“Your life depends on the meaning of little words” by John Piper

“Your life depends on the meaning of little words. ‘Soldier get in your foxhole now!’ If you think ‘in’ means ‘out,’ you’re dead!

The stakes are even higher with ‘justified by faith.’ Or, ‘in this hope we were saved.’ Or, ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works.’ Or, ‘On account of these the wrath of God is coming.’

Beale’s Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek is dedicated to the conviction that crucial and glorious things in Scripture come into focus through rightly understanding the relationships signaled by these little words.”

–John Piper, as quoted in G.K. Beale, An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 1.

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“The pillow of God’s omnipotence” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in the third place, the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation. ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’

A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men’s minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.

Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.

And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now,—a thorough conviction of the almighty power of God.

With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing, everything is possible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.

There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.

There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.

There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.

There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ’s words never pass away, and what He has promised He is able to perform.

There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us who shall be against us? The mountain shall become a plain.

Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel’s receipt is an invaluable remedy.

Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 27-28. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:34-38.

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“Lord, clothe us with humility” by J.C. Ryle

“We learn, from this passage, how ready Christians are to be puffed up with success. It is written, that the seventy returned from their first mission with joy, ‘saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.’

There was much false fire in that joy. There was evidently self-satisfaction in that report of achievements. The whole tenor of the passage leads us to this conclusion.

The remarkable expression which our Lord uses about Satan’s fall from heaven, was most probably meant to be a caution. He read the hearts of the young and inexperienced soldiers before Him.

He saw how much they were lifted up by their first victory. He wisely checks them in their undue exultation. He warns them against pride.

The lesson is one which all who work for Christ should mark and remember. Success is what all faithful laborers in the Gospel field desire.

The minister at home and the missionary abroad, the district visitor and the city missionary, the tract distributor and the Sunday-school teacher, all alike long for success. All long to see Satan’s kingdom pulled down, and souls converted to God.

We cannot wonder. The desire is right and good. Let it, however, never be forgotten, that the time of success is a time of danger to the Christian’s soul. The very hearts that are depressed when all things seem against them are often unduly exalted in the day of prosperity.

Few men are like Samson, and can kill a lion without telling others of it. (Judges 14:6.) No wonder that St. Paul says of a bishop, that he ought not to be ‘a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.’ (1 Tim. 3:6.)

Most of Christ’s laborers probably have as much success as their souls can bear. Let us pray much for humility, and especially for humility in our days of peace and success.

When everything around us seems to prosper, and all our plans work well,—when family trials and sicknesses are kept from us, and the course of our worldly affairs runs smooth,—when our daily crosses are light, and all within and without like a morning without clouds,—then, then is the time when our souls are in danger!

Then is the time when we have need to be doubly watchful over our own hearts. Then is the time when seeds of evil are sown within us by the devil, which may one day astound us by their growth and strength.

There are few Christians who can carry a full cup with a steady hand. There are few whose souls prosper in their days of uninterrupted success.

We are all inclined to sacrifice to our net, and burn incense to our own drag. (Hab. 1:16.) We are ready to think that our own might and our own wisdom have procured us the victory.

The caution of the passage before us ought never to be forgotten. In the midst of our triumphs, let us cry earnestly, ‘Lord, clothe us with humility.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 358-360. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:17-20.

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“Grace is the main thing” by J.C. Ryle

“Let the religion which we aim to possess be a religion in which grace is the main thing. Let it not content us to be able to speak eloquently, or preach powerfully, or reason ably, or argue cleverly, or profess loudly, or talk fluently.

Let it not satisfy us to know the whole system of Christian doctrines, and to have texts and words at our command.

These things are all well in their way. They are not to be undervalued. They have their use. But these things are not the grace of God, and they will not deliver us from hell.

Let us never rest until we have the witness of the Spirit within us that we are ‘washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.’ (1 Cor. 6:11.) Let us seek to know that ‘our names are written in heaven,’ and that we are really one with Christ and Christ in us.

Let us strive to be ‘epistles of Christ known and read of all men,’ and to show by our meekness, and charity, and faith, and spiritual-mindedness, that we are the children of God.

This is true religion. These are the real marks of saving Christianity. Without such marks, a man may have abundance of gifts and turn out nothing better than a follower of Judas Iscariot, the false apostle, and go at last to hell.

With such marks, a man may be like Lazarus, poor and despised upon earth, and have no gifts at all. But his name is written in heaven, and Christ shall own him as one of His people at the last day.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 361. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:17-20.

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“Perseverance” by George Herbert

My God, the poor expressions of my Love
Which warm these lines, and serve them up to Thee
Are so, as for the present I did move,
Or rather as Thou movedst me.

But what shall issue, whether these my words
Shall help another, but my judgement be;
As a burst fowling-piece doth save the birds
But kill the man, is sealed with Thee.

For who can tell, though Thou has died to win
And wed my soul in glorious paradise;
Whether my many crimes and use of sin
May yet forbid the banes and bliss.

Only my soul hangs on Thy promises
With face and hands clinging unto Thy breast,
Clinging and crying, crying without cease,
Thou art my rock, Thou art my rest.

–George Herbert, “Perseverance,” in Complete English Poems (London: Penguin, 1991/2004), 192-193.

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“Sing and preach His praises always” by John Calvin

“Now let us fall down before the majesty of our good God, with acknowledgement of our faults, praying Him to make us feel them more and more, that we may be sorry for them, and so strive to follow His service, that we may show by our deeds all our life long that He has not redeemed us in vain from the tyranny of Satan, and set us at liberty even to serve Him with a free will, and to give ourselves wholly to the glorifying of His holy name.

And let us beseech Him also to grant us the grace so to taste the benefits which He bestows upon us that they may incite us more and more to glorify Him, and that it may be our continual exercise and study to sing and preach His praises always, and to acknowledge how greatly we are bound and indebted to Him, that by that means our Lord Jesus may so reign over us that we may be joined to Him in an inseparable bond, until we come to the kingdom that He has bought so dearly for us, that it may please Him to grant this grace not only to us, but also to all people.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974), 591.

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“The message of the cross is a living, busy, active, mighty thing” by Stephen Westerholm

“Admittedly, Luther is prone to seeing his own circumstances reflected in biblical texts (if this is a fault); and (herein lies a very great fault), when he writes polemically, his terms and tone are often monumentally lamentable.

Still, one has only to read a few pages of his writings (most any will do) to realize that, in crucial respects, he inhabits the same world, and breathes the same air, as the apostle. Both are driven by a massive, unremitting sense of answerability to their Maker.

For both, the message of God’s grace in Christ is a source of palpable liberty and joy, and of prodigious παρρησία. For both, the faith in God awakened by the message of the cross is a living, busy, active, mighty thing; for both, works without faith are dead.

Neither makes the slightest gesture toward cloaking his horror and indignation at any perceived tampering with the divine kerygma or infringement of divine prerogatives. Such kindredness of spirit gives Luther an inestimable advantage over many readers of Paul in ‘capturing’ the essence of the apostle’s writings.

On numerous points of detail, Luther may be the last to illumine. For those, however, who would see forest as well as trees, I am still inclined to propose a trip to the dustbins of recent Pauline scholarship—to retrieve and try out, on a reading of the epistles, the discarded spectacles of the Reformer.”

–Stephen Westerholm, “The ‘New Perspective’ at Twenty-Five,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul (eds. D.A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid, vol. 2, 181st ed.; Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament; Grand Rapids, MI; Tübingen: Baker Academic; Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 38.

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