J.C. Ryle: On the Disease Nothing Short of Christ Can Cure

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption. Its theory is that in consequence of Adam’s fall, all men are as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and are of their own natures inclined to evil. They are not only in a miserable, pitiable, and bankrupt condition, but in a state of guilt, imminent danger, and condemnation before God. They are not only at enmity with their Maker, and have no title to heaven, but they have no will to serve their Maker, no love to their Maker, and no meetness for heaven.

We hold that a mighty spiritual disease like this requires a mighty spiritual medicine for its cure. We dread giving the slightest countenance to any religious system of dealing with man’s soul, which even seems to encourage the notion that his deadly wound can be easily healed. We dread fostering man’s favourite notion that a little church-going and sacrament-receiving,—a little patching, and mending, and whitewashing, and gilding, and polishing, and varnishing, and painting the outside,—is all that his case requires. Hence we protest with all our heart against formalism, sacramentalism, and every species of mere external or vicarious Christianity. We maintain that all such religion is founded on an inadequate view of man’s spiritual need. It requires far more than this to save, or satisfy, or sanctify, a soul. It requires nothing less than the blood of God the Son applied to the conscience, and the grace of God the Holy Ghost entirely renewing the heart. Man is radically diseased, and man needs a radical cure. I believe that ignorance of the extent of the fall, and of the whole doctrine of original sin, is one grand reason why many can neither understand, appreciate, nor receive Evangelical Religion. Next to the Bible, as its foundation, it is based on a clear view of original sin.

(c) The third leading feature of Evangelical Religion is the paramount importance it attaches to the work and office of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the nature of the salvation which He has wrought out for man.

Its theory is that the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has by His life, death, and resurrection, as our Representative and Substitute, obtained a complete salvation for sinners, and a redemption from the guilt, power, and consequences of sin, and that all who believe on Him are, even while they live, completely forgiven and justified from all things,—are reckoned completely righteous before God,—are interested in Christ and all His benefits.

We hold that nothing whatever is needed between the soul of man the sinner and Christ the Saviour, but simple, childlike faith, and that all means, helps, ministers, and ordinances are useful just so far as they help this faith, but no further;—but that rested in and relied on as ends and not as means, they become downright poison to the soul.

We hold that an experimental knowledge of Christ crucified and interceding, is the very essence of Christianity, and that in teaching men the Christian religion we can never dwell too much on Christ Himself, and can never speak too strongly of the fulness, freeness, presentness, and simplicity of the salvation there is in Him for every one that believes.

Not least, we hold most firmly that the true doctrine about Christ is precisely that which the natural heart most dislikes. The religion which man craves after is one of sight and sense, and not of faith. An external religion, of which the essence is “doing something,”—and not an inward and spiritual one, of which the essence is “believing,” this is the religion that man naturally loves. Hence we maintain that people ought to be continually warned not to make a Christ of the Church, or of the ministry, or of the forms of worship, or of baptism, or of the Lord’s Supper. We say that life eternal is to know Christ, believe in Christ, abide in Christ, have daily heart communion with Christ, by simple personal faith…. (excerpted from Evangelical Religion, Chapter 1 of Knots Untied: BEING PLAIN STATEMENTS ON DISPUTED POINTS IN RELIGION, J.C. Ryle, 1900AD Edition)

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Submit To Christ As Lord Or He Will Not Be Your Savior — Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

I cannot conceive it possible for anyone to truly receive Christ as Savior and yet not to receive Him as Lord. One of the first instincts of a redeemed soul is to fall at the feet of the Savior and gratefully and adoringly to cry, “Blessed Master, bought with Your precious blood, I acknowledge that I am Yours— Yours only, Yours wholly, Yours forever! Lord, what will You have me to do?” A man who is really saved by Grace does not need to be told that He is under solemn obligations to serve Christ—the new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself—body, soul and spirit, to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service…..It is not possible for us to accept Christ as our Savior unless He also becomes our King, for a very large part of salvation consists in our being saved from sin’s dominion over us—and the only way in which we can be delivered from the mastery of Satan is by becoming subject to the mastery of Christ! (from: The Royal Savior, Sermon #3229, Charles Spurgeon)

“Getting the Gospel Right” by John MacArthur

“Getting the Gospel Right”

John MacArthur

I am amazed at some of the things that have been said and written in recent years about the gospel. I fear that in many circles a different message is replacing the good news of salvation. I’m not talking about the attacks on the gospel from liberal religion or the theology of the cults, but a skewed message that has sprouted from right within conservative evangelicalism.

