Posted by Gary on November 13, 2009
With all our attention on the Swine Flu and the simple truth that one in four people will have cancer in their lifetime you would hope that we would all be doing some thinking.
The sad truth is that the fall of Adam has left us with hearts that by nature do not want to hear from God, to hear His word of warning of the judgment to come and even more sadly, unwilling to hear about His terms of peace through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus.
We can refuse to go to church, turn off the television or radio as one of God’s messengers preaches or avoid the Christian in our work place or neighborhood but there is one messenger that God has that cannot be denied or ignored, sickness.
God will have His hearing and while every illness is not the direct result of sin, every illness preaches a sermon…sooner or later you and I are going to die and stand before the judgment seat of the holy God who made us. Are we ready to meet Him? Are we forgiven or still in our sins?
J.C. Ryle in his sermon, Christ in the Sick Room holds before us nine lessons that sickness teaches us. Won’t you do your soul some good today and read them and think? Maybe you’ll be moved to get serious about things and read the whole sermon. Wouldn’t it be something if we turned off the television, hung up the phone and put down the worthless books that we seem to have time for that do no good for our souls to read something that bears a message for our good? If you are not sick now, you will be soon and some day not so long from now with an illness that two aspirin and a call to the doctor will not remove. Take some moments now for Bishop Ryle:
I do not say that sickness always does good. Alas! We ministers know to our sorrow that it frequently does no good at all. Too often we see men and women, after recovering from a long and dangerous illness, more hardened and irreligious than they were before. Too often they return to the world, if not to sin, with more eagerness and zest than ever; and the impressions made on their conscience in the hour of sickness are swept away like children’s writing on the sand of the sea-shore when the tide flows.
But I do say that sickness ought to do us good. And I do say that God sends it in order to do us good. It is a friendly letter from heaven. It is a knock at the door of conscience. It is the voice of the Savior asking to be let in. Happy is he who opens the letter and reads it, who hears the knock and opens the door, who welcomes Christ to the sick room. Come now, and let me plead with you a little about this, and show you a few of the lessons which He by sickness would teach us.
1. Sickness is meant to make us think—to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body—an immortal soul—a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery—and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.
2. Sickness is meant to teach us that there is a world beyond the grave—and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.
3. Sickness is meant to make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?
4. Sickness is meant to make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.
5. Sickness is meant to send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Gary on October 10, 2009
Revelation 21:27 “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Reading J.C. Ryle the past few months has been such an encouragement and challenge. I have noticed in a number of sermons that Ryle comes back consistently to the issue of whether or not our hearts have been made ready for heaven while we yet remain on earth.
Ryle’s point is simple: Heaven is holy for God is there. Heaven is eternity with God, in the place of God, amongst the people of God, singing the praises of God, doing the will of God. If we have no desire for God, His people, His work and praise of Him now, why do we think we would like it later? Here is Ryle in his own words:
“Without conversion of heart we could not enjoy heaven, if we got there. Heaven is a place where holiness reigns supreme, and sin and the world have no place at all. The company will all be holy; the employments will all be holy; it will be an eternal Sabbath-day. Surely if we go to heaven, we must have a heart in tune and able to enjoy it, or else we shall not be happy. We must have a nature in harmony with the element we live in, and the place where we dwell. Can a fish be happy out of water? We know it cannot. Well, without conversion of heart we could not be happy in heaven.
Look round the neighborhood in which you live, and the people with whom you are acquainted. Think what many of them would do if they were cut off forever from money, and business, and newspapers, and cards, and partys, and races, and hunting, and shooting, and worldly amusements! Would they like it? Think what they would feel if they were shut up forever with Jesus Christ, and saints, and angels! Would they be happy? Would the eternal company of Moses, and David, and Paul, be pleasant to those who never take the trouble to read what those holy men wrote? Would heaven’s everlasting praise suit the taste of those who can hardly spare a few minutes in a week for private religion, even for prayer? There is but one answer to be given to all these questions. We must be converted before we can enjoy heaven. Heaven would be no heaven to any child of Adam without conversion.”
From a sermon entitled, “Conversion” by J.C. Ryle to read it click here
If you were to ask most people if they want to go to heaven virtually everyone would say yes. But I think an important question is, “Do we really want to go to heaven or do we just want to avoid going to hell?” Wanting to avoid hell does not mean that we will love the things of heaven, it just means that we want to escape flames.
Many people are deceived, they believe that they are on their way to heaven though they have never received the new birth or had their hearts changed by God. Being a Christian does not mean being perfect but it does mean that God has done something to us that fundamentally changes our hearts, desires and what we enjoy and live for.
Are you on your way to heaven? You may know simply by honestly asking and answering whether or not heaven dwells in your heart now. Do you love God? Do you think about Him? Do you desire to hear from Him in His Word? Do you like to talk to Him? Do you praise Him? Are you serving Him now as those who are in heaven now do? Have you divorced your heart from this world?
My question tonight is not whether or not you want to go to heaven, you may well want just to avoid hell which proves nothing more than that you have some degree of your wits about you. Have you been born again? Do you pursue the God of heaven and the things of heaven here on earth?
Posted by Gary on July 13, 2009
As one whose calling and work includes performing funerals, I have a vantaged place from which to view the thinking of society when it comes to the death of others. In recent years you may have noticed that funerals are less frequently referred to as "funerals" they are more and more frequently called "life celebrations." The thinking here isn’t hard to follow, "funeral" sounds negative and sad, "life celebration" sounds joyful and hopeful.
There are times when we can rightly call for celebration when a person dies, when and only when that person was in right standing with God through the merits and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. When a forgiven, redeemed sinner dies it is reason to celebrate, that person has gone into the presence of God:
Psalm 16:11 "In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever."
According to the Bible, God Himself celebrates when one who belongs to Him dies and is brought to heaven with Him:
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones."
Here painful honesty is required, an honesty that apart from enablement from God we will never apply. How many people are entering God’s presence when they die? How often do we truly have a right to call for celebration? Did you know, not many? "On what authority do you say this?" one might ask. On the authority of the Lord Jesus:
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
In twenty years of ministry and many funerals I can tell you that I can’t remember one time it being said of a person who died, "I don’t think they are in heaven." In virtually every case the declaration made of the deceased is that, "They are in a better place" or "They aren’t suffering anymore" or "God took them home". It doesn’t matter if the deceased never made any profession of faith in Christ or gave any indication of ever coming to repentance in their life. The base assumption is that essentially everyone goes to heaven, with every funeral we can rejoice. Oh, perhaps Hitler isn’t in heaven but beyond him virtually everyone else is in heaven.
Our calls for celebration without discretion flows from denial, a refusal to listen to the Son of God. Not many are going to heaven, only a few are finding the path to life.
How do we know if someone is in heaven? First, we cannot make the ultimate declaration in this matter can we? I do not mean it is impossible for a person to know they are going to heaven because Christ’s death insures that those who come to Him by faith will be saved. But even here we must be cautious…have you ever questioned whether or not you are truly in the faith?
2 Corinthians 13:5
"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?"
If you have not tested your claim to heaven I would warn you that you are not standing on safe ground.