• 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.

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,396,282 Visits
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,269 other subscribers
  • June 2023
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

Knowing Jesus

Is Jesus Christ God? John Calvin writes:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Do what we can, we shall never have any hope, or be able to lay hold of the bounty and goodness of God, to return to Him, and call upon Him, until we know the majesty of God that is in Jesus Christ; and likewise the weakness of man’s nature … The devil hath bestowed all his art to pervert this doctrine; seeing that our salvation is grounded thereon. We should therefore be so much the more confirmed and strengthened in it; that we may never be shaken, but stand steadfast in the faith, which is contained in the gospel.

First of all we have this to note, that we shall never know Jesus Christ to be our Savior, until we know that He was God from everlasting. That which was written of Him by Jeremiah the prophet, must needs be fulfilled: “Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord” (Jer. 9:24). St. Paul shows that this must be applied to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ: and thereupon he protests that he made no account of any doctrine or knowledge, only to know Jesus Christ.

Again, how is it possible for us to have our life in Him, unless He is our God, and we are maintained and preserved by His virtue? How can we put our trust in Him? For it is written. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer. 17:5). Again, how can we be preserved from death except by God’s infinite power? Even if Scripture bore no witness to the Deity of Jesus Christ, it is impossible for us to know Him as our Savior, unless we admit that He possesses the whole majesty of God; unless we acknowledge Him to be the true God; because He is the wisdom of the Father whereby the world was made, preserved, and kept in being. Therefore let us be thoroughly resolved in this point, whenever we speak of Jesus Christ, that we lift our thoughts on high, and worship this majesty which He had from everlasting, and this infinite essence which He enjoyed before He clothed himself in humanity. (“The Mystery of Godliness”)

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

John Piper

In the words of John Piper:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what 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. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org.

The Devil Is In The Doubt

Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

The Temptation of Christ

I find it very easy to doubt many things that I have seen on TV and heard from others, but do you ever have doubts about really important matters? I mean doubts about your faith in God or if there really is a God. Do you have doubts about the Bible being the actual Word of God written down for us? Perhaps you believe there must be a God, but you doubt that He personally cares anything about you. It is easy to doubt when you see evil men prosper and injustice done to good men. When the whole world seems to be running after their own lusts determined to fulfill their every sensuous desire – it becomes easy to doubt that the Christian way is the right way.

James spoke rightly when he said, “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (1:6) The unsettled soul has many doubts which result from a lack of communion with Christ. Do you doubt? Run toward Christ and with every step you will grow in confidence and defeat discouragement. Faith is strengthened by communion with Christ. Charles Spurgeon asks the question, “Where do you live? Many a believer lives in the ‘cottage of doubt,’ when he might live in the ‘mansion of faith.’”

Paul reminds Timothy, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’. . . .” (1 Timothy 6:20) We must ever be on guard against the doubt which destroys faith. Jesus describes what happens to the good seeds of faith when not tended properly: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) These thorns of doubt are planted by Satan and grow quickly when the garden is not kept.

Therefore, guard your faith through regular communion with Christ. Pray and study that you would be full of the Scriptures. Then you will be able to fight the doubts of dark times through confidence in the Word God that He has shared with you in His light.

Christianity Is Not A Light Subject

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6:11-14)

There are many “so-called” Christian Churches in our day where we find a very lax attitude when it comes to teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Doctrines, confessions, and creeds are no longer used or taught. I fear that church social activities have replaced Christ as the center ohurch. Who should be held responsible for ignoring the deep and serious teachings of the Scriptures? What happens when we enter the church seeking only our weekly snack of Christianity-lite? John MacArthur offers his insight into this problem:

[T]he man of God is known by what he flees from, what he follows after, and, thirdly, what he fights for. Verse 12, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” The man of God is a fighter. He is a boxer, a wrestler, a soldier, a battler, a protagonist. He is engaged in relentless war. 2 Timothy 2, the Apostle Paul says that, “He suffers hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, disentangled in the affairs of everyday life. He pleases the One who enlisted him to be a soldier.” We battle the kingdom of darkness which yields its ground very reluctantly. We face many adversaries, and, as we have been saying in the last few weeks, we know that the enemy of our souls hates what we do. . . .

I met with the pastor of the largest seeker friendly church, and he said to me, “You know what your problem is MacArthur? You need to lighten up.” And I smiled. I said, “It’s really hard to do in the middle of war.” Fight the good fight. It is a good fight, isn’t it? It’s a noble fight. To fight against the kingdom of darkness with the truth. The only weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, right?