I have a copy of a training film now being used internationally to teach Christians what they should and should not say when leading someone to Christ. A respected, conservative organization produced the film, but frankly, the warped view of the gospel it presents is appalling.

In the entire half-hour film, there is not one mention of the resurrection. It speaks of forgiveness without defining sin, and it talks of trusting Christ without describing faith. Incredibly, the film counsels believers never to speak to a non-Christian about the lordship of Christ, submission to Him, surrender of the will, forsaking one’s sin, or obeying God. Those truths, according to the film, have no place in the gospel message but should be saved for later, after someone becomes a Christian.

That sentiment reflects a viewpoint that is rapidly gaining momentum within evangelicalism. A handful of outspoken and increasingly vocal teachers are popularizing it. To their credit, most of those men are motivated by a passion to keep the gospel of God’s grace free from the influence of human works. Their desire, I’m sure, is to make clear the biblical truth that salvation may in no way be earned or obtained by man’s effort. Their approach, however, has been to eliminate from the gospel message anything that sounds like a work of righteousness, and to speak only of believing the objective data. They have erased the biblical words repentance, obedience, and submission from the vocabulary of evangelicalism.

Such teaching has taken a heavy toll. Faith has become merely an intellectual exercise. Instead of calling men and women to surrender to Christ, modern evangelism asks them only to accept some basic facts about Him. A person can believe without obeying. Thus faith is robbed of any moral significance, and righteousness becomes optional.

Even the way we invite people to Christ reveals this shift. “Make a decision for Christ,” we say. When was the last time you heard an evangelistic message that challenged sinners to repent and follow Christ? Yet isn’t that the language Jesus Himself used (Matthew 4:17; Mark 8:34)?

Those were the questions that prompted me to write The Gospel According to Jesus –I wanted to study the message Jesus preached to unbelievers. How could any issue be more important? The gospel we present has eternal consequences. If it is the true gospel, it can direct men and women into the everlasting kingdom. If it is a corrupted message, it can give unsaved people false hope while consigning them to eternal damnation. This is not a trivial matter for theologians to speculate on. It is an issue every lay person must understand and get right.

Here are some questions that need to be answered biblically:

Do we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, or as Savior only? Some say a person who refuses to obey Christ can still receive Him as Savior. They teach that the gift of eternal life is available by faith even to one who rejects the moral and spiritual demands of Christ. They accuse others of teaching “lordship salvation,” implying that it is novel to suggest that submission is a characteristic of saving faith.

Until relatively recently, however, no one would have dared suggest a person can be saved while stubbornly refusing to bow to Christ’s authority. Nearly all the major biblical passages calling for saving faith refer to Jesus as lord (cf. Acts 2:21, 36; Romans 10:9-10).

Is repentance from sin essential to salvation? Some say that turning from sin is a human work and therefore cannot be part of salvation. To accommodate the biblical call to repentance, they redefine repentance as nothing more than a change of mind about who Jesus is.

Biblically, however, repentance is a total about face–turning away from sin and self and unto God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). That is no more a result of human effort than faith itself. Nor is it in any sense a pre-salvation work required to prepare a sinner for salvation. Real repentance is inseparable from faith and, like faith, is the work of God in a human heart. It is the response God inevitably generates in the heart of one He is redeeming.

What is faith? Some say faith is merely believing certain facts. One popular Bible teacher says saving faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine offer of eternal life.

Biblically, however, the object of faith is not the divine offer; it is the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is what saves, not just believing His promises or accepting facts about Him. Saving faith has to be more than accepting facts. Even demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19).

Believing in Jesus means receiving Him for all that He is (John 1:12). It means both confessing Him as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord. In fact, Scripture often uses the word obedience as a synonym for faith (cf. John 3:36; Acts 6:7; Hebrews 5:9).

What is a disciple? In the past hundred years or so, it has become popular to speak of discipleship as a higher level of Christian experience. In the new terminology, a person becomes a believer at salvation; he becomes a disciple later, when he moves past faith to obedience.

Such a view conveniently relegates the difficult demands of Jesus to a post-salvation experience. It maintains that when He challenged the multitudes to deny self, to take up a cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34); to forsake all (Luke 14:33); and to leave father and mother (Matthew 19:29), He was simply asking believers to step up to the second level and become disciples.

But how does that square with Jesus’ own words, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:13)? The heart of His ministry was evangelism, and those difficult demands are evangelistic appeals.

Every believer is a disciple and vice versa. A careful reading of Acts shows that the word disciple has been a synonym for Christian from the earliest days of the church (cf. 6:1-2, 7; 11:26; 14:20, 22; 15:10).

