April 27, 2009

The highest recommendation

Rob Bowman is an apologist who has kept his hand to the plow for a good long time. He is now the director of the Institute for Religious Research. I recommend his blog to your consideration.

April 26, 2009

Response to pseudo-JW T

I received the following email recently.

well let me first say that i don't think you've studied enough of the jehovahs witnesses material on the subject to state what they believe and why. i am not a JW but i did study with them for quite some time and i do have a basic idea on they're beliefs and reasoning behind them. and quite frankly i was offended when you segragate the Jw and christians, what is your definition of a christian? by definition it is anybody who follows the teachings of christ, and that is exactly what the witnesses do, so you see they are christians. the second thing is addressing your trinity belief, if god and jesus and holy spirit are all one in the same, then lets go back to the time when john the baptist was baptising jesus and at the very moment that he was in the water the heavens opened up and from a cloud a dove appeared and a voice came down exclaiming "this is my son, the beloved, of whom i approve!" now if the trinity is as you say godhead in his human form, who was the godhead talking about when he said this is my son? coincidence that it happened in the middle of a baptism? i don't think so. And according to all accounts of jesus's life on earth there are numerous refferences to him saying that he is here on his FATHERS behalf. why would he be calling himself the father? Now you can put any kind of spin on it that you want to try and make it make sense but as far as i see it the truth is not complicated at all. and the fact that you have to put a spin on it at all should tell you something as well. so i hope you will be fair enough to post this comment on your website, unless you are afraid that it's to contraversal! wich i am sure will be the case, anyways you and i both know that i have posted some valid statements and weather you are as you say "doing gods work" by slandering his people on your website or not, remains to be seen. here's something else for you to think about, did you know that false religion is satan's greatest work?

Dear T,
It seems odd that you feel compelled to speak in defense of a religion that you do not follow. Nonetheless, your complaint of my ignorance of the Watchtower religion is unfounded. I've been studying the Watchtower religion for over 20 years. I have one of the oldest websites responding to and interacting with Jehovah's Witnesses, starting in the early 90's. I have a large personal library of Watchtower books and magazines and have spent countless hours interacting with active JWs. I take pains to represent their beliefs with accuracy, and have been complimented by active Jehovah's Witnesses for the accurate treatment their religion receives in my critiques.

You are offended when Jehovah's Witnesses are contrasted with Christians? Here is a news flash for you (and this is a big one so hold on to your seat). Jehovah's Witnesses believe they are following the only true religion, contrasting themselves with all other religions including "Christendom". Why you are offended when I draw the same contrast they already do is beyond me.

It is not my definition of what a Christian is that matters. What does God's Word say and how does the Watchtower religion compare? They differ with the Bible on nearly every major belief: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the gospel, salvation, and the list continues. You cannot be a Christian without Christ. Watchtower leadership claims exclusive insight into the real meaning of the Bible, teaching that no one can understand it without their help. With this so-called insight they deliver a false gospel to the world, heaping up God's judgment against them for delivering a false message and a false hope.

It wouldn't make any sense for me to criticize the design of a nuclear reactor, since I have absolutely no idea how one works. Similarly, you should hold your tongue from criticizing the Trinity. It is obvious that you have absolutely no idea what the Trinity is, as your statements clearly reveal.

Your defense of the Watchtower is empty. This is fitting and echoes the nature of the Watchtower religion itself. Empty, devoid of hope, filled with falsehood.

It is my great hope and prayer for you to come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah of Scripture, not the false religion held forth by the Watchtower. Please open your Bible and read it.

April 25, 2009

I don't mean to bug you...

A pic I snapped a few years ago. Click on it for the full-size version.

April 24, 2009

More Vitamins for Lions

Phil Johnson hits the nail on the head concerning gospel courage.

Vitamins for Lions

I've been reading a little paperback of J. Gresham Machen's addresses. Love and courage are displayed clearly on each page. They are all out of proportion to the size of the book, writ large in the life and words of the author.

This is my first foray into Machen's work. Please share any recommendations you might have for his other works.

April 22, 2009

Paul in Philippi - part 3

When we left Paul and Silas in Philippi, they had been dragged before the magistrates in the market, falsely accused of crimes, stripped, beaten repeatedly with rods, thrown into prison with their feet in stocks. What irony. The gospel of peace has stirred up a hornet's nest in Philippi. The freeing of a slave girl from demons has lead the truly free into suffering and chains.

Imagine how curious the other prisoners were about the new arrivals in their midst. A prisoner's view of the world becomes microscopic. The prison itself seems to encompass the whole world. Paul and Silas have been delivered into this tiny world - the free placed in prison chains in order to free others from eternal chains.

Put yourself in the other prisoners' place for a minute. A pair of battered and bloodied magician tricksters have landed in the inner prison. Rumour surrounds their arrival. "These are the men who silenced the soothsayer slave-girl with but a command. What kind of men are these? They've already been beaten before their arrival here. There is so much concern about their magic they are taken straight to the inner prison, foot stocks shackling them." You can be sure the prisoners are straining to see and hear everything surrounding the spectacle lived out before them.

