Fear of Failure

Call to Worship October 14 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 19:11-27

“The occasion of our Lord speaking the parable before us, is clear and plain. It was intended to correct the false expectations of the disciples on the subject of Christ’s kingdom. It was a prophetic sketch of things present and things to come — which ought to raise solemn thoughts in the minds of all professing Christians.

We see, for one thing, in this parable — the present position of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is compared to ‘a certain nobleman, who went into a far country, to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.’

When the Lord Jesus left the world, He ascended up into Heaven as a conqueror, leading captivity captive. He is there sitting at the right hand of God, doing the work of a High Priest for His believing people, and ever making intercession for them. But He will not sit there always. He will come forth from the holy of holies to bless His people. He will come again with power and glory — to put down every enemy under His feet, and to set up His universal kingdom on earth.

At present ‘we do not see all things subjected to Him.’ The devil is the ‘prince of this world.’ (Hebrews 2:8; John 14:30.) But the present state of things shall be changed one day. When Christ returns — the kingdoms of the world shall become His!

Let these things sink down into our minds. In all our thoughts about Christ — let us never forget His second coming. It is well to know that He lived for us, and died for us, and rose again for us, and intercedes for us. But it is also well to know that He is soon coming again for us!

We see, for another thing, in this parable — the present position of all professing Christians. Our Lord compares them to servants who have been left in charge of money by an absent master, with strict directions to use that money well. They are to ‘Put this money to work, until I come back.’

The countless privileges which Christians enjoy, compared to the heathen, are ‘pounds’ given to them by Christ, for which they must one day give account. We shall not stand side by side in the judgment day with the African and Chinese — who never heard of the Bible, the Trinity, and the crucifixion. The most of us, it may be feared, have little idea of the extent of our responsibility. To whoever much is given — of them, much will be required.

Are we living like men who know to whom they are indebted, and to whom they must one day give account? This is the only life which is worthy of a reasonable being. The best answer we can give to those who invite us to plunge into worldliness and frivolity — is the Master’s commandment which is before us. Let us tell them that we cannot consent, because we are looking for the coming of the Lord. We desire to be found working when He comes.

We see, for another thing, in this parable — the certain reckoning which awaits all professing Christians. We are told that when the master returned, he ‘sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.’

There is a day coming when the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge His people, and give to every one according to His works. The course of this world shall not always go on as it does now. Disorder, confusion, false profession, and unpunished sin — shall not always cover the face of the earth. The great white throne shall be set up. The Judge of all shall sit upon it. The dead shall be raised from their graves. The living shall all be summoned to the judgment bar. The books shall be opened. High and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple — all shall at length give account to God, and shall all receive an eternal sentence.

Let the thought of this coming judgment exercise an influence on our hearts and lives. Let us wait patiently when we see wickedness triumphing in the earth. The time is short. There is one who sees and notes down all that the ungodly are doing!

Above all, let us live under an abiding sense, that we shall stand one day at the judgment seat of Christ. Let us ‘judge ourselves’ — that we be not condemned by the Lord. It is a weighty saying, ‘And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books!’ (Revelation 20:12.)

We see, for another thing, in this parable — the certain reward of all true Christians. Our Lord tells us that those who are found to have been faithful servants, shall receive honor and dignity. Each shall receive a reward proportioned to his diligence. One shall be placed ‘over ten cities,’ and another ‘over five.’

The people of God receive little apparent recompense in this present time. Their names are often cast out as evil. They enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation. Their good things are not in this world. The gain of godliness does not consist in earthly rewards — but in inward peace, and hope, and joy in believing. But they shall have an abundant recompense one day. They shall receive wages far exceeding anything they have done for Christ. They shall find, to their amazement — that for everything they have done and borne for their Master, their Master will pay them a hundred-fold!

Let us often look forward to the good things which are yet to come. The ‘sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.’ (Romans 8:18.) Let the thought of that glory — cheer us in every time of need, and sustain us in every dark hour. Many, no doubt, are ‘the afflictions of the righteous.’ One great remedy for bearing afflictions patiently — is to look forward, like Moses, to the reward. (Psalm 34:19. Hebrews 11:26.)

We see, lastly, in this parable — the certain exposure of all unfaithful professing Christians at the last day. We are told of one servant who had done nothing with his master’s money, but had laid it away in a piece of cloth. We are told of his useless arguments in his own defense, and of his final ruin for not using the knowledge which he confessedly possessed. There can be no mistake as to the people whom he represents. He represents the whole company of the ungodly; and his ruin represents their miserable end in the judgment day.

Let us never forget the final end to which all ungodly people are coming. Sooner or later, the unbeliever and the impenitent will be put to shame before the whole world, stripped of the means of grace and hope of glory — and forever cast down to Hell! There will be no escape at the last day. False profession and formal religion will fail to abide the fire of God’s judgment. Grace, and grace alone — shall stand. Men will discover at last, that there is such a thing as ‘the wrath of the Lamb!’