What is the evidence of salvation? In their zeal to eliminate good works as a requirement for salvation, some have gone to the extreme of arguing that good works are not even a valid evidence of salvation. They teach that a person may be genuinely saved yet never manifest the fruit of salvation–a changed life.

A few have even taken the absurd position that a born-again person may ultimately turn away from Christ into unbelief, deny God, and become an atheist–yet still possess eternal life. One writer invented a term for such people: “unbelieving believers”!

Scripture is clear that a saved person can never be lost. It is equally clear that a genuine Christian will never fall back into total unbelief. That kind of apostasy proves an individual was never really born again (1 John 2:19).

Furthermore, if a person is genuinely saved, his life will change for the better (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is saved “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and there is no way he can fail to bring forth at least some of the fruit that characterizes the redeemed (cf. Matthew 7:17). His desires are transformed; he begins to hate sin and love righteousness. He will not be sinless, but the pattern of his life will be decreasing sin and increasing righteousness.

You need to settle these critical questions in your own heart. Study the gospel Scripture presents. Listen with discernment to every speaker you hear. Measure everything by the Word of God. Above all, make sure that the message you share with unbelievers is truly the gospel of Christ.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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Total Depravity: Man Is Not Sick, He is Dead — A.W. Pink

Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)


The doctrine of total depravity is a very humbling one. It is not that man leans to one side and needs propping up, nor that he is merely ignorant and requires instructing, nor that he is run down and calls for a tonic; but rather that he is undone, lost, spiritually dead. Consequently, he is “without strength,” thoroughly incapable of bettering himself; he is exposed to the wrath of God, and unable to perform a single work which can find acceptance with Him. Almost every page of the Bible bears witness to this truth. The whole scheme of redemption takes it for granted. The plan of salvation taught in the Scriptures could have no place on any other supposition. The impossibility of any man’s gaining the approbation of God by works of his own appears plainly in the case of the rich young ruler who came to Christ. Judged by human standards, he was a model of virtue and religious attainments. Yet, like all others who trust in self-efforts, he was ignorant of the spirituality and strictness of God’s law; when Christ put him to the test his fair expectations were blown to the winds and “he went away sorrowful” (Matt. 19:22).

It is therefore a most unpalatable doctrine. It cannot be otherwise, for the unregenerate love to hear of the greatness, the dignity, the nobility of man. The natural man thinks highly of himself and appreciates only that which is flattering. Nothing pleases him more than to listen to that which extols human nature and lauds the state of mankind, even though it be in terms which not only repudiate the teaching of God’s Word but are flatly contradicted by common observation and universal experience. And there are many who pander to him by their lavish praises of the excellency of civilization and the steady progress of the race. Hence, to have the lie given to the popular theory of evolution is highly displeasing to its deluded votaries. Nevertheless, the duty of God’s servants is to stain the pride of all that man glories in, to strip him of his stolen plumes, to lay him low in the dust before God. However repugnant such teaching is, God’s emissary must faithfully discharge his duty “whether they will
hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezek. 3:11).
(excerpted from The Total Depravity of Man, A.W. Pink)

Christian: Want To Be Free From Anxiety And Worry? — Charles Spurgeon

“Let no man beguile you of your reward.” — Colossians 2:18.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)


There is another party who will seek to beguile you of your reward by bringing in speculative notions, instead of the simple truths of God’s Word. There is a certain class of persons who think that a sermon must be a good one when they cannot understand it, and who are always impressed with a man whose words are long; and if his sentences are involved they feel, poor souls, that because they do not know what he is talking about, there is no doubt that he is a very wise and learned man; and after a while when he does propound something that they can catch at, though it may be quite contrary to what they have learned at their mother’s knee or from their father’s Bible, yet they are ready to be led off by it. There are many men nowadays who seem to spend their time in nothing else but in spinning new theories, and inventing new systems, gutting the gospel taking the very soul and bowels out of it, and leaving there nothing but the mere skin and outward bones. The life and marrow of the gospel is being taken away by their learning, by their philosophies, by their refinements, by their bringing everything down to the test of this wonderfully enlightened nineteenth century to which we are all, I suppose, bound to defer. But a voice comes to us, “let no man beguile you of your reward.” Stand fast to the old truths; they will outlast all these philosophies. Stand fast to the old way of living; it will outlast all the inventions of men. Stand fast by Christ, for you want no other object of worship but himself.

