Last summer I discovered J.C. Ryle. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED him almost from the start. The first work of his which I read was Holiness. I've read several more since then. I highly recommend him. Though some of his chapters were long in Holiness and Practical Religion, that is NOT the case in his "expository thoughts" series. These are SHORT, straight-forward, oh-so-readable chapters. Each chapter focuses on a section of Scripture:
While one could choose to read ALL of the expository thoughts on Mark 1 in one day, it could also be broken down and read over five days. I loved the shorter sections!!! It kept it from being so intimidating.
The divinity of Christ is the citadel and keep of Christianity. Here lies the infinite value of the atoning sacrifice He made upon the cross. Here lies the peculiar merit of His atoning death for sinners. That death was not the death of a mere man, like ourselves, but of one who is "over all, God blessed forever." (Rom. 9:5.)
We should always read the Old Testament with a desire to find something in it about Jesus Christ. We study this portion of the Bible with little profit, if we can see in it nothing but Moses, and David, and Samuel, and the prophets. Let us search the books of the Old Testament more closely. It was said by Him whose words can never pass away, "These are the Scriptures that testify about Me," (John 5:39.)
The principal work of every faithful minister of the Gospel, is to set the Lord Jesus fully before His people, and to show them His fullness and His power to save. The next great work He has to do, is to set before them the work of the Holy Spirit, and the need of being born again, and inwardly baptized by His grace.
This is that old sermon which all the faithful witnesses of God have continually preached, from the very beginning of the world. From Noah down to the present day the substance of their address has been always the same-"Repent and believe."
Repentance and faith must always be the main subjects of every faithful minister's instruction.
All of us are by nature born in sin and children of wrath, and all need to repent, be converted, and born again, if we would see the kingdom of God. All of us are by nature guilty and condemned before God, and all must flee to the hope set before us in the Gospel, and believe in it, if we would be saved. All of us, once penitent, need daily stirring up to deeper repentance. All of us, though believing, need constant exhortation to increased faith.
But we shall never reach heaven, if we die impenitent and unbelieving.
The mere belief of the facts and doctrines of Christianity will never save our souls. Such belief is no better than the belief of devils. They all believe and know that Jesus is the Christ. They believe that he will one day judge the world, and cast them down to endless torment in hell. It is a solemn and sorrowful thought, that on these points some professing Christians have even less faith than the devil. There are some who doubt the reality of hell and the eternity of punishment. Such doubts as these find no place except in the hearts of self-willed men and women. There is no infidelity among devils. "They believe and tremble." (James 2:19.) Let us take heed that our faith be a faith of the heart as well as of the head. Let us see that our knowledge has a sanctifying influence on our affections and our lives. Let us not only know Christ but love Him, from a sense of actual benefit received from Him. Let us not only believe that he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, but rejoice in Him, and cleave to Him with purpose of heart. Let us not only be acquainted with Him by the hearing of the ear, but by daily personal application to Him for mercy and grace.
"The life of Christianity," says Luther, "consists in possessive pronouns." It is one thing to say "Christ is a Savior." It is quite another to say "He is my Savior and my Lord." The devil can say the first. The true Christian alone can say the second.
The pardoned soul shall always be enabled to serve Christ.
The Lord Jesus will never lose one of His sheep. Those whom He loves and pardons, He loves unto the end. Though sometimes cast down, they shall never be cast away. The healed soul shall always go on "serving the Lord." Grace shall always lead to glory!
We shall do well to watch our habits of prayer with a holy watchfulness. Here is the pulse of our Christianity. Here is the true test of our state before God. Here true religion begins in the soul, when it does begin. Here it decays and goes backward, when a man backslides from God. Let us walk in the steps of our blessed Master in this respect as well as in every other. Like Him, let us be diligent in our private devotion. Let us know what it is to "depart into solitary places and pray."
But is there nothing like leprosy among ourselves? Yes! indeed there is. There is a foul soul-disease which is ingrained into our very nature, and cleaves to our bones and marrow with deadly force. That disease is the plague of sin. Like leprosy, it is a deep-seated disease infecting every part of our nature, heart, will, conscience, understanding, memory, and affections. Like leprosy, it makes us loathsome and abominable, unfit for the company of God, and unfit for the glory of heaven. Like leprosy, it is incurable by any earthly physician, and is slowly but surely dragging us down to the second death. And, worst of all, far worse than leprosy, it is a disease from which no mortal man is exempt. "We are all," in God's sight, "as an unclean thing." (Isaiah 64:6.)Mark 2
We need reminding that the same Gospel which is the savor of life to some, is the savor of death to others, and that the same fire which softens the wax will also harden the clay.
Nothing, in fact, seems to harden man's heart so much, as to hear the Gospel regularly, and yet deliberately prefer the service of sin and the world.
Every sickness and sorrow is a gracious message from God, and is meant to call us nearer to Him.
This is a truth of deep importance. Without a divine call no one can be saved. We are all so sunk in sin, and so wedded to the world, that we would never turn to God and seek salvation, unless He first called us by His grace.
