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(28 posts)

Your Best Life Now?

Thursday··2007·01·11 · 3 Comments
My Scripture reading this morning was in the Gospel of Matthew. These are a few of my thoughts from that reading. The Gospel is often sold as the answer to our life’s problems. People are told that if they “accept Christ” their life will improve. Their marital problems will be solved. They will experience success and satisfaction in all their personal relationships. But is that what Scripture teaches? Consider Jesus’ words: Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. —Matthew 10:34–38 Not exactly “your best life now,” is it? “When Jesus calls a man,” wrote Bonhoeffer, “he bids him come and die.” If you follow Jesus, your life might not improve. You might be shunned by your family. Your marriage might fall apart. Your children might reject you. You could lose your friends and your job. It might cost you everything. But with that life lost is the promise of a life found: He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. —Matthew 10:39 Our best life is in eternity with Christ; but we can only find that life by turning our backs on our best life now. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” —Matthew 16:24

“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.”

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. —Romans 5:3–5 Knowing that tribulation worketh patience (5:3). He who has faith indeed has all the excellent things (which are mentioned in the text), but in a hidden way. Through tribulation they are tried and purified to the highest degree. Whatever (virtues) tribulation finds in us, it develops more fully. If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable. On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, wise, pious, gentle, and humble, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 4:1: “Thou hast enlarged me when in was in distress.” Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted. Those are ignorant, childish and indeed hypocritical who outwardly venerate the relics of the holy Cross, yet flee and detest tribulation and affliction. Holy Scripture calls tribulation the cross of Christ in a special sense, as in Mathew 10:38: “He that taketh his not cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Let everyone be sure that he is not Christian but a Turk and an enemy of Christ who refuses to bear this cross; for here the Apostle speaks of all (believers) when he says: “We glory in tribulations.” And in Acts 14:22 we read: “We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” “Must” does not mean that tribulation comes by chance, or that it is a matter of choice for us, of that we may take it or leave it. In many Scripture passages our Lord is called a “Savior” and a “Helper in need,” and this means that all who do not desire to endure tribulation, rob him of his titles and names of honor. To such people our Lord will never become a Savior, because they do not admit that they are under condemnation. To them God is never mighty, wise and gracious, because they do not desire to honor Him as creatures that are weak, foolish and subject to punishment. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 74–75.

Buy the Truth

It is truth that makes us free, for all error is bondage. If, then, you would be free men, grasp the truth tenaciously, bravely, calmly; bind it round you as a girdle, treasure it in your heart of hearts. “Buy the truth and sell it not;” that is, get it at any cost, part with it never. Error is sin, for which every man shall give an account to God; and sin is no mischance or misfortune that claims pity only, but not condemnation or punishment; else what means the fiery law? What means the cross of the sin-bearer? What means the great white throne? What means the everlasting fire? . . . Let neither your words nor your lives give any uncertain sound. Every man to whom the Bible comes is responsible for believing all the truth which the revelation proclaims, and for rejecting all the error which it condemns. Cleave, then, to the Word of the living God; and sit, as teachable disciples, at the feet of Him who has said, “Learn of me.” —Horatius Bonar, Christ Is All, ed. Darrin R. Brooker & Michael Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 109–110.

Living Sacrifices

Friday··2008·07·25 · 1 Comments
Learn self-denying Christianity. Not the form or name, but the living thing. “Even Christ pleased not himself” [Romans 5:3]. Let us in this respect be His true followers; bearing burdens for Him; doing work for Him; not grudging effort, or cost, or sacrifice, or pain; spending and being spent for Him; abjuring the lazy, luxurious, self-pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day. A self-indulgent religion has nothing to do with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; or of that cross of ours which He has commanded us to take up and carry after him, renouncing ease and denying self. Our time, our gifts, our money, our strength, are all to be laid upon the altar. We are to be “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). —Horatius Bonar, Christ Is All, ed. Darrin R. Brooker & Michael Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 197.

