REPENTANCE – J.C. Ryle

•September 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

J.C. Ryle was a man who would have been hated in this generation.  This cannot be jc-ryle_5
stated too  strongly.  For instance, consider a man such as Mark Driscoll, a man who makes mistakes like anyone.  But Driscoll is a bold preacher.  He calls sin for what it is and urges sinners to repent.  That bold message is met with stiff resistance by cold-hearted pagans and embittered people who name the name of Christ.  So like Driscoll, Ryle was man who was unafraid of speaking in plain terms, biblical terms.

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) was best known for serving as the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool.  He was a prolific writer and a faithful pastor.  His book Repentance is representative of his work.  It is clear, biblical, and aims straight for the heart.  The basis of Ryle’s work is found in Luke 13:3 – “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”  Ryle notes that Christ’s words may seem “stern and severe.  But they are words of love, and may be the means of delivering precious souls from hell.”

The Nature of Repentance

The author reminds his readers that repentance was the first doctrine that came out of our Lord’s mouth.  He defines repentance as “a thorough change of man’s natural heart, upon the subject of sin.”  With the theological groundwork in place, Ryle continues by noting several marks of the penitent man.

  • True repentance begins with knowledge of sin.
  • True repentance goes on to work sorrow for sin.
  • True repentance produces confession of sin.
  • True repentance shows itself in a thorough breaking off from sin.
  • True repentance shows itself by producing in the heart a settled habit of deep hatred of all sin.

Ryle remarks, “Wherever faith is, there is repentance; wherever repentance is, there is always faith.”

The Necessity of Repentance

Ryle makes it painfully clear that every creature is required to repent.  Indeed, there are no exceptions: “The queen upon her throne and the pauper in the workhouse, the rich man in his drawing-room, the servant maid in the kitchen, the professor of sciences at the University, the poor ignorant boy who follows the plough – all by nature need repentance.”  The author does the reader a great service by setting forth this critical requirement before God.

Three concrete reasons are offered for each creature to repent:

  1. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins.
  2. Without repentance there is no happiness in the life that now is.
  3. Without repentance there can be no fitness in the world that is yet to come.

The Encouragements to Repentance

Ryle recognizes that sinners are generally slow in coming to Christ and repenting of their sins.  He offers five encouragements for sinners who stand at the crossroads before a holy God:

  1. Hear for one thing, what a gracious Savior the Lord Jesus Christ is.
  2. What glorious promises the Word of God contains.
  3. What gracious declarations the Word of God contains.
  4. What marvelous parables our Lord Jesus spoke upon this subject.
  5. What wonderful examples there are in the Word of God, of God’s mercy and kindness to penitent people.

My hope is that this short review will entice many to devour Repentance by J.C. Ryle.  This short book is devotional, practical, and is food for the soul.  May Christ’s words in Luke 13:3 take root in your heart today – “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”

TWO CONTENTS, TWO REALITIES – Francis Schaeffer (1974)

•August 25, 2014 • 1 Comment

Francis-Schaeffer-560x328Sometimes the best things come in small packages.  Case in point: Two Contents, Two Realities by Francis Schaeffer.  To call it a booklet would be inaccurate.  To call it a pamphlet would be insulting.  The worst accusation one could hurl at this work is irrelevant or outdated.  Originally published in 1974 as a position paper that was presented at the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, Schaeffer’s work (as usual) is prophetic, timely, and challenging.  His writing aims squarely at the Christian mind but always impacts the heart.  And whenever the mind and heart are enflamed by Christian truth, the hands and feet are quick to follow.

Schaeffer’s proposition in this piece is simple.  The culture is getting increasingly more secular and ungodly.  There are two contents and two realities:

Content # 1: Sound Doctrine

Content # 2: Honest Answers to Honest Questions

Reality # 1: True Spirituality

Reality # 2: The Beauty of Human Realtionships

The First Content: Sound Doctrine

Schaeffer argues, “We must have the courage to make no compromise with liberal theology and especially neo-orthodox existential theology.”  He argues strenuously against any system that abandons the role of the intellect which is tantamount to rejecting propositional revelation.  In regards to the doctrinal content, Schaeffer maintains there are three things we must recognize:

1) There must be a strong emphasis on content.

2) There must be a strong emphasis on the propositional nature of the Bible, especially the early chapters of Genesis.