Spurgeon ends the sermon with these words of comfort,

Let no man deprive you of the present comfort which your faith should bring to you. Let me just for a few minutes have your attention while I speak upon this. Dear brethren, you and I, if we are believers in Christ, are this day completely pardoned. There is no sin in God’s book against us. We are wholly and completely justified. The righteousness of Jesus Christ covers us from head to foot, and we stand before God as if we had never sinned. Now let no man rob you of this reward. Do not be tempted by anything that is said to doubt the completeness of a believer in Christ. Hold this, and, as you hold it, enjoy it. Do not let the man, yourself, whom you have most to fear, beguile you. Even though conscience should upbraid you, and you should have many grave reasons for doubt, as you imagine, yet if you believe in Jesus, stand to it—”There is, therefore, now no condemnation to me, for I am in Christ Jesus; he that believeth on him is not condemned; I have believed, and I am not condemned, neither will he permit condemnation to be thundered against me, for Christ has borne my sin for me, and I am clear in him.” Let no man beguile you of the reward of feeling that you are complete in Christ.

Further, you who have believed in Jesus Christ are safe in Christ. Because he lives, you shall live also. Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord? He has said, “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Now there are some who will tell you that you are not safe, and that it is dangerous for you to believe that you are. Let no man beguile you of this reward. You are saved. If you are believing on him, he will keep you, and you may sing, “Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before his presence with exceeding great joy. unto him be glory.” Hold to that blessed truth that you are in Jesus—safe in Jesus Christ.

There is a third blessed truth. that not only are you pardoned and safe in Christ, but you are accepted at this moment, in the Beloved. Your acceptance with God does not rest upon anything in you. You are accepted because you are in Christ, accepted for Christ’s sake. Now sometimes you will get robbed of this reward if you listen to the voice which says, “Why, there is sin in you still; your prayers are imperfect; your actions are stained.” Yes, but let no man beguile you of this conviction that, sinner as you are, you are still accepted in Christ Jesus.

The Lord grant that you may feel this within, and let no man beguile you of your reward as long as you live. May you live and die in the enjoyment of it, beloved, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

(from A Warning to Believers, A sermon delivered at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Thursday Evening, June 16th, 1870). [ABOVE TITLE OF THIS POST ADDED BY ME, NOT IN ORIGINAL]

J.C. Ryle: On Faith That Is Dead

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. “He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit” (John 15:5). The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith works by love. It constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ purifies himself even as He is pure (James 2:17–20; Titus 1:1; Gal. 5:6; 1 John 1:7; 3:3). (excerpted from Chapter II: Sanctification from Holiness: It’s Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle, 1877)

J.C. Ryle: On the Only Thing Our Lord Marveled At During His Earthly Ministry

“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.” — John 6:28-34 (KJV)

Commenting on the verses above Ryle writes,

J.C. Ryle

We should observe, for one thing, in these verses, the spiritual ignorance and unbelief of the natural man. Twice over we see this brought out and exemplified. When our Lord instructed his hearers to “labor for the food which endures to eternal life,” they immediately began to think of ‘works to be done’, and a goodness of their own to be established. “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” Doing, doing, doing, was their only idea of the way to heaven. Again, when our Lord spoke of Himself as One sent of God, and the need of believing on Him at once, they turn round with the question,”What sign show you? what do you work?” Fresh from the mighty miracle of the loaves and fishes, one might have thought they had had a sign sufficient to convince them. Taught by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, one might have expected a greater readiness to believe. But alas! there are no limits to man’s dulness, prejudice, and unbelief in spiritual matters. It is a striking fact that the only thing which our Lord is said to have “marveled” at during His earthly ministry, was man’s “unbelief.” (Mark 6:6.)

We shall do well to remember this, if we ever try to do good to others in the matter of religion. We must not be cast down because our words are not believed, and our efforts seem thrown away. We must not complain of it as a strange thing, and suppose that the people we have to deal with are peculiarly stubborn and hard. We must recollect that this is the very cup of which our Lord had to drink, and like Him we must patiently work on. If even He, so perfect and so plain a Teacher, was not believed, what right have we to wonder if men do not believe us? Happy are the ministers, and missionaries, and teachers who keep these things in mind! It will save them much bitter disappointment. In working for God, it is of first importance to understand what we must expect in man. Few things are so little realized as the extent of human unbelief.

We should observe, for another thing, in these verses, the high honor Christ puts on faith in Himself. The Jews had asked Him–“What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” In reply He says–“This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent.” A truly striking and remarkable expression! If any two things are put in strong contrast, in the New Testament, they are faith and works. Not working, but believing, not of works, but through faith–are words familiar to all careful Bible-readers. Yet here the great Head of the Church declares that believing on Him is the highest and greatest of all “works!” It is “the work of God.”

