Authentic Religion (Part 2) – J.C. Ryle

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a 19th-century evangelical Anglican pastor and writer whose books have sold over 12 million copies. This article is adapted from his sermon “Authentic Religion,” found at http://www.BibleBB.com.

ryleThe Tests of Authenticity

Dismiss from your mind the common idea that, of course, all is right if you go to church. You must look further, higher, and deeper than this if you would find out the truth. Listen to me, and I will give you a few hints. Believe me, it is no light matter. It is your life. If you want to know whether your religion is authentic, try it by:

The place 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 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 authentic and given by the Holy Spirit, must be in your heart. It must hold the reins. 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 have good reason to doubt whether it is authentic and true (Acts 8:21; Romans 10:10).

The feelings toward sin that it produces.
The Christianity which is from the Holy Spirit will always have a very deep view of the sinfulness of sin. It will not merely regard sin as a blemish and misfortune, which makes men and women objects of pity and compassion. It will see in sin the abominable thing which God hates, the thing which makes man guilty and lost in his Maker’s sight, the thing which deserves God’s wrath and condemnation.

It will look on sin as the cause of all sorrow and unhappiness, of strife and wars, of quarrels and contentions, of sickness and death-the curse which cursed God’s beautiful creation, the cursed thing which makes the whole earth groan and struggle in pain. Above all, it will see in sin the thing which will ruin us eternally, unless we can find a ransom—lead us captive, except we can get its chains broken—and destroy our happiness, both here and hereafter, except we fight against it, even unto death. Is this your religion? Are these your feelings about sin? If not, you should doubt whether your religion is authentic.

The feelings toward Christ that it produces.
Authentic religion will make a man glory in Christ, as the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Priest, the Friend, without whom he would have no hope at all. It will produce confidence in Him, love toward Him, delight in Him, comfort in Him, as the mediator, the food, the light, the life, the peace of the soul. Is this your religion? Do you know anything of feelings like these toward Jesus Christ? If not, you have every reason to doubt whether your religion is authentic.

The fruit it bears in your heart and life.
The Christianity which is from above will always be known by its fruits. It will produce in the man who has it repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, spirituality, kindness, self-denial, unselfishness, a forgiving spirit, moderation, truthfulness, hospitality, and patience. The degree to which these various graces appear may vary in different believers, but the germ and seeds of them will be found in all who are the children of God. By their fruits they will be known. Is this your religion? If not, you should doubt whether it is authentic.

Your feelings and habits about means of grace. What are your feelings about public prayer and public praise, about the public preaching of God’s Word, and the administration of the Lord’s Supper? Are they things to which you give a cold assent, and tolerate them as proper and correct? Or are they things in which you take pleasure, and without which you could not be happy?

Prove it, finally, by your feelings about private means of grace. Do you find it essential to your comfort to read the Bible regularly in private, and to speak to God in prayer? Or do you find these practices boring, and either slight them or neglect them altogether? These questions deserve your attention. If means of grace are not as necessary to your soul as food and drink are to your body, you may well doubt whether your religion is authentic.

Are You Authentic?

Is your own religion genuine or fake? I do not ask what you think about others. Perhaps you see many hypocrites around you. You may be able to point to many who have no authenticity at all. This is not the question. You may be right in your opinion about others. But I want to know about you, yourself. Is your own Christianity authentic or counterfeit?

There is nothing like coming to particulars about these matters. If you want to know whether your religion is authentic, genuine, and true, measure it by the five particulars which I have now named. Measure it fairly; test it honestly. If your heart is right in the sight of God, you have no cause to flinch from examination. If it is wrong, the sooner you find it out, the better.

If you love life, do not turn away from the question which is now before you. The time must come when the whole truth will be known. The judgment day will reveal every man’s religion, of what sort it is. Surely it is a thousand times better to find out now your condition, and to repent, than to find it out too late in the next world, when there will be no opportunity for repentance.

If you have common sense, reason, and judgment, consider what I say. Sit down quietly this day and examine yourself. Find out the authentic character of your religion. With the Bible in your hand, and honesty in your heart, the thing may be known. Then resolve to find out.

