“Secrets of Contentment, Part 1” by John MacArthur

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John MacArthur,

In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul said, “I have learned to be content .. . I have learned the secret.” Here he useda Greek term pregnant with meaning—an allusion to the mystery religions of Greece. Initiation into those pagan cults involved becoming privy to certain religious secrets. Paul became privy to the secret of contentment, and it’s one he passed on to all who have been initiated by faith in Jesus Christ. Over the next few days we will consider several secrets to contentment, coming out of Philippians 4.

1. Confidence in God’s Providence

Paul said, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that . . . you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity” (v. 10). Let me give you some background. About ten years had passed since Paul was last in Philippi. Acts 16 relates what happened during his first visit.

Paul and his traveling companions met a businesswoman named Lydia and preached the Gospel to her and her companions. Their conversion resulted in the formation of a church. During the early days of that church, Paul cast out a spirit of divination from a slave girl. The girl’s owners—livid over the loss of the income they had derived from her fortune-telling abilities—had Paul flogged, thrown into prison, and locked in stocks. Instead of complaining about the miserable situation in which he found himself, he praised God through thankful prayer and song far into the night.

God responded in an amazing way: He shook the foundations of the prison so violently that all its doors opened wide and the chains fell off the prisoners’ feet and wrists. That incredible experience, plus Paul’s incredible response to his dismal circumstances, led to the salvation of the jailer—and the jailer’s entire household. As the church at Philippi grew, it’s apparent they helped fund Paul for further missionary outreach.

Our text in Philippians makes it clear, however, that it had been awhile since they last were able to help support him in that endeavor. But that was fine with Paul. He knew it wasn’t that they lacked concern, but that they lacked “opportunity” (Gk., kairos). That’s a reference to a season or window of opportunity, not to chronological time.

In writing, “You have revived your concern for me,” Paul was using a horticultural term that means “to bloom again.” That’s like saying, “Your love has flowered again. I know it has always been there, but it just didn’t have an opportunity to bloom. Blooms are seasonal, and the right season hadn’t come along until now.”

The point is that Paul had a patient confidence in God’s sovereign providence. He was content to do without and wait on the Lord’s timing. He didn’t resort to panic or manipulation of others. Those things are never called for. Paul was certain that in due time God would order the circumstances so that his needs would be met. We can have that same certainty today.

Until we truly learn that God is sovereign, ordering everything for His own holy purposes and the ultimate good of those who love Him, we can’t help but be discontent. That’s because in taking on the responsibility of ordering our lives, we will be frustrated in repeatedly discovering that we can’t control everything. Everything already is under control, however, by Someone far greater than you or I.

A synonym for God’s providence is divine provision, but that’s a skimpy label for a complex theological reality. Providence is how God orchestrates everything to accomplish His purposes. Let me show you what that means by contrast.

There are two ways God can act in the world: by miracle and by providence. A miracle has no natural explanation. In the flow of normal life, God suddenly stems the tide and injects a miracle. Then He sets the flow back in motion, just like parting the Red Sea until His people could walk across and closing it up again. Do you think it would be easier to do that—to say, “Hold it, I want to do this miracle” and do it—or to say, “Let’s see, I’ve got 50 billion circumstances to orchestrate to accomplish this one thing”? The latter is providence. Think, for example, of how God providentially ordered the lives of Joseph, Ruth, and Esther. Today He does the same for us.

Contentment comes from learning that God is sovereign not only by supernatural intervention, but also by natural orchestration. And what an incredible orchestra it is! Appreciate the complexity of what God is doing every moment just to keep us alive. When we look at things from that perspective, we see what folly it is to think we can control our lives. When we give up that vain pursuit, we give up a major source of anxiety.

Paul was content because he had confidence in the providence of God. That confidence, however, never led him to a fatalistic “It doesn’t matter what I do” attitude. The example of Paul’s life throughout the New Testament is this: Work as hard as you can and be content that God is in control of the results.

This article originally appeared here at Grace to You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.

