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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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GOD FOR SALE?

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. (Acts 8:9 ESV))

In the region of Samaria, there once lived a man called Simon the Sorcerer. He astonished the people of this province with his magic. As a matter of fact, the people called him the “great power of God. Simon loved power and the ability to manipulate others.

Simon trying to buy the gift of GodOne day a man by the name of Philip arrives. He was a Christian from Jerusalem. Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. Seeing the many amazing miracles which were done, many proclaimed their faith in Jesus and were baptized. Simon also claimed to believe and was baptized as well.

Hearing of the work being done by Philip, the church in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria. Peter and John laid hands on the new converts and the Holy Spirit fell upon them in power (A second Pentecost?) Simon was amazed.

Simon was envious and wanted to control the Holy Spirit to use as he desired. Simon coveted this ability of the Apostles and offered them money to share this ability with him. He desired spiritual authority for his own ends. Peter responded:

“May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23 ESV)

It is evident that Simon was not a true convert. His heart was not right before God. Neither are the hearts of many in our churches today. The warning is clear. If you believe you are a Christian simply because you have said the right words and gone through the motions, your heart may still not be right with God. Too often, belief in God consists of the attitude that He is like Santa Claus. This is not the God of the Bible. Many people see God as the key to material prosperity. This is not the God of the Bible. Some attempt to remake God in their own image. This is not the God of the Bible. Others believe they can manipulate God for their own ends. This is not the God of the Bible. How often have you seen the bumper sticker, “GOD IS MY COPILOT”? This too, is not the God of the Bible. God alone is in absolute control and does not need our advice or permission. He rules absolutely.

Like so many in our churches today, Simon wanted a very large cup of God’s blessings and power with only a very small teaspoon of God. Which do you want?

Our Thoughts May Also Be Sins

Have you ever considered your thought life? Thomas Goodwin explains how our thoughts become our enemies:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

And because this is the sense I chiefly must insist on in handling the vanity of the thoughts, and also men usually think that thoughts are free, I will therefore prove this to you, which is the only doctrine raised, that thoughts are sins. . . .

They are to be repented of; yea, repentance is expressed as to begin at them: so, Isa. lv. 7, ‘Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts.’ And a man is never truly and thoroughly wrought on, as 2 Cor, x. 4, 6, till ‘every thought be brought into obedience;’ which argues that they are naturally rebellious, and contrary to grace. And this also argues the power of grace, which is able to rule and to subdue so great an army as our thoughts are, and command them all, as one day it will do, when we are perfectly holy.

They defile the man; which nothing defiles but sin: Matt. xv. 18, 19, ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts; these defile the man.’ They are an abomination to the Lord, who hates nothing but sin, and whose ‘pure eyes can endure to behold no iniquity,’ Hab. i. 13. As good meditations are acceptable, Ps. xix. 14, so, by the rule of contrary, bad are abominable.

They hinder all good we should do, and spoil our best performances. Vain thoughts draw the heart away in them, that when a man should draw nigh to God, his heart, by reason of his thoughts, is ‘far off from him,’ Isa. xxix. 13. A man’s heart goes after his covetousness, when he should hear, as the prophet speaks, because his thoughts thus run. Now, nothing else but sin could separate; and what doth estrange us from God is sin, and enmity to him.

Our thoughts are the first motioners of all the evil in us. For they make the motion, and also bring the heart and object together, are panders to our lusts, hold up the object till the heart hath played the adulterer with it, and committed folly: so in speculative uncleanness, and in other lusts, they hold up the images of those gods they create, which the heart falls down and worships; they present credit, riches, beauty, till the heart hath worshipped them, and this when the things themselves are absent.

