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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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REFUGE IN HIS HOLINESS

A. W. TozerA. W. Tozer:

“We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God. Above all we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us that we may be partakers of His holiness” (The Knowledge of the Holy, 107).

His Strength is Sufficient!

And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:4-8 ESV)

Have you had first-hand experience of hopelessness? Have you walked through the valley of despair? I think that most of us have during some time in our lives. Long ago there was a man who was so full of despair that he prayed, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4 ESV)

When you think of Elijah the prophet, you probably think of the man who could pray and stop the rain or start it; perhaps you think of the prophet who could call fire down from the sky to consume the king’s soldiers or an offering to God which had been drenched with water; perhaps you even think of the prophet who was carried to heaven by a whirlwind.

Yet, the distressed man calling out that anxious prayer in 1 Kings 19:4 is none other than Elijah. Basically, Elijah believes he has endured all he possibility can and he asks Elijah the Prophetthe LORD to take his life. He finds himself in the valley of despair and this is just one day after his great victory over the prophets of Baal. Instead of death, however, this becomes a teachable moment in the life of Elijah. 1 Kings 19:5-8 teaches us that God provides the strength we need in our weakest moments.

Isn’t this your way? You anxiously anticipate a crisis and begin doubting that you can handle it. However, when it is over you also wonder how you ever had the strength make it through that problem. But somehow, the strength was there. Whatever problem you may face in life, if God stands with you, His strength will be yours.

Think of Elijah, Moses, and other biblical characters; look at the cross and resurrection: God is there when we suffer. He heals our brokenness. God put the broken pieces back together for Elijah and God will do the same for you. As you live and journey with God, you will discover His strength is always sufficient when you are in need.

Samuel at Gilgal

Election-Day Advice from John Calvin

The following is an excerpt from John Calvin’s Sermons on Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 1:13), updated into modern English. The source of the following material is from American Vision. John Calvin writes:

Now we must also observe this saying of Moses: Choose ye men of wisdom and of good skill, men well-tried, that they may be set over you according to your tribes, even over thousands, over hundreds, and over fifties, as we shall see afterward. Hereby it is shown to us that when we have to elect men to hold public office, we must choose them with discretion and not take on the fly those who thrust themselves in first. Neither must they be taken for favor or for some vanity that appears good, but that God presides over the election and that such men may be selected as are known to be appropriate to exercise the estate to which they are called. And we must especially observe that which is rehearsed in Exodus 18 (as already mentioned): for there Jethro says that we must take men that are virtuous, fearing God, lovers of the truth, and haters of avarice. Who is he that speaks this? A poor pagan man, as I have said already. Yet God governs his tongue in such a way that we cannot have a better teacher than him when we are about to choose men to govern a people. First of all he requires men that are virtuous, such as are not effeminate, but have the capacity to be provided with such a charge, and have good zeal, courage, and magnanimity. . . .

Seeing then that such a lesson is told to us by a heathen man, I pray you what a shame shall it be that we which profess ourselves to be brought up in the law of God and in his Gospel, and have our ears so much beaten with it, should still be novices in the doctrine, or at least practice it so poorly among us? And yet for all that, if we do not use it to our profit, it is written to be kept to our great confusion and to make us inexcusable.

So then, let us weigh well this saying where Moses exhorts the people to choose men of understanding and wisdom, and proven men. For if we put a man in office upon nothing but hope, without good knowledge and experience of him, is it not a defiling of the seat of God and of justice? Indeed, God reserves to himself principality over all men, as he is also worthy to have, and yet notwithstanding he will be served by mortal men as by his ministers and officers. … Shall he that would not take a cowherd or a shepherd into his house upon bare hope, without knowledge or understanding of him what he is, shall he, I ask, go set a man in God’s seat, of whom he has no knowledge, and of whom he has no experience to judge what that man is? Now then, let us be well advised, when God gives this grace, or rather privilege, of electing men who govern (which is not common to all people), let us not abuse that gift of God in any way, or else we shall be amazed to see ourselves bereft thereof. And behold the reason why so many tyrannies have come into the world that the liberty was lost in all nations, that there is no more election, for which reason princes sell the offices of justice, and things are in confusion and it is a horror. And why has this come about but that when the people had the election in their hands, they abused it, and so were worthy that God should deprive them of the honor he had done them. For is it not as good as willfully provoking God’s wrath, and spiting him, when people having free election, who should choose men to serve God and to be his officers, instead make corrupt bargains in taverns, and even as it were in scorn and mockery of God, choose such as are most dissolute and out of bounds? Do you not see this is to pervert all order?

