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From Church Society: The Rev. Dr. Rob Munro on “Reformation Today”

October 22, 2017

This is a good presentation on Hezekiah’s reformation as a role model for us today, by the Rev. Dr. Rob Munro of St. Mary’s, Cheadle in the United Kingdom.  Ros Clarke of Church Society writes that “In this deeply challenging and yet encouraging talk from this year’s JAEC, Rob Munro examines Hezekiah’s reformation and draws out important lessons for reformation in the contemporary church. We need to see God’s sovereignty, submit to his Word, and serve his people. Rob also challenges us to engage fully in the Church of England, at all levels, as well as being fully engaged in our local communities, for the good of the Church and the good of our nation.”

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The Rev. Rob Phillips: “How it changed the Church” (Hebrews 4:14-18)

October 21, 2017

From the Rev. Rob Phillips of St. Mary’s Church, Basingstoke in the United Kingdom, here is an audio sermon on How it changed the Church that is the third in a series on the Protestant Reformation.  Here, Rev. Phillips addresses the history of the Reformation and how it affected the Church – and still does.

A very profound thought from E.L. Mascall

October 20, 2017

On Twitter, Fr. Jonathan Trebilco quoted Fr. Charles Erlandson with a very profound thought from E.L. Mascall.  You can read it below.  E.L. Mascall is one of those thinkers who deserves a closer look by just about anyone who seeks a deeper knowledge of Christ and His Church, and this quote is a very good example of why that is so.

Archbishop Nicholas D. Okoh: “Is this now how the Primates of the Anglican Communion understand ‘Walking Together’?”

October 19, 2017

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, in his pastoral letter to GAFCON for October 2017, has written an eloquent letter about the outcome of the recent Primates’ Meeting.  One thing he wrote that makes his point quite well:

Let me humbly advise Canterbury here to take urgent steps to recognise ACNA as an authentic Province of the Anglican Communion before new realignments make that need unnecessary.

It appears that the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and other revisionists have now got what they failed to get at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. It seems it is now ‘officially’ possible to teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches and still be fully part of the Communion, with the only penalty being a few procedural handicaps which in practice amount to very little.

Is this now how the Primates of the Anglican Communion understand ‘Walking Together’?

The Archbishop’s letter is very much worth a reading.

Further from Ryle, from “Holiness”: on sanctification

October 16, 2017

Also from the book Holiness by Bishop J.C. Ryle, this portion on “Sanctification” speaks of the nature of sanctification:

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Spirit, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations “without the Word” (1 Peter 3:1). The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a “sanctified” man.

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30). Let us hear what the Bible says: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified.” “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.” “Christ . . . gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” “Christ . . . bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” Christ “has . . . reconciled [you] in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (John 17:19; Eph. 5:25, 26; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24; Col. 1:22). Let the meaning of these five texts be carefully considered. If words mean anything, they teach that Christ undertakes the sanctification, no less than the justification, of His believing people. Both are alike provided for in that “everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure,” of which the Mediator is Christ. In fact, Christ in one place is called “He who sanctifies,” and His people “they who are sanctified” (Heb. 2:11).

The subject before us is of such deep and vast importance that it requires fencing, guarding, clearing up and marking out on every side. A doctrine which is needful to salvation can never be too sharply developed or brought too fully into light. To clear away the confusion between doctrines and doctrines, which is so unhappily common among Christians, and to map out the precise relation between truths and truths in religion is one way to attain accuracy in our theology. I shall therefore not hesitate to lay before my readers a series of connected propositions or statements, drawn from Scripture, which I think will be found useful in defining the exact nature of sanctification. Each proposition would admit of being expanded and handled more fully, and all of them deserve private thought and consideration. Some of them may be disputed and contradicted; but I doubt whether any of them can be overthrown or proved untrue. I only ask for them a fair and impartial hearing.

1. Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. “He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit” (John 15:5). The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith works by love. It constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ purifies himself even as He is pure (James 2:17–20; Titus 1:1; Gal. 5:6; 1 John 1:7; 3:3).

2. Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He who is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life. A regeneration, which a man can have and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture. On the contrary, St. John expressly says that “He who is born of God does not commit sin,” “does righteousness,” “loves the brethren,” “keeps himself” and “overcomes the world” (1 John 2:29; 3:9–14; 5:4–18). Simply put, the lack of sanctification is a sign of non–regeneration. Where there is no holy life, there has been no holy birth. This is a hard saying, but a Biblical truth; whomever is born of God, it is written, “cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).

3. Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character and life. “The fruit of the Spirit,” says St. Paul, “is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” and such like (Gal. 5:22). Where these things are to be found, there is the Spirit; where these things are wanting, men are dead before God. The Spirit is compared to the wind; and, like the wind, He cannot be seen by our bodily eyes. But, just as we know there is a wind by the effect it produces on waves and trees and smoke, so we may know the Spirit is in a man by the effects He produces in the man’s conduct. It is nonsense to suppose that we have the Spirit if we do not also “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). We may depend on it as a positive certainty that, where there is no holy living, there is no Holy Spirit. The seal that the Spirit stamps on Christ’s people is sanctification. As many as are actually “led by the Spirit of God, they,” and they only, “are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

4. Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. The names and number of the elect are a secret thing, no doubt, which God has wisely kept in His own power and not revealed to man. It is not given to us in this world to study the pages of the book of life and see if our names are there. But if there is one thing clearly and plainly laid down about election, it is this—that elect men and women may be known and distinguished by holy lives. It is expressly written that they are “elect through sanctification,” “chosen to salvation through sanctification,” “predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son,” and “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy.” Hence, when St. Paul saw the working “faith” and laboring “love” and patient “hope” of the Thessalonian believers, he said, “I know your election of God” (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:3, 4). He who boasts of being one of God’s elect, while he is willfully and habitually living in sin, is only deceiving himself and talking wicked blasphemy. Of course, it is hard to know what people really are; and many who make a fair show outwardly in religion may turn out at last to be rotten–hearted hypocrites. But where there is not, at least, some appearance of sanctification, we may be quite certain there is no election. The church catechism correctly and wisely teaches that the Holy Spirit “sanctifies all the elect people of God.”

5. Sanctification is a reality that will always be seen. Like the great Head of the church, from whom it springs, it “cannot be hid.” “Every tree is known by his own fruit” (Luke 6:44). A truly sanctified person may be so clothed with humility that he can see in himself nothing but infirmity and defects. Like Moses, when he came down from the mount, he may not be conscious that his face shines. Like the righteous, in the mighty parable of the sheep and the goats, he may not see that he has done anything worthy of his Master’s notice and commendation: “When saw we You an hungry, and fed You?” (Matt. 25:37). But whether he sees it himself or not, others will always see in him a tone and taste and character and habit of life unlike that of other men. The very idea of a man being “sanctified” while no holiness can be seen in his life is flat nonsense and a misuse of words. Light may be very dim; but if there is only a spark in a dark room, it will be seen. Life may be very feeble; but if the pulse only beats a little, it will be felt. It is just the same with a sanctified man: his sanctification will be something felt and seen, though he himself may not understand it. A “saint,” in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin, is a kind of monster not recognized in the Bible!

6. Sanctification is a reality for which every believer is responsible. In saying this I would not be mistaken. I hold as strongly as anyone that every man on earth is accountable to God and that all the lost will be speechless and without excuse at the last day. Every man has power to “lose his own soul” (Matt. 26:26). But, while I hold this, I maintain that believers are eminently and peculiarly responsible and under a special obligation to live holy lives. They are not as others, dead and blind and unrenewed; they are alive unto God and have light and knowledge and a new principle within them. Whose fault is it, if they are not holy, but their own? On whom can they throw the blame, if they are not sanctified, but themselves? God, who has given them grace and a new heart and a new nature, has deprived them of all excuse if they do not live for His praise. This is a point which is far too much forgotten. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight and a very ignorant man. Against this delusion let us watch and be on our guard. The Word of God always addresses its precepts to believers as accountable and responsible beings. If the Savior of sinners gives us renewing grace and calls us by His Spirit, we may be sure that He expects us to use our grace and not to go to sleep. It is forgetfulness of this which causes many believers to “grieve the Holy Spirit” and makes them very useless and uncomfortable Christians.

