• 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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  • February 2023
    M T W T F S S
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His Coming Forth is from of Old, from Ancient Days!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)

On this first Sunday of the Advent season, let us examine the first chapter of John to help us understand that it was God the Son Who entered our time and space (His creation) on that Christmas morning so long ago.

John declares that Jesus existed in the beginning, eternally before being born of Mary. Micah prophesied this: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2 ESV) Isaiah also said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

Zechariah foretold, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.” (Zechariah 2:10-11 ESV)

Jesus affirmed that He existed in Abraham’s day. (John 8:56-58) In His prayer before He was arrested He prayed, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:4-5 ESV)

John points out that, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3 ESV) Paul confirms this: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV)

Jesus is God the Son. (John 1:1-2, John 8:58) Jesus is life, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17 ESV) Jesus is our hope, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21 ESV) Jesus is our light in a world of darkness. Paul writes: “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (Ephesians 4:17-19 ESV)

In our culture, it is very clear that most people have turned their backs on the life and light that Jesus offers. Indeed, many today try to erase His name from History.

During this first week of Advent, think on the glory of the eternal Jesus; God who became man in order that we might have hope, life, and light. He was no mere man who began His existence when born of Mary. He is the One, who is spoken of as, “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2 ESV)

What Are You Building Your Life On?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49 ESV)

Above is one of the more sobering quotes from Jesus. I believe Jesus is saying here that there are people who think they are Christians but are not. They are counterfeit or perhaps “cultural” Christians.

They may say “Lord! Lord!” and even teach Sunday School and preach sermons, however, they are not real Christians. Jesus will someday say to them “I never knew you.” We see in the verses above that obedience is greater than just words. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. It might sound like I am saying good works are more important than grace and faith, but to say that would be to contradict the Scriptures by taking these verses out of context.

There is only one way to be saved from sin; it is through personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) These two verses make it absolutely clear that there is nothing we can do to earn, somehow deserve, or add to our salvation. Jesus has done everything.

Christians are not perfect and still sin, but they make every effort to conduct themselves like Christians. If you are really a Christian, there will be evidence of your continuing growth in sanctification. A true Christian does not consistently behave like an unbeliever. This does not mean that doing good makes a person a Christian, but living righteously is a good sign of whether someone really is a Christian. The Bible teaches: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17 ESV) We are saved by faith alone, but it is a faith that is accompanied by changes in the way we live and worship.

Imagine two men looking for locations to build their homes. They both narrow their search down to two choices. One place is on rocky ground that is higher up, but it will take a lot of time and work to prepare a foundation there. However, lower down is a second site where the ground is sandy and soft. Building a home in this location would require less time, work, and money.

The two men make their choices. One chooses the solid rocky ground and the other chooses the soft sand. It is then that we find there are storms in the locations where these men built their homes. Indeed, we also have storms in our lives that hit us suddenly, unexpectedly, and sometimes overwhelmingly.

However, the point of the story is Jesus’ description of people who come to Him and hear His words and then obey them. They are like the man who built his foundation and home on rock. When the storm struck that house, it could not be shaken because it had been well-built. This is a description of those who live in obedience to Christ. When Jesus is your rock and the storms of life come, you will not be overwhelmed. Another point is that the time to obey the words of Jesus is before the storms of life actually come. If you build your life on anything else but faith in Jesus Christ, it will eventually collapse.

Let us look at our lives for any signs that we may be counterfeit Christians. Lord, help us to believe and obey. Help us to become Christians who are solidly standing on the rock of Jesus Christ. Let us say with the psalmist; “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2 ESV)

The Adoptionism Heresy

Heresy in the Church:

Adoptionism appeared in the second century. Those who believed it denied the preexistence of Christ. They also denied His deity. Adoptionists believed that Jesus was tested by God and upon His baptism was granted supernatural powers by God and adopted as God’s Son. Because of His perfect character, Jesus was resurrected and adopted into the Godhead.

The Bible actually teaches:

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10 ESV)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 ESV)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 ESV)

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

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” (John 8:58 ESV)

An Exhortation to the Rich

George Whitefield, in this excerpt, speaks to the socially prominent and wealthy:

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22 ESV)

Permit me only to add a word or two to the rich, and to persons that are freed from the business of this life.

But here I must pause a while, for I am sensible that it is but an ungrateful, and as some may imagine, an assuming thing, for such a novice in religion to take upon him to instruct men in high stations, and who perhaps would disdain to set me with the dogs of their flock.