Hymns of My Youth: Dearest Jesus, Draw Thou Near Me

Another hymn from the “Opening and Morning” section: 39 Dearest Jesus, Draw Thou Near Me Dearest Jesus, draw Thou near me, Let Thy Spirit dwell with mine; Open now my ear to hear Thee, Take my heart and seal it Thine; Keep me, lead me on my way, Thee to follow and obey, E’er to do Thy will and fear Thee, And rejoice to know and hear Thee. Underneath Thy wings abiding, In Thy Church, O Savior dear, Let me dwell, in Thee confiding, Hold me in Thy faith and fear; Take away from me each thought That with wickedness is fraught, Tempting me to disobey Thee, Root it out, O Lord, I pray Thee. Thou, earth’s greatest joy and gladness, And salvation, full and free, Let Thy presence cheer my sadness, And prepare my soul for Thee! In the hour when I depart, Touch my spirit, lips and heart, With Thy Word assure, uphold me Till the heav’nly gates enfold me. —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). I’m afraid the best I can do for an accompaniment is the Cyberhymnal MIDI. You might recognize the tune, Werde Munter by Johann Schop, as the basis for Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Every Day a Good Friday

Monday··2011·10·10 · 2 Comments
This post in defense of (sort of, but not really) Joel Osteen has led me to think that Osteen’s latest book is right, at least as far as the title goes. Every Christian should live as though every day is Friday. Keep in mind, however, what Jesus’ last Friday was like. Then consider his command to make “every day a Friday.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? —Matthew 16:24–26 (cf. Mark 8:34–36, Luke 9:23–25) I don’t think that’s what Smiley Joel had in mind, though.

Hymns of My Youth II: A Charge to Keep

At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days and keep the charge of the Lord, so that you will not die, for so I have been commanded. —Leviticus 8:35 Today’s hymn, written by Charles Wesley, is based on Matthew Henry’s commentary on Leviticus 8:31–36: [W]e have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily care to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master, who will shortly call us to an account about it, and it is our utmost peril if we neglect it. Keep it that you die not; it is death, eternal death, to betray the trust that we are charged with; by the consideration of this we must be kept in awe. —Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Hendrickson, 1991), 1:372. A Charge to Keep I Have A charge to keep I have— A God to glorify, A never-dying soul to save And fit it for the sky. To serve the present age, My calling to fulfill— O may it all my powers engage To do my Master’s will! Arm me with jealous care, As in Thy sight to live; And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare A strict account to give! Help me to watch and pray, And on Thyself rely; And let me ne’er my trust betray, But press to realms on high.* —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968). * Original words: “Assured, if I my trust betray, / I shall for ever die.”

Hymns of My Youth III: Jesus, and Shall It Ever Be

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. —Mark 8:34ff 111 Jesus, and Shall It Ever Be Jesus, and shall it ever be, A mortal man, ashamed of Thee? Ashamed of Thee, Whom angels praise Whose glories shine thro’ endless days? Ashamed of Jesus! that dear friend On whom my hopes of heav’n depend! No; when I blush, be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. Ashamed of Jesus! yes, I may, When I’ve no guilt to wash away; No tear to wipe, no good to crave, No fears to quell, no soul to save. Till then—nor is the boasting vain— Till then I boast a Savior slain; And, O, may this my glory be, That Christ is not ashamed of me. —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).

Lord’s Day 3, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. —Matthew 11:28 30 Hymn 127. (L. M.) Christ’s invitation to sinners: or, Humility and pride. Matt. xi. 28 30. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) “Come hither, all ye weary souls, Ye heavy-laden sinners, come; I’ll give you rest from all your toils, And raise you to my heav’nly home. “They shall find rest that learn of me; I’m of a meek and lowly mind; But passion rages like the sea, And pride is restless as the wind. “Bless’d is the man whose shoulders take My yoke, and bear it with delight; My yoke is easy to his neck My grace shall make the burden light.” Jesus, we come at thy command; With faith, and hope, and humble zeal, Resign our spirits to thy hand To mold and guide us at thy will. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 21, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I love You, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. —Psalm 18:1–6 Conflict O Lord God, Thou art my protecting arm, fortress, refuge, shield, buckler. Fight for me and my foes must flee; Uphold me and I cannot fall; Strengthen me and I stand unmoved, unmoveable; Equip me and I shall receive no wound; Stand by me and Satan will depart; Anoint my lips with a song of salvation and I shall shout thy victory; Give me abhorrence of all evil, as a vile monster that defies thy law, casts off thy yoke, defiles my nature, spreads misery. Teach me to look to Jesus on his cross and so to know sin’s loathsomeness in thy sight. There is no pardon but through thy Son’s death, no cleansing but in his precious blood, no atonement but his to expiate evil. Show me the shame, the agony, the bruises of incarnate God, that I may read boundless guilt in the boundless price; May I discern the deadly viper in its real malignity, tear it with holy indignation from my breast, resolutely turn from its every snare, refuse to hold polluting dalliance with it. Blessed Lord Jesus, at thy cross may I be taught the awful miseries from which I am saved, ponder what the word ‘lost’ implies, see the fires of eternal destruction; Then may I cling more closely to thy broken self, adhere to thee with firmer faith, be devoted to thee with total being, detest sin as strongly as thy love to me is strong, And may holiness be the atmosphere in which I live. —The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” —Matthew 16:24 Jesus made serious demands of his disciples, demands that are daunting and discouraging if we approach them from the wrong perspective. If you stand where I stand you are appalled at the tremendous claim of Jesus. How can I ever deny myself and take up my cross? I come from the negative to the positive, and say to you that the only way in which you will ever be able to deny yourself and take up your cross is by fixing your eye upon Him and crowning Him. If I must stretch out my hands to the rugged cross in order to get to Him I can do it in only one way, that is by seeing Him and doing it for His sake. If I do it for my own sake, or for the sake of men, I shall fail, for I am such a coward; but if I may but look at His face as I come to my dying, I can say, “I am crucified with Christ, but nevertheless I live.” From the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be. —G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit (Sermon: The Terms of Discipleship) (Baker, 2006), 45.