And I think that’s one of the serious problems today, is people aren’t taking the battle as seriously as they have to take it. And He helps us with that. “Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you are called.” What does that phrase mean? He simply means this: Get a grip on the fact that you’re dealing with eternal issues. How can you treat the ministry shallow…in shallow terms? How can you treat it trivially? This is war, and eternity is at stake. “You knew that…He says in verse 12…when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. You knew that when you confessed Christ, when we were all there gathered.” He’s probably referring to His ordination when the elders laid hands on Him and set Him apart from the ministry. “You confessed at that time that this was a mater of eternal issues. You’re not just slapping people around with some puffy gloves here. This is a life and death matter. Get a grip on it.”

Lighten up! What kind of a statement is that? A man of God is called to eternal issues. Having confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, he publicly commits himself to a battle over eternal issues. As long as he lives, he fights the good fight, the noble fight for the souls of men against the kingdom of darkness and against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That’s why he has to be sober-minded. That’s why he has to be cut off from this world, ’cause the battle is so critical. A man of God is marked by what he flees from, follows after, and fights for.

The Story Of The Red Hand

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6)

From the desk of John MacArthur:

I remember years ago reading a…kind of a striking story in Irish history. There is a badge of barony in the history of…of Ireland called the Red Hand of O’Neill. The O’Neill’s, a ancient Irish family, and the Red Hand of O’Neill is the…the symbol of the O’Neill family. They…they got that sort of badge of barony in the most bizarre way. There was a time when an expedition to Ireland was allowed before it was fully settled. And the provision was made by those who had the authority that the first hand on the land possessed the land. One of the men was O’Neill, from whom, by the way, descended the princes of Ulster, now Northern Ireland, which is Protestant today. He was rowing as furiously as he could trying to get there and to claim the land. But another boat took the lead, and he fell behind. And the historian writes, and I quote, “With a grim look of mingled wrath and triumph at the rival boat, the strong-minded, iron-nerved O’Neill dropped the oars, seized a battle ax, chopped off one of his hands…hopefully not his throwing hand. I guess not…and threw it onshore so his hand was there first.” You say, “That’s pretty drastic action.” Got that right.

Jesus says something like that when He says, “If your right hand…offends you…what?…cut it off. If your right eye offends you, pluck it out.” People would do that in the pursuit of land. What drastic action would you take in the pursuit of holiness? Essentially what Jesus said. You have to deal dramatically. You have to deal drastically with sin. You can’t even be a pastor and can’t even be a man of God unless you’re blameless and above reproach. God helps, you know, along the way, brings trials into your life. My life, I mean in the process of…of shaping my life, you know, you go through all kinds of things. Patricia’s terrible accident…some years ago, and my son, one time with a brain tumor and all the issues of life that come and go. My own illnesses on occasion and struggles with people in the church. The Lord brings in enough trials to keep purging you. Criticism, persecution, hostility…rejection, defection…God does His part to humble us, to run stakes through our otherwise proud human flesh to keep us running after holiness.

Spurgeon, in his inimitable way, said it like this, “A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing about light and vision, while he himself is absolutely in the dark. He is a dumb man, elevated to the chair of music, a deaf man fluent on harmonies and symphonies. He is a mole professing to educate eagles. Such is a graceless pastor.” Now, you may be a preacher. You may even be a pastor, but if you’re not running after holiness, you’re not a man of God. (“Identifying a Man of God”)

The Pursuit Of A Godly Heart

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6)

The man of God is known for what he flees from and for what he pursues. What then is the pursuit of a godly heart? John MacArthur writes:

This is a life-long pursuit. Proverbs 15:9 says, “The Lord loves them that pursue righteousness.” Not success, not fame, not size, not popularity, not esteem, not reputation. We are running after righteousness. And six words are here, righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Righteousness is doing right on the outside. We pursue right conduct. Godliness…is right on the inside. That’s motivation. That’s the heart. Do you pursue what’s right on the outside, and you cultivate what’s right on the inside. Your motives, your desires, your heart, then your behavior.

You pursue faith. Actually, this means confident trust in God for everything. You literally put your life and ministry and everything you have in God’s hands, and you trust Him. You live under His glorious, beneficent, gracious sovereignty. You pursue love. What is that? Selflessness. Willful sacrifice…you’re characterized by perseverance. That is endurance in trial and difficulty and trouble and persecution and suffering. And the word gentleness is actually the word meekness or humility. I mean it couldn’t be any more clear. Are you a man of God? You are if, having been called, you are faithful to the proclamation of the Word of God, and all the while you are running as fast as you can away from the love of money and all the vices that go with it. And you are running as fast as you can toward these things: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and humility. . . .

