child.

I shall not be surprised to meet many on the right hand, in the day of judgment, whom I shall leave, when I die, traveling in the broad way to destruction. I shall be startled, and say, “What! you here!” I shall only remind them, “Was not this my word, when I was yet among you—Nothing is impossible with Him who quickens the dead.”

Does anyone of us desire to help the Church of Christ? Then let him pray for a great outpouring of the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can give edge to sermons, and point to advice, and power to rebukes, and can cast down the high walls of sinful hearts. It is not better preaching, and finer writing that is needed in this day—but more of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Does anyone feel the slightest drawing towards God—the smallest concern about his immortal soul? Then flee to that open fountain of living waters, the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit. (John 7:39.) Begin at once to pray for the Holy Spirit. Think not that you are shut up and cut off from hope. The Holy Spirit is promised to “those who ask Him.” (Luke 11:13.) His very name is the Spirit of promise and the Spirit of life. Give Him no rest until He comes down and makes you a new heart. Cry mightily unto the Lord—say unto Him, “Bless me, even me also—quicken me, and make me alive.” (“Alive or Dead?”)

If The Church Is There Satan Will Be There Too

Quoting J. C. Ryle:

“The seed is the Word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:11-12)

The devil, that malicious spirit, is unwearied in his efforts to do us harm. He is ever watching for our halting, and seeking occasion to destroy our souls.

But nowhere perhaps is the devil as active as in a congregation of Gospel hearers. Nowhere does he labor so hard to stop the progress of that which is good, and to prevent men and women being saved.

From him come . . .

wandering thoughts; roving imaginations; listless minds; dull memories; sleepy eyes; fidgety nerves; weary ears; and distracted attention.

In all these things Satan has a great hand.

People wonder where they come from, and marvel how it is that they find sermons so dull, and remember them so badly!

They forget the parable of the sower. They forget the devil.

Let us take heed that we are not wayside hearers. Let us beware of the devil.

We shall always find him at Church! He never stays away from public ordinances. Let us remember this, and be upon our guard.

Christ The Savior Has Come

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2)

The Gospel offers the good news to every Christian of being delivered from fear because the Deliverer is now present. We are to look to Him, not seeking a feeling or looking for joy, but to remind ourselves of who He is and what He came to do. By this means we discover again and again the wonderful fulfillment of the angel’s announcement. We need not be afraid. In His presence there will break upon our hearts and faces a sense of continuing joy. Ray C. Stedman explains:

Our joy does not come through circumstances. We welcome happy circumstances, and we thank God for them. But if we could see what our lives would be like without Jesus Christ for even one moment, we would never cease to praise God for every single blessing that comes into our lives. It all comes from his loving, gracious hands. . . .

No matter what the trial may be, the promise of this verse is that we have a Savior, a Deliverer, especially designed to handle that problem, a Savior who is with us always. If we remember that, and look to him, he will take us through it. He does not promise to take the problem away, but he says he will take us through it. He will strengthen us to face it and will give us courage and peace and joy in the midst of it. Therefore the promise of the angel was “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

This is what Christmas must mean to us. And all the days of the year that lie ahead are to be met by the fact that we have in our midst and in our hearts, if we have come to know him, a Savior, a Deliverer, a Rescuer, Christ the Lord. All authority has been given unto him, in heaven and on earth. No event and no circumstance can come into our lives that will be more than he can handle, more than he can take us through. It is that knowledge that gives the heart peace and puts joy upon the countenance.

The Coming Of Bethlehem In Your Heart

Is the Lord of Bethlehem in your heart this Christmas season? Ray C. Stedman explains the significance of this question:

I would like for you to meditate with me on the announcement of the angel to the shepherds in Bethlehem. . . .

He scared the living daylights out of them. That is what it says — in a rather loose translation. They were terrified, and rightly so, for this was a sudden appearance of a supernatural figure.

I don’t know what the angels look like. Scripture does not describe them very carefully. The best description we have of the appearance of angels says that they are like young men dressed in white garments. Those were the angels that appeared at the resurrection. . . .

But the angel suddenly appeared out of the darkness of the night. Around him shone the radiance of glory — a nimbus — as the glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds. And as the Authorized Version puts it, “they were sore afraid.” Luke 2:10:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” {Luke 2:10-11 NIV}

Thus the birth of God’s long-awaited redeemer was introduced to a darkened, weary, and exhausted world. . . .

It is striking that the human emotion that was first encountered by the angelic messenger was that of fear. Men were afraid in that day. They were afraid of many things, as they are today. . . .

Perhaps the most striking thing to us about this story is that we can so easily put ourselves back into that situation of fear, for by far the dominant mood of the hour today is that of fear. . . .

Yet the first word of the angel to those shepherds in the field was “Fear not. Be not afraid.” I do not think any greater news can come to us than that announcement. It came to them, as the angel went on to say, because a Savior was born in Bethlehem — a Deliverer. Because of the presence of a Deliverer, they need not be afraid of anything.

You and I know how frequently we draw the parallel between the coming of Jesus as a babe in Bethlehem and the coming of Jesus into the human heart. . . .

Every Christmas season we remind each other that it is not enough for Christ to have been born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. What really counts is Christ being born in the human heart. Your Bethlehem is when Christ came to you and was born in your heart. It is that remarkable parallel that constitutes the good news of Christianity today — that Jesus can be born in us as certainly as he was born in Bethlehem. Therefore, to us, the angel stands to make his welcome announcement: “Fear not. Fear not, for unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (“The Coming of Joy”)

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