Snippets from things I’m reading: for 8/23/2021

To the world around us, we are a letter from Christ, to use Paul’s phrase (2 Cor. 3:3). That testimony, like Ezekiel’s witness, must not only be verbal but also visual, aimed at the eye-gate and the ear-gate alike. This will be particularly true in cultures and locations that are not hospitable to our message. Words by themselves may suffice to communicate to those who have ears to hear, but those whose ears are tightly shut must see the Word become flesh again in the lives of his followers. We must speak clearly of the tragic and dangerous state of men and women without Christ: They are sinners under the wrath of God, at risk of eternal lostness. But we must also make visible clearly, in word and deed, the love of God demonstrated in this awesome fact, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 165.

[MY NOTE: On the need to have a cohesive witness to the world. Word and deed must go together. The Word contradicted by our deeds nullifies it. Our deeds unaccompanied by our words and clear proclamation of the Gospel are like speaking in tongues: Without and interpreter, they are not rightly understood.]

Through his actions, along with the accompanying words, a message of judgment on their dearest hopes was imparted to his hearers, so that when God’s judgment occurred, the people would know that God was the One who had brought it about. Ezekiel had to tear down the things on which his hearers depended in this present world, in order that they might see the greater thing that God wished to do in and through them.[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 165.

[MY NOTE: One wonders if God is not (graciously) doing this very thing in America today through the social unrest, tragedy of modern politics, Covid, etc. ]

The plain truth is that false doctrine has been the chosen engine which Satan has employed in every age to stop the progress of the Gospel of Christ. Finding himself unable to prevent the Fountain of Life being opened, he has laboured incessantly to poison the streams which flow from it. If he could not destroy it, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution. In a word, he has “corrupted men’s minds.”[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 387.

What more common than to hear it said of some false teacher in this day,—“He is so good, so devoted, so kind, so zealous, so laborious, so humble, so self-denying, so charitable, so earnest, so fervent, so clever, so evidently sincere, there can be no danger and no harm in hearing him. Besides, he preaches so much real Gospel: no one can preach a better sermon than he does sometimes! I never can and never will believe he is unsound.”—Who does not hear continually such talk as this? What discerning eye can fail to see that many Churchmen expect unsound teachers to be open vendors of poison, and cannot realize that they often appear as “angels of light,” and are far too wise to be always saying all they think, and showing their whole hand and mind. But so it is. Never was it so needful to remember the words, “The serpent beguiled Eve by his subtilty.”[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 392.

The third and last lesson of the text remains yet to be considered. It shows us a point about which we ought to be especially on our guard. That point is called “The simplicity that is in Christ.”

Now the expression before us is somewhat remarkable, and stands alone in the New Testament. One thing at any rate is abundantly clear: the word simplicity means that which is single and unmixed, in contradistinction to that which is mixed and double. Following out that idea, some have held that the expression means “singleness of affection towards Christ;”—we are to fear lest we should divide our affections between Christ and any other. This is no doubt very good theology; but I question whether it is the true sense of the text.—I prefer the opinion that the expression means the simple, unmixed, unadulterated, unaltered doctrine of Christ,—the simple “truth as it is in Jesus,” on all points,—without addition, subtraction, or substitution. Departure from the simple genuine prescription of the Gospel, either by leaving out any part or adding any part, was the thing St. Paul would have the Corinthians specially dread. The expression is full of meaning, and seems specially written for our learning in these last days. We are to be ever jealously on our guard, lest we depart from and corrupt the simple Gospel which Christ once delivered to the saints.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 393.

[MY NOTE: This is especially true when it comes to Americanism, or Amerianity as I like to call it. We cannot, we dare not wrap the Cross in the flag. Such is an abomination which leads many off course. We are to preach Christ and Him crucified, not Christ and apple pie, Christ and democracy, Christ and western culture or anything else we might think prudent to add to Christ. Christ alone.]

In the first place, if we would be kept from falling away into false doctrine, let us arm our minds with a thorough knowledge of God’s Word. Let us read our Bibles from beginning to end with daily diligence, and constant prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and so strive to become thoroughly familiar with their contents. Ignorance of the Bible is the root of all error, and a superficial acquaintance with it accounts for many of the sad perversions and defections of the present day. In a hurrying age of railways and telegraphs, I am firmly persuaded that many Christians do not give time enough to private reading of the Scriptures. I doubt seriously whether English people did not know their Bibles better two hundred years ago than they do now. The consequence is, that they are “tossed to and fro by, and carried about with, every wind of doctrine,” and fall an easy prey to the first clever teacher of error who tries to influence their minds. I entreat my readers to remember this counsel, and take heed to their ways. It is as true now as ever, that the good textuary is the only good theologian, and that a familiarity with great leading texts is, as our Lord proved in the temptation, one of the best safe-guards against error. Arm yourself then with the sword of the Spirit, and let your hand become used to it. I am well aware that there is no royal road to Bible knowledge. Without diligence and pains no one ever becomes “mighty in the Scriptures.” “Justification,” said Charles Simeon, with his characteristic quaintness, “is by faith, but knowledge of the Bible comes by works.” But of one thing I am certain: there is no labour which will be so richly repaid as laborious regular daily study of God’s Word.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 397–398.

[MY NOTE: What follows is D.M.L-J defining the term Puritan]

I am going to suggest a rough kind of definition. Roughly up until about 1570 Puritans were people who can be described as restlessly critical and occasionally rebellious members of the Church of England who desired some modification in church government and worship. You can think of examples and illustrations of that. They were members of the Church of England. Their one concern was that the Reformation should be carried further. They felt that the Church of England had stopped halfway between Rome and Geneva, and they were anxious that the Reformation should be carried out more thoroughly in the matter of ceremonies and discipline and things like that. That was the position more or less up until the time that Thomas Cartwright and others began to put forward the Presbyterian view of church government.[1]

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Henry Jacob and the First Congregational Church,” in Puritan Papers: 1965–1967, ed. J. I. Packer, vol. 4 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 176.

Faith is the brightest evidence

Of things beyond our sight,

Breaks through the clouds of flesh and sense,

And dwells in heav’nly light.

It sets times past in present view,

Brings distant prospects home,

Of things a thousand years ago,

Or thousand years to come.

By faith we know the worlds were made

By God’s almighty word;

Abram, to unknown countries led,

By faith obeyed the Lord.

He sought a city fair and high,

Built by th’ eternal hands,

And faith assures us, though we die,

That heav’nly building stands.

From: The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts on Hebrews 11

The Thorn, by Martha Snell Nickolson

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne

and begged Him for a priceless gift which I could call my own

I took the gift from out His hand but as I would depart,

I cried “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift that Thou hast given me.”

He said “My child, I give good gifts and give my best to thee.”

I took it home and although at first the cruel thorn hurt sore;

As long years passed, I learned at last, to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace;

He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil that hides His face.

Jesus Christ, the true prophet. We should not leave this passage, however, without considering how Christ has fulfilled the role of true prophet. The man who stood in the gap in the city wall on the day of battle was risking his own life for the good of others. Jesus not only risked his life but gave his own life freely, pouring out his blood on the cross for you and me. Jesus did not let his own security stand in the way of doing God’s work, nor did he guard his own comfort. Instead, for the sake of his people, he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:7–8).[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 180–181.

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