To be short, it should seem that we wish to expel God out of his seat when we set his enemies in it after that sort, and such as despise him, and such as seek nothing else but to tread his name and majesty under their feet. When this is how it is, is it any wonder that God sends such disorder into the world as we see? Now then, we could all the more stand to note well this doctrine, where it is said that when God gives a people liberty to elect officers, they must not abuse it, but must use discretion in choosing them. Yes, and for as much as we may often times be deceived, we must resort to God that he may give us prudence and govern us with his Holy Spirit, as though he had pointed out with his finger whom we ought to choose. And that is the cause why I said that elections shall never be well ordered except God preside over them by his Holy Spirit.

This article may be read in full at American Vision. . . .

 

Humility is a Grace

The following is by J. C. Ryle:

Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness and to feel our need of Christ is the start of saving religion.

Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul were all eminently humble men.

Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All converted people should work to adorn with humility the doctrine they profess. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.

Do you want to know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge. The person who really knows himself and his own heart, who knows God and his infinite majesty, and holiness, who knows Christ and the price at which he was redeemed, that person will never be a proud person.

He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, “I am unworthy.” He will cry, like Paul, “I am the worst of sinners” He will consider others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)

Ignorance–nothing but sheer ignorance, ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ–is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance may we daily pray to be delivered. The wise person knows himself and will find nothing within to make him proud.

The Offensive Christ

The following is from Charles H. Spurgeon:

There are some who stumble at Christ because of his holiness.

He is too strict for them; they would like to be Christians, but they cannot renounce their sensual pleasures; they would like to be washed in his blood, but they desire still to roll in the mire of sin.

Willing enough the mass of men would be to receive Christ, if, after receiving him, they might continue in their drunkenness, their wantonness, and self-indulgence. But Christ lays the axe at the root of the tree; he tells them that these things must be given up, for “because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience,” and “without holiness no man can see the Lord.”

Human nature kicks at this.

“What! May I not enjoy one darling lust? May I not indulge myself at least now and then in these things? Must I altogether forsake my old habits and my old ways? Must I be made a new creature in Christ Jesus?”

These are terms too hard, conditions too severe, and so the human heart goes back to the flesh pots of Egypt, and clings to the garlic and the onions of the old estate of bondage, and will not be set free even though a greater than Moses lifts up the rod to part the sea, and promises to give to them a Canaan flowing with milk and honey.

Christ offends men because his gospel is intolerant of sin. (“Unbelievers stumbling; Believers rejoicing”)

Sin

From the pen of Joseph Alleine:

“Oh, better were it for you to die in a jail, in a ditch, in a dungeon, than to die in your sins. If death, as it will take away all your comforts, would take away all your sins too, it were some mitigation; but your sins will follow you when your friends leave you, and all your worldly enjoyments shake hands with you. Your sins will not die with you as a prisoner’s other debts will; but they will go to judgment with you there to be your accusers; and they will go to hell with you there to be your tormentors.”

Thomas Watson: Everything In Its Proper Place

Thomas Watson (1620-1686) discusses here the ungratefulness of men who oppose truth in God’s church:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)

This nation is sick of a spiritual pleurisy, we begin to surfeit upon the bread of life; when God sees his mercies lying under table, and it is just with him to call to the enemy to take away. I heartily pray that plenty of ordinances doth not as much hurt in this city, as famine hath done in other places of the land; and if we once say, what is this manna? No wonder if we begin to say, who is this Moses? Oh what a sad change is there in our days! Those that once would have counted our feet beautiful that would have been ready to have pulled out their eyes for their minister, are now ready to pull out their minister’s eyes; and what is the quarrel? Even this, ‘Am I become your enemy because I tell yon the truth?’ If ministers would preach smooth things, make the way to heaven nearer than ever Christ made it, then they should be admired. (You have more people gaze at a Comet or blazing star, than at the sun.) But if they come to lay the ax of the law to the root of conscience; if they fall a hewing and cutting down men’s’ sins, ‘The land is not able to bear their words.’ If the prophet goes to tell king Asa of his great sin in joining with a wicked army; ‘Herein thou hast done foolishly.’ if he goes about to imprison his sin, he himself shall be imprisoned. ‘Then Asa was wroth with the Seer, and put him in a prison-house.’ This was Jerusalem’s sin, and it drew tears from Christ. . . .

