Memo to the comprehension-impaired: This post is not about Santa or people who deceive their children. It is primarily about the sin of some of those people against the rest of us who choose truth, and are quite satisfied with Jesus alone. It is written, first, in zeal for the truth, and second, as a call to, and in hope of, repentance.
It happens. Some school teacher tells the truth about the mythical fat man from the North Pole, and parents flip out as though something wrong has been done. Christian parents, whom I would expect to love truth, are often as outraged as the pagans.
Now, I agree that it is within the parents’ rights (legally, if not morally) to tell their children whatever they want. Let them tell their children that a jolly fat man who lives at the North Pole—there is no land at the North Pole, by the way—makes an annual visit to every good child (Romans 3:10–18) on the planet via a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Let them say that the moon is made of cheese, global warming is a legitimate threat, Ralph Nader would make an excellent President, and they can accomplish anything with enough self-esteem. Parents are certainly entitled to decide what to tell their children, and I am right out front in the battle against anyone who says otherwise. That is why we homeschool.
On the other hand, my right to teach my children whatever I see fit does not translate into an obligation on anyone else to back up my story. I have no right to wax indignant because someone says there is no Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus.
“But,” you say, “They don’t have to go out of their way to do it. Furthermore, not all truth must be told. Some truth should not be told.” Then you might give an example of crossing the street to tell someone they’re ugly , which is a ridiculous comparison, for a few reasons. First, ugly is subjective. That anyone is ugly is neither true nor false. Second, supposing ugly is a fact, there could never be a good reason for saying so. What kind of person would do that?
Third, and most importantly, it would be highly unusual for anyone to be forced to declare someone to be ugly. Anyone who spends a lot of time with children will inevitably be faced with the necessity of either affirming or denying Santa Claus. Any teacher committed to telling the truth, no matter how studiously he avoids the subject, will eventually have to say, “No, sorry, it’s just a story.” You have no right to object to that, and to expect them to cross their fingers and lie.
Then there are the children who know the truth. Eventually, they learn to avoid the subject and keep quiet. Little kids haven’t learned that, and they don’t have the skill to maneuver through this minefield as adults can. Sometimes, they are just going to blurt out, “There’s no Santa Claus!” There is no malice or guile in that, and I would be ashamed to hear my children say otherwise when they know the truth. Children lose any illusion of innocence far too soon as it is. I will not teach them to lie for any reason.
“But,” you say again, “Surely you tell your children stories; not everything you tell them is technically true.” Yes, we tell stories, and some of them are real whoppers; but we call them fiction. We don’t actually convince our children that there really are trolls living under bridges or pigs that can build houses or bears that eat porridge. We never try to convince them of anything that is not true. The possible example you’re thinking of right now? No. I don’t need to know what it is, the answer is, “No. Absolutely not. Nope; not that, either.”
As aggravating and absolutely wrong as it is to expect complicity in deceit, worse is the scorn that is often heaped upon those who choose to tell their own children the truth. I’m talking about Christians who look down on others for telling their own children the truth. We are stealing joy from our children. We are “miserable, dour adults” who “suck the fun out of” Christmas, “so-called ‘Christians,’” “jerks” [Update: Add “ashen and odious” to the descriptions of a Christ-only Santa-free Christmas].
That attitude is astonishing. First, to be contemptuous of others for telling the truth—for telling the truth!—is audacious beyond description. Second, to think that the legitimate focus of Christmas is somehow lacking, and that a fairy tale can add anything to the true story of God incarnate, born of virgin, without sin, who lived and died to bear my sin and secure eternal life for me! The true story of the incarnation alone needs a companion fairy tale, or Christmas won’t be fun! Such attitudes are unworthy of Christians.
Tell your children whatever you want. That really is not my concern, or the focus of this article. Your children will probably grow up just fine, although many have testified to the harm done to their faith when they learned the truth about Santa. Just don’t expect complicity from me. Don’t expect sympathy when you throw your temper tantrums over the gall of some teacher who told the truth. Don’t expect an apology when your child discovers that mine doesn’t believe in Santa. You see, if maintaining your deceit requires me to be deceitful too, you’re on your own. If that “suck[s] the fun out of” your Christmas, I’m afraid you’ve missed Christmas anyway.