The excuses with which so many content their consciences now, shall prove unavailing at the judgment bar of Christ. The most ignorant shall find that they had knowledge enough to be their condemnation. The possessors of buried talents and misused privileges will discover at last that it would have been better for them to have never been born.

These are solemn things. Who shall stand in the great day when the Master requires an account of ‘His pounds?’ The words of Peter will form a fitting conclusion to the whole parable, ‘Seeing that you look for such things — be diligent that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.’ (2 Peter 3:14.)”


Call to Worship October 7 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 19:1-10

“These verses describe the conversion of a soul. Like the stories of Nicodemus, and the Samaritan woman — the story of Zacchaeus should be frequently studied by Christians. The Lord Jesus never changes. What He did for the man before us — He is able and willing to do for any one of ourselves.

We learn, firstly, from these verses — that no one is too bad to be saved, or beyond the power of Christ’s grace. We are told of a wealthy tax-collector becoming a disciple of Christ. A more unlikely event, we cannot well imagine! We see the ‘camel passing through the eye of a needle,’ and the ‘rich man entering the kingdom of God.’ We behold a plain proof that ‘all things are possible with God.’ We see a covetous tax-collector, transformed into a charitable Christian!

The door of hope which the Gospel reveals to sinners, is very wide open! Let us leave it as open as we find it Let us not attempt in narrow-minded ignorance, to shut it. We should never be afraid to maintain that Christ is ‘able to save to the uttermost’ — and that the vilest of sinners may be freely forgiven, if they will only come to Him. We should offer the Gospel boldly to the worst and wickedest, and say, ‘There is hope. Only repent and believe. Though your sins are like scarlet — I will make them as white as snow! Though they are red like crimson — I will make them as white as wool! (Isaiah 1:18.)

Such doctrine may seem to be foolishness and a license to sin, to worldly people. But such doctrine is the Gospel of Him who saved Zacchaeus at Jericho! Hospitals discharge many severe cases as incurable. But there are no incurable cases under the Gospel! Any sinner may be healed — if he will only come to Christ.

We learn, secondly, from these verses — how little and insignificant are the things on which a soul’s salvation often turns. We are told that Zacchaeus ‘wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.’ Curiosity, and nothing but curiosity — appears to have been the motive of his mind. That curiosity once roused, Zacchaeus was determined to gratify it. Rather than not see Jesus — he ran on before along the road, and ‘climbed up into a sycamore tree.’ Upon that little action, so far as man’s eyes can see — there hinged the salvation of his soul. Our Lord stopped under the tree, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ From that very moment ,Zacchaeus was an altered man. That very night he lay down a Christian.

We must never ‘despise the day of small things.’ (Zechariah 4:10.) We must never reckon anything little, which concerns the soul. The ways by which the Holy Spirit leads men and women to Christ, are astonishing and mysterious. He is often beginning in a heart, a work which shall stand to eternity — when an onlooker observes nothing remarkable.

In every work there must be a beginning, and in spiritual work that beginning is often very small. Do we see a careless person beginning to use means of grace, which in time past he neglected? Do we see him coming to Church and listening to the Gospel, after a long course of Sabbath-breaking? When we see such things, then let us remember Zacchaeus and be hopeful. Let us not look coldly on him, simply because his motives at present are very poor and questionable. Let us believe that it is far better to hear the Gospel out of mere curiosity — than not to hear it at all. Our friend is with Zacchaeus in the tree! For anything we know — he may go further. Who can tell, but that he may one day receive Christ joyfully?

We learn, thirdly, from these verses — Christ’s free compassion towards sinners, and Christ’s power to change hearts. It is impossible to conceive a more striking instance than that before us. Unasked, our Lord stops and speaks to Zacchaeus. Unasked, He offers Himself to be a guest in the house of a sinner. Unasked, He sends into the heart of a tax-collector — the renewing grace of the Spirit, and puts him that very day among the children of God! (Jeremiah 3:19.)

It is impossible, with such a passage as this before us — to exalt the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ too highly. We cannot maintain too strongly, that there is in Him an infinite readiness to receive sinners — and an infinite ability to save sinners. Above all, we cannot hold too firmly — that salvation is not of works, but of grace. If ever there was a soul sought and saved, without having done anything to deserve it — that soul was the soul of Zacchaeus.

Let us grasp these doctrines firmly, and never let them go. Their price is above rubies. Grace, free sovereign grace — is the only thought which gives men peace in a dying hour. Let us proclaim these doctrines confidently to every one to whom we speak about spiritual things. Let us bid them come to Jesus Christ, just as they are — and not wait in the vain hope that they can make themselves fit and worthy to come. Not least, let us tell them that Jesus Christ would come and dwell in their poor sinful hearts — if they would only receive Him. ‘Behold,’ He says, ‘I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door — I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.’ (Revelation 3:20.)