Doubtless our Lord did not mean that there is anything meritorious in believing. Man’s faith, at the very best, is feeble and defective. Regarded as a “work,” it cannot stand the severity of God’s judgment, deserve pardon, or purchase heaven. But our Lord did mean that faith in Himself, as the only Savior, is the first act of the soul which God requires at a sinner’s hands. Until a man believes on Jesus, and rests on Jesus as a lost sinner, he is nothing. Our Lord did mean that faith in Himself is that act of the soul which specially pleases God. When the Father sees a sinner casting aside his own righteousness, and simply trusting in His dear Son, He is well pleased. Without such faith it is impossible to please God. Our Lord did mean that faith in Himself is the root of all saving religion. There is no life in a man until he believes. Above all, our Lord did mean that faith in Himself is the hardest of all spiritual acts to the natural man. Did the Jews want something to do in religion? Let them know that the greatest thing they had to do was, to cast aside their pride, confess their guilt and need, and humbly believe.

Let all who know anything of true faith thank God and rejoice. Blessed are those who believe! It is an attainment which many of the wise of this world have never yet reached. We may feel ourselves to be poor, weak sinners. But do we believe? We may fail and come short in many things. But do we believe? He that has learned to feel his sins, and to trust Christ as a Savior, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity. He has been in the best of schools. He has been taught by the Holy Spirit.

We shall observe, lastly, in these verses, the far greater privileges of Christ’s hearers than of those who lived in the times of Moses. Wonderful and miraculous as the manna was which fell from heaven, it was nothing in comparison to the true bread which Christ had to bestow on His disciples. He himself was the bread of God, who had come down from heaven to give life to the world. The bread which fell in the days of Moses could only feed and satisfy the body. The Son of man had come to feed the soul. The bread which fell in the days of Moses was only for the benefit of Israel. The Son of man had come to offer eternal life to the world. Those who ate the manna died and were buried, and many of them were lost forever. But those who ate the bread which the Son of man provided, would be eternally saved.

And now let us take heed to ourselves, and make sure that we are among those who eat the bread of God and live. Let us not be content with lazy waiting, but let us actually come to Christ, and eat the bread of life, and believe to the saving of our souls. The Jews could say–“Evermore give us this bread.” But it may be feared they went no further. Let us never rest until, by faith, we have eaten this bread, and can say, “Christ is mine. I have tasted that the Lord is gracious. I know and feel that I am His.” (from: Expository Thoughts On the Gospel of John, J.C. Ryle)

“What’s Inside the Trojan Horse?” by John MacArthur

“What’s Inside the Trojan Horse?”

John MacArthur

By God’s grace, I have been the pastor of the same church now for forty years. From that vantage point, I have witnessed the birth and growth of menacing trends within the church, several of which have converged under what I would call evangelical pragmatism — an approach to ministry that is endemic in contemporary Christianity.

What is pragmatism? Basically it is a philosophy that says that results determine meaning, truth, and value — what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.

Let me take a few minutes to explain a little of the history leading up to the current entrenchment of the pragmatic approach in the evangelical church and to show you why it isn’t as innocent as it looks.

Recent History

The 1970s, for the most part, were years of spiritual revival in America. The spread of the gospel through the campuses of many colleges and universities marked a fresh, energetic movement of the Holy Spirit to draw people to salvation in Christ. Mass baptisms were conducted in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, several new versions of the English Bible were released, and Christian publishing and broadcasting experienced remarkable growth.

Sadly, the fervent evangelical revival slowed and was overshadowed by the greed and debauchery of the eighties and nineties. The surrounding culture rejected biblical standards of morality, and the church, rather than assert its distinctiveness and call the world to repentance, softened its stance on holiness. The failure to maintain a distinctively biblical identity was profound — it led to general spiritual apathy and a marked decline in church attendance.

Church leaders reacted to the world’s indifference, not by a return to strong biblical preaching that emphasized sin and repentance, but by a pragmatic approach to “doing” church — an approach driven more by marketing, methodology, and perceived results than by biblical doctrine. The new model of ministry revolved around making sinners feel comfortable and at ease in the church, then selling them on the benefits of becoming a Christian. Earlier silence has given way to cultural appeasement and conformity.

