Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Journaling Holiness, part 2

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

Last month I started reading J.C. Ryle's Holiness. I wrote a post sharing quotes from the introduction and the first three chapters. I've since read nine more chapters!!! I'm a little over halfway through this theological classic. The chapters I've read include: "The Fight!", "The Cost!", "Growth in Grace", "Assurance", "Moses--An Example", "Lot--A Beacon", "A Woman to Be Remembered", "Christ's Greatest Trophy", and "The Ruler of the Waves." 

From "The Fight!"

The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of pious ease, indolence and security. He must never imagine for a moment, that he can sleep and doze along the way to Heaven, like one traveling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the people of this world, he may be content with such vain notions — but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must "fight."
With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians. Wretched indeed is that man's idea of religion, who imagines that it consists in perpetual controversy! He who is never satisfied unless he is engaged in some strife between church and church, chapel and chapel, sect and sect, faction and faction, party and party — knows nothing yet as he ought to know. As a general rule, the cause of sin is never so much helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarreling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.

No, indeed! The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh and the devil. These are his never-dying foes! These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. 

A general faith in the truth of God's written Word, is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier's character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves — for one simple reason — he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion — unless he sincerely believes something.
From "The Cost!"
No doubt Christ's way to eternal life is a way of pleasantness. But it is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow — and the cross comes before the crown.
I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week, and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work — it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity and will take us to Heaven when we die — we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to Heaven!"
But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in a soft armchair, and taking him pleasantly to Heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of "counting the cost."
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!
Our sins are often as dear to us as our children! We love them, hug them, cleave to them and delight in them! To part with them, is as hard as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye! But it must be done. The parting must come. "Though wickedness is sweet in the sinner's mouth, though he hides it under his tongue; though he spares it, and forsakes it not," yet it must be given up, if he wishes to be saved (Job 20:12, 13). He and sin must quarrel — if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins.
A single day in Hell — will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross.
From "Growth in Grace"

