Would you be holy? Advice from J C Ryle*

JC Ryle

Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do just nothing at all, and make no progress — until you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness — and the way to be holy, is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Christ is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people — but sanctification also. Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all — and sad work they make of it. They toil and labor and turn over many new leaves, and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel “nothing bettered — but rather worse” (). They run in vain and labor in vain, and little wonder — for they are beginning at the wrong end. They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down — as fast as they throw it up. They are baling water out of a leaky vessel; the leak gains on them — not they on the leak. Continue reading Would you be holy? Advice from J C Ryle*

26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.

Life and Temptation

Temptation

Life is filled with temptations. These temptations can be small and they can be substantial. Temptation that you experience may be a real trial for you, but for others it may be merely trivial, and vice versa. What is it that causes such a struggle within us when it comes to temptation? It would be easy a natural tendency of people is to shift the blame away from themselves. We may blame the environment we are in, the upbringing we had or even our personality type. The problem with doing this is that we are wrongly diagnosing the problem therefore don’t receive the biblical solution. The reality is that there is a deeper and more potent source causing the lure to temptation. What is it? Before we consider some specific strategies on fighting temptation, I want to briefly consider the source and sequence of temptation from . 

THE SOURCE OF TEMPTATION
James makes it clear that God is not the source of our temptation. He cannot be tempted because He has no capacity or vulnerability to temptation (; ; ) and therefore He does not tempt (). So then, where does temptation come from? says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire“. He illustrates the source of temptation with fishing metaphors. Like a fish that is enticed by the bait and then lured away, we fall into temptation when our “own desire” drags us to the bait. The problem is within us (cf. ). Again, notice that the text says, “his own desire“. We all have different tendencies, which come from our different upbringings and personal choices in life. One person’s temptation isn’t always the same as an others. Nonetheless they are still real.

THE SEQUENCE OF TEMPTATION
Consider the sequence of temptation. In , James changes metaphors from fishing to gestation (“Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death“). “Desire” represents the mother and its child is “sin“. The gestation period of a human is nine months, whereas the gestation process of temptation instantaneous. Once mother “desire” has given birth to her child “sin“, it grows, and if allowed to become mature it “brings forth death“. The apostle Paul said on the same lines, “the wages of sin is death” (). Sin should not become the object of our entertainment. The results of allowing our desires to conceive are devastating, and must be avoided.

James concludes this section with a firm yet pastoral warning, “do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” (). It is not God who brings such evils in our life; the problem is with our own desires. Though we may find ourselves in a difficult and trying situation, we are to inform our desires so as to trust God. In the words of the great puritan pastor-theologian John Owen,

Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before”.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.

And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.”

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

The Power of the Resurrection

Resurrection

The day after the death and burial of Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered before Pilate worried that the disciples’ may steal the body. So Pilate ordered soldiers to guard the tomb (). However, nothing was going to get in the way of what happened early that Sunday morning – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ refers to that event in which He was raised to life. It occurred three days after His crucifixion (Luke 24:46; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4), which took place on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9). The resurrection of Christ was an event foretold by the prophets (Psalm 16:10) and prophesied by Christ Himself (Matt. 20:19; Mark 9:9; 14:28; John 2:19-22) – it was a necessary event (Luke 24:45-46). After His resurrection He appeared to Mary Magdaline and other women (Matt. 28:9; Mark 16:9; John 20:18). He also appeared to the disciples (John 20:26), to a crowd of about 500 (1 Cor. 15:6) and later on to Paul (1 Cor. 15:8). The resurrection was the power of the Triune God on display (The Father: Acts 2:24; 3:15; Rom. 8:11; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:13; the Son: John 2:19; 10:18 and the Holy Spirit: 1 Peter 3:18). It was powerful! In this post I would like to sure three demonstrations of the power of the resurrection of Christ in the life of the Christian.

The Power of the Resurrection in Justification
If we are going to be forgiven of sins and justified by God, it was necessary that the Lord Jesus Christ would rise from the dead. The act of the Jesus Christ rising up from the grave was a public demonstration that Christ’s suffering and death satisfied the wrath of God. The Father accepted and approved the perfect sacrifice of His Son. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes concerning Christ, “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (). If this did not occur we would be bot be forgiven. In his grand chapter on the resurrection Paul again writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17).

The Power of the Resurrection in Sanctification
By virtue of the resurrection of Christ, the believer is granted the ability to grow in Christlikeness. It logically flows from the previous point that if Christ was not raised from the dead we would still be lost in our sins. However, because we have been raised up with Christ, we are to “seek those things that are above” (). Because of our union with Him we are to pursue those things that are pleasing unto the Lord. The resurrection of Christ enables us to bear fruit for God (cf. ). As we strive to walk in the will of Lord, let us be reminded that our resurrected Lord is interceding for us ().