A false Christianity is sure to fail a man in the end. It will wear out; it will break down; it will leave its possessor like a wreck on a sandbank, high and dry and forsaken by the tide. It will supply no comfort in the hour when comfort is most needed—in the time of affliction, and on the bed of death. If you want a religion to be of any use to your soul, beware of false Christianity!

Your repentance may be feeble, but let it be authentic; your faith may be weak, but let it be authentic; your desires after holiness may be mingled with much weakness, but let them be authentic. Let there be nothing of coldness, of double dealing, of dishonesty, of sham, or of counterfeit in your Christianity. Never be content to wear a cloak of religion.

Be all that you profess. Though you may sin, be authentic. Though you may stumble, be true. Keep this principle continually before your eyes, and it will be well with your soul throughout your journey from grace to glory.

Authentic Religion (Part 1) – J.C. Ryle

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a 19th-century evangelical Anglican pastor and writer whose books have sold over 12 million copies. This article is adapted from his sermon “Authentic Religion,” found at http://www.BibleBB.com.

ryleAuthentic religion is genuine, sincere, honest, and thorough. I mean that which is not inferior, hollow, formal, false, counterfeit, sham, and nominal. Authentic religion is not mere show, pretense, skin-deep feeling, or temporary profession. It is something inward, solid, substantial, intrinsic, living, lasting!

We know the difference between counterfeit and authentic money—between solid gold and tinsel—between plated metal and silver—between authentic stone and plaster imitation. Let us think of these things as we consider this subject of authenticity. What is the character of our religion? It may be weak and feeble, and mingled with many defects. That is not the point before us today. Is our religion authentic? Is it true?

The Importance of Authenticity

Authenticity is a far more rare and uncommon thing than commonly supposed. I want men to see that “unreality” is one of the great dangers of which Christians ought to beware. What does Scripture say?

In the parables of Jesus, observe how many of them are intended to put in strong contrast the true believer and the disciple in name only. The parables of the sower, of the weeds, of the net, of the two sons, of the wedding garment, of the ten virgins, of the talents, of the great banquet, of the ten minas, and of the two builders all have one great point in common—they all bring out in striking colors the difference between authenticity and unreality in religion. They all show the uselessness and danger of any Christianity which is not authentic, thorough, and true.

Consider also the language of Jesus. Eight times in one chapter, we find Him denouncing some religious folk as “hypocrites,” in words of almost fearful severity—“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33).

How is it that our gracious and merciful Savior used such cutting words about people who at any rate were more moral and decent than the tax collectors and prostitutes? It is meant to teach us the exceeding detestableness of false profession and mere outward religion in God’s sight. Open wickedness and willful submission to fleshly lusts are no doubt ruinous sins, if not given up. But there seems nothing which is so displeasing to Christ as hypocrisy.

Further, notice that there is hardly a grace in the character of a true Christian of which you will not find a counterfeit described in the Word of God:

Is there not a false “repentance”? Saul, Ahab, Herod, and Judas Iscariot had many feelings of sorrow about sin. But they never really repented unto salvation.

Is there not a false “faith”? Without a doubt there is. It is written of Simon Magus, at Samaria, that he “believed,” and yet his heart was not right in the sight of God. It is even written of the devils that they “believe … and shudder” (Acts 8:13; James 2:19).

Is there not a false “holiness”? Joash, king of Judah, appeared to everyone very holy and good, so long as Jehoiada the priest lived. But as soon as he died, the religion of Joash died at the same time (2 Chronicles 24:2). Judas Iscariot’s outward life was as correct as that of any of the apostles up to the time that he betrayed his Master. There was nothing suspicious about him. Yet in reality he was a thief and a traitor (John 12:6).

Is there not a false “love and kindness”? Without a doubt there is. There is a love which consists in words and tender expressions, and a great show of affection, and calling other people “dear brethren,” while the heart does not love at all. It is not for nothing that John says, “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Is there not a false “humility”?
There is a pretended meekness of demeanor, which often covers over a very proud heart. Paul warns us against a forced humility, and speaks of having “an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility” (Colossians 2:18, 23).

