About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.

Get in the Fight

“Fight the good fight of the faith.”
1 Timothy 6:12

I’m not a fighter. It’s just not in me. 

I have never raised my hand against anyone in anger. I may have been tempted once or twice, but knowing how ill-equipped I am for such things, I have always sought a peaceable solution, or an escape. If it is a fight or flight option, I think it’s clear which I’ll choose.

But it is not lost on me that as a Christian, as one called to be a disciple of Christ the King, whose reign and rule is at odds with the tyranny of corruption in this world, I am called to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). Jesus said that in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33), so Paul calls all Christians to take up the full armor of God (Eph 6:11) as we contend against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). The followers of God are called to be strong and courageous (Josh 1:9), even as we “wage the good warfare” of the life of faith (1 Tim 1:18).

The call of Christ is a call to arms. This call is not for the faint of heart, but one in which we must constantly be on guard, be strengthened in the Lord, and find shelter in His presence.

Christianity is a fight. But let me be clear, it is not a call to be argumentative, divisive, or a troublemaker. We are not called to fight against one another in the Church, neither is are war directly with those who are opposed to the faith. Christians often forget where the battlefield really lies, and who the enemy truly is, and we we often point our weapons in the wrong direction. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

J.C. Ryle, in his book, Holiness, points us to the enemy. We must wage war against our own sinful flesh, against the temptations of the world, and against the devil himself.

We fight against our own sinful flesh – “Even after conversion man carries within him a nature prone to evil and a heart weak and unstable as water.” The Westminster Confession teaches that our Sanctification is “imperfect in this life; there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:17; 1 Pet 2:11). In the power of the Holy Spirit, we daily take up our cross, put to death the old man, and rise as new creations to follow after Christ. We must fight.

We fight against temptations of the world “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.” We measure the success of the Church by worldly standards. We ask ourselves, “How much can I look like the rest of the world and still be a follower of Christ?” We are sympathizing with the enemy when we do this, and in danger of being found a turncoat in the trenches. We must fight.

We fight against the devil himself“Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour… 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.”  To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leads to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.

Christian's Combat with Apollyon - Pilgrim's Progress

Christian’s Combat with Apollyon

Pilgrim’s Progress, 1850

Christians, we are called to fight. But we are also called to remember that we fight a battle as those who are already victorious. We fight, knowing that Christ is the captain of our Salvation, that through His death and resurrection he has already defeated the enemy of sin and death, they have lost their sting (1 Cor 15:55). We engage in the war, knowing that, “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn 5:4–5)”

Hearing a call to war is terrifying until you know that the victory is assured. Then, in the triumph of Christ, we can be happy warriors, ready to fight the good fight and keep the faith.

SDG

Quotes taken from:

Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.

Westminster Assembly. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. Print.

Take Time to Be Holy

It is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pe 1:16)

The Old Hymn implores us:

 Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

But this call to Holiness is lost on most Christians today.

We’re afraid of coming across as “Holier-than-Thou,” a genuine concern, to be fair. We don’t want our pursuit of holiness to be seen as self-righteousness, or to become a hindrance to others hearing and believing in the Gospel. Our holiness should not be reduced to judgmentalism, nor should it be a call to works-righteousness.

But that doesn’t mean that we should call off the pursuit altogether.

We are called to be Holy. When we are born again from above, our regeneration is through the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit. We are reminded in 1 Peter 1:15–16, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” We know that Jesus said that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, we will never see the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). We know that God’s design for our lives is that we would be sanctified (1 Thess 4:3), that God calls us to holiness (1 Thess 4:7), and that God has chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless (Eph 1:4).

So how then do we pursue holiness without becoming sanctimonious? How do we steer clear of the trap of self-righteousness, while still seeking holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14)?

As I’ve been reading J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness, I thought I’d share highlights on the pursuit of holiness (and encourage you to find a copy of the book and read it for yourself).

First: a reminder of what holiness isn’t.

It is not knowledge—Balaam had that; nor great profession—Judas Iscariot  had that; nor doing many things—Herod had that; nor zeal for certain matters in religion—Jehu had that; nor morality and outward respectability of conduct—the young ruler had that; nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers—the Jews in Ezekiel’s time had that; nor keeping company with godly people—Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these were holy! These things alone are not holiness. A man may have any one of them and yet never see the Lord.

So what is holiness? Ryle organizes his teaching with these bullet points:

  • Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.
  • A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin and to keep every known commandment.
  • A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue.
  • A holy man will follow after temperance and self–denial.
  • A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness.
  • A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence  towards others.
  • A holy man will follow after purity of heart. 
  • A holy man will follow after the fear of God.
  • A holy man will follow after humility.
  • A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life.
  • Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual–mindedness.

What we must remember, however, is that holiness is not that which saves us. We are saved by grace “through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). This keeps us from any self-righteous, judgmental, condescending, sanctimonious attitude, knowing that our salvation and holiness is the work of another.

God is the One who saves the sinner through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and it is the righteousness of Christ that produces holiness within us. He is the root, our holiness is the fruit. Ryle states, “Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him. It is the fruit of being a living branch of the true Vine.”

One might amend Ryle’s statement to say, “It is the necessary result of vital union with Christ.” If you are united with Christ through faith, you will, you must, produce a harvest of righteousness. If there is no fruit, are you even connected to the root?

Christian, pursue holiness. Cling to Christ, the righteous one, that you may grow in righteousness. Seek the kingdom of God now, so that you’ll know it when you see it. Remember, we must be saints on earth if ever we mean to be saints in heaven.

SDG

All quotes taken from: Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.