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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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CHRIST’S DEATH

Bishop J. C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle:

“Christ’s death is the Christian’s life. Christ’s cross is the Christian’s title to heaven. Christ “lifted up” and put to shame on Calvary is the ladder by which Christians “enter into the holiest,” and are at length landed in glory.” (John,  Vol. 1, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels)

Bought with a Price!

Charles H. Spurgeon:

If I had the power to do it, how would I seek to refresh in your souls a sense of the fact that you are “bought with a price.”

There in the midnight hour, amidst the olives of Gethsemane, kneels Immanuel the Son of God; he groans, he pleads in prayer, he wrestles; see the beady drops stand on his brow, drops of sweat, but not of such sweat as pours from men when they earn the bread of life, but the sweat of him who is procuring life itself for us. It is blood, it is crimson blood; great gouts of it are falling to the ground.

O soul, your Savior speaks to you from out Gethsemane at this hour, and he says: “Here and thus I bought you with a price.”

Come, stand and view him in the agony of the olive garden, and understand at what a cost he procured your deliverance. Track him in all his path of shame and sorrow until you see him on the Pavement; mark how they bind his hands and fasten him to the whipping-post; see, they bring the scourges and the cruel Roman whips; they tear his flesh; the ploughers make deep furrows on his blessed body, and the blood gushes forth in streams, while rivulets from his temples, where the crown of thorns has pierced them, join to swell the purple stream. From beneath the scourges he speaks to you with accents soft and low, and he says, “My child, it is here and thus I bought you with a price.”

But see him on the cross itself when the consummation of all has come; his hands and feet are fountains of blood, his soul is full of anguish even to heartbreak; and there, before the soldier pierces his side with a spear, bowing down he whispers to you and to me, “It was here and thus, I bought you with a price.”

O by Gethsemane, by Gabbatha, by Golgotha, by every sacred name collected with the passion of our Lord, by sponge and vinegar, and nail and spear, and everything that helped the pang and increased the anguish of his death, I conjure you, my beloved brethren, to remember that you were “bought with a price,” and “are not your own.”

I push you to this; you either were or were not so bought; if you were, it is the grand fact of your life; if you were, it is the greatest fact that ever will occur to you: let it operate upon you, let it dominate your entire nature, let it govern your body, your soul, your spirit, and from this day let it be said of you not only that you are a man, a man of good morals and respectable conduct, but this, above all things, that you are a man filled with love to him who bought you, a man who lives for Christ, and knows no other passion.

O! that redemption would become the paramount influence, the lord of our soul, and dictator of our being; then were we indeed true to our obligations: short of this we are not what love and justice both demand.

When I Look at the Cross

Looking at the cross helps us to remember that we no longer live for our own selfish pleasures, but now we live for Christ’s love and we live gladly unto Him. J. C. Ryle writes:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see that most fully brought out? Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? Shall I turn to the wandering Jews, and observe how sin has scattered them over the face of the earth? No! I can find a clearer proof still! I look at the cross of Christ. There I see that sin is so black and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God’s own Son can wash it away. There I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker, that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us, short of the death of Christ. If I listened to the wretched talk of proud people, I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful! But I cannot think little of sin, when I look at the cross of Christ.

Would I know the fullness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where shall I see it most distinctly? Shall I go to the general declarations in the Bible about God’s mercy? Shall I rest in the general truth that God is a “God of love”? Oh, no! I will look at the cross of Christ. I find no evidence like that. I find no balm for a sore conscience and a troubled heart, like the sight of Jesus dying for me on the accursed tree. There I see that a full payment has been made for all my enormous debts. The curse of that law which I have broken has come down on One who there suffered in my stead. The demands of that law are all satisfied. Payment has been made for me, even to the uttermost farthing. It will not be required twice over. Ah, I might sometimes imagine I was too bad to be forgiven! My own heart sometimes whispers that I am too wicked to be saved. But I know in my better moments this is all my foolish unbelief. I read an answer to my doubts in the blood shed on Calvary. I feel sure that there is a way to heaven for the very vilest of people, when I look at the cross. (“The Cross of Christ”)

The Attraction to be found in Jesus

The following is by Charles H. Spurgeon:

Christ dying for sinners is the great attraction of Christianity! Since men will not come to him, the crucified Savior becomes himself the attraction to men. He casts out from himself bands of love and cords of gracious constraint, and binding these around human hearts, he draws them to himself by an invincible constraint of grace.

