When the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, he used five words which the wisest of the heathen could never have used. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Seneca were wise people. On many subjects they saw more clearly than most people in the present day. They were people of mighty minds, and of a vast range of intellect. But not one of them could have said as the apostle did, “I have peace with God.” (Romans 5:1) When Paul used these words, he spoke not for himself only, but for all true Christians. Some of them no doubt have a greater sense of this privilege than others. All of them find an evil principle within, warring against their spiritual welfare day by day. All of them find their adversary, the devil, waging an endless battle with their souls. All of them find that they must endure the enmity of the world. But all, notwithstanding, to a greater or less extent, “have peace with God.”
You need not be cast down by sickness. The eternal part of you is safe and provided for, whatever happens to your body. You may well look calmly on death. It opens a door between you and your inheritance. You may well not sorrow exclusively over the things of the world – over partings and bereavements – over losses and crosses. The day of gathering is before you. Your treasure is beyond reach of harm. Heaven is becoming every year more full of those you love, and earth more empty. Glory in your inheritance. It is all yours if you are a children of God. “If we are children, then we are heirs.”
“Don’t rest on past reading. Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase” said John Piper in a January blog post.
While some might feel this is arm-twisting, or hear this as mere duty, Piper goes on to give three reasons this is not legalism — and then quotes the helpful JC Ryle:
(1) You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
(2) You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.
(3) It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.
So lets give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible.
Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.
Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading.
(J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)
Treason? The evangelical Bishop J.C. Ryle raises the alarm for those Christians who at “at peace” with the enemies of their soul, the enemies of Christ….
I fear much for many professing Christians. I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory. They never strike one blow on the side of Christ. They are at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin. I warn you, this is not Christianity. This is not the way to heaven.
I often fear much for those who hear the gospel regularly. I fear lest you become so familiar with the sound of its doctrines, that insensibly you become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real, practical, fighting on Christ’s side is altogether neglected. Oh, beware of this state of mind. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). No victory—no crown! Fight and overcome!
Young men and women, and especially those who have been brought up in religious families, I fear much for you. I fear lest you get a habit of giving way to every temptation. I fear lest you become afraid of saying, “No!” to the world and the devil -— and when sinners entice you, think it least trouble to consent. Beware, I do beseech you, of giving way. Every concession will make you weaker. Go into the world resolved to fight Christ’s battle — and fight your way on.
…Let me warn all formalists and self-righteous people to take heed that they are not deceived. You fancy you will go to heaven because you go regularly to church. You indulge an expectation of eternal life, because you are always at the Lord’s Table, and are never missing in your pew. But where is your repentance? Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit? Where are your evidences of regeneration? Oh, formal Christian, consider these questions! Tremble, tremble and repent.
…Let me warn all careless members of churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell. You live on year after year as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil. You pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentleman-like or lady-like person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless Churchman, or careless Dissenter, careless Episcopalian, careless Presbyterian, careless Independent, careless Baptist, awake to see eternal realities in their true light! Awake and fight hard for life! Tremble, trembleand repent. [emphasis added]
I came by this passage (from Ryle’s book Holiness) from a well-known pastor in Africa, Conrad Mbewe — who said when he first read this passage as a university student, he made a poster of that first paragraph and put it up in his room. This quotation carries deep, penetrating questions for every reader. If it makes us anxious for our spiritual standing, then come before the Lord in prayer to make things right. Resolve to believe, and act, and persevere in our faith as a Christian must.
We must not expect all believers in Christ to be exactly like one another. We must not set down others as having no grace, because their experience does not entirely tally with our own. The sheep in the Lord’s flock have each their own peculiarities. The trees in the Lord’s garden are not all precisely alike. All true servants of God agree in the principal things of religion. All are led by one Spirit. All feel their sins, and all trust in Christ. All repent, all believe, and all are holy. But in minor matters they often differ widely. Let not one despise another on this account. There will be Martha’s and there will be Mary’s in the Church until the Lord comes again.
~ J.C. Ryle
(from his Expository Thought on the Gospel of Luke)
J.C Ryle sees some vital things lacking in many believers….
When I look around, I see many things missing among us, which Jesus loves.
I miss the meekness and gentleness of our Master—many of us are harsh, rough-tempered, and overly critical of others, and we flatter ourselves that we are faithful.
I miss real boldness in confessing Christ before men—we often think much more of the time to be silent, than the time to speak.
I miss real humility—not many of us like to take the lowest place, and esteem everyone better than ourselves, and our own strength perfect weakness.
I miss real charity—few of us have that unselfish spirit, which seeks not its own—there are few who are not more taken up with their own feelings and their own happiness than that of others.
I miss real thankfulness of spirit—we complain, and murmur, and fret, and brood over the things we have not, and forget the things we have. We are seldom content.
I miss decided separation from the world—the line of distinction is often rubbed out. Many of us, like the chameleon, are always taking the color of our company we become so like the ungodly, that it strains a man’s eyes to see the difference.
Reader, these things ought not so to be. If we want more hope, let us be zealous regarding good works.
~ J.C. Ryle
We must beware of thinking too much about our meals, our furniture, our houses, and all those many things which concern the life of the body. We must strive to live like people whose first thoughts are about the immortal soul. We must endeavor to pass through the world like people who are not yet at home, and are not so troubled about the fare they meet with on the road and at the inn. Blessed are they who feel like pilgrims and strangers in this life, and whose best things are all to come!
~ J.C. Ryle
from his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, (Banner of Truth).