"Who are you? Where have you come from? What have you done?"

They did not have to wait long to find out what these two "criminals" were about. Around midnight, after gathering strength sapped by their trial and beatings, Paul and Silas pray and sing songs of praise to God. All the prisoners are listening to them. What kind of God is this, whose suffering servants give no pause in their praises?

"What is this? The ground is shaking? First they silenced the slave-girl with words, and now their songs start an earthquake?!?! I can't believe what I'm seeing. The prison doors wide open. My shackles, lying on the floor next to me. ... so strange. My head... all this shaking. I must be dreaming."

to be continued...

CRandE Bio

One Goal
I want to glorify God in everything, primarily by presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ accurately and faithfully. He is the one hope for the world and the one reason I am here.

Tell Me About YourselfWhere to start? As funny as it sounds, I would like to start with you. The online medium leaves a lot to be desired concerning connecting at a personal level. One small bridge we can build is through email. Please grant me this one indulgence and post a greeting in the comments or
email me. Tell me a little something about yourself, offer an insight, ask a question, or just say hello. I enjoy meeting people and would like to get to know you, even if only in a small way. For tentmaker ministries, a friendly hello goes a long way.

Who We Are
Essentially, "we" at CRandE is me. My name is Dave Sherrill. I am a conservative evangelical Christian with a deep interest in theology and apologetics. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful Christian wife and three great kids (who are all growing up WAY too quickly). My regular job is a project leader in the computer department of a national food manufacturer. I describe the CRandE website/blog as a tentmaker ministry. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "tentmaker", Paul worked sometimes as a tentmaker while ministering the gospel. I'm not Paul, but I do have a regular job offline (what we used to call the real world before the internet came along).

HistoryI have had an online presence since the early 1990's, primarily responding to the Jehovah's Witnesses. My research began as the result of a family member becoming involved with the religion. Since that time I have collected and read a fair library of original Watchtower books and magazines, along with many Christian books and commentaries. One personal benefit for me has been a strengthening of my own faith through the challenges raised by critics and skeptics.

I have been called an informed layman by some of my friends. I have not had any formal schooling in theology through Bible school or seminary. I hope to pursue those studies at a distance in the next few years. Although focusing primarily on refuting the Watchtower Society (also known as Jehovah's Witnesses), I have growing concerns about movements within or impacting the evangelical world (i.e. Open Theism, Post Modernism, Emergent Church). Special areas of study include the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, Justification, Apologetics, Systematic Theology, and Biblical Greek (boy, has Greek drug out ad infinitum).

I characterize myself as a "conservative evangelical". I hate to die the death of a million qualifications but I find that 'evangelical' is used very loosely these days. There are liberal evangelicals, 'evangelical catholics', post-evangelicals, and who knows what else will be coming around the corner (if you throw them all in a blender, you might get a postevangeliberaholic??). The list continues to grow.

In brief, I am inerrantist concerning bibliology, trinitarian concerning theology proper, calvinistic concerning soteriology, baptistic concerning the ordinances (i.e. baptism and the Lord's Supper), and elder/congregational rule concerning church polity. Hopefully that adequately fleshes out what I mean by 'conservative evangelical'.

My favorite authors and preachers (living and dead) include Charles Spurgeon, Horatius Bonar, Abraham Booth, James White, Ed Komoszewski, Rob Bowman, Robert Morey, John Piper, John Murray, John Calvin, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and William Hendriksen.

I am an active member of the

First Evangelical Free Church of Sioux City, Iowa. I have served in many capacities there, including Overseer, Church Chairman, Adult Sunday School Teacher, and volunteer webmaster of their site and podcast. One of the greatest privileges I have ever had has been the opportunity to fill the pulpit in my pastor's absence.

Thank you for stopping by the blog. I hope you will find helpful information here and through the links provided to other ministries. And don't forget to
drop me a line, ok? Ok.

April 20, 2009

The Cross and Its Power - part 2

Here we have the conclusion of a two-part meditation on the Cross penned by the dear departed pastor Horatius Bonar. This is excerpted from his book God's Way of Holiness.

Standing by the cross, we become imitators of the crucified One. We seek to be like Him, men who please not themselves (Rom 15:3); who do the Father's will, counting not our life dear to us who love our neighbors as ourselves, and the brethren as He loved us; who pray for our enemies; who revile not again when reviled; who threaten not when we suffer, but commit ourselves to Him that judgeth righteously; who live not to ourselves, and who die not to ourselves; who are willing to be of "no reputation," but to "suffer shame for His name," to take the place and name of "servant," nay, to count "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt" (Heb 11:26). "Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin" (has "died to sin," as in Romans 6:10), "that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God" (1 Pet 4:1,2).

Standing by the cross, we realize the meaning of such a text as this: "Our old man is [was] crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom 6:6); where the crucifixion of our old man, the destruction of the body of sin, and deliverance from the bondage of sin, are strikingly linked to one another, and linked, all of them, to the cross of Christ. Or we read the meaning of another: "I am [have been] crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Here the one Paul (not two Pauls, or two persons), speaks throughout, as completely identified with Christ and His cross. It is not one part of Paul in this clause and another in that; it is the one whole Paul throughout, who is crucified, dies, lives!