Thomas Goodwin: The Vanity of Thoughts

From the writings of Thomas Goodwin, we are here treated to an article which helps us to discern what the Bible means by “vain thoughts”:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

My scope in our ordinary course is, to discover the wickedness and vanity of the heart by nature. In the heart, we are yet but in the upper parts of it, the understanding, and the defilements thereof, which are to be washed out of it; and the next defilement which in my broken order I mean to handle is that which is here specified, THE VANITY OF YOUR THOUGHTS. For the discovery’s sake of which only, I chose this text as my ground; that is it, therefore, which I chiefly insist upon; a subject which, I confess, would prove of all else the vastest. . . .

By thoughts the Scriptures do comprehend all the internal acts of the mind of man, of what faculty so ever; all those reasonings, consultations, purposes, resolutions, intents, ends, desires, and cares of the mind of man, as opposed to our external words and actions. . . . I mean not to speak of, generally, all thoughts therein, neither, as not of the reasonings or deliberations in our actions, but those musings only in the speculative part. And so I can no otherwise express them to you than thus: Those same first more simple conceits, apprehensions that arise, those fancies, meditations, which the understanding, by the help of fancy, frames within itself of things; those whereon your minds ponder and pore, and muse upon things; these I mean by thoughts. I mean those talkings of our minds with the things we know, as the Scripture calls it, Prov. vi. 22; those same parleys, interviews, chattings, the mind hath with the things let into it, with the things we fear, with the things we love. For all these things our minds make their companions, and our thoughts hold them discourse, and have a thousand conceits about them; this I mean by thoughts. . . .

Take it in all the acceptations of it; it is true of our thoughts that they are vain. It is taken for unprofitableness. So, Eccles. i. 2, 3, ‘All is vain,’ because there is ‘no profit in them under the sun.’ Such are our thoughts by nature; the wisest of them will not stand as in any stead in time of need, in time of temptation, distress of conscience, day of death or judgment: 1 Cor. ii. 6, ‘All the wisdom of the wise comes to naught;’ Prov. x. 20, ‘The heart of the wicked is little worth,’ not a penny for them all. Whereas the thoughts of a godly man are his treasure ‘Out of the good treasure of his heart he brings them forth.’ He mints them, and they are laid up as his riches. Ps. cxxxix. 17, ‘How precious are they!’ He there speaks of our thoughts of God, as the object of them; ‘Thy thoughts ‘ – that is, of thee, ‘are precious.’

Vanity is taken for lightness. ‘Lighter than vanity’ is a phrase used, Ps. lxii. 9; and whom is it spoken of? Of men; and if anything in them be lighter than other, it is their thoughts, which swim in the upper most parts, float at the top, are as the scum of the heart. When all the best, and wisest, and deepest, and solidest thoughts in Belshazzar, a prince, were weighed, they were found too light, Dan. v. 27.

Vanity is put for folly. So, Prov. xii. 11, ‘vain men’ is made all one with men ‘void of understanding’. Such are our thoughts. Among other evils which are said to ‘come out of the heart, Mark vii 22, is reckoned as one, foolishness, that is, thoughts that are such as madmen have, and fools, nothing to the purpose, of which there can be made no use, which a man knows not whence they should come, nor whither they would, without dependence. . . .

Lastly, they are vain; that is, indeed, wicked and sinful. Vanity in the text here is yoked with wickedness; and vain men and sons of Belial are all one, 2 Chron. xiii. 7. And such are our thoughts by nature: Prov. xxiv. 9, ‘The thought of foolishness is sin.’ And therefore a man is to be humbled for a proud thought, Prov. xxx. 32.

Thomas Goodwin: How Long?

