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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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The Condition of our Souls

Archibald T. RobertsonThe working of God’s will has provided the whole plan of salvation. We labor in the sphere of God’s will. God presses His will upon ours. We feel the force of divine energy quickening our wills into activity. However, we are responsible for the condition of our souls. According to Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934):

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 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.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

Paul is eminently practical as well as really profound. He is equally at home in the discussion of the great problems of theology and in the details of the Christian life. … There is in Paul no divorce between learning and life. Speculative theology as philosophy he knows and uses as a servant to convey his highest ideas, but he never forgets the ethics of the man in the street or at the desk. He has just written a marvelous passage on the Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ Jesus, scaling the heights of Christ’s equality with God and sounding the depths of the human experience of Jesus, from the throne of God to the death on the Cross and back again. But Paul has no idea of leaving this great doctrinal passage thus. “So then, my beloved,” he goes on with an exhortation based on the experience of Christ. He returns to the whole lump. There are men and women in our churches who remain true when pastors come and go and when others fall away.

In Paul’s absence, he desires that the Philippians shall press right on with the work of their own salvation in so far as the development is committed to their hands. The eye should rest upon the final goal and so Paul uses a verb that puts the emphasis on the final result. Salvation is used either of the entrance into the service of God, the whole process, or the consummation at the end. The Philippians are to carry into effect and carry on to the end the work of grace already begun. Peter (2 Pet. 1:10) likewise exhorted his readers to make their calling and election sure. They must not look to Paul to do their part in the work of their salvation. His absence cuts no figure in the matter of their personal responsibility. It is “your own’ salvation.” It is the aim of all to win this goal at last. If so, each must look to his own task and do his own work. The social aspect of religion is true beyond a doubt. We are our brother’s keeper and we do owe a debt of love and service to one another that we can never fully discharge (Rom. 13:8). But it is also true that each of us is his own keeper and stands or falls to God. Kipling has it thus: For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two.” (“Realizing God’s Plan in Life”)

When Forgetting is a Blessing

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14 ESV)

During our childhood and youth, we are taught the importance of remembering various things. It may be our multiplication tables or how we are to behave at the dinner table. We are taught to remember Bible verses, historical facts, and how to brush our teeth. We are reminded of what is important to remember by our parents, teachers, friends, and authority figures. The ability to remember is obviously very important.

Strangely enough, the Bible teaches us that forgetting is also important. In chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul says: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14, ESV)

Paul is seeking to know more of Jesus Christ. He is no longer the man he was and he is not yet the man he should be. As a maturing Christian, he understands he is still far from being like Christ. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.” (Philippians 3:12-13, ESV) Paul is striving for nothing less than the total perfection of Christ.

Paul continues, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV) Notice that Paul mentions the strategy of “forgetting”.

Paul’s religious accomplishments of the past are made irrelevant to what he is hoping to obtain. Paul’s pursuit of Christ and His righteousness is the primary focus of the present and future. We cannot coast along upon the deeds of the past. The runner who looks back will lose the speed needed to win the race. It is not easy to make progress when you are looking in every direction but forward.

We must forget and press on. How badly do you want the prize? There is a strong bond between our pressing own and the depth of our desire for Christ-likeness. If you are satisfied with yourself, why should you keep pressing forward?

We are not yet what we ought to be, but Christ has made us His own. This should serve as an inspiration to us. We must “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Our race is not yet done. Therefore, forget what lies behind and strain forward to the glory that lies ahead!

Trouble with Anxiety?

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:5-6 ESV)

Most of us have suffered from anxiety at one time or another. I can truly say from experience that anxiety has never helped solve any problem I have encountered and, most of the time, my anxieties were eventually proved wrong. Uncontrolled anxiety is counterproductive. It is like playing the same song in your head over and over and takes great will-power to stop the loop of negative thoughts.

Anxiety is unreasonable when it is distress over what is going to happen next. A little anxiety may be a positive thing, but what I am talking about here is overwhelming anxiety. Overwhelming anxiety produces insecurity, a sense of isolation, and a feeling of helplessness. It is a form of fear.

A Christian may feel very insecure, but in reality he is very secure. “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:25-26 ESV) A Christian may feel helpless, but in reality he has great help. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 ESV) Even though the Christian may feel isolated, the reality is that God is always at his side. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 ESV) The real remedy for anxiety is complete trust and confidence in God’s ability to deal with anything that threatens us. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV) God has promised peace of mind to those who are willing to commit their anxieties to Him. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

My prescription for overly anxious people and myself – when I catch myself in this mode of thinking – is to commit your all to the Lord and ask that His Will may be done in you and through you. Secondly, commit yourself to Scripture study, especially the Psalms in time of trouble, and pray.

Remember that peace of mind does not depend on solving all the problems in the world. There are problems that we simply cannot fix. Trust God and resolve to persevere through troubled times. Things are never going to be absolutely perfect for us this side of the Kingdom of God, but any problem is easier to face with God.