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“There Must Be Knowledge of God Before There Can Be Love to God” — Charles Spurgeon

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Charles Spurgeon

Certainly, the benefit of reading must come to the soul by the way of the understanding. When the high priest went into the holy place he always lit the golden candlestick before he kindled the incense upon the brazen altar, as if to show that the mind must have illumination before the affections can properly rise towards their divine object. There must be knowledge of God before there can be love to God: there must be a knowledge of divine things, as they are revealed, before there can be an enjoyment of them. We must try to make out, as far as our finite mind can grasp it, what God means by this and what he means by that; otherwise we may kiss the book (ie: the Bible) and have no love to its contents, we may reverence the letter and yet really have no devotion towards the Lord who speaks to us in these words. Beloved, you will never get comfort to your soul out of what you do not understand, nor find guidance for your life out of what you do not comprehend; nor can any practical bearing upon your character come out of that which is not understood by you.

(excerpted from: How to Read the Bible, Sermon No. 1503, delivered by C. H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle)

(HT: ND)

SELF – Octavius Winslow

“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” — Psalm 131:2

Other writings by the same author


Octavius Winslow,

The first object from which our heavenly Father weans His child is from SELF. Of all idols, this he finds hardest to abandon.
Idolatry of SELF has been the great and universal crime of our race!

In the soul of the regenerate, divine grace has done much to dethrone this idol, and reinstate God. The work, however, is but
partially accomplished. The dishonored and rejected rival is loath to relinquish his throne, and yield to the supreme control and sway of another. There is still much yet to be achieved before this still indwelling and unconquered foe lays down his weapons in entire subjection to the will and authority of that Savior whose throne and right He has usurped.

Much self love, self esteem, self confidence and self seeking remain in the saved person’s heart. From all of this SELF, our Father seeks to wean us. He would wean us…..

from our own wisdom, which is but folly;
from our own strength, which is but weakness;
from our own wills, which are often as an uncurbed steed;
from our own ways, which are crooked;
from our own hearts, which are deceitful;
from our own judgments, which are dark; and
from our own ends, which are narrow and selfish.

(from “The Weaned Child” by Octavius Winslow)

[View original article at Grace Gems]

“Saving Faith is Always Evidenced by a Humble Heart” — A.W. Pink

Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)


A.W. Pink,

Saving faith is always evidenced by an humble heart. Faith lays the soul low, for it discovers its own vileness, emptiness, impotency. It realizes its former sinfulness, and present unworthiness. It is conscious of its weaknesses and wants, its carnality and corruptions. Nothing more exalts Christ than faith, and nothing more debases a man. In order to magnify the riches of His grace, God has selected faith as the fittest instrument, and this, because it is that which causes us to go entirely out from ourselves unto Him. Faith, realizing we have nothing but sin and wretchedness, comes unto Christ as an empty-handed beggar, to receive all from Him. Faith empties a man of self-conceit, self-confidence, and self-righteousness, and makes him seem nothing, that Christ may be all in all. The strongest faith is always accompanied by the greatest humility, accounting self the greatest of sinners and unworthy of the least favor (see Matthew 8:8- 10). (excerpted from: Studies on Saving Faith, A.W. Pink)

See also:

A Call To Humility: How Pride Keeps You From Christ — J.C. Ryle
The Humbling Doctrine of God’s Absolute Sovereignty — A.W. Pink
J.C. Ryle: On The Dangerous Delusion of Sinless Perfectionism
“Assurance and Humility” by A. A. Hodge

“Humility” by William Romaine (1714-1795)

“Grow Up: Advice for YRRs” (Young, Restless and Reformed) (part 2) by John MacArthur

Dr. John F. MacArthur


John MacArthur,

If I could impress on Young, Restless, Reformed students just one word of friendly counsel to address what I think is the most glaring deficiency in that movement, this is what it would be: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I’m very glad the ranks of YRRs are growing numerically. Many good things about that movement are full of promise and potential. In order to fulfill that potential, however, this generation of Reformers desperately needs to move past the young-and-restless stage. Immaturity and unrest are hindrances to spiritual fruitfulness, not virtues.

When Paul told Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12), he wasn’t suggesting that Timothy should forbid people in the church to disapprove if the pastor were to display immaturity, juvenile misbehavior, youthful indiscretion, or other traits of callow character.

