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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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THE REFORMED TRADITION

James Montgomery BoiceJames Montgomery Boice:

Reformed theology gets its name from the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation, with its distinct theological emphases, but it is theology solidly based on the Bible itself. Believers in the reformed tradition regard highly the specific contributions of such people as Martin Luther, John Knox, and particularly John Calvin, but they also find their strong distinctives in the giants of the faith before them, such as Anselm and Augustine, and ultimately in the letters of Paul and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Reformed Christians hold to the doctrines characteristic of all Christians, including the Trinity, the true deity and true humanity of Jesus Christ, the necessity of Jesus’ atonement for sin, the church as a divinely ordained institution, the inspiration of the Bible, the requirement that Christians live moral lives, and the resurrection of the body. They hold other doctrines in common with evangelical Christians, such as justification by faith alone, the need for the new birth, the personal and visible return of Jesus Christ, and the Great Commission. (Reformed Theology)

Two Ways to Believe in God

Martin LutherHow do you believe in God? Some believe about and others believe in God. Martin Luther explains his thoughts on this below:

There are two ways to believe. The first way is to believe about God, meaning we believe that what is taught about God is really true. It’s similar to believing that what is taught about the devil or hell is true. This type of belief is more a statement of knowledge than an expression of faith.

The second way is to believe in God. This not only includes believing that what is taught about God is true, but also includes trusting him and daring to be in relationship with him. It means believing without any doubt that he really is who he says he is, and he will do all he says he will do. I wouldn’t believe any person to this same degree, no matter how highly others might praise him. It’s easy to believe that someone is godly, but it’s another matter to rely completely on him.

Those who believe in God believe everything written about God in Scripture. They dare to believe this in life and in death. This faith makes them true Christians and gives them everything they desire from God. A person with an evil, hypocritical heart can’t have this type of faith, for it’s a living faith, as described in the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God. . . . You shall have no other gods” (Exodus 20:2–3).

Therefore, the little word in is well placed and should be carefully noted. We don’t say, “I believe God the Father,” or “I believe about God the Father,” but “I believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” Only God can give us this type of faith.

It was Foreordained Who should Receive the Word of Life

Every event in the course of human affairs in all of history and in all nations, no matter how insignificant it may appear to us, has its exact place in God’s eternal plan. Loraine Boettner D.D. writes:

That Luther was as zealous for absolute predestination as was Calvin is shown in his commentary on Romans, where he wrote: “All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.”

And Melanchthon, his close friend and fellow-laborer, says: “All things turn out according to divine predestination; not only the works we do outwardly, but even the thoughts we think inwardly”; and again, “There is no such thing as chance, or fortune; nor is there a readier way to gain the fear of God, and to put our whole trust in Him, than to be thoroughly versed in the doctrine of Predestination.”

“Order is heaven’s first law.” From the divine viewpoint there is unbroken order and progress from the first beginnings of the creation to the end of the world and the ushering in of the kingdom of heaven in all its glory. The divine purpose and plan is nowhere defeated nor interrupted; that which in many cases appears to us to be defeat is not really such but only appears to be, because our finite and imperfect nature does not permit us to see all the parts in the whole nor the whole in all its parts. If at one glance we could take in “the mighty spectacle of the natural world and the complex drama of human history,” we should see the world as one harmonious unit manifesting the glorious perfections of God. “Though the world seems to run at random,” says Bishop, “and affairs to be huddled together in blind confusion and rude disorder, yet, God sees and knows the concatenation of all causes and effects, and so governs them that He makes a perfect harmony out of all those seeming jarrings and discords. It is most necessary that we should have our hearts well established in the firm and unwavering belief of this truth, that whatever comes to pass, be it good or evil, we may look up to the hand and disposal of all, to God.

In respect of God, there is nothing neither casual nor contingent in the world. If a master should send a servant to a certain place and command him to stay there till such a time, and, presently after, should send another servant to the same place, the meeting of these two is wholly casual in respect to themselves, but ordained and foreseen by the master who sent them. They fall out unexpectedly as to us, but not so as to God. He foresees and He appoints all the vicissitudes of things.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

The Distorted Gospel

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 ESV)

People today believe they are more intelligent and wiser than the people who lived in centuries past. They assume that such an ancient book as the Bible has very little relevance to modern living. Therefore, these cultural Christians, feel they must import the “revelation” of modern writers, psychologists, and various pseudo-scientific books to modernize the “Old Time Religion”. Such actions, however, deny that the Bible is the Word of God.

Bogus teachers avoid submitting to the Bible’s original intent by ignoring what Scripture actually means; instead, they manipulate it to seem to mean what they want it to mean. They will look to unorthodox sources as their authority to support their unworthy claims. They suppress the truth because they do not wish to live their lives under the authority of God. (Romans 1:18-20)

The Word of God has been under assault since the serpent visited Eve in the Garden. Satan knows that the Word of God leads to salvation. Therefore, this creature plants in men’s minds the seeds of doubt about the Bible. Rejecting or altering the Bible is also a part of his diabolical plan. God, however, has strengthened His Word, that it may stand against any assault. According to Martin Luther, “The Bible is like a lion; it does not need to be defended; just let it loose and it will defend itself.”

