Worship Preparation: The Ryle Quote Guessing Game

18 04 2008

(by:jt)

Since there are a number of silly “Christian” board games circulating these days, I thought I’d try to develop another type of “Christian game” that might actually help. We’ll see?

If you plan to worship with Grace Church this Sunday, maybe you will want to help prepare your soul for the preached word by trying to guess which sentences from J.C. Ryle’s commentary on Mark will be quoted in this week’s sermon. Ryle’s commentary is brief, but power-packed, and as devotional as it comes.

The incentive (mainly for me), is that if more of our people will read Ryle’s comments, I won’t feel so bad about leaving out so many of his great statements!

So, happy guessing.

How to play:

Read Ryles commentary, then guess which Ryle quotes I’ll use in the sermon by posting in the comments section, like this:

“All, in a word, need to be born again and to flee to Christ.”

Or, this:

“May we never rest until we know and feel that we have repented! There are no impenitent people in the kingdom of heaven. All who enter in there have felt, mourned over, forsaken, and sought pardon for sin. This must be our experience, if we hope to be saved.”

Or, this:

“Two men together will do more work than two men singly. They will help one another in judgment, and commit fewer mistakes. They will aid one another in difficulties, and less often fail of success. They will stir one another up when tempted to idleness, and less often relapse into indolence and indifference. They will comfort one another in times of trial, and be less often cast down. “Woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.” (Eccles. 4:10.).”

Or, this:

“We see, in the first place, how apt men are to undervalue things with which they are familiar. The men of Nazareth “were offended” at our Lord. They could not think it possible that one who had lived so many years among themselves, and whose brethren and sisters they knew, could deserve to be followed as a public teacher.

Never had any place on earth such privileges as Nazareth. For thirty years the Son of God resided in this town, and went to and fro in its streets. For thirty years He walked with God before the eyes of its inhabitants, living a blameless, perfect life. But it was all lost upon them. They were not ready to believe the Gospel, when the Lord came among them and taught in their synagogue. They would not believe that one whose face they knew so well, and who had lived so long, eating, and drinking, and dressing like one of themselves, had any right to claim their attention. They were “offended at Him.”

I guess you’re catching on by now? But, hey, if you’re still reading…it worked!

Click “Read the rest…” for Ryle’s commentary on this week’s passage.

Mark chapter 6

Mark 6:1-6

This passage shows us our Lord Jesus Christ in “his hometown,” at Nazareth. It is a melancholy illustration of the wickedness of man’s heart, and deserves special attention.

We see, in the first place, how apt men are to undervalue things with which they are familiar. The men of Nazareth “were offended” at our Lord. They could not think it possible that one who had lived so many years among themselves, and whose brethren and sisters they knew, could deserve to be followed as a public teacher.

Never had any place on earth such privileges as Nazareth. For thirty years the Son of God resided in this town, and went to and fro in its streets. For thirty years He walked with God before the eyes of its inhabitants, living a blameless, perfect life. But it was all lost upon them. They were not ready to believe the Gospel, when the Lord came among them and taught in their synagogue. They would not believe that one whose face they knew so well, and who had lived so long, eating, and drinking, and dressing like one of themselves, had any right to claim their attention. They were “offended at Him.”

There is nothing in all this that need surprise us. The same thing is going on around us every day, in our own land. The holy Scriptures, the preaching of the Gospel, the public ordinances of religion, the abundant means of grace that England enjoys, are continually undervalued by English people. They are so accustomed to them, that they do not know their privileges. It is an dreadful truth, that in religion, more than in anything else, familiarity breeds contempt.