Is there not a false “praying”?
Our Lord denounces it as one of the special sins of the Pharisees—that “for a show make lengthy prayers” (Matthew 23:14). He does not charge them with not praying, or with praying short prayers. Their sin lay in this, that their prayers were not authentic.

Is there not a false “worship”? Our Lord said of the Jews, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). They had plenty of formal services in their temples and their synagogues. But the fatal defect about them was want of authenticity and heart.

Wherever I turn my eyes, I see abundant cause for the warning, “Beware of inferior religion. Be genuine. Be thorough. Be authentic. Be true.”

How much religion among some members of the church consists of nothing but “churchmanship”! They are members of the church. They are baptized in her baptistry, married in her sanctuary, preached to on Sundays by her ministers. But the great doctrines and truths preached from her pulpits have no place in their hearts and no influence on their lives. They neither think, nor feel, nor care, nor know anything about them. And is the religion of these people authentic Christianity? It is “Churchianity,” and no more.

How much evangelical religion is completely make-believe? You will sometimes see men professing great affection for the pure “Gospel,” while they are, practically speaking, inflicting on it the greatest injury. They will talk loudly of soundness in the faith, and have a keen nose for heresy. They will run eagerly after popular preachers, and applaud evangelical speakers at public meetings. They are familiar with all the phrases of evangelical religion, and can converse fluently about its leading doctrines. To see their faces at public meetings, or in church, you would think they were eminently godly. To hear them talk you would suppose their lives were tied up in all kinds of religious activity.

And yet these people in private will sometimes do things of which even some heathens would be ashamed. They are neither truthful, nor sincere, nor honest, nor just, nor good-tempered, nor unselfish, nor merciful, nor humble, nor kind! And is such Christianity as this authentic? It is not. It is a worthless fake, a wretched cheat and farce.

I write these things with sorrow. I have no desire to bring any section of the Church of Christ into contempt. I have no wish to cast any slur on any movement which begins with the Spirit of God. But the times demand very plain speaking about some points in the prevailing Christianity of our day. And one point which I am quite sure demands attention is the abounding lack of authenticity which is to be seen on every side.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow

The Discipline of Standing Still

honeyhunters

In 1988, National Geographic photographer Eric Valli received both national and international recognition for his effort in securing an amazing photograph which he entitled, “Honey Hunters.”

The photograph was of a jungle nomad named Mani Lal gathering honey in the Himalayan foothills where the world’s largest honeybee takes shelter. What made this such an adventurous photograph was the fact that Eric was dangling by a nylon rope from a 395-foot cliff. Before undertaking the daring feat, Eric was warned that there would be thousands of bees swarming around, and any sudden movements would send the bees into a stinging frenzy which could cost both men their lives. Although Eric received just a few bee stings, he learned that the secret to capturing such an incredible image would require him to assume a position of frozen stillness.

In Mark 10, Jesus is passing through Jericho when a blind man named Bartimaeus captures His attention. Verse 49 records, “And Jesus stood still…” If there is a lost discipline in our spiritual lives today it is the art of being still. The philosophy of the world says, “be strong,” “be first,” “be aggressive,” or “be busy.” But has it ever dawned on you just how often the Lord has said, “be still”? Whether it was Elijah on a lonely mountainside of discouragement, or Israel at the dead end of the Red Sea, or Job in the crucible of his furnace, the saints of old found comfort and peaceful resolve in stillness before the Lord.

Former Wheaton College President V. Raymond Edman once said, “in every life there’s a pause that is better than onward rush, better than hewing or mightiest doing; ‘tis the standing still at Sovereign will.” Stillness is essential for the survival of animals in the wild, and stillness is crucial for the success of soldiers on the battlefield. However, when the Lord says to you and me, “be still.” He is not speaking as much about our outward stability as He is our inward serenity. Just what are the spiritual secrets of being still?

Stillness implies we must watch with expectation.

When Israel faced their hour of crisis at the Red Sea, Moses commanded the people in Exodus 14:13, “…stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today….” The Hebrew word translated “still” in this verse pictures a sentry standing faithfully at his post or station with attentive eyes. A sentry is posted to see what others cannot see from ground level.