Even the church’s ministry to its own has changed. Entertainment has hijacked many pulpits across the country; contemporary approaches cater to the ever-changing whims of professing believers; and many local churches have become little more than social clubs and community centers where the focus is on the individual’s felt needs. Even on Christian radio, phone-in talk shows, music, and live psychotherapy are starting to replace Bible teaching as the staple. “Whatever works,” the mantra of pragmatism, has become the new banner of evangelicalism.

The Down-Grade Controversy

You may be surprised to learn that what we are now seeing is not new. England’s most famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, dealt with a similar situation more than 100 years ago. Among churches that were once solid, Spurgeon and other faithful pastors noticed a conciliatory attitude toward and overt cooperation with the modernist movement. And what motivated the compromise? They sought to find acceptance by adopting the “sophisticated” trends of the culture. Does that sound familiar to you?

One article, published anonymously in Spurgeon’s monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel, noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. The author likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it “the down grade.” The inroads of modernism into the church killed ninety percent of the mainline denominations within a generation of Spurgeon’s death. Spurgeon himself, once the celebrated and adored herald of the Baptist Union, was marginalized by the society and he eventually withdrew his membership.

The Effects of Pragmatism

Many of today’s church leaders have bought into the subtlety of pragmatism without recognizing the dangers it poses. Instead of attacking orthodoxy head on, evangelical pragmatism gives lip service to the truth while quietly undermining the foundations of doctrine. Instead of exalting God, it effectively denigrates the things that are precious to Him.

First, there is in vogue today a trend to make the basis of faith something other than God’s Word. Experience, emotion, fashion, and popular opinion are often more authoritative than the Bible in determining what many Christians believe. From private, individual revelation to the blending of secular psychology with biblical “principles,” Christians are listening to the voice of the serpent that once told Eve, “God’s Word doesn’t have all the answers.” Christian counseling reflects that drift, frequently offering no more than experimental and unscriptural self-help therapy instead of solid answers from the Bible.

Christian missionary work is often riddled with pragmatism and compromise, because too many in missions have evidently concluded that what gets results is more important than what God says. That’s true among local churches as well. It has become fashionable to forgo the proclamation and teaching of God’s Word in worship services. Instead, churches serve up a paltry diet of drama, music, and other forms of entertainment.

Second, evangelical pragmatism tends to move the focus of faith away from God’s Son. You’ve seen that repeatedly if you watch much religious television. The health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel advocated by so many televangelists is the ultimate example of this kind of fantasy faith. This false gospel appeals unabashedly to the flesh, corrupting all the promises of Scripture and encouraging greed. It makes material blessing, not Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian’s desires.

Easy-believism handles the message differently, but the effect is the same. It is the promise of forgiveness minus the gospel’s hard demands, the perfect message for pragmatists. It has done much to popularize “believing” but little to provoke sincere faith.

Christ is no longer the focus of the message. While His name is mentioned from time to time, the real focus is inward, not upward. People are urged to look within; to try to understand themselves; to come to grips with their problems, their hurts, their disappointments; to have their needs met, their desires granted, their wants fulfilled. Nearly all the popular versions of the message encourage and legitimize a self-centered perspective.

Third, today’s Christianity is infected with a tendency to view the result of faith as something less than God’s standard of holy living. By downplaying the importance of holy living-both by precept and by example-the biblical doctrine of conversion is undermined. Think about it: What more could Satan do to try to destroy the church than undermining God’s Word, shifting the focus off Christ, and minimizing holy living?

All those things are happening slowly, steadily within the church right now. Tragically, most Christians seem oblivious to the problems, satisfied with a Christianity that is fashionable and highly visible. But the true church must not ignore those threats. If we fight to maintain doctrinal purity with an emphasis on biblical preaching and biblical ministry, we can conquer external attacks. But if error is allowed into the church, many more churches will slide down the grade to suffer the same fate as the denominations that listened to, yet ignored, Spurgeon’s impassioned appeal.

Make it your habitual prayer request that the Lord would elevate the authority of His Word, the glory of His Son, and the purity of His people in the evangelical church. May the Lord revive us and keep us far from the slippery slope of pragmatism.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

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Christian: Don’t Look to the World for Wisdom — Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)


“Jesus Christ is made of God unto us wisdom. We look no more for wisdom from the thoughts that spring of human mind, but to Christ himself; we do not expect wisdom to come to us through the culture that is of man, but we expect to be made wise through sitting at our Master’s feet and accepting him as wisdom from God himself.” — Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Theology and Ministry: An Interview with John MacArthur (1/16/2011)

On Sunday, Phil Johnson interviewed John MacArthur. Last night he posted that interview at the Grace To You Website. Yes, I know. I wasn’t going to do any blogging during my 3 day mini-vacation. Nevertheless, here I am. I enjoyed this interview enough to interrupt my vacation, and frankly, the issues are that important. As the church today slides deeper into strange ideas on how it should look, and grow, and how it should impact the world around it. John MacArthur seems to be a lone voice on many issues. He is not. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.Theology and Ministry: An Interview with John MacArthur (1/16/2011).