God must speak to our hearts by His Spirit, before we shall ever speak to Him.
Let us hope continually, and pray for others. Who can tell what God may be going to do for any one around us? No one is too bad for Christ to call. Let us pray for all.
We know nothing aright in religion, if we think the sense of sin should keep us back from Christ.
To feel our sins, and know our sickness is the beginning of real Christianity. To be sensible of our corruption and abhor our own transgressions, is the first symptom of spiritual health.
Our grand reason for our faith, and practice, should always be, "Thus it is written in the Bible." "What says the Scripture?" We should endeavor to have the word of God on our side in all debatable questions... Let us however remember, that if we are to use the Bible as our Lord did, we must know it well, and be acquainted with its contents. We must read it diligently, humbly, perseveringly, prayerfully, or we shall never find its texts coming to our aid in the time of need. To use the sword of the Spirit effectually, we must be familiar with it, and have it often in our hands. There is no royal road to the knowledge of the Bible. It does not come to man by intuition. The book must be studied, pondered, prayed over, searched into, and not left always lying on a shelf, or carelessly looked at now and then. It is the students of the Bible, and they alone, who will find it a weapon ready in hand in the day of battle.Mark 3
Nothing justifies separation from a church but the separation of that church from the Gospel.
"All sins shall be forgiven." The sins of youth and age — the sins of head, and hand, and tongue, and imagination — the sins against all God's commandments — the sins of persecutors, like Saul — the sins of idolaters, like Manasseh — the sins of open enemies of Christ, like the Jews who crucified Him — the sins of backsliders from Christ, like Peter — all, all may be forgiven. The blood of Christ can cleanse all away. The righteousness of Christ can cover all, and hide all from God's eyes.
We ought to notice, in the last place, that it is possible for a man's soul to be lost forever in hell. The words of our Lord are distinct and express. He speaks of one who "has never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." This is an dreadful truth, beyond doubt. But it is a truth, and we must not shut our eyes against it. We find it asserted over and over again in Scripture. Figures of all kinds are multiplied, and language of every sort is employed, in order to make it plain and unmistakable. In short, if there is no such thing as "eternal damnation," we may throw the Bible aside, and say that words have no meaning at all.
We have great need to keep this dreadful truth steadily in view in these latter days. Teachers have risen up, who are openly attacking the doctrine of the eternity of punishment, or laboring hard to explain it away. Men's ears are being tickled with plausible sayings about "the love of God," and the impossibility of a loving God permitting an everlasting hell. The eternity of punishment is spoken of as a mere "speculative question," about which men may believe anything they please. In the midst of all this flood of false doctrine, let us hold firmly the old truth. Let us not be ashamed to believe that there is an eternal God — an eternal heaven — and an eternal hell. Let us recollect that sin is an infinite evil. It needed an atonement of infinite value to deliver the believer from its consequences — and it entails an infinite loss on the unbeliever who rejects the remedy provided for it.
Let them know that there is One at least, who knows them, loves them, cares for them, and reckons them as His own family.Mark 4
These are they who really receive Christ's truth into the bottom of their hearts, believe it implicitly, and obey it thoroughly. In these the fruits of that truth will be seen — uniform, plain, and unmistakable results in heart and life. SIN will be truly hated, mourned over, resisted, and renounced. CHRIST will be truly loved, trusted in, followed, loved, and obeyed. HOLINESS will show itself in all their life, in humility, spiritual-mindedness, patience, meekness, and charity. There will be something that can be seen. The true work of the Holy Spirit cannot be hidden.
Religious light is not given to a man for himself alone, but for the benefit of others. We are to try to spread and diffuse our knowledge. We are to display to others the precious treasure that we have found; and persuade them to seek it for themselves. We are to tell them of the good news that we have heard, and endeavor to make them believe and value it themselves.
God deals with His work of grace exactly in the same way. He never removes His people from this world until they are ripe and ready. He never takes them away until their work is done. They never die at the wrong time, however mysterious their deaths appear sometimes to man.
Let us rest satisfied, that there is no chance, no accident, no mistake about the decease of any of God's children. They are all "God's field," and God knows best when they are ready for the harvest.Mark 5
Unbelief about the existence and personality of Satan, has often proved the first step to unbelief about God.
Home is the place above all others where the child of God ought to make his first endeavors to do good. Home is the place where he is most continually seen, and where the reality of his grace ought most truly to appear. Home is the place where his best affections ought to be concentrated. Home is the place where he should strive daily to witness for Christ.
How incredible it is that we do not hate sin more than we do! Sin is the cause of all the pain and disease in the world. God did not create man to be an ailing and suffering creature. It was sin, and nothing but sin, which brought in all the ills that flesh is heir to. It was sin to which we owe every racking pain, and every loathsome infirmity, and every humbling weakness to which our poor bodies are liable. Let us keep this ever in mind. Let us hate sin with a godly hatred.Mark 6
We can never be too much on our guard against unbelief. It is the oldest sin in the world. It began in the garden of Eden, when Eve listened to the devil's promises, instead of believing God's words, "you shall die." It is the most ruinous of all sins in its consequences. It brought death into the world. It kept Israel for forty years out of Canaan. It is the sin that especially fills hell. "He that believes not shall be damned." It is the most foolish and inconsistent of all sins. It makes a man refuse the plainest evidence, shut his eyes against the clearest testimony, and yet believe lies... Worst of all, it is the commonest sin in the world. Thousands are guilty of it on every side.