7. Sanctification is a thing which admits of growth and degrees. A man may climb from one step to another in holiness and be far more sanctified at one period of his life than another. More pardoned and more justified than he is when he first believes he cannot be, though he may feel it more. More sanctified he certainly may be, because every grace in his new character may be strengthened, enlarged and deepened. This is the evident meaning of our Lord’s last prayer for His disciples when He used the words, “Sanctify them,” and of St. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians: “The very God of peace sanctify you” (John 17:17; 1 Thess. 5:23). In both cases the expression plainly implies the possibility of increased sanctification, while such an expression as “justify them” is never once in Scripture applied to a believer, because he cannot be more justified than he is. I can find no warrant in Scripture for the doctrine of “imputed sanctification.” It is a doctrine which confuses differing principles and leads to evil consequences. confuse things that differ and to lead to very evil consequences. Not least, it is a doctrine which is flatly contradicted by the experience of all the most eminent Christians. If there is any point on which God’s holiest saints agree, it is this: that they see more and know more and feel more and do more and repent more and believe more as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God. In short, they “grow in grace,” as St. Peter exhorts believers to do; and “abound more and more,” according to the words of St. Paul (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Thess. 4:1).

8. Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification. I can find no record of any eminent saint who ever neglected them. They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man. Let men call this legal doctrine if they please, but I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no “spiritual gains without pains.” Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.

9. Sanctification is a thing which does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict. By conflict I mean a struggle within the heart between the old nature and the new, the flesh and the spirit, which are to be found together in every believer (Gal. 5:17). A deep sense of that struggle, and a vast amount of mental discomfort from it, are no proof that a man is not sanctified. No, rather, I believe, they are healthy symptoms of our condition and prove that we are not dead, but alive. A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace. In saying this, I do not forget that I am contradicting the views of some well–meaning Christians who hold the doctrine called “sinless perfection.” I cannot help that. I believe that what I say is confirmed by the language of St. Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans. That chapter I commend to the careful study of all my readers. I am quite satisfied that it does not describe the experience of an unconverted man, or of a young and unestablished Christian; but of an old experienced saint in close communion with God. None but such a man could say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). I believe, furthermore, that what I say is proved by the experience of all the most eminent servants of Christ that have ever lived. The full proof is to be seen in their journals, their autobiographies and their lives. Believing all this, I shall never hesitate to tell people that inward conflict is no proof that a man is not holy, and that they must not think they are not sanctified because they do not feel entirely free from inward struggle. Such freedom we shall doubtless have in heaven, but we shall never enjoy it in this world. The heart of the best Christian, even at his best, is a field occupied by two rival camps, and the “company of two armies” (Song 6:13). Let the words of the thirteenth and fifteenth Articles be well considered by all churchmen: “The infection of nature does remain in them that are regenerated. Although baptized and born again in Christ, we offend in many things; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

10. Sanctification is a thing which cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God. The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin and merit heaven is simply absurd. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:20–28). The only righteousness in which we can appear before God is the righteousness of another—even the perfect righteousness of our Substitute and Representative, Jesus Christ the Lord. His work, and not our work, is our only title to heaven. This is a truth which we should be ready to die to maintain. For all this, however, the Bible distinctly teaches that the holy actions of a sanctified man, although imperfect, are pleasing in the sight of God. “With such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). “Obey your parents . . . for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20). “We . . . do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). Let this never be forgotten, for it is a very comfortable doctrine. Just as a parent is pleased with the efforts of his little child to please him, though it be only by picking a daisy or walking across a room, so is our Father in heaven pleased with the poor performances of His believing children. He looks at the motive, principle and intention of their actions and not merely at their quantity and quality. He regards them as members of His own dear Son, and for His sake, wherever there is a single eye, He is well pleased. Those churchmen who dispute this would do well to study the twelfth Article of the Church of England.

11. Sanctification is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment. It will be utterly useless to plead that we believed in Christ unless our faith has had some sanctifying effect and been seen in our lives. Evidence, evidence, evidence will be the one thing wanted when the great white throne is set, when the books are opened, when the graves give up their tenants, when the dead are arraigned before the bar of God. Without some evidence that our faith in Christ was real and genuine, we shall only rise again to be condemned. I can find no evidence that will be admitted in that day, except sanctification. The question will not be how we talked and what we professed, but how we lived and what we did. Let no man deceive himself on this point. If anything is certain about the future, it is certain that there will be a judgment; and if anything is certain about judgment, it is certain that men’s “works” and “doings” will be considered and examined in it (John 5:29; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:13). He who supposes works are of no importance because they cannot justify us is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.