Eric Is Taking a Short – 3 Day – Vacation

Taking a much needed break!

I will be taking off tomorrow (01/20), Friday (01/21), and Saturday (01/22). So, Lord willing, I should be back posting on Sunday (01/23). Occasionally, I will jump on Twitter and Facebook, though.

You are all cherished friends and this blog wouldn’t exist at all without your prayers, encouragement, and friendship.

“A Word To Legalists” — Charles Spurgeon

I came across this wonderful excerpt at the Pyromaniacs blog from June of 2010. This is from the last three paragraphs,

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)


“When we come before God, it would be well if we would always remember this. We are committing great folly if, when we are spreading our case before him, we dare for one moment to speak of ourselves as good or excellent. We shall never succeed in that way; he will not listen to us, for this plan has no power with him; but if, when we come to him, we can plead our sin and our misery, then shall we prevail. Nay, we may even go the length of the psalmist, David, when he prayed, “For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity;”—and for a strange reason, you would say,—”for it is great.”

He used the greatness of his sin as an argument why God should have mercy on him!

O ye legalists, who are looking to yourselves for some arguments with which to prevail with God; O ye who look to your sacraments, to your outward forms, to your pious deeds and your almsgivings, for something that will move the heart of God; know this, that these things are no lever that can ever move him to love. Nothing but your sin and misery can ever stir his mercy, and you look to the wrong place when you look to your merits to find a plea why he should show pity upon you.” (read entire post)

J.C. Ryle: On Dealing With Worry and Anxiety

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” — Matthew 6:34

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


Last of all, He [Jesus] seals up all His instruction on this subject, by laying down one of the wisest maxims. “Tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.” We are not to carry cares before they come. We are to attend to today’s business, and leave tomorrow’s anxieties until tomorrow dawns. We may die before tomorrow. We know not what may happen on the morrow. This only we may be assured of, that if tomorrow brings a cross, He who sends it, can and will send grace to bear it.

In all this passage there is a treasury of golden lessons. Let us seek to use them in our daily life. Let us not only read them, but turn them to practical account. Let us watch and pray against worry, and an over-anxious spirit. It deeply concerns our happiness. Half our miseries are caused by imagining things that we think are coming upon us. Half the things that we expect to come upon us, never come at all. Where is our faith? Where is our confidence in our Savior’s words? We may well take shame to ourselves, when we read these verses, and then look into our hearts. But this we may be sure of, that David’s words are true, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25.) (from: Expository Thoughts On the Gospel of Matthew,1856)

“How Strong Is God’s Grip?” John MacArthur: On the Question of Eternal Security

“How Strong Is God’s Grip? (John 10 )”

John MacArthur

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29)

The Lord articulated the wonderful truth that those who are His sheep need never fear being lost. “I give eternal life to them,” Jesus declared, “and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Nowhere in Scripture is there a stronger affirmation of the absolute eternal security of all true Christians. Jesus plainly taught that the security of the believer in salvation does not depend on human effort, but is grounded in the gracious, sovereign election, promise, and power of God.

Christ’s words reveal seven realities that bind every true Christian forever to God. First, believers are….continued at The MacArthur New Testament Commentary site (click here). Be sure to listen to the short Q and A with John MacArthur

“Jesus Will Never Cast Away His Believing People” — J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

Let all the world know that the Lord Jesus will not cast away His believing people because of shortcomings and infirmities. The husband does not put way his wife because he finds failings in her. The mother does not forsake her infant because it is weak, feeble, and ignorant. And the Lord Christ does not cast off poor sinners who have committed their souls into His hands because He sees in them blemishes and imperfections. Oh, no! it is His glory to pass over the faults of His people, and heal their backslidings,—to make much of their weak graces, and to pardon their many faults. Verily, the 11th of Hebrews is a wonderful chapter. It is marvelous to observe how the Holy Ghost speaks of the worthies whose names are recorded in that chapter. The faith of the Lord’s people is there brought forward, and had in remembrance. But the faults of many a one, which might easily have been brought up also, are left alone, and not mentioned at all.