Let It Dwell with Thee

Swinnock has called attendance to God’s word a duty, and so it is, but it is a duty that ought to come naturally to every child of God. [I]f thou art a child of God, I doubt not but thou delightest to look into thy Father’s will, and weighest every word in it, as knowing that in his testament there is a great charge committed, and a great legacy bequeathed, to thee. It is thy daily companion and counsellor; thou darest not go without thy cordial, being liable every day to faint; nor without thy weapons, being called every hour to fight. The Scriptures are the light by which thou walkest, and the tools with which thou workest. Let me persuade thee to persevere in this gracious practice; take the counsel of the author of it, who is fittest to give laws for thy carriage towards it: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,’ Col. iii. 16. . . . Do not leave thy Bible, as some do, at church, and hear nothing of it all the week long; but bring it home to thy house, let it dwell with thee. Let not the word be ‘as a wayfaring man, to tarry with thee but for a night,’ and so begone; but let it be an inhabitant, one that accompanieth thee to bed and board, and with whom thou conversest continually as thy familiar and intimate friend. Make thine heart, as Jerome saith of Nepotianus, by his assiduous reading and hearing the Scriptures, Bibliothecam Christi, the library of Jesus Christ. I cannot but think that thou hast found the Bible so bountiful a guest, to pay thee so liberally for its board, that thou hast bid it heartily welcome, and wouldst not part with it for the whole world. Agesilaus is commended, saith Xenophon, because he never went to bed, nor rose up, before he had looked into Homer, whom he called his sweetheart. Advise thou with a divine, at least, as often as he did with a profane author. Kings have their counsellors, and great men their remembrancers; let God’s testimonies be ‘the men of thy council,’ Ps. cxix. 24. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:142–143

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: We Come, O Christ, to You

We Come, O Christ, to You Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. John 6:68 We come, O Christ to You, True Son of God and man, By Whom all things consist, In Whom all life began: In You alone we live and move, And have our being in Your love. You are the Way to God, Your blood our ransom paid; In You we face our Judge And Maker unafraid. Before the throne absolved we stand, Your love has met Your law’s demand. You are the living Truth! All wisdom dwells in You, You source of every skill, The One Eternal True! You great I Am! In You we rest, sure answer to our every quest. You only are true Life, To know You is to live The more abundant life That earth can never give: O risen Lord! We live in You: In us each day Your life renew! We worship You, Lord Christ, Our Savior and our King, To You our Youth and strength Adoringly we bring: So fill our hearts, that all may view Your life in us, and turn to You! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 3, 2016

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:22–23 The Encouragement Young Persons Have to Seek and to Love Christ Philip Doddridge (1702–1751) Ye hearts, with youthful vigor warm, In smiling crowds draw near, And turn from every mortal charm, A Savior's voice to hear. He, Lord of all the worlds on high, Stoops to converse with you; And lays His radiant glories by, Your friendship to pursue. “The souls that longs to see My face, Is sure My love to gain; And those that early seek My grace, Shall never seek in vain.” What object, Lord, my soul should move, If once compared with Thee? What beauty should command my love, Like what in Christ I see? Away, ye false delusive toys, Vain tempters of the mind! ”Tis here I fix my lasting choice, And here true bliss I find. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

