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Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category

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!”

Call to Worship September 16 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 18:9-17

“Let us notice, firstly — the sin against which our Lord Jesus Christ warns us in these verses. There is no difficulty in finding this out. Luke tells us expressly, that ‘He spoke this parable to some who were confident of their own righteousness, and looked down on everybody else.’ The sin which our Lord denounces, is ‘self-righteousness.’

We are all naturally self-righteous. It is the family-disease of all the children of Adam. From the highest to the lowest — we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. We secretly flatter ourselves, that we are not as bad as some, and that we have something to merit the favor of God.

We forget the plain testimony of Scripture, ‘We all stumble in many ways.’ ‘Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.’ ‘What is man — that he could be pure; or one born of woman — that he could be righteous?’ ‘There is no one righteous — not even one!’ (James 3:2, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Job 15:14, Romans 3:10)

The true cure for self-righteousness, is self-knowledge. Once let the eyes of our understanding be opened by the Spirit, and we will no longer talk of our own goodness. Once let us see what there is in our own hearts, and what the holy law of God requires — and self-conceit will die. We shall lay our hand on our mouths, and cry with the leper, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ (Leviticus 13:45.)

Let us notice, secondly, in these verses — the prayer of the Pharisee, which our Lord condemns. We read that he said, ‘God, I thank you that I am not as other men are — extortioners, unjust, adulterers — or even as this tax-collector. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all I possess.’

One great defect stands out on the face of this prayer — a defect so glaring that even a child might mark it. It exhibits no sense of sin and need. It contains no confession and no petition — no acknowledgment of guilt and emptiness — no supplication for mercy and grace. It is a mere boasting recital of imagined merits, accompanied by an uncharitable reflection on a brother sinner. It is a proud, high-minded profession — destitute alike of penitence, humility, and love. In short, it hardly deserves to be called a prayer at all.

No state of soul can be conceived so dangerous as that of the Pharisee. Never are men’s bodies in such desperate plight — as when disease and insensibility set in. In the same way, never are men’s hearts in such a hopeless condition — as when they are not sensible of their own sins.

He who would not make shipwreck on this rock, must beware of measuring himself by his neighbors. What does it signify that we are more moral than ‘other men?’ We are all vile and imperfect in the sight of God. ‘If we contend with Him — we cannot answer him one in a thousand.’ (Job 9:3.) Let us remember this.

In all our self-examination, let us not test ourselves by comparisons with other men. Let us look at nothing but the requirements of God. He who acts on this principle, will never be a Pharisee.

Let us notice, thirdly, in these verses — the prayer of the tax-collector, which our Lord commends. His prayer was in every respect, the very opposite of that of the Pharisee. We read that he ‘stood afar off, and smote upon his bosom, and said: God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Our Lord Himself stamps this short prayer with the seal of His approbation. He says, ‘I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.’

The excellence of the Tax-collector’s prayer consists in five points, each of which deserves attention.

1. For one thing, it was a real petition. A prayer which only contains thanksgiving and profession, and asks nothing — is essentially defective. It may be suitable for an angel — but it is not suitable for a sinner.

2. For another thing, it was a personal prayer. The tax-collector did not speak of his neighbors — but himself. Vagueness and generality are the great defects of most men’s religion. To get out of ‘we,’ and ‘our,’ and ‘us’ — into ‘I,’ and ‘my,’ and ‘me’ — is a great step toward Heaven.

3. For another thing, it was a humble prayer — a prayer which put self in the right place. The tax-collector confessed plainly that he was a sinner. This is the very starting point of saving Christianity. We never begin to be good — until we can feel and confess that we are bad.

4. For another thing, it was a prayer in which mercy was the chief thing desired — and faith in God’s covenant mercy, however weak, was displayed. Mercy is the first thing we must ask for, in the day we begin to pray. Mercy and grace must be the subject of our daily petitions at the throne of grace, until the day we die.

5. Finally, the Tax-collector’s prayer was one which came from his heart. He was deeply moved in uttering it. He smote upon his bosom, like one who felt more than he could express. Such prayers are the prayers which are God’s delight. A broken and a contrite heart, He will not despise. (Psalm 51:17.)

Let these things sink down into our hearts. He who has learned to feel his sins — has great reason to be thankful. We are never in the way of salvation — until we know that we are lost, ruined, guilty, and helpless sinners. Happy indeed is he who is not ashamed to sit by the side of the tax-collector! When our experience tallies with his — we may hope that we have found a place in the family of God.

Let us notice, lastly, in these verses — the high praise which our Lord bestows on humility. He says, ‘Everyone who exalts himself — shall be abased; and he who humbles himself — shall be exalted.’

The principle here laid down is so frequently found in the Bible, that it ought to be deeply engraved in our memories. Three times we find our Lord using the words before us in the Gospels — and on three distinct occasions.

Humility, He would evidently impress upon us — is among the first and foremost graces of the Christian character. It was a leading grace in Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Job, Isaiah, and Daniel. It ought to be a leading grace in all who profess to serve Christ. Not all the Lord’s people have money to give. Not all are called to preach, or write, or fill a prominent place in the church. But all are called to be humble. One grace at least, should adorn the poorest and most unlearned believer. That grace is humility.

Let us leave the whole passage with a deep sense of the great encouragement it affords to all who feel their sins, and cry to God for mercy in Christ’s name. Their sins may have been many and great. Their prayers may seem weak, faltering, unconnected, and poor. But let them remember the tax-collector — and take courage. That same Jesus who commended his prayer — is now sitting at the right hand of God to receive sinners. Then let them hope and pray on.”