Like Isaac, he has been "received from the dead in a figure"; and as Abraham would, after the strange Moriah transaction, look on Isaac as given back from the dead, so would Jehovah reckon and treat this Paul as a risen man! Isaac would be the same Isaac, and yet not the same; so Paul is the same Paul, and yet not the same! He has passed through something which alters his state legally, and his character morally; he is new. Instead of the first Adam, who was of the earth earthy, he has got the last Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, for his guest: "Christ liveth in him"; "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (just as he says, "yet not I, but the grace of God in me"); and so he lives the rest of his life on earth, holding fast his connection with the crucified Son of God and His love. Or again, we gather light upon that text: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24); and that: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal 6:14).

Standing by the cross, we realize the death of the Surety, and discover more truly the meaning of passages such as these: "Ye are dead [ye died], and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:3); "Ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world" (Col 2:20); His death (and yours with Him) dissolved your connection with these; "If one died for all, then were all dead [all died]; and he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor 5:14); "To this end Christ both died and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Rom 14:9).

Romans 6:7-12, "He that is dead [has died] is freed [justified] from sin [i.e., He has paid the penalty]; now, if we be dead with Christ [or since we died with Christ], we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ being [having been] raised from the dead dieth no more [He has no second penalty to pay, no second death to undergo, Hebrews 9:27,28], death hath no more dominion over Him; for in that He died, He died unto sin once [His death finished His sin-bearing work once for all]; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God; likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body [even in your body, Romans 12:1], that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."

There is something peculiarly solemn about these passages. They are very unlike, both in tone and words, the light speech which some indulge in, when speaking of the gospel and its forgiveness. Ah, this is the language of one who has in him the profound consciousness that severance from sin is one of the mightiest, as well as most blessed, things in the universe. He has learned how deliverance from condemnation may be found, and all legal claims against him met. But, more than this, he has learned how the grasp of sin can be unclasped, how its serpent-folds can be unwound, how its impurities can be erased, how he can defy its wiles and defeat its strength--how he can be holy! This is, to him, of discoveries one of the greatest and most gladdening. Forgiveness itself is precious, chiefly as a step to holiness. How any one, alter reading statements such as those of the apostle, can speak of sin, or pardon, or holiness without awe, seems difficult to understand. Or how any one can feel, that the forgiveness which the believing man finds at the cross of Christ is a release from the obligation to live a holy life, is no less incomprehensible.

It is true that sin remains in the saint; and it is equally true that this sin does not bring condemnation back to him. But there is a way of stating this which would almost lead to the inference that watchfulness has thus been rendered less necessary; that holiness is not now so great an urgency; that sin is not so terrible as formerly. To tell a sinning saint that no amount of sin can alter the perfect standing before God, into which the blood of Christ brings us, may not be technically or theologically incorrect; but this mode of putting the truth is not that of the epistle to the Romans or Ephesians; it sounds almost like, "Continue in sin because grace abounds"; and it is not Scriptural language. The apostolic way of putting the point is that of 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. ..If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).

Thus, then, that which cancels the curse provides the purity. The cross not only pardons, but it purifies. From it there gushes out the double fountain of peace and holiness. It heals, unites, strengthens, quickens, blesses. It is God's wing under which we are gathered, and "he that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psa 91:1).

But we have our cross to bear, and our whole life is to be a bearing of it. It is not Christ's cross that we are to carry; that is too heavy for us, and besides, it has been done once for all. But our cross remains, and much of a Christian life consists in a true, honest, decided bearing of it. Not indeed to be nailed to it, but to take it up and carry it--that is our calling. To each of us a cross is presented when we assume the name of Christ. Strange will it be if we refuse to bear it; counting it too heavy or too sharp, too much associated with reproach and hardship. The Lord's words are very uncompromising, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt 16:24). Our refusal to do this may contribute not a little to our ease and reputation here; but it will not add to the weight of glory which the resurrection of the just shall bring to those who have confessed the Master, and borne His shame, and done His work in an evil world.

With the "taking up of the cross daily" (Luke 9:23), our Lord connects the denial of self and the following of Him. He "pleased not Himself; neither must we, for the servant is not above his master. He did not His own will; neither must we, for the disciple is not above his Lord. If we endure no hardness, but are self-indulgent, self-sparing men, how shall we be followers of Him? If we grudge labor, or sacrifice, or time, or money, or our good name, are we remembering His example? If we shrink from the weight of the cross, or its sharpness, or the roughness of the way along which we have to carry it, are we keeping His word in mind, "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that lam baptized with" (Matt 20:23)?

The cross on which we are crucified with Christ, and the cross which we carry are different things, yet they both point in one direction, and lead us along one way. They both protest against sin, and summon to holiness. They both "condemn the world," and demand separation from it. They set us upon ground so high and so unearthly, that the questions which some raise as to the expediency of conformity to the world's ways are answered as soon as they are put, and the sophistries of the flesh, pleading in behalf of gaiety and revelry, never for a moment perplex us. The kingdom is in view, the way is plain, the cross is on our shoulders; and shall we turn aside alter fashions, frivolities, pleasures, and unreal beauties, even were they all as harmless as men say they are?