Nearly every time the Lord said, “be still,” disaster appeared inevitable. However, it was in stillness that miraculous perception was achieved. When the Israelites could see only the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, Moses could see “Him who is invisible.” When Gehazi could only see the Syrian army gathering, Elisha saw “the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire.” When Balaam thought a clear pathway was up ahead, his donkey turned aside in stillness at the sight of an angel with its sword drawn.

Perhaps the reason life is so complicated for most of us is because in our constant state of busyness we have lost the conscious awareness of the Lord’s presence. True spiritual vision is not our eyes capturing people, places, or things, but rather it is our hearts being captivated with the Lord!

Stillness implies we must wait with endurance.

Job walked through a valley of unimaginable darkness that made it difficult to trace the hand of the Lord in his circumstances. However, his young friend Elihu wisely counseled him in Job 37:14, “O Job, stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” The word “still” in this verse has a Hebrew meaning of “to take a stand and remain.” I never understood as a child why we never ate desert first. But I knew that if I could tough it through the other stuff, it would be worth it in the end! After all that Job endured, the Bible summarizes his experience best in Job 42:12, “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning….”

When the Lord commanded the priests carrying the Ark to “stand still” in the Jordan river, it was their enduring obedience that kept the waters parted while Israel finally entered the Promised Land. When Jesus interrupted a funeral procession in Nain, those carrying the coffin “stood still” and witnessed the miracle of His resurrection power. Stillness is simply the pause of man awaiting the power of God. Vance Havner once said, “He who waits on God loses no time.” God’s power does not always manifest when we think it will, but it always does when it should!

Stillness implies we must withdraw our engagement.

Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still, and know that I am God…” The word “still” in this verse is two exclamatory statements in the original Hebrew. It means, “relax, take your hands off!” This was written at a troublesome time in Hezekiah’s life when he faced circumstances beyond his control. Not only had he received a blasphemous letter from a heathen king whose huge army threatened to destroy Jerusalem, but Isaiah delivered a word from God that he was to prepare to die.

Panic can cause a restless carelessness that entices us to action. The one mistake we are all most prone to make is growing impatient with the Lord and trying to do His will our way. If only Abraham had stood still until Isaac was born, the Middle East might never have known the perpetual conflict it does today. If only Saul had stood still until Samuel returned from the Lord’s presence, his kingdom would have been established forever.

Those that trust in the Lord are never brought to shame in their hope. Isaiah 30:7 says it best, “…their strength is to sit still.”

David faced a life full of battles, burdens, and blessings, but have you ever wondered what enabled him to emerge from it all with a fresh song in his heart? Perhaps he gives the secret away in Psalm 23:2, “…He leadeth me beside the still waters.” When God leads, stillness is sure to follow. When God is not leading, you might just be stirring up a hornet’s nest!

© 2008 Alan Stewart
Published in Pulpit Helps, November 2008
Alan Stewart pastors Rechoboth Baptist Church in Soddy Daisy, Tenn.

God’s EXCHANGE for You

exchangeSome relationships are warm and fulfilling while others are cold and distant. How would you describe your relationship with God? To some people God seems distant or uninterested in their lives. Others may feel too far away from God for hope. Still others may think they are alright the way they are. Whoever you are and wherever you’ve been, God is personally interested in you and longs to share a close relationship with you. He has revealed Himself to you in the Bible so that you can know Him.

Close relationships are made by taking time to get to know each other. In this video Jeff Musgrave will introduce you to God by showing you four of His greatest attributes. 1) God is Holy, 2) God is Just, 3) God is Loving, and 4) God is Gracious.  As you take time to investigate God’s amazing love, you can begin to know Him for yourself.

On this Day in History: August 12

A lot of significant events took place on August 12. None were more significant than when the most beautiful and sweetest girl in the world said “yes.” Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD. I praise the Lord for His goodness in bringing the two of us together.

August 12, 1989

Click to view a small photo album from our wedding.

Here is a list of a few other events that took place on this day.