This is the pursuit of a godly heart. This is a pursuit of a godly righteous life. In Psalm 50 verses 16 and 17 it says, “To the wicked God says, ‘What right have you to tell of My statutes?'” To a wicked man, God says, “Who do you think you are opening your mouth and speaking My Word? What right have you…he says…to take My covenant into your mouth, for you hate discipline, and you cast My Words behind you.” That’s some strong indictment, isn’t it? “You stand up, and you speak of My statutes? You take My covenant? You talk about My gracious provision for salvation? You put those words in your mouth? And you hate discipline? And you cast My Words behind you? You’re wicked…God says.”

Psalm 101:6 says, “He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. He who practices deceit shall not.” So the man of God is known by what he flees from and what he follows after. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I beat my body to bring it into subjection.” Literally uses the word translated buffet in the English, but it means to strike with a fist in the face. I give a knockout punch to my body to bring it into subjection, literally to knock it out. To KO my human desire, lest in preaching to others I myself would be disqualified. I have to…I have to be a running man. I have to pursue these things…And people will feel the power of a godly life. Preaching puts the nails of truth in, but example pounds them deep…John Owen wrote, “A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouth of the public, but what he is in secret before Almighty God, that he is and no more. No more.” (“Identifying a Man of God”)

The Man Of God Flees Temptation

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good

John MacArthur

confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Timothy 6)

Paul tells us in verse 11 to “flee from these things.” One of the most notable things destroying modern ministries is the love of money.  I touch on that example because the love of money drives pastors to change their theology and wander away from the faith.  You must flee the ministry if you do it for love of money.  The man of God will flee the evils associated with loving money.  It is always discouraging to see a ministry running toward money.  It is a prominent feature of false teachers.  John MacArthur writes about additional temptations that the man of God must flee:

[T]he man of God is known by what he flees from. Notice verse 11, “But flee from these things, you man of God.” Flee. This is a Greek verb, fuagay, from which we get fugitive. It is a vivid one. It is in the present. It means keep on fleeing. You are a fugitive. You are on the run. Your whole life as a man of God, you are on the run. It pictures one running from a plague. That’s how the word would be used; Or running from poisonous snakes, having come across them in their den in a field; Or running from a pursuing, attacking enemy. You are on the run. The man of God is known by his fleeing.

Back in the 1st chapter verse 4, we find some of the things that we have to flee as a man of God. He says, “Don’t pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, giving rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God, which is by faith.” In other words, run away from error and false religion and philosophies and heresies that corrupt the truth. And you’re running, verse 5, toward “A goal, and the goal is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Unlike some who stray from these things and have turned aside to fruitless discussions.” You flee from error. You flee from worldly philosophy.

Chapter 4 verse 7, “Have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women.” Silly, foolish fables rather than the truth. “Rather discipline yourself for godliness.” You’re always running. You’re running from error. You’re running from human folly. 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee from youthful lusts.” You’re running from that, as well. And back in 1 Timothy 6, look at verse 20. “Avoid worldly, empty chatter, the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.” Stay away from liberalism. Stay away from those who assault the Scripture. Stay away from attacks on God’s authoritative Word.

We are running men. We are fleeing all the time from error. But that’s not all. We’re fleeing from lust and sin. But that’s not all. Look here, verse 11, “Flee from these things.” And we have to ask the question, “What are these things?” Well, obviously, it’s what come before. Go back to verse 5. “Depraved men…in verse 5…who are deprived of the truth, false teachers, suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” People who are false teachers are always in it for the money. “But godliness…verse 6…actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” You never pursue money. You pursue godliness. You pursue money, you’re never content. You pursue godliness, you get contentment.

Honoring God By Honoring Your Pastor

Pastors are servants who have been called by God to shepherd His flock. It is not an easy job to undertake. Pastors need encouragement and support from their church members.

One of the most important things you can do for your pastor is to pray for him. The pastor, his family, the elders and deacons are often targeted by satanic schemes and strife. The devil’s objective is to strike the pastor (shepherd) and scatter the flock. This is often accomplished through members of the pastor’s own church. It is, therefore, important that the church leadership and members of the congregation stand in the gap with consistent prayers for the pastor’s protection.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Speak words of encouragement to and about your pastor. Talk well of him. Embrace his ministry to you as a gift from God. Do not allow your words to reveal an immature relationship with Christ in your life. Do not allow your tongue to speak evil when the Word of God is preached to you.

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:5-10)

God honors his shepherds and commands us to do the same. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17) It is worth noting that the Bible mentions other groups to honor but only one group worthy of double honor. You may not agree with every opinion your pastor holds or like every sermon he preaches, but you must take into account the spiritual importance of his work in your life. Maybe you have unrealistic expectations for him to be something other than human. Remember, his position is worthy of “double honor.” It must be esteemed because to do so is to honor God.

%d bloggers like this: