Category Archives: Sanctification

J.C. Ryle’s Classic, “Holiness”

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

At this year’s annual national NCFIC conference, “The Highway of Holiness,” I had the great privilege of giving a message on J.C. Ryle’s classic book, “Holiness.”

If you know me well, you know that this book is on my very short “must read” list. Should you decide to invest the time to listen to my summary, I hope you find it very profitable.


If you are interested in the book, here are two great options:

  1. A free ebook version
  2. A hardback version

Happy listening and/or reading!


J.C. Ryle Warns Against Driving a Hard Bargain

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

First, this post signifies that I am back in the blogosphere. My last post was October 10, 2012, and it was sparse before that. Self-admittedly, that is pitiful. So while I’ll never be up for blogger of the year, I am rededicating myself to regular entries because there are simply too many benefits to the thinking and precision required by the discipline of writing. Even if no one ever reads a single entry, I will be more well thought-out, more precise, and more articulate on the topics I undertake. Those things are all important.

Now to a piercing quote from J.C. Ryle:

“I do urge on every professing Christian who wishes to be happy, the immense importance of making no compromise between God and the world. Do not try to drive a hard bargain, as if you wanted to give Christ as little of your heart as possible, and to keep as much as possible of the things of this life.” (Holiness, chapter 10)

I will save you the commentary on how hard this hits me personally, and get straight to the question: Do you find yourself wanting to give Christ as little of your heart as possible? There is only one solution: REPENT. True repentance secures times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19, and though this verse speaks of the initial repentance of salvation, it is also true of the ongoing repentance of believers as they are sanctified).

Finally, a dear friend and Deacon of the church had a celebration to honor the contributions of J.C. Ryle on May 10, Ryle’s birthday. Though he has now been dead for more than a century, his writings may be having a greater impact now than at any other time. I am a grateful student.

J.C. Ryle Birthday Cake

(Yes, the books were edible!)


Thinking Differently About Small Compromises

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Our current circumstances relating to church discipline have me reinspecting my own life and patterns, and I know I’m not alone. Every one of us should be looking for the little root of sin that, left undisturbed, will grow into something monstrous which strips from us so many of the things we should cherish and jealously protect. Undoubtedly one of the reasons God has brought the present circumstances to us is so that we would wake up and ruthlessly pluck out those roots in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul says this in Romans 8:12-14,  “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Did you catch that? If we are sons and daughters of God, we will be led by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body.

Or as my favorite commentator, J.C. Ryle says, “Nothing darkens the eyes of the mind so much, and deadens the conscience so surely, as an allowed sin… Take my advice, and never spare a little sin.  Israel was commanded to slay every Canaanite, both great and small. Act on the same principle, and show no mercy to little sins.”

Most of us have known this in our minds for many years, but I doubt we have known it as deeply or as urgently as we know it today. Depth and urgency are good, and we should praise God for being so merciful in teaching us. Ignoring this shot across the bow would be to our shame and harm.

So what is the little compromise you should have treated as a mortal enemy, but instead have hidden away and fed enough to keep alive? It is not your friend, you know. When the time is right, it will treat you as a mortal enemy, strip you bare, humiliate you, and leave you for dead. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, identify that small compromise, call it what it is, and put it to death by the Spirit.


The Principle of Radical Amputation

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

This week we tackle Jesus’ exposition of the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18).  After expanding it well beyond the borders of the simple act of adultery, Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you” (Matthew 5:29).  Right arm, ditto.  Better that than to be cast into hell.  Wow.  That kind of preaching is in short supply today.  No wonder the people were astonished at His teaching.

A friend calls this “the principle of radical amputation”.  Rather than play with sin, entertain sin, negotiate with sin, try to manage sin, leave space for sin, we should act like this is war and sin is the enemy.  Because this is war and sin is the enemy.

In the fall of 2008, I delivered an address titled “Pure Men in an Age of Impurity” at the Hope Baptist father/son retreat.  I realize how narcissistic it sounds for me to say, “Spend an hour listening to my sermon”, but spend an hour listening to my sermon.  You will hear the hard-hitting counsel of Scripture in the category of sexual purity.  It may very well help you.

Here are the two main points:

1)  Knowing the overwhelming worth of Jesus Christ is the key.  When we dabble with sin – any sin – and give it leave to come and go as it pleases, we have either never seen the pearl of great price or have lost sight of it.  Anything short of selling all – for joy over this incomparable treasure – amounts to temporary self-help.  Treasuring Jesus is the only real antidote.

2)  The counsel of Scripture can be summarized as starve, run, and amputate.  This is what Paul means when he exhorts us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

There may be things that have been your companion for a long time.  Things that need to be cut off and cast from you.  Enemies that have been treated as friends, coddled, spared, secretly nurtured.  For the glory of God, for your own happiness, for the eternal condition of your soul, subject them to the principle of radical amputation.