An Anti-Intellectual Period of Christian History

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, . . . —1 Peter 1:13–14 We are living in a period of church history that may be classified as mindless. It is an anti-intellectual period of Christian history . . . While teaching in a seminary classroom I would sometimes ask a student what he thought about a particular proposition. The student would sometimes respond, “I feel that the statement is incorrect.” I would stop him and say, “I didn’t ask you how you felt. I wasn’t inquiring into your emotional response. I was asking you what you think about it.” Thinking is done by the mind, and Christians are called repeatedly in sacred Scripture not to leave their minds in the parking lot when they enter into church but to awaken their minds so that they may think clearly and deeply about the things of God. Some people say that God does not care about the mind but only the heart and that an emphasis on the mind leads to rationalism, and from there to modernism, postmodernism, and all else that stands in antithesis to biblical Christianity. It is true that what you think in your mind will never get you into the kingdom of God until it reaches your heart, but we have been created by God in such a way that the pathway to the heart is through the mind. We cannot love with passion that which we know nothing about. The book that contains the sacred revelation of Almighty God, His Word, is addressed in the first instance to our minds. Therefore, the more we understand the truth of God, the more we will be gripped by it in our hearts and changed by it. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 42.

Lord’s Day 10, 2016

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. —Psalm 130:5–6 Begin with God Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) Begin the day with God! He is thy sun and day; His is the radiance of thy dawn, To him address thy lay. Sing a new song at morn! Join the glad woods and hills; Join the fresh winds and seas and plains, Join the bright flowers and rills. Sing thy first song to God! Not to thy fellow-man; Not to the creatures of his hand, But to the glorious One. Awake, cold lips, and sing! Arise, dull knees, and pray; Lift up, O man, thy heart and eyes; Brush slothfulness away. Look up, beyond these clouds! Thither thy pathway lies; Mount up, away, and linger not, Thy goal is yonder skies. Cast every weight aside! Do battle with each sin; Fight with the faithless world without, The faithless heart within. Take thy first meal with God! He is thy heavenly food; Feed with and on him; he with thee Will feast in brotherhood. Take thy first walk with God! Let him go forth with thee; By stream or sea or mountain-path, Seek still his company. Thy first transaction be With God himself above; So shall thy business prosper well, And all the day be love. —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Exaltation in Lowliness, Freedom in Bondage

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ . . . —2 Peter 1:1 In the salutation of this letter, Peter introduces himself in both the highest and lowest of terms. He occupied the highest possible position under Christ, yet recognized himself as no more than a slave. So we also should see ourselves. Regardless of our various positions we are called to be slaves—and in that bondage, to find our freedom. As the Apostle Paul frequently identified himself in his letters, so Peter identifies himself here with a twin appellation; namely, that he is a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ (v. 1). In the Christian community, the lowest possible layer or stratification of society was that of a slave, and the most elevated office, save for the office of Jesus Himself, was that of Apostle. To the Apostles was given the authority of Jesus to such a degree that He announced, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matt. 10:40). In our day and age, there are multitudes who say, “I believe in Jesus and follow His teachings, but I cannot follow the Apostles. That chauvinistic, Jewish theologian Paul, I can hardly tolerate.” However, we do not know anything about Jesus except from the apostolic testimony that comes to us through the Scriptures, so to distinguish between Jesus and the Apostles is foreign to Scripture itself. In the early church Irenaeus had to contend with cynics who said that they appreciated Jesus but would not submit to the authority of the Apostles. Irenaeus said that one cannot have Jesus yet reject the ones whom Jesus appointed to speak in His name, just as one cannot have God yet reject His supreme Apostle, Jesus Himself. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Pharisees made a similar type of distinction. They claimed to believe in God, yet they rejected Jesus. Jesus said, “He who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16). That is simple logic. So the highest authority operating in the early church, apart from Jesus, was that of the Apostles. Here Peter claims the highest authority that anyone could claim in the early church—that of being an Apostle. At the same time, like the Apostle Paul, he identifies himself as a slave. He is simultaneously the highest and the lowest of Christian society. The word Peter uses here, doulos, is the same word that Paul uses in Romans; it refers to a purchased slave. There is a close connection in the Scriptures between the word doulos and the word kyrios. A kyrios was the lord or master; one could not be a kyrios unless he owned slaves. Carrying the metaphor even further, the Apostle Paul wrote, “You were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). Peter and Paul saw themselves as slaves of Christ, and that idea extends to everyone purchased by Jesus. We are all bondservants of Christ. The supreme irony is that Jesus comes to set us free from slavery, and He tells us, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Those who are delivered from the slavery of sin take on a new kind of slavery; they become slaves to Christ. If you think you are free outside of bondage to Christ, your freedom is so much slavery. We have to lose our lives to find them; we have to give them away to get them back. All of that and more is found simply in Peter’s self-designation. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 203–204.