But however, since St. Paul, who knew what best became a young preacher, commanded Timothy, young as he was, to exhort and charge the rich with all authority; I hope none here that are so, will be offended, if with humility I beg leave to remind them, though they once knew this, that if persons in the most busy employs are indispensably obliged to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling,” much more ought they to do so, who are free from the toils and encumbrance of a lower way of life, and consequently have greater opportunities to leisure to prepare themselves for a future state.

But is this really the case? Or do we not find, by fatal experience, that too many of those whom God has exalted above their brethren, who are “clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day,” by a sad abuse of God’s great bounty towards them, think that their stations set them above religion, and so let the poor, who live by the sweat of their brows, attend more constantly on the means of grace than do they?

But woe unto such rich men! For they have received their consolation. Happy had it been if they had never been born: for if the careless irreligious tradesman cannot be saved, where will luxurious and wicked gentlemen appear?

Let me therefore, by way of conclusion, exhort all persons, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to make the renewal of their fallen nature, the one business of their lives; and to let no worldly profit, no worldly pleasure, divert them from the thoughts of it. Let this cry, “Behold the bridegroom cometh,” be ever sounding in our ears; and let us live as creatures that are every moment liable to be hurried away by death to judgment: let us remember, that this life is a state of infinite importance, a point between two eternities, and that after these few days are ended, there will remain no more sacrifice for sin; let us be often asking ourselves, how we shall wish we had lived when we leave the world? And then we shall always live in such a state, as we shall never fear to die in. Whether we live, we shall live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we shall die unto the Lord; so that living or dying we may be the Lord’s. (“Worldly Business no Plea for the Neglect of Religion”)

“Getting Ready to get Ready”

Do you have problems getting started when you know you have important things to do? People have a variety of excuses for procrastination. One excuse I have heard is, “Well, I’m getting ready to get ready to …” The problem seems to be that people are “getting ready to get ready” forever. People in the church have much the same problem.

Putting things off is one of the devil’s best tools for defeating Christians. However, if you knew you had a terrible form of cancer would you delay pursuing treatment? If your home caught fire, would you delay getting your family to safety? Of course not – yet, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 ESV) On the other hand, your soul is eternal. Should we not constantly be about the preparation of our souls for the kingdom of Heaven?

Many people never try to share Christ with someone or get involved in a church ministry because they don’t believe they know enough about Christianity to be helpful. They leave these things to the elders and ministers of the church. Perhaps they do sincerely wish to learn more –which is good – but how much is enough to enable them to take part in the ministry of the church? Except for teaching and preaching, very little is required for involvement. Even a recent convert can tell the story of why and how he came to repentance. Still, we find many Christians “getting ready to get ready” to be involved.

Other people put off being too active in order not to be perceived as hypocrites. They know there are still problems with sin in their lives and they are pursuing holiness to feel that they are good enough to be a part of the ministry of the church.

A person who desires to pursue holiness is pursuing a good thing which is characteristic of the Christian life. This lifelong pursuit is exactly that – “lifelong”! If we wait until we are perfect, we will never do anything for Christ. Remember the words of Paul: “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 2:20 ESV)

How many people do you know who are forever “getting ready to get ready” to visit a church for the first time? They know that something is missing in their lives, yet they fear the opinions of friends and family more than they fear God. The Lord has said, “Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV)

Stop getting “ready to get ready” and obey the Lord. There is no reason to put off obedience to the Word of God. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Filled with the Fullness of God

Christians are commanded to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and all other necessities shall be given unto them. Men are fearful, however, that if they should follow this command, all would be taken from them. George Whitefield writes:

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22 ESV)

[T]he eternal Son of God came down and shed his precious blood; for this end were we made, and sent into the world, and by this alone can we become the sons of God. Were we indeed to judge by the common practice of the world, we might think we were sent into it for no other purpose, than to care and toil for the uncertain riches of this life: but if we consult the lively oracles, they will inform us, that we were born for nobler ends, even to be born again from above, to be restored to the divine likeness by Jesus Christ, our second Adam, and thereby be made meet to inherit the kingdom of heaven; and consequently, there is an obligation laid upon all, even the most busy people, to secure this end; it being an undeniable truth, that all creatures ought to answer the end for which they were created.