We learn, lastly, from these verses — that converted sinners will always give evidence of their conversion. We are told that Zacchaeus replied, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor — and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore four times as much.’

There was reality in that speech. There was unmistakable proof that Zacchaeus was a new creature. When a wealthy Christian begins to distribute his riches, and an extortioner begins to make restitution — then we may well believe that old things have passed away, and all things become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

There was decision in that speech. ‘I will give,’ says Zacchaeus — ‘I will restore.’ He does not speak of future intentions. Freely pardoned, and raised from death to life — Zacchaeus felt that he could not begin too soon to show whose he was, and whom he served.

He who desires to give proof that he is a believer, should walk in the steps of Zacchaeus. Like Zacchaeus — let him thoroughly renounce the sins which have formerly most easily entangled him. Like Zacchaeus — let him follow the Christian graces which he has formerly most habitually neglected. In any case, a believer should so live — that all may know that he is a believer.

A faith that does not purify the heart and life — is not saving faith at all. Grace that cannot be seen — like light; and tasted — like salt — is not saving grace, but hypocrisy. The man who professes to know Christ and trust Him, while he cleaves to sin and the world — is going down to Hell with a lie in his right hand! The heart that has really tasted the grace of Christ — will instinctively hate sin.

Let us turn from the whole passage with the last verse ringing in our ears, ‘The Son of man came to seek and save those who are lost.’ It is as a Savior, more than as a Judge — that Christ desires to be known. Let us see that we know Him as such. Let us take heed that our souls are saved. Once saved and converted, we shall say, ‘What shall I render to the Lord, for all His benefits?’ (Psalm 116:12.) Once saved, we shall not complain that self-denial, like that of Zacchaeus, is a grievous requirement.”

Fear of Man Brings a Snare

Call to Worship September 30 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 18:35-43
“The miracle described in these verses is rich in instruction. It was one of the great works which witnessed that Christ was sent by the Father. (John 5:36.) But this is not all. It contains also some lively patterns of spiritual things which deserve attentive study.
We see, for one thing, in this passage — the importance of diligence in the use of means. We are told of ‘a certain blind man who sat by the wayside begging.’ He sought the place where his pitiful condition was most likely to attract notice. He did not sit lazily at home, and wait for relief to come to him. He placed himself by the road-side — in order that travelers might see him and give him help.
The story before us, shows the wisdom of his conduct. Sitting by the wayside, he heard that ‘Jesus was passing by.’ Hearing of Jesus — he cried for mercy, and was restored to sight. Let us mark this well! If the blind man had not sat by the wayside that day — he might have remained blind to the hour of his death.
He who desires salvation, should remember the example of this blind man. He must attend diligently on every means of grace. He must be found regularly in those places where the Lord Jesus is especially present. He must sit by the wayside, wherever the Word is read and the Gospel preached, and God’s people assemble together.
To expect grace to be put into our hearts, if we sit idling at home on Sundays, and go to no place of worship — is presumption and not faith. It is true that ‘God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy’ — but it is no less true that He ordinarily has mercy, on those who use the means of grace. It is true that Christ is sometimes ’found by those who seek Him not’ — but it is also true that He is always found by those who really seek Him. The Sabbath breaker, the Bible-neglecter, and the prayerless man — are forsaking their own mercies, and digging graves for their own souls. They are not sitting ‘by the wayside.’
We see, for another thing, in this passage — an example of our duty in the matter of prayer. We are told that when this blind man heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he ‘he cried out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ We are told further, that when some rebuked him and told him to be quiet — he would not be silenced, ‘He shouted all the more!’ He felt his need, and found words to tell his story. He was not to be stopped by the rebukes of people who knew nothing of the misery of blindness. His sense of wretchedness, made him go on crying out. And his importunity was amply rewarded. He found what he sought. That very day he received sight.
What the blind man did on behalf of his bodily ailment — it is surely our bounden duty to do on behalf of our souls. Our need is far greater than his. The disease of sin — is far more grievous than the lack of sight. The tongue that can find words to describe the necessities of the body — can surely find words to explain the needs of the soul.
Let us begin praying — if we never prayed before. Let us pray more heartily and earnestly — if we have prayed in times past. Jesus, the Son of David, is still passing by — and He is not far from any of us. Let us cry to Him for mercy, and allow nothing to hinder our crying out. Let us not go down to the pit speechless and silent, without so much as a cry for help. None will be so excuseless at the last day — as baptized men and women who never tried to pray.
We see, for another thing, in this passage — an encouraging instance of Christ’s kindness and compassion. We are told that when the blind man continued crying for mercy, our Lord ‘stopped, and ordered the man to be brought unto Him.’ He was going up to Jerusalem to die, and had weighty matters on His mind — but He found time to stop to speak kindly to this poor sufferer.
Then Jesus asked the man, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord,’ he pleaded, ‘I want to see!’ We are told, ‘Jesus said unto him, receive your sight — your faith has saved you.’ That faith perhaps was weak, and mixed with much imperfection. But it had made the man cry to Jesus, and go on crying in spite of rebukes. So coming with faith — our blessed Lord did not cast him out. The desire of his heart was granted, and ‘immediately he received his sight.’
Passages like these in the Gospels, are intended for the special comfort of all who feel their sins and come to Christ for peace with God. Such people may be sensible of much infirmity in all their approaches to the Son of God. Their faith may be very feeble — their sins may be many and great — their prayers may be very poor and stammering — their motives may be far short of perfection. But after all, do they really come to Christ with their sins? Are they really willing to forsake all other trusts — and commit their souls to Christ’s hands? If this is so — then they may hope and not be afraid. That same Jesus still lives — who heard the blind man’s cry, and granted his request. He will never go back from His own words, ‘Him who comes unto me, I will never cast out.’ (John 6:37.)
We see, lastly, in this passage — a striking example of the conduct which befits one who has received mercy from Christ. We are told that when the blind man was restored to sight, ‘He followed Jesus, glorifying God.’ He felt deeply grateful. He resolved to show his gratitude, by becoming one of our Lord’s followers and disciples. Pharisees might cavil at our Lord. Sadducees might sneer at His teaching. It mattered nothing to this new disciple. He had the witness in himself, that Christ was a Master worth following. He could say, ‘I was blind — and now I see!’ (John 9:25.)
Grateful love is the true spring of real obedience to Christ! Men will never take up the cross and confess Jesus before the world, and live for Him — until they feel that they are indebted to Him for pardon, peace, and hope. The ungodly are what they are — because they have no sense of sin, and no consciousness of being under any special obligation to Christ. The godly are what they are — because they love Him who first loved them, and washed them from sin in His own blood. Christ has healed them — and therefore they follow Christ.
Let us leave the passage with solemn self-inquiry. If we would know whether we have any part or lot in Christ — then let us look at our lives. Whom do we follow? What are the great ends and objects for which we live? The man who has saving faith in Jesus — will always be known by the general bent of his life.”