Those that would annihilate the ministry, go to pull the stars out of Christ’s hand; and they will find it a work not feasible; it will fare with them as with the eagle, that going to fetch a piece of flesh from the altar, a coal sticking to the flesh, she burnt herself and the young ones in the nest. . . .

We act against God, when we act against that order and government which he hath set up in his church; God is the God of order, he hath set every thing in its proper sphere. . . .

Charles H. Spurgeon On Purity of Heart and Life

“Blessed are the are pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Purity, even purity of heart, is the main thing to be aimed at. We need to be made clean within through the Spirit and the Word, and then we shall be clean without by consecration and obedience. There is a close connection between the affections and the understanding: if we love evil we cannot understand that which is good. If the heart is foul, the eye will be dim. How can those men see a holy God who love unholy things?

What a privilege it is to see God here! A glimpse of Him is heaven below! In Christ Jesus the pure in heart behold the Father. We see Him, His truth, His love, His purpose, His sovereignty, His covenant character, yea, we see Himself in Christ. But this is only apprehended as sin is kept out of the heart. Only those who aim at godliness can cry, “Mine eyes are ever towards the LORD.” The desire of Moses, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory,” can only be fulfilled in us as we purify ourselves from all iniquity. We shall “see him as he is,” and “every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself.” The enjoyment of present fellowship and the hope of the beatific vision are urgent motives for purity of heart and life. LORD, make us pure in heart that we may see Thee! (Faith’s Checkbook)

Are We Lovers Of The Word?

Thomas Watson

The Word of God is spiritually pure. By the Word of God, we are convicted. People who love the Word will seek to be a part of a heart-searching ministry. A Christian soul rejoices when God’s Word has pierced his sin. Thomas Watson shares his perspective on this subject in the excerpts below:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

A godly man loves the Word preached, which is a commentary upon the Word written. This day-star has risen in his heart, and ushered in the Sun of righteousness. The Scriptures are the sovereign oils and balsams; the preaching of the Word is the pouring of them out. The Scriptures are the precious spices; the preaching of the Word is the beating of these spices, which causes a wonderful fragrance and delight. The Word preached is ‘the rod of God’s strength’ (Psa. 11O:2) and ‘the breath of his lips’ (Isa. 11:4). What was once said of the city of Thebes, that it was built by the sound of Amphius’ harp, is much more true of soul conversion. It is built by the sound of the gospel harp. Therefore the preaching of the Word is called ‘the power of God to salvation’ (Rom 1:16). By this, Christ is said (now) to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25). This ministry of the Word is to be preferred before the ministry of angels.

A godly man loves the Word preached, partly from the good he has found by it – he has felt the dew fall with this manna – and partly because of God’s institution. The Lord has appointed this ordinance to save him. The king’s image makes the coin current. The stamp of divine authority on the Word preached makes it an instrument conducive to men’s salvation.

  • Application: Let us test by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we lovers of the Word?

Do we love the Word written? What sums of money the martyrs gave for a few pages of the Bible! Do we make the Word our bosom friend? As Moses often had ‘the rod of God’ in his hand, so we should have ‘the Book of God’ in our hand. When we want direction, do we consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this ‘sword of the Spirit’ to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of the Word! But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armor which is seldom or never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger, but though God took pains to write, men will not take pains to read. They would rather look at a deck of cards than at a Bible. (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

For My Portion Give Me Christ

Thomas Adams

From the pen of Thomas Adams:

‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ (Heb. 13:8)

By the name of Jehovah was God known to Israel, from the time of the first mission of Moses to them, and their manumission out of Egypt, and not before. For, saith God to Moses, ‘I appeared unto Abraham, and to Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them,’ Exodus. 6:3. This I AM is an eternal word, comprehending three times: ‘that was, that is, and is to come.’

Now, to testify the equality of the Son to the Father, the Scripture gives the same eternity to Jesus that it doth to Jehovah. He is called Alpha and Omega, ‘the First and the Last: which is, which was, and which is to come,’ Rev. 1 and here, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.’ Therefore he was, not only Christus Dei, the anointed of God, but Christus Deus,’ God himself anointed; seeing that eternity, which hath neither beginning nor ending, is only exclusive and proper to God.

