I love reading old sermons and booklets. Sometimes it is tempting to just stand up on Sunday morning and read the words of these wise saints from long ago. After reading Calvin, Spurgeon, Pink and many others from bygone eras, it crosses my mind that I really have little to share. Before you write me concerned about my psyche, I fully realize that God uses various people in multiple ways to speak to their generation, so no fears; I am not suffering from some inferiority complex. However, I do wonder if we have lost something over the centuries in the depth of what we share.
This morning while reading a J. C. Ryle’s (1816-1900) excerpt from a sermon entitled, What it costs to be a Christian, I came across these thoughts:
“There must be no separate truce with any special sin that he loves.”
“He and his sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends.”
Just soak in those two sentences for a while. How many times have we made a special truce with our favorite sin? We are willing to expose, repent of, and even confess to others some of our sins, but we hold back on that one sin we really enjoy. We proclaim that we want to be totally free, yet in our hearts, we know we are still stroking that one sin we cling to. We have made a special truce with it. We boldly shout, “Death to all of my sin,” yet we have made a back room deal with that one no one knows about.
We will not be completely free until we declare war on every sin. Making a secret agreement with our self will not do. We really are only fooling an audience of one. In fact, we really are not even fooling our self. We know, and we know that God knows, what really is going on behind the veil of our words. We have made a truce with a foe we should be battling. Defeat is guaranteed when we shake hands with our sin instead of crucifying it.
How about the second quote? It seems that we are destined to fight with someone or something. Ryle states it clearly, yet powerfully. If we refuse to fight with our sin, we will fight against God. Our friendship with God cannot grow if we harbor a friendship with our sin. We must choose for we cannot serve two masters. Friendship with the world means hostility to God, so says James, and it seems we really cannot be friends with sin and God at the same time either. I pray we choose wisely.
In the same short message, Ryle adds this jewel while discussing the cost of discipleship:
“In attending to these things, (guarding one’s behavior) he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of them that he can safely neglect.”
Another excellent thought to ponder. Just because we will not achieve perfection does not mean we gain a license to neglect or fail. I wonder how many modern believers understand this, beginning with me. It seems that we sometimes act like since we cannot achieve perfection, we might as well not even try to live a holy, pure, godly life. Can we safely neglect the disciplines of Christianity because we are not perfect and live under grace? I do not believe Ryle would say so, nor many other older, wiser saints. Grace is not an excuse to sin but includes the empowerment for holy living. When we confuse these two points, we are close to abusing the best gift we ever received.
Let me stop today with this thought – In our busy world we still must allow time for contemplation. I am not sure if there is a smart phone app for this yet, but there probably will be shortly. “Download this free app to think deeply in less time than you ever imagined.” (For all you entrepreneur types out there, that is a gold mine waiting to be developed.) We know we should spend more time thinking, praying, contemplating before the Lord, but we want an easier way to do so. To paraphrase Ryle, we may come short of perfection but we cannot safely ignore or neglect these matters for long.