This passage from my morning reading was especially encouraging today.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:14–16
What does this passage tell us? Does it tell us, as many of today’s popular preachers would, that we ought not feel unworthy? No, it does not. The first thing it says is that we have a high priest. Who needs a priest? It is precisely and only those who are unworthy to enter the Father’s presence who need a priest to intercede for them. And we have such a priest. A priest who lived as we live, suffered as we suffer, yet without sin, and made the perfect sacrifice for our sin, and now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Therefore, we can come boldly, casting all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
And when we come before the throne, we will obtain mercy, which we desperately need, for we are guilty; and grace, without which we are utterly helpless.
So come boldly, though your hands are not clean and your heart is not pure. Hold fast to your faith in Christ. Come, confessing your sin and seeking forgiveness. You are truly unworthy, but you have a high priest who intercedes for you. Come, obtain mercy. Receive grace. Come boldly.
This one true goal or resting-place where doubt and weariness, the stings of a pricking conscience, and the longings of an unsatisfied soul would all be quieted, is Christ Himself. Not the church, but Christ. Not doctrine, but Christ. Not forms, but Christ. Not ceremonies, but Christ. Christ the God-man, giving his life for ours; sealing the everlasting covenant, and making peace for us through the blood of His cross; Christ the divine storehouse of all light and truth, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” [Col 2:3]; Christ the infinite vessel, filled with the Holy Spirit, the enlightener, the teacher, the quickened, the comforter, so that “out of his fullness we may receive, and grace for grace” [John 1:16]. This, this alone is the vexed soul’s refuge, its rock to build on, its home to abide in till the great temper be bound and every conflict ended in victory. —Horatius Bonar, Christ Is All, ed. Darrin R. Brooker & Michael Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 171.
What are the most beautiful words you’ve ever heard? You might be thinking of several possibilities: the first time you heard the words “I love you” from your spouse; news that a seriously ill or injured loved one would recover, or some impending disaster had been averted; or any number of things that would be cause for great joy.
I believe the most beautiful phrase ever spoken begins with, of all things, the word but. We don’t normally think of but as a prelude to good news. Maybe your boss has said, “You’re doing a good job, but . . .” What young man (except me, of course) hasn’t heard, “I like you, but . . .” from a young lady. What follows the but is seldom good. But is most often not a word we want to hear.
But . . .
Add one word to that but, and everything changes. That word (if you are a child of God) is God.
Hunted by enemies: “David stayed in the wilderness in the strongholds, and remained in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand.” (1 Samuel 23:14).
Weak and faltering: “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26).
We are constantly in need of God’s intervention. We live in need of but God. Nowhere is this phrase displayed in more glorious beauty than in Ephesians 2:1–9:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We were dead in sin; we lived in a worldly manner, led by Satan himself; and we kept company among others of our kind, satisfying our lusts, bringing upon ourselves the wrath of God . . .
. . . loved us anyway, in spite of our wretched sinfulness, raised us to life, and, purely by grace, gave us the gift of saving faith, and has given us citizenship in his kingdom with Christ. For what purpose? That he might demonstrate the glory of his grace toward us in Christ.
We were dead, but God . . .
I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1)
HYMN 22 Part 1. (L. M.) Christ the eternal life. Rom. ix. 5. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Jesus, our Savior and our God, Array’d in majesty and blood, Thou art our life; our souls in thee Possess a full felicity. All our immortal hopes are laid In thee, our surety and our head; Thy cross, thy cradle, and thy throne, Are big with glories yet unknown. Let atheists scoff, and Jews blaspheme Th’ eternal life and Jesus’ name; A word of thy almighty breath Dooms the rebellious world to death. But let my soul for ever lie Beneath the blessings of thine eye; ’Tis heav’n on earth, ’tis heav’n above, To see thy face and taste thy love. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).
