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]

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Following Christ Will Not Prevent Our Having Earthly Sorrows and Troubles — J.C. Ryle

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?'” — Mark 4:37-40

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


J.C. Ryle,

Here are the chosen disciples of the Lord Jesus in great anxiety. The faithful little flock, which believed when priests and scribes and Pharisees were all alike unbelieving, is allowed by the Shepherd to be much disturbed. The fear of death breaks in upon them like an armed man. The deep water seems likely to go over their souls. Peter, James and John, the pillars of the Church about to be planted in the world, are much distressed.

Perhaps they had not reckoned on all this. Perhaps they had expected that Christ’s service would at any rate lift them above the reach of earthly trials. Perhaps they thought that He, who could raise the dead and heal the sick and feed multitudes with a few loaves and cast out devils with a word, He would never allow His servants to be sufferers upon earth. Perhaps they had supposed He would always grant them smooth journeys, fine weather, an easy course and freedom from trouble and care.

If the disciples thought so, they were much mistaken. The Lord Jesus taught them that a man may be one of His chosen servants, and yet have to go through many an anxiety, and endure many a pain.

It is good to understand this clearly. It is good to understand that Christ’s service never did secure a man from all the ills that flesh is heir to, and never will. If you are a believer, you must reckon on having your share of sickness and pain, of sorrow and tears, of losses and crosses, of deaths and bereavements, of partings and separations, of vexations and disappointments, so long as you are in the body. Christ never undertakes that you shall get to heaven without these. He has undertaken that all who come to Him shall have all things pertaining to life and godliness; but He has never undertaken that He will make them prosperous, or rich, or healthy, and that death and sorrow shall never come to their family.

I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors. In His name I can offer eternal life to any man, woman or child who is willing to have it. In His name I do offer pardon, peace, grace, glory, to any son or daughter of Adam who reads this message. But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as part and parcel of the Gospel. I dare not offer him long life, an increased income and freedom from pain. I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ that in following Him he shall never meet with a storm.

I know well that many do not like these terms. They would prefer having Christ and good health, Christ and plenty of money, Christ and no deaths in their family, Christ and no wearing cares, Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds. But they do not like Christ and the cross, Christ and tribulation, Christ and the conflict, Christ and the howling wind, Christ and the storm.

Is this the secret thought of anyone who is reading this message? Believe me, if it is, you are very wrong. Listen to me, and I will try to show you have yet much to learn.

How should you know who are true Christians, if following Christ was the way to be free from trouble? How should we discern the wheat from the chaff, if it were not for the winnowing of trial? How should we know whether men served Christ for His own sake or from selfish motives, if His service brought health and wealth with it as a matter of course? The winds of winter soon show us which of the trees are evergreen and which are not. The storms of affliction and care are useful in the same way. They discover whose faith is real and whose is nothing but profession and form. (excerpted from: The Ruler of the Waves in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)

A Call To Humility: How Pride Keeps You From Christ — J.C. Ryle

“At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight…” — Matthew 11:25-26

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


J.C. Ryle,

It is not for us to attempt to explain why some receive and believe the Gospel, while others do not. The sovereignty of God in this matter is a deep mystery–we cannot fathom it. But one thing, at all events, stands out in Scripture, as a great practical truth to be had in everlasting remembrance. Those from whom the Gospel is hidden are generally “the wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.” Those to whom the Gospel is revealed are generally humble, simpleminded, and willing to learn. The words of the Virgin Mary are continually being fulfilled, “He has filled the hungry with good things. He has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:53.)

Let us watch against PRIDE in every shape–pride of intellect, pride of wealth, pride in our own goodness, pride in our own deserts. Nothing is so likely to keep a man out of heaven, and prevent him seeing Christ, as pride. So long as we think we are something, we shall never be saved. Let us pray for and cultivate humility. Let us seek to know ourselves aright, and to find out our place in the sight of a holy God. The beginning of the way to heaven, is to feel that we are in the way to hell, and to be willing to be taught of the Spirit. One of the first steps in saving Christianity is to be able to say with Saul, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) There is hardly a sentence of our Lord’s so frequently repeated as this, “He who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14.) (excerpted from commentary on Matthew 11:25-30, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, J.C. Ryle, 1856)

“Approaching Life From A Divine Perspective” — John MacArthur

“Approaching Life From A Divine Perspective”

John MacArthur

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” Ephesians 4:1

To mature in our faith, we must learn to see things from God’s perspective.

