Saturday, January 13, 2018

My Victorian Year #2

This week I spent time reading some J.C. Ryle's sermons and the devotional Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon.

The Character of the True Christian (John 10:27)
True Christians, then, are compared to SHEEP, and we shall find a great depth of meaning in the comparison if we look into it. Sheep are the most harmless, quiet, inoffensive creatures that God has made. So should it be with Christians: they should be very humble and lowly-minded, as disciples of Him who said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."
They should be known as people of a very gentle and loving spirit, who desire to do good to all around them, who would not injure anyone by word or deed; who do not seek the great things of this world but are content to go straightforward on the path of duty and take whatever it shall please God to send them.
When, therefore, we see people biting and devouring one another, saying and doing uncharitable things to their neighbors, fierce, and passionate and evil-tempered and angry on the slightest occasion; full of envy and strife and bitter speaking surely we are justified in saying, "You do not belong to Christ's flock; you have yet to be born again and made new creatures; there must be a mighty change. Profess what you please, at present we can only see in you the mind of the old man, even Adam the first but nothing of the Second Adam, even Christ Jesus the Lord. We can discern the spirit of the wolf, however fair your clothing, and we want instead to discover in you the spirit of the lamb."
We must study to do good in our day and generation, and lay ourselves out for the spiritual and temporal advantage of our brethren. All can do much: it is not the rich alone, and the great, who are able to be useful; there are a hundred ways of conferring benefits beside the form of giving gold and silver; and each in his respective station can do good if he desires.
Has not a poor man a tongue? Then surely, if he is a sheep of Christ's flock, he will use it for his neighbors' profit, when occasion is afforded; he will warn and entreat and counsel and persuade; he will reason and argue, as a witness and servant of God, against sin and carelessness in every shape; he will show himself an affectionate lover of men's souls, who would gladly impart to others the knowledge he has found valuable to himself.
And then has not a poor man a feeling heart? Then surely, if he is a true sheep of Christ's flock, he will remember those who are in adversity, as being himself in the body. He will not shun the house of mourning but strive to be a comforter, bearing in mind the proverb "A word spoken in season, how good is it." He will weep with those who weep, as well as rejoice with those who rejoice. He will let men see that he is a real child of his Father in heaven, who does good to the just and the unjust too, and is kind even to the unthankful and the evil.
A genuine Gospel-faith has nothing selfish about it; it never makes a man think only of his own salvation. It stirs him up, on the contrary, to concern about the souls of others. I always suspect that those who care nothing whether their brethren are saved or not, must in reality be ignorant or thoughtless about their own state.
The last thing I would remark about sheep is this: they are of all animals most helpless, most ready to stray, most likely to lose themselves and wander out of their pasture; and so it is with Christ's people.
They imagine that they are strong enough to get on without this constant vigilance, and so they take their eye off the Chief Shepherd, and wander on from this field to that, after their own desires, until they find themselves at last in darkness and doubt. And Christ's sheep, too, like other sheep, do seldom return to the fold without some damage and loss, for it is far more easy to get out of the right way when you are in than to get into it when you are out.
Our Lord does not simply call His people sheep but He says also "My sheep." It is as though Jesus would have us understand He looks upon them as His property; they are, as it were, stamped and sealed and marked as the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and it is a blessed, comfortable thought that even as men are careful and tender about their earthly belongings, and will not willingly allow them to be lost and damaged, so is our Lord and Savior careful of the souls that belong to Him.
We are "His" by ELECTION. We were chosen and given to Him by the Father before the foundations of the world were laid; our names were written in the covenant of salvation before we were born, we were predestined or fore-ordained to be His people from all eternity.
But again: Christ's people are "His "by PURCHASE. Death and hell had claims upon everyone of them, they had all broken the law and forfeited eternal life but Christ has redeemed them. Christ paid the heavy price of their salvation, even His own most precious blood, and well may He call them "Mine," for He has bought them off from captivity and Satan at the cost of His own life. He can say "They are Mine by fair purchase in time, as well as Mine by free election in eternity."
And lastly, Christ's people are "His" by ADOPTION. He has put His Spirit in them, and overturned the power of sin in their hearts. He has given them a child-like frame of mind, so that they cry Abba Father; they are become part of His family, the very sons and daughters of the Almighty; He looks upon them as a portion of Himself, as members of His body and flesh and bones, and loves them and cherishes them accordingly.
