J.C. Ryle on Christian Happiness

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“The only way to be really happy, in such a world as this is to be ever casting all our cares on God. It is the trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad … There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will only unbosom to Him our sorrow, – a friend who pitied the poor, the sick, and sorrowful, when He was upon earth, – a friend who knows the heart of a man, for He lived thirty-three years amongst us, – a friend who can weep with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,  – a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to Him.”

(J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, p.81)

 

Robert M’Cheyne’s Advice to Pastors

 

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“Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity. Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, and your heart full of God’s Spirit, is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin … Remember it is God, and not man, that must have the glory. It is not much speaking, but much faith, that is needed…”

(Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoirs & Remains, p.93)

Haddon Robinson on Reading

Beloved preacher and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Haddon Robinson writes on the importance of reading for ministers of the gospel:

Among the last words Paul wrote were in a letter to his young friend Timothy. “When you come,” he asked, “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). The apostle was an old man facing death at the hands of the emperor. He was chained in a drafty dungeon in the city of Rome. He needed his cloak to keep the chill off his bones, but he needed his books and parchments to keep the rust off his mind.

Charles Spurgeon took a lead from these words when he observed, “Even an apostle must read. He is inspired and yet he wants books. He has seen the Lord and yet he wants books…. He has been caught up in the third heaven, and he had heard things which it is unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books. He had written a major part of the New Testament and yet he wants books.” Paul had no more sermons to prepare and no more books or letters to write, but he needed to keep on reading. Even though life was running out on him, Paul needed books.

Ministers must read. We are required to read not as a luxury but as a necessity. We cannot go it alone. Our study of the Bible is enriched by the insights of scholars who have studied particular sections of the Bible more than we have. Only the lazy or stupid ignore the use of commentaries in their preparation. But we should also open our minds to wider vistas through reading books that are not sermon direct.

Working ministers cannot make this broader reading a top priority, but it can be done. Determine to read 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Do that for 50 weeks, and you will have read 125 hours in a year. If you read 30 pages an hour, you will have read over 3,750 pages a year. If you keep up that pace for ten years, you will have read more than 150 books of 250 pages. If those books were well chosen, you could become an authority in any field. As the venerable adage puts it: “Constancy surprises the world by its conquests.”

If you have a book in your hand, you are never alone, and reading enables you to have continued education without having to pay tuition.

J.I. Packer: The Cross and the Destiny of Those Who Reject God

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“Think … of the destiny of those who reject God.

Universalists suppose that the class of people mentioned in this heading will ultimately have no members, but the Bible indicates otherwise. Decisions made in this life will have eternal consequences. “Do not be deceived” (as you would be if you listened to the universalists), “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7). Those who in this life reject God will forever be rejected by God. Universalism is the doctrine that, among others, Judas will be saved, but Jesus did not think he would. “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21) How could Jesus have spoken those last words if he had expected Judas finally to be saved?

Some, then face an eternity of rejectedness. How can we understand what they will bring on themselves? We cannot, of course, form an adequate notion of hell, any more than we can of heaven, and no doubt it is good for us that this is so; but perhaps the clearest notion we can form is that derived from contemplating the cross.

On the cross, God judged our sins in the person of his Son, and Jesus endured the retributive comeback of our wrongdoing. Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what form God’s judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What form is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that he had before: all sense of his Father’s presence and love, all sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from him, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness.

The physical pain, though great (for crucifixion remains the cruelest form of judicial execution that the world has ever known), was yet only a small part of the story; Jesus’ chief sufferings were mental and spiritual, and what was packed into less than four hundred minutes was an eternity of agony – agony such that each minute was an eternity in itself, as mental sufferers know that individual minutes can be.

