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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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Life is not a Straight Line

John PiperJohn Piper:

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” (A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God)

The Heresy of Tritheism

TritheismTritheism rejects the idea of one God. Tritheism teaches that Christians believe in three gods who are independent and self-existing. This would make Christianity a polytheistic religion. Sometimes people think this is what Trinitarians believe. This is a heretical belief. Christians believe the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Ghost is Lord; yet there are not three Lords but one Lord.

Christians believe in the existence of only one God. They do not believe in three separate Gods. The Bible teaches there is only one God who is made up of three distinct persons. The three persons of the Godhead have the same nature or essence. The undivided essence of the Godhead belongs equally to each of the persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the Trinity possesses all the substance and all the attributes of Deity. The plurality of the Godhead is therefore not a plurality of essence, but a plurality of hypostatical, or personal, distinctions. God is not three and one, but three in one. The one indivisible essence has three modes of subsistence.

The Bible teaches:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’” (Mark 12:28-29 ESV)

[Jesus said] “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 ESV)

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV)

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. . . .” (Romans 8:14-16 ESV)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . . .” (Matthew 28:19 ESV)

Weakness in Ministry

PreachingThe Word of God must be the Book that we relish if we are to avoid weakness in our ministry. We should eagerly peruse its pages because we long to know His will. We should be found often and long in the pages of Holy Scripture because we desire our preaching and service to be shaped and formed by the living God. According to Al Martin:

By personal observation of my own weaknesses and the weaknesses of my brethren in the ministry, I am forced to conclude that preaching today is defective because of a failure to be watchful in several areas. First of all, the area of one’s personal devotional life. I said earlier that some of these conclusions were based upon my observations made while going from church to church as an itinerant minister. One of the most disturbing discoveries made during this time was the fact that very few ministers have any systematic, personal, devotional habits. I made it a practice to meet with the host pastor to pray and to share areas of common concern. When we would finally tear away the cursed façade of professionalism, and begin to be honest with the Lord and with each other, and confess our sins one to another and pray one for another, the confession came out again and again that the Word of God had ceased to be a living Book of devotional relationship to Christ and had become the official manual for the administration of professional duties. Is it any wonder that the ministry of such men is marked by doctrinal imbalance? Is it any wonder that there is such coldness of heart? Is it any wonder that there is little close, searching application of Scripture when the great majority of contemporary preachers admit that they do not systematically expose themselves to the Book of God for the purpose of personal illumination and sanctification?

In II Timothy 3, a chapter which we love to quote when we are demonstrating the truth of the inspiration and the authority of the Scriptures, there is a word spoken to us as The Preacher without Holinessthe servants of God that is most searching. The Apostle Paul says to Timothy in verse 15, ‘from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures. And this is their first function, ‘They are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ They have led you to faith in Jesus Christ and unto the salvation that is in Him. But, Timothy, that is not the only function of the Scriptures. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine [teaching] for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Notice that he explicitly states that the inspired Scriptures are for the perfecting and maturing of the Man of God. In other words, the entirety of divine revelation should have as its primary function in the life of the servant of God, his own personal sanctification. No preacher is furnished to preach simply by possessing a gift to analyze a text and by the ability to explain it by word of mouth. If the word he would preach to others has not first been the instrument of his own personal indoctrination and instruction unto sanctification, he is not fit to declare it to others. This is the function of the Word of God in the life of the preacher, and this function must always be primary. As preachers, you and I are first of all Christians, and secondly, Christian ministers. And that order must never be reversed. You and I are to take heed to ourselves, and then, and only then, to our doctrine. We are to save ourselves first of all, and then, those that hear us. Jeremiah declared ‘Thy words were found and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.’ Too often, we must make the confession, ‘Thy words were found and I did examine them, and thy words were unto me the form and substance of the sermon in my head.’ By contrast, the weeping prophet could say, ‘Thy words were found and I did assimilate them to myself personally — I experienced their exhilarating power in my own life.’ This is precisely what Paul is telling Timothy — ‘Let that word teach you. Get your doctrinal instruction on your knees with the open Scripture, so that the principles of truth come not as icy propositions merely resting on the surface of your mind, but see to it that they come as sentient living truths burned into the fibers of your heart. Let that word teach you, Timothy. Let it reprove you. Let it whip you. Let it correct you. Let it instruct you in the way of holiness that you may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’ (“What’s Wrong with Preaching?”)

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