"My sheep" is the name that Jesus gives to Christians. "Mine" by election, by purchase, by adoption. Oh, believe: you may sometimes be cast down and faint-hearted but if you have any real interest in that blessed title, if you are really in the number of Christ's sheep, you have indeed good reason to rejoice. 
This hearing of Christ's voice, what is it? It cannot be the mere hearing of the ears, for many do that who die in their sins. It must be the hearing with the heart, the listening with attention; the believing what is heard the acting manfully on what is believed. And where may Christ's voice be heard?
To follow Christ, that is the grand mark of Christians. No man shall ever say of them, they profess and do not practice, they say and do nothing for their Master's sake; they must not only hear their Master's voice but follow Him.
To follow Christ is to place implicit trust in Him as our Redeemer, Savior, Prophet, Priest, King, Leader, Commander and Shepherd; and to walk in His ways, straightforwards.
I told you this was a text for self-inquiry; and in that light I press upon each of you now. I call upon you, O man or O woman, to put your hand upon your heart and ask that little question, "Am I a sheep of Christ's flock or am I not? Do I hear His voice or do I not? Do I follow Him or do I not?"
Remember, then, this day, I tell you, that God is willing to receive you if you will only turn to Him: if you will only resolve to think for yourself and never mind the world, if you will only hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him, if you will only be in earnest and come unto Him for forgiveness and His Holy Spirit, He shall grant you your heart's desire, and you shall never perish but have eternal life.
But whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, Christ and Christ only is the way, the truth, and the life and whatever the world may tell you, no man shall ever come unto the Father but by Him.
The Privileges of the True Christian (John 10:27-29)
1. God's children, His real believing people, are compared to sheep, because they are gentle, quiet, harmless and inoffensive; because they are useful and do good to all around them; because they love to be together, and dislike separation; and lastly because they are very helpless and wandering and liable to stray.
2. Jesus calls them "My sheep," as if they were His peculiar property. "Mine," He would have us know, by election, "Mine" by purchase, and "Mine" by adoption.
3. Christ's sheep hear His voice, they listen humbly to His teaching, they take His word for their rule and guide.
4. Christ's sheep follow Him, they walk in the narrow path He has marked out, they do not refuse because it is sometimes steep and narrow--but wherever the line of duty lies they go forward without doubting.
I warn you plainly, except you will hear the voice of Christ and follow Him, you have no right or portion in this blessed fountain of consolations.
Hear now what Jesus says of His believing people: "I know them. . . . I give unto them eternal life; they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
Before we look into the meaning of these words more closely, I wish to answer two questions which may arise in the minds of some before me. Of whom is the Lord Jesus speaking? This text may become the property of the worst of sinners if he will only hear Christ's voice and follow Him. It is for all who repent and believe the Gospel; it is for all who mourn over their past sins with a true godly sorrow, and flee to the Lord Jesus Christ with faith and prayer as their only hope, their all-sufficient Savior, their all in all. The other question I wish to answer is this: why did the Lord Jesus Christ give us this full and complete promise? Because He knew that true Christians would always be a very doubting, fearful, faint-hearted generation, always ready to believe they shall not be saved, always afraid they shall never see the New Jerusalem, because of the inbred corruption which they find continually in their hearts.
I. First, says the Lord Jesus Christ of His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him, "I know them." I know their number, their names, their particular characters, their besetting sins, their troubles, their trials, their temptations, their doubts, their prayers, their private meditations; I know everything about everyone of them.
Be comforted, all you who are tried and buffeted with difficulties in your way towards heaven, difficulties from without and difficulties from within, difficulties abroad and difficulties at home, grief for your own sins and grief for the sins of others: the Good Shepherd Jesus knows you well, though you may not think it.
You need not fear His not understanding your needs, you need not be afraid your prayers are too poor and unlearned to be attended to; He knows your particular necessities far better than you do yourselves, and your humble supplications are no sooner offered up than heard. You may sometimes sigh and mourn for lack of Christian fellowship, you may sometimes lament that you have not more around you with whom you might take sweet converse about salvation but remember there is a Good Shepherd, who is ever about your path and about your bed, His eyes are on all your movements, and no husband, brother, father, mother, sister, friend, could take more tender interest in your soul's welfare than He does.
II. What is the next part of my text? The Lord Jesus says of His sheep, "I give unto them eternal life!" What is the portion which Jesus gives His people? "eternal life"a perfect, never-ending happiness for that which is the most important part of a man his immortal soul.
III. The third promise in my text is as follows: Jesus says of His sheep, "They shall never perish!" They shall never be finally cast away, if they have once been sealed and numbered in my flock.
