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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Do You Love Jesus?

Quoting Rev. Allen M Baker:

In John 21:15ff, after his resurrection, Jesus met his disciples, including Peter, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and prepared breakfast for them. Peter saw Jesus, jumped into the water and swam to shore as quickly as possible. Over a breakfast of fish cooked by Jesus on an open fire, Jesus asked Peter, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ Jesus asked him this three times. What is going on here? Think of it like this — a husband who has been traveling and working a great deal, who comes home pre-occupied, who fails to engage his wife and children, who is a bit cranky due to exhaustion, finally settles into his easy chair late one night after the children have gone to bed. His wife looks him in the eye and asks, ‘Do you love the children and me more than your work?’ Naturally his immediate response is, ‘Yes, of course I love you.’ But to this she continues to look into his eyes and asks again, ‘Do you love the children and me?’ Then she asks it a third time, a fourth time, a fifth time, and making no other comment. After a while her husband becomes terribly uncomfortable at the simple but penetrating questioning. A flippant, frivolous, casual answer will not do. The very questions themselves are forcing him to look deeply into his heart. Does he really love his wife and children? Do his recent actions prove or deny his profession? The very questions of Jesus are terribly convicting to Peter. He realizes that though he has said he loves Jesus, his three-fold denial has proven otherwise. He is crushed under the benevolent yet holy gaze of his Master. Of course Jesus restores Peter and later the Holy Spirit falls on him and God uses him powerfully at Pentecost and beyond.

Here’s the glory of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ — your sins of omission and commission are prolific and let’s face it, sometimes are brazen, conscious, and without remorse. Do you love Jesus? The short answer is, ‘Yes.’ A deeper look, however, means that most of us will have to say, ‘No. My sin proves that I do not love Jesus.’ But here’s the glorious hope — if you think you are alive, then you are dead. If you think you are dead, then you are alive. If you think you have it all together, then you do not. If you know you are naked, vile, and wretched, then you can be sure you are in Christ Jesus. I say this with one qualification, however. Some in the church today seem to glory in their shame (Phil. 3:19). They have no problem speaking of their sin but they boast about it, taking it lightly, not in the least shamed or devastated by it. Sort of like me joking many years ago with men in one of my Bible Studies about forgetting my wife’s birthday. What is funny about that! It was shameful and terribly hurtful to her. True remorse leads to biblical repentance that leads to holiness that leads to progress in our walk with Christ. So, the mark of one who is a true believer in the Lord Jesus is not an absence of sin, but a keen awareness of it, an admission of it, a deep remorse about it that drives the person again and again to the fountain of blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, giving him an assurance that grace comes to those who are plunged beneath that redeeming flow. (Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut)

Continue reading this entire article here. . . .

J. C. Ryle: Counting The Cost To Be A True Christian

I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who occasionally secretly wishes he could have a vicarious Christianity, and could live a Christian life by proxy, having everything done for me. You know, as well as I, that anything that requires effort and labor is entirely against the grain of our hearts. The soul, however, gains much in times of trial. In the following excerpt, J. C. Ryle discusses the cost of being a real Christian:

Let me try to show precisely and particularly what it costs to be a true Christian. Let us suppose that a man is disposed to take service with Christ and feels drawn and inclined to follow Him. Let us suppose that some affliction or some sudden death or an awakening sermon has stirred his conscience and made him feel the value of his soul and desire to be a true Christian. No doubt there is everything to encourage him. His sins may be freely forgiven, however many and great. His heart may be completely changed, however cold and hard. Christ and the Holy Spirit, mercy and grace, are all ready for him. But still he should count the cost. Let us see particularly, one by one, the things that his religion will cost him.

True Christianity will cost one his self–righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. He must really feel as well as say the Prayer Book words, that he has “erred and gone astray like a lost sheep,” that he has “left undone the things he ought to have done, and that there is no health in him.” He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible reading, church–going, and sacrament receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.

True Christianity will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it and labor to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never give way to them. He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins. It is written, “Cast away from you all your transgressions.” “Break off your sins . . . and iniquities.” “Cease to do evil” (Ezek. 18:31; Dan. 4:27; Isa. 1:16).

This sounds hard. I do not wonder. Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done. The parting must come. “Though wickedness be sweet in the sinner’s mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not,” yet it must be given up, if he wishes to be saved (Job 20:12, 13). He and sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins. (The above is an excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots)

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