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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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Sensing the Presence of God

R.C. Sproul:

“The real crisis of worship today is not that the preaching is paltry or that it’s too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of His presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God?” (A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity)

Prayer

Quoting David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.”

How the Spirit Makes Intercession for us

Quoting John Knox:

So that without the Spirit of God supporting our infirmities (mightily making intercession for us with unceasing groans, which cannot be expressed with tongue, Rom. 8:26), there is no hope that we can desire anything according to God’s will. I mean not that the Holy Ghost does mourn or pray, but that he stirs up our minds, giving unto us a desire or boldness to pray, and causes us to mourn when we are extracted or pulled therefrom. Which things to conceive, no strength of man suffices, neither is able of itself; but hereof it is plain, that such as understand not what they pray, or expound not or declare not the desire of their hearts clearly in God’s presence, and in time of prayer, to their possibility [as far as they are able], and do not expel vain cogitations from their minds, profit nothing in prayer.

True Prayer

This is a declaration of what true prayer is, as set forth by John Knox, preacher of God’s Holy Word to the Scots and many more:

How necessary is the right invocation of God’s name, otherwise called perfect prayer, [it] becomes no Christian to misknow; seeing it is the very branch which springs forth of true faith (Rom. 10:10-13); whereof if any man is destitute, notwithstanding he is endued with whatsoever other virtues, yet, in the presence of God, is he reputed for no Christian at all. Therefore it is a manifest sign, that such as are always negligent in prayer do understand nothing of perfect faith; for if the fire be without heat, or the burning lamp without light, then true faith may be without fervent prayer. But because, in times past, that was (and yet, alas, with no small number is) reckoned to be prayer, which in the sight of God was and is nothing less, I intend shortly to touch the circumstances thereof.

WHAT PRAYER IS. Who will pray must know and understand that prayer is an earnest and familiar talking with God, to whom we declare our miseries, whose support and help we implore and desire in our adversities, and whom we laud and praise for our benefits received. So that prayer contains the exposition of our dolours [sorrows], the desire of God’s defence, and the praising of his magnificent name, as the psalms of David clearly do teach.

WHAT IS TO BE OBSERVED IN PRAYER. The consideration in whose presence we stand, to whom we speak, and what we desire, should provoke us that this be most reverently done; standing in the presence of the omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth, and of all the contents thereof; whom a thousand angels assist and serve, giving obedience to his eternal majesty; and speaking unto him who knows the secrets of our hearts, before whom dissimulation and lies are always odious and hateful; and asking that thing which may be most to his glory, and to the comfort of our conscience (Dan. 3:25, 28). But we should attend diligently, that such things as may offend his godly presence may be removed to the uttermost of our power. And first, that worldly cares and fleshly cogitations (such as draw us from contemplation of our God) be expelled from us that we may freely, without interruption, call upon God. But how difficult and hard this one thing is to perform in prayer, none knows better than such as in their prayers are not content to remain within the bands of their own vanity, but, as it were, ravished, do intend [strive] to a purity allowed of God; asking not such things as the foolish reason of man desires, but [that] which may be pleasant and acceptable in God’s presence. Our adversary, Satan, at all times compassing us about (1 Pet. 5:8), is never more busy than when we address and bend ourselves to prayer. O! how secretly and subtly he creeps into our breasts and, calling us back from God, causes us to forget what we have to do; so that frequently when we (with all reverence) should speak to God, we find our hearts talking with the vanities of the world, or with the foolish imaginations of our own conceit. . . .

“But, O Lord, infinite in mercy, if thou shalt punish, make not consummation, but cut away the proud and luxuriant branches which bear no fruit:[40] and preserve the commonwealth of such as give succor and harbor to thy contemned messengers, which long have suffered exile in deserts. And let thy kingdom shortly come, that sin may be ended, death devoured, thy enemies confounded; that we thy people, by thy majesty delivered, may obtain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Savior, to whom be all honor and praise, for ever. Amen. (“A Treatise on Prayer, or, a Confession, and Declaration of Prayers”)

In The Midst Of The Flames

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“When thou pass through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walks through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2).

Bridge there is none: we must go through the waters and feel the rush of the rivers. The presence of God in the flood is better than a ferryboat. Tried we must be, but triumphant we shall be; for Jehovah Himself, who is mightier than many waters, shall be with us. Whenever else He may be away from His people, the LORD will surely be with them in difficulties and dangers. The sorrows of life may rise to an extraordinary height, but the LORD is equal to every occasion. The enemies of God can put in our way dangers of their own making, namely, persecutions and cruel mocking, which are like a burning, fiery furnace. What then? We shall walk through the fires. God being with us, we shall not be burned; nay, not even the smell of fire shall remain upon us. Oh, the wonderful security of the heaven-born and heaven-bound pilgrim! Floods cannot drown him, nor fires burn him. Thy presence, O LORD, is the protection of Thy saints from the varied perils of the road. Be-hold, in faith I commit myself unto Thee, and my spirit enters into rest.

Pursuing The Heart Of Christianity

What should we consider to be the heart of Christianity? What does the Reformed faith teach us about this question? To be Christian is to be God-obsessed; that is, a delight in God-centeredness is a primary attribute of the Christian man or woman. There is that awareness in one’s life that God is satisfied with you because you find that all you need is most satisfied in Him. God is at the center of Christianity and the Christian life. He is the satisfaction that is missing from so many lives.

The Reformed Christian faith is a God-centered faith. Our beliefs are governed by this premise. For example: Our great salvation is seen in the light of the glory that it brings to God. Would you truly want to go to heaven if God was not there? Of course not! Heaven would not be heaven without the presence of God! Sin is sin because it is rebellion against the glory of God.

You probably have never wondered what the most used word in the book of Romans is. If you were asked to guess, what would you say? Would you guess that it was “Love”, “Predestination”, “Salvation”, or “Grace”? Most of us would probably answer wrongly, but according to Leon Morris the most used word is “God”!

If you truly understand the doctrines of Christianity, you will live in awareness of the glory of God and this awareness will be a great joy to you. This will result in a life directed toward holiness. You will not only want God’s glory, you will seek His fellowship and presence. The Spirit of God will also give you a burning desire to pursue the moral character of God in your own life.

Christians attend church with many issues of their own to work out. Some ask, “Is there a good single’s program?” Others want to know – “Will the music be modern and upbeat?” There are many such questions that may be asked. However, the most important questions to ask yourself about the church you choose to attend are: “Will I grow to know God better in this place?” and, “Do I see God glorified here?”

God, himself, must be our greatest concern. We carry out The Great Commission to obey God, glorify God, and to tell the story of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Evangelism, community outreach, Bible study, small groups, preaching, and music must all be God-centered to lead us to greater communion with God. Otherwise, we have no right to expect the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon our endeavors.

Therefore, God is the Heart of Christianity. In our modern world, we often believe that everything should be about me, for me, and make me look good. The great protestant reformers throughout history knew that Christianity does not abide this attitude. John the Baptist illustrates this when he speaks of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Paul explains it thus: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20) To “live by faith in the Son of God” is God-centered theology. Such a happy state is truly the heart of Christianity.

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