Much less was the apostle suggesting that Timothy should cater exclusively to young people while purposely marginalizing the elderly. That, I’m sorry to say, is the kind of advice we sometimes hear nowadays from many self-styled church-growth
experts
….[continue reading at Grace To You]

“Humility” by William Romaine (1714-1795)

William Romaine (1714-1795)


William Romaine,

Observe O my soul what an honor God has put upon this grace, “Before honor—is humility” (Proverbs 15:33)! Whom God honors—He first humbles. He gives grace to the humble, because the humble give Him all the glory. The highest throne which He has upon earth—is in the humblest heart. To it He vouchsafes His constant presence and makes the greatest communications of His love, “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy—I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

O what an honor is here promised to the humble! The greatest they can have on this side of Heaven. God will dwell with them—what a blessing! And His temple shall be in the humble heart. The high and holy One passes by what is in the highest esteem among men. He stains the pride of human greatness and goodness. He does not vouchsafe to set up His throne with the princes, nor to give His honor to the learned of the world. But He puts honor upon the contrite and humble. He condescends to visit them; yes, He delights to dwell with them, and in them—the Highest above all heavens—in the lowest and humblest hearts. There He communicates His choicest love and richest favors.

O my God! bestow upon me this grace, which in Your sight is so precious. Humble me, that I may be revived with Your presence, and refreshed daily with Your love. Give me more humility, and fit me for nearer fellowship with You. Bring down every proud thought, and let me find it true, that You resist the proud—but give more grace unto the humble.

True poverty of spirit is needful, not only to bring the sinner to Christ—but also to preserve the believer in communion with Him; for so long as he walks by faith, everything will tend to promote this communion. In the daily sense of his needs, he will go to his bountiful Savior for a supply. In the feeling of his misery, He will depend on his loving Savior for relief; whereby he will be led to more fellowship with Him. What he finds wrong in himself—will bring him to live more by faith, and as faith increases, so will his delight in God. He will grow more sensible of his weakness—and that will make him stronger in the Lord. He will know more of his own heart—which will humble him, and keep him dependent on the grace of Jesus. He will see reason not to lean to his own understanding—but ever to pray, Lord guide me by Your Spirit.

Viewing spots and blemishes in his best doings, his triumph will be, “I will make mention of Your righteousness, Lord Jesus, even of Yours alone” (Psalm 71:16). Thus everything will humble him, and lead him to live more by faith—by which means he will get faster hold of Christ, live in nearer fellowship, and be receiving out of his fullness “grace for grace”. He will have two graces at once—the blessings needed and thankfulness for them. Hereby a sweet fellowship will be kept open.

To the humble, God delights to give grace—and they delight to return Him His glory. The more grace He gives—the more glory they gladly return. And He does give more grace, and He receives it back again in thanks and praise. Blessed grace! by which this holy fellowship is maintained. Happy humility! by which the heart, being emptied of self, is made capable of receiving the fullness which is of God.

Then is the promise fulfilled, “Blessed are the poor in spirit—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). It is theirs now—not only in title—but also in possession, for the kingdom of God is within them and they are partakers at present of its blessings and glories as truly, though not so perfectly, as they will be in Heaven.

Meditate, O my soul, upon this Divine grace. You see the necessity of it—O pray earnestly for it, and for more of it. The great idol SELF must be dethroned where God reigns. You can not walk with Him—unless you are humble in heart. And if you have been walking with Him, you will be taught to stop, whenever you begin to look at SELF with admiration. O beg of the Lord, then, to give you the true Gospel poverty of spirit. It is to be in constant practice, and used for everything; for you see how it keeps up fellowship with God, who makes the greatest communications of Himself to His humblest child. And the reason is plain; because they return Him all His glory. If therefore you would have much grace in exercise—pray for much humility.

O my God! whatever You give, give humility with it, that I may not seek SELF in it—but Your honor, nor lay it out upon myself—but to Your glory. Meek and lowly Jesus, make me like Yourself; keep me learning of You—until I am perfectly like You. I would come always poor to You—to receive of Your riches, and to receive with them a humble heart to praise You for them. O let Your glory be my end and aim. May I be humbled—and You exalted. Let Your graces and gifts bring You in a constant revenue of praise. And may Your increasing goodness—be joined with a constant increase of my humility, that my heart may bless and praise Your holy name, today and forever. Amen.