Call To Worship September 9 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 18:1-8

“The object of the parable before us, is explained by Christ Himself. To use the words of an old divine, ‘The key hangs at the door.’ ‘Jesus told His disciples a parable, to show them that they should always pray and not give up.’ These words, be it remembered, are closely connected with the solemn doctrine of the second coming, with which the preceding chapter concludes. It is perseverance in prayer, during the long weary intervals between the first and second comings, which Jesus is urging His disciples to keep up. In that interval, we ourselves are standing. The subject therefore is one which ought to possess a special interest in our eyes.

These verses teach us firstly — the great importance of perseverance in prayer. Our Lord conveys this lesson by telling the story of a friendless widow, who obtained justice from a wicked magistrate — by force of sheer importunity. ‘Though I do not fear God, nor regard man,’ said the unjust judge, ‘yet because this widow troubles me, I will see that she gets justice, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’

Our Lord Himself supplies the application of the parable, ‘And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay in helping them?’ If importunity obtains so much from a wicked man — then how much more will it obtain for the children of God — from the Righteous Judge, their Father in Heaven!

The subject of PRAYER ought always to be interesting to Christians. Prayer is the very life-breath of true Christianity. It is in prayer, that true religion begins. It is in prayer, that true religion flourishes. It is in prayer, that it decays. Prayer is one of the first evidences of conversion. (Acts 9:11.) Neglect of prayer, is the sure road to a fall. (Matthew 26:40, 41.) Whatever throws light on the subject of prayer, is for our soul’s health.

Let it then be engraved deeply in our minds, that it is far more easy to begin a habit of prayer, than it is to keep it up. The fear of death, or some temporary piercings of conscience, or some excited feelings — may make a man begin praying, after a fashion. But to go on praying, requires saving faith. We are apt to become weary, and to give way to the suggestion of Satan, that ‘it is of no use.’ And then comes the time when the parable before us ought to be carefully remembered. We must recollect that our Lord expressly told us ‘always to pray — and never give up.’

Do we ever feel a secret inclination to hurry our prayers, or shorten our prayers, or become careless about our prayers, or omit our prayers altogether? Let us be sure, when we do — that it is a direct temptation from the devil. He is trying to sap and undermine the very citadel of our souls, and to cast us down to Hell.

Let us resist the temptation, and cast it behind our backs. Let us resolve to pray on steadily, patiently, perseveringly — and let us never doubt that it does us good. However long the answer may be in coming — still let us pray on. Whatever sacrifice and self-denial it may cost us — still let us pray on. ‘Pray always.’ ‘Pray without ceasing.’ ‘Continue in prayer.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Colossians 4:2.) Let us arm our minds with this parable, and while we live, whatever else we make time for — let us make time for prayer.

These verses teach us, secondly — that God has an elect people upon earth, who are under His special care. The Lord Jesus declares that God will ‘avenge His own elect, who cry day and night unto Him.’ ‘I tell you,’ He says, ‘that He will avenge them speedily.’

Election is one of the deepest truths of Scripture. It is clearly and beautifully stated in the seventeenth Article of the Church of England. Election is ‘the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid — He has decreed by His counsel, secret to us — to deliver from curse and damnation, those whom He has chosen in Christ out of mankind — and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation.’ This testimony is true. This is ‘sound speech which cannot be condemned.’ (Titus 2:8.)

Election is a truth which should call forth praise and thanksgiving from all true Christians. Unless God had chosen and called them — they would never have chosen and called on Him. Except He had chosen them of His own good pleasure, without respect to any goodness of theirs — there would never have been anything in them to make them worthy of His choice. The worldly and the carnal-minded may rail at the doctrine of election. The false professor may abuse it, and turn the ‘grace of God into a license for sin.’ (Jude 4.) But the believer who knows his own heart, will ever bless God for election. He will confess that without election — there would be no salvation.

But what are the marks of election? By what tokens shall a man know whether he is one of God’s elect? These marks are clearly laid down in Scripture.

Election is inseparably connected with faith in Christ, and conformity to His image. (Romans 8:29, 30.) It was when Paul saw the working ‘faith,’ and patient ‘hope,’ and laboring ‘love’ of the Thessalonians — that he knew their ‘election of God.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 4.)

Above all, we have a plain mark described by our Lord, in the passage before us. God’s elect are a people who ‘cry unto Him night and day.’ They are essentially a praying people.

No doubt there are many people whose prayers are formal and hypocritical. But one thing is very clear — a prayerless man must never be called one of God’s elect. Let that never be forgotten!

These verses teach us, lastly — that true faith will be found very scarce at the end of the world. The Lord Jesus shows this, by asking a very solemn question, ‘When the Son of Man comes — shall He find faith on the earth?’

The question before us is a very humbling one. It shows the uselessness of expecting that all the world will be converted before Christ comes again. It shows the foolishness of supposing that all people are ‘good,’ and that though differing in outward matters — they are all right at heart, and all going to Heaven. Such notions find no approval in the text before us.

Where is the use, after all, of ignoring facts under our own eyes; facts in the world — facts in the churches — facts in the congregations we belong to — facts by our own doors and firesides?

Where is faith to be seen? How many around us really believe what the Bible contains? How many live as if they believed that Christ died for them — and that there is a coming judgment, a Heaven, and a Hell? These are most painful and serious inquiries. But they demand and deserve an answer.

Have we faith ourselves? If we have — then let us bless God for it. It is a great thing to believe all the Bible. It is matter for daily thankfulness — if we feel our sins, and really trust in Jesus. We may be weak, frail, erring, short-coming sinners — but do we believe? That is the grand question. If we believe — then we shall be saved. But he who does not believe — shall not see life, and shall die in his sins, under God’s wrath. (John 3:36; 8:24.)”