A Bare Historical Faith

George Whitefield, in this article, stresses the importance of experiencing Christ in your heart:

[T]hat I may know him and the power of his resurrection. . . . (Philippians 3:10 ESV)

How greatly then do they err who rest in a bare historical faith of our Savior’s resurrection, and look only for external proofs to evidence it? Whereas were we the most learned disputers of this world, and could speak of the certainty of this fact with the tongue of men and angels, yet without this inward testimony of it in our hearts, though we might convince others, yet we should never be saved by it ourselves.

For we are but dead men, we are like so many carcasses wrapt up in grave clothes, till that same Jesus who called Lazarus from his tomb, and at whose own resurrection many that slept arose, doth raise us also by his quickening Spirit from our natural death, in which we have so long lain, to a holy and heavenly life.

We might think ourselves happy, if we had seen the Holy Jesus after He was risen from the dead, and our hands had handled that Lord of life. But more happy are they who have not seen him, and yet having felt the power of his resurrection, therefore believe in him. For many saw our divine master, who were not saved by him; but whosoever has thus felt the power of his resurrection, has the earnest of his inheritance in his heart, he has passed from death to life, and shall never fall into final condemnation.

I am very sensible that this is foolishness to the natural man, as were many such like truths to our Lord’s own disciples, when only weak in faith, before he rose again. But when these natural men, like them, have fully felt the power of his resurrection, they will then own that this doctrine is from God, and say with the Samaritans, “Now we believe not because of thy saying,” for we ourselves have experienced it in our hearts.

And O that all unbelievers, all letter-learned masters of Israel, who now look upon the doctrine of the power of Christ’s resurrection, or our new birth, as an idle tale, and condemn the preachers of it as enthusiasts and madmen, did but thus feel the power of it in their souls, they would no longer ask, how this thing could be? But they would be convinced of it, as much as Thomas was, when he saw the Lord’s Christ; and like him, when Jesus bid him reach out his hands and thrust them into his side, in a holy confession they would cry out, “My Lord and my God!” (“The Power of Christ’s Resurrection”)

Why Waste Time Complaining?

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)

Complaining is a hard habit to break. It seems that some people are born with a negative disposition. They seem to be on the lookout for the bad things in life. We may sometimes feel we are surrounded by complainers. People will gripe about anything even if they seem to have everything. They perpetually wake up on the wrong side of the bed. They believe everyone else gets a break and they are not treated fairly.

The fact of the matter, however, is that life is not fair and God never said it would be. In fact, the Bible never promises anything approaching fairness, but it does promise justice or mercy. Allow me to give you a hint: “Pray for mercy!”

Many complainers act as if they have been given the gift of discernment and their mission in life is to share, with whoever will listen, their wise counsel. Now it is easy to spot this negative personality trait in others, but it is not so easy to admit that we also often act with a critical spirit in our conversations.

In the verses above (Philippians 2) Paul is discussing obedience to God. God commands obedience specifically in getting along with other people. Do you argue angrily? Do you grumble? Have you done an attitude of the heart check recently?

Our obedience to God must be free from complaining because it is opposed to glorifying God in our lives. We are not to have a critical spirit, nor are we to give others any reason to criticize us.

If we obey God we will become blameless and pure. Our obedience is not from a sense of obligation, but out of a genuine desire to please God to His glory. We act according to our high calling. We live an unexpected life. We must never forget that the most often repeated sin of Israel which angered God was complaining. Most often when we complain we are actually complaining against God. You are sinning against God!

Do not forget that it is God who foreordains whatsoever shall come to pass. Complaining is equated with the sin of rebellion. When we complain, we rebel against a loving Father. It is simply too hard to accept, for most of us, that God always has us right where He wants us at the time.

Complaining not only undermines our obedience, it denies our calling, and is opposed to our worship. The cross should shut down all complaining. The Cross says that you and I deserve to hang there. However, it also says you and I are forgiven, blessed with eternal life with God, and adopted as sons of God. Life’s great mystery has now been revealed and we have been chosen to glorify our Creator. “[Y]ou are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God . . .” (Ephesians 2:19) So why waste time complaining?

Be Thankful!

John A. Broadus

It is very easy during hard trials to forget past blessings. God, however, does not want His sons and daughters to display attitudes of ingratitude. He seeks to strengthen us for endurance and reminds us that the habit of thankfulness to God is a valuable asset to get us through such times. John A. Broadus writes here about developing the habit of thankfulness:

“[G]ive thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

We hear a great deal said about habits. But it nearly always means bad habits. Why should we not think and speak much about good habits? They are as real, and almost as great, a power for good as bad habits are for evil. . . .

Consider the value of the habit of thankfulness. It tends to quell repining. We are all prone, especially in certain moods, to complain of our lot. Every one of us has at some time or other imagined, and perhaps declared, that he has a particularly hard time in this world. It is to be hoped that in other moods we are heartily ashamed of ourselves for such repining. But how to prevent its recurrence? A most valuable help will be the habit of thankfulness to God. Then if a fretful, repining spirit begins to arise, just in the middle, perhaps, of some complaining sentence, we shall suddenly change to an expression of thankfulness-and perhaps end with laughing at ourselves for the folly of such repining.

