Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’
From J. C. Ryle:
The Christianity which I call fruit-bearing, that which shows its Divine origin by its blessed effects on mankind – the Christianity which you may safely defy unbelievers to explain away – that Christianity is a very different thing. Let me show you some of its leading marks and features.
(1) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always taught the inspiration, sufficiency, and supremacy of Holy Scripture. It has told people that God’s Word written is the only trustworthy rule of faith and practice in religion, that God requires nothing to be believed that is not in this Word, and that nothing is right which contradicts it. It has never allowed reason, a person’s mind, or the voice of the Church, to be placed above, or on a level with Scripture. It has steadily maintained that, however imperfectly we may understand it, the Old Book is meant to be the only standard of life and doctrine.
(2) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always taught fully the sinfulness, guilt and corruption of human nature. It has told people that they are born in sin, deserve God’s wrath and condemnation, and are naturally inclined to do evil. It has never allowed that men and women are only weak and pitiable creatures, who can become good when they please, and make their own peace with God. On the contrary, it has steadily declared a person’s danger and vileness, and their pressing need of a Divine forgiveness and satisfaction for their sins, a new birth or conversion, and an entire change of heart.
(3) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always set before people the Lord Jesus Christ as the chief object of faith and hope in religion, as the Divine Mediator between God and humanity, the only source of peace of conscience, and the root of all spiritual life. It has never been content to teach that He is merely our Prophet, our Example, and our Judge. The main things it has ever insisted on about Christ are the atonement for sin He made by His death, His sacrifice on the cross, the complete redemption from guilt and condemnation by His blood, His victory over the grave by His resurrection, His active life of intercession at God’s right hand, and the absolute necessity of simple faith in Him. In short, it has made Christ the Alpha and the Omega in Christian theology.
(4) Fruit-bearing Christianity has always honored the Person of God the Holy Spirit, and magnified His work. It has never taught that all professing Christians have the grace of the Spirit in their hearts, as a matter of course, because they are baptized, or because they belong to the Church, or because they partake of Holy communion. It has steadily maintained that the fruits of the Spirit are the only evidence of having the Spirit, and that those fruits must be seen, – that we must be born of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, sanctified by the Spirit, and feel the operations of the Spirit, – and that a close walk with God in the path of His commandments, a life of holiness, charity, self-denial, purity, and zeal to do good, are the only satisfactory marks of the Holy Spirit.
Summary ► Such is true fruit-bearing Christianity. Well would it have been for the world if there had been more of it during the last nineteen centuries! Too often, and in too many parts of Christendom, there has been so little of it, that Christ’s religion has seemed extinct, and has fallen into utter contempt. But just in proportion as such Christianity as I have described has prevailed, the world has benefited, the unbeliever has been silenced, and the truth of Divine revelation been acknowledged. The tree has been known by its fruit.
via J.C. Ryle Quotes.
What is the state and what is the church? Once we come to a biblical understanding of these two institutions and what their purposes are, we will have no problem seeing the absurdity of declaring Zambia a Christian nation (or a secular state) and enshrining it in the constitution.
So writes Conrad Mbewe in a slightly reworked version of an older lecture on Zambia as a Christian nation. 20 years after the then-President declared it to be such, Conrad returns to the issue and gives some excellent insights into the relationship between the church and the state, and the roles and relationships of individual Christians in and between each, which we would do well to heed, especially with our Prime Minister recently suggesting that he wants Britain to be a Christian country.
- “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
- “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
- “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
- “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
- “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)
The other 54 are here.
[I have recently been addressing the subject, “What is a true Christian?” as part of a series on becoming and being a Christian, intended to help those who are asking the question, “Am I a new creation in Christ?” answer it from a Biblical perspective.]
The apostle John wrote his gospel so that we might know that Jesus is the Christ, believe, and be saved (Jn 20.31). He wrote his first letter so that believers might “know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1Jn 5.13).
There are many things which the world – and many religious people in the world – assumes are certain marks of true Christianity. These fool many into imagining that they are true believers when they are not. Even many Christians build their assurance on these things, and find that they fail them when they need them, because they form no sure foundation. These are inconclusive indications.