Call To Worship September 2 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 17:22-37

“The subject of these verses is one of particular solemnity. It is the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That great event, and the things immediately connected with it — are here described by our Lord’s own lips.

We should observe, for one thing, in these verses — what a fearful picture our Lord gives of the state of the professing Church at His second coming. We are told that as it was in the days of Noah, and in the days of Lot — so shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

We are not left to conjecture the character of those days. We are told distinctly, that men were entirely taken up with eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building — and would attend to nothing else.

The flood came at last in Noah’s day, and drowned all except those who were in the ark! The fire fell from Heaven at last in Lot’s day — and destroyed all except Lot, his wife, and his daughters. And our Lord declares most plainly, that similar things will happen when He comes again at the end of the world. ‘When they shall say, Peace and safety — then sudden destruction comes upon them!’ (1 Thessalonians 5:3.)

It is hard to imagine a passage of Scripture which more completely overthrows the common notions that prevail among men about Christ’s return. The world will not be converted when Jesus comes again. The earth will not be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The reign of peace will not have been established. The millennium will not have begun. These glorious things will come to pass after the second coming, but not before.

If words have any meaning, the verses before us show that the earth will be full of wickedness and worldliness in the day of Christ’s appearing. The unbelievers and the unconverted will be found to be very many. The believers and the godly, as in the days of Noah and Lot, will be found to be very few.

Let us take heed to ourselves, and beware of the spirit of the world. It is not enough to do as others — and buy, and sell, and plant, and build, and eat, and drink, and marry — as if we were born for nothing else. Exclusive attention to these things may ruin us — as thoroughly as open sin does! We must come out from the world, and be separate. We must dare to be singular. We must escape for our lives, like Lot. We must flee to the ark, like Noah. This alone is safety. Then, and then only — we shall be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger, and avoid destruction when the Son of man is revealed. (Zephaniah 2:3.)

We should observe, for another thing, in these verses — what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession. He says to us, in immediate connection with the description of His second coming, ’Remember Lot’s wife!’

Lot’s wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a ‘righteous man.’ She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom, in the day when he escaped for his life by God’s command. But Lot’s wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him — she had left her heart behind her. She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom — and was at once struck dead. She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins! Remember her — says our Lord, ‘Remember Lot’s wife!’

Lot’s wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her, in the day of Christ’s second coming. There are many in the present day, who go a certain length in religion. They conform to the outward ways of Christian relatives and friends. They speak the ‘language of Canaan.’ They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time, their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts — and their hearts are in the world. And by and bye, in the day of sifting — their unsoundness will be exposed to all the world. Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core. The case of Lot’s wife will not stand alone.

Let us remember Lot’s wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. Let us not profess to serve Christ — for no higher motive than to please husbands, or wives, or masters, or ministers. A mere formal religion like this — will never save our souls. Let us serve Christ for His own sake. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts — and have no desire to look back to the world.

We should observe, lastly, in these verses — what a dreadful separation there will be in the professing Church when Christ comes again. Our Lord describes this separation by a very striking picture. He says, ‘I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken — and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken — and the other left.’

The meaning of these expressions is clear and plain. The day of Christ’s second coming, shall be the day when good and evil, converted and unconverted — shall at length be divided into two distinct bodies. The visible Church shall no longer be a mixed body. The wheat and the tares, shall no longer grow side by side. The good fish and the bad fish, shall at length be sorted into two bodies. The angels shall come forth, and gather together the godly, that they may be rewarded; and leave the wicked behind to be punished!

‘Converted — or unconverted?’ — will then be the only subject of inquiry. It will matter nothing that people have worked together, and slept together, and lived together for many years. They will be dealt with at last, according to the reality of their religion. Those members of the family who have loved Christ, will be taken up to Heaven — and those who have loved the world, will be cast down to Hell. Converted and unconverted shall be separated forevermore, when Jesus comes again.

Let us lay to heart these things. He who loves his relatives and friends, is especially bound to consider them. If those whom he loves are true servants of Christ — then let him know that he must cast in his lot with them, if he would not one day be parted from them forever.

If those whom he loves are yet dead in trespasses and sins — then let him know that he must work and pray for their conversion — lest he should be separated from them for all eternity.

This present life is the only time for such work. Life is fast ebbing away from us all. Partings, and separations, and the breaking up of families — are at all times painful things. But all the separations that we see now — are nothing compared to those eternal separations which will be seen when Christ comes again!”

The Weary Dove

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

Call to Worship August 26 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 17:11-21

“Let us mark, firstly, in this passage — how earnestly men can cry for help, when they feel their need of it. We read that as our Lord entered into a certain village — ten men who were lepers met Him. It is difficult to conceive any condition more thoroughly miserable, than that of men afflicted with leprosy. They were cast out from society. They were cut off from all society with their fellows. The men described in the passage before us appear to have been truly sensible of their wretchedness. They ‘stood afar off’ — but they did not stand idly doing nothing. They called out in a loud voice: ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’

They acutely felt the deplorable state of their bodies. They found words to express their feelings. They cried earnestly for relief, when a chance for relief appeared in sight.

The conduct of the ten lepers is very instructive. It throws light on a most important subject in practical Christianity, which we can never understand too well. That subject is PRAYER.

How is it that many never pray at all? How is it that many others are content to repeat a form of words — but never pray with their hearts? How is it that dying men and women, with souls to be lost or saved — can know so little of real, hearty, sincere prayer?

