To be ignorant of Christ is to be without Christ

Ryle

A man is “without Christ” when he has no head-knowledge of Him. Millions, no doubt, are in this condition. They neither know who Christ is,—nor what He has done,—nor what He taught,—nor why He was crucified,—nor where He is now,—nor what He is to mankind. In short, they are entirely ignorant of Him. The heathen, of course, who never yet heard the Gospel come first under this description. But unhappily they do not stand alone. There are thousands of people living in England at this very day, who have hardly any clearer ideas about Christ than the very heathen. Ask them what they know about Jesus Christ, and you will be astounded at the gross darkness which covers their minds. Visit them on their death-beds, and you will find that they can tell you no more about Christ than about Mahomet. Thousands are in this state in country parishes, and thousands in towns. And about all such persons but one account can be given. They are “without Christ.”

I am aware that some modern divines do not take the view which I have just stated. They tell us that all mankind have a part and interest in Christ, whether they know Him or not. They say that all men and women, however ignorant while they live, shall be taken by Christ’s mercy to heaven when they die! Such views, I firmly believe, cannot be reconciled with God’s Word. It is written, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) It is one of the marks of the wicked, on whom God shall take vengeance at the last day, that they “know not God.” (2 Thess. 1:8.) An unknown Christ is no Saviour. What shall be the state of the heathen after death?—how the savage who never heard the Gospel shall be judged?—in what manner God will deal with the helplessly ignorant and uneducated?—all these are questions which we may safely let alone. We may rest assured that “the Judge of all the earth will do right.” (Gen. 18:25.) But we must not fly in the face of Scripture. If Bible words mean anything, to be ignorant of Christ is to be “without Christ.”

J.C. Ryle, Holiness

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And The Most Godless City in America Is…

America, you may have a new Sodom and Gomorrah.

The two least “Bible-minded” cities in the United States are the adjacent metros of Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., according to a study out Wednesday from the American Bible Society.

The study defines “Bible-mindedness” as a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is. “Respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as ‘Bible Minded,’” says the study’s methodology.

A Golden Age in Christian Publishing

Tim Challies:

I sometimes find myself grumbling a little bit about the state of publishing today, and especially the state of Christian publishing. Many of the big publishers have been gobbled up by corporations whose primary concern is not the glory of God but the health of the bottom line. Some of the medium-sized publishers seem to collect any and every rambling word of the popular pastors and personalities so they can slap those words on paper. Many of the smallest publishers are churning out books that simply do not deserve to be printed. New tools for self-publishing allow anyone with an idea to commit it to paper and distribute it as widely as they can. And that’s not all that is concerning or annoying. There are the thousands of truly awful, unbiblical books being published each year, and the fact that the bestseller lists are inevitably dominated by titles that are not only bad, but often downright dangerous.

And yet, when I stop and consider the state of Christian publishing, I can’t help but think that we are in a golden age. A strange age, to be sure, but a golden one nonetheless. Christians today are extraordinarily blessed by a vast number of excellent, Christ-centered, God-glorifying books.

I see evidence for this golden age in so many different ways.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Keeping it Real

Aimee Byrd:

We now live in a culture that cares about natural sources and baptismal candidates that aren’t going to break the pastor’s back. In a time where our technology can easy distance us from meaningful relationships, we are also concerned about Christian community. But we don’t want the plastic community that tucks their shirts in and pretends like they are more sanctified-than-thou. We want authentic community that is honest about their struggles in the journey.

Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?

Brett McCracken:

In recent years, evangelical Christianity has made its imperfection a point of emphasis. Books were published with titles like Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect PeopleDeath by Church and Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and churches popped up with names like Scum of the Earth and Salvage Yard. Evangelicals made films like Lord, Save Us from Your Followers, wrote blog posts with titles like “Dirty, Rotten, Messy Christians,” and maintained websites like anchoredmess.commodernreject.com,churchmarketingsucks.comrecoveringevangelical.com, and wrecked.org—a site that includes categories like “A Hot Mess,” “Muddling Through,” “My Broken Heart,” and “My Wreckage.”

Sanctification: Progressive and Imperfect

Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning. We must never despise “the day of small things.” And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but,” and “howbeit,” and “notwithstanding,” before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross—the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The sun himself has spots on his face. The holiest men have many a blemish and defect when weighted in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome. The flesh is ever lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and “in many things they offend all” (Gal. 5:17; James 3:2).

But still, for all this, I am sure that to have such a character as I have faintly drawn [of holiness], is the heart’s desire and prayer of all true Christians. They press towards it, if they do not reach it. They may not attain to it, but they always aim at it. It is what they strive and labour to be, if it is not what they are.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, as published in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 144

What Was Once Narrow and Deep Has Become Wide and Shallow

It has long been my sorrowful conviction that the standard of daily life among professing Christians in this country has been gradually falling. I am afraid that Christ-like charity, kindness, good-temper, unselfishness, meekness, gentleness, good-nature, self-denial, zeal to do good, and separation from the world, are far less appreciated than they ought to be, and than they used to be in the days of our fathers.

