Courtesy of Lent and Beyond, here is an excerpt from Ryle on “The Things Which Murder Souls” – quite a fitting thought for this season.
Remember what I say: if you would cleave to earthly pleasures, these are the things which murder souls. There is no surer way to get a seared conscience and a hard impenitent heart, than to give way to the desires of the flesh and mind. It seems nothing at first, but it tells in the long run.
Consider what Peter says: “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2.11). They destroy the soul’s peace, break down its strength, lead it into hard captivity, make it a slave.
Consider what Paul says: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth” (Colossians 3.5). “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5.24). “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9.27). Once the body was a perfect mansion of the soul; now it is all corrupt and disordered, and needs constant watching. It is a burden to the soul- not a helpmeet; a hindrance- not an assistance. It may become a useful servant, but it is always a bad master.
Consider, again, the words of Paul: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13.14). “These,” says Leighton, “are the words, the very reading of which so wrought with Augustine, that from a licentious young man he turned a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.”
One might say a seared conscience starts with the first unrepented sin.
This month’s free audiobook from christianaudio.com is The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel. The note on their page about the book says:
Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel is the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and New York Times best-selling author of over 20 books including this month’s free audiobook. In The Case For The Real Jesus Strobel investigates current attacks on the identity of Christ and explores many hot-button questions.
I’d say The Case for the Real Jesus is a book that is well worth hearing for anyone, particularly those interested in witnessing and apologetics.
Another reading from Faith and Life for the Second Sunday in Lent is this excerpt from Augustine of Hippo:
So long as we are here, let us ask this of God, that He will not “remove from us our prayer, and His own mercy;” that is, that we may perseveringly pray, and He may perseveringly pity. For many grow languid in praying; and in the freshness of their conversion they pray fervently, afterwards languidly, afterwards coldly, afterwards negligently; they become, as it were, careless. The enemy is awake; you are sleeping. Our Lord Himself, in the Gospel, gave us the precept, “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” and He gives us an illustration from the unjust judge. Therefore let us not faint in prayer. Although He delays that which He is going to grant, He does not take it from us •; since we may be confident of His promise, let us not faint in praying; and even this not fainting comes of His own bounty. Therefore he said, “Blessed be my God, who has not removed my prayer, and His mercy from me.” When you see that your prayer is not removed from you, be of good heart; for His mercy is not removed from you.
–St. Augustine on Psalm lxv. (our Ps. lxvi.)
Indeed, let us not faint in prayer, for we can trust Him that His mercy will not falter!
This being the Second Sunday in Lent, here, from Faith and Life, is a reading from St. Leo on sanctification:
WHILE the Easter solemnity is approaching, we have before us the custom of a preliminary fast, to train us during forty days for sanctification of body and soul. For when we are about to welcome the greatest Feast of all feasts, we ought to prepare ourselves with such observance of duty, that we may be found sharers of His Death and Passion in whose Resurrection we have been raised again. But what is our share in the Death of Christ, except to cease to be what we were? or what is our likeness to His Resurrection, except the laying aside of the old man? Therefore, he who understands the mystery of his own restoration ought to strip himself of carnal vices, and cast away all the stains of sin; that when he is entering in to the marriage supper, he may shine forth in the robe of virtue. For although the benignant Spouse invites all to share the royal banquet, yet all who are invited are bound to take care that they be not found unworthy of the gift of holy food. Since the whole body of the faithful ought to aim at perfect innocence and entire purity, in order that they may be deemed worthy of being enrolled in the fellowship of those of whom it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;” we must strive with all earnestness and energy, that whatever denies our secret conscience, whatever darkens the eye of our mind, may be effaced by diligent purification. For although it is written, “Who will boast that he has a clean heart, or that he is pure from sin?” yet we must not despair of attaining purity, for while it is always being asked for, it is always being received: nor does that remain to be condemned by the Judgment, which has been cleared away by confession.
—St. Leo, Twelfth Sermon on Lent
Let us lay aside the old man, and put on Christ.
How well do you know your Bible? Now that is a scary question, even if you have been a Christian for a long time. Between church events, little league games, and a full-time job, finding time to read and study Scripture is a herculean task. To make matters worse, when you finally do escape to read the Bible you struggle to understand what it means. At times you can relate with the Ethiopian eunuch who said to Philip when asked if he understood what he was reading, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’
As the rest of the introduction says, they are here to help – and with input by men such as Kevin DeYoung, Douglas Moo and Thomas Schreiner, I think you will indeed find this issue helpful.
(Hat tip: Anglican Church League)
If you are interested in hearing an excellent message on that famous passage about “the whole armor of God”, Ephesians 6:10-20, here is an audio of Dr. D.A. Carson speaking on that passage. The message is titled “The Christian in Complete Armor” and is very much worth hearing. In our day of onslaughts from secularism and such groups as ISIS, there has probably never been a better time to “put on the whole armor of God.”
From Fr. Bill Klock of Living Word Reformed Episcopal Church in British Columbia, here is a sermon on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, titled Alive Again. In this sermon based on Luke 15:11-24, Fr. Bill covers the first half of this parable, and he makes some very good points. Certainly what he says here about Jesus’ call to repentance, as modeled in this account, applies very much to us:
Jesus’ call was a call to repentance and there’s hardly a better illustration of what repentance looks like than the one Jesus gives us here. The boy came to a complete end of himself. He trusted in his pride and shamed his father and his family for the sake of money and a good time. Now his money has run out and so has his pride. He’s at rock-bottom. And there in the pigsty God gets hold of him and he repents. He realises the significance of what he’s done. He knows that he can’t just go home and pick up where he left off. He has no legal claim to anything from his father—he already claimed it and spent it. He can’t go home to be his father’s son anymore, but he could go home and beg his father to take him on as one of his paid field hands. It would be humiliating to ask, but it couldn’t be worse than starving in a filthy pigsty. He turns from sin, from foolishness, from pride, from self-will and goes to his father—essentially in hopeful faith—trusting in his grace.
And indeed, that is what each of us is called to do – turning from sin to Him. This message is very much worth reading in full, or listening to it, which you can do so below.
Here is the next in another series by Dean Phillip Jensen of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney – this one being on Acts 2:42-4:4, and titled “Explaining the Healing Experience”.
From Faith and Life, here is another reading for the First Sunday in Lent, this one being from Augustine of Hippo:
Our Lord’s will has been to prefigure us, who are His body, in that Body of His in which He has already died and risen, and ascended into Heaven; that whither the Head has gone before, thither the members may trust to follow. Therefore He represented us in Himself, when He willed to be tempted by Satan. For in Christ you were tempted, since Christ had flesh for Himself from you, salvation from Himself for you; death for Himself from you, life from Himself for you; insults for Himself from you, honours from Himself for you; therefore temptation for Himself from you, victory from Himself for you. If in Him we have been tempted, in Him we overcome the devil. Do you observe that Christ was tempted, and not also that He conquered? Recognize yourself as tempted in Him, and recognize yourself as conquering in Him.
–St. Augustine, on Psalm lx.
Indeed, it is only by His Spirit that we can conquer temptation!