The answer to these questions is short and simple. The bulk of mankind have no sense of sin. They do not feel their spiritual disease. They are not conscious that they are lost, and guilty, and hanging over the brink of Hell! When a man finds out his soul’s ailment — then he soon learns to pray. Like the leper, he finds words to express his need. He cries for help.

How is it, again, that many true believers often pray so coldly? What is the reason that their prayers are so feeble, and wandering, and lukewarm — as they frequently are?

The answer once more, is very plain. Their sense of need is not as deep as it ought to be. They are not truly alive to their own weakness and helplessness — and so they do not cry fervently for mercy and grace. Let us remember these things. Let us seek to have a constant and abiding sense of our real necessities. If saints could only see their souls, as the ten afflicted lepers saw their bodies — then they would pray far better than they do.

Let us mark, secondly, in these verses — how help meets men in the path of obedience. We are told that when the lepers cried to our Lord — He only replied, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ He did not touch them and command their disease to depart. He prescribed no medicine, no washing, no use of outward material means. Yet healing power accompanied the words which He spoke. Relief met the afflicted company as soon as they obeyed His command. ‘As they went — they were cleansed of their leprosy.’

A fact like this is doubtlessly intended to teach us knowledge. It shows us the wisdom of simple, childlike obedience to every word which comes from the mouth of Christ.

It does not befit us to stand still, and reason, and doubt — when our Master’s commands are plain and unmistakable. If the lepers had acted in this way — then they would never have been healed.

We must read the Scriptures diligently. We must try to pray. We must attend on the public means of grace. All these are duties which Christ requires at our hands, and to which, if we love life — we must attend, without asking vain and critical questions. It is just in the path of unhesitating obedience — that Christ will meet and bless us. ‘Whoever has My commands and obeys them — he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father — and I too will love him and show Myself to him.’ (John 14:21.)

Let us mark, lastly, in these verses — what a rare thing is thankfulness. We are told that of all the ten lepers whom Christ healed, there was only one who turned back and gave Him thanks. The words that fell from our Lord’s lips upon this occasion are very solemn, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’

The lesson before us is humbling, heart-searching, and deeply instructive. The best of us are far too like the nine lepers. We are more ready to pray — than to praise; and more disposed to ask God for what we have not — than to thank Him for what we have.

Murmurings, and complainings, and discontent abound on every side of us. Few indeed are to be found who are not continually hiding their mercies under a bushel — and setting their needs and trials on a hill. These things ought not so to be — but all who know the ways of mankind, must confess that they are true. The wide-spread thanklessness of Christians is the disgrace of our day. It is a plain proof of our little humility.

Let us pray for a daily thankful spirit. It is the spirit which God loves and delights to honor. David and Paul were eminently thankful men. It is the spirit which has marked all the brightest saints in every age of the church. It is the spirit which is the very atmosphere of Heaven. Angels and ‘just men made perfect’ are always praising God. It is the spirit which is the source of happiness on earth. If we would not be anxious — then we must make our requests known to God — not only with prayer and supplication, but with thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6.)

Above all, let us pray for a deeper sense of our own sinfulness, guilt, and undeserving. This, after all, is the true secret of a thankful spirit. It is the man who daily feels his debt to grace, and daily remembers that in reality, he deserves nothing but Hell — this is the man who will be daily thanking and praising God. Thankfulness is a flower which will never bloom well — except upon a root of deep humility!”

Call to Worship August 19 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, J.C. Ryle – Luke 17:5-10

“Let us notice, in these verses — the important request which the apostles made. They said unto the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’

We do not know the secret feelings from which this request sprang. Perhaps the hearts of the apostles failed within them, as they heard one weighty lesson after another fall from our Lord’s lips. Perhaps the thought rose up in their minds, ‘Who is sufficient for these things? Who can receive such exalted doctrines? Who can follow such a lofty standard of practice?’ These, however, are only conjectures. One thing, at any rate, is clear and plain. The request which they made was most deeply important, ’Increase our faith!’

Faith is the root of all saving religion. ‘He who comes unto God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ (Hebrews 11:6.) Faith is the hand by which the soul lays hold on Jesus Christ, and is united to Him, and saved. Faith is the secret of all Christian comfort, and spiritual prosperity. According to a man’s faith — will be his peace, his hope, his strength, his courage, his decision, and his victory over the world. When the apostles made request about faith, they did wisely and well.

Faith is a grace which admits of degrees. It does not come to full strength and perfection as soon as it is planted in the heart by the Holy Spirit. There is ‘little’ faith — and ‘great’ faith. There is ‘weak’ faith — and ‘strong’ faith. Both are spoken of in the Scriptures. Both are to be seen in the experience of God’s people. The more faith a Christian has — the more happy, holy, and useful will he be. To promote the growth and progress of faith — should be the daily prayer and endeavor of all who love the Savior. When the apostles said, ‘increase our faith’ — they did well.

Have we any faith at all? This, after all, is the first question which the subject should raise in our hearts. Saving faith is not mere repetition of the creed, and saying, ‘I believe in God the Father, and in God the Son, and in God the Holy Spirit.’ Thousands are weekly using these words — who know nothing of saving faith. The words of Paul are very solemn, ‘Not everyone has faith.’ (2 Thessalonians 3:2.) True faith is not natural to man. It comes down from Heaven — it is the gift of God.

If we have any faith, then let us pray for more of it. It is a bad sign of a man’s spiritual state when he is satisfied to live on old stock, and does not hunger and thirst after growth in grace. Let a prayer for more faith form part of our daily devotions. Let us covet earnestly the best gifts. We are not to despise ‘the day of small things’ in a brother’s soul — but we are not to be content with it in our own soul.