Grace in Knowledge

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. —2 Peter 1:2–4 Peter links the multiplication of grace and peace to the knowledge of God, which is the central thesis of this epistle. As we noted earlier, one of the obvious threats to the early Christian church was brought by the Gnostic heretics, who claimed to have a superior knowledge. These heretics believed that they had a higher knowledge than that conveyed by the Apostles. Over against the heretical view of knowledge, Peter talks about true knowledge, the knowledge that comes from God, which is, perhaps, one of the most important—if not the most important—grace that He disposes upon His people. God gives us knowledge that comes to us from Himself. The one excuse that will never stand before the bar of God’s judgment is that we have not been given enough clear knowledge of God. In fact, it is tragic that we find people with advanced degrees, who, in one sense, have been educated beyond their intelligence. Although they have been exposed to many dimensions of human education, they live their lives as if they were ignorant of the things of God. The fact that God has not kept us in the dark but has been pleased to manifest His being clearly through the things that are made is grace. God did not owe His creatures His self-revelation. He could have made us and walked away and remained in shadow, obscurity, and darkness, giving us no knowledge of Himself. However, He has given us not only knowledge of Himself in creation, which we call “general revelation,” but He has also given us His Word. Our God is not silent. Though we may not see Him, we hear from Him in His Word. I never cease to be amazed at why so few professing Christians have a passion to know God in His Word. . . . We are to be always learning more deeply, more carefully, and hopefully more accurately the things that are contained in this Word. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 211–212.

Wretched, but Pressing On

Answering those who would pit Faith Alone against the pursuit of holiness: I must frankly say I wish there was not such an excessive sensitiveness on the subject of holiness as I sometimes perceive in the minds of believers. A man might really think it was a dangerous subject to handle, so cautiously is it touched! Yet surely when we have exalted Christ as ‘the way, the truth, and the life,’ we cannot err in speaking strongly about what should be the character of His people. Well says Rutherford, ‘The way that crieth down duties and sanctification, is not the way of grace. Believing and doing are blood-friends.’ . . .I sometimes fear if Christ were on earth now, there are not a few who would think His preaching legal; and if Paul were writing his Epistles, there are those who would think he had better not write the latter part of most of them as he did. But let us remember that the Lord Jesus did speak the Sermon on the Mount, and that the Epistle to the Ephesians contains six chapters and not four. . . . That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions, and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day. I know there are texts in Scripture which warrant such complaints. I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the Apostle Paul, and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil, and the world. But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness, and an excuse for spiritual sloth. If we say with Paul, ‘O wretched man that I am,’ let us also be able to say with him, ‘I press toward the mark.’ Let us not quote his example in one thing, while we do not follow him in another (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:14). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 65—66. We often think things are so much worse today than in past ages, but reading long-dead saints, it often strikes me how alike their complaints are to ours. J. C. Ryle, 140 years ago, says what we might say today, agreeing with John Owen, who said it more than two hundred years earlier.

If this is saving Christianity . . .

I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week, and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work: it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity, and will take us to heaven when we die, we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, ‘Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!’ —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 94—95 Jesus never said following him would be easy. Instead, he promised us a cross to bear, suffering, and a battle to the death. The path of a disciple is a hard road, and we are warned to count the cost—which will be considered in coming posts.

