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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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WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM THE BIBLE?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Many of us read the Bible with the purpose of knowing it better. Often, however, we read the Bible without allowing it to change our lives. We may scan the Scriptures daily looking for some reinforcement of our own “core values” but without allowing the Scriptures to speak to us personally about sin and righteousness.

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PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 ESV)

Evening PrayerPraying is difficult for many people. Some don’t think about it because they lead such busy lives. It is certainly not #1 on their “To-Do List”. Francis de Sales wrote:

Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.

Martin Luther said on this subject:

I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that it is God’s Will that we should pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1 ESV) Prayer leads to greater intimacy with God. Prayer changes things and my personal experience has been that God changes me through prayer. God’s desire is for us to pray. (1 Timothy 2:8 ESV) Studying the Bible and hearing God’s Word helps to make our prayer life more effective. If we are slack in seeking wisdom from God’s Word, our prayers may become an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 28:9 ESV)

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KNOWING GOD

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

FindingDoingWillOfGodA primary desire of every Christian should be to know God and His Will. Without this knowledge it is impossible to live a holy life. Nevertheless, too few of us actually give the attention we should to knowing God intimately. Many tend to rely on some ethereal feeling as a reliable indicator of God’s Will, but bumps and chills running down the back of your neck and arms are a poor substitute for the Word of God.

The true knowledge of God transforms us into the image of Christ. We must discipline our minds to read, study, meditate on, and pray for our understanding of the Word of God. God has called us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. How are we to do this without knowing Him?

DO YOU DESIRE TO LIVE ACCORDING TO GOD’S WORD?

Martin LutherMartin Luther:

You may as well quit reading and hearing the Word of God, and give it to the devil, if you do not desire to live according to it.

THE PURE WORD OF GOD

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“What can you do, you children, playing with your little wooden swords – what can you do against men covered from head to foot with the steel mail of the habit of sin? Sunday school teachers, teach your children more and more the pure Word of God! And preachers, do not try to be original, but be content to take of the things of Christ and show them to the people, for that is what the Holy Spirit, Himself does – and you will be wise to use His method and His sword. No sinner around you will be saved except by the knowledge of the great Truths contained in the Word of God. No man will ever be brought to repentance, to faith and to life in Christ, apart from the constant application of the Truth through the Spirit.” (1891, Sermon #2201)

Charles Spurgeon: The Power of the Gospel

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

“The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be the converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men. We might preach until our tongues rotted, till we would exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit be with the Word of God to give it the power to convert the soul.”

A Church of God

John CalvinJohn Calvin:

“Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.”

Criticism of the Bible

 

From the desk of R.C. Sproul:

“It is fashionable in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him.” (Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow)

 

Preaching The Word Of God In Public Worship

Quoting John Stott:

To worship God…is to “glory in His holy name” (Ps. 105:3), that is, to revel adoringly in who He is in His revealed character. But before we can glory in God’s name, we must know it; hence the propriety of the reading and preaching of the Word of God in public worship… These things are not an intrusion into worship; they form the necessary foundation of it. God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to Him. He must disclose to us who He is before we can offer Him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship.

Are You A Dull Hearer?

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV)

In Hebrews 5:11 we find this warning from the author: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” We see here that the teacher is limited because those who are addressed are spiritually immature and would fail to grasp the knowledge he had to share. Perhaps the people addressed here are like the seed in Matthew 13 that is sown in shallow ground. It sprouts quickly, but there are no roots. They claim to know Christ but choose to ignore His teachings. Are you a shallow Christian who has become “dull of hearing” when the Word of God is spoken? Perhaps you are only a “cultural Christian”, which means “no Christian at all”. Clearly, the implication here is that spiritual growth continues beyond salvation. It is expected.

The men and women of Hebrews 5 are like many people who attend our churches today. They have listened to the message of Christ long enough to be able to teach it; or, at least, to be able to explain the Gospel to those they come in contact with. However, they are “dull of hearing” and continue to need “milk,” and not “solid food.” They need someone to teach them, all over again, the “basic principles of the oracles of God.”

Verse 13 goes on to say; “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” Those who are mature are those who have believed in Christ as Savior and Lord. The mature consistently seek to grow in the knowledge and fellowship of Jesus Christ. They hunger to live their lives by His example. Yet, it is all too common that many who worship with us on Sunday morning forget what they have been taught as soon as they exit the sanctuary. They fear to go too far in their relationship with Christ due to the opinions of others who might label them as fanatical.