Sinners by nature will not come to Jesus, though his charms might even attract the blind, and arouse the dead. They will not melt, though surely such beauties might dissolve the adamant, and kindle affection in rock of ice. But Jesus has a wondrous power about him to woo and win the sons of men. Out of his heart proceed chains of gold by which he binds thousands of willing captives to himself. Many a heart has been so charmed with his love that it has run to Christ, drawn by the silken bonds of love.

Jesus is the universal attraction, the attraction to which all hearts must yield when he draws effectually by his grace. The attraction of the Crucified One has bound them to the cross forever! The gracious Spirit has moved many tender hearts first to pity, and afterwards to love the bleeding Lamb.

What a melting power there is in Gethsemane! Can you view the bloody sweat drops, as they fall upon the frozen soil, and not feel that, in some degree, invisible but irresistible cords are drawing you to Jesus? Can you see him flagellated in Pilate’s hall, every thong of the scourge tearing the flesh from his shoulders? Can you see him as they spit into his lovely face, and mar his blessed visage, and not feel as if you could fain fall down and kiss his feet, and make yourself forever his servant?

And, lastly, can you behold him hanging upon the hill of Golgotha to die – can you mark him as his soul is there overwhelmed with the wrath of God, with the bitterness of sin, and with a sense of utter desertion – can you sit down and watch him there and not be attracted to him? (“The Great Attraction” No. 775)

The True Balm

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

Christian, the cross was the place of your spiritual birth, and it must ever be the spot for renewing your spiritual health. The cross is the hospital for every sin sick soul.

The blood of Christ is the true balm of Gilead – it is the universal remedy which heals every spiritual disease. Come, sin-sick soul, and breathe the air which was purified when the blood of the heart of Jesus fell from His wounds to the ground, for no spiritual disease can abide the presence of the healing blood.

Hasten, you weak ones, to Calvary, and partake in God-given strength and vigor. It is from Calvary that you shall see the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing beneath His wings.

The beloved Physician meets His patients at the foot of the cross, and relieves them from all their ills. Humbly resting upon Jesus is the best position for us. (“The Sin Offering” No. 739)

It is Good to be Reminded

J. C. Ryle was one of the best preachers of his time. He is one of my favorites as well. His books are excellent. Here he writes why our boasting should be in Christ alone:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14

Let me show why all Christians ought to boast in the cross of Christ.

I feel that I must say something on this point, because of the ignorance that prevails about it. I suspect that many see no peculiar glory and beauty in the subject of Christ’s cross. On the contrary, they think it painful, humbling, and degrading. They do not see much profit in the story of His death and sufferings. They rather turn from it as an unpleasant thing.

Now I believe that such people are quite wrong. I cannot hold with them. I believe it is an excellent thing for us all to be continually dwelling on the cross of Christ. It is a good thing to be often reminded how Jesus was betrayed into the hands of wicked men—how they condemned Him with most unjust judgment—how they spit on Him, scourged Him, beat Him, and crowned Him with thorns—how they led Him forth as a lamb to the slaughter, without His murmuring or resisting—how they drove the nails through His hands and feet, and set Him up on Calvary between two thieves—how they pierced His side with a spear, mocked Him in His sufferings, and let Him hang there naked and bleeding until He died. Of all these things, I say, it is good to be reminded. . . .

People seem to forget that all Christ’s sufferings on the cross were fore-ordained. They did not come on Him by chance or accident—they were all planned, counseled, and determined from all eternity. The cross was foreseen in all the provisions of the everlasting Trinity for the salvation of sinners. In the purposes of God the cross was set up from everlasting. . . Infinite wisdom planned that redemption should be by the cross. Infinite wisdom brought Jesus to the cross in due time. He was crucified “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)

People seem to forget that all Christ’s sufferings on the cross were necessary for man’s salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all. With His stripes alone could we be healed. This was the one payment of our debt that God would accept—this was the great sacrifice on which our eternal life depended. If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been a spark of hope for us. There would have been a mighty gulf between ourselves and God, which no man ever could have passed. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Only One Can Justify The Ungodly