When I speak of growth in grace, I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigor and power — of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer's heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage and the like — may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble — and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith is becoming stronger, his hope is becoming brighter, his love is becoming more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness is becoming more marked, he feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart — and he manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith and from grace to grace. I leave it to others to describe such a man's condition by any words they please. For myself I think the truest and best account of him is this — he is growing in grace.
Let us follow on, aiming at nothing short of perfection. Let us follow on, making Christ's life and character — our only pattern and example. Let us follow on, remembering daily that at our best — we are but miserable sinners. Let us follow on, and never forget that it signifies nothing whether we are better than others or not. At our very best — we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ's mercy and grace, to the very last. Then let us leave off looking at others, and comparing ourselves with others. We shall find enough to do, if we look at our own hearts.
From "Assurance"
A good conscience will save no man, wash away no sin, not lift us one hair's breadth towards Heaven. 
It cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally; to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly; to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him who never changes. It is an utter mistake to suppose that the believer who feels assurance, is resting on anything he sees in himself. He simply leans on the Mediator of the New Covenant and the Scripture of truth. He believes the Lord Jesus means what He says and takes Him at His word.
All God's children have faith — but not all have assurance. I think this ought never to be forgotten.
I do not shrink from saying that by grace, a man may have sufficient faith to flee to Christ — sufficient faith really to lay hold on Him, really to trust in Him, really to be a child of God, really to be saved — and yet to his last day, be never free from much anxiety, doubt and fear.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — a man must have, beyond all question, if he is to be saved. I know no other way of access to the Father. I see no intimation of mercy, excepting through Christ. A man must feel his sins and lost estate, must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation, must rest his hope on Him, and on Him alone. But if he only has faith to do this, however weak and feeble that faith may be, I will engage, from Scripture warrants, he shall not miss Heaven. Never, never let us curtail the freeness of the glorious gospel, or clip its fair proportions. Never let us make the gate more straight and the way more narrow, than pride and the love of sin have made it already. The Lord Jesus is very pitiful and of tender mercy. He does not regard the quantity of faith — but the quality. He does not measure its degree — but its reality. He will not break any bruised reed, nor quench any smoking flax. He will never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross. "Him that comes to Me," He says, "I will never cast out" (John 6:37).
Many appear to forget that we are saved and justified as sinners, and only sinners, and that we never can attain to anything higher, if we live to the age of Methuselah. Redeemed sinners, justified sinners and renewed sinners doubtless we must be — but sinners, sinners, sinners, we shall be always to the very last! They do not seem to comprehend that there is a wide difference between our justification and our sanctification. Our justification is a perfect finished work — and admits of no degrees. Our sanctification is imperfect and incomplete — and will be so to the last hour of our life. They appear to expect that a believer may at some period of his life be in a measure free from corruption, and attain to a kind of inward perfection. And not finding this angelic state of things in their own hearts — they at once conclude there must be something very wrong in their state. And so they go mourning all their days, oppressed with fears that they have no part or lot in Christ, and refusing to be comforted.
I bless God that our salvation in no way depends on our own works. By grace we are saved — not by works of righteousness — through faith, without the deeds of the law. But I never would have any believer for a moment forget, that our sense of salvation depends much on the manner of our living. Inconsistency will dim our eyes and bring clouds between us and the sun. The sun is the same behind the clouds — but you will not be able to see its brightness or enjoy its warmth; and your soul will be gloomy and cold. It is in the path of well-doing, that the dayspring of assurance will visit you and shine down upon your heart.
From "Moses, An Example"
There is a common worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have — a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, which requires no sacrifice, which costs nothing — and is worth nothing! 
Religion of substance which stands, has as its foundation the firmness of faith. There must be a real heartfelt belief that God's promises are sure and to be depended on — a real belief that what God says in the Bible is all true, and that every doctrine contrary to this is false, whatever anyone may say. There must be a real belief that all God's words are to be received, however hard and disagreeable to flesh and blood, and that His way is right — and all others wrong. This there must be, or you will never come out from the world, take up the cross, follow Christ and be saved.
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.
From "A Woman to Be Remembered"
I feel constrained to speak freely to my readers on the subject of Hell. Allow me to use the opportunity which the end of Lot's wife affords. I believe that the time has come, when it is a positive duty to speak plainly about the reality and eternity of Hell. A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men are beginning to tell us that God is too loving and merciful to punish souls forever; and that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly some of them may be — will sooner or later be saved. We are invited to leave the old paths of apostolic Christianity. We are told that the views of our fathers about Hell, and the devil, and punishment — are obsolete and old-fashioned. We are to embrace what is called a "kinder theology" — and treat Hell as a pagan fable or a bugbear to frighten children and fools. Against such false teaching I desire, for one, to protest. Painful, sorrowful, distressing as the controversy may be, we must not blink it or refuse to look the subject in the face. I, for one, am resolved to maintain the old position, and to assert the reality and eternity of Hell.

a. Settle it firmly in your mind, that the same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners, does also teach that God hates sin and must, from His very nature, punish all who cleave to sin, or refuse the salvation He has provided. The very same chapter which declares, "God so loved the world," declares also, that "the wrath of God abides" on the unbeliever (John 3:16, 36). The very same gospel which is launched into the earth with the blessed tidings, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved," proclaims in the same breath, "He who believes not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).

b. Settle it firmly in your mind, that God has given us proof upon proof in the Bible that He will punish the hardened and unbelieving, and that He will take vengeance on His enemies — as well as show mercy on the penitent.

The drowning of the old world by the flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, the overthrow of Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, the judgment on Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the utter destruction of the seven nations of Canaan — all teach the same solemn truth. They are all given to us as beacons and signs and warnings — that we may not provoke God. They are all meant to lift up the corner of the curtain which hangs over things to come, and to remind us that there is such a thing as the wrath of God. They all tell us plainly that "the wicked shall be turned into Hell" (Psalm 9:17).

c. Settle it firmly in your mind, that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has spoken most plainly about the reality and eternity of Hell. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus contains things which should make men tremble. But it does not stand alone. No lips have used so many words to express the awfulness of Hell, as the lips of Him who spoke as never man spoke, and who said, "The word which you hear is not Mine — but the Father's who sent Me" (John 14:24). Hell, Hell fire, the damnation of Hell, eternal damnation, the resurrection of damnation, everlasting fire, the place of torment, destruction, outer darkness, the worm that never dies, the fire that is not quenched, the place of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, everlasting punishment — these, these are the words which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself employs. Away with the miserable nonsense which people talk in this day, who tell us that the ministers of the gospel should never speak of Hell! They only show their own ignorance, or their own dishonesty, when they talk in such a manner. No man can honestly read the four Gospels, and fail to see that he who would follow the example of Christ must speak of Hell.