Gardiner Spring’s excellent The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character or here [or, for Logos users, here] suggests seven things that are not, in themselves, conclusive marks that a professed work of grace is true or false.
Visible morality. Upright character is no sure indication of love to God. A fair appearance does not necessarily indicate true heart righteousness (1Sam 16.7).
Head knowledge (mere speculative knowledge or intellectual perception) as opposed to spiritual understanding of the truth (Rom 1.21; 2.17-20; Jas 2.19; 1Cor 2.14).
A form of religion. Many have the appearance of religion without the reality, the form without the power (2Tim 3.5; Mt 25.1-12; Is 58.2-3). The Pharisees are the prime example of such people: a great reputation for religion, but a heart far from God.
Eminent gifts. Some have great natural abilities (and, perhaps, verbal dexterity – the gift of the gab – is something that is often taken to indicate a heart for God), which they employ even in religious contexts (again, the gift of ready speech is one that people often mistake as a sign of true godliness). Balaam and Saul both enjoyed eloquent prophetic experiences without entering the kingdom (Mt 7.22-23). Bunyan became “a great talker in religion” before he became a true believer, and several of his characters in Pilgrim’s Progress demonstrate the same problem.
Conviction for sin. We must be careful here. Conviction for sin is necessary for salvation but not necessarily joined with salvation (note also that many Christians feel conviction for sin far more acutely after they are saved than before, and that some who are brought up in godly homes and converted young may have relatively little clear and distinct sense of sin). Awareness of and a sense of guilt concerning sin do not mean that a man is saved or will be saved (Jude 14-15). Ask King Saul, King Ahab, or Judas.
Strong assurance. There is a difference between believing you are saved and believing in Christ and therefore being saved. It is possible for someone entirely persuaded that they are right with God to be wrongly persuaded (Mt 3.7-9).
Notable time or manner of one’s professed conversion. Even unusual and distinctive experiences do not demonstrate that one’s profession of faith is genuine. There are some who live and die trusting in the memory of a moment – perhaps some warm and fuzzy feeling, or raising a hand or walking an aisle or responding to a call – without ever having known true spiritual life.
There is almost nothing more dangerous than to imagine oneself saved and yet to remain unsaved. There is nothing more blessed than to know oneself a Christian grounded on a solid foundation, as the Spirit witnesses in the heart and to the work he is accomplishing in those whom he indwells. To recognise these inconclusive indications for what they are liberates the true believer from the tyranny of mere subjectivism, and strips away the flawed and rotten supports on which we – and others – too often build our hopes.
What, then, are the Scriptural indicators that a genuine work of grace has taken place in the heart of a sinner? When John writes his letter, he does so in carefully-planned circles. Like an aircraft circling the same territory, John notes the same heart-terrain repeatedly. At least four indispensable indications of true Christianity become plain as we circle through John’s letter.
The first is a humble and wholehearted embrace of the divine diagnosis of and remedy for sin (1Jn 1.7 – 2.2; 2.12-14; 3.5, 6, 23; 4.2, 9-10, 13-16; 5.1, 5, 10-13, 20). A Christian man has an accurate view of himself as a sinning sinner. He acknowledges the just judgments of a holy God (Ps 51.4; Lk 15.18; 18.13). This Spirit-wrought conviction of sin leads to genuine repentance as his heart breaks over godlessness, he becomes revolted by his sin and turns from it and forsakes it because it offends the Lord God (Jl 2.12-13). With repentance is joined faith in Jesus as presented in the gospel in his might and majesty, his meekness and mercy. Faith receives Jesus, looks to Jesus, comes to Jesus, flees to Jesus, leans upon Jesus, trusts in Jesus, holds to Jesus, and rests upon Jesus. Let us remember that this is the essential point and gives birth to all that follows: the dying thief never had an opportunity to manifest the other three marks of saving faith (though he would have done had he lived), but still the Lord assured him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23.43). Whoever trusts in Jesus, though he believes one moment and dies the next, has his life hid with Christ in God.