12. Sanctification, in the last place, is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven. Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there. Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for heaven while we are on earth. The notion of a purgatory after death, which shall turn sinners into saints, is a lying invention of man and is nowhere taught in the Bible. We must be saints before we die if we are to be saints afterwards in glory. The favorite idea of many, that dying men need nothing except absolution and forgiveness of sins to fit them for their great change, is a profound delusion. We need the work of the Holy Spirit as well as the work of Christ; we need renewal of the heart as well as the atoning blood; we need to be sanctified as well as to be justified. It is common to hear people saying on their deathbeds, “I only want the Lord to forgive me my sins, and take me to rest.” But those who say such things forget that the rest of heaven would be utterly useless if we had no heart to enjoy it! What could an unsanctified man do in heaven, if by any chance he got there? Let that question be fairly looked in the face and fairly answered. No man can possibly be happy in a place where he is not in his element and where all around him is not congenial to his tastes, habits and character. When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when a sheep is happy in the water, when an owl is happy in the blaze of noonday sun, when a fish is happy on the dry land—then, and not until then, will I admit that the unsanctified man could be happy in heaven.

May we indeed strive for our sanctification, that we may please God–may we “live for His praise” and may we live to praise Him.

Further from “Holiness” by Bishop Ryle

October 15, 2017

This continues the selection I posted recently from the discourse on “Holiness” by the late Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle. As the first portion was on the nature of true practical holiness, so this one is on the importance of practical holiness:

Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin, cover iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debt to God? No, not a whit. God forbid that I should ever say so. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all “unprofitable servants.” Our purest works are not better than filthy rags when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe, which Jesus offers and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness, the name of Christ our only confidence, the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. They are all more or less incomplete, wrong in the motive or defective in the performance. By the deeds of the law shall no child of Adam ever be justified. “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).

Why then is holiness so important? Why does the apostle say, “Without it no man shall see the Lord”? Let me set out in order a few reasons.

a. For one thing, we must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). “Be you . . . perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Paul tells the Thessalonians, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). And Peter says, “As He which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, ‘Be you holy, for I am holy’”(1 Pet. 1:15, 16). “In this,” says Leighton, “law and gospel agree.”

b. We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15); and to the Ephesians, “Christ . . . loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it” (Eph. 5:25, 26); and to Titus, “[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). In short, to talk of men being saved from the guilt of sin, without being at the same time saved from its dominion in their hearts, is to contradict the witness of all Scripture. Are believers said to be elect? It is “through sanctification of the Spirit.” Are they predestinated? It is “to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.” Are they chosen? It is “that they may be holy.” Are they called? It is “with a holy calling.” Are they afflicted? It is that they may be “partakers of holiness.” Jesus is a complete Savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin; He does more—He breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 12:10).

c. We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The twelfth Article of our church says truly, that “Although good works cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by its fruits.” James warns us there is such a thing as a dead faith, a faith which goes no further than the profession of the lips and has no influence on a man’s character (James 2:17). True saving faith is a very different kind of thing. True faith will always show itself by its fruits; it will sanctify, it will work by love, it will overcome the world, it will purify the heart. I know that people are fond of talking about deathbed evidences. They will rest on words spoken in the hours of fear and pain and weakness, as if they might take comfort in them about the friends they lose. But I am afraid in ninety–nine cases out of a hundred, such evidences are not to be depended on. I suspect that, with rare exceptions, men die just as they have lived. The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ, and Christ in us, is holy life. Those who live unto the Lord are generally the only people who die in the Lord. If we would die the death of the righteous, let us not rest in slothful desires only; let us seek to live His life. It is a true saying of Traill’s: “That man’s state is nothing, and his faith unsound, that finds not his hopes of glory purifying to his heart and life.”

d. We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. This is a point on which He has spoken most plainly, in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of John: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me.” “If a man love Me he will keep My words.” “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14). Plainer words than these it would be difficult to find, and woe to those who neglect them! Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone. It was sin that wove the crown of thorns; it was sin that pierced our Lord’s hands and feet and side; it was sin that brought Him to Gethsemane and Calvary, to the cross and to the grave. Cold must our hearts be if we do not hate sin and labor to get rid of it, though we may have to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye in doing it.