Verse 14 provides us with a contrast to those who still need milk: ” But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Mature believers are able to discern the truth of the Word of God from false teachings. The spiritually immature are unable to discern or test spiritual things. On the other hand, the mature believer has gained wisdom and understanding because of the work of the Holy Spirit within him. He is not “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 ESV) The true Christian is a student of the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit warns us to; “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV) This warning applies to us today. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we are saved just because we have perfect attendance at church. We must thoroughly look at ourselves to see if we are “dull of hearing” or dull of reading the Word of God. Are we truly mature enough in faith to distinguish good from evil? Let us continually pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give [us] the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of [our] hearts enlightened, that [we] may know what is the hope to which he has called [us]. . . .” (Ephesians 1:17-19 ESV)

Salvation’s Need Of The Scripture

James Montgomery Boice

There is no doubt that faith needs the Word of God just as fruit needs the living root of a tree. The knowledge of God is not the product of anyone’s imagination, but only what God reveals to us in the Bible. So there is a relationship between faith and the Word which leads to salvation. The Word is used by God in the process of salvation. How then can the preacher led anyone to God without preaching the whole Word of God? James Montgomery Boice gives a more complete explanation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Divine truthfulness was the rock beneath [the Apostles’] approach to Scripture. Their study of the Bible led them to this conclusion, and thereafter they approached the difficulties of biblical interpretation from this premise. This approach has characterized the majority of their heirs in the Reformation churches down to and including many at the present time, although not all inerrantists feel obligated to use this approach. In fuller form, the argument has been presented as follows:

The Bible is a reliable and generally trustworthy document. This is established by treating it like any other historical record, such as the works of Josephus or the accounts of war by Julius Caesar.

On the basis of the history recorded by the Bible we have sufficient reason for believing that the central character of the Bible, Jesus Christ, did what he is claimed to have done and therefore is who he claimed to be. He claimed to be the unique Son of God.

As the unique Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is an infallible authority. Jesus Christ not only assumed the Bible’s authority; he taught it, going so far as to teach that it is entirely without error and is eternal, being the Word of God: “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).

If the Bible is the Word of God, as Jesus taught, it must for this reason alone be entirely trustworthy and inerrant, for God is a God of truth. Therefore, on the basis of the teaching of Jesus Christ, the infallible Son of God, the church believes the Bible also to be infallible. . . .

Not only does God exalt his name and his very words in the Scriptures and likewise in the preaching of that Word, but he also exalts his Word in the saving of men and women. For it is by his Word and Spirit, and not by testimonies, eloquent arguments, or emotional appeals, that he regenerates the one who apart from that regeneration is spiritually dead. Peter states it thus: “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

Discerning God’s Will For You

If you study the operations of the Holy Spirit, you will notice that He always guides us by sending us to the Word of God and His Providence. Between the two, they will lead us to the path we should choose. We can certainly say, in general, that after serious deliberation and earnest supplication, if our choice is not in accord with the Word of God or is impracticable, or immoral; it certainly is not the will of God for us. If our choice is in accord with the Word of God and allows us to go ahead while walking in holiness and honoring God, this may be perceived (at least to some degree) as a proper sign of His Will.

Let us take our employment as an example. Sometimes providence may begin to make our present jobs very uncomfortable. It may become unprofitable to us or make our continuance impractical. In such conditions we may certainly seek to alter our circumstances. Maybe in our present condition the work is easy and profitable. However, there are changes to be made which violate the Word of God. By this action, we know that this is a business in which we cannot continue our employment.

If we are offered employment in two places (I know this is a touchy issue considering the economy just now) we must seek to learn all we can about both businesses. After much prayer and considering biblically related issues, if we find that one of the businesses engages in unbiblical moral practices then the answer is obvious as to which job to take. If both chances of employment are evil, flee from them both as quickly as possible.

What if we are offered two good jobs that do not conflict with the God’s Word? In this case, we should choose the one where we can honor God most in our duty and achievements.

If we are to discern God’s Will for us in such areas of life, we must look away from riches and pleasures because they will deceive us and turn us from God’s good and perfect will. Always check your motives carefully.

After prayer, careful thought, and study of the Scriptures, if we find our way is still not clear to us – wait; wait upon the Lord in prayer. Ask God to hedge up the wrong way and in His providential care to make known the right path.

In general, we must put temptation out-of-the-way. We must use the Bible for our rule of action. We must be earnest with God and seek to saturate our minds with His Truth. We cannot seriously believe that the Holy Spirit will give us discernment of God’s Will, if we do not even study the Bible. This would be like trying to turn a flashlight on without batteries. Dear Christian, if you truly want the light of the Holy Spirit to shine on the decisions you must make; you must first be sure you are a Christian; consistently study the Bible; and be constant in prayer.

