Fight the good fight of faith – Part 2

Written by Steven Black on 06/11/2017. Posted in Articles

(I Timothy 6:12)- Part 2

By: J. C. Ryle
Extract from ‘A Call to Holiness’, chapter 4 ‘The Fight’

(Part 1 reminded us that true Christianity is ‘a fight’ against the flesh, the world and the Devil. Part 2 shows how Christians are to fight.)

True Christianity is the fight of faith
In this respect, the Christian warfare is utterly unlike the conflicts of this world.It does not depend on the strong arm, the quick eye, or the swift foot. It is not waged with carnal weapons, but with spiritual. Faith is the hinge on which victory turns. Success depends entirely on believing.
A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary
foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason – he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first; it looks very pretty at a distance; but the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion, unless he believes something. Even those who profess to hold the miserable and uncomfortable views of the Deists are obliged to confess that they believe something. With all their bitter sneers against dogmatic theology and Christian credulity, as they call it, they themselves have a kind of faith.
As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No-one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the Devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. What they are he may hardly know, and may certainly not be able to define or write down; but there they are and, consciously or unconsciously, they form the roots of his religion. Wherever you see a man, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, wrestling manfully with sin and trying to overcome it, you will be sure there are certain great principles which that man believes. The poet who wrote the famous lines

“For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,

He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right”

was a clever man, but a poor divine. There is no such thing as right living without faith and believing.
A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work and office is the life, heart and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him and appears in Heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God. He sees Jesus and clings to Him. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul.
He sees his own many sins – his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy Devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair; but he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathising Saviour – His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood – and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on with a full confidence that he will prove “more than conqueror through Him that loved him” (Rom. 8:37).
Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully.
It must never be forgotten that faith admits of degrees. All men do not believe alike and even the same person has his ebbs and flows of faith and believes more heartily at one time than another. According to the degree of his faith the Christian fights well or ill, wins victories, or suffers occasional repulses, comes off triumphant or loses a battle. He that has most faith will always be the happiest and most comfortable soldier. Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ’s love and continual protection. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. It is the “shield of faith” which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one. It is the man who can say “I kn ow whom I have believed” – who can say in time of suffering, “I am not ashamed.” He who wrote those glowing words “we faint not” – “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” – was the man who wrote with the same pen “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It is the man who said, “I live by the faith of the Son of God,” who said in the same Epistle, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” It is the man who said, “to me to live is Christ” who said, in the same Epistle, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” “I can do all things through Christ.” The more faith the more victory! The more faith the more inward peace! (Eph. 6:16; 2 Tim.1:12; 2 Cor. 4:17,18; Gal 2:20; 6:14; Phil. 1:21; 4:11,13)
I think it impossible to over-rate the value and importance of faith. Well may the Apostle Peter call it “precious” (2 Pet. 1:1). Time would fail me if I tried to recount a hundredth part of the victories which by faith Christian soldiers have obtained.
Let us take down our Bibles and read with attention the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Let us mark the long list of worthies whose names are thus recorded, from Abel down to Moses, even before Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and brought life and immortality into the full light of the Gospel. Let us note well what battles they won against the world, the flesh and the Devil – and then let us remember that believing did it all. These men looked forward to the promised Messiah. They saw Him that is invisible. “By faith the elders obtained a good report” (Heb. 11:2-27).
Let us turn to the pages of early Church history. Let us see how the primitive Christians held fast their religion even unto death and were not shaken by the fiercest persecutions of heathen Emperors. For centuries, there were never wanting men like Polycarp and Ignatius, who were ready to die rather than deny Christ. Fines and prisons and torture and fire and sword were unable to crush the spirit of the noble army of martyrs. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.
Let us examine the story of the Protestant Reformation. Let us study the lives of its leading champions – Wycliffe, and Huss, and Luther, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper. Let us mark how these gallant soldiers of Christ stood firm against a host of adversaries and were ready to die for their principles. What battles they fought! What controversies they maintained! What contradiction they endured! What tenacity of purpose they exhibited against a world in arms! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the secret of their strength. They overcame by faith.
Let us consider the men who have made the greatest marks in Church history in the last hundred years. Let us observe how men like Wesley, and Whitfield, and Venn, and Romaine, stood alone in their day and generation and revived English religion in the face of opposition from men high in office and in the face of slander, ridicule and persecution from nine-tenths of professing Christians in our land. Let us observe how men like William Wilberforce, and Havelock, and Hedley Vicars, have witnessed for Christ in the most difficult positions and displayed a banner for Christ even at the regimental mess-table, or on the floor of the House of Commons. Let us mark how these noble witnesses never flinched to the end and won the respect even of their worst adversaries; and then let us remember that believing in an unseen Christ is the key to all their characters. By faith they lived and walked and stood and overcame.
Would anyone live the life of a Christian soldier? Let him pray for faith. It is the gift of God; and a gift which those who ask shall never ask for in vain. You must believe before you do. If men do nothing in religion, it is because they do not believe. Faith is the first step toward Heaven.
Would anyone fight the fight of a Christian soldier successfully and prosperously? Let him pray for a continual increase of faith. Let him abide in Christ, get closer to Christ, tighten his hold on Christ every day that he lives. Let his daily prayer be that of the disciples – “Lord increase my faith” (Luke 17:5). Watch jealously over your faith, if you have any. It is the citadel of the Christian character, on which the safety of the whole fortress depends. It is the point which Satan loves to assail. All lies at his mercy if faith is overthrown. Here, if we love life, we must especially stand on our guard.