3) There must be a strong emphasis on the practice of truth.

Anyone who takes a serious look at the church in the 21st century must admit that we have clearly moved away from these important components in Schaeffer’s system.  Theology is marginalized in most churches.  Propositional truth is relegated to modernity and cast aside in favor of mysticism and existentialism.  And while practicing the truth may be in vogue, one wonders which truth is being practiced given the shaky epistemological groundwork.

The Second Content: Honest Answers to Honest Questions

Schaeffer identifies the strong Platonic worldview that has been embraced by mainstream evangelicals – a view that divides man into two parts, namely, spiritual and physical.  He rightly adds, “We must consciously reject the Platonic element which has been added to Christianity.  God made the whole man; the whole man is redeemed in Christ.  And after we are Christians, the Lordship of Christ covers the whole man.”

Herein lies the rub.  Since historic Christianity is the truth (what Schaeffer calls elsewhere, “true truth),  it must therefore “touch every aspect of life.”  Difficult questions may be challenging, but answers must be given nonetheless.  Forever gone are the days when one answers, “You must just believe.”  Such a mindset is tantamount to blind faith – which in all reality is no faith at all!

Schaeffer adds, “Answers are not salvation.  Salvation is bowing and accepting God as Creator and Christ as Savior.  I must bow twice to become a Christian.  I must bow and acknowledge that I am not autonomous; I am a creature created by the Creator.  And I must bow and acknowledge that I am a guilty sinner who needs the finished work of Christ for my salvation.”

The church must address cultural questions as well as questions that come from within.  Schaeffer maintains that in order for this to take place, there must be sufficient training in both the church as well as the academy.

The First Reality: True Spirituality

Behind true spirituality is a commitment to truth which is stated in propositions.  Schaeffer spoke to the liberals in his day and echoes that same reality to emergent types and neo-liberals with this bold challenge: Anybody who diminishes the concept of the propositionalness of the Word of God is playing into … non-Christian hands.” He proceeds to encourage readers to grasp propositional truth by making truth come alive in the streets and in the marketplace of ideas.  He reacts strongly to any system that is a mere end in itself: “A dead, ugly orthodoxy with no real spiritual reality must be rejected as sub-Christian.”

The Second Reality: The Beauty of Human Relationships

Schaeffer observes, “We are to show something to the watching world on the basis of the human relationships we have with other people, not just other Christians.”  Schaeffer illustrates how we are called to love people without compromise.  He uses the liberal theologian as an example.  He adds, “Yes, we are to stand against his theology.  We are to practice truth, and we are not to compromise.  We are to stand in antithesis to his theology.  But even though we cannot cooperate with him in religious things, we are to treat the liberal theologian in such a way that we try from our side to bring our discussion into the circle of truly human relationships … We can have the beauty of human relationships even when we must say no.”

Francis Schaeffer’s understanding and exposition of two contents and two realities is very helpful as one seeks to make inroads with secular people.  I commend it and trust that this excellent work will be read and digested by many.

HEAVEN’S DRAGNET – Jonathan Edwards (1751)

•August 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The text is Matthew 13:47-50.  The missionary to the Stockbridge Indians sets hisjonathan-edwards
doctrine
up in advance:

The fisherman that cast the net are ministers of the gospel whom Christ appoints to gather men into his church.

Edwards draws an immediate contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous: “So God will save his saints and make much of them as precious to him, and as those that he dearly loves … But the bad fish men cast away, as those that were good for nothing.”

The judgment of the unrighteous is presented in vivid terms which are familiar to readers of Jonathan Edwards: “The fire shall be exceeding great and dreadful, for it will [be] the fire that God will enkindle by his great power, and in the fierceness of his great wrath for the wickedness of men, and therefore doubtless vastly more terrible than any fire ever seen in this world.”

Edwards describes what Jesus refers to as the “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  He adds, “They will wail because their misery will be very dreadful and what they cannot bear; and also because they never shall have any hope of being delivered,  will know that there will be no end to their misery.”

Application

Edwards continues to utilize the metaphor drawn from the world of fishing, a metaphor that his hearers could certainly relate to: “The net has been let down and many of you have been gathered in it and brought in among the people of Christ, into the kingdom of Christ.”  He challenges his audience, “You can deceive men with a good outside when your hearts are rotten, but you can’t deceive God.”

