Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Note to Christians...


I just finished reading a book by Bishop J.C. Ryle (pictured left, looks like Father Christmas!). I have found it exceptionally challenging. Ryle is writing in the mid to late 1800's, and I find many similarities to his world (19th century England) and ours (21st century America). It is an especially interesting connection because it is shortly after Ryle's death that England's church began to really go down the tubes.

Here's an excerpt from Ryle's "Holiness" at the end of his discussion on Lot. He quotes a passage that simply states of Lot that "he lingered" at Sodom (Gen. 19:16):

And now let me speak a few parting words to all who read this paper, and especially to all who call themselves believers in Christ.


I have no wish to make your hearts sad. I do not want to give you a gloomy view of the Christian course. My only object is to give you friendly warnings. I desire your peace and your comfort. I would fain see you happy as well as safe-- and joyful as well as justified. I speak as I have done for you good.


You live in days when a lingering, Lot-like religion abounds. The stream of profession is far broader than it once was, but far less deep in many places. A certain kind of Christianity is almost fashionable now. To belong to some party in the Church of England, and show a zeal for interests; to talk about the leading contraversies of the day; to buy popular relgious books as fast as they come out, and lay them on your table to attend meetings; to subscribe to societies; to discuss the mertis of preachers; to be enthusastic and excited about every new form of sensational religion which crops up--- all these are now comparitively easy and common attainments. They no logner make a personal singular. They require little or no sacrifice. They entail no cross.


But to walk closely with God-- to be really spiritually-minded-to behave like strangers and pilgrims-- to be distinct from the world in employment of time, in conversation, in amusements, in dress--- to bear a faiathful witness for Christ in all places-- to leave a savor of our Master in every society--- to be prayerful, humble, unselfish, good-tempered, quiet, easily pleased, charitiable, patient, meek-- to be jealously afriad of all manner of sin, and tremblingly alive to our danger from the world--- these, these are still rare things! They are not common among those who are called true Christians, and worst of all, the absence of them is not felt and bewailed as it should be.


In a day like this I venture to offer counsel to every believing reader of this paper. Do not turn away from it. Do not be angry with me for plain speaking. I bid you "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). I bid you not to be slothful--- not to be careless--- not to be content with a small measure of grace-- not to be satisfied with being a little better than the world..."

2 comments:

Whit said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog entries, Tom. What a trap it is to think everything's fine when you're being a little less sinful than everyone else. Looking at everyone else instead of looking to God makes us satisfied with mediocrity and false holiness. I'm guilty as charged.

By the way, where do I sign up for the moon colony?

kerby goff said...

I like the old people too! It's amazing to see the similarities in that quote, especially with respect to "to talk about the leading contraversies of the day; to buy popular relgious books as fast as they come out, and lay them on your table to attend meetings; to subscribe to societies; to discuss the mertis of preachers; to be enthusastic and excited about every new form of sensational religion which crops up."
Not that any of those things are bad, wrong, or misguided in themselves, but I can see it in myself and others how public "spirituality" can eclipse personal holiness and, as C.S. Lewis would say, we choose second things, and lose both the first and second things together.
I have been thinking about this recently, and I am amazed by the difference of response to a couple large-scale scandals of the past decade, Clinton and Haggard. Whereas with Clinton, we drove an arbitrary wedge between "private" sins and "public" sins, the church said with Haggard, to sin in private is to sin in public, and there are consequences in both realms.
Like we experienced with the Tsunami, when the earth breaks on the ocean floor, more than the ocean floor breaks in its wake.
We certainly need a call to integrity in striving to have every aspect of our lives conform to the image of the one in whose image we are made, especially in an age when the focus is shifting away from the individual at such a rapid pace.