What Is Your Life?

Written by Steven Black on 05/11/2017. Posted in Articles

What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth
for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

James 4:14

These words are most frequently used to warn sinners of the urgent necessity for them to get right with God. They certainly should make every careless soul think of the brevity of life, the certainty of death, and the solemnity of eternity. If you come to this day still in your sins, you should stop and consider this word from God. You know the gospel. You know you should call upon the Lord to have mercy upon you. You know that tomorrow it may be too late for you to call. Call upon Him today and you will find that He will have mercy and will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:7).
Yet James originally directed these words to Christians. They had become very careless about spiritual things. They were consumed with the here and now, this life with its pleasures and profits. They took time for granted and made their plans as if they wore certain to be around for a long time.
Is that not how all too many of us live? We need to take James’s rebuke seriously and personally. We need to grasp again some basic facts. First, our hold on life is very tenuous. Second, at best our life will be brief. Third, in this brief life what matters is not where we have travelled or what we have gained, but how we have responded to the will of God.
In the light of these things, how does your life measure up? What is your life? What motivates it? What has it accomplished? ‘The Lord asks the questions, and He will have honest answers.

Rev Alan Cairns
(From ‘Eagles’ Wings’– Daily Devotions)

The business of our lives is not to
please ourselves but to please God.

Matthew Henry

Revival in Nineveh

Written by Steven Black on 11/09/2017. Posted in Articles

So the people of Nineveh believed God.                     Jonah 3:5

The ancient city of Nineveh was the scene of an amazing revival in the ninth century B.C. This vast city, which had a huge population, was so full of sin that God said its wickedness had come up before Him. The Ninevites were so evil they almost seem to have compelled God to take notice of them. And yet there was revival in Nineveh—Nineveh, of all places!

Now, if God could send revival to Nineveh, He can surely send it to the place where we live and work. Some people are far too pessimistic. They are so taken up with the end-time apostasy that they would feel somewhat let down if God were to send a spiritual awakening. Let us not be like that! Christians should be positive in their outlook; they should be looking for a harvest of souls. The man who hid his talent in the earth did so because he thought his lord was a mean man who could hardly be pleased. Christ is not mean. He died to save a vast multitude, and He will have that multitude with Him in heaven, out of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (Rev. 7:9).

The revival in Nineveh affected all classes of society, all age groups, and all types of people. It led to a thorough reformation of the lives and manners of the people. The Ninevites turned from their sin to God, and God looked down from heaven approvingly and blessed them.

As we read of what happened in Nineveh, we should long to see revival in our district. The devil has been blinding our neighbours and friends for far too long. Let us pray for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God.

Rev Gordon Ferguson
(From ‘Eagles’ Wings’– Daily Devotions)

We cannot organise a revival but we can set
our sails to catch the wind from heaven when
God chooses to blow upon His people once again.

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN

The Cross of Christ

Written by Steven Black on 21/08/2017. Posted in Articles

By: J. C. Ryle
(1816 – 1900)

__________________________

First published as a ‘Helmingham Series’ Tract in Helmingham, Suffolk

What do you think about the cross of Christ? The question may be one that you consider of little importance: but it deeply concerns the everlasting welfare of your soul.

Eighteen hundred years ago, there was a man who said that he “gloried” in the cross of Christ. He was one who turned the world upside down by the doctrines he preached. He was one who did more to establish Christianity than any man that ever lived. Yet what does he tell the Galatians? – “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Reader, the “cross of Christ” must needs be an important subject, when an inspired Apostle can speak of it in this way. Let me try to show you what the expression means. Once know what the cross of Christ means and then you may be able, by God’s help, to see the importance of it to your soul.

The cross in the Bible sometimes means that wooden cross on which the Lord Jesus was nailed and put to death on Mount Calvary. This is what the Apostle Paul had in his mind’s eye when he told the Philippians that Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). This is not the cross in which Paul gloried. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of glorying in a mere piece of wood. I have no doubt he would have denounced the Roman Catholic adoration of the crucifix as profane, blasphemous and idolatrous.

