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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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Finding God

R. C. SproulR.C. Sproul:

We have all heard evangelists quote from Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Usually the evangelist applies this text as an appeal to the unconverted, saying: “Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. If you open the door, then He will come in.” In the original saying, however, Jesus directed His remarks to the church. It was not an evangelistic appeal.

So what? The point is that seeking is something that unbelievers do not do on their own. The unbeliever will not seek. The unbeliever will not knock. Seeking is the business of believers. Jonathan Edwards said, “The seeking of the Kingdom of God is the chief business of the Christian life.” Seeking is the result of faith, not the cause of it. Continue reading

To Walk in Humbleness with God

HumilityHe has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to WALK HUMBLY with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Consider the verse above and focus on the phrase “… walk humbly with your God”. We are told in this verse that walking humbly with God is good and that it is required. This is one of the characteristics that a Christian should possess. This is one way we may honor God in our lives each day.

Humility, however, is often earned at a very high cost. The more prideful you are; the higher the cost will be. Personally, I have too often been prideful in my life. The price of my pride has resulted in my being humbled (not by choice) on more than one occasion. I can from experience tell you it is better to be humble than to be humbled.

James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (4:10) We cannot truly know God and grow by the Holy Spirit until we are humble. Puritan preacher Richard Baxter declared, “It is a contradiction to be a true Christian and not humble.”

I have found that bad attitudes, bitterness, and anger are rarely seen in people with true humility. A godly person is a humble person. Peter writes that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Peter 5:5) Christian virtue is the result of humility. Humility makes the Christian sensitive to the adverse effects of sin.

I am certain that those people who display in their character a deep knowledge of God and His grace are also those Christians who exhibit humility in their conduct towards others. I pray that I might live my life in agreement with this observation by Jonathan Edwards: “Pure Christian humility disposes a person to take notice of every thing that is good in others, and to make the best of it, and to diminish their failings.”

Lord, let it be so in my life as I walk with you.

Samuel at Gilgal

Humility

The following is by Jonathan Edwards:

Humility may be defined to be a habit of mind and heart corresponding to our comparative unworthiness and vileness before God; or a sense of our own comparative lowness in His sight, with the disposition to a behavior answerable thereto.

A truly humble man is sensible of the small extent of his knowledge, and the great extent of his ignorance, and of the small extent of his understanding, as compared with the understanding of God. He is sensible of his weakness, how little his strength is, and how little he is able to do.

He is sensible of his natural distance from God, of his dependence on Him, of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God’s power that he is upheld and provided for; and that he needs God’s wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.

Humility tends to prevent an aspiring and ambitious behavior among men. The man that is under the influence of a humble spirit is content with such a situation among men, as God is pleased to allot to him, and is not greedy of honor, and does not affect to appear uppermost and exalted above his neighbors.

Humility tends also to prevent an arrogant and assuming behavior. On the contrary, humility, disposes a person to a condescending behavior to the meekest and lowest, and to treat inferiors with courtesy and affability, as being sensible of his own weakness and despicableness before God.

If we then consider ourselves as the followers of the meek and lowly and crucified Jesus, we shall walk humbly before God and man all the days of our life on earth. Let all be exhorted earnestly to seek much of a humble spirit, and to endeavor to be humble in all their behavior toward God and men.

Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative lowness before God and man. Know God. Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before Him. Distrust yourself. Rely Only On Christ. Renounce all glory except for Him. Yield yourself heartily to His will and service.

Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, willful, leveling, self-justifying behavior; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while He was on earth. Humility is a most essential and distinguishing trait in all true piety.

Earnestly seek then; and diligently and prayerfully cherish a humble spirit, and God shall walk with you here below; and when a few more days shall have passed, He will receive you to the honors bestowed on His people at Christ’s right hand.

The Love of Christ

Christ knew how bitter His cup was to be. He understood how unworthy and hateful the wickedness and corruption of mankind could be. Yet His love won the victory. Jonathan Edwards explains further.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