So, too, those who reject God face the prospect of losing all good, and the best way to form an idea of eternal death is to dwell on this thought. In ordinary life, we never notice how much good we enjoy through God’s common grace till it is taken from us. We never value health, or steady circumstances, or friendship and respect from others, as we should till we have lost them. Calvary shows that under the final judgment of God nothing that one has valued, or could value, nothing that one can call good, remains to one. It is a terrible thought, but the reality, we may be sure, is more terrible yet. “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” God help us learn this lesson, which the spectacle of propitiation through penal substitution on the cross teaches so clearly; and may each of us be found in Christ, our sins covered by his blood, at the last.”

(J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 194-195)

Two Ways to Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ

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The following excerpt is taken from A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. In Chapter 49, “Thomas Manton on the Judgment according to Works,” the authors summarize Manton’s excellent comparison of the two states people will be in at the final judgment.

As judge, Christ will be a TERROR to those who have…

(1) despised God’s kingdom (Luke 19:27)

(2) refused God’s grace (Psalm 81:11)

(3) despised God’s benefits (Heb. 2:3)

(4) abused His grace and turned to lasciviousness (Jude 4)

(5) broken His commandments (John 15:10)

(6) questioned the truth of God’s promises (2 Peter 3-4)

(7) perverted God’s ordinances (Matthew 24:48-51)

Christ as judge will be a COMFORT to those who have:

(1) believed Christ’s doctrine (John 11:25)

(2) loved Christ (Ephesians 6:24; 1 Corinthians 16:22)

(3) warred against Christ’s enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh (Revelation 3:21)

(4) obeyed His commandments (1 John 2:28)

Believers will be comforted because the judge is their friend, their brother, their high priest, and the one who died for their sins.

The Precious Promises of Christ

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There are times in life when we have to fight to believe what we know to be true. We may become bogged down by the disappointments and trials of life and slip into seasons of doubting and questioning our hope. If you’re discouraged and downcast in spirit, this post is for you.

Thomas Brooks once wrote, “Three things are called precious in the Scripture: the blood of Christ is called ‘precious blood,’ 1 Peter 1:19; and faith is called ‘precious faith’ 2 Peter 1:1; and the promises are called ‘precious promises,’ 2 Peter 1:4.”  Are the promises of Christ precious to you today?

I recently compiled a list of all Christ’s promises (Download the PDF). I highlighted conditions of the promises in red and the actual promise in yellow. This has become a sweet document to me. I regularly come and let the promises of Christ wash over me. Christ’s people are a blessed people. When I read through the promises I quickly become overwhelmed. There is so much the Lord has promised to do for us in his Word.

Here are a few of the the precious promises of Christ I’ve been savoring recently:

Matthew 5:8  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 10:9-10 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Revelation 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!


“Furnish thyself with arguments from the promises to enforce thy prayers, and make them prevalent with God. The promises are the ground of faith, and faith, when strengthened, will make thee fervent, and such fervency ever speeds and returns with victory out of the field of prayer… The mightier any is in the Word, the more mighty he will be in prayer.” ~William Gurnall

What are some of your favorite promises?

John Owen: The Pathway to Spiritual Recovery

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One of my favorite books is a small one by English Puritan John Owen, The Glory of Christ. I love it because it is both simple and profound.

In it, Owen argues that the root cause of all our problems in the Christian life is our inability to meditate on the glory of Christ.

He concludes the solution to sin in the Christian’s life is found through learning to satisfy our souls on the greatness of Jesus.

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from the book (taken from the Banner of Truth version abridged by R.J.K. Law)

When God purposes graciously to heal the backsliding of his people he not only calls them to repentance, but also enables them to repent and gives them the desire to use the means of healing. This is what he does here. ‘Take words with you, and return to the Lord’ (Hosea 14:2). And this is what ministers must do when pressing on their congregations the duty of repentance. Tell them what they have to pray for.

The pathway to spiritual recovery is renewed repentance seen in the following:

Renewed repentance is seen in fervent prayer. ‘Take words with you. Say to him…’ We must know what we are to pray for. We are to pray for pardon of all iniquity. ‘Take away all iniquity.’ Not one sin must be left to be indulged. We are to pray that God will graciously receive us. ‘Receive us graciously.’ Confession must be made of the sins that caused our backslidings. ‘Assyria will not save us. Nor will we say any more to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” Fleshly confidence and false worship were the two sins that ruined the people, and of these sins God expects a full and free confession so that we may be healed.