The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion’s sake. This is the sense in which our Lord uses the word, when He says, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38). This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well. He carried it patiently; but he is not speaking of it here.

But the cross also means in some places the doctrine that Christ died for sinners upon the cross – the atonement that He made for sinners, by His suffering for them on the cross – the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up, when He gave His own body to be crucified. In short, these words “the cross” stand for Christ crucified, the only Saviour. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1 Cor: 1:18). This is the meaning in which he wrote to the Galatians, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross.” He simply meant, “I glory in nothing but Christ crucified, as the salvation of my soul.”

Reader, Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul’s soul. He did not think of what he had done himself and suffered himself. He did not meditate on his own goodness and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done and Christ had suffered – of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ, the finished work of Christ. In this he did glory. This was the sun of his soul.

This is the subject he loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart’s blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world telling sinners that Jesus Christ had loved them and died for their sins upon the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). He – a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee – had been washed in Christ’s blood: he could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.

This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his Epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ – how they run over with ‘thoughts that breathe and words that burn’ about Christ’s dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject; he enlarges on it constantly; he returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much about the cross.

This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). What made him so strong to labour? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavouring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Jesus crucified was the meat and drink of his soul.

And, reader, you may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ – the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners – is the centre truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and the temple – all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honoured in the vision of Heaven before we close the book of Revelation. “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,” we are told, “and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Even in the midst of Heavenly glory we catch a view of Christ crucified. Take away the cross of Christ and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the Hey that interprets their meaning – curious and wonderful, but of no real use.

Reader, mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Caesar, Alexander the Great or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a Heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from Hell.

Reader, mark what I say again. You may know a good deal about Christ, by a kind of head knowledge. You may know who He was, and where He was born and what He did. You may know His miracles, His sayings, His prophecies and His ordinances. You may know how He lived and how He suffered and how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ’s cross by experience – unless you know and feel within that the blood shed on that cross has washed away your own particular sins – unless you are willing to confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work that Christ did upon the cross – unless this be the case, Christ will profit you nothing. The mere knowing Christ’s Name will never save you. You must know His cross and His blood, or else you will die in your sins.

Reader, as long as you live, beware of a religion in which there is not much of the cross. You live in times when the warning is sadly needful. Beware, I say again, of a religion without the cross.

There are hundreds of places of worship in this day, in which there is almost everything except the cross. There is carved oak and sculptured stone; there is stained glass and brilliant paintings; there are solemn services and a constant round of ordinances; but the real cross of Christ is not there. Jesus crucified is not proclaimed in the pulpit. The Lamb of God is not lifted up and salvation by faith in Him is not freely proclaimed. And hence all is wrong. Reader, beware of such places of worship. They are not apostolical. They would not have satisfied Paul.

There are thousands of religious books published in our times, in which there is everything except the cross. They are full of directions about sacraments and praises of the Church; they abound in exhortations about holy living and rules for the attainment of perfection; they have plenty of fonts and crosses, both inside and outside, but the real cross of Christ is left out. The Saviour and His dying love are either not mentioned, or mentioned in an unscriptural way. And hence they are worse than useless. Reader, beware of such books. They are not apostolical. They would never have satisfied Paul.

Reader, Paul gloried in nothing but the cross. Strive to be like him. Set Jesus crucified fully before the eyes of your soul. Listen not to any teaching which would interpose anything between you and Him. Do not fall into the old Galatian error. Think not that anyone in this day is a better guide than the Apostles. Do not be ashamed of the old paths in which men walked who were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Let not the vague talk of men who speak great swelling words about Catholicity and the Church and the Ministry, disturb your peace and make you loose your hands from the cross. Churches, Ministers and sacraments are all useful in their way, but they are not Christ crucified. Do not give Christ’s honour to another. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Reader, I lay these thoughts before your mind. What you think now about the cross of Christ I cannot tell; but I can wish you nothing better than this – that you may be able to say with the Apostle Paul, before you die or meet the Lord,

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Amen.

The Cross of Christ

Fight the good fight of faith

Written by Steven Black on 21/08/2017. Posted in Articles

(I Timothy 6:12)

By: J. C. Ryle
Extract from ‘A Call to Holiness’, chapter 4 ‘The Fight’

