What do we Fight in the Fight of Faith?

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 dose 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 lines 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.  He who is never satisfied unless he is engaged in some strife between church and church, chapel and chapel, sect and sect, party and party, knows nothing yet as he ought to know.  Never is the cause of sin so helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarreling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.

No, indeed!  The principal fight of 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 was 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.  To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer.  “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.”  “I see a 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” (1 Cor. ix. 27; Rom. vii. 23, 24; Gal. v. 24; Coloss. iii. 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 into 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 iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15; Gal. vi. 4; 1 John v. 4; Rom. xii. 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 ail our ways.  A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labors 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 if we wish to be saved.  But “this kind goeth not out” but by watching and praying, 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 i. 7; 1 Peter v. 8; John viii. 44; Luke xxii. 31; Ephes. vi. 11).

Reader, perhaps you 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 underrate 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 you 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 the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.”  “Think not that I am come to send peace on the 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” (1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim. ii. 8; Ephes. vi. 11-13; Luke xiii. 24; John vi. 27; Matt. x. 84; Luke xxii. 36; 1 Cor. xvi. 18; 1 Tim. i. 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.

-J.C. Ryle

Christian Conceit

“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” Luke 22:24 

We see in this passage how firmly pride and love of preeminence can stick to the hearts of Christian men. The strife was one which had been rebuked by our Lord on a former occasion. The Lord’s Supper which the disciples had just been receiving, and the circumstances under which they were assembled–made the strife particularly inappropriate. 

And yet at this very season, the last quiet time they could spend with their Master before His death, this little flock begins to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest! 

Such is the heart of man–ever weak, ever prideful, ever ready, even at its best times, to turn aside to what is evil!

The sin before us is a very old one. Ambition, self-esteem, and self-conceit–lie deep at the bottom of all men’s hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected! Thousands imagine that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves. Few indeed can be found who rejoice heartily in another’s promotion over themselves.

If we make any profession of serving Christ, then let us live on our guard against this great evil. The harm that it has done to the Church of Christ, is far beyond calculation. Let us learn to take pleasure in the prosperity of others, and to be content with the lowest place for ourselves. The rule given to the Philippians should be often before our eyes, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” The example of John the Baptist is a bright instance of the spirit at which we should aim. He said of our Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

-J.C. Ryle

Disbelieve in Hell: May As Well Throw Away Your Bible

The following is a challenging thought from J.C. Ryle for those who profess to be Christians but reject the doctrine of hell.

There is but one point to be settled, “What does the Word of God teach?” Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell is real and true. Hell is as true as Heaven, as true as the fact that Christ died upon the cross.

Disbelieve Hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in the Scripture. Disbelieve Hell, and you may as well throw your Bible away at once! From “no Hell” to “no God” is but a series of steps!

Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell will have inhabitants. If I never spoke of Hell, I would think I had kept back something that was profitable, and would look on myself as an accomplice of the devil!

A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men everywhere are telling us, “that God is too merciful to punish souls forever–that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly will sooner or later be saved.” We are to embrace what is called “kinder theology,” and treat Hell as a pagan fable.

This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God–His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of Hell. If words mean anything, there is such a place as Hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, then most people will be cast into it. The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners–also teaches that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin and refuse the salvation He has provided.

-J.C. Ryle

4 Aims of a Godly Pastor – J.C. Ryle

It is of great importance to recall to our minds the real nature of our work as ministers of the Gospel. We should remember constantly the great ideal of what a Christian minister ought to be, sketched out in the sixth chapter of the Acts: “We will give ourselves to the Word of God and to prayer.”

The preaching and expounding of the Word of God, with nothing added, and with nothing taken away–is beyond all doubt our principal business. We must take heed that we give due honor to the Word of God in our public ministrations. A thousand things continually call us away from this–committees, schools, visiting, and the like. But we must remember that we are ministers of the Word of God, that our province is the Word of God, and that we must be very careful not to leave the Word of God to serve tables.

But after that, we must never forget private prayer. This is one grand secret of the strength of the ministry. It is here that the roots of the ministry, practically speaking, are to be found. The ministry of the man who has gifts, however great, but who does not give the prayer-closet the principal place–must sooner or later become tedious and ineffective.

I will remark, in the next place, that it is of immense importance that we should take heed to our own lives. “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things” 1 Timothy 4:16.

I have been lately studying the lives and private habits of those men whom God raised up to be the revivers of the Church in the last century. I have been much struck with their self-denial, and entire devotedness to the work of the ministry. They were men who lived very plainly and simply, and did not seem to care much for anything but their pastoral work. They were not men who sought the entertainments of the great and the rich. We would do well to consider whether we are living as near to God as they did.

I will remark, in the next place, that we all need to be more careful in the employment of our time. There is a danger of trying to do too much. Some clergymen have so many irons in the fire, that it is impossible to keep them all hot. A few things well done, are far better than twenty poorly done. The man whose work will stand the longest, is the man who, whatever people may say, however lazy they may call him determines that he will not do more than he can do well.

And always remember: What costs little, is worth little.

-J.C. Ryle