Believers must renew their covenant with God, renouncing all other hopes and expectations, and put their trust and confidence only and wholly in him, for only in God do the fatherless find mercy (14:3). The result of such repentance is praise and thanksgiving: ‘We will offer the sacrifice or our lips’ (14:2). When God heals our backslidings he will communicate his grace to us, to the praise of his own glory…

It only remains to show the unique way by which, through faith, we may obtain this promise, namely, of being flourishing and fruitful even in old age.

(i) The first thing we need to know is that all our supplies of grace are from Jesus Christ. Grace is declared in the promises of the Old Testament, but how it is communicated to us and how we receive it is revealed to us in the New: all grace is from Christ. He has told us that ‘without him, we can do nothing’. We can no more bear fruit than a branch separated from the vine (John 15:3-5). He is our head and all divine communications of grace are from him alone. He is our life and lives in us, so that all our strength for holiness and obedience comes from him (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:1-4). So if we are in a low spiritual state and desire to be revived, we must look to Christ alone. Without Christ, everything else we do is nothing and will produce nothing.

(ii) The only way to receive supplies of spiritual strength and grace from Jesus Christ is by faith. We come to him, are grafted into him, and must abide in him by faith to bring forth fruit. He dwells in our hearts by faith. He works in us by faith and we live by faith in the Son of God. So if we receive anything from Christ we must receive it by faith. Scripture gives us not warrant to believe that we can receive anything from him except by faith.

(iii) The third thing we need to know is that this faith concerns the person of Christ, his grace, his whole mediatory work, with all its results, and his glory in them all. Therefore the one thing most needed in our recovery and revival is a steady view of the glory of Christ, in his person, grace and office through faith, or a constant, lively exercise of faith in him as his is revealed to us in Scripture. This is the only way to be revived and to receive such grace as will keep us fresh and flourishing even in old age. He that lives by faith in Christ shall, by his spiritual thriving and growth, ‘declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.’

Scripture says, ‘They look to him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed’ (Ps. 34:5). ‘Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth’ (Isa. 45:22). On this look to Christ, on this view of his glory, depends all our salvation. Therefore everything we need for our complete salvation is also communicated to us as we look to him. ‘Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation’ (see also Zech. 12:10, Heb. 12:2).

(iv) A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive. Our souls will be revived by the transforming power with which beholding Christ is always accompanied. This is what transforms us daily into the likeness of Christ. So let us live in constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and power will then flow from him to us, healing all our declensions, renewing a right spirit in us and enabling us to abound in all the duties that God requires of us.

Faith will fix our souls in Christ who will fill us with delight and satisfaction. This, in heaven, is perfect blessedness, for it is caused by the eternal vision of the glory of God in Christ. So the more we behold the glory of Christ by faith now, the more spiritual and the more heavenly will be the state of our souls.

The reason why the spiritual life in our souls decays and withers is because we fill our minds full of other things, and these things weaken the power of grace. But when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, these things will be expelled (see Col. 3:1-5, Eph. 5:8).

When we behold the glory of Christ by faith every grace in us will be stirred up. This is how our spiritual life is revived (see Rom. 5:3-5, 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

All these thriving, flourishing graces in us will them make us more watchful against the deceitful workings of sin, temptations, foolish attitudes of mind and the vain thoughts which are the vain thought which are the causes of our spiritual decays. Thus we will be able to behold the glory of Christ more clearly by faith in this world, and so prepare to behold the glory of Christ by sight in the next.

Thus our Lord’s prayer for us will be fully answered:

‘Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24).

D.L. Moody on Evangelism

I believe that if an angel were to wing his way from earth up to Heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in Heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say, “Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ.” There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God’s hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven.