Sunday, April 27, 2008

Holiness - Week 9

Today was the ninth class on J.C. Ryle's book "Holiness." We reviewed Chapters 12 & 13 ("The Ruler of the Waves" ;"The Church Which Christ Builds")

I did a little historical explanation of what "novel reading" was considered to be back in Ryle's era. I used the works of Horatius Bonar and Robert Dabney (both 19th century theologians) as giving us a little background into what so considered to be so evil about "novel reading" at the time.

There were novels of the time which were simply immoral in their content. Yet, there were other factors such as the presentation of abberant behavior as acceptable or even heroic. There was also the sense that there was no real "re-creative" (as in, to be re created, and built back up spiritually and physically) purpose to these novels. They merely were written to evoke an emotional response to a completely fictional account while, in a sense, numbing the reader's emotions toward real-life situation. We made the point that the principles which went into the thinking of Ryle, Bonar and Dabney should be applied to the media of the 21st century which didn't even exist in the 19th century (i.e. movies, television, radio, recordings via wax cylinder and later vinyl, Compact Disks, mp3s, IPods, etc). We also pointed out that their reaction may have been, in retrospect, too broad and sweeping. Novelists such as George MacDonald would not have their wonderful works read under a very broad approach to novel reading.

There was a good bit of discussion about both chapters. I leave you with a quote from Ryle about seeing grace in fellow believers.

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 in him some corruption. There are spots on the face of the sun, and yet the sun shines brightly and enlightens the whole world. There is quartz and 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. Away with this morbid squeamishness, which makes many ready to excommunicate a man if he only has a few faults! Let us be quick to see grace, and more slow to see imperfections! Let us know that, if we cannot allow there is grace where there is corruption, we shall find no grace in the world. We are yet in the body. The devil is not dead. We are not yet like the angels. Heaven has not yet begun. The leprosy is not out of the walls of the house, however much we may scrape them, and never will be until the house is taken down. Our bodies are indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit, but not a perfect temple, until they are raised or changed. Grace is indeed a treasure, but a treasure in earthen vessels. It is possible for a man to forsake all for Christ’s sake, and yet to be overtaken occasionally with doubts and fears.

I beseech every reader of this message to remember this. It is a lesson worth attention. The apostles believed in Christ, loved Christ and gave up all to follow Christ. And yet you see in this storm the apostles were afraid. Learn to be charitable in your judgment of them. Learn to be moderate in your expectations from your own heart. Contend to the death for the truth, that no man is a true Christian who is not converted and is not a holy man. But allow that a man may be converted, have a new heart and be a holy man, and yet be liable to infirmity, doubts and fears.

Links to articles on Novel Reading
Horatius Bonar - On Book Reading
Robert Dabney - On Dangerous Reading

Links to next Sunday's readings:

Sermon Audio
Start at 15:17 of Part 18; Finish at the very end of Part 19

The painting in the graphic is Christ In the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

Friday, April 18, 2008

Holiness - Week 7

Today was our seventh class on J.C. Ryle's book Holiness. We reviewed the chapters on Lot and on Lot's wife. It should be noted that we find a level of commendation (not condemnation) of Lot in 2 Peter 2:6-8. Yet, the Genesis account paints the picture of Lot as one who judged his condition by mere externals. Rather than being seen as contradictory, I believe that these passages, taken as a whole, show God's mercy on His people, even when individuals are not living lives up to their calling in Christ.

What many of us found providential on Sunday is that our Pastor, Dan Lewis, preached his Sunday sermon about Lot. We did no coordination of Sunday School and sermon messages. I suspect that God is trying to drive home a point (points) about Lot to our congregation and this "coincidental" overlap of topics was meant to re-inforce the points. If you want to hear the sermon, click here and bring up the sermon for April 13, 2008.

A quote from Ryle regarding Lot:

These are they who get into their heads false ideas of charity, as they call it. They are morbidly afraid of being illiberal and narrow–minded and are always flying into the opposite extreme. They would sincerely please everybody, and suit everybody, and be agreeable to everybody. But they forget they ought first to be sure that they please God.