The words may be distinguished into a centre, a circumference, and a mediate line, referring the one to the other. The immovable centre is Jesus Christ. The circumference, which runs round about him here, is eternity: ‘Yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’ The mediate line referring them is the same: ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’

The centre is Jesus Christ. Jesus was his proper name, Christ his appellative. Jesus a name of his nature, Christ of his office and dignity; as divines speak.

Jesus, a name of all sweetness, (Bernard: Honey in the mouth, music in the ear, joy in the heart.) a Reconciler, a Redeemer, a Savior. When the conscience wrestles with law, sin, and death, there is nothing but horror and despair without Jesus. He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life;’ without him, error, deception, and death. Saith Bernard: “If thou write to me, thy letter doth not please me, unless I read there Jesus. If thou converse, thy discourse is not sweet, without the name of Jesus. The blessed restorer of all, of more than all that Adam lost; for we have gotten more by his regenerating grace than we lost by Adam’s degenerating sin.

Christ is the name of his office; being appointed and anointed of God a king, a priest, a prophet.

This Jesus Christ is our Savior: of whose names I forbear further discourse, being unable, though I had the tongue of angels, to speak aught worthy. All that can be said is but a little; but I must say but a little in all. But of all names given to our Redeemer, still Jesus is the sweetest. Other, saith Bernard, are names of majesty; Jesus is a name of mercy. The Word of God, the Son of God, the Christ of God, are titles of glory; Jesus, a Savior, is a title of grace, mercy, and redemption. This Jesus Christ is the centre of this text; and not only of this, but of the whole Scripture. The sum of divinity is the Scripture; the sum of the Scripture is the gospel; the sum of the gospel is Jesus Christ. There is nothing contained in the word of God, but God the word.

Nor is he the centre only of his word, but of our rest and peace. ‘I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,’ 1 Cor. 2:2. Thou hast made us for thee, O Christ; and our heart is unquiet till it rest in thee. It is natural to everything, to desire the centre. But ‘our life is hid with Christ in God,’ Col. 3:3. We must needs love, where we must live. Our mind is where our pleasure is, our heart is where our treasure is, our love is where our life is; but all these, our pleasure, treasure, life, are reposed in Jesus Christ. Thou art my portion, O Lord,’ saith David. Take the world that pleases, let our portion be in Christ.

John Bunyan On The Rich Man And Lazarus

John Bunyan

From the writings of John Bunyan (1628-1688):

“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. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

This Scripture was not spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ to show you the state of two single persons only, as some, through ignorance of the drift of Christ in his parables, do dream; but to show you the state of the godly and ungodly to the world’s end; as is clear to him that is of an understanding heart. For he spoke them to the end that after generations should take notice thereof, and fear, lest they also fell into the same condition. Now in my discourse upon these words I shall not be tedious; but as briefly as I may, I shall pass through the several verses, and lay you down some of the several truths contained therein. And the Lord grant that they may be profitable, and of great advantage to those that read them, or hear them read. . . . [Verses 19 – 21)

If these verses had been spoken by Jesus Christ, and no more, all the world would have gone near to have cast a wrong interpretation on them. I say, if Jesus had said only thus much, ‘There was a certain rich man’ which ‘fared sumptuously daily, and a certain beggar laid at his gate full of sores’; the world would have made this conclusion of them–the rich man was the happy man; for, at the first view, it doth represent such a thing; but take all together, that is, read the whole parable, and you shall find that there is no man in a worse condition than he. . . .

Again, if a man would judge of men according to outward appearance, he shall ofttimes take his mark amiss. Here is a man to outward appearance appears the only blessed man, better by half than the beggar, inasmuch as he is rich, the beggar poor; he is well clothed, but peradventure the beggar is naked; he hath good food, but the beggar would be glad of dog’s meat. ‘And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.’ The rich man fares well every day, but the beggar must be glad of a bit when he can get it. O! who would not be in the rich man’s state? A wealthy man, sorts of new suits and dainty dishes every day; enough to make one who minds nothing but his belly, and his back, and his lusts, to say, O that I were in that man’s condition! O that I had about me as that man has! Then I should live a life indeed; then should I have heart’s-ease good store; then I should live pleasantly, and might say to my soul, ‘Soul,’ be of good cheer, ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ (Luke 12:19). Thou hast everything plenty, and art in a most blessed condition.

