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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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  • Recommended Reading

J. C. Ryle: “I Have No Confidence In A Standing-Still Religion.”

Do you want your Christian life to be more healthy and vigorous? Come boldly to the throne of grace. Don’t hang back; take the Lord at His word. The Lord has provided strength for you. You are weak because you have not drawn from the Lord’s provision. The fountain flows with the purest waters to satisfy your thirst. Yet, after you sip a few small drops, you turn elsewhere. Bishop J. C. Ryle has much to say on this topic:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

Are you indeed alive unto God? Can you say with truth, “I was dead, and am alive again? I was blind—but now I see”? Then allow the word of exhortation, and incline your hearts unto wisdom.

Are you alive? Then see that you prove it by your actions. Be a consistent witness. Let your words, and works, and ways, and tempers all tell the same story. Let not your life be a poor torpid life, like that of a tortoise or a sloth—let it rather be an energetic stirring life, like that of a deer or bird. Let your graces shine forth from all the windows of your life, that those who live near you may see that the Spirit is abiding in your hearts. Let your light not be a dim, flickering, uncertain flame; let it burn steadily, like the eternal fire on the altar, and never become low. Let the savor of your religion, like Mary’s precious ointment; fill all the houses where you dwell. Be an epistle of Christ so clearly written, penned in such large bold characters—that he who runs may read it. Let your Christianity be so unmistakable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are, and whom you serve. If we are quickened by the Spirit, no one ought to be able to doubt it. Our conversation should declare plainly that we “seek a country.” (Heb 11:14.) It ought not to be necessary to tell people, as in the case of a badly painted picture, “This is a Christian.” We ought not to be so sluggish and still, that people shall be obliged to come close and look hard, and say, “Is he dead or alive?”

Are you alive? Then see that you prove it by your growth. Let the great change within become every year more evident. Let your light be an increasing light, not like Joshua’s sun in the valley of Ajalon, standing still—nor like Hezekiah‘s sun, going backwards—but ever shining more and more to the very end of your days. Let the image of your Lord, wherein you are renewed, grow clearer and sharper every month. Let it not be like the image and superscription on a coin, more indistinct and defaced the longer it is used. Let it rather become more plain the older it is, and let the likeness of your King stand out more fully and sharply.

I have no confidence in a standing-still religion. I do not think a Christian was meant to be like an animal, to grow to a certain age, and then stop growing. I believe rather he was meant to be like a tree, and to increase more and more in strength and vigor all his days. Remember the words of the Apostle Peter, “Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2 Peter 1:5, 6, 7.) This is the way to be a useful Christian. People will believe you are in earnest when they see constant improvement, and perhaps be drawn to go with you. This is one way to obtain comfortable assurance. “So an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly.” (2 Peter 1:11.) Oh, as ever you would be useful and happy in your religion, let your motto be, “Forward, forward!” to your very last day.

“People observe actions, a great deal more than words.” (Leighton)

I entreat all believing readers to remember that I speak to myself as well as to them. I say the spiritual life there is in Christians ought to be more evident. Our lamps need trimming—they ought not to burn so dim. Our separation from the world should be more distinct—our walk with God more decided. Too many of us are like Lot—lingerers; or like Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh—borderers; or like the Jews in Ezra’s time—so mixed up with strangers, that our spiritual pedigree cannot be made out. It ought not so to be. Let us be up and doing. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. If we really have life, let us make it known. (Alive or Dead?)

Charles H. Spurgeon: The Minister Must Know His Place

 

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon could never be accused of using the gifts that God had given him unwisely. Spurgeon’s own influence for Christ was felt in the four corners of the earth before satellite television and radio. In this excerpt from a speech to ministers, Spurgeon reminds them not to be distracted and hold fast to the calling of God:

Our daydreams are over: we shall neither convert the world to righteousness, nor the church to orthodoxy. We refuse to bear responsibilities which do not belong to us, for our real responsibilities are more than enough. Certain wise brethren are hot to reform their denomination. They ride out gallantly. Success be to the champions! They are generally wiser when they ride home again. I confess great admiration for my Quixotic brethren, but I wish they had more to show for their valor. I fear that both church and world are beyond us; we must be content with smaller spheres. Even our own denomination must go its own way. We are only responsible so far as our power goes, and it will be wise to use that power for some object well within reach. For the rest, let us not worry and weary about things beyond our line. What if we cannot destroy all the thorns and thistles which curse the earth; we can, perhaps, cleanse our own little plot. If we cannot transform the desert into a pasture, we may at least make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before; and that will be something.

Brethren, let us look well to our own steadfastness in the faith, our own holy walking with God. Some say that such advice is selfish; but I believe that, in truth, it is not selfishness, but a sane and practical love of others which leads us to be mindful of our own spiritual state. Desiring to do its level best, and to use its own self in the highest degree to God’s glory, the true heart seeks to be in all things right with God. He who has learned to swim has fostered a proper selfishness, for he has thereby acquired the power of helping the drowning. With the view of blessing others, let us covet earnestly the best blessings for ourselves.

