Call To Worship June 17 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke J.C. Ryle Luke 13:22-30

“We see in these verses — a remarkable question asked. We are told that a certain man said to Jesus, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’

We do not know who this enquirer was. He may have been a self-righteous Jew, trained to believe that there was no hope for the Gentile, and no salvation for any but the children of Abraham. He may have been an idle trifler with religion, who was ever wasting his time on curious and speculative questions. In any case, we must all feel that he asked a question of deep and momentous importance.

He who desires to know the number of the saved, in the present time — need only turn to the Bible, and his curiosity will be satisfied. He will read these solemn words in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto life — and few there are who find it.’ (Matthew 7:14.) He has only to look around him, and compare the ways of the many with the Word of God — and he will soon come to the conclusion, if he is an honest man — that the saved are few.

It is a dreadful conclusion. Our souls naturally turn away from it. But Scripture and facts alike, combine to shut us up to it. Salvation to the uttermost, is offered to men. All things are ready on God’s part. Christ is willing to receive sinners — but sinners are not willing to come to Christ. And hence few are saved.

We see, secondly, in these verses — a striking exhortation given. We are told that when our Lord Jesus Christ was asked whether few would be saved, He said, ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate.’ He addressed these words to the whole company of His hearers. He thought it unwise to gratify the curiosity of his questioner by a direct reply. He chose rather to press home on him, and all around him — their own immediate duty. In minding their own souls — they would soon find the question answered. In striving to enter in at the strait gate — they would soon see whether the saved were many or few.

Whatever others may do in religion — the Lord Jesus would have us know that our duty is clear. The gate is strait. The work is great. The enemies of our souls are many. We must be up and doing. We are to wait for nobody. We are not to inquire what other people are doing — and whether many of our neighbors, and relatives, and friends are serving Christ. The unbelief and indecision of others — will be no excuse for us at the last day. We must never follow a multitude to do evil. If we go to Heaven alone — we must resolve that by God’s grace we will go. Whether we have many with us or a few — the command before us is plain, ‘Strive to enter in!’

Whatever others may think in religion, the Lord Jesus would have us know that we are responsible for exertion. We are not to sit still in sin and worldliness, waiting for the grace of God. We are not to go on still in our wickedness, sheltering ourselves under the vain plea that we can do nothing until God draws us. We are to draw near to Him in the use of the means of grace. How we can do it, is a question with which we have nothing to do. It is in obedience — that the knot will be untied. The command is express and unmistakable, ‘Strive to enter in.’

We see, thirdly, in these verses — a day of dreadful solemnity described. We are told of a time when ‘the master of the house shall rise and shut the door.’ We are told of a time when some shall ‘sit down in the kingdom of God’ — and others be ‘shut out’ for evermore. There can be no doubt about the meaning of these words. They describe the second coming of Christ — and the day of judgment.

A day is coming on the earth, when the patience of God towards SINNERS shall have an end. The door of mercy, which has been so long open — shall at last be shut! The fountain opened for all sin and impurity — shall at length be closed. The throne of grace shall be removed — and the throne of judgment shall be set up in its place.

The great tribunal of the world shall begin. All who are found impenitent and unbelieving — shall be thrust out forever from God’s presence! Men shall find that there is such a thing, as ‘the wrath of the Lamb!’ (Revelation 6:16.)

A day is coming when BELIEVERS in Christ shall receive a full reward. The Master of the great house in Heaven shall call His servants together, and give an unfading crown of glory to each of them. They shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and rest forever from warfare and work. They shall be eternally shut in — with Christ, and saints, and angels, in the kingdom of Heaven. Sin, and death, and sorrow, and the world, and the devil — shall be eternally shut out. Men shall see at last that, ‘To him that sows righteousness — there is a sure reward.’ (Proverbs 11:18.)

We see, lastly, in these verses — a heart-searching prophecy delivered. Our Lord tells us that in the day of His second coming, ‘Many will seek to enter in at the strait gate — and shall not be able.’ They will ‘knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us!’ — but will find no admission. They will even plead earnestly, that ‘they have eaten and drunk in Christ’s presence, and that He has taught in their streets.’ But their plea will be unavailing. They will receive the solemn answer, ‘I don’t know you. Depart from Me, all you who do evil.’ Religious profession, and formal knowledge of Christ — will save none who have served sin and the world.

There is something particularly striking in our Lord’s language in this prophecy. It reveals to us the solemn fact, that men may see what is right — when it is too late for them to be saved. There is a time coming, when many will repent too late, and believe too late. They will sorrow for sin too late, and begin to pray too late. They will be anxious about salvation too late, and long for Heaven too late. Myriads shall wake up in the eternal world, and be convinced of truths which on earth they refused to believe. Earth is the only place in God’s creation — where there is any infidelity. Hell itself, is nothing but truth known too late.