Let us notice, for another thing, in these verses — what a heavy blow our Lord gives to self-righteousness. He says to His apostles, ‘So when you have done everything you were told to do — you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’‘

We are all naturally proud and self-righteous. We think far more highly of ourselves, our deserts, and our character — than we have any right to do. Self-righteousness is a subtle disease, which manifests itself in a hundred different ways. Most men can see it in other people — but few see it in themselves. Seldom will a man be found, however wicked — who does not secretly flatter himself that there is somebody else worse than he is. Seldom will a Christian be found, who is not at seasons tempted to be satisfied and pleased with himself. There is such a thing as a pride — which wears the cloak of humility. There is not a heart upon earth which does not contain a piece of the Pharisee’s character!

To give up self-righteousness, is absolutely needful to salvation. He who desires to be saved, must confess that there is no good thing in him — and that he has no merit, no goodness, no worthiness of his own. He must be willing to renounce his own righteousness, and to trust in the righteousness of another — even Christ the Lord.

Once pardoned and forgiven, we must travel the daily journey of life under a deep conviction that we are ‘unprofitable servants.’ At our best — we are only doing our duty, and have nothing to boast of. And even when we do our duty, it is not by our own power and might that we do it — but by the strength which is given to us from God. We have no claim upon God — we have no right to expect anything good from God. We have no worthiness to deserve anything from God. All the good that we have — we have first received. Anything good that we are — we owe to God’s sovereign, distinguishing grace!

What is the true cause of self-righteousness? How is it that such a poor, weak, erring creature as man — can ever dream of deserving anything at God’s hands? It all arises from ignorance. The eyes of our understandings are naturally blinded. We see neither ourselves, nor our lives, nor God, nor the law of God — as we ought. Once let the light of grace shine into a man’s heart — and the reign of self-righteousness is over! The roots of pride may remain, and often put forth bitter shoots. But the reign of pride is broken when the Spirit comes into the heart — and shows the man himself and God.

The true Christian will never trust in his own goodness. He will say with Paul, ‘I am the chief of sinners!’ ‘God forbid that I should glory — except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Galatians 6:14.)”

Call to Worship August 12 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 16:19-31

“We learn, firstly, from this parable — that a man’s worldly condition is no test of his state in the sight of God. The Lord Jesus describes to us two men — of whom one was very rich, and the other very poor. The one ‘fared sumptuously every day.’ The other was a mere ‘beggar,’ who had nothing that he could call his own. And yet of these two, the poor man had grace — and the rich man had none. The poor man lived by faith, and walked in the steps of Abraham. The rich man was a thoughtless, selfish worldling — dead in trespasses and sins.

Let us never give way to the common idea that men are to be valued according to their income, and that the man who has most money is the one who ought to be the most highly esteemed. There is no authority for this notion in the Bible. The general teaching of Scripture is flatly opposed to it. ‘Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble — are called.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26.) ‘Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this — that he knows and understands me.’ (Jeremiah 9:24.)

Wealth is no mark of God’s favor. Poverty is no mark of God’s displeasure. Those whom God justifies and glorifies — are seldom the rich of this world. If we would measure men as God measures them — then we must value them according to their grace.

We learn, secondly, from this parable — that death is the common end to which all classes of mankind must come. The trials of the ‘beggar,’ and the sumptuous faring of the ‘rich man’ — alike ceased at last. There came a time when both of them died. ‘All go to one place.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:20.)

Death is a great fact that all acknowledge — but very few seem to ponder. Most men eat, and drink, and talk, and plan — as if they were going to live upon earth forever. The true Christian must be on his guard against this spirit. ‘He who would live well,’ said a great divine, ‘should often think of his last day, and make it his company-keeper.’ Against murmuring, and discontent, and envy — in the state of poverty; and against pride, and self-sufficiency, and arrogance — in the possession of wealth — -there are few better antidotes, than the remembrance of death. ‘The beggar died’ — and his bodily needs were at an end. ‘The rich man died’ — and his feasting was stopped for evermore.

We learn, thirdly, from this parable — that the souls of believers are especially cared for by God in the hour of death. The Lord Jesus tells us that when the beggar died he ‘was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom.’

There is something very comforting in this expression. We know little or nothing of the state and feelings of the dead. When our own last hour comes, and we lie down to die — we shall be like those who journey into an unknown country. But it may satisfy us to know that all who fall asleep in Jesus, are in good keeping. They are not houseless, homeless wanderers between the hour of death and the day of resurrection. They are at rest in the midst of friends — with all who have had like faith with Abraham. They have no lack of anything. And, best of all, Paul tells us that they are ‘with Christ.’ (Philippians 1:23.)

We learn, fourthly, from this parable — the reality and eternity of Hell. The Lord Jesus tells us plainly, that after death the rich man was ‘in Hell — tormented with fire.’ He gives us a fearful picture of his longing for a drop of ‘water to cool his tongue,’ and of ‘the gulf’ between him and Abraham, which could not be passed.

There are few more dreadful passages perhaps in the whole Bible, than this one. And let it be remembered, that He from whose lips it came, was one who delighted in mercy!

The certainty and endlessness of the future punishment of the wicked, are truths which we must hold fast and never let go. From the day when Satan said to Eve, ‘You shall not surely die!’ there never have been lacking men who have denied them. Let us not be deceived. There is a Hell for the impenitent — as well as a Heaven for believers. There is a wrath to come for all who ‘do not obey the Gospel of Christ.’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8.) From that wrath — let us flee to the great hiding-place, Jesus Christ the Lord. If men find themselves ‘in torment’ at last — it will not be because there was no way to escape.