The second is a humble reverence for and joyful devotion to God and his glory (1Jn 1.3-5; 2.12-15; 3.1-2; 4.12-13, 19; 5.1-2). A radical reversal of priority has occurred: the idol Self is toppled and God reigns in the heart. A change has occurred: a heart that by nature is enmity with God (Rom 8.7) has been replaced by one that loves God entirely (Lk 10.37). The man who lived for self now lives for God, offering himself as a living sacrifice (Rom 12.1-2). Gratitude for grace received and delight in God himself issues in joyful service of the Lord of glory. This is a man convinced of God’s excellent glory, for its own sake: he would, if called upon, serve without reward for he recognises God’s worthiness to be served: Romans 11.36 seems entirely pleasing and proper to him, for God in Christ is now at the pinnacle of his thinking and feeling and doing. The testimony of such a man’s heart is “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73.25-26). He believes it, knows it, pursues it, and repents afresh because he does not know and feel and prove it more. He is concerned for God’s name and God’s people and therefore his time, energies, graces, gifts, faculties and efforts are consecrated to God, whether in the apparently spectacular or the genuinely mundane (1Cor 10.31). His chief end and great delight is to glorify God and to enjoy him now and forever. God in Christ is all in all to him, and he longs to know and feel and prove it more.
The third is a principled pursuit of godliness with an increasing attainment in holiness (1Jn 2.3-8, 15-16, 19, 29; 3.3, 6, 10, 24; 4.13; 5.2-5, 21). The hypocrite likes the reputation of holiness, but the true child of God is satisfied only with the substance. He considers his ways, and turns his feet back to God’s testimonies (Ps 119.59). The world no longer sparkles as it did – or, at least, his attraction to it and affection for it have been fundamentally altered – and now he lives for God, called to be holy as God himself is holy (1Pt 1.16). The bonds to sin have been broken, and the persistent habit of unmortified sinning has been shattered because of his union with Christ. The new root brings forth new fruit (Mt 7.20; 12.33-35). His obedience – though not yet perfect – is universal (throughout the whole man), habitual, voluntary and persevering. He has taken up his cross, and continues to do so daily, as a disciple of a crucified Christ (Mt 16.24-25). He pursues Christlikeness – it is the burden of his private and public prayers. He increasingly manifests the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22-23); he has no love for the world (Jas 4.4); the previous pattern of conformity to, company with and compromise for the sake of the world is over (2Tim 3.4; 1Cor 16.33). This is not sinless perfection, but laborious progress. It does not mean that a Christian faces no battles but rather than he fights great battles, opposed as he now is to a raging and committed enemy of malice and power (Rom 7.13-25). Sometimes he wanders; sometimes he is on the back foot; sometimes, grievously, he backslides. However, the tone and tenor of his life is one of advance. The trajectory of his life over time is upward. The points plotted on his spiritual graph are not a seamless upward curve, and there are painful plateaus, but the line of best fit indicates persevering progress over time as sin dies and godliness is cultivated.
A fourth mark that John identifies is affection for and attachment to God’s redeemed people (1Jn 2.9-11; 3.10-18, 23; 4.7-11; 4.20 – 5.2). This is more than natural affection (just liking them), mercenary attachment (what you can get out if it), party spirit (a gang mentality), or mere presence (just turning up at the right place at the right time). The true Christian loves God’s people because they are God’s people, even though they are unlovely in themselves. In that sense, he needs no other reason, and yet he has several. He loves them because of what they are to God, loved by him and saved by Jesus, and it is therefore Godlike to love them. He loves them because of what they are in themselves, marked out increasingly by the image of God, by likeness to the Jesus whom he loves. He loves them because of what they are to him, members together with him of the one body of which Jesus is the saving and sovereign head (1Cor 12.12-14, 26-27). He loves not in word only: it is manifest in his thoughts and deeds (Eph 4.1-6, 12-16, 25-32). He is a true churchman: he does not simply “do church” but views and responds to the saints individually and gathered together with affection, commitment, service and investment. He is not a spectator but a servant, concerned not just to get out but to put in.