Where in the whole world can you find a work which the Lord has attempted, and yet been obliged to give up and leave all incomplete? Then far be it from us to suppose that a true believer can ever be cast away!
True Christians shall never perish. Are they not Christ's special property, the servants of His house, the members of His family, the children of His adoption? Then surely He will never let them be overthrown, He will watch them as tenderly as we watch over our own flesh and blood, He will guard them as we guard our valuable and precious possessions, He will cherish them as we cherish that which is most dear to our hearts; He never would have laid down His life for their sakes if He had intended to give them up.
IV. There remains one thing more. Jesus adds, "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." There is assurance upon assurance, that none may have an excuse for doubting.
Are you indeed Christ's sheep? Then beware of ever trusting to yourselves; nothing offends the Good Shepherd more than to see the members of His flock, forgetting that in Him alone is all their safety, and glorying in their own attainments and performances.
Think only of your Savior Jesus Christ, trust Him entirely, love Him affectionately, look to Him continually.
As long as you lean on Him you are strong and none can touch you. Without Him and in your own might, you are weak and unstable as water.
Are you indeed Christ's sheep? Then beware of wandering from the pasture He has provided.
Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening:

  • Christian! do not dishonor religion by always wearing a brow of worry—come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight—which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden—would be to Him but as the small dust of the scale.
  • From the moment of the new and celestial birth—the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price—for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our love, that it beats alone for Him; to His glory we would live, and in defense of His gospel we would die. He is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character.
  • The iniquities of our public worship—its hypocrisy, formality, lukewarmness, irreverence, wandering of heart and forgetfulness of God—what a full measure have we there! The iniquities of our work for the Lord—its ambition, selfishness, carelessness, slackness, unbelief—what a mass of defilement is there! Our private devotions—their laxity, coldness, neglect, sleepiness, and vanity—what a mountain of dead earth is there! If we looked more carefully—we would find this iniquity of the holy things, to be far greater than appears at first sight.
  • Just so, while Jesus bears our sin, He presents before His Father’s face, not our unholiness—but His own holiness. O for grace to view our great High Priest by the eye of faith!
  • Nothing gives the believer so much joy—as fellowship with Christ. He has enjoyment as others have, in the common mercies of life; he can be glad both in God’s gifts and God’s works.
  • The joy of the Lord is solid and enduring.
  • The capacity of our desires—who can measure? but the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask you—if you are not complete—when God is yours? Do you need anything but God? Is not His all-sufficiency enough to satisfy you—if all else should fail?
  • Delight in divine service is a sign of acceptance with God. Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, are not serving Him at all; they bring the form of homage—but the life is absent. Our God requires no slaves to grace His throne; He is the Lord of the empire of love, and would have His servants dressed in the livery of joy.
  • Cheerfulness is the support of our strength; in the joy of the Lord, we are strong. Joy acts as the remover of difficulties.
  • I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who exclaimed, “I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me; God’s finger is on the latch of my door, and I am ready for Him to enter.” “But,” said one, “are you not afraid lest you should miss your inheritance?” “Nay,” said he, “nay; there is one crown in heaven, which the angel Gabriel could not wear—it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven which Paul the apostle could not fill—it was made for me, and I shall have it.”
  • Remember, that to receive the Word in the ear is one thing—and to receive Jesus into your very soul is quite another.
  • How encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer’s never-ceasing intercession for us. When we pray—He pleads for us. And when we are not praying—He is advocating our cause, and by His supplications shielding us from unseen dangers.
  • We little know what we owe to our Savior’s prayers! When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way whereby the Lord our God has led us—how we shall praise Him who, before the eternal throne, undid the mischief which Satan was doing upon earth. How shall we thank Him because day and night, He pointed to the wounds upon His hands, and carried our names upon His breastplate!
  • Mercy outruns malice.
  • “You are Christ’s.” You are His by donation—for the Father gave you to the Son. You are His by His bloody purchase—for He paid the price for your redemption. You are His by dedication—for you have consecrated yourself to Him. You are His by relation—for you are named by his name, and made one of His brethren and joint-heirs.
  • If you are of a nervous temperament and of retiring disposition, take care that you do not too much indulge this trembling propensity, lest you should be useless to the church. Seek in the name of Him who was not ashamed of you—to do some little violence to your feelings, and tell to others what Christ has told to you. If you cannot speak with trumpet tongue, use the still small voice. If the pulpit must not be your tribune, if the press may not carry your words on its wings—yet say with Peter and John, “Silver and gold have I none—but such as I have, I give you.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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