The recollection of this passage should help us to set a right estimate on things around us. Money, and pleasure, and rank, and greatness — occupy the first place now in the world. Praying, and believing, and holy living, and acquaintance with Christ — are despised, and ridiculed, and held very cheap. But there is a drastic change coming one day! The last shall be first — and the first last. For that change, let us be prepared.

And now let us ask ourselves whether we are among the many — or among the few? Do we know anything of striving and warring against sin, the world, and the devil? Are we ready for the Master’s coming to shut the door? The man who can answer these questions satisfactorily, is a true Christian.”

Fellow Servants in the Lord – Part Two

Part Two

Part One

Call To Worship June 10 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 13:18-21

“The parable of the leaven — is intended to show the progress of the Gospel in the heart of a believer.

The first beginnings of the work of grace in a sinner are generally exceedingly small. It is like the mixture of leaven with a lump of dough. A single sentence of a sermon, or a single verse of Holy Scripture — a word of rebuke from a friend, or a casual religious remark overheard — a tract given by a stranger, or a trifling act of kindness received from a Christian — some one of these things, is often the starting-point in the life of a soul.

The first actings of the spiritual life are often small in the extreme — so small, that for a long time they are not known except by him who is the subject of them — and even by him, they are not fully understood. A few serious thoughts and prickings of conscience — a desire to pray sincerely, and not formally — a determination to begin reading the Bible in private — a gradual drawing towards means of grace — an increasing interest in the subject of religion — a growing distaste for evil habits and bad companions — these, or some of them, are often the first symptoms of grace beginning to move the heart of man.

They are symptoms which worldly men may not perceive, and ignorant believers may despise, and even old Christians may mistake. Yet they are often the first steps in the mighty business of conversion. They are often the ‘leaven’ of grace working in a heart!

The work of grace once begun in the soul, will never stand still. It will gradually ‘leaven the whole lump.’ Like leaven once introduced — it can never be separated from that with which it is mingled. Little by little — it will influence the conscience, the affections, the mind, and the will — until the whole man is affected by its power, and a thorough conversion to God takes place.

In some cases no doubt, the progress is far quicker than in others. In some cases, the result is far more clearly marked and decided than in others. But wherever a real work of the Holy Spirit begins in the heart — the whole character is sooner or later leavened and changed. The tastes of the man are altered. The whole bent of his mind becomes different. ‘Old things pass away — and all things become new.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17.) The Lord Jesus said that it would be so — and all experience shows that so it is.

Let us learn from this parable — never to ‘despise the day of small things’ in religion. (Zechariah 4:10.) The soul must creep, before it can walk — and walk, before it can run. If we see any sign of grace beginning in a brother, however feeble — then let us thank God and be hopeful. The leaven of grace once planted in his heart, shall yet leaven the whole lump. ‘Being confident of this — that He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1:6.)

Let us ask ourselves whether there is any work of grace in our own hearts. Are we resting satisfied with a few vague wishes and convictions? Or do we know anything of a gradual, growing, spreading, increasing, leavening process going on in our inward man? Let nothing short of this content us. The true work of the Holy Spirit, will never stand still — it will leaven the whole lump!”

Contrast & Comparison

Call To Worship June 3 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, J.C. Ryle – Luke 13:10-17

“We see in these verses — a striking example of diligence in the use of means of grace. We are told of a ‘woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed down, and could not straiten up.’ We do not know who this woman was. Our Lord’s saying that she was ‘a daughter of Abraham’ — would lead us to infer that she was a true believer. But her name and history are hidden from us. This alone we know — that when Jesus was ‘teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath’ — this woman was there. Sickness was no excuse with her for staying away from God’s house. In spite of suffering and infirmity — she found her way to the place where the day and the Word of God were honored, and where the people of God met together. And truly she was blessed in her deed! She found a rich reward for all her pains. She came sorrowing — and went home rejoicing!

The conduct of this suffering Jewess may well put to shame many a strong and healthy professing Christian. How many in the full enjoyment of bodily vigor — allow the most frivolous excuses to keep them away from the house of God! How many are constantly spending the whole Sunday in idleness, pleasure-seeking, or business, and scoffing and sneering at those who ‘keep the Sabbath holy!’ How many think it a great matter if they attend the public worship of God once on Sunday, and regard a second attendance as a needless excess of zeal akin to fanaticism! How many find religious services a weariness while they attend them, and feel relieved when they are over! How few know anything of David’s spirit, when he said, ‘I was glad when they said to me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ ‘How lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord Almighty!’ (Psalm 122:1; Psalm 84:1.)

Now what is the explanation of all this? What is the reason why so few are like the woman of whom we read this day? The answer to these questions is short and simple. The most have no heart for God’s service. They have no delight in God’s presence or God’s day. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God.’

