We Start With Humility

screen-shot-2013-04-22-at-11-34-35-pm.pngJC Ryle

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight. These are those who are not “wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight.” They are not “rich and increased with goods.” They do not imagine that they need nothing. They regard themselves as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Blessed are all such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity! We must begin low, if we would build high.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who mourn. He means those who sorrow for sin, and grieve daily over their own short-comings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth. The remembrance of it is grievous to them. The burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! “The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit.” One day they shall weep no more! “They shall be comforted.”

Let us learn how entirely contrary are the principles of Christ–to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it. They are almost diametrically opposed! The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises–the world despises. The very pride, and thoughtlessness, and high tempers, and worldliness, and selfishness, and formality, and unlovingness, which abound everywhere–the Lord Jesus condemns!

Let us learn how unhappily different is the teaching of Christ from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? Alas! there is much reason to fear, that many baptized people are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament contains!

Above all let us learn how holy and spiritual-minded all believers should be. They should never aim at any standard lower than that of the Beatitudes. Christianity is eminently a practical religion. Sound doctrine is its root and foundation–but holy living should always be its fruit. And if we would know what holy living is, let us often think who they are that Jesus calls “blessed.”

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Empty Bubbles

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(J.C. Ryle)

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world!” 1 John 2:15-16 

The possession of the whole world and all that it contains, will never make a person happy. Itspleasures are false and deceptive! Its richesrank, and honors, have no power to satisfy the heart! So long as we have not got them–they glitter, sparkle, and seem desirable. The moment we have them–we find that they are empty bubbles, and cannot make us feel content!

And, worst of all, when we possess this world’s good things to the utmost bound of our desire–we cannot keep them! Death comes in and separates us from all our property forever! Naked we came upon earth, and naked we go forth–and of all our possessions, we can carry nothing with us.

Such is the world, which occupies the whole attention of thousands!

Such is the world, for the sake of which millions are every year destroying their souls!

“This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave!” 1 John 2:17

What If There Isn’t a Hell?

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JC Ryle

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8

We need a more certain sound about the state of man after death. There is a growing disposition in this day to give up the old doctrine of the judgment of the wicked, and the eternal misery of all who die impenitent and unbelieving. Men are gradually being indoctrinated with the notion that there is hope for all beyond the grave, and that at any rate there is nothing to fear, and no punishment after death, no matter how we live or die.

I regard such teaching as most mischievous and likely to promote carelessness and immorality! Yet in hundreds of pulpits the subject is either carefully avoided, or else handled in a most unsatisfactory manner.

Let us beware of being wise above that which is written, and of ignoring, shirking, or strangling plain texts of Scripture.

I cannot feel surprised when I am told that abandoned women in the streets of London have been heard to say, “Come along! Who’s afraid? Some of the preachers say that there is no Hell.”

“Ask for the old paths, where the good way is–and walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

The World Hates the Bible Because It Condemns Them!

349px-Skeleton_in_kneeling_posture._Wellcome_M0019842People never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it

(J.C. Ryle, Thoughts For Young Men)

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed!” John 3:19-20

Be very sure of this–people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it.

They understand it only too well! They understand that it condemns their own behavior. They understand that it witnesses against their own sins, and summons them to judgment! They try to believe it is false and useless–because they don’t like to believe it is true.

An evil lifestyle must always raise an objection to this holy book.

Men question the truth of Christianity–because they hate the practice of it!

“For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

For further reading: J.C. Ryle’s, Thoughts For Young Men” is must reading for men or women, young or old!

Fear Not, Little Flock

Bernhard_Plockhorst_-_Good_Shephard(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“Fear not, little flock–it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” Luke 12:32

Let us mark what a gracious word of consolation this passage contains for all true believers. The Lord Jesus well knew the hearts of His disciples. He knew how ready they were to be filled with fears of every description:
fears because of the fewness of their number,
fears because of the multitude of their enemies,
fears because of the many difficulties in their way,
fears because of their sense of weakness and unworthiness.
He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence, “Fear not, little flock–it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!”

Believers are a “little flock.” They always have been, ever since the world began.
Professing Christians, have sometimes been very many.
Baptized people at the present day, are a great company.
But true Christians, have always been very few.

It is foolish to be surprised at this. It is vain to expect that it will be otherwise. Our Lord has plainly told us, “But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life–and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14

All true believers have a glorious “kingdom” awaiting them! Here upon earth–they are often mocked, and ridiculed, and persecuted–and, like their Master, despised and rejected by men. But “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us!” “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear–then shall you also appear with Him in glory!”

Believers are tenderly loved by God the Father. It is His good pleasure to give them the kingdom. He does not receive them grudgingly, unwillingly or coldly. He rejoices over them, as members of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He regards them as His dear children in Christ. He sees no spot in them. Even now, when He looks down on them from Heaven, in the midst of their infirmities–He is well pleased. And hereafter, when presented before His glory–He will welcome them with exceeding joy! Jude 24

The Signs of a Modern Church

800px-Cathedral_of_St._Matthew,_Diocese_of_Osorno,_Chile(J.C. Ryle)

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” Luke 3:7-8

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain-speaking ministers like John the Baptist.
A morbid dislike to strong language;
an excessive fear of giving offence;
a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking–
are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no ‘charity’ in flattering unconverted people–by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth names to their damnable sins!