I want to make the most of myself. I may not even yet know the way to be most useful, but I would like to know very soon. At least, I can honestly go the length of saying that, if I felt that I could be more useful outside of the pulpit than within it, I would hurry out of it at once. If there was a street corner where I was Divinely assured that, by my blacking of shoes, God could be more glorified than He is by my bearing witness before the great congregation, I would welcome the information, and practically obey it. Some men never can do much for God in the way which they would prefer, for they were newer cut out for the work. Owls will never rival falcons by daylight; but, then, falcons would be lost in the enterprise of hunting barns at night for rats and mice, and such small deer. Each creature is not only good, but “very good” in its own place, fulfilling its own office: out of that place, it may become a nuisance. Friend, be true to your own destiny! One man would make a splendid preacher of downright hard-hitting Saxon; why must he ruin himself by cultivating an ornate style? Another attempting to be extremely simple would throw himself away, for he is florid by nature; why should he not follow his bent? Apollos has the gift of eloquence; why must he copy blunt Cephas? Every man in his own order. It seems to me; that, nowadays, every man prefers his own disorder. Let each man find out what God wants him to do, and then let him do it, or die in the attempt. In what way can I bring my Lord most glory, and be of most service to His Church while I am here? Solve that question, and pass into the practical. (“What We Would Be”)

Christ’s Persevering Love

Robert Murray M'Cheyne

The true measure of life is not its length, but its usefulness. Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s ministry lasted but a short seven and a half years (He died at the age of 29.), yet the fruitfulness of that brief life remains active to this day. M’Cheyne left notes of only some 300 sermons when he died in 1843, but his sermons continue to bless. He once counseled a fellow pastor: “Get your texts from God – your thoughts, your words, from God… It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” Below, M’Cheyne elaborates on love and perseverance:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

[I]f Christ’s love to us be the object which the Holy Spirit makes use of, at the very first, to draw us to the service of Christ, it is by means of the same object that He draws us to persevere even unto the end. So that if you are visited with seasons of coldness and indifference; if you begin to be weary, or lag behind in the service of God, behold! Here is the remedy: look again to the bleeding Savior. That Sun of Righteousness is the grand attractive centre, round which all His saints move swiftly, and in smooth harmonious concert, “not without song”. As long as the believing eye is fixed upon His love, the path of the believer is easy and unimpeded; for that love always constrains. But lift off the believing eye, and that path becomes impracticable, the life of holiness a weariness.

Whoever, then, would live a life of persevering holiness, let him keep his eye fixed on the Savior. As long as Peter looked only to the Savior, he walked upon the sea in safety, to go to Jesus; but when he looked around and saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried, “Lord, save me!” Just so will it be with you. As long as you look believingly to the Savior, who loved you, and gave Himself for you, so long you may tread the waters of life’s troubled sea, and the soles of your feet shall not be wet. But venture to look around upon the winds and waves that threaten you on every hand, and, like Peter, you begin to sink, and cry, “Lord, save me!” How justly, then, may we address to you the Savior’s rebuke to Peter: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Look again to the love of the Savior, and behold that love which constrains you to live no more to yourself, but to Him that died for you and rose again. (“The Love of Christ”)

The Good News Of The Resurrection

In the verses below, we find that the best of men owe their praise to the great mercy of God. All of the evil in this world is from man’s sin and all the good from God’s mercy. He has given us a new birth which is worthy of our eternal thanksgiving!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV)

Are people basically good? Answers from most people lean towards good. Secular counseling practices begin with the foundational belief that people are basically good. Such claims fall very short when compared to the reality of human nature. The Bible is very clear that the opposite is true.

In the Scripture above, the Apostle Peter wants us to see that we have a great need and only Jesus Christ can meet that need. We need to be spiritually alive, but we are spiritually dead and most of us don’t know it and there is nothing we can do about it for our selves anyway. We are spiritually dead; not sick and in need of medicine, but dead and in need of a resurrection.

The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead can also raise us from the dead and secure our salvation. Are you a Christian? If you are, you have experienced this new birth or this resurrection. You know the reality of being brought from death to life. If you have never trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, read again carefully the verses from 1 Peter above. His resurrection brings about our resurrection.

God looks down on His people and, in His great mercy; He causes us to be born again spiritually. Our Lord Jesus was the first to put on immortality. His resurrection results in our resurrection.

By faith we understand that someday Jesus will return. When He is revealed to us then our joy will be complete. The resurrection is all about the grace of God. It’s grace because it secures salvation for the people of God. There isn’t a person who deserves it. But because of His death for the elect and His resurrection to secure us, we can rejoice. The gospel is the good news that Jesus completed for His people what they could never do for themselves.

Trusting God With Your Troubles

The Apostle Peter tells us: “Cast all your anxiety on God.” (1 Peter 7) Some see this verse as a reference to Psalm 55:22: “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” I, on the other hand, have always found it difficult to cast off problems. I know I cannot escape them or pretend they are not real. So, how do you get rid of the anxiety that is caused by many of life’s problems? How can you avoid being burdened down by care?

For the Christian, the answer to these questions is “God”. We trust God with our worries and fears because He is absolutely sovereign over our lives. It is His providential care that sustains each breath we take and guides the course of the planets and stars. We pour out our anxiety to Him in prayer because we know that it is His Will that must be done. When we begin to understand that God is in control even when we are not, then we can be calm even in the midst of great trouble. When we can trust God in this manner, we will experience the peace that God promises and that Jesus exemplifies.

God created us. Psalm 139 tells us that God fashioned and formed us, that He knew us when we were still in our mother’s womb. He continues to care for us and about us. God loves us as a Father. God is omnipotent and only He has the power and strength to carry all our burdens. Yes, we should cast our cares on God, but do not use this as an excuse for fatalism, laziness or carelessness. Christians are called to have personal discipline and self-control. (1 Peter 13-16)

We must keep alert about our spiritual lives. Satan wants to undo all that we’ve done. He wants to break down our good habits and our spiritual disciplines. He wants to muddy the waters of our relationship with God. He wants us out of the church, where our faith is sustained.

The God of all grace, however, has called us in Jesus Christ. Because of His Word, He will restore us, support us, and strengthen us. When we fall down, He will support us and pick us back up. When we suffer, He will restore us. When we are tempted, He will strengthen us. When we fail, He will forgive us. We can cast our cares on God because we know that God is on our side in Christ Jesus.

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