Paul was a prisoner of Rome. why then did he call himself “the prisoner of the Lord”? Because he had the ability to see everything in terms of how it affected Christ. No matter what happened in his life, he saw it in relationship to God. His questions were, “What does this mean, God?” and “How does this affect You?”

When a problem comes in life, we are prone to say, “Oh, woe is me!” and wonder how it will affect us: Will it cause me pain? Will it cost me money? Too often we think only on the earthly level. But like Paul, we should think on a heavenly level: What is God trying to teach me? How can I glorify Him in this? In fact, a good definition of Christian maturity is: automatically seeing things in light of the divine perspective.

This perspective, this God-consciousness, is the only right way for Christians to live. David said, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely” (Ps.16:8-9). Because David was always aware of God’s presence, he found joy and security, and no trouble could disturb him for long.

Paul was the same way: he knew there was a reason for his imprisonment and that Christ would be glorified by it (cf. Phil. 1:12-14). Paul wasn’t preoccupied with how it affected him, and thus he was able to rejoice, even in prison.

“God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Nothing happens outside of God’s control. Let’s trust that He knows what is best for us.

Suggestions for Prayer: If you tend to get discouraged or complain when trouble comes, ask God to forgive you and help you see troubles from His perspective. Acknowledge before Him that He is in control of everything.

For Further Study: Paul’s attitude towards difficulties was cultivated by the experience he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. What did Christ teach him about troubles in verse 9, and how did that change Paul’s outlook?

(John MacArthur, Strength for Today [Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997], devotion for January 5)

“Rejecting The World’s Passing Pleasures” by John MacArthur

John MacArthur

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25).

The world has little to offer compared to the riches of Christ.

For forty years Moses enjoyed the best of everything Egypt had to offer: formidable wealth, culture, education, and prestige (Acts 7:22). Yet he never forgot God’s promises toward his own people, Israel.

Then, “when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand” (vv. 23-25).

Somehow Moses knew he was to deliver his people from Egyptian oppression. Although it would be another forty years before he was fully prepared for the task, by faith he forsook the pleasures and prestige of Egypt and endured ill-treatment with God’s chosen people.

Humanly speaking, Moses made a costly choice. He seemed to be sacrificing everything for nothing. But the opposite was much more the case since Moses considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the [greater] reward” (Heb. 11:26).

Sometimes obedience to Christ seems very costly, especially when evil people prosper while many who faithfully serve God suffer poverty and affliction. Asaph the psalmist struggled with the same issue: “Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure” (Ps. 73:12-13).

But be assured that the eternal rewards of Christ far outweigh the passing pleasures of sin. The wicked have only judgment and hell to look forward to; you have glory and heaven. So always choose obedience, and trust God to guide your choices, just as He did with Moses.

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God that the righteous will one day be fully rewarded. Seek God’s grace to be obedient when you’re faced with difficult choices.

For Further Study: Read Stephen’s account of Moses in Acts 7:20-39.

(John MacArthur, Drawing Near [Wheaton: Crossway, 1993], devotion for November 26)

“The Distinguishing Mark of Christianity” by John MacArthur

“The Distinguishing Mark of Christianity”

by John MacArthur

Freedom or slavery—what’s the distinguishing mark of Christianity? In a generation fixated on freedom, fulfillment, and autonomy, the vote has been cast early and often for freedom. But the Bible is abundantly clear—slavery is the heart of what it means to be a true Christian. It’s time to reassert this unpopular notion: true Christians are slaves of Christ.

Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) is the distinguishing article of Christianity and marks the essential confession of faith (Romans 10:9). Jesus proclaimed it to His disciples, His enemies, and His casual inquirers alike—and He refused to tone down its implications.