There are two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written, “Woe unto you–when all men shall speak well of you!” (Luke 6:26)

In the other it is written, “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people–I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10)

You’ll Find Him in Church

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(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the Word of God. Those along the wayside are the ones who hear–and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” Luke 8:11-12

The first caution that we learn from the parable of the sower–is to beware of the devil when we hear the Word. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of some hearers are like “the wayside.” The seed of the Gospel is plucked away from them by the devil almost as soon as it is sown. It does not sink down into their consciences. It does not make the least impression on their minds.

That malicious devil is unwearied in his efforts to do us harm. He is ever watching for our halting–and seeking occasion to destroy our souls. But nowhere perhaps is the devil so active, as in a congregation of Gospel-hearers! Nowhere does he labor so hard to stop the progress of that which is good–and to prevent men and women being saved. From him, come . . .
wandering thoughts–and roving imaginations;
listless minds–and dull memories;
sleepy eyes–and fidgety nerves;
weary ears–and distracted attention.
In all these things, Satan has a great hand.

People wonder where they come from, and marvel how it is that they find sermons so dull–and remember them so badly! They forget the parable of the sower. They forget the devil.

Let us take heed that we are not wayside hearers. Let us beware of the devil. We shall always find him at church! He never stays away from public ordinances. Let us remember this–and be upon our guard. Heat and cold, and rain and snow–are often dreaded by church-goers, and alleged as reasons for not going to church. But there is one enemy whom they ought to fear more than all these things together–that enemy is the devil!

She Left Her Heart in Sodom

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(J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“Remember Lot’s wife!” Luke 17:32

We should observe in these verses–what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession.

Lot’s wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a “righteous man.” She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom, in the day when he escaped for his life by God’s command.

But Lot’s wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him–she left her heart behind her! She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom–and was at once struck dead! She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins! Remember her–says our Lord, “Remember Lot’s wife!”

Lot’s wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her, in the day of Christ’s second coming. There are many in the present day, who go a certain length in religion. They speak the “language of Canaan.” They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time, their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts–and their hearts are in the world. And by and bye, in the day of sifting–their unsoundness will be exposed. Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core! The case of Lot’s wife will not stand alone.

Let us remember Lot’s wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts–and have no desire to look back to the world.

Meet the Most Beautiful Queen of All

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J.C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858)

“Everyone who exalts himself–will be humbled; and he who humbles himself–will be exalted.” Luke14:11

Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ–is the start of saving religion.

Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul–were all eminently humble men.

Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All converted people should work to adorn the doctrine they profess, with humility. If they can do nothing else–they can strive to be humble.

Do you want to know the root and spring of humility?
One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge.

The person . . .
who really knows himself, and his own heart,
who knows God, and His infinite majesty and holiness,
who knows Christ, and the price at which he was redeemed
–that person will never be a proud person.

He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, “I am vile!” He will cry, like Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.” He will consider others better than himself. Philippians 2:3

Ignorance, nothing but sheer ignorance–ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ–is the real secret of pride.

From that miserable self-ignorance, may we daily pray to be delivered.
The wise person knows himself–and will find nothing within to make him proud.

Just One Thing Is Needed

Georg_Friedrich_Stettner_(attr)_Christus_im_Hause_der_Martha(J.C. Ryle)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things–but only one thing is needed!” Luke 10:41-42

Let us observe what a solemn rebuke our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His servant Martha. Like a wise physician–He saw the disease which was preying upon her, and at once applied the remedy. Like atender parent–He exposed the fault into which His erring child had fallen, and did not spare the chastening which was required.

“Martha, Martha,” He said, “you are worried and upset about many things–but only one thing is needed!” Faithful are the wounds of a friend! That little sentence was a precious balm indeed! It contained a volume of practical divinity in a few words!

“Only one thing is needed!” How true that saying! The longer we live in the world, the more true it will appear. The nearer we come to the grave, the more thoroughly we shall assent to it. Health, and money, and lands, and rank, and honors, and prosperity, are all well in their way. But they cannot be called needful. Without them thousands are happy in this world, and reach glory in the world to come. The “many things” which men and women are continually struggling for, are not really necessities. The grace of God which brings salvation, is the one thing needful.

Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds!
Let it check us when we are ready to murmur at earthly trials.
Let it strengthen us when we are tempted to deny our Master on account of persecution.
Let it caution us when we begin to think too much of the things of this world.
Let it quicken us when we are disposed to look back, like Lot’s wife.
In all such seasons, let the words of our Lord ring in our ears like a trumpet, and bring us to a right mind! “Only one thing is needed!” 

If Christ is ours–then we have all and abound!