The Power of the Resurrection in Glorification
The power of the resurrection is also seen in the certainty of the believer’s future bodily resurrection. Jesus stated plainly,

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” ().

The reality behind what we read in is amazing. Every single person in history will one day be raised up and will stand before God. With authority and command, the Lord Jesus Christ will speak and the dead will be raised. Note that Jesus speaks of two different kinds of resurrection – “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of judgment“. The first is in reference to believers and the second to unbelievers. The reason why some are able to expect the resurrection of life is because they trust in Christ for salvation. It is His death and resurrection that makes their future one possible. This future event is something the people of God for centuries have anticipated (; ). This will be a spectacular event. At the return of Jesus Christ His people will be changed instantly. They will receive resurrected bodies and will be fitted out to enjoy the eternal kingdom of their Lord.

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful.

 

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Resources for Spiritual Growth – Part 2

spiritual-growth2

In my last post we saw the importance of the priority of prayer and the permeation of Scripture in spiritual growth. In this final instalment of of posts on resources for spiritual growth I will consider the final two: the power of the Spirit and the presence of fellowship. 

The Power of the Spirit
If we are going to serve the Lord with our highest love, reverence and obedience we are in need of Divine help. For this reason we need the power of the Holy Spirit. This power will help us apply what we learn in the word of God. Both the permeation of the word and the power of the Spirit work hand in hand. How does this power work? We need to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is a  straightforward command in Scripture, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The word “filled” in this verse means “to make full” in the sense of permeation or control. The idea is that the believer’s life is to be under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit. This control leads to conduct that is in conformity to the word of God (cf. Col. 3:16).

Continue reading Resources for Spiritual Growth – Part 2

Resources for Spiritual Growth – Part 1

spiritual-growth2 Back in , Moses gave the Israelites the mandates for their inheritance of the land of Canaan. There were specific things that they were to do. They were to eliminate their enemies () because they opposed the holiness of God. Though these enemies were in the land, they were to remove them. In addition to removing the people, they were to also eliminate all the remnants of ungodliness (). The reason why the Lord commanded this elimination is because His people are holy, chosen, and loved. He said,

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt().

On the basis of their condition before the Lord, they were to remove anything that is not characteristic of this condition. We can use that episode in the history of Israel as a real illustration for what we need to be doing in our spiritual conduct. We are not called to remove any people groups from their nation but we are called – on the basis of our new life – to put to death anything in our lives that is not characteristic of God’s people. We are to remove the spiritual Hittites, Girgashites, Ammorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites in our life. Sin is a wicked thing. In-fact, sin should be considered the believer’s worst enemy. For this reason, our attitude towards sin should be very serious. By God’s Continue reading Resources for Spiritual Growth – Part 1

7:1 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

7:1 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.

But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

How to Strengthen your Faith

strength

At times the Christian does get discouraged and become despondent. They have not lost their faith, as this was a divinely given gift. However, their faith can be weakened and therefore in need of strengthening. The child of God at times will have “little faith” () and ought to desire to have a growing faith (cf. ).

Though a believer can have weak faith, it is important to remember that there is a huge difference between weak faith and having no faith at all. Spurgeon notes that “between the very lowest degree of faith and a state of unbelief there is a great gulf. An immeasurable abyss yawns between the man who has even the smallest faith in Christ and the man who has none.” Weak faith is still saving faith, but as a believer we ought to desire to see it increase.

Continue reading How to Strengthen your Faith

31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

Are you a Legalist?

Legalism

I loathe legalism. I loathe it because it adds to the sufficiency we have in Christ and undermines His supremacy.

Are you a legalist?

In order to answer this important question let us first define legalism. One Continue reading Are you a Legalist?

Fighting the Flesh

walk-in-the-spirit

It is the believer’s duty and delight to love Christ by keeping His commands (). However, this is not always easy. The Christian lives with a conflict and struggle: they are simultaneously a saint and a sinner. Positionally, the Christian is justified and is a saint. Yet every believer knows the battle with indwelling sin. The cause of such a conflict is the flesh. The word flesh is used various ways in the Scriptures. It can refer to the physical human body (), human nature () and human sinfulness (). It is the third description that I have in view in this post.

Continue reading Fighting the Flesh

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

The Priority of Pleasing God

Pleasing God

When it comes to living the Christian life, many are consumed by the preoccupation of pleasing people at the expense of pleasing the Lord. They are concerned about what others think about them and are concerned as to whether they are matching up to the standard of others. As a result, many start telling others what they want to hear; they fail to affirm their confidence in God’s word because they are frightened of offending people. When you consider the life of the apostle Paul, he was an individual who lived for an audience of one. He was consumed by the priority of pleasing God. Pleasing God should be the believer’s greatest ambition. Consider the following references:

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil”  .

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

It is clear that this is a biblical mandate, but what does it mean to please God? Continue reading The Priority of Pleasing God

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.