Psalme 150 (Geneva Bible) 1 Praise ye the Lord, because he is good: for his mercie endureth for euer. 2 Praise ye the God of gods: for his mercie endureth for euer. 3 Praise ye the Lord of Lords: for his mercie endureth for euer: 4 Which onely doeth great wonders: for his mercie endureth for euer: 5 Which by his wisedome made the heauens: for his mercie endureth for euer: 6 Which hath stretched out the earth vpon the waters: for his mercie endureth for euer: 7 Which made great lightes: for his mercie endureth for euer: 8 As the sunne to rule the day: for his mercie endureth for euer: 9 The moone and the starres to gouerne the night: for his mercie endureth for euer: 10 Which smote Egypt with their first borne, (for his mercie endureth for euer) 11 And brought out Israel from among them (for his mercie endureth for euer) 12 With a mightie hande and stretched out arme: for his mercie endureth for euer: 13 Which deuided the red Sea in two partes: for his mercie endureth for euer: 14 And made Israel to passe through the mids of it: for his mercie endureth for euer: 15 And ouerthrewe Pharaoh and his hoste in the red Sea: for his mercie endureth for euer: 16 Which led his people through the wildernes: for his mercie endureth for euer: 17 Which smote great Kings: for his mercie endureth for euer: 18 And slewe mightie Kings: for his mercie endureth for euer: 19 As Sihon King of the Amorites: for his mercie endureth for euer: 20 And Og the King of Bashan: for his mercie endureth for euer: 21 And gaue their land for an heritage: for his mercie endureth for euer: 22 Euen an heritage vnto Israel his seruant: for his mercie endureth for euer: 23 Which remembred vs in our base estate: for his mercie endureth for euer: 24 And hath rescued vs from our oppressours: for his mercie endureth for euer: 25 Which giueth foode to all flesh: for his mercie endureth for euer. 26 Praise ye the God of heauen: for his mercie endureth for euer.
Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Possibly Toplady’s best, humbly acknowledging absolute helplessness and dependence on Christ:
284 Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save me from its guilt and pow’r. Not the labor of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to the cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die. While I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyes shall close in death, When I soar to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee. —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House), 1960.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. —Isaiah 1:18
Jesus Paid It All I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small! Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.” Refrain: Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain— He washed it white as snow. Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r and Thine alone, Can change the leper’s spots And melt the heart of stone. Refrain For nothing good have I Whereby Thy grace to claim— I’ll wash my garments white In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb. Refrain And when before the throne I stand in Him complete, “Jesus died my soul to save,” My lips shall still repeat. Refrain —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).
Alistair Begg speaks my mind (and describes me on a Sunday morning):
Knowing versus Feeling in Worship
Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. —Luke 2:29–32
Are you ready to die? only one thing is needed:
Simeon began his song by speaking of his final departure, his dismissal unto death. Some people . . . infer from this that he was an old man. That may be true; however, Luke never tells us how old he was. All he tells us is that once Simeon had seen Jesus, he was ready to die—to be released from his watch post. This was partly because of the special promise that he would not see death until he had seen the Christ. But the principle also had a wider application. Anyone who had seen Jesus with the eyes of faith is prepared to die. And anyone who has not seen him—whether young or old—is not ready to die at all. When we see Jesus and his salvation we are ready to be dismissed from this life in peace and enter the life to come. Have you seen Jesus by faith? Have you seen him crucified for your sins? Have you seen him raised for you salvation? It is then and only then that anyone is prepared to die. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 126–127.
The doctrine of double imputation demands that we have more than a cross-centered theology. R. C. Sproul explains:
Justification: Our Sin Transferred to Christ In our justification a double transfer takes place. First, the weight of our guilt is transferred to Christ. Christ willingly takes upon Himself all of our sin. Once our sin is imputed to Christ, God sees Him as a mass of corruption. He sees a mass of sinfulness. Because the sin now has been transferred to Jesus’ account, He is counted or reckoned guilty in our place. But if this transfer were all that happened, if the imputation were a one-dimensional transaction, we would never be justified. If Jesus were to take on His back all of the sins that I have ever committed and bear the punishment for me, that would not get me into the kingdom of God. All that would do is keep me out of hell. I would still not be just. I would be innocent but still not just in a positive sense. I would have no righteousness of which to speak. Remember, it is not simply innocence that gets us into the kingdom of God. It is righteousness. Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never get into the kingdom of God (see Matthew 5:20). If the only thing that occurred in salvation were the removal of my guilt, I would still have no merit. Justification: Christ’s Righteousness Transferred to Us So there is a double transfer. Not only is the sin of mankind imputed to Christ, but His righteousness is transferred to our account. In God’s sight [we are] now clean. When God declares me just, He is not lying. This is no mere legal fiction. If the imputation were fictional, then God’s declaration would be a legal fiction. It would be a lie and blemish on the character of God. But the point of the gospel is that the imputation is real. God really did lay my sins on Christ, and God really did transfer Christ’s righteousness to me. There is a genuine union for those who are in Christ. We truly possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. Christ is our righteousness. That’s why He is our Savior: not merely because He died but because He lived. Without His meritorious life the atonement would have no value. Without His obedience, His suffering on the cross would be merely a tragedy. We must have the double transfer, by which God declares us just. When we consider this double imputation, we see the essence of our salvation in a phrase made famous by Martin Luther: simul justus et peccator. Simul is the Latin word from which we get the English word simultaneous. It means “at the same time.” Justus is the word for “just” or “righteous.” Et means “and.” Peccator is the Latin word for sinner. So simul justus et peccator means “at the same time just and sinner.” This is the glory of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The person who is in Christ is at the very same instant both just and a sinner. That’s good news, for if I had to wait until there was no sin in me to get into the kingdom of God, I would surely never make it. —R. C. Sproul, Saved from What? (Crossway, 2002), 96–98.