And let this appear in my whole behavior to others. This is another blessed fruit of humility—it has an influence over the believer’s fellowship with mankind, and renders his tempers and manners loving and amiable. Pride was not made for man, and yet it is in all men, and is the chief parent of human woe. It sets people above their place, and makes them think they could support the greatest fortunes, and are able to manage the most difficult affairs. Others, as proud as they, deny them their fancied superiority. Hence come wars and fightings, public and private.

The sweet grace of humility is sent from Heaven to relieve those distresses; for into whatever bosom it enters, it renders men kind to one another, tender-hearted, ready to perform every good word and work. Thus runs the Divine exhortation, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). This is heart-humility, which the Holy Spirit requires, and which He bestows. He brings His disciples into humble subjection to God, then to one another; this has the most happy effects upon public, social, and private happiness. These would greatly flourish, if all men were of a meek and quiet spirit! But there is none of this among the unconverted; and, alas, how little is there among believers! How often are they found in the proud spirit of the world! acting contrary to the humble spirit of Jesus.

And yet it is not for lack of precepts, nor for lack of promised help; but it is because they are not walking by faith, as befits the Gospel; nor out of love to God’s glory, studying to recommend humility by their practice.

Observe, O my soul, the remedy provided of God for the subduing of all selfish tempers, and pray that it may be effectual in your heart and life. Do you think that the Scripture, says in vain, “The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy. But He gives more grace. That is why Scripture says, God resists the proud—but gives grace unto the humble” (James 4:5, 6). This Scripture cannot speak in vain; for fallen man is certainly such as he is here described. The spirit that dwells in him, in his own nature, lusts to envy—a passion made up of pride and discontent, offended with God, and displeased with the blessings which He bestows upon men. Envy is an enemy to the love both of God and man, and transgresses the Law of both tables. Pride brought it into Heaven, and the fallen angels brought it into this world. Ever since it entered by sin, natural corruption breaks out very much in envy. But God gives more grace to conquer this passion, than sinful nature has to put it forth. He not only gives grace to pardon it—but also more grace to subdue it; so that envy loses its dominion in the reign of grace. We cannot subdue it, any more than we can pardon envy, pride, and such passions; but grace is almighty. He gives more grace, when the creature is humbled enough to take it out of the hands of His mercy. Thus he overcomes envy; “for He resists the proud” —He is at open war with them, and they with Him.

Pride lifts up the creature against the Creator, and puts it upon seeking happiness outside of God; this is resisting His sovereignty, attacking His providence, and opposing His Law. God is concerned to pull such rebels down, and He says their pride goes before destruction.

But “He gives grace unto the humble”—He gives them grace to humble them, and being emptied, He delights to fill them; for then they are disposed to receive His grace and to value it. Whatever God gives, the humble gives it back again to Him. They have the blessing—He has the praise—which is the just tribute due to Him for His gifts.

And He gives more grace—where He can get more glory. Thus He subdues self-conceit, with its various proud workings. And as grace reigns over them, humility prevails; which has a friendly aspect towards mankind. It keeps brotherly love in the heart, and tends mightily to the practice of every social virtue. Humility is patient and kind. Humility is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Humility does not demand its own way. Humility is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.

— William Romaine, 1770

(Article credit: Grace Gems)

Passionately Pursuing Holiness in the Christian Life — J.C. Ryle

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” — Revelation 3:22

Click to view at WTS Books


J.C. Ryle,

Of all sights in the Church of Christ, I know none more painful to my own eyes than a Christian contented and satisfied with a little grace, a little repentance, a little faith, a little knowledge, a little charity, and a little holiness. I do beseech and entreat every believing soul that reads this tract not to be that kind of man. If you have any desires after usefulness—if you have any wishes to promote your Lord’s glory—if you have any longings after much inward peace—be not content with a little religion.

Let us rather seek, every year we live, to make more spiritual progress than we have done—to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus—to grow in humility and self-acquaintance—to grow in spirituality and heavenly-mindedness—to grow in conformity to the image of our Lord.