There is much vanity in our thoughts and manner of thinking. Our thoughts are subject to vanity much more than we wish to admit. Thomas Goodwin explains:

How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? (Jeremiah 4:14)

In these words he compares the heart unto some house of common resort, made, as it were, with many and large rooms to entertain and lodge multitudes of guests in; into which, before conversion, all the vain, light, wanton, profane, dissolute thoughts that post up and down the world, as your thoughts do, and run riot all the day, have free, open access, the heart keeps open house to them, gives them willing, cheerful welcome and entertainment; accompanies them, travels over all the world for the daintiest pleasures to feed them with; lodgeth, harbors them; and there they, like unruly gallants and roisters, lodge, and revel it day and night, and defile those rooms they lodge in with their loathsome filth and vomits. ‘How long,’ says the Lord, ‘shall they lodge therein,’ whilst I, with my Spirit, my Son, and train of graces, ‘stand at the door and knock,’ Rev. iii. 20, and cannot find admittance? Of all which filthiness, etc the heart, this house, must be washed: ‘Wash thy heart from wickedness.’ Washed, not swept only of grosser evils, as, Matt. xii. 43, the house the unclean spirit re-enters into is said to be swept of evils that lay loose and uppermost, but washed and cleansed of those defilements which stick more close, and are incorporated and wrought into the spirit. And those vain and unruly guests must be turned out of doors without any warning; they have stayed there long enough, too long: ‘how long?’ And ‘the time past may suffice,’ as the Apostle speaks; they must lodge there no more. The house, the soul, is not in conversion to be pulled down, but only these guests turned out; and though kept out they cannot be, they will still enter whilst we are in these houses of clay, yet lodge they must not. If thoughts of anger and revenge come in the morning or daytime, they must be turned out ere night: ‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’ Eph. iv. 26; for so you may come to lodge yet a worse guest in your heart with them. ‘Give not place to the devil,’ for it follows, who will ‘bring seven worse with him.’ If unclean thoughts offer to come to bed to thee when thou lie down, let them not lodge with thee. To conclude, it is not what thoughts are in your hearts, and pass through them, as what lodging they have, that doth difference your repentance. Many good thoughts and motions may pass as strangers through a bad man’s heart; and so likewise multitudes of vain thoughts may make a thoroughfare of a believer’s heart, and disturb him in good duties, by knockings and interruptions, and breakings in upon the heart of a good man; but still they lodge not there – are not fostered, or harbored. (“The Vanity of Thoughts”)

For Some The Gospel Contains No Remedy By Asahel Nettleton

Asahel Nettleton

The proud sinner wants to be let alone. If he should momentarily dwell upon a prick of conscience by the Spirit of God, he says, “Go away, I will consider this another time.” By hardening his own heart, he condemns himself. By his hardness and his impenitent heart, he is gathering up wrath to himself against the day of wrath. Asahel Nettleton explains:

He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1).

The language of the gospel is “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” But no sinner ever repented without conviction of sin. Even the Spirit of God never interposes to rescue the sinner from destruction in any other way than by arousing his guilty conscience to perform its office. Its genuine effects on the heart are thus described, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” But, you are not to be frightened. When they heard this they were pricked in the heart, and exclaimed, Men and brethren, what shall we do . . . ?

For [the hardened] sinner . . . the gospel contains no remedy. . . . He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed. And there is no remedy. The sinner, who will not take reproof, must be destroyed. The physician, who has exhausted his skill, and tried every experiment upon his patient can only look on and see him die. So fares it with the incorrigible sinner; you may soothe him in his sins – you may flatter his vanity – But this is only hastening the work of destruction. The only salutary application is conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. But this his proud heart will not endure. Every attempt to rescue him from destruction will be resisted – It will only exasperate. . . .

But, if such be the effect of reproof, me thinks I hear some one say, then I will not hear the gospel. I will shun all reproof. Answer: A resolution not to take reproof evinces yourself to be one of the very persons described in the text. Whoever objects in this manner shows his determination to harden his neck at all events. For no one can shun reproof, or a preached gospel, without hardening his neck in the most effectual manner. He voluntarily places himself beyond the reach of hope. The man who has drunk poison may say, “I will run. I will shun it.” But, he is too late. You have heard the gospel and can never rid yourself of its everlasting obligations. If they escaped not, who refused him who spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven. They despised all my reproof; therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them. (Sermon: “The Destruction of Hardened Sinners”)

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