I always benefit from reading the 19th-century Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle. His writing is nourishing, like a square meal. It’s not exotic, fancy, gourmet food — it’s healthy, substantial, solid, wholesome, life-giving Bible teaching, plain and forthright. Here’s something I read from Ryle not long ago, from his book Practical Religion, on what reality in the Christian life is all about. There’s lots here to consider and meditate upon:’If you would know whether your religion is real, try it by the place which it occupies in your inner man. It is not enough that it is in your head. You may know the truth, and assent to the truth, and believe the truth, and yet be wrong in God’s sight. – It is not enough that it is on your lips. You may repeat the creed daily. You may say ‘Amen’ to public prayer in church, and yet have nothing more than an outward religion. – It is not enough that it is in your feelings. You may weep under preaching one day, and be lifted to the third heaven by joyous excitement another day, and yet be dead to God. – Your religion, if it is real, and given by the Holy Ghost, must be in your heart. It must occupy the citadel. It must hold the reigns. It must sway the affections. It must lead the will. It must direct the tastes. It must influence the choices and decisions. It must fill the deepest, lowest, inmost seat in your soul. Is this your religion. If not, you may well doubt whether it is ‘real’ and true.’
I was stirred as I read these words from Ray Ortlund this morning on the Gospel Coalition website: ‘A nice church filled with nice people doing nice things will make no impact in the intensity of our times. Every hybrid form of “Christianity” deserves to die, and will die. But here is a pathway back into the prophetic power of apostolic Christianity.’
Ortlund draws on the great Francis Schaeffer to chart that world-changing pathway. To see what he says, click here.
With the movie version of The Shack now out, it’s stirring more discussion once again. I haven’t seen the movie, but I read the book carefully when it came out years ago, and it’s bad news. It’s full of thoughts, claims, idea, and speculations that clearly contradict the Bible. And we’re not talking about incidental issues of the Christian faith, either, but rather things like salvation, and the divine relationships within the Trinity. As Christians, we’re to be discerning and test all things against the Bible. Which is why it’s so troubling that so many Christians seem to imbibe whatever the next thing is to come along… like The Shack. To help us with the task of discernment, I’m linking here to a good article Al Mohler wrote seven years ago, called ‘“The Shack” & the missing art of evangelical discernment.’
Pastor and author Jonathan Dodson spoke at our Leaders’ Training Day on Saturday, February 4 on the theme ‘Everyday Mission with Jesus.’ The talks were gospel-rich, with lots of stories and application. I’m glad we now have the talks available on our website so we can share them with you. Please enjoy by clicking here, and if you’re interested in Jonathan’s excellent, award-winning book The Unbelievable Gospel, click here.
While Emma and I and our kids are visiting with Emma’s family in Northern Ireland this February, we’ll spend a weekend with the believers from St. Clement’s Church, in Manchester, England. They’re taking a weekend away in Wales for an all-church retreat, and we’ll be tagging along. I’ll speak four times, Friday, February 17 – Sunday, February 19, on the life of Elijah. As I’ve spent time in 1 Kings 17, I’ve been excited all over again at how relevant to our lives is the life of this great Old Testament prophet. Please pray for good, abundant fruit from this time. And check out the website of St. Clement’s, a wonderful church that treasures the same gospel we do.