He draws the sermon to a close by challenging the hearts of his hearers: “Therefore, take heed to yourselves that you ben’t at last found some of the bad fish that be cast away.  See to it that your hearts are right with God … Don’t rest in outward show but get a clean heart: a holy heart that hates all sin and loves Christ, and loves all the people of Christ, and loves all the ways of God … Unless you have a new heart, you never will be good.  Though you may be good in some things, yet if you han’t right hearts you will live wickedly in other things … That is the reason that some men reform their lives for a while only, and then never again.  Their hearts were never changed.”

 

LEADERSHIP LESSONS – Ralph Hawkins and Richard Leslie Parrott

•August 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

1401677282_bLeadership Lessons, by Ralph Hawkins and Richard Leslie Parrott is a case study about the failure of King Saul.  The authors raise need at the beginning of their book by providing a biblical rationale for studying a failed leader.  Colin Powell reveals the test of leadership failure: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stop being their leader.  They have either lost confidence that  you can help them or concluded that you do not care.”  Leadership Lessons helps prevent Secretary Powell against.

The second part of the book introduces readers to ten failures on Saul’s part:

1. Saul failed to handle authority humbly

2. Saul failed to break out os his tendency to isolate himself

3. Saul failed to think before he spoke

4. Saul failed to act when the time was right

5. Saul failed to lead the people, but let them lead him instead

6. Saul failed to promote or make necessary changes

7. Saul failed to love the people

8. Saul failed to be true to his own ethics

9. Saul failed to admit failure or concede  to David

10. Saul failed to consult God

These ten leadership failures capture the essence of Saul’s life and his failure as the King of Israel.  The authors are to be commended for excavating these failures and warning readers from committing the same sins in their sphere of influence.

The third section discusses ways to avoid the pitfalls of King Saul and his leadership failures.  Boiled down, the authors argue that Saul’s failure can motivate and aspire leaders to excel in their respective arenas.  In other words, leaders can learn from Saul’s mistakes.

Leadership Lessons is filled with practical tips for serving people with humility.  One criticism that must be noted is the propensity to turn Saul’s sin into a personality disorder.  Whenever one promotes the notion of “personality disorder” the next step is some form of “therapy” to remedy that personality disorder.  But in Saul’s case, his leadership failure was the result of sin.  It was sin that led him down a path that ultimately destroyed his rule and reign.  It was sin that led to his untimely death.  And the cure for sin is not therapy.  The cure for is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My hope is that leaders will benefit from this book.  Much can be learned from the sinful example of King Saul.  So much more can be gained by grounding our leadership is the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

 

THE PAGAN HEART OF TODAY’S CULTURE – Peter Jones (2014)

•August 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

jonesPeter Jones has been writing about paganism for many years now.  While many are put off by the term “pagan,” Jones is simply offering the critical components of a worldview which is growing with a vengeance.  The troubling news is that many Christ-followers are either unaware the tentacles of paganism or could care less.

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture offers a clear look at paganism through the lens of three isms, postmodernism, Gnosticism, and  polytheism.  Jones unpacks each worldview in a clear way and alerts readers to the deadly toxins that affect countless numbers of people.

Ultimately, Jones defines paganism as “direct mysterious-mystical access to ‘the Spirit.'”  The author demonstrates how the three worldviews described above intertwine and result in the strange but deadly brew we know as paganism.  He cites Romans 1:25  where Paul the apostle boils down two distinct approaches to spirituality:

  1. The worship and service of nature-creation – “Oneism.”
  2. The worship and service of the Creator – “Twoism.”

The first approach to spirituality results in the wrath of God for failing to honor God as we ought.  The second approach to spirituality is the path commended by Scripture.

Jones warns readers, “Any system of thought that attempts to describe the world exclusively by the world is in principle Oneist.”  Whenever the creature and the Creator are blended into some kind of synthesis, the spiritual results are not only devastating – the results are damning.

The author shoots a metaphorical flare in the hopes that Christ-followers will be alert and respond appropriately to the danger of paganism.  In so doing, he argues that Christians will need to do at least two things:

  1. They must have a clear understanding of the coherence of Oneism.
  2. They must affirm the glorious superiority of Twoism and fearlessly declare the gospel of reconciliation with the personal Creator, possible only through the atoning blood of Jesus the sole mediator between Creator and creature.