Counting the Cost (1)

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” —Luke 14:27–30 Following Jesus comes with a price. J. C. Ryle names four things we must be willing to leave behind: our self-righteousness, our sins, our love of ease, and the favor of the world. On the first, and—I would say—most difficult and important, he writes, For one thing, it will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. He must really feel as well as say the Prayer-book words—that he has ‘erred and gone astray like a lost sheep,’ that he has ‘left undone the things he ought to have done, and done the things he ought not to have done, and that there is no health in him.’ He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ. Now this sounds hard to some. I do not wonder. ‘Sir,’ said a godly ploughman . . . ‘it is harder to deny proud self than sinful self. But it is absolutely necessary.’ Let us set down this item first and foremost in our account. To be a true Christian it will cost a man his self-righteousness.—J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 95–96

Counting the Cost (2)

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” —Luke 14:27–30 Itemizing the costs of following Jesus, J. C. Ryle finishes as follows: In the last place, it will cost a man the favour of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast, and a fanatic—to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says—‘Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also’ (John 15:20). I dare say this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges, and think it very hard to be accused without cause. We should not be flesh and blood if we did not wish to have the good opinion of our neighbours. It is always unpleasant to be spoken against, and forsaken, and lied about, and to stand alone. But there is no help for it. The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be ‘despised and rejected of men’ (Isa. 13:3). Let us set down that item last in our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man the favour of the world. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 97—98

Counting the Cost (3)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. —Romans 8:18 A final word of encouragement on counting the cost of following Jesus: If any reader of this paper really feels that he has counted the cost, and taken up the cross, I bid him persevere and press on. I dare say you often feel your heart faint, and are sorely tempted to give up in despair. Your enemies seem so many, your besetting sins so strong, your friends so few, the way so steep and narrow, you hardly know what to do. But still I say, persevere and press on. The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle, and shall need to fight no more. The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below. When we see as we have been seen, and look back on the journey of life, we shall wonder at our own faintness of heart. We shall marvel that we made so much of our cross, and thought so little of our crown. We shall marvel that in ‘counting the cost’ we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay. Let us take courage. We are not far from home. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 111.

Christ Our Only Pattern

Comparisons can be dangerous. As measurements of our spiritual conditions, they are most likely to lead to wrong conclusions, because we are most apt to compare ourselves to the wrong standard. Let us never measure our religion by that of others, and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbours. This is another snare of the devil. Let us mind our own business. ‘What is that to thee?’ said our Master on a certain occasion: ‘Follow thou Me’ (John 21:22). Let us follow on, aiming at nothing short of perfection. Let us follow on, making Christ’s life and character our only pattern and example. Let us follow on, remembering daily that at our best we are miserable sinners. Let us follow on, and never forget that it signifies nothing whether we are better than others or not. At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last. Then let us leave off looking at others and comparing ourselves with others. We shall find enough to do if we look at our own hearts. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 132.

Why No Assurance?