These are they who dread sacrifices and shrink from self–denial. They never appear able to apply our Lord’s command to "take up the cross" and "cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye" (Matt. 5:29, 30). They cannot deny that our Lord used these expressions, but they never find a place for them in their religion. They spend their lives in trying to make the gate more wide and the cross more light. But they never succeed.

These are they who are always trying to keep in with the world. They are ingenious in discovering reasons for not separating decidedly and in framing plausible excuses for attending questionable amusements and keeping up questionable friendships. One day you are told of their attending a Bible reading; the next day perhaps you hear of their going to a ball. One day they fast, or go to the Lord’s table and receive the sacrament; another day they go to the racecourse in the morning and the opera at night. One day they are almost in hysterics under the sermon of some sensational preacher; another day they are weeping over some novel. They are constantly laboring to persuade themselves that to mix a little with worldly people on their own ground does good. Yet in their case it is very clear they do no good, and only get harm.

This Sunday's Readings
Chapter 9 - Lot - A Beacon
Chapter 10 - A Woman To Be Remembered

Next Sunday's Reading

Chapter 11 - Christ's Greatest Trophy

Sermon Audio for next Sunday
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 15

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 16

Start at 5:40 of Part 15
End at 4:50 of Part 16

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The One Minute Prayer - UPDATED

This is an update to my post of February 13, 2008 concerning the One Minute Prayer. There may actually be some traceable historical evidence for being able to link this practice (i.e. praying for the safety of the country for one minute at 9 pm) to individuals working for Winston Churchill during the Second World War. (In my original post, I stated that this might be an urban legend). While the traceable evidence still does not point directly back to a Churchill advisor and his staff, the Remembrance Ceremony provides strong traceable evidence for the practice in England and other countries around the world in the first half of the 20th century.

Please read my updated post at One Minute Prayer and also the website that seems to give some historical credence to the development of the practice. Link here

Again my thanks to an anonymous reader of the blog who supplied the link to the Remembrance Ceremony website.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Holiness - Week 6

This last Sunday was Week 6 of our Sunday School class on the book "Holiness" by J.C. Ryle. This book, written in 1879 by a bishop of the Church 0f England continues to amaze us with writing that sounds prophetic for our own time.

Our chapters today were on the topics of assurance and Moses. Moses is seen by Ryle as a remarkable example of biblical faith put into action. How much could Moses have had as part of the Egyptian had he not identified with the people who gave him birth? It's a great chapter.

Most of our class discussion was on the chapter relating to assurance. It was stressed that Christ is our source of salvation, from beginning to end. Ryle observed a wonderful paradox concerning assurance: True, biblical assurance of our salvation increases our sense of living a holy life and does not decrease it. Ryle writes:

Assurance is to be desired because it tends to make the holiest Christians. This, too, sounds incredible and strange, and yet it is true. It is one of the paradoxes of the gospel, contrary at first sight to reason and common sense, and yet it is a fact. Cardinal Bellarmine was seldom more wide of the truth than when he said, "Assurance tends to carelessness and sloth." He who is freely forgiven by Christ will always do much for Christ’s glory, and he who enjoys the fullest assurance of this forgiveness will ordinarily keep up the closest walk with God. It is a faithful saying and worthy to be remembered by all believers: "He who has hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). A hope that does not purify is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare.

None are so likely to maintain a watchful guard over their own hearts and lives as those who know the comfort of living in close communion with God. They feel their privilege and will fear losing it. They will dread falling from the high estate, and marring their own comforts, by bringing clouds between themselves and Christ. He who goes on a journey with little money about him takes little thought of danger and cares little how late he travels. He, on the contrary, that carries gold and jewels will be a cautious traveler. He will look well to his roads, his lodgings and his company and run no risks. It is an old saying, however unscientific it may be, that the fixed stars are those which tremble most. The man that most fully enjoys the light of God’s reconciled countenance will be a man tremblingly afraid of losing its blessed consolations and jealous

Next Sunday's Readings

Chapter 9 - Lot - A Beacon

Chapter 10 - A Woman To Be Remembered

Sermon Audio for next Sunday

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 12

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 13

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 14

Sermon Audio of Holiness - Part 15

Start at 39:24 of Part 12

End at 5:40 of Part 15