I say, this might be, aye, and is, the conclusion with them that judge according to outward appearance. But if the whole parable be well considered, you will see (Luke 16:15), that which is had in high estimation with men is an abomination in the sight of God. And again (John 16:20- 22), that condition, that is the saddest condition, according to outward appearance, is ofttimes the most excellent; for the beggar had ten thousand degrees the best of it, though, to outward appearance, his state was the saddest; from whence we shall observe thus much:–1. That those who judge according to outward appearance, do for the most part judge amiss (John 7:24). 2. That they who look upon their outward enjoyments to be token of God’s special grace unto them, are also deceived (Rev 3:17). For as it is here in the parable, a man of wealth and a child of the devil may make but one person; or a man may have abundance of outward enjoyments, and yet be carried by the devils into eternal burnings (Luke 12:20). But this is the trap in which the devil hath caught many thousands of poor souls, namely, by getting them to judge according to outward appearance, or according to God’s outward blessings.

Do but ask a poor, carnal, covetous wretch, how we should know a man to be in a happy state, and he will answer those that God blesseth, and giveth abundance of this world unto; when, for the most part, they are they that are the cursed men. Alas! poor men, they are so ignorant as to think that because a man is increased in outward things, and that by a small stock, therefore God doth love that man with a special love, or else he would never do so much for him, never bless him so, and prosper the work of his hands. Ah! poor soul, it is the rich man that goes to hell. And ‘the rich man died,’ and in hell, mark, ‘in hell he lift up his eyes,’ &c. (“The Groans of a Damned Soul”)

Our Scapegoat

Charles H. Spurgeon

As a sinner, my only hope for heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary’s cross for the ungodly. I totally rely on this. There is no hope for me anywhere else. We are all in the same condition. We must all stand together at the foot of the cross, and trust our souls to the One who died for the guilty. Charles H. Spurgeon writes the following:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. . . . (Romans 4:5)

Jesus has borne the death penalty on our behalf. Behold the wonder! There He hangs upon the cross! This is the greatest sight you will ever see. Son of God and Son of Man, there He hangs, bearing pains unutterable, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Oh, the glory of that sight! The innocent punished! The Holy One condemned! The Ever-blessed made a curse! The infinitely glorious put to a shameful death! The more I look at the sufferings of the Son of God, the more sure I am that they must meet my case. Why did He suffer, if not to turn aside the penalty from us? If, then, He turned it aside by His death, it is turned aside, and those who believe in Him need not fear it. It must be so, that since expiation is made, God is able to forgive without shaking the basis of His throne, or in the least degree blotting the statute book. Conscience gets a full answer to her tremendous question. The wrath of God against iniquity, whatever that may be, must be beyond all conception terrible. Well did Moses say, “Who knoweth the power of thine anger?” Yet when we hear the Lord of glory cry, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” and see Him yielding up the ghost, we feel that the justice of God has received abundant vindication by obedience so perfect and death so terrible, rendered by so divine a person. If God himself bows before His own law, what more can be done? There is more in the atonement by way of merit, than there is in all human sin by way of demerit.

The great gulf of Jesus’ loving self-sacrifice can swallow up the mountains of our sins, all of them. For the sake of the infinite good of this one representative man, the Lord may well look with favor upon other men, however unworthy they may be in and of themselves. It was a miracle of miracles that the Lord Jesus Christ should stand in our stead and

Bear that we might never bear                                                                His Father’s righteous ire.

But he has done so. “It is finished.” God will spare the sinner because He did not spare His Son. God can pass by your transgressions because He laid those transgressions upon His only begotten Son nearly two thousand years ago. If you believe in Jesus (that is the point), then your sins were carried away by Him who was the scapegoat for His people. (“All of Grace”)

The Current Decline In Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice was truly one of the great preachers of our time. In the following excerpt, Boice addresses the decline of sound preaching in our modern times. Is it possible for someone to attend a church most of their lives and not hear Biblical preaching? Tragically, I believe this is so. How is it that we now find much preaching in such poor condition? Boice shares his conclusions with us:

[T]he current decline in preaching is due, not to external causes, but to a prior decline in a belief in the Bible as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God on the part of the church’s theologians, seminary professors, and those ministers who are trained by them. Quite simply, it is a loss of confidence in the existence of a sure Word from God. Here the matter of inerrancy and authority go together. For it is not that those who abandon inerrancy as a premise on which to approach the Scriptures necessarily abandon a belief in their authority. On the contrary, they often speak of the authority of the Bible most loudly precisely when they are abandoning the inerrancy position. It is rather that, lacking the conviction that the Bible is without error in the whole and in its parts, these scholars and preachers inevitably approach the Bible differently from inerrantists, whatever may be said verbally. In their work the Bible is searched (to the degree that it is searched) for whatever light it may shed on the world and life as the minister sees them and not as that binding and overpowering revelation that tells us what to think about the world and life and even formulates the questions we should be asking about them.