The Responsibility Of The Man Of God

This phrase “man of God,” is used in the Old Testament to describe Moses who spoke for God. The phrase was also used of the angelic messenger sent

John MacArthur

by God to announce Sampson’s birth. Man of God is used to describe Samuel, who spoke the divine Word of God. It is used of Elijah, and Elisha, and David. It always refers to an anointed spokesman for God. It was the title for the messenger who proclaimed the Word of God. John MacArthur writes of this as he discusses 1 Timothy 6:11-14:

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6)

This is a very definitive text, and if I were to draw your attention to any one part of it as an introduction, I would draw your attention to verse 11 and a phrase, actually the second phrase in the verse, “O man of God”. . . .

When I was a young boy and first felt the call to preach, my dad encouraged me to be a man of God. That was a great phrase and left an indelible impression upon my mind. Be a man of God. And that desire that my dad had for me has really been my desire through all the years of my ministry. . . .

I am God’s man, and anyone who’s called to this ministry is God’s man. The man who personally belongs to God. That is a really interesting term, man of God. It may, at first, seem as something of a generic term. But, in fact, it is not. There’s only one person in the New Testament who is called man of God, and that is Timothy. And he is called that here. But it is extended a little beyond Timothy, because, later on in Paul’s writing to Timothy, 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 16, he says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

And there’s the phrase “man of God” again. Paul says, “Timothy, you are God’s man.” And then later, he says, “God’s man is made complete by his knowledge and faithfulness to Scripture.” It is the Scripture that is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training, and righteousness. And since that is the man of God’s responsibility, he cannot be complete…he cannot be equipped without the Word of God. So if you want to ask, “What is the primary responsibility of the man of God?” It is to proclaim the Word of God. And the better the man of God understands the Word of God, the better able he is to reprove, rebuke, exhort, train. The better he is able to fulfill his calling and be adequate for every good work. (“Identifying a Man of God”)

The Pastor: Called To Be A Man Of God

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6)

The man of God puts his life and ministry and everything he has in God’s hands, with complete trust. He lives under God’s glorious, beneficent, gracious sovereignty. He pursues love. What is that? It is selflessness. It is willful sacrifice. The man of God is characterized by perseverance. Are you a man of God? You are if, having been called, you are faithful to the proclamation of the Word of God, and seek personal righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and humility. John MacArthur describes the man of God:

Men of God . . . are an elite group, an elite line of men whose lives are listed above worldly enterprises. Whose lives are lifted above worldly achievement, worldly success, worldly goals, worldly objectives, to be devoted to one great eternal and divine matter, and that is the dissemination of the truth of God.

A man of God belongs to a spiritual order with which things temporal and things transitory and things perishing have no permanent relationship. He’s not just a pastor. He’s not just a leader. He’s not just an organizer. He’s not a manager. He is a man of God. And anyone who is called to preach, anyone who is called to…to pastor the people of God or to evangelize the lost is a man of God. He is like those mentioned in 2 Peter 1:21, “Men moved by the Holy Spirit who speak from God.”

This simplifies and clarifies the role of a pastor, which, of course, today, is in utter confusion and chaos. You would think the qualifications today for a pastor would be the same as those for the Price is Right or some other quiz show. He is sometimes entertainer, sometimes charmer. But the Biblical pattern is that he is a man moved by the Holy Spirit who speaks for God. And when he opens his mouth, the Word of God comes out. Not his insights and not his opinions. . . .

When the man of God is fully equipped, when the man of God is adequate for every good work, when the work of the Word of God has demonstrated itself through the life and preaching of the man of God, then the standard is visibly clear for all to see and to follow, because, as we are called to Christ-likeness, the ultimate man of God, so are you. (“Identifying a Man of God”)

Why Is There Weakness In The Church?

preaching1

Quoting Geoffrey Thomas:

We are asking why, if the Word of God is life and power, are we seeing such evident weakness in the professing church? And we are suggesting a simple answer — because of a lack of discriminatory . . . preaching of that Word, preaching like that of Peter at Pentecost. He spoke directly to the consciences of men. He named their sin, held out the threat of God’s punishment, and would not be silent until they began to ask what they had to do. Of course, he spoke lovingly; he loved his hearers. We must love men more than they love themselves. And yet there was a faithfulness in his witness to them of their real state. . . . Our preaching will never approach the power of Peter’s at Pentecost unless we too put our heads through the gates of hell and tell the people that they are not ready to die — that they are unprepared for the great judgment, that soon these gates will close upon them in death, and that then there will be no offers of grace — because sinners do not know it.

What do the New Testament Christians ask for so often? What do we need in our lives and ministries? It is boldness, for “the fearful and unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire” (Rev. 21:8). One reason why the gates of hell are not falling before the church is our lack of boldness in preaching. We are not discriminating between Christian and non-Christian; our terminology and application are too general. We are not wielding the sword of the Spirit, but the baton of a conductor.

(Geoffrey Thomas, “Powerful Preaching,” Chapter 14 in The Preacher and Preaching, edited by Samuel Logan, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986, p. 378)

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