It tends to enhance enjoyment. We all know that when we receive a gift, with any true sentiment and any suitable expression of thankfulness, the reaction of gratitude augments our gratification.

It serves to soothe distress. Persons, who are greatly afflicted, and not wont to be thankful, sometimes find the memory of past joys only an aggravation of present sorrow. Far otherwise with one who has learned to be habitually thankful. For him the recollection of happier hours is still a comfort.

It helps to allay anxiety. Did you ever notice what the apostle says to the Philippians? “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Notice carefully that we are to prevent anxiety by prayer as to the future with thanksgiving for the past.

It cannot fail to deepen penitence. “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” When we are fully in the habit of thankfully observing and recalling the loving-kindnesses and tender mercies of our heavenly Father, this will make us perceive more clearly, and lament more earnestly, the evil of sin against him; and what is more, this will strengthen us to turn from our sins to his blessed service.

It has as one necessary effect to brighten hope. “I love to think on mercies past, And future good implore” is a very natural conjunction of ideas. If we have been wont to set up Ebenezers upon our path of life, then every glance backward along these milestones of God’s mercy will help us to look forward with more of humble hope.

To Be Like Christ

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Christ Teaching His Disciples

How do we have the mind of Jesus? Is it possible even to become a dim reflection of the King of kings and Lord of lords? Yet, if we are Christians, we must be conformed to the image of Christ! God has predestined this to be the design for His people from the beginning of His creation. God has called us to be conformed to the image of his Son. John MacDuff wrote about this “conformity” in 1870:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5

“Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” 1 Peter 4:1

In a former little volume, we pondered some of the gracious Words which proceeded out of the mouth of Jesus. In the present, we have a few faint lineaments of that holy Character which constituted the living expositor and embodiment of His precepts.

But how lofty such a standard! How all creature-perfection shrinks abashed and confounded before a Divine portraiture like this! He is the true “Angel standing in the sun,” who alone projects no shadow; so bathed in the glories of Deity, that likeness to Him becomes like the light in which He is shrouded — “no man can approach unto it.” May we not, however, seek at least to approximate, though we cannot adequately and fully resemble? It is impossible on earth to associate with a fellow-being without getting in some degree assimilated to him. Just so, the more we study “the Mind of Christ,” the more we are in His company — holding converse with Him as our best and dearest friend — catching up His holy looks and holy deeds — the more shall we be “transformed into the same image.”

“Consider,” says the Great Apostle (literally ‘gaze on’) “Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1.) Study feature by feature, lineament by lineament — of that Peerless Exemplar. “Gaze” on the Sun of Righteousness, until, like gazing long on the natural sun, you carry away with you, on your spiritual vision, dazzling images of His brightness and glory! Though He is the Archetype of all goodness — remember He is no shadowy model — though the Infinite Jehovah — He was “the Man Christ Jesus.”

We must never, indeed, forget that it is not the mind, but the work of Emmanuel which lies at the foundation of a sinner’s hope. He must be known as a Savior, before He is studied as an Example. His doing and dying is the center jewel — of which all the virtues of His holy life are merely the setting. But neither must we overlook the Scripture obligation to walk in His footsteps and imbibe His Spirit, for “if any man has not the Spirit of Christ — he is none of His!”

Oh, that each individual Christian were more Savior-like! that, in the manifestation of a holy character and heavenly demeanor, it might be said in some feeble measure of the faint and imperfect reflection — “Such was Jesus!”

How far short we are of such a criterion — our mournful experience can testify. But it is at least comforting to know that there is a day coming, when, in the full vision and fruition of the Glorious Original, the exhortation of our motto-verse will be needed no more; when we shall be able to say, in the words of an inspired apostle — “We have the MIND OF CHRIST!”

God’s Providence And Worry

Bonhoeffer-1932

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

How often do you find that worry keeps you from making a decision that needs to be made. Worry can immobilize us by tying us up in knots within. I am not talking about logically thinking a problem through. Worry is repetitiously obsessing on an outcome which is out of your control or a “best laid plan” in which there is always the possibility of failure. Christians should trust in the providence of God, but we often fail to do this.

It has been said that “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” (source unknown) Paul tells us in Philippians to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (4:6) Fear creates a divided heart. It changes our focus of trust and faith in God alone to anxiety about earthly troubles.

I know this, but my wife says I am the king of worriers. There is obviously a gap between my knowing how to live and my actually living that way. I try to excuse my behavior by saying that I am cautious and careful, but the truth is I often worry needlessly. I have lost a lot of time by thinking about the trouble that never came.

After you have done whatever is reasonable to do (which may be nothing at all), your anxiety will change nothing in the future. It is better to trust in the providence of God and pray, for He holds the future in His hands. Therefore, when we are confronted with problems, it is best to cast your cares on God – for He does care for you. (1 Peter 5:7) God will provide relief if you cling to Him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed his thoughts on this subject in this manner:

Much that worries us beforehand can afterwards, quite unexpectedly, have a happy and simple solution. Worries just don’t matter. Things really are in a better hand than ours.

I continue to pray that I will develop this attitude of mind. Maybe you should too?

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