We learn, fifthly, from this parable — that unconverted men find out the value of a soul, after death — when it is too late. We read that the rich man wanted Lazarus to be sent to his five brethren who were yet alive, ‘lest they also should come to the place of torment.’ While he lived, he had never done anything for their spiritual good. They had probably been his companions in worldliness — and, like him, had neglected their souls entirely. When he is dead he finds out too late — the folly of which they had all been guilty, and desires that, if possible, they might be called to repentance.

The change that will come over the minds of unconverted men after death, is one of the most fearful points in their future condition. They will see, and know, and understand a hundred things to which they were obstinately blind while they were alive. They will discover that, like Esau, they have bartered away eternal happiness — for a mere bowl of stew. There is no infidelity, or skepticism, or unbelief — after death! It is a wise saying of an old divine, that ’Hell is nothing more than truth known too late!’

We learn, lastly, from this parable — that the greatest miracles would have no effect on men’s hearts, if they will not believe God’s Word. The rich man thought that ‘if one went to his brethren from the dead — they would repent.’ He argued that the sight of one who came from another world must surely make them feel their need of forgiveness — though the old familiar words of Moses and the prophets had been heard in vain. The reply of Abraham is solemn and instructive, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets — then neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’

The principle laid down in these words, is of deep importance. The Scriptures contain all that we need to know in order to be saved — and a messenger from the world beyond the grave could add nothing to them. It is not ‘more evidence’ which is needed in order to make men repent — but more heart and will to make use of what they already know.

If the ‘dead’ rose from their graves to instruct us — they could tell us nothing more than the Bible already contains. After the first novelty of their testimony was worn away — we would care no more for their words, than the words of any other.

This wretched waiting for something which we have not, and neglect of what we already have — is the ruin of thousands of souls. Faith, simple faith in the Scriptures which we already possess — is the first thing needful to salvation. The man who has the Bible, and can read it, and yet waits for more evidence before he becomes a decided Christian — is only deceiving himself. Unless he awakens from his delusion, he will die in his sins, and be forever in the torments of Hell.”

Call to Worship August 5 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 16:1-18
“Let us beware, in the first place — that we do not draw lessons from these verses which they were never meant to teach.

The steward whom our Lord describes, is not set before us as a pattern of morality. He is distinctly called the ‘unjust steward.’ The Lord Jesus never meant to sanction dishonesty, and unfair dealing between man and man. This steward cheated his master, and broke the eighth commandment. His master was struck with his ingenuity and forethought, when he heard of it — and commended him as a shrewd and far-seeing man.

But there is no proof that his master was pleased with his conduct. Above all, there is not a word to show that the man was praised by Christ. In short, in his treatment of his master, the steward is a beacon to be avoided — and not a pattern to be followed.

The caution, now laid down, is very necessary. Commercial dishonesty is unhappily very common in these latter days. Honest dealing between man and man is increasingly rare. Men do things in the way of business — which will not stand the test of the Bible. In ‘making haste to be rich,’ thousands are continually committing actions which are dishonest. (Proverbs 28:20.)

Sharpness and smartness, in bargaining, and buying, and selling, and pushing trade — are often covering over dishonest hearts. The generation of ‘the unjust steward’ is still a very large one. Let us not forget this. Whenever we do to others, what we would not like others to do to us — we may be sure, whatever the world may say — that we are wrong in the sight of Christ.

Let us observe, in the second place — that one principal lesson of the parable before us, is the wisdom of providing against coming evil.

The conduct of the unjust steward, when he received notice to give up his place — was undeniably shrewd and skillful. Dishonest as he was in striking off from the bills of debtors anything that was due to his master — he certainly by so doing, made friends for himself. As wicked as he was — he had an eye to the future. As disgraceful as his measures were — he provided well for himself. He did not sit still in idleness, and see himself reduced to poverty — without a struggle. He schemed, and planned, and contrived, and boldly carried his plans into execution. And the result was that when he lost one home, he secured another.

What a striking contrast between the steward’s conduct about his earthly prospects — and the conduct of most men about their souls! In this general point of view, and in this alone — the steward sets us all an example which we should do well to follow. Like him — we should look far forward to things to come. Like him — we should provide against the day when we shall have to leave our present habitation. We should secure ‘a house in Heaven,’ which may be our home — when we put off our earthly tabernacle of the body. (2 Corinthians 5:1.) Like him — we should use all means to provide everlasting habitations for ourselves.

The parable, in this point of view, is deeply instructive. It may well raise within us great searchings of heart. The diligence of worldly men about the things of time — should put to shame the coldness of professing Christians about the things of eternity. The zeal and pertinacity of men of business in compassing sea and land to get earthly treasures — may well reprove the slackness and indolence of believers about treasures in Heaven.

The words of our Lord are indeed weighty and solemn, ‘The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind — than are the people of the light!’ May these words sink into our hearts and bear fruit in our lives!

Let us notice, lastly, in this passage — the remarkable expressions which our Lord uses about little things, in close connection with the parable of the unjust steward. We read that He said, ‘He who is faithful in that which is least — is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in the least — is unjust also in much.’

Our Lord here teaches us the great importance of strict faithfulness about ‘little things.’ He guards us against supposing that such conduct about money as that of the unjust steward, ought ever to be considered a light and trifling thing among Christians. He would have us know that ‘little things’ are the best test of character — and that unfaithfulness about ‘little things’ is the sign of a bad state of heart.

