Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Holiness

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. J.C. Ryle. (1816-1900). 280 pages.

Holiness by J.C. Ryle may just be one of the BEST, BEST, BEST books ever in terms of Christian living, in terms of examining what it means to be a Christian, to live as Christ would have us to live. It is a timeless book in my opinion. The truths found in this one are just as true now as they were when they were first taught, and they'll be just as true in another century's time. Is it always easy to accept the truth that is right in front of us? Perhaps not. But we would be wise to accept Ryle's challenge to consider, to reflect, to study ourselves to see if we are in the faith, if we do indeed believe on Christ and are trusting in Him to save us. Each chapter of this one offers challenges to readers. Each chapter asks hard questions of readers, asking readers to examine themselves, to test their beliefs, to reflect on their lives and choices. But each chapter also offers hope and compassion. Each chapter invites readers to choose this day Christ, to commit to Christ, to follow Christ, to come to saving faith, to repent and believe. 

The bookends of this collection of sermons or teachings are man's deficiency (sin) and Christ's sufficiency (Christ truly being our ALL in ALL). While the book is mainly about sanctification--what it means to live a holy life, to grow in holiness, to do good works for God's kingdom, to outwardly reflect the inner transformation of the soul, it also discusses justification highlighting how these two truths complement one another. Since these two terms are so easily misunderstood, I would definitely recommend this book for that reason alone! This one is also EXCELLENT at providing portraits of Christ! In other words, many chapters detail and describe Jesus. 

Other subjects covered include grace, love, assurance, prayer, Bible-reading, church life, spiritual warfare, Christ's Lordship, repentance, faith, truth, heaven, hell, the trinity, etc. 