Some indeed are for confining religion to the clergy, and think it only belongs to those who serve at the altar; but what a fatal mistake is this, seeing all persons are indifferently called by God to the same state of inward holiness. As we are all corrupt in our nature, so must we all be renewed and sanctified. And though it must be granted, that the clergy lie under double obligations to be examples to believers, in faith, zeal, charity, and whatever else is commendable and of good report, as being more immediately dedicated to the service of God; yet as we have been all baptized with one baptism into the death of Christ, we are all under the necessity of performing our baptismal covenant, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God: for the holy scriptures point out to us but one way of admission into the kingdom of Christ, through the narrow gate of a sound conversion: And he that does not enter into the sheepfold, whether clergy or lay-men, by this door, will find, to his everlasting confusion, there is no climbing up another way.

Besides, what a gross ignorance of the nature of true religion, as well as of our own happiness, does such a distinction discover? For what does our Savior, by willing us to be religious, require of us? But to subdue our corrupt passions, to root out ill habits, to engraft the heavenly graces of God’s most holy Spirit in their room; and, in one word, to fill us with all the fullness of God. (“Worldly Business no Plea for the Neglect of Religion”)

The Joyous Christian

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

Paul mentions love first in the verse above. Next he mentions joy. I believe joy, as in the case of the first attribute and those that follow it, are characteristics that only a true Christian knows how to experience. I want to discuss “joy” with you today.

There certainly are many people who call themselves Christians who do not seem to be very joyful. They may seem depressed. They are grumpy and hard to get along with. Circumstances have robbed them of their joy. They have a very low and unhealthy view of God, themselves and this world.

Paul tells us, however, that joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy should be one of the primary characteristics of a Christian. But, does a Christian always have to be joyous? Because of sin, joy often seems to evaporate from our lives. We are often subjected to worrying about our jobs or lack thereof. We worry about money and bills. We worry about the members of our family and close friends. We worry about health problems and our marriages and what will happen to our children.

Paul brought good news to the Galatians. He taught about the God of love. He told them about a God who loves you by His merciful grace and welcomes you with open arms. If you believe in Him, acknowledge Him as God, and believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Paul taught that you can have a personal relationship with God. Paul taught that you should not to be anxious about anything. Despite all earthly circumstances, you are a child of God.

Many religious people equate joy with happiness. These should not be confused because they are two different things. Happiness is the feeling created by what happens to us. Happiness is not something you can feel all the time because circumstances change. You may be happy when you leave home to go to work, but you may not feel happy when you return home after work. True joy has to do with our covenant relationship with God. This joy is like a thermometer of that relationship. Joy does not depend on circumstances. It does not depend on good works or possessions.

The apostle John writes, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV) Jesus is speaking about the relationship of love between God and the Christian. We who once did not belong to the Father now belong to Him. There are still lots of things still wrong with us, but we have joy because of our relationship with God. Jesus Christ understood that there is no true joy without God.

Christians know that no matter the circumstances, nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is why we have eternal joy. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12 ESV)

Let us remember that there is even joy in suffering because suffering produces character and steadfastness. When you believe in the Lord Jesus, then no one can take away your joy no matter what happens. Consider 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV)

The Holy Spirit renews us every day. How great is that? Forget what you have or don’t have here on this earth. Don’t look at the things you can see. Look at what the Holy Spirit is giving you and find your joy in the eternal pleasures of knowing God and being one of His family. If God does nothing else for you in your lifetime, other than save you from your sins in order that you may spend eternity in His household, is that not reason enough to praise Him and to be full of Joy?

The Distorted Gospel

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 ESV)

People today believe they are more intelligent and wiser than the people who lived in centuries past. They assume that such an ancient book as the Bible has very little relevance to modern living. Therefore, these cultural Christians, feel they must import the “revelation” of modern writers, psychologists, and various pseudo-scientific books to modernize the “Old Time Religion”. Such actions, however, deny that the Bible is the Word of God.

Bogus teachers avoid submitting to the Bible’s original intent by ignoring what Scripture actually means; instead, they manipulate it to seem to mean what they want it to mean. They will look to unorthodox sources as their authority to support their unworthy claims. They suppress the truth because they do not wish to live their lives under the authority of God. (Romans 1:18-20)

The Word of God has been under assault since the serpent visited Eve in the Garden. Satan knows that the Word of God leads to salvation. Therefore, this creature plants in men’s minds the seeds of doubt about the Bible. Rejecting or altering the Bible is also a part of his diabolical plan. God, however, has strengthened His Word, that it may stand against any assault. According to Martin Luther, “The Bible is like a lion; it does not need to be defended; just let it loose and it will defend itself.”