Into the causes of this state of things I cannot pretend to enter fully, and can only suggest conjectures for consideration. It may be that a certain profession of religion has become so fashionable and comparatively easy in the present age, that the streams which were once narrow and deep have become wide and shallow, and what we have gained in outward show we have lost in quality. It may be that the vast increase of wealth in the last twenty-five years have insensibly introduced a plague of worldiness, and self-indulgence, and love of ease into social life. What were once called luxuries are now comforts and necessaries, and self-denial and “enduring hardness” are consequently little known. It may be that the enormous amount of controversy which marks this age has insensibly dried up our spiritual life. We have too often been content with zeal for orthodoxy, and have neglected the sober realities of daily practical godliness. Be the causes what they may, I must declare my own belief that the result remains. There has been of late years a lower standard of personal holiness among believers than there used to be in the days of our fathers. The whole result is that the Spirit is grieved! And the matter calls for much humiliation and searching of heart.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, as published in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 117

Assurance Ministers Mightily to His Comfort

Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage, and thus ministers mightily to his comfort. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt is a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great works a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small. In this way assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content, for it gives him a FIXEDNESS of heart. It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burden of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death. It makes him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet and something firm under his hands—a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 68

An Assured Hope is to Be Exceedingly Desired

I heartily wish that assurance was more sought after than it is. Too many among those who believe begin doubting and go on doubting, live doubting and die doubting, and go to heaven in a kind of mist.

It would ill become me to speak in a slighting way of “hopes” and “trusts.” But I fear many of us sit down content with them, and go no further. I should like to see fewer “peradventurers” [that is, doubters] in the Lord’s family, and more who could say, “I know and am persuaded.” Oh, that all believers would covet the best gifts, and not be content with less! Many miss the full tide of blessedness the Gospel was meant to convey. Many keep themselves in a low and starved condition of soul, while their Lord is saying, “Eat and drink abundantly, O beloved.” “Ask and receive, that your joy may be full.” (Cant. 5:1; John 16:24.)

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 68

Celebrating a Pilgrim's Progress

Today marks the 332nd anniversary of the publication of John Bunyan‘s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, the best-selling book in history (aside from the Bible).

First published on February 18, 1678, The Pilgrim’s Progress tells the tale of Christian, “a man clothed in rags…with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back,” on a journey to the Celestial City. This allegorical tale of the Christian life has been a powerful influence on believers throughout the last 300 years.

What The Pilgrim’s Progress taught me is that blessing comes with perseverance. The difficulties of Christian’s journey, the temptations that threatened to ensnare him, the despair he felt as he made his way through the Valley of Humiliation and Death, persecution he faced in Vanity Fair—all of these made his arrival at the Celestial City that much sweeter, where the King of Kings would welcome him home.

Now I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There was also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, “Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.” I also heart the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “Blessing, honour, glory and power be to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever.”

The Pilgrim’s Progress, p. 197, (Whitaker House edition)

Is this your goal? To be welcomed home to the Celestial City, and hear those words, “Enter into the joy of your Lord”? To sing alongside those who have entered before us, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13)

Is this the cry of your heart? To join Christ there because,

“…it is there that I hope to see alive my Savior who hung dead on the cross. It is there that I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day are an annoyance to me. They say that in that place there is no death, and I will dwell there with the company that I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because He eased me of my burden. I am weary of my inward sickness. I desire to be where I will die no more, with a company that will continually cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy!’”

The Pilgrim’s Progress, p. 77, (Crossway edition)

I hope it is. My hope for us all is that we do not grow weary of persevering. I want to be there alongside Bunyan and all the saints who have come before and will come after me, singing, “Holy, holy, holy!”

And I want to see you there, too.

Made in the Image of God: Holiness

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

One of our most important shared attributes with God is holiness. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as being holy:

Psalm 22:3 says, “…you [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

Psalm 89:18 calls God “the Holy One of Israel.”

Psalm 99:9 says, “the Lord our God is holy!”

Isa. 6:3 says, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Prophet Habbakuk calls God, “my Holy One” (Hab. 1:12).

1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

His name is holy (Ezek. 36:22). His words are holy (Jer. 23:9). His Spirit is holy (Luke 1:35). Absolutely everything about God is holy. It is unique, set apart, pure, good and true. There is no malice in Him. No evil, “no darkness,” is in Him at all. He is perfect.

More than 600 times, the word “holy” appears in the ESV translation of the Bible. Every time, it refers to God’s name, character, covenant, dwelling place, offerings, statutes, law… and His people.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Lev. 11:44)

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Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 10

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God” (Psalm 10:3-4).

His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity” (v. 5-6)

The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it” (v. 10-11)

Psalm 10 centers around the prosperity of the wicked. This theme appears a number of times within the Psalms: Why do the wicked always seem to escape judgement? Why do they prosper when the righteous suffer?

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