There is comfort in this part of our Lord’s experience, for some of the Lord’s people. There is comfort for faithful ministers of the Gospel, who are cast down by the unbelief of their parishioners or regular hearers. There is comfort for true Christians who stand alone in their families, and see all around them cleaving to the world. Let both remember that they are drinking the same cup as their beloved Master. Let them remember that He too was despised most by those who knew Him best. Let them learn that the utmost consistency of conduct will not make others adopt their views and opinions, any more than it did the people of Nazareth. Let them know that the sorrowful words of their Lord will generally be fulfilled in the experience of His servants, “a prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”

We see, in the second place, how humble was the rank of life which our Lord condescended to occupy before He began His public ministry. The people of Nazareth said of Him, in contempt, “Is not this the carpenter?”

This is a remarkable expression, and is only found in the Gospel of Mark. It shows us plainly that for the first thirty years of His life, our Lord was not ashamed to work with His own hands. There is something marvelous and overwhelming in the thought! He who made heaven, and earth, and sea, and all that therein is–He, without whom nothing was made that was made–the Son of God Himself, took on Him the form of a servant, and “in the sweat of His face ate bread,” as a working man. This is indeed that “love of Christ that passes knowledge.” Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. Both in life and death He humbled Himself, that through Him sinners might live and reign for evermore.

Let us remember, when we read this passage, that there is no sin in poverty. We never need be ashamed of poverty, unless our own sins have brought it upon us. We never ought to despise others, because they are poor. It is disgraceful to be a gambler, or a drunkard, or a covetous man, or a liar; but it is no disgrace to work with our own hands, and earn our bread by our own labor. The thought of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth, should cast down the high thoughts of all who make an idol of riches. It cannot be dishonorable to occupy the same position as the Son of God, and Savior of the world.

We see, in the last place, how exceedingly sinful is the sin of unbelief. Two remarkable expressions are used in teaching this lesson. One is, that our Lord “could do no mighty work” at Nazareth, by reason of the hardness of the people’s hearts. The other is, that “He was amazed at their unbelief.” The one shows us that unbelief has a power to rob men of the highest blessings. The other shows that it is so suicidal and unreasonable a sin, that even the Son of God regards it with surprise.

We can never be too much on our guard against unbelief. It is the oldest sin in the world. It began in the garden of Eden, when Eve listened to the devil’s promises, instead of believing God’s words, “you shall die.” It is the most ruinous of all sins in its consequences. It brought death into the world. It kept Israel for forty years out of Canaan. It is the sin that especially fills hell. “He that believes not shall be damned.” It is the most foolish and inconsistent of all sins. It makes a man refuse the plainest evidence, shut his eyes against the clearest testimony, and yet believe lies. Worst of all, it is the commonest sin in the world. Thousands are guilty of it on every side. In profession they are Christians. They know nothing of Paine and Voltaire. But in practice they are really unbelievers. They do not implicitly believe the Bible, and receive Christ as their Savior.

Let us watch our own hearts carefully in the matter of unbelief. The heart, and not the head, is the seat of its mysterious power. It is neither the lack of evidence, nor the difficulties of Christian doctrine, that make men unbelievers. It is lack of will to believe. They love sin. They are wedded to the world. In this state of mind they never lack specious reasons to confirm their will. The humble, childlike heart is the heart that believes.

Let us go on watching our hearts, even after we have believed. The root of unbelief is never entirely destroyed. We have only to leave off watching and praying, and a noxious crop of unbelief will soon spring up. No prayer is so important as that of the disciples, “Lord, increase our faith.”

Mark 6:7-13

These verses describe the first sending forth of the apostles to preach. The great Head of the church made proof of His ministers, before He left them alone in the world. He taught them to try their own powers of teaching, and to find out their own weaknesses, while He was yet with them. Thus, on the one hand, He was enabled to correct their mistakes. Thus, on the other, they were trained for the work they were one day to do, and were not novices, when finally left to themselves. Well would it be for the church, if all ministers of the Gospel were prepared for their duty in like manner, and did not so often take up their office untried, unproved, and inexperienced.

Let us observe, in these verses, how our Lord Jesus Christ sent forth His apostles “two by two.” Mark is the only evangelist who mentions this fact. It is one that deserves especial notice.