True Christianity is a fight!
True Christianity! Let us mind that word ‘true.’ There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes must; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die; but you never see any ‘fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict and self-denial, and watching, and warring, they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded and His Apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is a ‘fight.’
The true Christian is called to be a soldier and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to Heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world, he may be content with such notions; but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must ‘fight.’
With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians. Wretched indeed is that man’s idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy! No doubt it may be absolutely needful sometimes to appeal to law courts, in order to ascertain the right interpretation of a Church’s Articles and rubrics and formularies; but, as a general rule, the cause of sin is never so much helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarrelling with one another and spend their time in petty squabbles.
No, indeed! The principal fight for the Christian is with the world, the flesh and the Devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential; but with a corrupt heart, a busy Devil and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.
He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil and a heart weak and unstable as water. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. To keep that heart from going astray, the Lord Jesus bids us “Watch and pray.” The spirit may be ready, but the flesh is weak. There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I keep under my body,” cried Paul, “and bring it into subjection.” – “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.” – “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” – “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” – “Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” (Mark 14:38; I Cor. 9:27; Rom. 7:23, 24; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5.)
He must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted and, without a daily battle, can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things – the fear of the world’s laughter or blame – the secret desire to keep in with the world – the secret wish to do as others in the world do and not to run to extremes – all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to Heaven and must be conquered. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” – “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – “The world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world.” – “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” – “Be not conformed to this world.” (James 4:4; I John 2:15; Gal. 6:14; I John 5:4; Rom. 12:2.)
He must fight the Devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,” and striving to compass one great end – the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always “going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.” An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed and spying out all our ways. A “murderer and a liar” from the beginning, he labours night and day to cast us down to Hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” This mighty adversary must be daily resisted. But “this kind goeth not out” but by watching and praying and fighting and putting on the whole armour of God. The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle. (Job 1:7; I Peter 5:8; John 8:44; Luke 22:31; Eph. 6:11.)
Some men may think these statements too strong. You fancy that I am going too far and laying on the colours too thickly. You are secretly saying to yourself that men and women in England may surely get to Heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting. Listen to me for a few minutes and I will show you that I have something to say on God’s behalf. Remember the maxim of the wisest General that ever lived in England – “In time of war it is the worst mistake to under-rate your enemy and try to make a little war.” This Christian warfare is no light matter. Give me your attention and consider what I say. What saith the Scripture – “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” – “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” – “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” – “Labour for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” – “Think not that I come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” – “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” – “War a good warfare, holding faith, and a good conscience.” (I Tim. 6:12; II Tim. 2:3; Eph. 6: 11-13; Luke 13:24; John 6:27; Matt. 10:34; Luke 22:36; I Cor. 16:13; I Tim. 1:18,19.) Words such as these appear to me clear, plain and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is – that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight and a warfare. He that pretends to condemn “fighting” appears to me to misunderstand his Bible and to make a great mistake.
One thing is certain – this Christian warfare is a great reality and a subject of vast importance. It is not a matter like Church government and ceremonial, about which men may differ and yet reach Heaven at last. Necessity is laid upon us. We must fight. There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s Epistles to the Seven Churches, except to those who “overcome.” Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.
It is a fight of absolute necessity. Let us not think that in this war we can remain neutral and sit still. Such a line of action may be possible in the strife of nations, but it is utterly impossible in that conflict which concerns the soul. The boasted policy of non-interference – the ‘masterly inactivity” which pleases so many Statesmen – the plan of keeping quiet and letting things alone – all this will never do in the Christian warfare. Here at any rate no one can escape serving under the plea that he is a ‘man of peace.’ To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.
It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank, or class, or age can plead exemption or escape the battle. Ministers and people, preachers and hearers, old and young, high and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, Kings and subjects, landlords and tenants, learned and unlearned – all alike must carry arms and go to war. All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness and sin. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless malicious Devil. All from the Queen in her palace down to the pauper in the workhouse, all must fight.

It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On week-days as well as on Sundays – in private as well as in public – at home by the family fireside as well as abroad – in little things like management of tongue and temper, as well as in great ones like the government of the Kingdoms – the Christian’s warfare must unceasingly go on. The foe we have to do with keeps no holidays, never slumbers and never sleeps. So long as we have breath in our bodies we must keep on our armour and remember we are on an enemy’s ground. “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels.” We must fight till we die.
Let us consider well these propositions. Let us take care that our own personal religion is real, genuine and true. The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or twice every week; but the great spiritual warfare – its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests – of all of this they appear to know nothing at all. Let us take care that this case is not our own. The worst state of soul is “when a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace” – when he leads men and women captive at his will,” and they make no resistance. The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner. (Luke 11:21; II Tim. 2:26.)
We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would? (Gal. 5:17). Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the master? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most part of the so-called Christians have no feeling at all. We are evidently no friends of Satan. Like the Kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults us should fill our minds with hope. I say again, let us take comfort. The child of God has two great marks about him and of these two we have one. He may be known by his inward warfare, as well as by his inward peace.

Slightly Abbreviated

Fight the good fight of faith

The Guarding of the Mind

Written by Steven Black on 05/06/2017. Posted in Articles

‘Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.’