Let us beware of leaving our first love like Ephesus—of becoming lukewarm like Laodicea—of tolerating false practices like Pergamos—of tampering with false doctrine like Thyatira—of becoming half dead, ready to die, like Sardis.

Let us rather covet the best gifts. Let us aim at eminent holiness. Let us endeavour to be like Smyrna and Philadelphia. Let us hold fast what we have already, and continually seek to have more. Let us labour to be unmistakable Christians. Let it not be our distinctive character that we are men of science—or men of literary attainments—or men of the world—or men of pleasure, or men of business—but “men of God.” Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives—to follow Christ our grand object in time present—to be with Christ our grand
desire in time to come.

Let us live in this way, and we shall be happy. Let us live in this way, and we shall do good to the world. Let us live in this way, and we shall leave good evidence behind us when we are buried. Let us live in this way, and the Spirit’s word to the Churches will not have been spoken to us in vain. (excerpted from: Chapter XIV: Visible Churches Warned in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)

“Assurance and Humility” by A. A. Hodge

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A.A. Hodge,

I think the first essential mark of the difference between true and false assurance is to be found in the fact that the true works humility. There is nothing in the world that works such satanic, profound, God-defiant pride as false assurance; nothing works such utter humility, or brings to such utter self-emptiness, as the child-like spirit of true assurance. Surely this can be known. If a person is self-confident, there is self-assurance; if there is any evidence of pride in connection with his claim, it is a most deadly mark- it is the plague-spot which marks death and corruption. But if there is utter humility, you have the sign of the true spirit.

This will manifest itself in connection with another mark. If one is really united to Christ in a union so established that Christ is indeed in possession of the soul, the whole consciousness will be taken up with what I would call Christ-consciousness, and there will be no self-consciousness. Little children are very prompt to show their character. There is a great difference in them. Bring a child into a room. She comes thinking about nothing in particular, looking at her mother, then looking at the guests or anything that objectively strikes her, not thinking of herself. That is pure, sweet, and lovely. She grows older, and she comes to think of herself and what people think of her, and her manner has lost its unconsciousness. A great deal of what you call bashfulness is rottenness at the heart; it is self-consciousness. Nothing in the world so tends to defile the imagination, to pervert the affections, and to corrupt the morals, as self-consciousness. You know it is connected with every diseased and morbid action of the body.

A young woman told me that she wanted the witness of the Spirit, and she talked about it everlastingly; she wanted to tell her own experience and feelings always. I told her she must forget herself, not think of her own feelings. The man who is talking about his love unceasingly has no love; the man who is talking about his faith unceasingly has no faith: the two things cannot go together. When you love, what are you thinking about? Are you not thinking about the object of your love? And when you believe, what are you thinking about? Why, the object that you believe. Suppose you ask yourself, ‘Am I believing?’ Why, of course you are not believing when you are thinking of believing. No human being believes except when he thinks about Christ. Am I loving? Of course I am not loving when I am thinking about loving. No human being loves except when he is thinking about Christ as the object of his love.

In Virginia I once saw one human being in whom there was the perfect work of grace, as far as I could see as her pastor…Even on earth she was one of those who had made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb, and she seemed always to walk upon the verge of heaven. I never heard her speak of any one particular of her character or of her own graces. I have come out of the pulpit when the congregation had gone, and have found her upon her knees in her pew, absolutely unconscious of all external objects, so far was she absorbed in worship. When I roused her from her trance, she cried instantly, ‘Is He not holy? Is He not glorious? Is He not beautiful? is He not infinite?’ She did not speak of her own love or of her feelings.

A great deal of Perfectionism is rotten to the core. All self-consciousness is of the very essence and nature of sin. Then, again, true confidence leads necessarily to strong desires for more knowledge and more holiness, for unceasing advances of grace.

I was told once, in a congregation where I preached, that I need not tell a certain young man anything about religion; he had finished it – that is, that, having finished it, he found nothing else to do. That is what the word ‘perfect’ means. Now, when a man has finished eternal life, when he has finished learning all the revelation of God, when he has experienced all the infinite benefits of Christ’s redemption, when he has finished all the mysterious work of the Holy Ghost in his heart, he ought to be annihilated. There is no place in heaven or on earth for such a man.