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV) The term “sola Scriptura” or “the Bible alone” represents the simple truth that there is only one special revelation from God and that is the Bible. God’s truth is seen in the light of God’s truth. In order to support the purity of God’s written word, the source of interpretation must be from the same pure source as the origin of the Scripture itself. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV)

The Bible clearly exposes the human element in the distortion of the Word. Such people go beyond rejecting the Word of God in their own lives. They want to change the Scriptures in order to be justified in their sins. Many profess themselves to be Christians. Yet, they take inspired Scripture and bend it to match their own twisted teachings. Such blasphemers are interested only in wealth, fame, and followers. In their pride, they make a mockery of the Word of God.

You must not allow the leaders and teachers in your church to add to or take away from God’s Word. Awake sleeper and read God’s word for yourself. “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2 ESV)

Focus on God’s Kingdom

When man fell in the Garden of Eden, God said there would be strife between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent – but the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. God is bringing order out of disorder. God will undo the misery and the folly of man. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:27-29 ESV)

Some of the most miserable restless people in the world tonight are multi-millionaires; these wretched people you read about them in the popular newspapers who get married five, six, seven times – do they know peace, is that the life of the film-star, the pop-star, or your multimillionaire? Oh, the tragedy of these miserable people who think you can buy peace and tranquility and happiness with money. No, No, God has said that it cannot be done. There is not peace, saith my God, to the wicked. And while the people of this world are wicked there will be wars and rumors of wars. Nations are but individuals writ large and if a man cannot live with his neighbor why do you expect a country to live with its neighbor? God has told us this. These are absolutes, my friends; you cannot get away from them. The world is proving the truth of them tonight. This is God’s Word and there is not peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

What else does this word tell us? Well thank God it does not leave us at that. If it had left us at that every one of us would be doomed and damned to all eternity. There would be no hope for any one of us – ‘For we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God’. ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’ [Romans 3:23, 10]. Thank God I have a light here, I have a hope here. What is it? Well, it is this that while men in their folly have been vainly trying to build their durable kingdoms and empires, God has been bringing in His kingdom: ‘Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved’, God’s kingdom. This is the way to understand history – forget all about kings and princes and queens and births and marriages and deaths and pomp and ceremony and all the ritual – forget it all! Concentrate on this – what God has been doing – God has been bringing in His kingdom. (“A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken”)

Attitudes That Keep Us from Growing in Christ

A member of a church was once asked why he didn’t attend Adult Sunday School: “Don’t you want to grow in Christ?” the education minister asked. “No thank you,” said this person. “I’m satisfied where I am.”

Unfortunately, the conversation above is true. Why do some people’s attitudes tend to be less enthusiastic after years of church attendance? Why would a Christian desire less and less to grow in Christ? Let’s look at some of the possibilities:

Perhaps this person has an inconsistent habit of Bible reading and prayer. The Scriptures are a unique source of information unlike any other. How can we know God’s purpose in our lives without reading His revelation to us? His Word points out the consequences of sin and how He saves us from that sin. Prayer also is a wonderful blessing to the saint. It is the opportunity to communicate with God. Our Lord Jesus often prayed and encouraged the disciples not to grow weary in prayer.

It is also possible that such a person has allowed other activities to prevent him from being with God’s people. He is inconsistently attending services to worship God. The Psalmist reminds us of the correct attitude; “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’ (Psalm 122:1 ESV) Being present, however, extends beyond the services of the church. We need to be concerned with edifying one another. Do you encourage people in their daily walk with Christ?

When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone or discussed some topic in the Bible with a fellow Christian outside of church? A person such as this has allowed the zeal of his faith to be diminished. Perhaps he is fearful of what others may say if he talks about Christ.

Perhaps worldly honors have come to mean much more than they should to a servant of Christ. Do you find more pleasure in some worldly activity than meeting with others to worship God?

We must always be on guard against temptation. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”(Galatians 5:16-17 ESV)

We must beware of allowing ourselves to be satisfied with our spiritual growth. It is an attitude of arrogance that none can afford. Our sanctification is an ongoing process throughout our lives. Have the courage to call out to God when such signs as those above creep into your life with Christ. We have been given the greatest gift of all. Do not neglect this blessing.