d. Settle it, lastly, in your mind that the comforting ideas which the Scripture gives us of Heaven are at an end — if we once deny the reality or eternity of Hell. Is there no future separate abode for those who die wicked and ungodly? Are all men after death to be mingled together in one confused multitude? Why, then, Heaven will be no Heaven at all! It is utterly impossible for two to dwell happily together, except they be agreed. Is there to be a time when the term of Hell and punishment will be over? Are the wicked after ages of misery, to be admitted into Heaven? Why, then, the need of the sanctification of the Spirit is cast aside and despised! I read that men can be sanctified and made fit for Heaven on earth; I read nothing of any sanctification in Hell. Away with such baseless and unScriptural theories! The eternity of Hell is as clearly affirmed in the Bible — as the eternity of Heaven. Once allow that Hell is not eternal, and you may as well say that God and Heaven are not eternal. The same Greek word which is used in the expression "everlasting punishment" is the word that is used by the Lord Jesus in the expression "life eternal," and by Paul, in the expression "everlasting God" (Matthew 25:46; Romans 16:26).

I know that all this sounds dreadful in many ears. I do not wonder. But the only question we have to settle is this: "Is Hell Scriptural?" Is it true? I maintain firmly that it is so; and I maintain that professing Christians ought to be often reminded that they may be lost and go to Hell.
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.
But God forbid that I should ever keep back from mortal man that Scripture reveals a Hell as well as Heaven, and that the gospel teaches that men may be lost as well as saved.
If you would ever be a healthy Scriptural Christian, I entreat you to give Hell a place in your theology. Establish it in your mind as a fixed principle, that God is a God of justice — as well as of mercy; and that the same everlasting counsels which laid the foundation of the bliss of Heaven — have also laid the foundation of the misery of Hell. Keep in full view of your mind, that all who die unpardoned and unrenewed are utterly unfit for the presence of God and must be lost forever. They are not capable of enjoying Heaven; they could not be happy there. They must go to their own place — and that place is Hell. Oh, it is a great thing in these days of unbelief, to believe the whole Bible!
From "Christ's Greatest Trophy"
Are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ. Do not glory in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas! the best of us know but little of that merciful and mighty Savior. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fullness that there is in Him.
Do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying — tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power — and tell them of His love; tell them of His doings — and tell them of His feelings; tell them what He has done for the chief of sinners; tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time; tell it them over and over again. Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly: 'Come unto Christ, as the penitent thief did; come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.'
From "The Ruler of the Waves"
I see a marvelous proof of love and wisdom — in the union of two natures in Christ's person. It was marvelous love in our Savior to condescend to go through weakness and humiliation for our sakes, ungodly rebels as we are. It was marvelous wisdom to fit Himself in this way to be the very Friend of friends, who could not only save man — but meet him on his own ground. I want one able to perform all things needful to redeem my soul. This Jesus can do, for He is the eternal Son of God. I want one able to understand my weakness and infirmities, and to deal gently with my soul, while tied to a body of death. This again Jesus can do, for He was the Son of man, and had flesh and blood like my own.
Had my Savior been God only — I might perhaps have trusted Him — but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Savior been Man only — I might have loved Him — but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But, blessed be God, my Savior is God as well as Man — and Man as well as God. God, and so able to deliver me — Man, and so able to feel with me. Almighty power and deepest sympathy are met together in one glorious Person, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Surely a believer in Christ has a strong consolation. He may well trust, and not be afraid.
The plain truth is that there is no literal and absolute perfection among true Christians, so long as they are in the body. The best and brightest of God's saints — is but a poor mixed being. Converted, renewed and sanctified though he is — he is still compassed with infirmity. There is not a just man upon earth, that always does good, and sins not. In many things, we all fall short. A man may have true saving faith — and yet not have it always close at hand and ready to be used (Ecclesiastes 7:20; James 3:2).
Above all, I want all Christians to understand what they must expect in other believers. You must not hastily conclude that a man has no grace, merely because you see some corruption in him. There are spots on the face of the sun — and yet the sun shines brightly and enlightens the whole world. There is dross mixed up with many a lump of gold that comes from Australia — and yet who thinks the gold on that account worth nothing at all? There are flaws in some of the finest diamonds in the world — and yet they do not prevent their being rated at a priceless value.
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. 
 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 idea and a person.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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