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)

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