As usual Peter Jones does not disappoint.  His passion to equip believers is evident through the book.  I commend The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture to Bible-believing Christians.  My prayer is that thousands will read and digest this excellent material with thoughtfulness and humility.

I received this book free from the publisher.  I was not required to write a positive review. 

4.5 stars

THE PRECIOUSNESS OF TIME – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

•August 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Time is a precious commodity that must be treasured.  Such is the argument in jonathan-edwardsJonathan Edward’s piece entitled, The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.

The subject of time was no stranger to Edwards.  He thought about the “improvement” of time often.  Even in his famous 70 resolutions, he addressed the matter of time.

Resolution # 5

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most
profitable way I possibly can.

It would serve us well, then, to consider the precious matter of time from Jonathan Edwards’ perspective.

Section 1: Why Time is Precious

Jonathan Edwards states four reasons why time is precious.

  1. Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it.
  2. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious.
  3. Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance.
  4. Time is very precious, because when it is past, it cannot be recovered.

Edwards argues in respect to to time, “…When once that [time] is gone, it is gone for ever; no pains; no cost will recover it.”  So typical is this eternal perspective that flows so freely from the pen of the Northampton preacher.  Tragically, many Christ-followers are not following the counsel of this godly man as they squander their time with worldly pursuits.  He reminds us, “Eternity depends on the improvement of time; but when once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it, or another space in which to prepare for eternity.”

Section 2: Reflections of Time Past

In section 2, Edwards encourages believers to reflect on time which has been granted in order to prepare for eternity.  Indeed, the argument goes, “Your future eternity depends on the improvement of time.”  He challenges readers, “How have you let the precious golden sands of your glass run?”

Section 3: Who Are Chiefly Deserving of Reproof From the Subject of the Preciousness of Time

Edwards begins section three with a discussion of how people waste their time: “There is nothing more precious, and yet nothing of which men are more prodigal.”  He demonstrates the kinds of people are who reproved for their negligence in this area.

  1. Those who spend a great part of their time in idleness.
  2. They are reproved by this doctrine who spend their time in wickedness, who do not merely spend their time in doing nothing to any good purpose, but spend it to ill purposes.
  3. Those are reproved by this doctrine, who spend their time only in worldly pursuits, neglecting their souls.

Section 4: An Exhortation to Improve Time

“Time is money.”  So goes the conventional wisdom of the day.  Edwards essentially agrees as he argues, “If you have a right conception of these things, you will be more choice of your time than of the most fine gold.”  He exhorts readers with four  bold propositions:

  1. You are accountable to God for your time.
  2. Consider how much time you have lost already.
  3. Consider how time is sometimes valued by those who are come near to the end of it.
  4. Consider what a value we may conclude is set upon time by those who are past the end of it.

Section 5: Advice Respecting the Improvement of Time

Edwards concludes his piece by offering three encouragements with respect to time.

  1. Improve the present time without any delay.
  2. Be especially careful to improve those parts of time which are most precious.
  3. Improve well your time of leisure from worldly business.

The notion of “improving” time is seen throughout the writings of Jonathan Edwards.  He gave a great deal of thought to it and chose to live wisely in light of his discoveries.  Indeed, Jonathan Edwards sought to “live with all his might unto the Lord.”  By God’s grace he accomplished resolution # 5: Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

“Therefore, spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God.  Waste them not away wholly in unprofitable visits, or useless diversions or amusements.”

- Jonathan Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIARY OF A MADMAN – JOSEPH STALIN

•August 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

BN-CX891_bkrvst_DV_20140523142333“His face lost its color.  His breathing became distorted.  He choked to death as we watched.  The death agony was painful.  At the last-minute he opened his eyes again, a terrible look, mad, or angry, and full of the fear of death.  His left hand rose, and seemed to be pointing upwards, or threatening us all … then his spirit tore itself from his body.”

The final moments of Joseph Stalin’s life, as recorded by his daughter, Svetlana.

Paul Johnson provides a valuable service in his book, Stalin: The Kremlin Mountaineer.  The book is a short summary of Stalin’s evil reign in the Soviet Union.  The book is not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination.  However, he does provide enough detail to motivate readers to turn to other sources.  Such sources would include Young Stalin or Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, both by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Johnson’s book is a reminder of where atheism leads and how unchecked power always leads to devastating results – in Stalin’s case the loss of millions of lives.

 
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