e. We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God. Children in this world are generally like their parents. Some, doubtless, are more so and some less; but it is seldom indeed that you cannot trace a kind of family likeness. And it is much the same with the children of God. The Lord Jesus says, “If you were Abraham’s children you would do the works of Abraham.” “If God were your Father, you would love Me” (John 8:39, 42). If men have no likeness to the Father in heaven, it is vain to talk of their being His “sons.” If we know nothing of holiness, we may flatter ourselves as we please; but we have not got the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; we are dead and must be brought to life again; we are lost and must be found. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they,” and they only, “are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). We must show by our lives the family we belong to. We must let men see by our good conversation that we are indeed the children of the Holy One, or our sonship is but an empty name. “Say not,” says Gurnall, “that you have royal blood in your veins, and are born of God, except you can prove your pedigree by daring to be holy.”

f. We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read. It is sad indeed when they are a sermon for the devil’s cause, and not for God’s. I believe that far more is done for Christ’s kingdom by the holy living of believers than we are at all aware of. There is a reality about such living which makes men feel and obliges them to think. It carries a weight and influence with it which nothing else can give. It makes religion beautiful and draws men to consider it, like a lighthouse seen afar off. The day of judgment will prove that many besides husbands have been won “without the Word” by a holy life (1 Pet. 3:1). You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the gospel, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape. There is a meaning about holiness which not even the most unlearned can help taking in. They may not understand justification, but they can understand charity.

I believe there is far more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are at all aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down by their lives what ministers build with their lips. They cause the chariot wheels of the gospel to drive heavily. They supply the children of this world with a never–ending excuse for remaining as they are. “I cannot see the use of so much religion,” said an irreligious tradesman not long ago; “I observe that some of my customers are always talking about the gospel and faith and election and the blessed promises and so forth, and yet these very people think nothing of cheating me of pence and halfpence when they have an opportunity. Now, if religious persons can do such things, I do not see what good there is in religion.” I grieve to be obliged to write such things, but I fear that Christ’s name is too often blasphemed because of the lives of Christians. Let us take heed lest the blood of souls should be required at our hands. From murder of souls by inconsistency and loose walking, good Lord, deliver us! Oh, for the sake of others, if for no other reason, let us strive to be holy!

g. We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it. We are sadly apt to forget that there is a close connection between sin and sorrow, holiness and happiness, sanctification and consolation. God has so wisely ordered it, that our well–being and our well–doing are linked together. He has mercifully provided that even in this world it shall be man’s interest to be holy. Our justification is not by works, our calling and election are not according to our works; but it is vain for anyone to suppose that he will have a lively sense of his justification, or an assurance of his calling, so long as he neglects good works or does not strive to live a holy life. “Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments.” “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts” (1 John 2:3; 3:19). A believer may as soon expect to feel the sun’s rays upon a dark and cloudy day, as to feel strong consolation in Christ while he does not follow Him fully. When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger; but they were miserable and sad. When, shortly after, they confessed Him boldly before men, they were cast into prison and beaten; but we are told, “They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Oh, for our own sakes, if there were no other reason, let us strive to be holy! He who follows Jesus most fully will always follow Him most comfortably.

h. Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we will never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in heaven. The book of Revelation says expressly, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie” (Rev. 21:27).

How will we ever be at home and happy in heaven if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now?

While I think Bishop Ryle wrote all of this with much wisdom and discernment, I think one of the hardest-hitting portions for me, personally, is this: We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read. It is sad indeed when they are a sermon for the devil’s cause, and not for God’s. May we live for Him in holiness that we might not have to bear the reproach of having lived a sermon for the devil’s cause!

J.C. Ryle: An excerpt from “Holiness”

October 14, 2017

Here is a very thoughtful passage from Holiness by J.C. Ryle; I have not referred to this in years and now is a good time to think about his message.

A man may go great lengths, and yet never reach true holiness. It is not knowledge-Balaam had that: nor great profession-Judas Iscariot had that: nor doing many things-Herod had that: nor zeal for certain matters in religion-Jehu had that: nor morality and outward respectability of conduct-the young ruler had that: nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers-the Jews in Ezekiel’s time had that: nor keeping company with godly people-Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these was holy! These things alone are not holiness. A man may have any one of them, and yet never see the Lord.