The expression “Lord” (kurios) speaks of ownership, while “Master/Lord” (despotes) denotes an unquestionable right to command (John 13:13; Jude 4). Both words describe a master with absolute dominion over someone else. That explains Jesus’ incredulity at the practice of those who paid homage to Him with their lips but not with their lives: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Doulos frequently describes what it means to be a true Christian: “He who was called while free, is Christ’s slave [doulos]. You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). It describes the lowest, abject bond slave; his service is not a matter of choice.

A Misleading Translation

Unfortunately, readers of the English Bible have long been shielded from the full force of doulos because of an ages-old tendency to translate it as “servant” or “bond-servant.” This tendency is regrettable, since service and slavery are not the same thing. “No one can be a slave to two masters” (Matthew 6:24) makes better sense than “No one can serve two masters.” An employee with two jobs could indeed serve two masters; but a slave could not. Scripture repeatedly calls Christians “slaves” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), purchased for God (Revelation 5:9). This is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (Romans 14:7-9).

A Revolting Concept

Not only is slave a word loaded with negative connotations, but our generation is also fixated on the concepts of freedom, fulfillment, and autonomy. Saving faith and Christian discipleship have been reduced to the cliché “a personal relationship with Jesus.” It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian. Many people (including Judas and Satan) had some kind of “personal relationship” with Jesus during His earthly ministry without submitting to Him as Lord. But His only true friends were those who did what He said (John 15:14).

A Difficult Truth

Slavery to Christ is not a minor or secondary feature of true discipleship. It is exactly how Jesus Himself defined the “personal relationship” He must have with every true follower (John 12:26; 15:20). In fact, the fundamental aspects of slavery are the very features of redemption. We are chosen (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:9); bought (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23); owned (Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19); subject to His will and control (Acts 5:29; Philippians 2:5-8); called to account (Romans 14:12); evaluated (2 Corinthians 5:10); and either chastened or rewarded by Him (1 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 12:5-11). Those are all essential components of slavery.

A Divine Introduction

Jesus introduced the NT slave metaphor. He frequently drew a direct connection between slavery and discipleship (Matthew 10:24-25). His words reflect what every true disciple should hope to hear at the end of life: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Jesus always described true discipleship in such terms, with no effort to adjust the message to make it sound appealing to worldly-minded sinners. He never muted what it would cost to follow Him. Would-be disciples who tried to dictate different terms were always turned away (Luke 9:59-62).

Slaves Who Are Friends

Perhaps the key passage on Jesus’ demand for implicit obedience is one already alluded to—John 15:14-15: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

The fundamental principle here is obedience. Jesus was not suggesting that His favor could be earned through service. Rather, He was saying that obedience is a singular proof that someone is His friend. Implicit obedience to His commandments is the natural fruit of genuine love for Him—the telltale mark of authentic, saving faith.

Why, then, does He say, “No longer do I call you slaves…I have called you friends” (v. 15)? Is He expressly telling them their relationship with Him was now a familiar, personal camaraderie between colleagues, rather than a master-slave relationship governed by authority and submission?

Not at all. The apostles were still His slaves, because that’s precisely what they were. He was simply saying they were His friends as well as His slaves. “The slave,” He explains, “does not know what his master is doing.” A slave isn’t owed any explanation or rationale. But Jesus had kept nothing secret from His disciples: “all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (v. 15). They were therefore much more than mere slaves to Him. They were His friends as well, privy to His thoughts and purposes (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16).

Slavery and True Liberty

So understood correctly, the gospel is an invitation to slavery. On the one hand, the gospel is a proclamation of freedom to sin’s captives and liberty to people who are broken by the bondage of sin’s power over them. On the other hand, it is a summons to a whole different kind of slavery: “Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18; cf. 1 Peter 2:16).

Both sides of the equation are vital. There is a glorious freedom in being the slaves of Christ (John 8:36), but it means the end of human autonomy for the true follower of Christ. In other words, everyone serves some master. We are all enslaved in one way or the other (Romans 6:16-21).

