Sunday, March 30, 2008

Holiness - Week 5

Today was week 5 of our class on J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. Due to a send-off being held for our outgoing youth pastor, our class time and discussion was cut down to half an hour.

Our topic today is that of growth in grace. Growth should be expected in spiritual matters just as it is in the physical world with plants, animals and people. One area of today's discussion centered on what happens when we abuse or misdirect the private means of grace and make it into a kind of new law. One person mentioned a series of articles by Greg Johnson which were re-published in this blog. It has to do with our Quiet Time becoming a law unto itself. The links to those blog entries are just below. Paul's admonition to the Galatians was mentioned: "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:2-3 NIV)

A quote from the chapter follows:

One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him. I include under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self–examination. The man who does not take pains about these three things must never expect to grow. Here are the roots of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through! Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They read their Bibles but little and with very little heartiness of spirit. They give themselves no time for self–inquiry and quiet thought about the state of their souls.

It is useless to conceal from ourselves that the age we live in is full of peculiar dangers. It is an age of great activity and of much hurry, bustle and excitement in religion. Many are "running to and fro," no doubt, and "knowledge is increased" (Dan. 12:4). Thousands are ready enough for public meetings, sermon hearing, or anything else in which there is "sensation." Few appear to remember the absolute necessity of making time to "commune with our own hearts, and be still" (Ps. 4:4). But without this, there is seldom any deep spiritual prosperity. Let us remember this point! Private religion must receive our first attention, if we wish our souls to grow.
This Sunday's Readings
Chapter 6 - Growth
Next Sunday's Readings

Next Sunday's Readings on Audio
Start at 9:00 of Part 9
End at 39:24 of Part 12

Please remember that these can be listened to online or downloaded as free mp3s. (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 9

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Holiness - Week 4

Today was the fourth installment of the class on J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. We discussed Chapters 4 & 5 (The Fight; The Cost);

One point, among excellent points made by class members had to do with the cost of following Christ. One person, who actually submitted her comment in absentia, mentioned that we could never know the cost of following Christ before we do so (unlike a business transaction where the cost is somewhat well known). It was brought up that the cost will be different for all of us. Some are called to die for their faith in Christ. Others aren't. Yet, there is some cost we face for what we believe. We know that Christ will accompany us and give us the strength, in prayer, to fight the battle and count the cost.

My concern is that what passes for evangelism in many American churches today is to downplay or neglect mentioning that there is a cost to count in following Christ. I likened to it chemotherapy. In this approach, the gospel is so watered down or preached piecemeal that the impact is hoped to call us to gradually and painless kill our old sinful nature. I pointed out that the gospel should be regarded as chemotherapy in which all doses are given at one time. In a physical context, that would kill the patient as well as the cancer. However, the Gospel is a call for us to put to death our old self, not give it a gradual cure.

We also talked about the fight. One point which I made has to do with a quote from Ryle (found below in italics). It is about a "deeds not creeds" approach to the faith which Ryle recognized in Britain in 1879. My point was about someone who walked into a Red Cross blood drive, watching many people on the tables who were donating blood. Please understand. Doing such a thing is noble. But what is the motive for giving? Merely getting the juice and cookies at the end? Getting out of an hour of work? Giving because there is the need? Reducing blood volume to make it easier and faster to drunk that night? (That actually was the stated objective of two other donors during the very first time I gave blood during my college days many years ago). If we judged by deed first, all are doing noble things. If we judge by the "creed" going into it, we see a variety of motives. Some good; Others bad.

About this, Ryle wrote:
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 them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion unless he believes something. Even those who profess to hold the miserable and uncomfortable views of the deists are obliged to confess that they believe something. With all their bitter sneers against dogmatic theology and Christian credulity, as they call it, they themselves have a kind of faith

This Sunday's Readings

Next Sunday's Readings

Next Sunday's Readings on Audio
Start at 41:15 of Part 7
End at 9:00 of Part 9
Please remember that these can be listened to online or downloaded as free mp3s. (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Where is Jesus?

