Instead of complaining at his lot, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are. Instead of greedily desiring something more than the supply of his present need, he rejoices that God still cares for him. Such a one is “content” with such as he has (Heb. 13:5).
“We do not wish to abolish teaching and to make every man his own master, but if the curates will not teach the gospel, the layman must have the Scripture, and read it for himself, taking God for his teacher.”
It is good that a man should be zealous for the Christian faith, but what are the signs of this zeal? According to J. C. Ryle:
“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” Galatians 4:18
[I]f zeal be true, it will be a zeal tempered with charity and love. It will not be a bitter zeal. It will not be a fierce enmity against people. It will not be a zeal ready to take the sword, and to smite with carnal weapons. The weapons of true zeal are not carnal—but spiritual. True zeal will hate sin—and yet love the sinner. True zeal will hate heresy—and yet love the heretic. True zeal will long to break the idol—but deeply pity the idolater. True zeal will abhor every kind of wickedness—but labor to do good, even to the vilest of transgressors. True zeal will warn as Paul warned the Galatians—and yet feel tenderly as a nurse or a mother over erring children. It will expose false teachers, as Jesus did the Scribes and Pharisees—and yet weep tenderly, as Jesus did over Jerusalem, when He came near to it for the last time. True zeal will be decided as a surgeon dealing with a diseased limb—but true zeal will be gentle as one that is dressing the wounds of a brother. True zeal will speak truth boldly, like Athanasius, against the world, and not care who is offended—but true zeal will endeavor in all its speaking, to speak the truth in love.
Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be joined to a deep humility. A truly zealous man will be the last to discover the greatness of his own attainments. All that he is and does will come so immensely short of his own desires that he will be filled with a sense of his own unprofitableness, and amazed to think that God should work by him at all. Like Moses, when he came down from the mount, he will not know that his face shines. Like the righteous, in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, he will not be aware of his own good works. (“Be Zealous”)
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21 ESV)
C. H. Spurgeon found an old Bible one day with a small hole in it. It seems that a worm had eaten its way through the Bible from cover to cover. Considering this, Spurgeon suddenly exclaimed, “Lord, make me a bookworm like that!”
We all need to pray like that too. This is because most of us are poor Bible students. We really do not want to know God too well, because we hold to the old saying that “Ignorance is bliss.” To be a Christian, requires us to be willing to seek to know God with all our hearts and minds. Do you know the difference between milk and meat? Most Christians only seem to want a small dose of God-lite. They are afraid to get too close to God because it might require too much of them.
However, relationships require perseverance. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “. . . we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14, ESV)
The Christian must realize that reading and studying the Bible – along with other Christian books, commentaries, etc. – and spending time on our knees before God should always be our “constant practice.” We must read and study until we come to a true understanding of the Scriptures. This is the way to learn more about God.
In Luke 24:45, there is a phrase at the beginning of the verse that I love. It reads, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. . .” Jesus opened the minds of His disciples so that they could understand the Word of God. James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5, ESV)
Don’t allow words such as “theology” and “doctrine” intimidate you. “Theology” is simply the study of the nature of God and religious truth. It helps us to answer questions about God. “Doctrine” is a body of teachings and principles. They help us to be consistent and logical in our understanding of God. John Owens reminds us, “The foundation of true holiness and true worship is the doctrine of the gospel, what we are to believe. So when Christian doctrine is neglected, forsaken, or corrupted, true holiness and worship will also be neglected, forsaken, and corrupted.” Such an abomination occurs because we have failed to seek to understand the God of the Bible.
You have often heard me say that the Christian life has two dimensions: the first is faith, and the second is good works. A believer should live a devout life and always do what is right. But the first dimension of the Christian life—faith—is more essential. The second dimension—good works—is never as valuable as faith. People of the world, however, adore good works. They regard them to be far higher than faith.
Good works have always been valued more highly than faith. Of course, it’s true that we should do good works and respect the importance of them. But we should be careful that we don’t elevate good works to such an extent that faith and Christ become secondary. If we esteem them too highly, good works can become the greatest idolatry. This has occurred both inside and outside of Christianity. Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. They preach about and praise their own works instead of God’s works.
Faith should be first. After faith is preached, then we should teach good works. It is faith—without good works and prior to good works—that takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone.
“I believe that the Bible is to be understood and received in the plain and obvious meaning of its passages; for I cannot persuade myself that a book intended for the instruction and conversion of the whole world should cover its true meaning in any such mystery and doubt that none but critics and philosophers can discover it.”
“Education is useless without the Bible.”
Salvation is offered to all men on the condition of faith in Christ. Therefore, in this sense, the covenant of grace is made with all men. The supreme sin of those who hear the gospel is that they refuse to accept this covenant, and therefore place themselves outside it. Charles Hodge writes:
In virtue of what the Son of God covenanted to perform and what in the fullness of time He actually accomplished, agreeably to the stipulations of the compact with the Father, two things follow. First, salvation is offered to all men on the condition of faith in Christ. Our Lord commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The gospel, however, is the offer of salvation upon the conditions of the covenant of grace. In this sense, the covenant of grace is formed with all mankind. And, therefore, the Westminster Confession says, ‘Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant [namely, by the covenant of works], the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein He freely offereth unto sinners [and all sinners] life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them able and willing to believe.’ If this, therefore, were all that is meant by those who make the parties to the covenant of grace, God and mankind in general and all mankind equally, there would be no objection to the doctrine. For it is undoubtedly true that God offers to all and every man eternal life on condition of faith in Jesus Christ. But as it is no less true that the whole scheme of redemption has special reference to those given by the Father to the Son, and of whom our Lord says, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6.37), … To them God has promised to give his Spirit in order that they may believe; and to them alone all the promises made to believers belong. (“The Covenant”)