1 Peter 1.13

Here the apostle sets before us what should be the resolve of every Christian through grace – to guard the mind. There is in this evil day a constant, concerted attack upon the minds of God’s people. We are daily exposed to a brainwashing process. Radio, television, videos, the press and various publications are all instruments hijacked by our subtle enemy to reach our minds. The media constantly presents sin as acceptable in modern society. Drinking, adultery and unfaithfulness are presented as socially acceptable and the common norm. The unsavoury filth of the world should never be allowed to seep into or sully the mind of the Christian. He must gird up the loins of the mind, as the pilgrim on a journey girded up his robes with a girdle so that he might walk unhindered. So let us keep our garments unspotted from the world and gird our minds lest they get caught up and entangled in the philosophy and thinking of the worldling.
Paul speaks of “loins girt about with truth” (Eph. 6:14). Here is the mind girt and encircled with the Word of truth and hedged about with the power of truth. Feed your mind and soul on the manna of Christ in His Word. Keep your mind’s eye on Christ and it will not be able to fix itself on the world. Remember, loose thinking must inevitably lead to loose living.

Rev. R. J. Beggs,

Ballymena, N.I.

 

A Time for Everything

Written by Steven Black on 21/03/2017. Posted in Articles

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

We believe that whatever the Bible says is true. Yet sometimes experiences cause us to question whether certain things are personally relevant. The tension between doctrine and experience is a common test of faith. Solomon’s conclusion that God has made every time beautiful and appropriate is one of those great statements easy to believe in good times and easy to apply to others in their bad times. The key is to believe it during our own bad times. Believing that God has a purpose that embraces everything in life and that His plan is beautiful regardless of its manifestation is the secret to enjoying the life that God has given us.

Solomon leads up to this all-embracing statement by setting forth all the times ordered and ordained by God. Ecclesiastes 3 begins with a list of fourteen pairs of defined times that together represent all possible times in life. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by chance, accident, or fate. Everything, absolutely everything, happens according to God’s design. Our efforts and worries cannot alter His eternal plan for us. Whereas unbelievers may regard themselves as the masters of their fate or the captains of their souls, we as believers know that our times and destinies are not only in God’s good hand, they are part of His infinitely wise plan. Our life is a privilege; our life is God’s purpose. In the good times, we should humbly acknowledge that God has made all times beautiful. In the hard times, we should confidently rest in that beauty. That God is sovereign over the affairs of life is true whether we believe it or not. Believing it is the only thing that gives sense to life.

Dr Michael P. V. Barrett

We must believe in the grace of sovereignty
as well as the sovereignty of grace.

Augustus H. Strong

A Time for Everything

All enamelled and interwoven with free grace!

Written by Steven Black on 27/02/2017. Posted in Articles

By: Thomas Watson

“For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not to bring to nought things that are; That no flesh should glory in His presence” I Corinthians 1:26-29.

Without this effectual call – there is no going to Heaven!

This effectual call, is a gracious call. It is the fruit and product of free grace! That God should call some – and not others; that some should be taken – and others left; that one should be called who is of a more wicked disposition – while another of a sweeter temper, is rejected. Here is free grace! That the poor should be rich in faith, heirs of a kingdom (James 2:5), and the nobles and great ones of the world for the most part rejected; this is free and rich grace! Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight” Matthew 11:26.

That under the same sermon one should be effectually wrought upon – while another is no more moved than a dead man with the sound of music; that one should hear the Spirit’s voice in the Word – while another does not hear it; that one should be softened and moistened with the influence of Heaven – while another, like Gideon’s dry fleece, has no dew upon him; behold here distinguishing, sovereign grace!

What is the cause of this – but the free grace of God! It is all enamelled and interwoven with free grace! Those who are monuments of God’s mercies – will be trumpets of His praise. “That no flesh should glory in His presence” I Corinthians 1:29.

CHRISTIAN OBLIGATIONS – TO ENGAGE IN THE BATTLE

Written by Steven Black on 12/02/2017. Posted in Articles

By Ian Henderson (C.W. Vice-Chairman)

Edited from an address given at the High Leigh Bible Conference, 2016

The Word of God states – in Jude v 3 – to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” or – in other words – “to engage in the battle.”
It is a plain fact that the Protestant Reformed faith is under threat today as never before – it is under threat from various sources – including atheism, Islam, Ecumenism and Romanism.
Sadly, many Ministers today choose to take a neutral stance on virtually every issue – presumably so that they don’t offend others or jeopardise their own positions. But the Word of God is very clear – and the Lord Jesus Christ did not preach to please all His hearers – the disciples did not preach to please all their hearers. They preached so that men and women could hear the good news of the Gospel and seek the Lord in repentance – and if people were offended (and many of the religious leaders were) – so be it.
Why is the Church not active today? Is it because God’s people are not engaged in the battle?
How many times have you heard prayers offered, prayers that bemoan the state of our nation? And yet we must ask ourselves some pertinent questions:

  1. Why is the Church not taking the Gospel message to the people – the people in the streets who do not come into the Churches? Is it because God’s people are not engaged in the battle? Let me ask you – when did you last give out a Gospel tract – organise/support an open-air meeting – do some door- knocking?
  2. Why is the Church not opposing the evil in their communities? Why is it silent? Is it because God’s people close their eyes to the sin all around them and are not engaged in the battle?
  3. Why is the Church not providing more practical support for the brethren across the world who ARE doing the Lord’s work and are being imprisoned because of it? Is it because God’s people are not engaged in the battle?
  4. Does your heart burn to do something in the Lord’s service – or are you simply not engaged in the battle? You leave it to others.
  5. Do you desire to stand unashamedly for the Lord’s cause and for the cause of the Gospel, but no leadership is given – or are you simply not engaged in the battle? Maybe your role is that of leadership!

I want to suggest to you that you and I have to take responsibility for the state in which we find the Church today – as we are not engaged in the battle as we ought to be.

We are not engaged in the battle as were our forefathers.

The Church has gone quiet – most people find it to be irrelevant in today’s society – it allows sin all around us to abound without being challenged.
In fact, in some instances, the Church actually promotes sin. Men in high office in the Church no longer believe that the Bible is the Word of God and they challenge its authority.

Next year – 2017 – we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation – OR – do we celebrate?
What does the Protestant Reformation mean to you?
What does the Protestant Reformation mean to me?
Do you look at Rome through the eyes – as it were – of the Protestant Reformers – through the eyes of Martin Luther who came out from Popery and nailed his 95 theses to the Church door at Wittenburg – or do you feel today that Rome is no longer the threat that it once was?

Today, we are in a battle

  • a battle against atheism
  • a battle against Ecumenism
  • a battle against Romanism
  • a battle against Islam – and many other isms – but are we?

Are we really engaged in the battle – or do we just drift along to Church Sunday by Sunday (maybe even being SMOs – Sunday Mornings only) and simply expect the Church doors to be open for us, the central heating to be turned on and the comfortable cushions laid out on the pews?
But – if we – as the Lord’s people – do not engage in the battle – who will?

Let me briefly summarise some of the battle-lines in which we, as Protestants, ought to be engaged:

1. We ought to be contending for the Protestant Reformed Christian faith and be a bulwark against further declension from the old paths.
2. We ought to adhere to the boundaries as laid down by the Word of God alone and defined by the great Confessions of Faith.

3. We ought to seek adherence to the Authorised Version of the Scriptures – the AV 1611 King James Bible – as being the most accurate translation of the Scriptures into the English language.
4. We ought to expose the failings of modern Bible translations and their link with the spiritual declension in so many Churches today.
5. We ought to lobby in support of other true Christians who are suffering persecution – and act in support of organisations and ministries who are working specifically in the areas concerned.
6. We ought to be in regular contact with Government Ministers at Westminster when Christian freedoms are threatened and Biblical standards of morality are challenged by the introduction of ungodly legislation.
7. We ought to lobby against ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, such as Ministers of local Churches who openly support godless lifestyles as being acceptable.
8. We ought to expose the ‘big names’ in neo-Evangelicalism who embrace Roman Catholic doctrines and others, for instance, who promote the false theory of evolution.
9. We ought to expose dangerous teachings such as the Alpha Course and their links with Rome.

We need to be watchmen – engaged in the battle.
Are you a watchman?
Are you – am I – engaged in the battle?

What is a watchman? What is the responsibility of a watchman? Well, the job of a watchman in the Church is to give a warning cry – to sound the alarm – at the erosion of our Christian liberties whenever they may occur.

For the past 43 years, we, in the United Kingdom, have been under threat from a godless European Union – a Union promoted strongly by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

23rd June, 2016 – just 6 months ago – was a great day for this once great nation of ours – our Independence Day – but we – as Christians – need to be on our guard. Can ungodly politicians be trusted? Does Brexit mean Brexit? We are still not free from the shackles of the European Union – a Roman Catholic super-state – we must remain engaged in the battle. There is much to be done – we must not leave it to others.
This Protestant nation of ours – thanks to the European Union and its open door immigration policy – is under threat today from militant Islamic expansion and persecution – as well as false Christianity. Are you engaged in the battle?
We are under threat because of wicked legislation designed to prosecute and persecute Christians who dare to preach the Gospel in the public arena – who dare to stand against evil. Are you engaged in the battle?
The people of God have a great responsibility – they have a responsibility and a duty to stand up for righteousness in a godless society – and our first duty must be to God. Where a Government, or a people, or a law, is against the Word of God, we have a duty to make this fact known – whatever the consequences.