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV) The term “sola Scriptura” or “the Bible alone” represents the simple truth that there is only one special revelation from God and that is the Bible. God’s truth is seen in the light of God’s truth. In order to support the purity of God’s written word, the source of interpretation must be from the same pure source as the origin of the Scripture itself. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV)

The Bible clearly exposes the human element in the distortion of the Word. Such people go beyond rejecting the Word of God in their own lives. They want to change the Scriptures in order to be justified in their sins. Many profess themselves to be Christians. Yet, they take inspired Scripture and bend it to match their own twisted teachings. Such blasphemers are interested only in wealth, fame, and followers. In their pride, they make a mockery of the Word of God.

You must not allow the leaders and teachers in your church to add to or take away from God’s Word. Awake sleeper and read God’s word for yourself. “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2 ESV)

Escaping Sinful Thoughts

Christ laid down His life for us even though we did not believe in Him, nor were able to believe in Him. He died for us, not as believers, but as sinners. Christ died to make sinners into saints while we were utterly without strength. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 ESV)

I have heard another [man] say, “I am tormented with horrible thoughts. Wherever I go, blasphemies steal in upon me. Frequently at my work a dreadful suggestion forces itself upon me, and even on my bed I am startled from my sleep by whispers of the evil one. I cannot get away from this horrible temptation.” Friend, I know what you mean, for I have myself been hunted by this wolf. A man might as well hope to fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his own thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted soul, assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveller I have read of, about whose head and ears and whole body there came a swarm of angry bees. He could not keep them off nor escape from them. They stung him everywhere and threatened to be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you are without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts which Satan pours into your soul; but yet I would remind you of the Scripture before us—“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Jesus knew where we were and where we should be; He saw that we could not overcome the prince of the power of the air; He knew that we should be greatly worried by him; but even then, when He saw us in that condition, Christ died for the ungodly.

Cast the anchor of your faith upon this. The devil himself cannot tell you that you are not ungodly; believe, then, that Jesus died even for such as you are. Remember Martin Luther’s way of cutting the devil’s head off with his own sword. “Oh,” said the devil to Martin Luther, “you are a sinner.” “Yes,” said he, “Christ died to save sinners.” Thus he smote him with his own sword. Hide you in this refuge, and keep there: “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” If you stand to that truth, your blasphemous thoughts which you have not the strength to drive away will go away of themselves; for Satan will see that he is answering no purpose by plaguing you with them.

These thoughts, if you hate them, are none of yours, but are injections of the Devil, for which he is responsible, and not you. If you strive against them, they are no more yours than are the cursings and falsehoods of rioters in the street. It is by means of these thoughts that the Devil would drive you to despair, or at least keep you from trusting Jesus. The poor diseased woman could not come to Jesus for the press, and you are in much the same condition, because of the rush and throng of these dreadful thoughts. Still, she put forth her finger, and touched the fringe of the Lord’s garment, and she was healed. Do you the same.

Jesus died for those who are guilty of “all manner of sin and blasphemy,” and therefore I am sure He will not refuse those who are unwillingly the captives of evil thoughts. Cast yourself upon Him, thoughts and all, and see if He be not mighty to save. He can still those horrible whisperings of the fiend, or He can enable you to see them in their true light, so that you may not be worried by them. In His own way He can and will save you, and at length give you perfect peace. Only trust Him for this and everything else. (All of Grace)

Free Will

In the words of Martin Luther:

“If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.”

Love and Faith

The following article reminds me of Martin Luther’s admission, “I did not love God and was indignant towards Him, if not in wicked revolt, at least in silent blasphemy.” Luther’s deep sense of his own sinfulness led him to understand that a God who dealt with human beings strictly on the basis of merit was always going to be a God of punishment. Therefore, Luther’s discovery in the Bible of a God who loves His children by grace changed everything for him. For God’s love is to be experienced by grace through faith – not as something earned – but as something freely given. Do you love God and trust Him? Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Another and a higher form of faith is that faith which grows out of love. Why does a boy trust his father? The reason why the child trusts his father is because he loves him. Blessed and happy are they who have a sweet faith in Jesus, intertwined with deep affection for Him, for this is a restful confidence. These lovers of Jesus are charmed with His character, and delighted with His mission, they are carried away by the loving kindness that He has manifested, and therefore they cannot help trusting Him, because they so much admire, revere, and love Him.

The way of loving trust in the Savior may thus be illustrated. A lady is the wife of the most eminent physician of the day. She is seized with a dangerous illness, and is smitten down by its power; yet she is wonderfully calm and quiet, for her husband has made this disease his special study, and has healed thousands who were similarly afflicted. She is not in the least troubled, for she feels perfectly safe in the hands of one so dear to her, and in whom skill and love are blended in their highest forms. Her faith is reasonable and natural; her husband, from every point of view, deserves it of her. This is the kind of faith which the happiest of believers exercise toward Christ. There is no physician like Him, none can save as He can; we love Him, and He loves us, and therefore we put ourselves into His hands, accept whatever He prescribes, and do whatever He bids. We feel that nothing can be wrongly ordered while He is the director of our affairs; for He loves us too well to let us perish, or suffer a single needless pang. (All of Grace)

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