It is the will of God that all believers know the security of their salvation (1 John 5:13). All, however, will struggle with doubts from time to time. Some doubts are the result of the human frailty of our faith. Others may stem from an inconsistent life. There is a connection between holiness and assurance. I bless God that our salvation in no wise depends on our own works. By grace we are saved—not by works of righteousness—through faith—without the deeds of the law. But I never would have any believer for a moment forget that our sense of salvation depends much on the manner of our living. Inconsistency will dim our eyes, and bring clouds between us and the sun. The sun is the same behind the clouds, but you will not be able to see its brightness or enjoy its warmth, and your soul will be gloomy and cold. It is in the path of well doing that the day-spring of assurance will visit you, and shine down upon your heart. . . . Paul was a man who exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man (Acts 24:16). He could say with boldness, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith.’ I do not therefore wonder that the Lord enabled him to add with confidence, ‘Henceforth there is a crown laid up for me, and the Lord shall give it me at that day.’ If any believer in the Lord Jesus desires assurance, and has not got it, let him think over this point also. Let him look at his own heart, look at his own conscience, look at his own life, look at his own ways, look at his own home. And perhaps when he has done that, he will be able to say, ‘There is a cause why I have no assured hope.’ —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 162–163.
But he hesitated. —Genesis 19:16 Scripture offers us examples. Some, like Moses, are good examples; others are not. Lot is a bad example. First, he chose as his home the wicked city of Sodom. Then, when God sent angels to warn him of the city’s impending destruction, he did not leave willingly. Even on the morning of doom, as the angels were urging him along, “he hesitated (lingered, KJV),” and had to be dragged out. J. C. Ryle looks at Lot, and what sort of example he should be for us. First, he describes what Lot was—a righteous man. Lot was a true believer—a converted person—a real child of God—a justified soul—a righteous man. Has any one of my readers grace in his heart?—So also had Lot. Has any one of my readers a hope of salvation?—So also had Lot. Is any one of my readers a traveller in the narrow way which leads unto life?—So also was Lot. Let no one think this is only my private opinion . . . The Holy Ghost has placed the matter beyond controversy, by calling him ‘just’ and ‘righteous’ (2 Pet. 2:7, 8), and has given us good evidence of the grace that was in him. One evidence is, that he lived in a wicked place, ‘seeing and hearing’ evil all around him (2 Pet. 2:8), and yet was not wicked himself. Now to be . . . a ‘righteous man’ in Sodom, a man must have the grace of God. Without grace it would be impossible. . . . Another evidence is that he ‘vexed his soul from day to day’ with the unlawful deeds he saw (2 Pet. 2:8). . . . Many a man is shocked and startled at the first sight of wickedness, and yet becomes at last so accustomed to see it, that he views it with comparative unconcern. . . . But it was not so with Lot. And this, again, is a great mark of the reality of his grace. Such an one was Lot—a just and righteous man, a man sealed and stamped as an heir of heaven by the Holy Ghost Himself. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 202–203. Not only was Lot was a true believer, a righteous man, but he knew the gravity of his situation. Lot knew the awful condition of the city in which he stood. ‘The cry’ of its abominations ‘had waxen great before the Lord’ (Gen. 19:13). And yet ‘he lingered.’ Lot knew the fearful judgment coming down on all within its walls. The angels had said plainly, ‘The Lord hath sent us to destroy it’ (Gen. 19:13). And yet ‘he lingered.’ Lot knew that God was a God who always kept His word, and if He said a thing would surely do it. He could hardly be Abraham’s nephew, and live long with him, and not be aware of this. Yet ‘he lingered.’ Lot believed there was danger—for he went to his sons-in-law, and warned them to flee . .  (Gen. 19:14). And yet ‘he lingered.’ Lot saw the angels of God standing by, waiting for him and his family to go forth. He heard the voice of those ministers of wrath ringing in his ears to hasten him . .  (Gen. 19:15). And yet ‘he lingered.’ —Ibid., 204. Lot is by no means unique. He represents a large portion of the church today. I ask every reader of this paper to mark well what I say. I repeat it that there may be no mistake about my meaning. . . . I say that there are many Christian men and Christian women in this day very like Lot. . . . These are they who get the notion into their minds that it is impossible for all believers to be so very holy and very spiritual! . . . These are they who get into their heads false ideas of charity, as they call it. . . . They would fain please everybody, and suit everybody, and be agreeable to everybody. . . . But they forget they ought first to be sure that they please God. These are they who dread sacrifices, and shrink from self-denial. They never appear able to apply our Lord’s command, to ‘take up the cross,’ and ‘cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye’ (Matt. 5:29, 30). . . . They spend their lives in trying to make the gate more wide, and the cross more light. —Ibid., 205—206. There is a warning here for all of us: We have no reason to believe we are better than Lot. We could easily be just like him. In fact, it is our nature to be so.

Learn to Love Much

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. —Luke 14:27 Get much love to Christ. A strong affection will carry you after Christ when you cannot follow him but under the cross, will make you follow him wherever he goes, though the way be deep, and rugged, and thorny, though it lead directly to the cross, and bring you to mount Calvary. Much love will make you willing, ready, resolute to suffer for Christ; and it is want of will, more than want of strength, that disables us from bearing the cross. Christ uses not to deny strength to those who are resolutely willing to suffer for his name’s sake. There is a strength in love which is too hard for death itself; love is strong as death. Much love will make you suffer much, for it is . . . that which makes the soul cling to Christ; and the more it is, the faster it cleaves to him, and the more hardly will it part from him; no small matter will part them. A servant that has some affection to his master will suffer something for him, but an affectionate wife will suffer far more for her husband, because the conjugal love is stronger. If you mean to suffer much, you must learn to love much. A little love will go but a little way under the cross. If love be weak, get it strengthened; if it be cooling, get it inflamed; if it be declining, get it repaired. A declining love is a step to apostasy, and will be in danger to end there in a day of trial. When the Church of Ephesus has lost her first love, Christ speaks of her as fallen, Rev. ii. 4, 5. There are some amongst these churches who professed Christ, but, for want of love to him, gave way to a principle which was more for their own safety than his honour. They would hold all those things indifferent for which they were like to suffer, that so none might condemn them for yielding in things indifferent, rather than be ruined. These held it indifferent to be circumcised, to escape sufferings from the Jews; indifferent to eat things offered to idols, to escape sufferings from the Gentiles; and, when they had no other way to escape, they would hold it indifferent to deny the faith. So . . . Now it is probably thought that this principle had made some impression upon the church of Ephesus. Hereupon she is charged with losing her first love, because she was not so ready to suffer for Christ as at first. This principle, inclining her more to comply than suffer, she was not so disposed to do her first works, and undergo her first sufferings, for which she is commended, ver. 3. And why? Her first love was lost, she was fallen. If you would not decline the cross, or fall under it, keep up your first love; or, if it be declined, make haste to get it repaired. Follow Christ’s advice to Ephesus, ver. 5, ‘Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent,’ &c. Content not yourselves with some small degree of love to Christ; that will not serve you when a day of trial and suffering comes. A little water will quench a spark; it must be a flame, indeed, that all the waters will not quench, nor the floods drown and extinguish, Cant. viii. 6, 7. Get your love kindled into a vehement flame, and then you will follow Christ, and may safely do it, though all the waves and the billows go over you. —David Clarkson, Of Taking Up the Cross, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:481–482.