Rock of Agesthey were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save me from its guilt and pow’r. Not the labor of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die! While I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyes shall close in death, When I soar to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).
Jesus Paid It AllFor you have been bought with a price 1 Corinthians 6:20 I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small! Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.” Refrain: Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain— He washed it white as snow. Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r and Thine alone, Can change the leper’s spots And melt the heart of stone. Refrain For nothing good have I Whereby Thy grace to claim— I’ll wash my garments white In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb. Refrain And when before the throne I stand in Him complete, “Jesus died my soul to save,” My lips shall still repeat. Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).
Ryle has covered the what and why of personal holiness. Now he turns to the how.
Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do just nothing at all, and make no progress till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Christ is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also. Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it. They toil and labour, and turn over new leaves, and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel ‘nothing bettered, but rather worse’ (Mark 8:26). They run in vain, and labour in vain; and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end. They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down as fast as they throw it up. They are baling water out of a leaky vessel: the leak gains on them, not they on the leak. Other foundation of ‘holiness’ can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus. ‘Without Christ we can do nothing’ (John 15:5). It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s, ‘Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly—righteousness out of Christ is guilt and condemnation—sanctification out of Christ is filth and sin—redemption out of Christ is bondage and slavery.’ Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real hearty desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the Divine nature? Then go to Christ. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn— Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace. There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them. He is appointed a ‘Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance’ as well as remission of sins.—‘To as many as receive Him, He gives power to become sons of God’ (Acts 5:31; John 1:12, 13). Holiness comes not of blood—parents cannot give it to their children: nor yet of the will of the flesh—man cannot produce it in himself: nor yet of the will of man—ministers cannot give it you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine. Go then to Christ and say, ‘Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom Thou didst promise, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Thy will.’ Would you continue holy? Then abide in Christ. He says Himself, ‘Abide in Me and I in you,—he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit. (John 15:4, 5). It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell—a full supply for all a believer’s wants. He is the Physician to whom you must daily go, if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him. Paul was a man of God indeed— a holy man—a growing, thriving Christian—and what was the secret of it all? He was one to whom Christ was ‘all in all.’ He was ever ‘looking unto Jesus.’ ‘I can do all things,’ he says, ‘through Christ which strengthened me.’ ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. The life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God.’ Let us go and do likewise (Heb. 12:2; Phil. 9:13; Gal. 2:20). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 67—69.
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. —Ephesians 2:12
How serious a matter is it to be without Christ? Is it really to be with “no hope and without God”? Or are there other ways to God? One very popular view says, yes, there are.
J. C. Ryle takes the biblical view: Reconciliation with God is necessarily mediated, and there is but one mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
To be without Christ is to be without God. The Apostle St. Paul told the Ephesians as much as this in plain words. He ends the famous sentence which begins, ‘Ye were without Christ,’ by saying, ‘Ye were without God in the world.’ And who that thinks can wonder? That man can have very low ideas of God who does not conceive Him a most pure, and holy, and glorious, and spiritual Being. That man must be very blind who does not see that human nature is corrupt, and sinful, and defiled. How then can such a worm as man draw near to God with comfort? How can he look up to Him with confidence and not feel afraid? How can he speak to Him, have dealings with Him, look forward to dwelling with Him, without dread and alarm? There must be a Mediator between God and man, and there is but One that can fill the office. That One is Christ. Who art thou that talkest of God’s mercy and God’s love separate from and independent of Christ? There is no such love and mercy recorded in Scripture. Know this day that God out of Christ is ‘a consuming fire.’ (Heb. 12:29.) Merciful He is, beyond all question: rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy. But His mercy is inseparably connected with the mediation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. It must flow through Him as the appointed channel, or it cannot flow at all. It is written, ‘He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.’—‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.’ (John 5:23; 14:6.) ‘Without Christ’ we are without God. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), PP.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” —John 7:37–38
In all of Scripture, no one but Jesus ever said, “Come to me,” and no one could ever offer what he offers.