What then is true practical holiness? It is a hard question to answer. I do not mean that there is any want of Scriptural matter on the subject. But I fear lest I should give a defective view of holiness, and not say all that ought to be said; or lest I should say things about it that ought not to be said, and so do harm. Let me, however, try to draw a picture of holiness, that we may see it clearly before the eyes of our minds. Only let it never be forgotten, when I have said all, that my account is but a poor imperfect outline at the best.

a) Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgement-hating what He hates-loving what He loves-and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.

b) A holy man will endeavour to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will have a decided bent of mind toward God, a hearty desire to do His will-a greater fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the world, and a love to all His ways. He will feel what Paul felt when he said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22), and what David felt when he said, “I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128).

c) A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be “conformed to His image” (Rom. 8:29). It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us-to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself- to walk in love, even as Christ loved us-to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself. He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth-that He came not to do His own will-that it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will-that He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others-that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults-that He thought more of godly poor men than of kings-that He was full of love and compassion to sinners-that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin-that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it-that He went about doing good-that He was separate from worldly people-that He continued instant in prayer- that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God’s work was to be done. These things a holy man will try to remember. By them he will endeavour to shape his course in life. He will lay to heart the saying of John, “He that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6); and the saying of Peter, that “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Happy is he who has learned to make Christ his “all”, both for salvation and example! Much time would be saved, and much sin prevented, if men would oftener ask themselves the question, “What would Christ have said and done, if He were in my place?”

d) A holy man will follow after meekness, long-suffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear much, overlook much, and be slow to talk of standing on his rights. We see a bright example of this in the behaviour of David when Shimei cursed him-and of Moses when Aaron and Miriam spake against him (2 Sam. 16:10; Num. 12:3).

e) A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. He will labour to mortify the desires of his body-to crucify his flesh with his affections and lusts-to curb his passions-to restrain his carnal inclinations, lest at any time they break loose. Oh, what a word is that of the Lord Jesus to the Apostles, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life” (Luke 21:34); and that of the Apostle Paul, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).

f) A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. He will endeavour to observe the golden rule of doing as he would have men do to him, and speaking as he would have men speak to him. He will be full of affection towards his brethren-towards their bodies, their property, their characters, their feelings, their souls. “He that loveth another,” says Paul, “hath fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). He will abhor all lying, slandering, backbiting, cheating, dishonesty, and unfair dealing, even in the least things. The shekel and cubit of the sanctuary were larger than those in common use. He will strive to adorn his religion by all his outward demeanour, and to make it lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all around him. Alas, what condemning words are the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, and the Sermon on the Mount, when laid alongside the conduct of many professing Christians!

g) A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will not stand all the day idle. He will not be content with doing no harm-he will try to do good. He will strive to be useful in his day and generation, and to lessen the spiritual wants and misery around him, as far as he can. Such was Dorcas, “full of good works and almsdeeds, which she did,”-not merely purposed and talked about, but did. Such an one was Paul: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you,” he says, “though the more abundantly I love you the less I be loved” (Acts 9:36; 2 Cor. 12:15).

h) A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it. He knows his own heart is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation. Who shall dare to talk of strength when David can fall? There is many a hint to be gleaned from the ceremonial law. Under it the man who only touched a bone, or a dead body, or a grave, or a diseased person, became at once unclean in the sight of God. And these things were emblems and figures. Few Christians are ever too watchful and too particular about this point.

i) A holy man will follow after the fear of God. I do not mean the fear of a slave, who only works because he is afraid of punishment, and would be idle if he did not dread discovery. I mean rather the fear of a child, who wishes to live and move as if he was always before his father’s face, because he loves him. What a noble example Nehemiah gives us of this! When he became Governor at Jerusalem he might have been chargeable to the Jews and required of them money for his support. The former Governors had done so. There was none to blame him if he did. But he says, “So did not I, because of the fear of God” (Neh. 5:15).

j) A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart than in any other in the world. He will understand something of Abraham’s feeling, when he says, “I am dust and ashes;”-and Jacob’s, when he says, “I am less than the least of all Thy mercies;”-and Job’s, when he says, “I am vile;”- and Paul’s, when he says, “I am chief of sinners.” Holy Bradford, that faithful martyr of Christ, would sometimes finish his letters with these words, “A most miserable sinner, John Bradford.” Good old Mr. Grimshaw’s last words, when he lay on his death-bed, were these, “Here goes an unprofitable servant.”

k) A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives, and more help than they. Those words of Paul should never be forgotten, “Whatever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord,”-“Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Col. 3:23; Rom. 12:11). Holy persons should aim at doing everything well, and should be ashamed of allowing themselves to do anything ill if they can help it. Like Daniel, they should seek to give no “occasion” against themselves, except “concerning the law of their God” (Dan. 6:5). They should strive to be good husbands and good wives, good neighbours, good friends, good subjects, good in private and good in public, good in the place of business and good by their firesides. Holiness is worth little indeed, if it does not bear this kind of fruit. The Lord Jesus puts a searching question to His people, when He says, “What do ye more than others?” (Mt. 5:47).

l) Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim travelling to his home. To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of His people-these things will be the holy man’s chiefest enjoyments. He will value every thing and place and company, just in proportion as it draws him nearer to God. He will enter into something of David’s feeling, when he says, “My soul followeth hard after Thee.” “Thou art my portion” (Psalm 63:8; 119:57).