Let’s just take a quick look at some Bible characters –

John the Baptist lost his life for pointing out the evil of Herod taking his brother’s wife.
Daniel was a lone voice on the night of Belshazzar’s feast – and ended up in the den of lions.
Elijah stood alone on Mount Carmel against the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the groves.
Jeremiah was a lone voice and was persecuted and imprisoned for his stand for the Lord.
Gideon continued trusting in the Lord, even as he saw his army reduced from 32,000 to 300.

Did God fail any of them?

No – He did not – and He will never fail those who put their trust in Him. But these men all had one thing in common – they were all engaged in the battle. Are you – am I – engaged in the battle today?
For centuries – since the Protestant Reformation – there has been one citadel of Protestantism that Rome has sought to destroy – and that is Protestant England. We are living today in a day when she has all but achieved her objective. In Victorian times, the great revivals of evangelical Protestantism fostered and encouraged worldwide missions. England became the acknowledged head of the Protestant nations.
The growth, power and prestige of this country were due, at that time, to our evangelical past and God honours those who honour Him. But the reverse is true today – for today we have departed from God more than any generation of people since the Protestant Reformation.

In the 19th century, Protestant societies were formed – let’s just remind ourselves of some of them:

  • the Protestant Reformation Society in 1821
  • the Protestant Alliance in 1845
  • the Protestant Truth Society in 1895

Today, they are now but only a shadow of what they once were. Others – like the National Union of Protestants in 1940 or the British Bible Union and the Bible Testimony Fellowship have ceased to operate and we saw them replaced, as time went by, by a new Movement – the World Council of Churches – and the idea of a world Church and Church unity came to the fore.
What happened to our Protestant voice?

Most of the larger denominations joined the World Council of Churches – and today are co-operating with Rome in many of their activities; and it is against this background that Rome hopes to destroy us.

So the question must be asked again – are you willing to be engaged in the battle

  • a battle against the might of Rome
  • a battle against the wealth of the Vatican
  • a battle against the power of the priest?

Who is on the Lord’s side is the battle-cry – are you willing and ready to enlist?

The trials endured in Northern Ireland in recent decades are largely due to two factors – the influence of Roman Catholicism on the one hand and a dead ecumenical Protestantism on the other. Our loss of character as a nation has developed as we have departed further and further from God but, at the same time, Rome continues to seek to gain influence and to equate herself with Christianity in the minds of the majority of the people. Rome’s influence can be seen in the media – Archbishops of Canterbury rush to pay their respects to the Pope – Free Church Ministers invite Roman Catholic priests to address meetings in their Churches; but Roman Catholicism preaches a false Gospel and it is not a Christian Church. Rome denies the sufficiency of God’s grace to save men. Roman Catholicism, in its official teachings, rejects Sola Scriptura and places its traditions and superstitions on a par with the Scriptures – thus effectively adding to the Word of God.
Rome also denies that the death of our Lord Jesus Christ was sufficient to atone for the sins of His people. This denial can be seen in the blasphemous Roman Catholic Mass which claims to offer Christ as a sacrificial victim, again and again, on the altar at each Mass; thus denying the Word of God that Christ’s sacrifice was paid once and for all on the cross of Calvary.

For centuries, this nation of ours held to the Biblical position that the Pope of Rome is that man of sin and son of perdition – as described in 2 Thess. 2 v 3 – but, today, we see widespread and growing acceptance of the Papacy within the fold of the Christian Church.

On 16th July, many evangelicals joined hands (apparently in the name of unity in the Lord Jesus Christ) at an event called TOGETHER 2016. Many professing Christian celebrities took part and the organiser – a man named Nick Hall of Pulse (which is apparently a student led evangelism movement) – gathered more than 1000 Churches nationwide to join in prayer for Christian TOGETHER 2016 unity as found in Psalm 133 v 1 –Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. ”
But this unity at TOGETHER 2016 is not the unity spoken about in the Scriptures – this unity is a false man-made unity which includes unity with Pope Francis, who included a personal video message for the event. There is a battle being waged and it is the bounden duty of every Christian – every Protestant – to oppose, not only Rome, but also the false ecumenical unity being propagated at events such as this.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon – the Prince of Preachers – once said “it is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against antiChrist; and as to what anti-Christ is, no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the Church of Rome, there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name.
But is Rome part of the Christian Church?
I trust that we are all agreed on the answer, but in case there is any doubt let me quote Pope Francis. A few months ago he stated that Christ’s work on the cross was a failure.
A few weeks ago he stated that –To say that you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is dangerous.
And in recent weeks he said that – Jesus Christ is not our hope; but Mary and the Mother Church are.
So there is but one answer – Evangelicals, Protestants, must awake to the pressing need and the imminent danger in which wefind ourselves. We MUST engage in the battle — we MUST stop pussy-footing on Romanism – and we MUST put our own house in order – the serious nature of the days in which we live demands that we all get engaged in the battle.
Is it not the case that in many of our Churches today we would be surprised to see unbelievers come in – we preach the Gospel to those who are already saved and neglect the sinners who are outside in the streets. Multitudes around us are ignorant of the Gospel and its message – and the world rushes on to judgment. But Protestantism is an open-air plant – it needs no hot-house cultivation. It thrives in the strong winds of opposition, but is weak and sickly when cultivated indoors.