Charles H. Spurgeon

Jesus came into this world to destroy in us the works of the devil. The Lord knows that you cannot change your own heart, and cannot cleanse your own nature; but He can do both. He can create you a second time; He can cause you to be born again. This is the miracle of grace! Charles Spurgeon writes:

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)

What is it to believe in Him? It is not merely to say, “He is God and the Saviour,” but to trust Him wholly and entirely, and take Him for all your salvation from this time forth and forever—your Lord, your Master, your all. If you will have Jesus, He has you already. If you believe on Him, I tell you that you cannot go to hell; for that were to make the sacrifice of Christ of none effect. It cannot be that a sacrifice should be accepted, and yet the soul should die for whom that sacrifice has been received. If the believing soul could be condemned, then why a sacrifice? If Jesus died in my stead, why should I die also? Every believer can claim that the sacrifice was actually made for him: by faith he has laid his hands on it, and made it his own, and therefore he may rest assured that he can never perish. The Lord would not receive this offering on our behalf, and then condemn us to die. The Lord cannot read our pardon written in the blood of His own Son, and then smite us. That is impossible. Oh that you may have grace given you at once to look away to Jesus and to begin at the beginning, even at Jesus, who is the Fountainhead of mercy to guilty man!

“He justifieth the ungodly.” “It is God that justifieth,” therefore, and for that reason only it can be done, and He does it through the atoning sacrifice of His divine Son. Therefore it can be justly done—so justly done that none will ever question it—so thoroughly done that in the last tremendous day, when heaven and earth shall pass away, there shall be none that shall deny the validity of the justification. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” Now, poor soul! will you come into this lifeboat, just as you are? Here is safety from the wreck! Accept the sure deliverance. “I have nothing with me,” say you. You are not asked to bring anything with you. Men who escape for their lives will leave even their clothes behind. Leap for it, just as you are.

I will tell you this thing about myself to encourage you. My sole hope for heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary’s cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly rely. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else. You are in the same condition as I am; for we neither of us have anything of our own worth as a ground of trust. Let us join hands and stand together at the foot of the cross, and trust our souls once for all to Him who shed His blood for the guilty. We will be saved by one and the same Saviour. If you perish trusting Him, I must perish too. What can I do more to prove my own confidence in the gospel which I set before you? (All Of Grace)

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”)

Do You Have A Holy Respect Towards God?

Excerpts from a sermon by S. Michael Durham:

The world will always steer you away from Calvary. It will suggest an easier path than a straight one; a broad gate rather than a narrow gate. It will preach a much easier road to God than the strait road. It offers you a broad gate rather than a narrow gate that requires you to put off all things; for the gate is so narrow that you can take nothing with you; you must unload everything.

You may be tempted to follow the easy way, but Jesus warned it would lead to everlasting destruction. I can’t say it more strongly; listen! You will perish! The world’s way leads to everlasting destruction! . . . .

Friend, whatever you may gain by following the ungodly is going to cost you much more when you stand before the Lord. Some of you are separated from God today and will not be saved because you will not separate yourself from the world. You want to please a few pagan friends, ungodly family members, and some blasphemers – you don’t want their rejection. You’re afraid of them. Let me ask you a question: can your friends or ungodly family members stop your beating heart and send you to hell? Of course they can’t. God can. And He will. God is gracious and He is magnanimous in His offer of salvation – it is large, infinite, in scope and degree. But it is narrow in how you receive it. You must come His way.

Beware of the world’s ways to God. How sad it is to see churches become so worldly and call it worship. Worldliness in the name of worship! Today, grunge is in – and glory is out. Looseness has replaced dignity; casualness has prevailed over carefulness. Sloppiness reigns over vigilance, and entertainment has unseated biblical joy so the world doesn’t even know the difference anymore. “As long as we’re having fun, isn’t that what it’s all about?” The more like the pagans we become, the more evangelistic we think we are.