Such is the outline of holiness which I venture to sketch out. Such is the character which those who are called “holy” follow after. Such are the main features of a holy man.

But here let me say, I trust no man will misunderstand me. I am not without fear that my meaning will be mistaken, and the description I have given of holiness will discourage some tender conscience. I would not willingly make one righteous heart sad, or throw a stumbling-block in any believer’s way.

I do not say for a moment that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No: far from it. It is the greatest mystery of a holy man that he carries about with him a “body of death;”-that often when he would do good “evil is present with him”; that the old man is clogging all his movements, and, as it were, trying to draw him back at every step he takes (Rom. 7:21). But it is the excellence of a holy man that he is not at peace with indwelling sin, as others are. He hates it, mourns over it, and longs to be free from its company. The work of sanctification within him is like the wall of Jerusalem-the building goes forward “even in troublous times” (Dan. 9:25).

Neither do I say that holiness comes to ripeness and perfection all at once, or that these graces I have touched on must be found in full bloom and vigour before you can call a man holy. No: far from it. Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning. We must never despise “the day of small things”. And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but”, and “howbeit” and “notwithstanding”, before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross-the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The sun himself has spots upon his face. The holiest men have many a blemish and defect when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome. The flesh is ever lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and “in many things they offend all” (Gal. 5:17; James 3:2).

But still, for all this, I am sure that to have such a character as I have faintly drawn, is the heart’s desire and prayer of all true Christians. They press towards it, if they do not reach it. They may not attain to it, but they always aim at it. It is what they strive and labour to be, if it is not what they are.

And this I do boldly and confidently say, that true holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savour will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.

May it be said of each of us that the presence of holiness in our lives could not be hidden–that it might be “seen, and known, and marked, and felt.”

Michael Taylor: “Making it our aim to please God with entertainment”

October 13, 2017

One question that comes up from time to time is: how should a Christian approach entertainment, such as television?  Certainly it seems that Hollywood has become more and more anti-Christian, as well as immoral, over the last few decades.  Michael Taylor, who is an Assistant Minister at St David’s Forestville Church in Australia, has written an excellent article on Making it our aim to please God with entertainment that could be quite helpful in thinking about this issue.  I really liked this statement by the author:

If we become just like the world then we undermine our proclamation of the very gospel that we have been sent to preach. As DL Moody once wrote, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets into it”.3 That’s why Christ calls us to obedience in every aspect of our lives, that we might be cleansed from our sin and made useful to our master who bought us, our lives adorning the gospel that rescues people from this present evil age (2 Tim 2:21; 1 Cor 6:20; Gal 1:4).

I would say this is an article that could help a lot of us discern what to do with the entertainment presented to us and would encourage you to read Making it our aim to please God with entertainment.

The Rev. John Palmer: “Confronting the culture: Building biblical churches in a godless society”

October 12, 2017

I have mentioned the God’s Glory Our Joy conference in previous years and thought I would mention a sermon from their 2010 conference on Confronting the culture.  This message was preached by the Rev. John Palmer and the title of the message is “Confronting the culture: Building biblical churches in a godless society”.  Quite frankly it is a most relevant sermon for our time.

From Preaching Matters: William Taylor & Mickey Mantle on “Humanity & Hope in Genesis”

October 10, 2017

From St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Church in London, here is their latest Preaching Matters, featuring William Taylor and Mickey Mantle.  The subject of this installment is “Humanity & Hope in Genesis”; the notes say: What is the diagnosis of Humanity in Genesis 5-11, and is there any sign of hope? What is God’s assessment of humanity’s state in the world? What hope do we have of building towards something lasting? How can reconciliation with God be achieved? William Taylor and Mickey Mantle talk with Sam Manchester about these issues in this month’s Preaching Matters.