These four marks will invariably be present in a true child of God. They will not be perfect until glory, but they will be present now.
We cannot afford to be fooled, imagining ourselves saved when we are not. This is a most desperately dangerous condition to be in, and a devastating conclusion to daw.
We do not need to be confused, either always doubting or building on a wrong foundation. We can know whether or not we are saved.
John writes so that we can be sure, knowing ourselves saved and enjoying eternal life.
If these marks are not in your heart and life, then you are not a Christian, whatever you claim or imagine, and you should not fool yourself nor dishonour Christ by claiming his name without walking in his ways. You blaspheme Jesus and expose him to scorn by taking the label of a true believer but living apart from his gracious power and saving wisdom. The hypocrite gives men a reason to scorn and deride true religion by pretending to what he does not have. We see this written on a large scale when those professing to be a true church depart from the truth, teach their own concoctions, live without godliness, and give occasion for men to blaspheme. “Call that Christianity!” No! No, it is not Christianity – it is an empty masquerade that gives opportunity for sinners to deride or despair of Jesus, which leaves your hands with the blood of men upon them, and which will ultimately damn you if you are not saved from it. It is better to know yourself outside than falsely to imagine yourself inside: you must therefore flee to Jesus, and acknowledge your need, repent of your sin, and trust in the Saviour.
But if these things are present in you and true of you then you are a Christian, and you should not dishonour Christ by denying the source of grace in you. Some doubting and fearful saints are terrified that they will lay claim to God’s grace in Christ without having it, and so walk in shadow if not in darkness, robbed of joy and neither being blessed nor blessing others as they might. But consider: these things simply do not grow in the soil of the unregenerate heart, and to possess them without a Christian testimony is to know the privileges of the kingdom without wearing its livery. It might give the impression to some that the fruits of grace can grow in natural soil, and imply that unconverted men can attain to true godliness and genuinely Christian morality, and so prompt a despising of the work of God’s Spirit. Others might be profoundly discouraged, imagining that a man can show marks of true holiness but not really be saved, and so wonder if they can ever truly testify, “I am his, and he is mine.” Friend, if you have these things in you, then honour the God who put them there by owning yourself saved of God, and live accordingly.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139.23-24). If you need Jesus, go to him now and you will be saved. If you have Jesus – if he has you – then hold fast, love him, serve him, and rejoice in him, for you are a child of God, and he will keep you to the end, perfecting that which he has begun in you.
Kevin deYoung posts three sweet quotes from the Reformer.
From A Good Start by C. H. Spurgeon, Chapter 1 (”A Young Man in Christ”).
Young men, to you I would honestly say that I should be ashamed to speak of a religion that would make you soft, cowardly, effeminate, spiritless, so that you would be mere naturals in business, having no souls of your own, the prey of every designing knave. Young men, I have tried the faith of Jesus Christ, and I have found it to give me “pluck” – that is an old Saxon word, but it is exactly what I mean. It puts soul into a man, courage, firmness, resolution, courage. If he is in the habit of talking with his own conscience, and his Bible, and his God, he can look the whole universe in the face – ay, and a universe of devils, too – and never feel the slightest fear. Why should he? Is not the Eternal on the Christian’s man side? Is not the risen and reigning Christ on his side? Is not the blessed Spirit his friend? Yes, the angels of God, and providence, and time, and eternity, and all the forces that exist, are his allies, save only those of death and hell, and these his Lord has conquered and trampled under foot. I would that every young man were enlisted in the army of Christ right early, for none make such good soldiers as those who begin while yet they are young.
From A Good Start by C. H. Spurgeon, Chapter 1 (”A Young Man in Christ”).