No Such Thing as Chance

Think about this: God could not be sovereign, if chance existed. God cannot be sovereign unless He is sovereign over all things. If God is not sovereign, He is not God.  A. A. Hodge weaves a discussion of “chance” into the following article on God’s providential care:

The providence of God over his rational creatures involves three elements: First, his working in the entire sphere of their environment, presenting external motives and influences, molding character and stimulating to action. Secondly, his working in their bodies and souls through the natural laws of their organizations, through the entire process of their growth. And thirdly, his immanent working within their will, whereby his directive energy becomes confluent with their own spontaneity, and “he turns the hearts of men as the rivers of water are turned,” and “works in us to will, and be willing to do, of his own good pleasure.”

The redeemed Christian is a child already at home in his Father’s house. All these beauties and all this abundant wealth belong to our Father, and are set apart for our use. All things whatsoever that come to pass, however dark and enigmatical, are expressions of our Father’s will, and are wisely designed to promote our welfare in the present and to secure it with infallible certainty in the great Hereafter. The word “chance” expresses simply a relation. An event happens by “chance” when the causes which produce it are so complex or so unusual as to be incapable of rational expectation by us. Hence, as far as God is concerned, there is absolutely no such thing as chance. As far as we are concerned, all events which lie beyond the reach of scientific prediction fall into the category of chance. But by faith we embrace the infinitely wise will of God and accept all events as the excellent will of our heavenly Father. Creation and providence are seen to be the preparatory work which culminates in redemption. We read all the means in the light of the glorious end, even in him. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV) “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

All Things are in the Hands of Christ

The Christian has been given an advantage in Christ; this connection to Christ gives the Christian an interest in God; by which the love of Christ is made manifest. Ralph Erskine gives us food for thought:

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. (John 3:35 ESV)

Nothing in the world, will sweeten the remembrance of Christ’s love to us, so much as the believing remembrance of the Father’s love to him; even as nothing can provoke us more to put honor upon Christ, than to see how much honor the Father puts upon him; and for this end, “That all men might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Why, what honor has the Father put upon him? It is even the greatest honor; and that wherein our greatest happiness lies He hath given all things into his hand.”

Since faith comes by hearing of the object of faith, by hearing what Christ, the object of faith is, and what he hath, let your eye be towards him, and your ear be open to hear what is said of him; that, in hearing, you may believe, without seeking to draw faith out of your own heart and bowels, whence you will never find it. If there be any subject in the world, the hearing whereof tends, through grace, to work saving faith, it is this, that faith, and all grace, all good, all fullness, all things, are in Christ’s hand. . . .

All things are in the hand of Christ, we mean not only generally, all things in the kingdom of providence; because his kingdom rules over all; and, “He is the Head of all things unto the church,” Eph. 1:22, but also, particularly, all things in the kingdom of grace, of which he says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:46. But blessed be God, he hath not said, his spiritual kingdom is not in this world; but it is not of this world: he hath his spiritual invisible kingdom in the hearts of his people in this world; who, though they are in it, yet they are not of it, but chosen out of the world; yet, sometimes this kingdom of his is visible, in the remarkable tokens of his spiritual presence in his ordinances. And, O for many such tokens this day!

If they that inherit Christ, inherit all things; then all things are in his hand; but so it is, they that inherit him, inherit all things, 1 Cor. 3:21-23. For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come: all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. This golden chain, together with all things present, and all things to come, is linked to the believer, because he is united unto Christ. (“Heaven’s Grand Repository”)

The Path of Pain

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2 ESV)

I think you have probably heard the proverb, “Time heals all wounds.” It appears to me that most people say this because there really are many afflictions that heal over time.

Since Christians have many supports that non-believers lack, I would anticipate that Christians handle tragedy better than non-Christians. In many cases they do. Nevertheless, many other believers do not seem to heal over time.

Many Christians do not have a clear and practical understanding of the doctrine of the chief end of man. Christians, who do know this doctrine, may not have made it a guiding principle for their lives. They may be able to recite it, but they have not learned how to apply it. What does this doctrine have to do with wounds and healing? Without a practical understanding of this doctrine, the Christian will not be prepared to face the inevitable losses he will experience in life.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states this doctrine by way of a question: “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

What is meant by the “end of man”? To speak of the “end of man” is to speak of his goals and the things he wants to accomplish. In the course of daily living, we have many ends. Some ends, however, are more important than others. Look around you. Most people have very little concern for the glory of God. Very few people have the glory of God as the underlying motivation for how they should pursue their ends. This one end, the glory of God, should guide our actions.