But a man who really has the love of God in his heart is always reaching forward to the things which are before. The more he loves, the more he wants to love; the more he is consecrated, the more consecration he longs for. He has grand ideas and grand aims, but they lie beyond him in heaven.

A.A. Hodge (1823-1886) was an American Reformed Presbyterian theologian who, like his father the eminent Charles Hodge, both served as a professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey as well as serving as its principal between 1878 and 1886.

(Article credit: Grace Online Library)

The Indignity of Doubt (Charles Spurgeon)

This is from the 13 June 2011 Dose of Spurgeon by Phil Johnson at the Pyromaniacs blog,

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)


Charles Spurgeon,

Doubt not the Lord, O Christian; for in so doing thou dost lower thyself. The more thou believest, the greater thou art; but the more thou doubtest, the less thou becomest.

It was said of the world’s conqueror, that when he was sick, he puled [whined weakly] like a child. “Give me some drink,” cried one, like a sick girl, it was said to his dishonor. And is it not to the dishonor of a Christian, who lives in secret on his God, and professes to trust alone in him, that he cannot trust him; that a little child will overcome his faith?

Oh, poor cockle-shell boat, that is upset by a rain-drop! O poor puny Christian that is overcome by every straw, that stumbles at every stone!

Then, Christian men, behave like men! It is childish to doubt; it is manhood’s glory to trust. Plant your foot upon the immoveable Rock of Ages; lift your eye to heaven; scorn the world; never play craven; bend your fist in the world’s face, and bid defiance to it and hell, and you are a man, and noble. But crouch and cringe, and dread, and doubt, and you have lost your Christian dignity, and are no longer what you should be. You do not honor God.

“Fear not, thou worm Jacob; I will help thee, saith the LORD.” Then why shouldst thou fear?

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The Necessity of Holy Living in the Christian Life — Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge (1797-1878)


Charles Hodge,

We know…that holiness is the end of redemption. Christ gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and that it should be holy and without blemish. He died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God. The object of redemption is not attained in the case of those who remain in sin; in other words, they are not redeemed. It is, therefore, to subvert the whole gospel, and to make the death of Christ of none effect, to suppose that redemption and continuance in sin are compatible. The whole design and purpose of the mission and sufferings of the Savior would be frustrated if his people were not made partakers of his holiness; for the glory of God is promoted in them and by them only so far as they are made holy, and the recompense of the Redeemer is his bringing his people into conformity to his own image, that he may be the first-born among many brethren. Every child of God feels that the charm and glory of redemption is deliverance from sin, and conformity to God. This is the crown of righteousness, the prize of the high calling of God, the exaltation and blessedness for which he longs, and suffers, and prays. To tell him that he may be saved without being made holy, is to confound all his ideas of salvation, and to crush all his hopes. The nature of salvation, the character of God, the declarations of his word, the design of redemption, all concur to prove that holiness is absolutely and indispensably necessary, so that whatever we may be, or whatever we may have, if we are not holy, we are not the children of God, nor the heirs of his kingdom. (excerpted from Holy Living, Charles Hodge)

Biographical Information:

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) was a Presbyterian minister, theologian, and a seminary professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he taught for most of his life. A man of God and staunchly orthodox, Hodge taught in the areas of Oriental and Biblical literature, exegetical, didactic and polemic theology, et. al. He was also Princeton’s principal from 1851–1878.

Sound Doctrine Foundational to Sound Living — R.C. Sproul


R.C. Sproul,

God…commands us to progress in doctrinal understanding. Let us follow the apostle Paul’s exhortation to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11) so that we might press forward to the goal of Christian understanding. In evil we are to be babes, but in understanding we seek mature adulthood (1 Corinthians 14:20). We don’t do this to become arrogant in our knowledge, but that we might grow in grace. Mature understanding is the foundation for mature living.

Growing in the knowledge of God is a great joy and privilege. It is a matter of delight for us. Yet it is more than a privilege; it is also a duty. God commands us to grow up into the fullness of Christ. Consider the Shema of Old Testament Israel:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

At the heart of this sacred command is the solemn duty of learning the law of God, of mastering His revelation. It is by no means a casual or cavalier enterprise. To master God’s Word is to be deeply immersed in the study of theology. . . .