The moment a man’s heart is converted — these pretended difficulties about attending public worship vanish away. The new heart finds no trouble in keeping the Sabbath holy. Where there is a will — there is always a way.

Let us never forget that our feelings about Sundays are sure tests of the state of our souls. The man who can find no pleasure in giving God one day in the week — is manifestly unfit for Heaven! Heaven itself is nothing but an eternal Sabbath. If we cannot enjoy a few hours in God’s service once a week in this world — then it is plain that we could not enjoy an eternity in His service in the world to come. Happy are those who walk in the steps of the woman of whom we read today! They shall find Christ and a blessing while they live — and Christ and glory when they die!”

Authority Autonomy Ascendancy

Call to Worship May 27 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 13:6-9

“We learn first from this passage — that where God gives spiritual privileges, He expects proportionate returns.

Our Lord teaches this lesson, by comparing the Jewish Church of His day to a ‘fig tree planted in a vineyard.’ This was exactly the position of Israel in the world. They were separated from other nations by the Mosaic laws and ordinances, no less than by the situation of their land. They were favored with revelations of God, which were granted to no other people. Things were done for them, which were never done for Egypt, or Nineveh, or Babylon, or Greece, or Rome. It was only just and right, that they should bear fruit to God’s praise. It might reasonably be expected, that there would be more faith, and penitence, and holiness, and godliness in Israel — than among the heathen. This is what God looked for. The owner of the fig tree ‘came seeking fruit.’

But if we mean to get the full benefit of the parable before us — then we must look beyond the Jewish Church. We must look to the Christian churches. They have light, and truth, and doctrines, and precepts — of which the heathen never hear. How great is their responsibility! Is it not just and right, that God should expect fruit from them?

We must look to our own hearts. We live in a land of Bibles, and liberty, and Gospel preaching. How vast are the advantages we enjoy — compared to the Chinese and Hindu! Never let us forget that God expects fruit from us!

We learn, secondly, from this passage — that it is a most dangerous thing to be unfruitful under great religious privileges.

The manner in which our Lord conveys this lesson to us is deeply impressive. He shows us the owner of the barren fig tree complaining that it bore no fruit, ‘These three years I have come seeking fruit — and find none.’ He describes him as even ordering the destruction of the tree as a useless cumberer of the ground, ‘Cut it down; why does it cumber the ground?’ He brings in the dresser of the vineyard pleading for the fig tree, that it may be spared a little longer, ‘Lord, let it alone this year also.’ And He concludes the parable by putting these solemn words into the vine-dresser’s mouth, ‘If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not — then cut it down!’

There is a plain warning here to all professing churches of Christ. If their ministers do not teach sound doctrine, and their members do not live holy lives — then they are in imminent peril of destruction. God is every year observing them, and taking account of all their ways. They may abound in ceremonial religion. They may be covered with the leaves of forms, and services, and ordinances. But if they are destitute of the fruits of the Spirit — then they are reckoned to be useless cumberers of the ground. Unless they repent — they will be cut down.

It was so with the Jewish Church forty years after our Lord’s ascension. It will be so yet with many others, it may be feared, before the end comes. The ax is lying near the root of many an unfruitful Church. The sentence will yet go forth, ‘Cut it down!’

There is a plainer warning still in the passage, for all unconverted professing Christians. There are many in every congregation who hear the Gospel — who are literally hanging over the brink of the bottomless pit! They have lived for years in the best part of God’s vineyard — and yet borne no fruit. They have heard the Gospel preached faithfully for hundreds of Sundays — yet have never embraced it, and taken up the cross, and followed Christ. They do not perhaps run into open sin. But they do nothing for God’s glory. There is nothing positive about their religion. Of each of these the Lord of the vineyard might say with truth, ‘I come for these many years seeking fruit on this tree — and have found none. It only cumbers the ground. Cut it down!’

There are myriads of respectable professing Christians in this plight. They have not the least idea, how near they are to destruction. Never let us forget, that to be content with sitting in the congregation and hearing sermons, while we bear no fruit in our lives — is conduct which is most offensive to God. It provokes Him to cut us off suddenly, and that without remedy!

We learn, lastly, from this parable — what an infinite debt we all owe to God’s mercy and Christ’s intercession. It seems impossible to draw any other lesson from the earnest pleading of the vine-dresser, ‘Lord, let it alone this year also.’ Surely we see here, as in a looking-glass — the loving kindness of God, and the mediation of Christ.

Mercy has been truly called the darling attribute of God. Power, justice, purity, holiness, wisdom, unchangeableness — are all parts of God’s character, and have all been manifested to the world in a thousand ways, both in His works and in His Word. But if there is one of His attributes which He is pleased to exhibit to man more clearly than others — beyond doubt, that attribute is His mercy. He is a God who ‘delights in mercy.’ (Micah 7:18.)