It may seem a small thing now to be a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God, but it will be found a fearful thing hereafter, when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all His holy angels with Him. It may seem a possible thing just now, by avoiding all extremes and all thoroughness, either in religion or in worldliness, to conjoin both of these, but in the day of the separation of the real from the unreal, it will be discovered to have been a poor attempt to accomplish an impossibility; a failure--a failure for eternity, a failure as complete as it is disastrous and remediless. Egypt and Canaan cannot coalesce; Babylon and Jerusalem can never be one. These are awful words, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness, and surely the Holy Spirit meant what He said, when He enjoined, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15).

The cross, then, makes us decided men. It brings both our hearts and our wills to the side of God. It makes us feel the cowardice, as well as guilt, of indecision, bidding us be bold and stable, "holding faith and a good conscience"; all the more because the wide "liberality" of modern free-thinking has confounded skepticism with candor, and recognizes in religious indifference a virtue and a grace. Not to take any side strongly is no evidence of a large soul or a great purpose. It is generally an indication of littleness.

The furrows drawn by a firm hand are strongly and deeply drawn. It is no surface work; soil and subsoil are turned over with a decision which implies that, if the work is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well. The man of true purpose and strong mind handles his plough resolutely, from end to end of the longest furrow, till the whole field be wrought. Thus do men of true will and aim proceed, both in belief and action. Having put their hand to the plough, they do not so much as look back.

The thoughts and purposes of men bear the impress of the mind from which they emerge, as much in their decision, as in their general character. As earth's streams are decided in their flow, and owe the measure of their decision to the elevation of the mountain-range down whose steeps they pour, so is it with the opinions and actings of men. Decision is no proof of weakness; it is not bigotry, nor intolerance, nor ignorance, though it has sometimes been the emanation of these, and identified with them.

Every thing in the Bible is decided; its statements of fact, its revelations of truth, its condemnation of error, its declarations respecting God and man, respecting our present and our future. Its characters are decided men--Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Paul. It speaks always with authority, as expecting to be implicitly credited. It reckons on our receiving its teaching, not doubtfully but certainly; and it leaves us only the alternative of denying its whole authenticity, or of accepting its revelations, without a qualification and without a subterfuge. To excuse ourselves for doubt and indecision, and oscillation of faith, by pointing to differences of creed, is to suggest either that Scripture is not infallible, or that it is not intelligible.

The Bible is God's direct revelation to each man into whose hands it comes; and, for the reception of all that it contains, each man is responsible, though all his fellows should reject it. The Judgment Day will decide who is right; meanwhile it is to God and not to man that we are to listen. For the understanding of God's revelation, each one is accountable. If it can be proved that the Bible is so uncertainly written as to render diversity of thought a necessity, or so obscurely expressed as to keep men in ignorance, then, when the day of reckoning comes, the misled man will have opportunity of substantiating his charges against God, and claiming deduction from his penalty, on the plea of the ambiguity of the statute. Meanwhile we are responsible for decision--decision, in thought and action, on every point which the Holy Spirit has written; and it is not likely that the Spirit of wisdom and love, in writing a Book for us, would write so darkly as to be unintelligible, or should give such an uncertain sound that no man could be sure as to which, out of a score of meanings suggested by man, was the genuine.

Man's usual thought is that the want of explicitness in the Bible is the cause of diversity of opinion, and that a little more fullness of statement and clearness of language would have prevented all sects and confusions. The answer to this is twofold: (1) That greater fullness would have only opened new points of divergence and variance, so that, instead of a hundred opinions, we should, in that case, have a thousand; (2) That the real cause of all the divergence and unsettlement is to be found in man's moral state; that there is not a veil upon the Bible, but scales on human eyes; and that, were that spiritual imperfection entirely removed, the difficulty would be, not how to believe, but how not to believe; and the wonder would be how it was possible for us to attach more than one meaning to words so significant and simple.

April 19, 2009

Gathering up the fragments

The odds and ends of time are precious: little spaces of time, like the intervals between dinner and class, or when waiting at a railway station, are, like the dust of the diamond, all precious. How many chances have been wasted of doing good service for ,our Lord and Master because we have not seized the passing moments, "gathering up the fragments, that nothing be lost."

- C.H. Spurgeon

April 18, 2009

Paul in Philippi - more to come

Dear Readers,
I hope to have the next installment of Paul In Philippi posted this weekend. There is much left to be gleaned from the account. I haven't forgotten (as I am prone to do). Here is where we're at up to this point.

April 14, 2009

The Cross and Its Power - part 1

Here we have the first of a two-part meditation on the Cross penned by the dear departed pastor Horatius Bonar. This is excerpted from his book God's Way of Holiness.

Before I can live a Christian life, I must be a Christian. Am I such? I ought to know this. Do I know it, and in knowing it, know whose I am and whom I serve? Or is my title to the name still questionable, still a matter of anxious debate and search?

If I am to live as a son of God, I must be a son, and I must know it. Otherwise my life will be an artificial imitation, a piece of barren mechanism, performing certain excellent movements, but destitute of vital heat and force. Here many fail. They try to live like sons in order to make themselves sons, forgetting God's simple plan for attaining sonship at once, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12).

The faith of many among us is, after all, but an attempt to believe; their repentance but an attempt to repent; and, in so doing, they only use words which they have learned from others. It is not the love of holiness that actuates them, but (at best) the love of the love of holiness. It is not the love of God that fills them, but the love of the love of God.

God's description of a Christian man is clear and well-defined. It has about it so little of the vague and wide that one wonders how any mistake should have arisen on this point, and so many dubious, so many false claims put in.

A Christian is one who "has tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Pet 2:3); who has been "begotten again unto a lively hope" (1 Pet 1:3); who has been "quickened together with Christ" (Eph 2:5); made a partaker of Christ (11eb 3:14); a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4); who "has been delivered from this present evil world" (Gal 1:4).

Such is God's description of one who has found his way to the cross, and is warranted in taking to himself the Antiochian name of "Christian," or the apostolic name of "saint." Of good about himself, previous to his receiving the record of the free forgiveness, he cannot speak. He remembers nothing lovable that could have recommended him to God; nothing fit that could have qualified him for the divine favor, save that he needed life. All that he can say for himself is that he "has known and believed the love that God hath to us" (1 John 4:16); and, in believing, has found that which makes him not merely a happy, but a holy man. He has discovered the fountainhead of a holy life.

Have I then found my way to the cross? If so, I am safe. I have the everlasting life. The first true touch of that cross has secured for me the eternal blessing. I am in the hands of Christ, and none shall pluck me out (John 10:28).

The cross makes us whole; not all at once indeed, but it does the work effectually. Before we reached it we were not "whole," but broken and scattered, nay, without a center toward which to gravitate. The cross forms that center and, in doing so, it draws together the disordered fragments of our being; it "unites our heart" (Psa 86:11), producing a wholeness or unity which no object of less powerful attractiveness could accomplish. It is a wholeness or unity which, beginning with the individual, reproduces itself on a larger scale, but with the same center of gravitation, in the church of God.

Of spiritual health, the cross is the source. From it there goes forth the "virtue" (dunamis, the power, Luke 6:19) that heals all maladies, be they slight or deadly. For "by His stripes we are healed" (Isa 53:5); and in Him we find "the tree of life," with its healing leaves (Rev 22:2). Golgotha has become Gilead, with its skillful Physician and its "bruised" balm (Jer 8:22; Isa 53:5). Old Latimer says well regarding the woman whom Christ cured, "She believed that Christ was such a healthful man that she should be sound as soon as she might touch Him." The "whole head [was] sick, and the whole heart faint" (Isa 1:5); but now the sickness is gone, and the vigor comes again to the fainting heart. The look, or rather the Object looked at, has done its work (Isa 45:22); the serpent of brass has accomplished that which no earthly medicines could effect. Not to us can it now be said, "Thou hast no healing medicines" (Jer 30:13), for the word of the great Healer is, "I will bring health and cure; yea, I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth" (Jer 33:6). Thus it is by the abundance of that peace and truth, revealed to us in the cross, that our cure is wrought.

The cure is not perfected in an hour. But, as the sight of the cross begins it, so does it complete it at last. The pulses of new health now beat in all our veins. Our whole being recognizes the potency of the divine medicine, and our diseases yield to it.

Yes, the cross heals. It possesses the double virtue of kaling sin and quickening holiness. It makes all the fruits of the flesh to wither, while it cherishes and ripens the fruit of the Spirit, which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal 5:22). By this the hurt of the soul is not "healed slightly," but truly and thoroughly. It acts like the fresh balm of southern air to one whose constitution the frost and damp of the far north had undermined. It gives new tone and energy to our faculties, a new bent and aim to all our purposes, and a new elevation to all our hopes and longings. It gives the death-blow to self, it mortifies our members which are upon the earth. It crucifies the flesh with its affections and lusts. Thus, looking continually to the cross, each day, as at the first, we are made sensible of the restoration of our soul's health; evil loosens its hold, while good strengthens and ripens.

It is not merely that we "glory in the cross" (Gal 6:14), but we draw strength from it. It is the place of weakness, for there Christ "was crucified through weakness" (2 Cor 13:4); but it is, notwithstanding, the fountainhead of power to us. For as out of death came forth life, so out of weakness came forth strength. This is strength, not for one thing, but for everything. It is strength for activity or for endurance, for holiness as well as for work. He that would be holy or useful must keep near the cross. The cross is the secret of power, and the pledge of victory. With it we fight and overcome. No weapon can prosper against it, nor enemy prevail. With it we meet the fightings without as well as the fears within. With it we war the good warfare, we wrestle with principalities and powers, we "withstand" and we "stand" (Eph 6:11 - 13); we fight the good fight, we finish the course, we keep the faith (2 Tim 4:7).

April 11, 2009

The Cross - section IV part 2

With this post we conclude our reading of Ryle's The Cross.