No prophet or apostle ever took on himself to use such language as this. ‘Come with us,’ said Moses to Hobab (Num. 10:29); ‘Come to the waters,’ says Isaiah (Isa. 55:1); ‘Behold the Lamb,’ says John the Baptist (John 1:29); ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,’ says St. Paul (Acts 16:31). But no one except Jesus of Nazareth ever said, ‘Come to ME.’ That fact is very significant. He that said, ‘Come to Me,’ knew and felt, when He said it, that He was the eternal Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world. . . . ‘If any man thirst,’ says our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, ‘let him come unto Me, and drink.’ There is a grand simplicity about this little sentence which cannot be too much admired. There is not a word in it of which the literal meaning is not plain to a child. Yet, simple as it appears, it is rich in spiritual meaning. Like the Koh-i-noor diamond, which you may carry between finger and thumb, it is of unspeakable value. It solves that mighty problem which all the philosophers of Greece and Rome could never solve—‘How can man have peace with God?’ Place it in your memory side by side with six other golden sayings of your Lord. ‘I am the Bread of life: he that cometh unto me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.’—‘I am the Light of the world: he that followeth ME shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’—‘I am the Door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.’—‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by ME.’—‘Come unto ME, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’—’ Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’—Add to these six texts the one before you to-day. Get the whole seven by heart. Rivet them down in your mind, and never let them go. When your feet touch the cold river, on the bed of sickness and in the hour of death, you will find these seven texts above all price (John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 14:6; Matt. 11:28; John 11:37). For what is the sum and substance of these simple words? It is this. Christ is that Fountain of living water which God has graciously provided for thirsting souls. From Him, as out of the rock smitten by Moses, there flows an abundant stream for all who travel through the wilderness of this world. In Him, as our Redeemer and Substitute, crucified for our sins and raised again for our justification, there is an endless supply of all that men can need—pardon, absolution, mercy, grace, peace, rest, relief, comfort, and hope. This rich provision Christ has bought for us at the price of His own precious blood. To open this wondrous fountain He suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, and bore our sins in His own body on the tree. He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21). And now He is sealed and appointed to be the Reliever of all who are labouring and heavy laden, and the Giver of living water to all who thirst. It is His office to receive sinners. It is His pleasure to give them pardon, life, and peace. And the words of the text are a proclamation He makes to all mankind—‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’ This rich provision Christ has bought for us at the price of His own precious blood. To open this wondrous fountain He suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, and bore our sins in His own body on the tree. He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21). And now He is sealed and appointed to be the Reliever of all who are labouring and heavy laden, and the Giver of living water to all who thirst. It is His office to receive sinners. It is His pleasure to give them pardon, life, and peace. And the words of the text are a proclamation He makes to all mankind—‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’ —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 352, 356–357.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” —John 7:37–38
Our relationship to God the Father is a mediated relationship. We come to him through Jesus Christ, the Son (1 Timothy 2:5). This access to the Father through Christ is unique to Christian theology. While a presumptuous priesthood that can offer nothing real holds many at a distance, thirsty souls may—and must—go directly to Christ.
He that thirsts and wants relief must come to Christ Himself. He must not be content with coming to His Church and His ordinances, or to the assemblies of His people for prayer and praise. He must not stop short even at His holy table, or rest satisfied with privately opening his heart to His ordained ministers. Oh, no! he that is content with only drinking these waters ‘shall thirst again’ (John 4:13). He must go higher, further, much further than this. He must have personal dealings with Christ Himself: all else in religion is worthless without Him. The King’s palace, the attendant servants, the richly furnished banqueting house, the very banquet itself—all are nothing unless we speak with the King. His hand alone can take the burden off our backs and make us feel free. The hand of man may take the stone from the grave and show the dead; but none but Jesus can say to the dead, ‘Come forth and live’ (John 6:41–43). We must deal directly with Christ. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 357.