The Weary Dove Found Rest

Does the gospel-word proclaim
Rest for those who weary be?
Then, my soul, put in thy claim;
Sure that promise speaks to thee.
Marks of grace I cannot show;
All polluted is my breast;
Yet I weary am, I know,
And the weary long for rest.

Burdened with a load of sin;
Harassed with tormenting doubt;
Hourly conflicts from within;
Hourly crosses from without;
All my little strength is gone;
Sink I must without supply;
Sure upon the earth there’s none
Can more weary be than I.

In the ark the weary dove
Found a welcome resting-place;
Thus my spirit longs to prove
Rest in Christ, the Ark of grace.
Tempest-tossed I long have been,
And the flood increases fast;
Open, Lord, and take me in,
Till the storm be overpast.

Gadsby’s Hymns #356
Newton 7s

Fear Not: What Is Fear?

Call To Worship September 23 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, J.C. Ryle – Luke 18:18-27

“We learn, secondly, from these verses — what harm one master-sin may do to a soul. The desires which the rich ruler expressed were right and good. He wanted ‘eternal life.’ There seemed at first sight no reason why he should not be taught the way of God, and become a disciple. But there was one thing, unhappily, which he loved better than ‘eternal life.’ That thing was his money. When invited by Christ, to give up all that he had on earth, and seek treasure in Heaven — he had not faith to accept the invitation. The love of money was his master-sin!

Shipwrecks like this are sadly common in the Church of Christ. Few are the ministers who could not put their finger on many cases like that of the man before us. Many are ready to give up everything for Christ’s sake — excepting one darling sin, and for the sake of that sin — they are lost forevermore.

When Herod heard John the Baptist, he ‘heard him gladly and did many things.’ But there was one thing he could not do. He could not part with Herodias. That one thing, cost Herod his soul. (Mark 6:20.)

There must be no reserve in our hearts, if we would receive mercy at Christ’s hands. We must be willing to part with anything, however dear it may be — if it stands between us and our salvation. We must be ready to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye, to make any sacrifice, and to break any idol. Life, we must remember — eternal life is at stake!

One leak neglected — is enough to sink a mighty ship. One besetting sin, obstinately clung to — is enough to shut a soul out of Heaven. The love of money, secretly nourished in the heart — is enough to bring a man, in other respects moral and irreproachable — down to the pit of Hell!”