That is what is happening, friends, even in our own city. New churches are cropping up everywhere almost monthly, all based on an idea of being like the world so we can reach the world. . . . The more a sinner can feel comfortable and enjoy the service, the better we feel about our worship services. Please don’t misunderstand me – there’s nothing holy about dressing up. It’s not more righteous to wear a dress than blue jeans. There’s no more godliness in a tie than an open collar; cuff links than T-shirts. It’s all the same. I do wonder, though, that if our casual dress is indicative of a casual heart toward God? I’m not judging holiness by clothing. . . .

Do you know what godliness really is? It is a prevailing attitude that believes God is to be so distinguished from everything. It is an attitude of mind and heart that says it’s my business to show the world that my God is not like all of us; He is so high and holy, so lifted up, that nothing or no one, not even the godliest of saints, is really like Him. It honors Him by approaching Him with godly fear and holy respect. It is to treat Him better than you treat anyone else. Godliness is to be careful about your heart! (“The Danger of Familiarity With God”)

Counting The Cost

If you are to be a true Christian, it will cost you your self–righteousness. All pride and conceit concerning your own goodness must be cast away. You must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace. To be a true Christian will cost you your sins. Are you willing to give up every bad habit and practice which is a sin in the eyes of God? J. C. Ryle reminds us of this struggle in the following:

I am not examining what it costs to save a Christian’s soul. I know well that it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. We “are bought with a price.” “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Tim. 2:6). But all this is wide of the question. The point I want to consider is another one altogether. It is what a man must be ready to give up if he wishes to be saved. It is the amount of sacrifice a man must submit to if he intends to serve Christ. It is in this sense that I raise the question: “What does it cost?” And I believe firmly that it is a most important one.

I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday and to be tolerably moral during the week, and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work: it entails no self–denial or self–sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity and will take us to heaven when we die, we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!”

But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.” (Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots)

God Is Gathering His People

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:2-3)

Think about these verses and the blessings we are told of here. The home of a Christian is in heaven. It may be difficult to see this sometimes but our home is where Christ is. We may not have been to heaven but we have partaken in one of God’s greatest spiritual blessings in Christ. We have received a new nature and now we are new persons in Christ Jesus! This world and its system is no longer our home. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. This is why the sinfulness of this world which never bothered you before has become obnoxious to you. This new heavenly nature we have been blessed with now helps us to see that the world is not as it should be and our hearts long for our true home.

A Christian actually has citizenship in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. God is able by the power of His grace to take the most vile sinner and change him miraculously inside to become a new creature! We are blessed. We can rise from our beds each and every day and by the power of our citizenship in heaven and draw upon the resources there. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. It doesn’t matter how you feel, because God has given His only Son on the cross at Calvary to save you. Will God then not freely give us all things?

God has blessed us by giving us and identifying us in Christ. Does your lifestyle fit in with who you are in Christ? Does it reflect every spiritual blessing you have received? Our lives should be a praise unto the Lord because we know we are anchored in Christ. One of the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ is that God has chosen us in Christ, once and for all time, chosen us out of the world, chosen us to be His own.

What does it mean to be chosen? We are condemned men, because we all sin. We are lost and on our way to hell, but God saves some in His mercy. Do you see election as a blessing? Paul saw it as a great blessing. What is the doctrine of election?

Jesus said to the disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16) God initiates redemption. It is God who first declares “You are mine”. God is gathering unto Himself a holy people who were, originally, lost in sin!

Apart From Godliness – All Religion Is Utterly Vain!

Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon writes the article below based on Joel 2:13:

“Rend your heart—and not your garments.” (Joel 2:13)

Garment-rending and other external signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested, and are frequently hypocritical. True repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Unsaved men will attend to the most multiplied and minute religious ceremonies and regulations—for such things are pleasing to their flesh. But true godliness is too humbling, too heart-searching, too spiritual for the tastes of carnal men! They prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. External religious rituals are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up. But they are ultimately delusive, for at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than religious ceremonies and rituals to lean upon.

Apart from vital godliness—all religion is utterly vain! When offered without a sincere heart, every form of religious worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of God!

Heart-rending is divinely wrought—and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form—but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of—but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and sin-purging! But also, it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled souls are unable to receive! This heart-rending distinctly belongs to the elect of God—and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts—but they are naturally as hard as marble! How then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary! A dying Savior’s voice rent the rocks once—and it is just as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us effectually hear the death-cries of Jesus—and our hearts shall be rent!

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