I have said that a man in Christ is truly a man, and I will give one more meaning to my words. He is a man in this sense, that he is human; or, lengthen out that last syllable, and it gives a better meaning – he is humane. Of all who live, the man in Christ is the most human, or really humane man. In this he follows the Lord Christ Himself. Ah, what a man He was! There is not one whom you could not point to and say, “That is an Englishman,” or “That is a German,” or “That is a Jew,” or “That is a philosopher,” or “That is a clergyman,” or something or other special and distinguishing; but of Jesus of Nazareth, as a human being, you could never say more than that he was a Man – the noblest, purest specimen of man who ever adorned this world. A Man belonging to all nations, to all ranks, and to all times. Do you not notice in His life how everything that had to do with man lay near His heart? I take it that He was more completely a man than John the Baptist, although there are many who consider that type of manhood to be the very highest. John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, but Jesus came both eating and drinking; and though the ribald throng said, “He is a drunken Man and a wine-bibber,” yet He was all the more a perfect Man, because He was a Man among men. He dwelt not in the wilderness, but among the people;’ he did not eat locusts and wild honey, but went to a marriage, and ate bread at the tables of those who invited Him. He entered into all that men did except their sins. He was in all things to man a true brother and friend. He was not merely a preacher, but He became a Physician and healed bodily sicknesses. The Christian man should always be the helper of everything which promotes the health and welfare of the people. Christ was not only the bread from Heaven, but the Giver of the bread of life to the poor and needy. He fed thousands of the fainting with loaves and fishes. If all other hands be fast closed, the hand o the Christian man should always be open to relieve human necessity. Being a man, the believer is a brother to all men – rich and poor, sick or healthy – and he should seek their good in every possible way, aiming still at the highest good – namely, the saving of their souls.
The man in Christ, also, is in the best sense human, in that he lives in a real world and not in an ideal castle of sanctity. He has found out how to spiritualise the secular. He elevates the things of a man till they become the things of God. You know it is very easy to secularise the spiritual: there are many who have desecrated the pulpit, and brought it down to the lowest conceivable level; but there are others who have elevated the carpenter’s bench, and made it holiness unto the Lord. The man in Christ does exactly that. He does not draw a line and say, “So far my life in Christ goes, but no further. My religion is a thing for Sundays, and not for the Stock Exchange. ‘Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you,’ is a golden rule for the domestic circle, but it will not do for our market at all, we could not get a living on any such principle.” No, he considers that no religion can be true which unfits a man for a lawful calling. His religion is part and parcel of himself. He does not carry it with him, but it is in him. It has come to be himself. A man in Christ makes up his accounts as sacredly as he reads his Bible. He does not pray upon his knees alone, but in all places he speaks with God. His service of God is not confined to his closet and his pew; but, diligent in business, he is still fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. All that Christians do ought to be done as unto the Lord – whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do. If there be anything in this world that you cannot do to the glory of God you must not do it at all; but all things that ye do, if ye be Christian men, are to be done in the spirit of faith, in the presence of God, unto the glory of God Most High. Such is the man in Christ Jesus.
This also is his mark as man, and humane – that he does not seek his own. Of course, going into the world, he does not tell a lie and say, “I am not going to try and make money. I shall not aim at doing business.” He is going to do that, and he would be a great fool for going upon ‘Change at all if he had no such object. Does he become a broker with the design of losing his capital? Nobody would believe him if he said so. But he goes to his office with this determination: “I am not going to rob another to enrich myself. It shall not be said of one single grain of gold that I add to my heap that I wring it from the widow or the orphan, or that I gained it by driving a man hard who needed it more than I, or that I wrested it from one who, whether he needed it or not, had a better right to it than I.” The doctrine of the worldling in Horace, “Get money, fairly if thou canst, but by all means get it,” is no Christian doctrine: it is worthy of heathenism in its worst form. The man in Christ, though active, earnest, intelligent, and by no means a simpleton (if you think he is, deal with him and see), yet is so far a fool in some men’s esteem that when he sweareth to his own hurt he changeth not; and when he seeth a fine opportunity, at which some would leap, he stands back and says, “So do not I, because of the fear of the Lord.” He cannot and he will not bring a curse upon himself by an unjust action, and this, it seems to me, makes him all the more truly a man, though it manifests one of the characteristics of his being a man in Christ Jesus.