My favorite short quotes from Holiness:
In justification, the word to address to man is believe — only believe. In sanctification, the word must be "watch, pray, and fight!" What God has divided — let us not mingle and confuse.
We will do well to remember that, when we make our own miserably imperfect knowledge and consciousness, the measure of our sinfulness — we are on very dangerous ground.
Sin rarely seems sin at its first beginnings. Let us then watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. We may give wickednesssmooth names — but we cannot alter its nature and character in the sight of God.
Men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus — unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus — are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. 
Most men hope to go to Heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy Heaven if they got there. Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in Heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for Heaven while we are on earth. 
Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and  measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
We must not merely have a Christian name and Christian knowledge — we must have a Christian character also.
No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion — unless he sincerely believes something.
True Christianity will cost one his SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. True Christianity will cost a man his SINS. Also, Christianity will cost a man his love of EASE. Lastly, true Christianity will cost a man the favor of the WORLD. 
A religion which costs nothing — is worth nothing! A cheap, easy Christianity, without a cross — will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown!
A single day in Hell — will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross.
In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportioned to his faith. His peace, his patience, his courage, his zeal, his works — all will be according to his faith.
I have often heard of "narrow-minded views," and "old-fashioned notions," and "fire-and-brimstone theology," and the like. I have often been told that "broad" views are needed in the present day. I wish to be as broad as the Bible — neither less nor more. I say that he is the narrow-minded theologian who pares down such parts of the Bible as the natural heart dislikes, and rejects any portion of the counsel of God.
Let us be quick to see grace — and more slow to see imperfections! Let us know that, if we cannot allow that there is grace where there is corruption — we shall find no grace in the world. 
You never did an action, however private — but Jesus saw it. You never spoke a word, no, not even in a whisper — but Jesus heard it. You never wrote a letter, even to your dearest friend — but Jesus read it. You never thought a thought, however secret — but Jesus was familiar with it.     
If a man has no love to Christ — you may be sure he has no saving faith.
An unknown Christ is no Savior.
Ignorance of Scripture is the root of all error, and makes a man helpless in the hand of the devil.
The God of Heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as the one only Savior and way of life, and all who would be saved must be content to be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all.
My favorite portraits of Christ:
No proof of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable — as the sufferings and crossof our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be, for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be, which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" (Matthew 27:46). Nothing, I am convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we will have of sin, and the retrospect we will take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never until the hour when Christ comes the second time, will we fully realize the "sinfulness of sin." Well might George Whitefield say, "The anthem in Heaven will be: What has God wrought!"
There is a remedy revealed for man's need — as wide and broad and deep as man's disease! We need not be afraid to look at sin and study its natureoriginpowerextent and vileness — if we only look at the same time at the almighty medicine provided for us in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Though sin has abounded — grace has much more abounded in the everlasting covenant of redemption, to which Father, Son and Holy Spirit are parties; in the Mediator of that covenant, Jesus Christ the righteous, perfect God and perfect Man in one Person; in the work that He did by dying for our sins and rising again for our justification; in the offices that He fills as our Priest, Substitute, Physician, Shepherd and Advocate; in the precious blood He shed which can cleanse from all sin; in the everlasting righteousness that He brought in; in the perpetual intercession that He carries on as our Representative at God's right hand; in His power to save to the uttermost the chief of sinners, His willingness to receive and pardon the vilest, His readiness to bear with the weakest; in the grace of the Holy Spirit which He plants in the hearts of all His people, renewing, sanctifying and causing old things to pass away and all things to become new —in all this (and oh, what a brief sketch it is!) — in all this, I say, there is a full, perfect and complete medicine for the hideous disease of sin!     
The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people's souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins, by His atoning death; but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them — but also to sanctify them. 
Keep before your mind, as an ever-present truth, that the Lord Jesus is an actual living Person, and deal with Him as such. I am afraid that many who profess Christ in our day have lost sight of our Lord's person. They talk more about salvation — than about their only Savior, and more about redemption — than the one true Redeemer, and more about Christ's work — than Christ Himself. This is a great fault — one that accounts for the dry and shriveled spirit that infuses the religious lives of many who profess faith.As ever you would grow in grace, and have joy and peace in believing — beware of falling into this error. Cease to regard the Gospel as a mere collection of dry doctrines. Look at it rather as the revelation of a mighty living Being in whose sight you are daily to live. Cease to regard it as a mere set of abstract propositions and abstruse principles and rules. Look at it as the introduction to a glorious personal Friend. This is the kind of Gospel that the apostles preached. They did not go about the world telling men of love and mercy and pardon in the abstract. The leading subject of all their sermons, was the loving heart of an actual living Christ. This is the kind of Gospel which is most calculated to promote sanctification and fitness for glory. Nothing, surely, is so likely to prepare us for that Heaven where Christ's personal presence will be all, and that glory where we shall meet Christ face to face, as to realize communion with Christ, as an actual living Person here on earth. There is all the difference in the world, between an ideaand a person.
The foundation of the true Church was laid at a mighty cost. It was necessary that the Son of God should take our nature upon Him, and in that nature live, suffer and die, not for His own sins — but for ours. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go to the grave, and rise again. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go up to Heaven, to sit at the right hand of God, having obtained eternal redemption for all His people. No other foundation could have met the necessities of lost, guilty, corrupt, weak, helpless sinners. That foundation, once obtained, is very strong. It can bear the weight of the sins of all the world. It has borne the weight of all the sins of all thebelievers who have built on it.  
Infinite power and infinite sympathy are met together and combined in our Savior. If He had been only Man, He could not have saved us. If He had been only God (I speak with reverence), He could not have been "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," nor "suffered Himself being tempted." (Hebrews 4:152:18). As God, He is mighty to save; as Man, He is exactly suited to be our Head, Representative and Friend. Let those who never think deeply, taunt us, if they will, with squabbling about creeds and dogmatic theology. But let thoughtful Christians never be ashamed to believe and hold fast the neglected doctrine of the Incarnation, and the union of two natures in our Savior. It is a rich and precious truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is both "God and Man."
There came a day when sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and fell. They lost that holy nature in which they were first formed. They forfeited the friendship and favor of God — and became guilty, corrupt, helpless, hopeless sinners. Sin came as a barrier between themselves and their holy Father in Heaven. Had He dealt with them according to their deserts, there would have been been nothing before them but death, Hell and everlasting ruin. And where was Christ then? In that very day He was revealed to our trembling parents as the only hope of salvation. The very day they fell, they were told that the seed of the woman would yet bruise the serpent's head, that a Savior born of a woman would overcome the devil, and win for sinful man, an entrance to eternal life (Genesis 3:15). Christ was held up as the true light of the world, in the very day of the Fall; and never has any name been made known from that day by which souls could be saved, excepting His. By Him, all saved souls have entered Heaven, from Adam downwards; and without Him, none have ever escaped Hell.
There came a time when the world seemed sunk and buried in ignorance of God. After four thousand years, the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God who made them. Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian and Roman empires had done nothing but spread superstition and idolatry. Poets, historians, philosophers had proved that, with all their intellectual powers, they had no right knowledge of God, and that man, left to himself, was utterly corrupt. "The world, by wisdom, knew not God" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Excepting a few despised Jews in a corner of the earth, the whole world was dead in ignorance and sin. And what did Christ do then? He left the glory He had had from all eternity with the Father, and came down into the world to provide a salvation. He took our nature upon Him, and was born as a man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly, which we all had left undone; as a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we ought to have suffered. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us. He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law. He opened a fountain for all sin and uncleanness. He died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He ascended to God's right hand, and there sat down, waiting until His enemies would be made His footstool. And there He sits now, offering salvation to all who will come to Him, interceding for all who believe in Him, and managing by God's appointment, all that concerns the salvation of souls.
The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Spirit is merciful. The same Three who said at the beginning, "Let us create," said also, "Let us redeem and save." I hold that everyone who reaches Heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God. But, at the same time, I see clear proof in Scripture, that it is the mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted, in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the Word, through whom God's love to sinners is made known. Christ's incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner-stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting-place between God and man, between Heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has sealed and appointed to convey life to a dead world (John 6:27). It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has "pleased the Father than in Christ all fullness should dwell" (Colossians 1:19). What the sun is in the skies of Heaven — that Christ is in true Christianity.
We must come in the name of Jesus, standing on no other ground, pleading no other plea than this: "Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him." The garment of our Elder Brother, the righteousness of Christ, this is the only robe which can cover us, and enable us to stand in the light of Heaven without shame. The name of Jesus is the only name by which we shall obtain an entrance through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to that gate in our own names, we are lost, we shall not be admitted, we shall knock in vain. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a passport and shibboleth, and we shall enter and live. The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood — we had better never have been born. Oh, let us never forget that Christ must be all to that soul who would be justified! We must be content to go to Heaven as beggars, saved by free grace, simply as believers in Jesus, or we shall never be saved at all.
I would definitely recommend this one!!! It is a true must-read, an essential!!! 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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