The strength of Christ’s love more especially appears in this, that when he had such a full view of the dreadfulness of the cup that he was to drink, that so amazed him, he would notwithstanding even then take it up, and drink it. Then seems to have been the greatest and most peculiar trial of the strength of the love of Christ, when God set down the bitter portion before him, and let him see what he had to drink, if he persisted in his love to sinners; and brought him to the mouth of the furnace that he might see its fierceness, and have a full view of it, and have time then to consider whether he would go in and suffer the flames of this furnace for such unworthy creatures, or not. This was as it were proposing it to Christ’s last consideration what he would do; as much as if it had then been said to him, ‘Here is the cup that you are to drink, unless you will give up your undertaking for sinners, and even leave them to perish as they deserve. Will you take this cup, and drink it for them, or not? There is the furnace into which you are to be cast, if they are to be saved; either they must perish, or you must endure this for them. There you see how terrible the heat of the furnace is; you see what pain and anguish you must endure on the morrow, unless you give up the cause of sinners. What will you do? is your love such that you will go on? Will you cast yourself into this dreadful furnace of wrath?’ Christ’s soul was overwhelmed with the thought; his feeble human nature shrunk at the dismal sight. It put him into this dreadful agony which you have heard described; but his love to sinners held out. Christ would not undergo these sufferings needlessly, if sinners could be saved without. If there was not an absolute necessity of his suffering them in order to their salvation, he desired that the cup might pass from him. But if sinners, on whom he had set his love, could not, agreeably to the will of God, be saved without his drinking it, he chose that the will of God should be done. He chose to go on and endure the suffering, awful as it appeared to him. And this was his final conclusion, after the dismal conflict of his poor feeble human nature, after he had had the cup in view, and for at least the space of one hour, had seen how amazing it was. Still he finally resolved that he would bear it, rather than those poor sinners whom he had loved from all eternity should perish. (“Christ’s Agony”)

The Agony

I have chosen this week to share several excerpts from classic sermons to help us prepare our hearts and minds for Easter Sunday (Of course, our hearts and minds should always be fixed upon Christ.). Jonathan Edwards writes:

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his original nature, was infinitely above all suffering, for he was “God over all, blessed for evermore;” but, when he became man, he was not only capable of suffering, but partook of that nature that is remarkably feeble and exposed to suffering. The human nature, on account of its weakness, is in Scripture compared to the grass of the field, which easily withers and decays. . . . It was this nature, with all its weakness and exposedness to sufferings, which Christ, who is the Lord God omnipotent, took upon him. He did not take the human nature on him in its first, most perfect and vigorous state, but in that feeble forlorn state which it is in since the fall; and therefore Christ is called “a tender plant,” and “a root out of a dry ground.” Isa. 53:2. “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” . . .

The cause of those views and apprehensions, which Christ had in his agony in the garden, was the bitter cup which he was soon after to drink on the cross. The sufferings which Christ underwent in his agony in the garden were not his greatest sufferings; though they were so very great. But his last sufferings upon the cross were his principal sufferings; and therefore they are called “the cup that he had to drink.” The sufferings of the cross, under which he was slain, are always in the Scriptures represented as the main sufferings of Christ; those in which especially “he bare our sins in his own body,” and made atonement for sin. His enduring the cross, his humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, is spoken of as the main thing wherein his sufferings appeared. This is the cup that Christ had set before him in his agony. It is manifest that Christ had this in view at this time, from the prayers which he then offered. According to Matthew, Christ made three prayers that evening while in the garden of Gethsemane, and all on this one subject, the bitter cup that he was to drink. Of the first, we have an account in Matt. 26:39. “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt:” of the second in the 42d verse, “He went away again the second time and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done:” and of the third in the 44th verse, “And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” From this it plainly appears what it was of which Christ had such terrible views and apprehensions at that time. What he thus insists on in his prayers, shows on what his mind was so deeply intent. It was his sufferings on the cross, which were to be endured the next day, when there should be darkness over all the earth and at the same time a deeper darkness over the soul of Christ, of which he had now such lively views and distressing apprehensions.

He had a lively apprehension of it impressed at that time on his mind. He had an apprehension of the cup that he was to drink before. His principal errand into the world was to drink that cup, and he therefore was never unthoughtful of it, but always bore it in his mind, and often spoke of it to his disciples. . . .

The love of any mere man or angel would doubtless have sunk under such a weight, and never would have endured such a conflict in such a bloody sweat as that of Jesus Christ. The anguish of Christ’s soul at that time was so strong as to cause that wonderful effect on his body. But his love to his enemies, poor and unworthy as they were, was stronger still. The heart of Christ at that time was full of distress, but it was fuller of love to vile worms: his sorrows abounded, but his love did much more abound. Christ’s soul was overwhelmed with a deluge of grief, but this was from a deluge of love to sinners in his heart sufficient to overflow the world, and overwhelm the highest mountains of its sins. Those great drops of blood that fell down to the ground were a manifestation of an ocean of love in Christ’s heart. (“Christ’s Agony”)

Sin

From the pen of Joseph Alleine:

“Oh, better were it for you to die in a jail, in a ditch, in a dungeon, than to die in your sins. If death, as it will take away all your comforts, would take away all your sins too, it were some mitigation; but your sins will follow you when your friends leave you, and all your worldly enjoyments shake hands with you. Your sins will not die with you as a prisoner’s other debts will; but they will go to judgment with you there to be your accusers; and they will go to hell with you there to be your tormentors.”

The Excellency Of Christ

Quoting Jonathan Edwards:

“But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean. The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom. The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment.”

Christ Is Like A River

Quoting Jonathan Edwards:

“Christ is like a river in another respect. A river is continually flowing, there are fresh supplies of water coming from the fountain-head continually, so that a man may live by it, and be supplied with water all his life. So Christ is an ever-flowing fountain; he is continually supplying his people, and the fountain is not spent. They who live upon Christ, may have fresh supplies from him to all eternity; they may have an increase of blessedness that is new, and new still, and which never will come to an end.”

J. Edwards: Labor To Understand

Quoting Jonathan Edwards:

“You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure. God hath spoken much to you in the Scripture; labor to understand as much of what he saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with having so much knowledge as is thrown in your way, and as you receive in some sense unavoidably by the frequent inculcation of divine truth in the preaching of the word, of which you are obliged to be hearers, or as you accidentally gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search for it, and that with the same diligence and labor with which men are wont to dig in mines of silver and gold.”

The Problem Of Sin

From the desk of Jonathan Edwards

“Sin is naturally exceeding dear to us; to part with it is compared to plucking out our right eyes. Men may refrain from wonted ways of sin for a little while, and may deny their lusts in a partial degree, with less difficulty; but it is heart-rending work, finally to part with all sin, and to give our dearest lusts a bill of divorce, utterly to send them away. But this we must do, if we would follow those that are truly turning to God: yea, we must not only forsake sin, but must, in a sense, forsake all the world, Luke xiv.33 ‘Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.'”

Parting With Sin

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

“Sin is naturally exceeding dear to us; to part with it is compared to plucking out our right eyes. Men may refrain from wonted ways of sin for a little while, and may deny their lusts in a partial degree, with less difficulty; but it is heart-rending work, finally to part with all sin, and to give our dearest lusts a bill of divorce, utterly to send them away. But this we must do, if we would follow those that are truly turning to God: yea, we must not only forsake sin, but must, in a sense, forsake all the world, Luke xiv.33 ‘Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.'”

When Unclothed Is Unfitting: Thoughts on Selling with Sex

From the writings of John Piper:

Jonathan Edwards once said that godly people can, as it were, smell the depravity of an act before they can explain why it evil. There is a spiritual sense that something is amiss. It does not fit in a world permeated with God.

Ephesians 5:3 says that some things “are not fitting” among saints.” “Fitting-ness” is not always easy to justify with arguments. You discern it before you can defend it. That’s good, because we have to make hundreds of choices every day with no time for extended reflection.

But from time to time we need to pause and give rational, biblical expression why something is not fitting. Some years ago I came to that point when, week after week, a local newspaper put scantily clad women on the second page of Section A in order to sell underclothes. I wrote a letter to the paper with nine reasons why they should stop using this kind of advertising.

Perhaps my reflections will help you deal with the hundreds of abuses of God’s good gift of sexuality in our culture. Here is what I wrote.

As a 14-year subscriber and reader of the [name of paper omitted], I am writing to express the persuasion that your sexually explicit ads that often turn up in Section A are increasingly offensive and socially irresponsible. I mean that the effectiveness of catching people’s attention by picturing a woman in her underclothes does not justify the ads. The detrimental effects of such mercenary misuse of the female body are not insignificant. The harm I have in mind is described in the following nine persuasions.

1. This woman could not go out in public dressed like that without being shamed or being mentally aberrant. Yet you thrust her out, even in front of those of us who feel shame for her.

2. This portrayal of a woman sitting in her underclothes at a table with a cup of tea disposes men to think of women not as persons but mainly in terms of their bodies. It stimulates young boys to dwell on unclothed women’s bodies and thus lames their ability to deal with women as dignified persons. I have four sons.

3. The ad stimulates sexual desire which in thousands of men has no legitimate or wholesome outlet through marriage. In other words, it feeds a corporate, community lust that bears no good fruit outside marriage, but in fact many ills.

4. The ad makes sensibilities callous so that fewer and fewer offenses against good taste feel unacceptable, which spells the collapse of precious and delicate aspects of personhood and relationships.

5. The ad makes thousands of women subconsciously measure their attractiveness and worth by the standard of rarefied, unrealistic models, leading to an unhealthy and discouraging preoccupation with outward looks.

6. The ad feeds the prurient fantasies of ordinary men, lodging a sexual image in their minds for the day which can rob them of the ability to think about things greater and nobler than skin.

7. The ad condones the proclivity of males to mentally unclothe women by reminding them what they would see if they did, and by suggesting that there are women who want to be publicly unclothed in this way. This reminder and this suggestion support habits and stereotypes that weaken personal virtue and jeopardize decorous relationships.

8. The ad encourages young girls to put excessive focus on their bodies and how they will be looked at, adding to the epidemic of depression and eating disorders.

9. The ad contributes to dissatisfaction in men whose wives can’t produce that body and thus adds to the instability of marriages and homes.

I realize that the bottom line is big bucks for page two, and lots of attention for [name of department store omitted]. But please know that at least one assessment of your standards of fitness for print is that it is part of a tragic loss of modesty and decency that may, for now, feel like mature liberation, but in generations to come will reap a whirlwind of misery for all of us.

From John Piper, A Godward Life, published by Multnomah Books.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

God’s Sovereignty

Quoting Darrin Brooker:

Regrettably, the sovereignty of God is an issue little talked about in our day. The truth of the matter is that many people are selective in the areas they think and believe God to be sovereign. Oftentimes, these same people will boldly assert that their ‘free choice’ was the causal agent of their conversion and not the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit in fulfilling God’s decree of election. It is essential that this error be pointed out as such because, simply put, if we do not regard God as the ‘determining’ cause of our salvation then we do not regard God as sovereign in all things. (Rom. 11:36) Jonathan Edwards once said that the sovereignty of God will be “the stumbling-block on which thousands fall and perish; and if we go on contending with God about his sovereignty, it will be our eternal ruin.” If we do not exalt God as sovereign, and sovereign in all things including the salvation of His people, then we knowingly usurp the glory due His name.

For the true believer, God’s sovereignty is the greatest of all comforts and not some antiquated, theoretical doctrine, as many would have it portrayed. We should feel secure in the fact that God chose a people unto salvation before the creation of the world; that He sent His Son to secure that salvation through His death on the cross; and that He sent His Spirit to effectually call and eternally seal those for whom Christ died, in order that none of them should be lost. (Eph. 1:3-14) Dear friends, what greater comfort could there be than knowing our salvation, from beginning to end, rests fully in the hands of Almighty God?

Happiness

Jonathan Edwards

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

Another part of God’s fullness which He communicates, is His happiness. This happiness consists in enjoying and rejoicing in Himself; and so does also the creature’s happiness. It is a participation of what is in God; and God and His glory are the objective ground of it. The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God; by which also God is magnified and exalted. (Edwards, Works, 101)

God’s Glory In Redemption

Jonathan Edwards

Is there any goodness or glory that is attributable to man in his personal redemption? The answer to this question is “absolutely none!” Jonathan Edwards helps us to understand why:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

Faith is a sensibleness of what is real in the work of redemption; and as we do really wholly depend on God, so the soul that believes doth entirely depend on God for all salvation, in its own sense and act. Faith abases men, and exalts God, it gives all the glory of redemption to God alone. It is necessary in order to saving faith, that man should be emptied of himself, that he should be sensible that he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Humility is a great ingredient of true faith: he that truly receives redemption receives it as a little child. “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10-15). It is the delight of a believing soul to abase itself and exalt God alone: that is the language of it, “Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory” (Ps. 115: 1).

Let us be exhorted to exalt God alone, and ascribe to him all the glory of redemption. Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent, and self-righteous disposition. Man is naturally exceeding prone to be exalting himself and depending on his own power or goodness, as though he were he from whom he must expect happiness, and to have respect to enjoyments alien from God and his Spirit, as those in which happiness is to be found.

And this doctrine should teach us to exalt God alone, as by trust and reliance, so by praise. Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord. Hath any man hope that he is converted, and sanctified, and that his mind is endowed with true excellency and spiritual beauty, and his sins forgiven, and he received into God’s favor, and exalted to the honor and blessedness of being his child, and an heir of eternal life; let him give God all the glory; who alone makes him to differ from the worst of men in this world, or the most miserable of the damned in hell. Hath any man much comfort and strong hope of eternal life, let not his hope lift him up, but dispose him the more to abase himself, and reflect on his own exceeding unworthiness of such a favor, and to exalt God alone. Is any man eminent in holiness, and abundant in good works, let him take nothing of the glory of it to himself, but ascribe it to him whose workmanship we are, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”

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