The Protestant Reformation was a revival – the Reformers were Gospel preachers – and we today are the spiritual descendants of these Reformers. We must battle against Rome – we must battle against any departure from the Scriptures.
We must be active in evangelism – reaching the people in our immediate neighbourhood with the Gospel.Whether it be what The fight against Rome we could call Campaign Evangelism, Rural Evangelism, Literature Evangelism, Child Evangelism – every possible God-honouring form of evangelism – our single purpose must be the salvation of precious souls – young, old, male and female.
The Reformers cried from the stake – NONE BUT CHRIST; the Puritans made Christ the centre of their writings and sermons. The Victorian evangelicals – Moody, Spurgeon and the rest – were all constant in the same theme – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Will you engage in the battle today for the Lord and maintain a witness for the truth? We are called to contend – contend for what? Contend for something valuable – the Word of God says “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Why was it delivered? Because it is a valuable heritage and treasure. We today are those with a commission – “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. ”

  • The Gospel which brings freedom and light.
  • The Gospel which breaks the chains of sin.
  • The Gospel which brings decency and high standards and a love of righteousness into society.

In our work and witness, we ought to be engaged in the battle. We are contending for the faith – contending for real Christianity – Christianity that can transform lives. Is that not a battle worth engaging in?
“Contend” says the Apostle, “for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
To contend for something means we have to strive for it. Battle is involved. Controversy is inevitable. But the Authorised Version doesn’t just tell us to contend. It says “EARNESTLY CONTEND”. Look it up for yourselves in Jude v 3. That may not be very comfortable these days – but let us see to it that future generations don’t curse us for our laziness – don’t curse us for our apathy.
We are contending for something historic.
We are contending for something valuable.
We are contending for something in jeopardy – nothing less than the furtherance of the Gospel of Christ in our land and the maintenance of our Protestant heritage.

“Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” – so says the Scriptures.

Engage in the battle – don’t leave it to others – be proud to be a Protestant – and God will give us the victory. We may well have a fight on our hands – but the outcome is assured.

May God enable us by His grace to be soldiers for Jesus Christ and to enlist in God’s army.
So let us all be engaged in the battle and “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”. Amen

_____________________

As the stars do not make Heaven, but only decorate and adorn it, even so works do not merit Heaven, but adorn and decorate the faith which justifieth.

Martin Luther

CHRISTIAN OBLIGATIONS – TO ENGAGE IN THE BATTLE

Christ and the New Creation

Written by Steven Black on 04/02/2017. Posted in Articles

By Horatius Bonar

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17

What condemnation do these words pronounce upon the shallow, meagre religion so common among us – making us feel that hardly any description of its professors could be more exaggerated or unreal, than that of being “new creatures.”

Take yon member of the church. He wears the garb and bears the name of Christ. He is a fair average specimen of a large class. He has the profession of being a Christian; yet…

he is fond of the world;
he grasps at its gold;
he loves its fashionable gaiety;
he reads its novels;
he frequents its haunts of amusement;
he enjoys its company;
he relishes its foolish talking and jesting.
Is he “a new creature” in Christ Jesus?

Is it possible that, with …
so much worldliness,
so much selfishness,
so much self-indulgence,
so much pleasing of the flesh,

he can have been “born again,” whatever his profession may be?

A new creature!” Then…
old feelings,
old habits,
old tastes,
old hopes,
old joys,
old haunts,
old companionships –

all are gone! Old things are passed away, all things are become new!

Formerly, I sought the things of this world. So now, by the necessity of my new nature, I seek the things above. Sin has become hateful, holiness supremely attractive.

My vision has been purged, so that now I see everything as with a new eye; the evil, with an eye which loathes it; the holy, with an eye which loves it. I approach everything with …

new feelings,
new tastes,
new sympathies,
new antipathies.

I behold everything in a new light and from a new point of view. Myself, this world, the world to come, God, Christ and the everlasting joys – all these are to me now, what they have never been before! My whole inner man has changed respecting them. There has been a new creation! What, then, have I to do with sin, with the flesh, with the vanities of so vain a life, as the men of this world are leading?

Oh, the unimaginable blessedness of those on whom this new creation has taken place! Oh, the unutterable, the endless misery of those on whom no change has passed – in whom old things still remain.

___________________________

Christ and the New Creation