Divine mercy founded on the mediation of a coming Savior. Divine mercy was the cause why Adam and Eve were not cast down to Hell, in the day that they fell. Divine mercy has been the cause why God has borne so long with this sin-laden world, and not come down to judgment. Divine mercy is even now the cause why unconverted sinners are so long spared, and not cut off in their sins.

We have probably not the least conception how much we all owe to God’s mercy. The last day will prove that all mankind were debtors to God’s mercy, and Christ’s mediation. Even those who are finally lost, will discover to their shame — that it was ‘of the Lord’s mercies, they were not consumed’ long before they died. As for those who are saved — covenant-mercy will be all their plea!

Are we fruitful — or unfruitful? This, after all, is the question which concerns us most. What does God see in us year after year? Let us take heed so to live — that He may see fruit in us.”

He Must Increase …

Call To Worship May 20 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, J.C. Ryle – Luke 13:1-5

“Let us observe, for one thing, in these verses — how much more ready people are to talk of the deaths of others, than their own deaths. The death of the Galileans, mentioned here, was probably a common subject of conversation in Jerusalem and all Judea. We can well believe that all the circumstances and particulars belonging to it, were continually discussed by thousands who never thought of their own latter end!

It is just the same in the present day. A murder, a sudden death, a shipwreck, or a railway accident — will completely occupy the minds of a neighborhood, and be in the mouth of every one you meet. And yet these very people dislike talking of their own deaths — and their own prospects in the eternal world beyond the grave. Such is human nature in every age. In religion, men are ready to talk of anybody’s business — rather than their own!…May we ever seek to be men of this frame of mind! Let us take a kind interest in all around us. Let us feel tender pity and compassion for all who suffer violence, or are removed by sudden death. But let us never forget to look at home — and to learn wisdom for ourselves, from all that happens to others.

Let us observe, for another thing, in these verses — how strongly our Lord lays down the universal necessity of repentance. Twice He declares emphatically, ’Unless you repent — you shall all likewise perish!’

The truth here asserted, is one of the foundations of Christianity. ‘All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ All of us are born in sin. We all love sin — and are naturally unfit for friendship with a holy God. Two things are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every one of us. We must repent of our sins — and we must believe the Gospel. Without repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ — no man can be saved.

The nature of true repentance is clearly and unmistakably laid down in holy Scripture.

It begins with knowledge of sin.

It goes on to work sorrow for sin.

It leads to confession of sin before God.

It shows itself before man, by a thorough breaking off from sin.

It results in producing a habit of deep hatred for all sin.

Above all, it is inseparably connected with lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance like this is the characteristic of all true Christians.

The necessity of repentance to salvation, will be evident to all who search the Scriptures, and consider the nature of the subject. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins. There never was a pardoned man — who was not also a penitent. There never was one washed in the blood of Christ — who did not feel, and mourn, and confess, and hate his own sins.

Without repentance, there can be no fitness for Heaven. We could not be happy if we reached the kingdom of glory — with a heart loving sin. The company of saints and angels, would give us no pleasure. Our minds would not be in tune for an eternity of holiness.

Let these things sink down into our hearts. We must repent as well as believe, if we hope to be saved.

Let us leave the subject with the solemn inquiry — Have we ourselves repented? We live in a Christian land. We belong to a Christian Church. We have Christian meetings and means of grace. We have heard of repentance with the hearing of the ear, and that hundreds of times. But have we ever repented? Do we really know our own sinfulness? Do our sins cause us any sorrow? Have we cried to God about our sins — and sought forgiveness at the throne of grace? Have we ceased to do evil, and broken off from our sinful habits? Do we sincerely and heartily hate everything that is evil?

These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. The subject before us is no light matter. Nothing less than life — eternal life — is at stake! If we die impenitent, and without a new heart — we had better never have been born.

If we never yet repented, let us begin without delay. For this we are accountable. ‘Repent — and be converted,’ were the words of Peter to the Jews who had crucified our Lord. (Acts 3:19.) ‘Repent and pray,’ was the charge addressed to Simon Magus when he was in the ‘gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity.’ (Acts 8:22.)

There is everything to encourage us to begin. Christ invites us. Promises of Scripture are held out to us. Glorious declarations of God’s willingness to receive us, abound throughout the Word. ‘There is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents.’ Then let us arise and call upon God. Let us repent without delay.

If we have already repented in time past — then let us go on repenting to the end of our lives. There will always be sins to confess and infirmities to deplore — as long as we are in the body. Let us repent more deeply, and humble ourselves more thoroughly, every year. Let every returning birthday find us hating sin more — and loving Christ more. He was a wise old saint who said, ‘I hope to carry my repentance to the very gate of Heaven!’”

Simple and Profound – John 1:29