It is neither the lack of evidence, nor the difficulties of Christian doctrine, that make men unbelievers. It is lack of will to believe. They love sin. They are wedded to the world. In this state of mind they never lack specious reasons to confirm their will. The humble, childlike heart is the heart that believes.
The man who cares nothing for the souls of other people is not like Jesus Christ.
We cannot work miracles as He did; in this He stands alone. But we can walk in His steps, in the matter of private devotion. If we have the Spirit of adoption, we can pray. Let us resolve to pray more than we have done hitherto. Let us strive to make time, and place, and opportunity for being alone with God. Above all, let us not only pray BEFORE we attempt to work for God, but pray also AFTER our work is done.Mark 7
Let the history of the Jewish church be a warning to us never to trifle with false doctrine. If we once tolerate it we never know how far it may go, or into what degraded state of religion we may at last fall.
It must not content us to take our bodies to church, if we leave our hearts at home.
Heart-prayers are the prayers He loves to hear.
The first step of the Pharisees, was to add their traditions to the Scriptures, as useful supplements. The second was to place them on a level with the Word of God, and give them equal authority. The last was to honor them above the Scripture, and to degrade Scripture from its lawful position. This was the state of things which our Lord found when he was upon earth. Practically, the traditions of man were everything, and the Word of God was nothing at all. Obedience to the traditions constituted true religion. Obedience to the Scriptures was lost sight of altogether.
Let us beware of attempting to add anything to the word of God, as necessary to salvation. It provokes God to give us over to judicial blindness. It is as good as saying that His Bible is not perfect, and that we know better than He does what is necessary for man's salvation. It is just as easy to destroy the authority of God's word by addition as by subtraction, by burying it under man's inventions as by denying its truth. The whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, must be our rule of faith nothing added and nothing taken away.
The corruption of human nature is a universal disease. It affects not only a man's heart, will, and conscience, but his mind, memory, and understanding. The very same person who is quick and clever in worldly things, will often utterly fail to comprehend the simplest truths of Christianity. He will often be unable to grasp the plainest reasonings of the Gospel.
In reading the Bible and hearing sermons, everything depends on the spirit in which we read and hear. A humble, teachable, child-like frame of mind is the grand secret of success.
Surely of all sins to which we are liable, self-righteousness is the most unreasonable and unfitting.
The man that does not glory in the Gospel, can surely know little of the plague that is within him.
Thoughts are the parents of words and deeds.
Let us name all whom we love before God continually. Let us pray for all — the worst, the hardest, and the most unbelieving. Let us continue praying for them year after year, in spite of their continued unbelief. God's time of mercy may be a distant one. Our eyes may not see an answer to our intercession. The answer may not come for ten, fifteen, or twenty years. It may not come until we have exchanged prayer for praise, and are far away from this world. But while we live, let us pray for others. It is the greatest kindness we can do to any one, to speak for him to our Lord Jesus Christ.Mark 8
Let us ever beware of measuring the love of Christ by any human measure. He has a special love, beyond doubt, for His own believing people. But He has also a general love of compassion, even for the unthankful and the evil.
The man who is really converted, will always regard the unconverted with pity and concern.
There are few surer marks of an unconverted heart, than carelessness and indifference about the souls of others.
It is a blessed thought that Jesus, our Master in heaven, despises none of His people. Incredible and blameworthy as their slowness to learn undoubtedly is, His patience never gives way. He goes on teaching them, "line upon line, precept upon precept." Let us do likewise.
He meant that His death and passion were necessary in order to make atonement for man's sin. Without shedding His blood there could be no remission. Without the sacrifice of His body on the cross, there could be no satisfaction to God's holy law. He "must" suffer to make reconciliation for iniquity. He "must" die, because without His death as a propitiatory offering, sinners could never have life. He "must" suffer, because without His vicarious sufferings, our sins could never be taken away. In a word, He "must" be delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Here is the center truth of the Bible. Let us never forget that. All other truths compared to this are of secondary importance. Whatever views we hold of religious truth, let us see that we have a firm grasp upon the atoning efficacy of Christ's death. Let the truth so often proclaimed by our Lord to His disciples, and so diligently taught by the disciples to the world, be the foundation truth in our Christianity. In life and in death, in health and in sickness, let us lean all our weight on this mighty fact — that though we have sinned, Christ has died for sinners — and that though we deserve nothing, Christ has suffered on the cross for us, and by that suffering purchased heaven for all who believe in Him.
A religion which costs nothing, is worth nothing. It will do us no good in the life that now is. It will lead to no salvation in the life to come.
Of all unprofitable and foolish bargains that man can make, the worst is that of giving up his soul's salvation for the sake of this present world.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible