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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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Behold the Cross of Christ

The cross tells us that Jesus is a mighty, loving, and complete Savior of men. Surely this should improve our confidence in Him. Believer, you will learn holiness at Calvary. Bishop J. C. Ryle offers us these words:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

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 shall 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 I 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. (“The Cross of Christ”)

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Holy Living and Contentment

Look to the cross of Christ; the cross is the key to the way we should live before God and man. According to J. C. Ryle:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Would I find strong reasons for being a holy man? Where 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.” (2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Cor. 6:20.) 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 to make me one of a “peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14.) He bore my sins in His own body on the tree, “that I being dead unto sin should live unto righteousness.” (1 Pet. 2:24.) 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 concerns 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. (Rom. 8:32.) He who endured such agony, sufferings, and pain for my soul, will surely not withhold from me anything that is really good. He who has done the greater things for me, will doubtless do the lesser things also. He who gave His own blood to procure me a home in heaven, will unquestionably supply me with all that is really profitable for me by the way. There is no school for learning contentment that can be compared with the foot of the cross! (“The Cross of Christ”)

Love of Pleasure

According to J. C. Ryle:

“Youth is the time when our passions are strongest—and like unruly children, cry most loudly for indulgence. Youth is the time when we have generally our most health and strength: death seems far away, and to enjoy ourselves in this life seems to be everything. ‘I serve lusts and pleasures’, that is the true answer many a young man should give if asked, ‘Whose servant are you?’”

The Wisdom of the Cross

Every blessing we enjoy should put us in mind of the cross; we forfeited those blessings by our sin, but now possess them by the blood of the cross. Bishop J. C. Ryle explains:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

“In Christ’s humiliation stands our exaltation; in His weakness stands our strength; in His ignominy our glory; in His death our life.” (Cudworth, 1613)

People seem to forget that all Christ’s sufferings were endured voluntarily, and of His own free will. He was under no compulsion. Of His own choice He laid down His life—of His own choice He went to the cross in order to finish the work He came to do. He might easily have summoned legions of angels with a word, and scattered Pilate and Herod, and all their armies, like chaff before the wind. But He was a willing sufferer. His heart was set on the salvation of sinners. He was resolved to open “a fountain for all sin and uncleanness,” by shedding His own blood. (Zech. 13:1.)

When I think of all this, I see nothing painful or disagreeable in the subject of Christ’s cross. On the contrary, I see in it wisdom and power, peace and hope, joy and gladness, comfort and consolation. The more I keep the cross in my mind’s eye, the more fullness I seem to discern in it. The longer I dwell on the cross in my thoughts, the more I am satisfied that there is more to be learned at the foot of the cross than anywhere else in the world.

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 “whoever believes in Him should not perish—but have eternal life.” (John 3:16.) I know that the Father loves us, because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son. 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. (“The Cross of Christ”)

The Story of the Cross

Do you know a lot about Christ? Do you know who He was, and where He was born, and what He did? You say that you know about His miracles, His teachings, and prophecies and how He lived and died, but unless you know the cross of Christ by experience – unless you know the blood shed on the cross has washed away your sins – unless you confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work of Christ upon the cross, you will die in your sins. Bishop J. C. Ryle shares a warning:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

This is the subject he [Paul] loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart’s blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world telling people that Jesus Christ had loved them, and died for their sins upon the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.” (1 Cor. 15:3.) “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2.) He, a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee, had been washed in Christ’s blood. He could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.

This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ—how they run over with “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” about Christ’s dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject. He enlarges on it constantly—he returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much about the cross. . . .

This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galat. 2:20.) What made him so strong to labor? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavoring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Jesus crucified was the food and drink of his soul.

And we may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ—the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners—is the center truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the Law of Moses, and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple, all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven before we close the book of Revelation. “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,” we are told, “and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:6.) Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified. . . .

Let every reader of this paper mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, and a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell. (“The Cross of Christ”)

What Do You Think About The Cross of Christ?

J. C. Ryle reminds us in the sermon excerpt below to be careful of placing our trust in anything but the cross of Christ:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

What do we think and feel about the cross of Christ? We live in a Christian land. We probably attend the worship of a Christian church. We have, most of us, been baptized in the name of Christ. We profess and call ourselves Christians. All this is well—it is more than can be said of millions in the world. But what do we think and feel about the cross of Christ?

I want to examine what one of the greatest Christians who ever lived, thought of the cross of Christ. He has written down his opinion—he has given his judgment in words that cannot be mistaken. The man I mean is the Apostle Paul. The place where you will find his opinion, is in the letter which the Holy Spirit inspired him to write to the Galatians. The words in which his judgment is set down, are these, “But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now what did Paul mean by saying this? He meant to declare strongly, that he trusted in nothing but “Jesus Christ crucified” for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul. Let others, if they would, look elsewhere for salvation; let others, if they were so disposed, trust in other things for pardon and peace—for his part the apostle was determined to rest on nothing, lean on nothing, build his hope on nothing, place confidence in nothing, boast in nothing, “except in the cross of Jesus Christ.”. . .

A man must be right on this subject, or he is lost forever. Heaven or hell, happiness or misery, life or death, blessing or cursing in the last day—all hinges on the answer to this question, “What do you think about the cross of Christ?”

Who is there among the readers of this paper that trusts in any goodness of his own? Who is there that is resting on his own amendments—his own morality—his own churchmanship—his own works and performances of any kind whatever? Who is there that is leaning the weight of his soul on anything whatever of his own, in the smallest possible degree? Learn, I say, that you are very unlike the apostle Paul. Learn that your religion is not apostolic religion.

Who is there among the readers of this paper that trusts in his religious profession for salvation? Who is there that is valuing himself on his baptism, or his attendance at the Lord’s table—his church-going on Sundays, or his daily services during the week—and saying to himself, “What more do I lack?” Learn, I say, this day, that you are very unlike Paul. Your Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Paul would not boast in anything but “the cross.” Neither ought you.

Oh, let us beware of self-righteousness! Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands! Go and study humility with the great apostle of the Gentiles. Go and sit with Paul at the foot of the cross. Give up your secret pride. Cast away your vain ideas of your own goodness. Be thankful if you have grace—but never boast in it for a moment. Work for God and Christ, with heart and soul and mind and strength—but never dream for a second of placing confidence in any work of your own.

Once more I say, let us beware of self-righteousness in every possible shape and form. Some people get as much harm from their fancied virtues as others do from their sins. Rest not, rest not until your heart beats in tune with Paul’s. Rest not until you can say with him, “far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting-place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul’s soul. He did not think of what he had done himself, and suffered himself. He did not meditate on his own goodness, and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done, and Christ had suffered—of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ, the finished work of Christ. In this he did boast. This was the sun of his soul. (“The Cross of Christ”)

John Stott Died Last Week. . . .

John Stott died last week at the age of ninety. When John Stott began his ordained ministry, evangelicals had little influence in the Anglican Church hierarchy. He often bemoaned the anti-intellectualism apparent in some Christians. Stott believed that most evangelical Christians were not integrated in their daily living. He saw a tendency among Christians to exclude certain areas of their life from the lordship of Jesus; it might be their business life and work, or their political persuasion.

Concerning preaching, Stott, when speaking to the Langham Partnership International said:

The church is growing everywhere of course, or nearly everywhere, but it’s often growth without depth and we are concerned to overcome this lack of depth, this superficiality, by remembering that God wants his people to grow. Now if God wants his people to grow into maturity, which he does, and if they grow by the word of God, which they do, and if the word of God comes to them mainly through preaching, which it does, then the logical question to ask is how can we help to raise the standards of biblical preaching?

John Stott

John Stott’s best-known work, Basic Christianity, has sold two million copies and has been translated into more than 60 languages. Other titles include The Cross of Christ, Understanding the Bible, The Contemporary Christian, Evangelical Truth, Issues Facing Christians Today, The Incomparable Christ, eight volumes in The Bible Speaks Today series of New Testament expositions, and most recently Why I Am a Christian. Billy Graham called John Stott “the most respected clergyman in the world today,” and Christian author John Pollock described him as “in effect the theological leader of world evangelicalism.” Chuck Colson recently wrote in an article titled “John Stott: Will Evangelicals Continue His Mission?” the following:

In 1967, at a time when most Evangelicals were content to remain safe behind the walls of their churches, ignoring the larger world around them, Stott wrote a book entitled, Our Guilty Silence.

In it Stott made the case that because the Gospel is “Good News” we are under an obligation to share it with others. This sounds obvious, but in 1967 this kind of witness, and that kind of engagement with the larger society, was the

John Stott

last thing many Christians wanted to do. They much preferred their comfortable worship and cultural isolation.

Among its many benefits, this isolation didn’t require them to think too much, especially when it came to matters of faith. So five years later, Stott wrote Your Mind Matters, a book whose title could serve as a mission statement for this broadcast.

In it Stott criticized the “spirit of anti-intellectualism” that pervaded Evangelicalism at the time. This “spirit” often produced “zeal without knowledge” that was mistaken for Christian maturity. True Christian maturity is impossible without understanding what it is we believe and how it applies to our lives.

It is true. John Stott will be sorely missed. The question, “Will evangelicals continue his mission?” is an important question and it will have to be decided by each of us.

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