This Day in History from the History Channel – August 12

American Revolution: 1776 Washington anticipates British strategy

Automotive: 1988 “Tucker: The Man & His Dream” debuts

Civil War: 1862 John Hunt Morgan captures a Federal garrison at Gallatin

Cold War: 1961 East Germany begins construction of the Berlin Wall

Crime: 1964 Great Train robber escapes from prison

Disaster: 2000 Russian sub sinks with 118 onboard

General Interest
1676 King Philip’s War ends
    1898 Armistice ends the Spanish-American War
    1953 Soviets test “Layer-Cake” bomb
    1973 Nicklaus sets title record
    1985 JAL air crash

Hollywood: 1964 James Bond creator Ian Fleming dies | 2014 Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall dies

Literary: 1774 English poet laureate Robert Southey is born

Music: 1939 The Wizard of Oz movie musical premieres in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

Old West: 1820 Fur trader Manuel Lisa dies

Sports: 1978 Rising NFL star paralyzed by hit

Vietnam War: 1965 Henry Cabot Lodge sworn in as Ambassador to Vietnam | 1969 VC launch new offensive

World War I: 1914 British Parliament passes Defense of the Realm Act

World War II: 1938 Hitler institutes the Mother’s Cross | 1941 Roosevelt and Churchill confer, map out short- and long-term goals

Life Goes On… It Really Does!

allenSeventy years ago today, July 31, 1944, my dad Allen Davis was born. We shared a birthday. I was born on July 31, 1967 on his twenty-third birthday. He used to say that he didn’t have any birthdays after that because we were always celebrating mine. I wish he was around today so we could celebrate his 70th. On January 2, 2009, my dad went to be with his Savior. In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday. In other ways it seems like forever. Life goes on they say, whoever they are. Life does go on. Our lives here on this earth go on, but my dad’s life also goes on with his Savior. Paul said to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. 

I found great comfort today in the words of J.I. Packer which I have pasted below. I have heard from many people, too many people to count, that my dad was a good man. I know my dad would want all of us to remember that his goodness was totally found in the goodness and righteousness of Christ who died for his sins and rose again. That righteousness was credited to my dad’s account when as a nine year old boy he accepted Christ as his personal Savior, a salvation found in God’s grace alone through faith alone, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). I hope the following words are an encouragement to many.

As I get older, I find that I appreciate God and people and good and lovely and noble things more and more intensely; so it is pure delight to think that this enjoyment will continue and increase in some form (what form, God knows, and I am content to wait and see), literally forever. In fact Christians inherit the destiny which fairy tales envisaged in fancy: we (yes, you and I the silly saved sinners) live and live happily, and by God’s endless mercy will live happily ever after.

We cannot visualize heaven’s life and the wise man will not try to do so. Instead he will dwell on the doctrine of heaven, where the redeemed will find all their heart’s desire: joy with their Lord, joy with his people, and joy in the ending of all frustration and distress and in the supply of all wants. What was said to the child — “If you want sweets and hamsters in heaven, they’ll be there” — was not an evasion but a witness to the truth that in heaven no felt needs or longings go unsatisfied. What our wants will actually be, however, we hardly know, except the first and foremost: we shall want to be “always…with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

What shall we do in heaven? Not lounge around but worship, work, think, and communicate, enjoying activity, beauty, people, and God. First and foremost, however, we shall see and love Jesus, our Savior, Master, and Friend.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

New Website: pastorjeffdavis.com

new web siteI am happy to announce that I finally bit the bullet and started my new website. Several years ago, I started a blog at pastorjd.wordpress.com.  I was glad for the free hosting service and for quite a while it served me well. I used it to post updates on our family, to share sermon links to audio messages I had preached, and as a communication tool for our church family. When we moved to Anderson, I used Facebook and our church website as my main communication tools, but often regretted the lack of time spent updating my blog.


logotopEarlier this evening I connected my blog to my new website. That way anyone can look back and see how inconsistent I have been over the past few years. They also will be able to look back to posts from several years ago that give a glimpse into my ministry and to my family. Maybe I need to take time to chronicle events of the past five years. Can you imagine how long that would take? I guess the Facebook timeline will have to suffice.

It is my goal that in the days ahead, I will be more consistent in using this website as a platform to share sermon links, devotional thoughts, information on our family, and just about anything that pops into my head. I’m not sure if anyone other than my family will pay attention, but this exercise in discipline will for the time being be something that benefits at least this preacher.