Who is there now among my readers that feels desires after salvation, but is afraid to become decided, lest by-and-by he should fall away? Consider, I beseech you, the tenderness and patience of the Lord Jesus, and be afraid no more. Fear not to take up the cross, and come out boldly from the world. That same Lord and Saviour who bore with the disciples is ready and willing to bear with you. If you stumble, He will raise you. If you err, He will gently bring you back. If you faint, He will revive you. He will not lead you out of Egypt, and then suffer you to perish in the wilderness. He will conduct you safe into the promised land. Only commit yourself to His guidance, and my soul for yours, He shall carry you safe home. Only hear Christ’s voice and follow Him, and you shall never perish. (from: Peace! Be Still!, J.C. Ryle, 1816-1900)

John MacArthur: On Why Sound Living Can Only Come Through Sound Doctrine

“What Does This Verse Mean ‘to Me’?”

Titus 1:9, Romans 12:1-2

by John MacArthur

That’s a fashionable concern, judging from the trends in devotional booklets, home Bible study discussions, Sunday-school literature, and most popular preaching.

The question of what Scripture means has taken a back seat to the issue of what it means “to me.”

The difference may seem insignificant at first. Nevertheless, our obsession with the Scripture’s applicability reflects a fundamental weakness. We have adopted practicality as the ultimate judge of the worth of God’s Word. We bury ourselves in passages that overtly relate to daily living, and ignore those that don’t.

Early in my ministry, I made a conscious commitment to biblical preaching. My first priority has always been to answer the question, “What does this passage mean?” After I’ve explained as clearly and accurately as possible the meaning of God’s Word, then I exhort people to obey and apply it to their own lives.

The Bible speaks for itself to the human heart; it is not my role as a preacher to try to tailor the message. That’s why I preach my way through entire books of the Bible, dealing carefully with each verse and phrase-even though that occasionally means spending time in passages that don’t readily lend themselves to anecdotal or motivational messages.

I am grateful to the Lord for the way He has used this expository approach in our church and in the lives of our radio listeners.

But now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.

Practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.

Too many Christians view doctrine as heady and theoretical. They have dismissed doctrinal passages as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical. A best-selling Christian book I just read warns readers to be on guard against preachers whose emphasis is on interpreting Scripture rather than applying it.

Wait a minute. Is that wise counsel? No it is not.

There is no danger of irrelevant doctrine; the real threat is an undoctrinal attempt at relevance. Application not based on solid interpretation has led Christians into all kinds of confusion.

No discipline is more sorely needed in the contemporary church than expositional biblical teaching. Too many have bought the lie that doctrine is something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily life.

It is in vogue to substitute psychology and spoon-fed application for doctrinal substance, while demeaning theological and expositional ministry.

But the pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they’re not attached to divine principles. There’s no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God’s Word.

There are only three options: We teach truth, error, or nothing at all.

Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.

Romans provides the clearest biblical example. Paul didn’t give any exhortation until he had given eleven chapters of theology.

He scaled incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Then in chapter 12, he turned immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian’s responsibility to the truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. There, building on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship-giving oneself as a living sacrifice. Doctrine gives rise to dedication to Christ, the greatest practical act. And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain the many practical outworkings of one’s dedication to Christ.

Paul followed the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message came first. Upon that foundation he built the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:1) or then (Col. 3:1; 1 Thess. 4:1).

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

No believer can apply truth he doesn’t know. Those who don’t understand what the Bible really says about marriage, divorce, family, child-rearing, discipline, money, debt, work, service to Christ, eternal rewards, helping the poor, caring for widows, respecting government, and other teachings won’t be able to apply it.

Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about salvation cannot be saved. Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about holiness are incapable of dealing with sin. Thus they are unable to live fully to their own blessedness and God’s glory.

The nucleus of all that is truly practical is sown up in the teaching of Scripture. We don’t make the Bible relevant; it is inherently so, simply because it is God’s Word. And after all, how can anything God says be irrelevant?
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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Kevin DeYoung: On A Secret to Calvin’s Success (and Ours)

Yesterday, Kevin DeYoung posted this helpful article on hard work,

“A couple weeks ago I urged churches to give their pastors adequate vacation time. Not at all opposed to that piece of advice, I now want to urge pastors (and everybody else for that matter) to work extremely hard. Both are true: God wired us for rest and he made us to work…(continue reading)

Spiritual Depression: Why You Need Christ…Not Resolutions — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ’. That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say:

I rest my faith on Him alone
Who died for my transgressions to atone.”
(Spiritual Depression: Its Causes And Cure, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, p.35)