Nothing is sadder than the loss of this true authority, particularly when the preacher does not even know it. The problem is seen in a report of a panel discussion involving a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister. The rabbi stood up and said, “I speak according to the law of Moses.” The priest said, “I speak according to the tradition of the Church.” But the minister said, “It seems to me…” (The Foundation of Biblical Authority, London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

You Must Understand Judgment To Understand Grace

Dorothy L. Sayers

In the excerpt from a speech below, Dorothy L. Sayers (mystery writer) explains why it is necessary for man to understand God’s Laws and the consequences of Judgment. The preacher is required to preach law and judgment in order that his congregation may fully understand and appreciate mercy and grace. Sayers writes:

[I]t is impossible to have a Christian doctrine of society except as a corollary to Christian dogma about the place of man in the universe. This is, or should be, obvious. The one point to which I should like to draw attention is the Christian doctrine of the moral law.

The attempt to abolish wars and wickedness by the moral law is doomed to failure because of the fact of sinfulness. Law, like every other product of human activity, shares the integral human imperfection: it is, in the old Calvinistic phrase: “of the nature of sin.” That is to say: all legality, if erected into an absolute value, contains within itself the seeds of judgment and catastrophe. The law is necessary, but only, as it were, as a protective fence against the forces of evil, behind which the divine activity of grace may do its redeeming work.

We can, for example, never make a positive peace or a positive righteousness by enactments against offenders; law is always prohibitive, negative, and corrupted by the interior contradictions of man’s divided nature; it belongs to the category of judgment. That is why an intelligent understanding about sin is necessary to preserve the world from putting an unjustified confidence in the efficacy of the moral law taken by itself. It will never drive out Beelzebub; it cannot, because it is only human and not divine.

Nevertheless, the law must be rightly understood or it is not possible to make the world understand the meaning of grace. There is only one real law . . . it may be fulfilled either by way of judgment or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other. If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace. If they hear not Moses or the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (“Creed or Chaos?”)

Preaching In Dependence Upon The Holy Spirit

In this article, Charles H. Spurgeon reminds us of our daily dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit. In particular, ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ should strongly depend upon the Holy Spirit in preparing to and preaching the Word of God. Spurgeon writes:

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (Haggai 2:4-5)

God remembers His covenant and stands to His ancient promises. When the people came out of Egypt, the Lord was with them by His Spirit; hence He spoke to them by Moses, and through Moses He guided, and judged, and taught them. He was with them also by His Spirit in inspiring Bezaleel and Aholiab, as to the works of art which adorned the tabernacle. God always finds the workmen for His work, and by His Spirit fits them for it. The Spirit of God rested upon the elders who were ordained to relieve Moses of his great burden. The Lord was also with His people in the fiery cloudy pillar which was conspicuous in the midst of the camp. His presence was their glory and their defence. This is a type of the presence of the Spirit with the church. At the present day, if we hold the truth of God, if we live in obedience to His holy commands, if we are spiritually-minded, if we cry unto God in believing prayer, if we have faith in His covenant and in His Son, the Holy Spirit abides among us. The Holy Ghost descended upon the church at Pentecost, and He has never gone back again: there is no record of the Spirit’s return to heaven. He will abide with the true church evermore. This is our hope for the present struggle. The Spirit of God remains with us.

To what end, my brethren, is this Spirit with us? Let us think of this, that we may be encouraged at this time. The Spirit of God remains among you to aid and assist the ministry which He has already given. Oh, that the prayers of God’s people would always go up for God’s ministers that they may speak with a divine power and influence which none shall be able to gainsay! We look too much for clever men; we seek out fluent and flowery speakers; we sigh for men cultured and trained in all the knowledge of the heathen: nay, but if we sought more for unction, for divine authority, and for the power which doth hedge about the man of God, how much wiser should we be! Oh, that all of us who profess to preach the gospel would learn to speak in entire dependence upon the direction of the Holy Spirit, not daring to utter our own words, but even trembling lest we should do so, and committing ourselves to that secret influence without which nothing will be powerful upon the conscience or converting to the heart. (“The Abiding of the Spirit and the Glory of the Church”)

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