Several years ago, there was a famous game called "Where's Waldo?". On this day, each of us needs to ask "Where's Jesus?" If he died and stayed dead, Christians believe their faith in vain. A failed teacher of mere morals would have been a failure in history.

If He is not in a Jerusalem grave this day, where is He? If He is in heaven, as the Bible indicates, the implications are staggering. A human who is also God, who lived, died and lives again in resurrected glory for 20 centuries, right up until today, demands our attention. Once He has that, He rightly demands worship and control of our lives.

Where do you think Jesus is, right now? If His tomb in Jerusalem is truly empty, you must realize what that means to your life, both here and for eternity.

Happy Easter from the School of the Solitary Place!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holiness - Week 3

Today was the third session in this quarter's Sunday School class on J.C. Ryle's book "Holiness." Today we discussed Chapters 2 & 3 (Sanctification, Holiness). One point that was made was asking if Ryle is trying to place a legalistic burden on Christian believers. While the person asking the question did see where Ryle was going with his arguments, the point is a good one. Justification is by grace alone through faith in Christ. Sanctification has its' origin in Christ also. However, unlike justification, sanctification is a joint effort between God and the believer. We do need to struggle and to use "means" (such as prayer) to grow in sanctification. It was mentioned that the writer of the Hebrews implies that many of his first listeners to his letter had actually stalled their progress in sanctification. (See Hebrews 5:11-14)

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:11-14 NIV)

I want to include a reference which Ryle makes to the 17th century English Puritan John Owen:
That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day. I know there are texts in Scripture which warrant such complaints. I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil and the world. But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness and an excuse for spiritual sloth. If we say with Paul, "O wretched man that I am," let us also be able to say with him, "I press toward the mark." Let us not quote his example in one thing, while we do not follow him in another (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:14).

This week's readings can be found at

Links for today's readings
Chapter 2 - Sanctification
Chapter 3 - Holiness

Links for next Sunday's readings
Chapter 4 - The Fight
Chapter 5 - The Cost

As promised to my class, I have the links for Sermon Audio to bring in next Sunday's readings on downloadable mp3 (courtesy of Still Waters Revival Books in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

You can listen directly from the links or do a FREE download of the mp3s.

For next week's readings, start at 29 minutes 40 seconds into Part 5 and end at 41 minutes 15 seconds of Part 7.

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 5
Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 6
Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 7


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Holiness - Week 2

Today was the second week of our church Sunday School class on J.C. Ryle's book "Holiness." We read through the Introduction and Chapter 1 for today. For next Sunday, we will be reading Chapter 2 on Sanctification and Chapter3 on Holiness.

One quote which we covered in class had to do with sin. The doctrine of sin seems to be avoided in so much Christian preaching and teaching today. Ryle sensed the same thing in his own time and place (1879 England). His observations would apply to good Christian teaching in any era. He wrote:

Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power and guilt of sin. We must charge home into the consciences of these men of broad views and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask them to lay their hands on their hearts and tell us whether their favorite opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the bedside of dying parents, by the grave of a beloved wife or child. We must ask them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not sometimes feel a gnawing "something" within, which all the free inquiry and philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy. And then we must tell them that this gnawing "something" is the sense of sin, guilt and corruption, which they are leaving out in their calculations. And, above all, we must tell them that nothing will ever make them feel rest but submission to the old doctrines of man’s ruin and Christ’s redemption and simple childlike faith in Jesus.

Links for today's readings

Links for next Sunday's readings

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Operation World

A great resource to learn about the nations of the Earth and their particular needs in prayer can be found at the website for Operation World (Operation World Website link here) Through it, you can learn about the nations of the world with information which is kept current. It is also a reminder that God's concern and work is not limited only to our own nation and people group but is truly a global effort. Operation World has a specific link which will take you to the information for that day's specific focus. Find the link here.