There is no legitimate way to adjust the message in order to make it sound appealing to people who admire Jesus but aren’t prepared to serve Him. Jesus didn’t seek admirers; He was calling followers—not casual followers, but slaves. Remove that spirit of submission, and the most profound kind of “admiration” for Christ is a spiritual fraud that has nothing to do with true faith.
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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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“Set Apart to Die and to Live” by Burk Parsons

“Set Apart to Die and to Live”

by Burk Parsons

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was about thirty years old when he penned these words in his classic work The Cost of Discipleship. Eight years later he was executed for his crimes against the Third Reich. The prison doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution wrote, “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” The doctor’s words could not have been more appropriate to describe not only the manner in which Bonhoeffer submitted himself to God in death but also the manner in which he submitted himself to God in life. In his life and at his death, Bonhoeffer grasped one crucial truth: To be set apart to God is to be set apart to die, to die to sin, to self, and to life itself — to take up our crosses daily and to live unto Christ and embrace the true freedom that only comes when Christ calls a man to die and live abundantly in Him.

Sanctification is a most simple biblical doctrine, yet it is perhaps the most difficult doctrine to understand. In one sense, sanctification is as simple as understanding the biblical language of being set apart, consecrated, or holy. And in another sense, it is as comprehensive as the application of sacred Scripture to all of life and worship. The Westminster Assembly provided us with one of the more helpful and succinct explanations of sanctification (WSC 35), still questions remain as to the precise nature of God’s work and our work in the Spirit-wrought work of sanctification. By grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone we are positionally sanctified, yet in some mysterious way, God has chosen to sovereignly work in us, through us, and with us to sanctify us progressively by His free grace through repentance, faith, and obedience that we might die more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness.

However, even though a certain degree of mystery may exist with respect to how we are sanctified in holiness, without which no one will see the Lord, we do know this: Our sanctification is established on Him who knew no sin but became sin for us and died for us that we might die in Him and live for Him in order that we might reign with Him without the power or presence of sin within us. It is only then that our countenances will reveal our genuine and uninterrupted contentment in the One who has bid us to come and die and live in Him.
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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. www.ligonier.org
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“Living for the Future” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Living for the Future

Sinclair Ferguson

(Quoted in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology, p. 40-41)

It is commonplace today in Reformed theology to recognize that the Christian lives “between the times” — already we are in Christ, but a yet more glorious future awaits us in the final consummation. There is, therefore, a “not yet” about our present Christian experience. Calvin well understood this, and he never dissolved the tension between the “already” and the “not yet.” But he also stressed the importance for the present of a life-focus on the future. Calvin sought, personally, to develop a balance of contempt for the present life with a deep gratitude for the blessings of God and a love and longing for the heavenly kingdom. The sense that the Lord would come and issue His final assessment on all and bring His elect to glory was a dominant motif for him. This, the theme of his chapter “Meditation on the Future Life,” was a major element in the energy with which he lived in the face of the “not yet” of his own ailments and weakness. When he was seriously ill and confined to bed, his friends urged him to take some rest, but he replied, “Would you that the Lord, when He comes, should find me idle?” By living in the light of the return of Christ and the coming judgment, Calvin became deeply conscious of the brevity of time and the length of eternity.This sense of eternity overflowed from his life into his work. It was so characteristic of him that it flowed out naturally in his prayers at the conclusion of his lectures. Here we see the wonderful harmony of his biblical exposition, his understanding of the gospel, his concern to teach young men how to live for God’s glory, and his personal piety. A fragment of one of these prayers, chosen almost randomly, fittingly summarizes this all-too-brief reflection on the heart of God that Calvin expressed in his learning and leadership:

May we be prepared, whatever happens,
rather to undergo a hundred deaths
than to turn aside from the profession of true piety,
in which we know our safety to be laid up.
And may we so glorify thy name
as to be partakers of that glory which
has been acquired for us
through the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen.

We Recommend
Examining Calvin’s Rules of Prayer (Part 2) Devotional
The Theologian Article by R.C. Sproul
John Calvin Devotional
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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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