Providence and Responsibility

Although we recognize that all things come from the hand od God, and ultimately, all thanks and praise belong to him, we must not then ignore the ordinary means which he uses to serve his purposes. We must seek help from our fellow man when needed, and give thanks to whom thanks is due. We must act wisely, responsibly, and charitably, not passively leaving all to providence, but actively fulfilling the duties God has assigned to us. “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31). [A] godly man will not overlook the secondary causes. And indeed, he will not, just because he thinks those from whom he has received benefit are ministers of the divine goodness, pass them over, as if they had deserved no thanks for their human kindness; but from the bottom of his heart will feel himself beholden to them, willingly confess his obligation, and earnestly try as best he can to render thanks and as occasion presents itself. In short, for benefits received he will reverence and praise the Lord as their principal author, but will honor men as his ministers; and will know what is in fact true: it is by God’s will that he is beholden to those through whose hand God willed to be beneficent. If this godly man suffers any loss because of negligence or imprudence, he will conclude that it came about by the Lord’s will, but also impute it to himself. Suppose a disease should carry off anyone whom he treated negligently, although it was his duty to take care of him. Even though he knows that this person had come to an impassable boundary, he will not on this account deem his misdeed less serious; rather, because he did not faithfully discharge his duty toward him, he will take it that through the fault of his negligence the latter had perished. Where fraud or premeditated malice enters into the committing of either murder or theft, he will even less excuse such a crime on the pretext of divine providence; but in this same evil deed he will clearly contemplate God’s righteousness and man’s wickedness, as each clearly shows itself. But especially with reference to future events he will take into consideration inferior causes of this sort. For he will count it among the blessings of the Lord, if he is not destitute of human helps which he may use for his safety. Therefore he will neither cease to take counsel, nor be sluggish in beseeching the assistance of those whom he sees to have the means to help him; but, considering that whatever creatures are capable of furnishing anything to him are offered by the Lord into his hand, he will put them to use as lawful instruments of divine providence. And since it is uncertain what will be the outcome of the business he is undertaking (except that he knows that in all things the Lord will provide for his benefit), he will aspire with zeal to that which he deems expedient for himself, as far as it can be attained by intelligence and understanding. Yet in taking counsel he will not follow his own opinion, but will entrust and submit himself to God’s wisdom, to be directed by his leading to the right goal. But his confidence will not so rely upon outward supports as to repose with assurance in them if they are present, or, if they are lacking, to tremble as if left destitute. For he will always hold his mind fixed upon God’s providence alone, and not let preoccupation with present matters draw him away from steadfast contemplation of it. Thus Joab, though recognizing the outcome of the battle to be in God’s hand, has yielded not to idleness, but diligently carries out the duties of his calling. To the Lord, moreover, he commits the determination of the outcome: “We will stand fast,” says he, “for our people and the cities of our God; but let the Lord do what is good in his eyes” [2 Sam. 10:12 p.]. This same knowledge will drive us to put off rashness and over-confidence, and will impel us continually to call upon God. Then also he will buttress our minds with good hope, that, with confidence and courage, we may not hesitate to despise those dangers which surround us. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.9.


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