. . . .It is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology. In this sense, theology must never be viewed as an abstract science. It is a matter of life and death, even eternal life and eternal death.

R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1992), introduction, xx–xxi

Humility: The Queen of the Christian Graces — J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


Sobering and convicting words from J.C. Ryle,

Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ, is the very beginning of saving religion. It is a grace which has always been the distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham, and Moses, and Job, and David, and Daniel, and Paul, were all eminently humble men. Above all, it is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All have not money to give away. All have not time and opportunities for working directly for Christ. All have not gifts of speech, and tact, and knowledge, in order to do good in the world. But all converted men should labor to adorn the doctrine they profess by humility. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.

Would we know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge. The man who really knows himself and his own heart–who knows God and His infinite majesty and holiness–who knows Christ, and the price at which he was redeemed–that man will never be a proud man. He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, “I am vile.” He will cry, like Paul, “I am chief of sinners.” (Genes. 32:10; Job 40:4; 1 Tim. 1:15.) He will think anything good enough for him. In lowliness of mind be will esteem every one else to be better than himself. (Philip. 2:3.) Ignorance–nothing but sheer ignorance–ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ, is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance may we daily pray to be delivered! He is the wise man who knows himself–and he who knows himself, will find nothing within to make him proud. (via: Grace Gems)

J.C. Ryle on the Unbiblical Teaching of “Second Blessing” Christian Perfectionism

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


J.C. Ryle,

That there is a vast difference between one degree of grace and another–that spiritual life admits of growth, and that believers should be continually urged on every account to grow in grace–all this I fully concede. But the theory of a sudden, mysterious transition of a believer into a state of blessedness and entire consecration, at one mighty bound, I cannot receive. It appears to me to be a man made invention; and I do not see a single plain text to prove it in Scripture. Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness–all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God! More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases; but if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means. Are not men in danger of undervaluing and underrating the immense blessedness of conversion? Are they not, when they urge on believers the “higher life” as a second conversion, underrating the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, of that great first change which Scripture calls the new birth, the new creation, the spiritual resurrection? I may be mistaken. But I have sometimes thought, while reading the strong language used by many about “consecration,” in the last few years, that those who use it must have had previously a singularly low and inadequate view of “conversion,” if indeed they knew anything about conversion at all. In short, I have almost suspected that when they were consecrated, they were in reality converted for the first time!

I frankly confess I prefer the old paths. I think it wiser and safer to press on all converted people the possibility of continual growth in grace, and the absolute necessity of going forward, increasing more and more, and in every year dedicating and consecrating themselves more, in spirit, soul, and body to Christ. By all means let us teach that there is more holiness to be attained, and more of heaven to be enjoyed upon earth then most believers now experience. But I decline to tell any converted man that he needs a second conversion, and that he may some day or other pass by one enormous step into a state of entire consecration. I decline to teach it, because I think the tendency of the doctrine is thoroughly mischievous, depressing the humble-minded and meek, and puffing up the shallow, the ignorant, and the self-conceited, to a most dangerous extent. (from: Introduction to Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)

“The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom” — A.W. Pink

Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)


A.W. Pink,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7). Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty, that has had a vision of God’s awful greatness, His ineffable holiness, His perfect righteousness, His irresistible power, His sovereign grace. Does someone say, “But it is only the unsaved, those outside of Christ, who need to fear God”? Then the sufficient answer is that the saved, those who are in Christ, are admonished to work out their own salvation with “fear and trembling.” Time was when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as a “God-fearing man.” That such an appellation has become nearly extinct only serves to show whither we have drifted. Nevertheless, it still stands written, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him” (Psalm 103:13).