He did not mean, of course, that honesty about money can justify our souls, or put away sin. But He did mean that dishonesty about money is a sure sign of a heart not being ‘right in the sight of God.’ The man who is not dealing honestly with the gold and silver of this world — can never be one who has true riches in Heaven. ‘If you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property — then who will give you property of your own?’

The doctrine laid down by our Lord in this place, deserves most serious consideration in the present day. An idea appears to prevail in some men’s minds — that true religion may be separated from common honesty; and that soundness about matters of doctrine, may cover over swindling and cheating in matters of practice! Against this wretched idea, our Lord’s words were a plain protest. Against this idea, let us watch and be on our guard. Let us contend earnestly for the glorious doctrines of salvation by grace, and justification by faith. But let us never allow ourselves to suppose that true religion sanctions any trifling with the second table of the law. Let us never forget for a moment — that true faith will always be known by its fruits. We may be very sure that where there is no honesty — there is no saving grace.

These verses teach us, firstly — the uselessness of attempting to serve God with a divided heart. Our Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘No servant can serve two masters — for either he will hate the one and love the other — or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.’

The truth here propounded by our Lord appears, at first sight — too obvious to admit of being disputed. And yet the very attempt which is here declared to be useless, is constantly being made by many in the matter of their souls. Thousands on every side are continually trying to do that very thing which Christ pronounces to be impossible. They are endeavoring to be friends of the world, and friends of God — at the same time.

Their consciences are so far enlightened — that they feel they must have some religion. But their affections are so chained down to earthly things — that they never come up to the mark of being true Christians. And hence they live in a state of constant discomfort. They have too much religion to be happy in the world — and they have too much of the world in their hearts to be happy in their religion. In short, they waste their time in laboring to do that which cannot be done. They are striving to serve both God and mammon!

He who desires to be a happy Christian, will do well to ponder our Lord’s sayings in these verses. There is perhaps no point on which the experience of all God’s saints is more uniform than this, that decision is the secret of comfort in Christ’s service. It is the half-hearted Christian who brings up an evil report of the good land.

The more thoroughly we give ourselves to Christ — the more sensibly shall we feel within, ‘the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.’ (Philippians 4:7.) The more entirely we live, not to ourselves, but to Him who died for us — the more powerfully shall we realize what it is to have ‘joy and peace in believing.’ (Romans 15:13.)

If it is worthwhile to serve Christ at all — then let us serve Him with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength. Life, eternal life, after all — is the matter at stake, no less than happiness. If we cannot make up our minds to give up everything for Christ’s sake — then we must not expect Christ to own us at the last day. He will have all our hearts — or none. ‘Whoever will be a friend of the world — is the enemy of God.’ (James 4:4) The end of undecided and half-hearted Christians — will be to be cast out forever!

These verses teach us, secondly — how widely different is the estimate set on things by man, from that which is set on things by God. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares this in a severe rebuke which he addresses to the covetous Pharisees who derided Him. He says, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men. But God knows your hearts — for that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God.’

The truth of this solemn saying appears on every side of us. We have only to look round the world and mark the things on which most men set their affections, in order to see it proved in a hundred ways.

Riches, and honors, and rank, and pleasure — are the chief objects for which the greater part of mankind are living. Yet these are the very things which God declares to be ‘vanity’ — and of the love of which, He warns us to beware!

Praying, and Bible-reading, and holy living, and repentance, and faith, and grace, and communion with God — are things for which few care at all. Yet these are the very things which God in His Word is ever urging on our attention!

The disagreement is glaring, painful, and appalling. What God calls good — that man calls evil! What God calls evil — that man calls good!

Whose words, after all, are true? Whose estimate is correct? Whose judgment will stand at the last day? By whose standard will all be tried — before they receive their eternal sentence? Before whose judgment bar will the current opinions of the world be tested and weighed at last?

These are the only questions which ought to influence our conduct — and to these questions, the Bible returns a plain answer. The counsel of the Lord — it alone shall stand forever. The Word of Christ — it alone shall judge man at the last day. By that Word, let us live. By that Word, let us measure everything, and every person in this evil world.

It matters nothing what man thinks. ‘What says the Lord?’ It matters nothing what it is fashionable or customary to think. ‘Let God be true — and every man a liar.’ (Romans 3:4.) The more entirely we are of one mind with God — the better we are prepared for the judgment day.

To love what God loves, to hate what God hates, and to approve what God approves — is the highest style of Christianity. The moment we find ourselves honoring anything which in the sight of God is lightly esteemed — we may be sure there is something wrong in our souls.

These verses teach us, lastly — the dignity and sanctity of the law of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares that ‘it is easier for Heaven and earth to pass away — than for the least stroke of the law to fail.’

The honor of God’s holy law was frequently defended by Christ during the time of His ministry on earth. Sometimes we find Him defending it against man-made additions — as in the case of the fourth commandment. Sometimes we find Him defending it against those who would lower the standard of its requirements, and allow it to be transgressed — as in the case of the law of marriage. But never do we find Him speaking of the law in any terms but those of respect. He always ‘magnified the law, and made it honorable.’ (Isaiah 43:21.)

Its ‘ceremonial’ part was a type of His own gospel — and was to be fulfilled to the last letter. Its ‘moral’ part was a revelation of God’s eternal mind — and was to be perpetually binding on Christians.

The honor of God’s holy law needs continually defending in the present day. On few subjects does ignorance prevail so widely among professing Christians. Some appear to think that Christians have nothing to do with the law — that its moral and ceremonial parts were both of only temporary obligation — and that the daily sacrifice and the ten commandments were both alike put aside by the gospel.