There can be no doubt that this fact is meant to teach us the advantages of Christian company to all who work for Christ. The wise man had good reason for saying, “Two are better than one.” (Eccles. 4:9.) Two men together will do more work than two men singly. They will help one another in judgment, and commit fewer mistakes. They will aid one another in difficulties, and less often fail of success. They will stir one another up when tempted to idleness, and less often relapse into indolence and indifference. They will comfort one another in times of trial, and be less often cast down. “Woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.” (Eccles. 4:10.)

It is probable that this principle is not sufficiently remembered in the church of Christ in these latter days. The harvest is undoubtedly great all over the world, both at home and abroad. The laborers are unquestionably few, and the supply of faithful men far less than the demand. The arguments for sending out men “one by one,” under existing circumstances, are undeniably strong and weighty. But still the conduct of our Lord in this place is a striking fact. The fact that there is hardly a single case in the Acts, where we find Paul or any other apostle working entirely alone, is another remarkable circumstance. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion, that if the rule of going forth “two and two” had been more strictly observed, the missionary field would have yielded larger results than it has.

One thing at all events is clear, and that is the duty of all workers for Christ to work together and help one another whenever they can. “As iron sharpens iron, so does the countenance of a man his friend.” Ministers and missionaries, and district visitors, and Sunday school teachers, should take opportunities for meeting, and taking sweet counsel together. The words of Paul contain a truth which is too much forgotten–“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24, 25.)

Let us observe, in the second place, what solemn words our Lord uses about those who will not receive nor hear His ministers. He says, “it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”

This is a truth which we find very frequently laid down in the Gospels. It is painful to think how entirely it is overlooked by many. Thousands appear to suppose, that so long as they go to church, and do not murder, or steal, or cheat, or openly break any of God’s commandments, they are in no great danger. They forget that it needs something more than mere abstinence from outward irregularities to save a man’s soul. They do not see that one of the greatest sins a man can commit in the sight of God, is to hear the Gospel of Christ and not believe it–to be invited to repent and believe, and yet to remain careless and unbelieving. In short, to reject the Gospel will sink a man to the lowest place in hell.

Let us never turn away from a passage like this without asking ourselves–What are we doing with the Gospel? We live in a Christian land. We have the Bible in our houses. We hear of the salvation of the Gospel frequently every year. But have we received it into our hearts? Have we really obeyed it in our lives? Have we, in short, laid hold on the hope set before us, taken up the cross, and followed Christ? If not, we are far worse than the heathen, who bow down to stocks and stones. We are far more guilty than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. They never heard the Gospel, and therefore never rejected it. But as for us, we hear the Gospel, and yet will not believe. May we search our own hearts, and take heed that we do not ruin our own souls!

Let us observe, in the last place, what was the doctrine which our Lord’s apostles preached. We read that “they went out and preached that men should REPENT.”

The necessity of repentance may seem at first sight a very simple and elementary truth. And yet volumes might be written to show the fullness of the doctrine, and the suitableness of it to every age and time, and to every rank and class of mankind. It is inseparably connected with right views of God, of human nature, of sin, of Christ, of holiness, and of heaven. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All need to be brought to a sense of their sins–to a sorrow for them–to a willingness to give them up–and to a hunger and thirst after pardon. All, in a word, need to be born again and to flee to Christ. This is repentance unto life. Nothing less than this is required for the salvation of any man. Nothing less than this ought to be pressed on men, by every one who professes to teach Bible religion. We must bid men repent, if we would walk in the steps of the apostles, and when they have repented, we must bid them repent more and more to their last day.

Have we ourselves repented? This, after all, is the question that concerns us most. It is well to know what the apostles taught. It is well to be familiar with the whole system of Christian doctrine. But it is far better to know repentance by experience and to feel it inwardly in our own hearts. May we never rest until we know and feel that we have repented! There are no impenitent people in the kingdom of heaven. All who enter in there have felt, mourned over, forsaken, and sought pardon for sin. This must be our experience, if we hope to be saved.

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