When we speak of godly fear, of course we do not mean a servile fear, such as prevails among the heathen in connection with their gods. No, we mean that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, “To this man will I (the Lord) look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2). It was this the apostle had in view when he wrote, “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (I Pet: 2:17). And nothing will foster this godly fear like a recognition of the Sovereign Majesty of God. (via: Arthur Walkington Pink Archive)

Religious Excitement or the Real Fruit of the Spirit? — J.C. Ryle


J.C. Ryle,

It is easy to get crowds together for what are called “higher life” and “consecration” meetings. Anyone knows that, who has watched human nature and read descriptions of American camp–meetings and studied the curious phenomena of the “religious affections.” Sensational and exciting addresses by strange preachers or by women, loud singing, hot rooms, crowded tents, the constant sight of strong semi–religious feeling in the faces of all around you for several days, late hours, long protracted meetings, public profession of experience—all this kind of thing is very interesting at the time and seems to do good. But is the good real, deeply–rooted, solid, lasting? That is the point. And I should like to ask a few questions about it.

Do those who attend these meetings become more holy, meek, unselfish, kind, good–tempered, self–denying and Christ–like at home? Do they become more content with their position in life, and more free from restless craving after something different from that which God has given them? Do fathers, mothers, husbands and other relatives and friends find them more pleasant and easy to live with? Can they enjoy a quiet Sunday and quiet means of grace without noise, heat and excitement? Above all, do they grow in charity, and especially in charity towards those who do not agree with them in every jot and tittle of their religion?

These are serious and searching questions and deserve serious consideration. I hope I am as anxious to promote real practical holiness in the land as anyone. I admire and willingly acknowledge the zeal and earnestness of many with whom I cannot cooperate who are trying to promote it. But I cannot withhold a growing suspicion that the great “mass–meetings” of the present day, for the ostensible object of promoting spiritual life, do not tend to promote private home religion, private Bible reading, private prayer, private usefulness and private walking with God. If they are of any real value, they ought to make people better husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and masters and mistresses and servants. But I should like to have clear proofs that they do. I only know it is far easier to be a Christian among singing, praying, sympathizing Christians in a public room, than to be a consistent Christian in a quiet, retired, out–of–the–way, uncongenial home. The first position is one in which there is a deal of nature to help us: the second is one which cannot be well filled without grace. But, alas, many talk nowadays about “consecration,” who seem to be ignorant of the “first principles of the oracles of God” about “conversion.” (from: Extract from Ryle’s Preface to the 1879 Enlarged Edition of Holiness in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle, An Appreciation by J.I. Packer, pp.91-92)

Renewing the Mind by Meditating on God’s Word — Dr. Richard Mayhue


Dr. Mayhue,

To hear something once for most people is not enough. To briefly ponder something profound does not allow enough time to grasp and fully understand its significance. This proves to be most true with God’s mind in Scripture. Psalm 119 testifies to the importance and blessing of lingering long over God’s Word.

The idea of meditating sometimes lends itself to misunderstanding. Meditation involves prolonged thought or pondering. The American figure of speech for meditating is “to chew” on a thought. Some have likened it to the rumination process of the cow’s four stomach digestive system.

The most vivid picture comes from a coffee percolator. The water goes up a small tube and drains down through the coffee grounds. After enough cycles, the flavor of the coffee beans has has transfered to the water, which is then called coffee. So it is that Christians need to cycle their thoughts through the grounds of God’s Word until they start to think like God and then act godly.

Scripture commands that believers meditate in three areas:
1. God Ps 27:4; 63:6
2. God’s Word Josh 1:8; Ps 1:2
3. God’s works Ps 143:5; 145:5

All 176 verses of Psalm 119 extol the virtue of knowing and living out the mind of God. Meditation is mentioned at least seven times as the habit of one who loves God and desires closer intimacy with Him: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day….My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (vv. 97, 148; see also vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 99).

Meditating on God’s Word will cleanse away the old thoughts that are not of God because meditation places and reinforces new thoughts from Scripture. Also, it puts a protective shield around the mind to block and reject incoming thoughts that contradict God. That is the Scriptural process of renewing the mind. A part of Eve’s fall can be attributed to her failure to adequately meditate upon God’s clear and sufficient Word (Gen 2:16-17).

Taken from Think Biblically: Recovering a Christian Worldview by John MacArthur (general editor) et.al., © 2003, pp. 49-50. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Dr. Richard L. Mayhue is Executive Vice President and Dean of The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California, and serves there also as a professor of both theology and pastoral ministry (read full biography at The Master’s Seminary homepage).