Some on the other hand, think that the law is still binding on us, and that we are to be saved by obedience to it, but that its requirements are lowered by the gospel, and can be met by our imperfect obedience.

Both these views are erroneous and unscriptural. Against both, let us be on our guard.

Let us settle it in our minds that ‘the law is good — if man uses it lawfully.’ (1 Timothy 1:8.) It is intended to show us God’s holiness — and our sinfulness; to convince us of sin — and to lead us to Christ; to show us how to live after we have come to Christ — and to teach us what to follow and what to avoid. He who so uses the law, will find it a true friend to his soul. The established Christian will always say, ‘I delight in the law of God after the inward man.’ (Romans 7:22.)”

Call To Worship July 29 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 15:11-24

“We see, firstly, in this parable — a man following the natural bent of his own heart. Our Lord shows us a ‘younger son’ making haste to go far away from a kind father’s house, and ‘wasting his substance in riotous living.’

We have in these words, a faithful portrait of the mind with which we are all born. This is our likeness. We are all naturally proud and self-willed. We have no pleasure in fellowship with God. We long to depart, and go afar away from Him. We spend our time, and strength, and faculties, and affections — on things that cannot profit. The covetous man does it in one way; the slave of lusts and passions in another way; and the lover of pleasure in another way. In one point alone are all agreed. Like sheep, we all naturally ‘go astray, and turn every one to his own way.’ (Isaiah 53:6.) In the younger son’s initial conduct, we see the natural heart of every man.

He who knows nothing of these things, has yet much to learn. He is spiritually blind. The eyes of his understanding need to be opened. The worst ignorance in the world, is not to know ourselves. Happy is he who has been delivered from the kingdom of darkness — and been made acquainted with himself! Of too many it may be said, ‘They know not, neither will they understand. They walk on in darkness.’ (Psalm 82:5.)

We see, secondly, in this parable — man finding out by bitter experience, that the ways of sin are hard. Our Lord shows us the younger son spending all his property and reduced to poverty — obliged to hard labor to ‘feed swine’ — so hungry that he is ready to eat swine’s food — and cared for by none.

These words describe a common case. Sin is a hard master — and the servants of sin always find it out, sooner or later, to their cost. Unconverted people are never really happy. Under a profession of accomplishment and cheerfulness — they are often ill at ease within. Thousands of them are sick at heart — dissatisfied with themselves, weary of their own ways, and thoroughly uncomfortable. ‘There are many who say: Who will show us any good.’ ‘There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked.’ (Psalm 4:6, Isaiah 57:21.)

Let this truth sink down into our hearts. It is a truth — however loudly unconverted people may deny it. ‘The way of transgressors is hard.’ (Proverbs 13:15.) The secret wretchedness of natural man, is exceedingly great. There is a deep sorrow within, however much they may try to conceal it. They are ‘in need.’ He who ‘sows to the flesh — shall from the flesh reap corruption.’ It is no wonder that Paul said, ‘What profit did you have, in those things which you are now ashamed of?’ (Galatians 6:8. Romans 6:21.)

We see, thirdly, in this parable — man awaking to a sense of his natural state, and resolving to repent. Our Lord tells us that the younger son ‘Came to himself and said: How many of my father’s servants have bread enough and to spare — and I am perishing with hunger? I will arise and go to my father, and say unto him, Father, I have sinned.’

The thoughts of thousands are vividly painted in these words. Thousands have reasoned in this way, and are saying such things to themselves every day.

We must be thankful whenever we see such thoughts arise. Mere thinking is not change of heart — but it may be the beginning of it. Mere conviction is not conversion — but it is one step, at any rate, in a right direction. The ruin of many people’s souls is simply this — that they never think at all.

One caution, however, must always be given. Men must beware that they do not stop short by simply ‘thinking.’ Good thoughts are all very well — but they are not saving Christianity. If the younger son had never got beyond thinking — then he might have kept away from home to the day of his death.

We see, fourthly, in this parable — man turning to God with true repentance and faith. Our Lord shows us the younger son leaving the far country where he was, and going back to his father’s house — carrying into practice the good intentions he had formed, and unreservedly confessing his sin. ‘So he got up and went to his father.’

These words are a life-like outline of true repentance and conversion. The man in whose heart a true work of the Holy Spirit has begun — will never be content with mere thinking and resolving. He will break off from sin. He will cease to do evil — and he will learn to do good. He will turn to God in humble prayer. He will confess his iniquities. He will not attempt to excuse his sins. He will say with David, ‘I acknowledge my transgressions.’ He will say with the tax-collector, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Psalm 51:3, Luke 18:13.)

Let us beware of any repentance, falsely so called, which is not of this character. Action is the very life of ‘repentance unto salvation.’ Feelings, and tears, and remorse, and wishes, and resolutions, are all useless — until they are accompanied by action and a change of life. In fact, they are worse than useless. Insensibly they sear the conscience and harden the heart.

We see, fifthly, in this parable — the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God! Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history — in the most touching manner. We read that, ‘He got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.’‘

More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless. It is like gilding refined gold — or painting the lily. These words show us in great broad letters — the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners. They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him — and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow. ‘By Him, all who believe are justified from all things.’ ‘He is plenteous in mercy.’ (Acts 13:39. Psalm 86:5.)

Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be engraved deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds! Let us never forget that He is One ‘who receives sinners.’ With Him and His mercy — sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy — saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe. ‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says Paul, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God — who loved me and gave Himself for me!’ (Galatians 2:20.)”