How s it that we glorify God? God is glorious already. Our purpose should be to affirm His glory. We must acknowledge the glory that is already there. First, we recognize His glory, and then, we respond to it.

We glorify God in our hearts by bringing every thought and every attitude under the guiding light of the glory of God. We glorify God in our actions. We glorify God every time we choose to obey Him. Even when God deals with us in ways that are mysterious, if we trust in Him, we glorify Him.

Part of our chief end is to enjoy God. We enjoy God by being at peace with Him and taking pleasure in His blessings. We enjoy God as He has revealed Himself in His word. God blesses us with His wisdom. The Holy Spirit teaches us while we read our Bibles. He convicts our hearts when we sin. He leads us in the ways of righteousness. He comforts us when we hurt. The Holy Spirit gave life to our souls; it is His work that keeps us faithful; and it is His guiding work that leads us through the troubles encountered in this life and assures us of the life to come.

This is easier to understand when we consider that we were created not for ourselves but for God. We find in Colossians 1:16-17 ESV, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

We have a glorious motive to persevere through trials and circumstances, if the glory of God is the underlying motivation for all we do. As long as we have a mind to think with, we have the ability to glorify God. We glorify God when we read His word, for when we do this, we affirm that the Word of God is true and reliable. We glorify God when we pray to Him, for when we do this, we acknowledge Who He is and His right to govern us.

Is there anything you would withhold from God: your spouse, your children, your home, your income, and your possessions? All of it belongs to God, and all of it is subject to being taken away by God at any time. It is part of our fallen condition that when trials come, it is easy to look around and wonder whether God is dealing harder with you than with someone else. Well, there is good news and bad news. Some life journeys are harder than others. If you are on a harder journey, I’m sure you see it as bad news. The good news is that the path you are on is the journey God has chosen for you. As you continue down this path, God will be with you to help you through it and His glory shall be magnified through you.

Man’s Troubles

From the desk of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The terrible, tragic fallacy of the last hundred years has been to think that all man’s troubles are due to his environment, and that to change the man you have nothing to do but change his environment. That is a tragic fallacy. It overlooks the fact that it was in Paradise that man fell.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

The Exceptional Bible

I was rereading Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Vol. 1, by Josh McDowell recently and thought I would share with you a few of the outstanding attributes which McDowell points out about the Bible. I also hope you will be encouraged to spend more time reading and studying the Scriptures.

The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years. Approximately 40 authors from every walk of life were involved in contributing to it. Compare the continuity of the Bible with any other writings of a group of men. You will find that the Bible is truly unique in its continuity.

You will also find that although the Bible is written on material that perishes and had to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years by hand; the style, correctness, or existence has not diminished. If you compare it with other ancient writings, the manuscript evidence of the Bible is greater than any 10 pieces of classical literature combined!

“Infidels for 1800 years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid as a rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assault make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer on the pyramids of Egypt.” (H. L. Hastings)

There is no other book of religious antiquity which provides so many explicit prophecies in the distant future which have come to pass. It is the greatest written history of the world because the Bible is HIS-STORY!

The Bible deals frankly with the sins of its characters and heroes:

  • Adam and Eve – putting off responsibility on to others;
  • Noah – drunkenness;
  • Abraham – cowardice, lying to save his skin;
  • Moses – disobedience to God;
  • David – lying, adultery, murder;
  • Peter – denying the Lord, causing division through hypocrisy and many others.

Our judicial system is based upon many of the principles found in the Bible. Our standards of morality have, until recently, been driven by the Judeo-Christian ethic.

The Bible is unique because it comes from the mind of the only true God. The Holy Spirit guided the many writers to make their works harmonious. Its primary theme is that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. Only Jesus is the Lord of salvation for all of us.

If you are really searching for the truth, then – as a person of intelligence – you should read the Bible. It has had more influence on western literature than any other book. The Bible is the foundation of western democracy and morality. But, possessing and reading the Bible is not enough. The Word of God must be received in your heart and worked out in your life.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25 ESV)

John Adams, the 2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence wrote:

“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.” (Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9)

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