Herod & John

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.”

Grown Up Children

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.)”

Violent Men – Matthew 11:14

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.)”

A Man For His Time

Call to Worship July 22 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, J.C. Ryle – Luke 15:1-10

“We should first observe in these verses — the striking testimony which was borne to our Lord by His enemies. We read that when ‘all the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him, the Scribes and Pharisees murmured, saying: This man receives sinners, and eats with them!’

These words were evidently spoken with surprise and scorn — and not with pleasure and admiration. These ignorant guides of the Jews could not understand a religious preacher having anything to do with wicked people! Yet their words worked for good. The very saying which was meant for a reproach — was adopted by the Lord Jesus as a true description of His ministry. It led to His speaking three of the most instructive parables which ever fell from His lips.

The testimony of the Scribes and Pharisees was strictly and literally true — the Lord Jesus is indeed one who ‘receives sinners.’ He receives them — to pardon them, to sanctify them, and to make them fit for Heaven. It is His special office to do so. For this end He came into the world. He came not to call the righteous — but sinners to repentance. He came into the world to save sinners. What He was upon earth — He is now at the right hand of God, and will be to all eternity. He is emphatically the sinner’s Friend.

Have we any sense of sin? Do we feel bad, and wicked, and guilty, and deserving of God’s wrath? Is the remembrance of our past lives, bitter to us? Does the recollection of our past conduct, make us ashamed? Then we are the very people who ought to apply to Christ — just as we are, pleading nothing good of our own, and making no useless delay. Christ will receive us graciously, pardon us freely, and give us eternal life. He is the One who ‘receives sinners.’ Let us not be lost, for lack of applying to Him that we may be saved.

We should observe, secondly, in these verses — the remarkable figures under which our Lord describes His own love towards sinners. We read that in reply to the taunting remark of His enemies He spoke three parables — the parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son. The first two of these parables are now before us. All three are meant to illustrate one and the same truth. They all throw strong light on Christ’s willingness to save sinners.

Christ’s love is an active, working love. Just as the shepherd did not sit still bewailing his lost sheep, and the woman did not sit still bewailing her lost money — so our blessed Lord did not sit still in Heaven pitying sinners.

He left the glory which He had with the Father, and humbled Himself to be made in the likeness of man. He came down into the world to seek and save those who were lost. He never rested until He had made atonement for our transgressions, brought in everlasting righteousness, provided eternal redemption, and opened a door of life to all who are willing to be saved.

Christ’s love is a self-denying love. The shepherd brought his lost sheep home on his own shoulders — rather than leave it in the wilderness. The woman lit a candle, and swept the house, and searched diligently, and spared no pains — until she found her lost money. In the same way did Christ not spare Himself, when he undertook to save sinners. ‘He endured the cross, scorning the shame.’ He ‘laid down His life for His friends.’ Greater love than this, cannot be shown. (John 15:13. Hebrews 12:2.)

Christ’s love is a deep and mighty love. Just as the shepherd rejoiced to find his sheep, and the woman to find her money — so does the Lord Jesus rejoice to save sinners. It is a real pleasure to Him to pluck them as brands from the burning. It was His ‘food and drink,’ when upon earth, to finish the work which He came to do. He felt constrained in spirit until it was accomplished. It is still His delight to show mercy. He is far more willing to save sinners — than sinners are to be saved.

Let us strive to know something of this love of Christ. It is a love that truly surpasses knowledge — it is unspeakable and unsearchable. It is that on which we must wholly rest our souls, if we would have peace with God in time, and glory in eternity. If we take comfort in our own love to Christ — then we are building on a sandy foundation. But if we lean on Christ’s love to us — we are firmly on a rock.

We should observe, lastly, in these verses — the wide encouragement which our Lord holds out to repentance. We read these striking words, ‘There shall be joy in Heaven, over one sinner who repents.’ We read the same thought again after a few verses, ‘There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner who repents.’ The thing is doubled, to make doubt impossible. The idea is repeated, in order to meet man’s unbelief.

There are deep things in these sayings, beyond doubt. Our poor weak minds are little able to understand how the perfect joy of Heaven can admit of increase.

But one thing, at any rate, stands out clearly on the face of these expressions. There is an infinite willingness on God’s part to receive sinners. However wicked a man may have been — in the day that he really turns from his wickedness and comes to God by Christ — God is well-pleased. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked — but God has pleasure in true repentance.

Let the man who is afraid to repent, consider well the verses we are now looking at, and be afraid no more. There is nothing on God’s part to justify his fears. An open door is set before him. A free pardon awaits him. ‘If we confess our sins — then God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9.)

Let the man who is ashamed to repent, consider these verses, and cast shame aside. What though the world mocks and jests at his repentance? While man is mocking — angels are rejoicing! The very change which sinners call foolishness — is a change which fills Heaven with joy.

Have we repented ourselves? This, after all, is the principal question which concerns us. What shall it profit us to know Christ’s love — if we do not use it? ‘If you know these things — blessed are you if you do them.’ (John 13:17.)”

Christian Reconciliation from Philemon

Jesus’ Apology for John