Are you a distressed believer? Is your heart pressed down with sickness, tired with disappointments, overburdened with cares? To you also l say this day, ': Behold the cross of Christ." Think whose hand it is that chastens you. Think whose hand is measuring to you the cup of bitterness which you are now drinking, it is the hand of Him that was crucified. It is the same hand that in love to your soul was nailed to the accursed tree. Surely that thought should comfort and hearten you. Surely you should say to yourself, "A crucified Savior will never lay upon me anything that is not for my good. There is a needs be. It must be well."

Are you a believer that longs to be more holy? Are you one that finds his heart too ready to love earthly things? To you also I say, "Behold the cross of Christ." Look at the cross. Think of the cross. Meditate on the cross, and then go and set affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on every day steadily looking at the cross of Christ, and you will soon say of the world as the poet does, --

Its pleasures now no longer please,
No more content afford;
Far from my heart be joys like these,
Now I have seen the Lord.

As by the light of opening day
The stars are all conceal'd,
So earthly pleasures fade away
When Jesus is reveal'd.

Are you a dying believer? Have you gone to that bed from which something within tells you will never come down alive? Are you drawing near to that solemn hour when soul and body must part for a season, and you must launch into a world unknown? Oh! Look steadily at the cross of Christ, and you shall be kept in peace. Fix the eyes of your mind firmly on Jesus crucified and he shall deliver you from all your fears. Though you walk through dark places, He will be with you. He will never leave you, never forsake you. Sit under the shadow of the cross to the very last, and its fruit shall be sweet to your taste. "Ah!" said a dying missionary, "there is but one thing needful on a death-bed, and that is to feel one's arms round the cross."

Reader, I lay these thoughts before your mind. What you think now about the cross of Christ I cannot tell; but I can wish you nothing better than this, that you may be able to say with the apostle Paul, before you die or meet the Lord, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus.

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April 9, 2009

The Cross - Section IV Part 1

We continue with Ryle's The Cross.

Are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Hear, I beseech you, what I say to you this day: "Behold the cross of Christ." See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation! Yes! Careless men and women, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are those whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. Oh! That it might be so this very day. Oh! That you would come at once to that Savior who died for you and is willing to save. Come and cry to Him with the prayer of faith, and I know that He will listen. Come and lay hold upon the cross, and I know that He will not cast you out. Come and believe on Him who died on the cross, and this very day you will have eternal life. How will you ever escape if you neglect so great salvation? None surely will be so deep in hell as those who despise the cross!

Are you inquiring the way toward Heaven? Are you seeking salvation but doubtful whether you can find it? Are you desiring to have an interest in Christ but doubting whether Christ will receive you? To you also t say this day, "Behold the cross of Christ." Here is encouragement if you really want it. Draw near to the Lord Jesus with boldness, for nothing need keep you back. His arms are open to receive you. His heart is full of love towards you. He has made a way by which you may approach Him with confidence. Think of the cross. Draw near, and fear not.

Are you an unlearned man? Are you desirous to get to heaven and yet perplexed and brought to a stand-still by difficulties in the Bible which you cannot explain? To you also I say this day, "Behold the cross of Christ." Read there the Father's love and the Son's compassion. Surely they are written in great plain letters, which none can well mistake. What though at present you cannot reconcile your own corruption and your own responsibility? Look, I say, at the cross. Does not that cross tell you that Jesus is a mighty, loving, ready Savior? Does it not make one thing plain, and that is that if not saved it is all your own fault? Oh! Get hold of that truth, and hold it fast.

April 8, 2009

The Cross - Section III part 4

Concluding the third section or Ryle's The Cross. Part IV will follow in two parts next week.

The cross is the grand centre of union among true Christians. Our outward differences are many without doubt. And what may be the importance of those differences which now in a measure divide such as faithfully hold the head, even Christ, we cannot here enquire. But, after all, what shall we hear about most of these differences in heaven? Nothing most probably: nothing at all. Does a man really and sincerely gory in the cross of Christ? That is the grand question. If he does he is my brother; we are traveling in the same road. We are journeying towards a home where Christ is all, and everything outward in religion will be forgotten. But if he does not glory in the cross of Christ, I cannot feel comfort about him. Union on outward points only is union only for time. Union about the cross is union for eternity. Error on outward points is only a skin-deep disease. Error about the cross is disease at the heart. Union about outward points is a mere man-made union. Union about the cross of Christ can only be produced by the Holy Ghost.

Reader, I know not what you think of all this. I feel as if I had said nothing compared to what might be said. I feel as if the half of what I desire to tell you about the cross were left untold. But I do hope that I have given you something to think about. I do trust that I have shown you that I have reason for the question with which I began this tract, "What do you think and fed about the cross of Christ?" Listen to me now for a few moments, while I say something to apply the whole subject to your conscience.

April 7, 2009

The Cross - Section III part 3

Continuing on with Ryle's The Cross.

Would I gather arguments for hoping that I shall never be cast away? Where shall I go to find them? Shall I look at my own graces and gifts? Shall I take comfort in my own faith, and love, and penitence, and zeal, and prayer? Shall I turn to my own heart, and say, "This same heart will never be false and cold?" Oh! No! God forbid! I will look at the cross of Christ. This is my grand argument. This is my main stay. I cannot think that He, who went through such sufferings to redeem my soul, will let that soul perish after all, when it has once cast itself on Him. Oh! No! What Jesus paid for, Jesus will surely keep. He paid dearly for it. He will not let it easily be lost. He died for me when I was yet a dark sinner. Ah! Reader, when Satan tempts you to doubt whether Christ is able to keep his people from falling, bid Satan look at the cross. And now, reader, will you marvel that I said all Christians ought to glory in the cross? Will you "not rather wonder that any can hear of the cross and remain unmoved? I declare I know no greater proof of man's depravity, than the fact that thousands of so-called Christians see nothing in "the cross. Well may our hearts be called stony, well may the eyes of our mind be called blind,--well may our whole nature be called diseased,--well may we all be called dead, when the cross of Christ is heard of, and yet neglected. Surely we may take up the words of the prophet, and say, "Hear O heavens, and be astonished O earth; a wonderful and a horrible thing is done," Christ was crucified for stoners, and yet many Christians live as if He was never crucified at all!

Reader, the cross is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts, forms and ceremonies,--rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Savior. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone. Miserable indeed is that religions teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man who teaches in this way, might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun.

The cross is the strength of a minister. I for one would not be without it for all the world. I should feel like a soldier without arms,--like an artist without his pencil,--like a pilot without his compass,-like a laborer without his tools. Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality. Let others hold forth the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven. Let others be ever pressing upon their congregations the sacraments of the church. Give me the cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. But he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitfield, Cecil, Simeon, Venn, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honor those who honor the cross.

The cross is the secret of all missionary success. Nothing but this has ever moved the hearts of the heathen. Just according as this has been lifted up missions have prospered. This is the weapon that has won victories over hearts of every kind, in every quarter of the globe. Greenlanders, Africans, South-Sea Islanders, Hindus, Chinese, all have alike felt its power. Just as that huge iron tube which crosses the Mania Straits, is more affected and bent by half an hour's sunshine than by all the dead weight that can be placed in it, so in like manner the hearts of savages have melted before the cross when every other argument seemed to move them no more than stones. "Brethren," said a North American Indian after his conversion, "I have been a heathen. I know how heathens think. Once a preacher came and began to explain to us that there was a God; but we told him to return to the place from whence he came. Another preacher came and told us not to lie, nor steal, nor drink; but we did not heed him. At last another came into my hut one day and said, 'I am come to you in the name of the Lord of heaven and earth. He sends to let you know that He will make you happy, and deliver you from misery. For this end he became a man, gave his life a ransom, and shed his blood for sinners.' I could not forget his words. I told them to the other Indians, and an awakening begun among us. I say, therefore, preach the sufferings and death of Christ, our Savior, if you wish your words to gain entrance among the heathen." Never indeed did the devil triumph so thoroughly, as when he persuaded the Jesuit missionaries in China to keep back the story of the cross!

The cross is the foundation of a church's prosperity. No church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up. Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order. Without it there may be splendid ceremonies, charming music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor. But without the cross no good will be done. Dark hearts will not be enlightened. Proud hearts will not be humbled. Mourning hearts will not be comforted. Fainting hearts will not be cheered. Sermons about the Catholic Church and an apostolic ministry,--sermons about baptism and the Lord's supper,--sermons about unity and schism,--sermons about fast and communion,--sermons about fathers and saints,--such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ. They may amuse some. They will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room and splendid gold plate on the table will never make up to a hungry man for the want of food. Christ crucified is God's grand ordinance for doing good to men. Whenever a church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a church ceases to be useful. Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water; a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.

April 2, 2009

Paul in Philippi - part 2

What does successful Christian ministry look like? What does successful Christian living look like? More specifically, what is the typical American evangelical viewpoint of these? I will venture a guess that, for many, it runs along the lines of a megachurch combined with a relatively trouble-free life that is not punctuated by serious setbacks or suffering until the typical illnesses that befall the elderly. Since there are large numbers of evangelicals who can't attend a megachurch, their success goal is tempered downward in terms of the size of the building, the numbers in attendance, and the peripheral ministries surrounding the core ministry of the church. The spiritually-minded evangelical would throw in the occasional convert and witnessing opportunities. The "more reasonable" secular-minded evangelical would instead focus on the happiness-level of their day-to-day life.

Paul and Silas have suffered nagging harassment from a slave girl possessed by a spirit, attacks of the crowd in Philippi, false charges, being stripped and beaten repeatedly with rods, and are now sitting within the inner prison, their feet held in stocks. How would our modern-day evangelical self-evaluate at this point? (Inner dialogue: I thought God had called me to Philippi. I must have been mistaken. In fact, where is He? How could He let me get stuck in a situation as bad as this? Maybe He doesn't love me anymore. I'm such a complete failure in ministry. After all, what kind of Christian ends up in circumstances like these? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) Paul's situation is so totally foreign to the success-based, happiness-based mindset of so many evangelicals, I fear we would fail and fall in droves were we placed in similar circumstances.

Grab your Bible and read Acts 16:1-24 now before continuing in this post. You can find it online at
Bible gateway if you don't have your hardcopy handy.


Back now? Ok. What would you do? How would the account read if it was your back and your feet, your skin on the line? I'm serious. I can't answer for you.

What do Paul and Silas do?

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25, ESV)

Talk about getting hit in the head with a 2x4. I don't know about you, but I stand convicted. They were singing hymns of praise to God! In the midst of the battle, Paul and Silas didn't lose heart and they didn't merely whisper blessings to each other. They prayed and sang the praises of their God with great courage and gusto. The other prisoners were listening to them. God is their shield and portion, in the midst of this present trouble. And let's be clear about it. This is trouble. It hurts. The beatings, stocks, the filth of the prison, the immediate unknown future which could pour even more brutality over them. Where do they turn? To sing the praises of their Savior.

I must confess that I have never, in my life as a U.S. citizen, feared anything remotely resembling the kind of physical suffering that Paul and Silas endured. Have you? I thank God for the U.S.A. and the freedom from religious persecution we have been blessed with. After seeing what Paul and Silas are put through, I am amazed. The hammer of the state falls heavily on heaven's clay jars but does not shatter them. Instead, they ring with praise as the blows fall.

We will see the glory of the Lord shine even more brightly in part 3.

to be continued...

April 1, 2009

The Cross - Section III part 2

Here is the next heart-stirring installment from Bishop Ryle's The Cross.

Would I know the length and breadth of God the Father's love towards a sinful world? Where shall I see it most displayed? Shall I look at His glorious sun shining down daily on the unthankful and evil? Shall I look at seed-time and harvest returning in regular yearly succession? Oh! No! I can find a stronger proof of love than anything of this sort. I look at the cross of Christ. I see in it not the cause of the Father's love, but the effect. There I see that God so loved this wicked world, that He gave His only begotten Son--gave Him to suffer and die---that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. I know that the Father loves us because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son. Ah! Reader, I might sometimes fancy that God the Father is too high and holy to care for such miserable, corrupt creatures as we are. But I cannot, must not, dare not think it, when I look at the cross of Christ.

Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see that most fully brought out? Shall I tuna to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? Shall I turn to the wandering Jews, and observe how sin has scattered them over the face of the earth? No! I can find a clearer proof still. I look at the cross of Christ. There I see that sin is so black and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God's own Son can wash it away. There I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker, that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us short of the death of Christ. Ah! If I listened to the wretched talk of proud men, I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful. But I cannot think little of sin, when I look at the cross of Christ.

Would I know the fullness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where shall I see it most distinctly? Shall I go to the general declarations in the Bible about God's mercy? Shall I rest in the general truth that God is a God of love? Oh! No! I will look at the cross of Christ. I find no evidence like that. I find no balm for a sore conscience, and a troubled heart, like the sight of Jesus dying for me on the accursed tree. There I see that a full payment has been made for all my enormous debts. The curse of that law which I have broken has come down on One who there suffered in my stead. The demands of that law are all satisfied, Payment has been made for me, even to the uttermost farthing, it will not be required twice over. Ah! I might sometimes imagine I was too bad to be forgiven. My own heart sometimes whispers that I am too wicked to be saved. But I know in my better moments this is all my foolish unbelief. I read an answer to my doubts in the blood shed on Calvary. I feel sure that there is a way to heaven for the very vilest of men, when I look at the cross.

Would I find strong reasons for being a holy man? Whither shall I turn for them? Shall I listen to the Ten Commandments merely? Shall I study the examples given me in the Bible of what grace can do? Shall I meditate on the rewards of heaven, and the punishments of hell? Is there no stronger motive still? Yes! I will look at the cross of Christ. There I see the love of Christ constraining me to live not unto myself, but unto Him. There I see that I am not my own now;--I am bought with a price. I am bound by the most solemn obligations to glorify Jesus with body and spirit, which are His. There I see that Jesus gave Himself for me, not only to redeem me from all iniquity, but-also to purify me and make me one of a peculiar people, zealous of good works. He bore my sins in His own body on the tree, that I being dead unto sin should live unto righteousness. All! Reader, there is nothing so sanctifying as a clear view of the cross of Christ! It crucifies the world unto us, and us unto the world. How can we love sin when we remember that because of our sins Jesus died? Surely none ought to be so holy as the disciples of a crucified Lord.

Would I learn how to be contented and cheerful under all the cares and anxieties of life? What school shall I go to? How shall I attain this state of mind most easily? Shall I look at the sovereignty of God, the wisdom of God, the providence of God, the love of God? It is well to do so. But I have a better argument still. I will look at the cross of Christ. I feel that He who spared not His only begotten Son, but delivered Him up to die for me will surely with Him give me all things that I really need. He that endured that pain for my soul will surely not withhold from me anything that is really good. He that has done the greater things for me will doubtless do the lesser things also. He that gave His own blood to procure me a home, will unquestionably supply me with all really profitable for me by the way. Ah! Reader, there is no school for learning contentment that can be compared with the foot of the cross.