By Ninos Hadjirousou
(We continue our series from our last articles ‘True Holiness, lessons from J.C Ryle’.)
A holy man will follow after love and brotherly kindness.
The Apostle Paul wrote “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). In our present age, it seems to Christians easier to love and care more about their fellow Christians than to have any concern for those who are not Christian. But the Scriptures commands Christians to love not only Christians but also to love unbelievers also. As our Lord Jesus Christ said “But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies”(Luke 6:27). For “if you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same”(Luke 6:32-33).
The reason why Jesus says to love our enemies, is because the Jewish religious leaders have narrowed down the meaning of the word neighbour written in the second command “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) to mean something less than what it actually does mean. So the meaning of the word does not only mean that we ought to love our brothers or our fellow Jew’s, but that we must also love even our enemies. That is the message that Jesus was saying.
Thus the message that the Apostle Paul in (Romans 13:8, see also verse 10) is bringing is the same message that Jesus our Lord and Saviour proclaimed. That we must love our enemies also, because it fulfils the law. Love fulfils the law. What law is he talking about?
Ryle wrote that if the Christian is going to live a holy life “He will endeavour to observe the golden rule of doing as he would have men do to him, and speaking as he would have men speak to him”.
The law that Paul is talking about is the golden rule, the royal law that Jesus said in ( , see also James 2:8). How can we love our brothers or our enemies? In (Matthew 7:12) Jesus gives us a simple instruction. What is hurtful to you, do not do it to someone else. This principal summarizes the whole meaning of ethical principles in the Law.How would you feel if you had no food, clothing and friends?. The Lord said “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”.
Surely now you may say ‘why should we?’
And the answer is the next words that Jesus Christ said “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). As children of the Most High God, who is loving, merciful, gracious and generous to his enemies, we also should bear that stamp of his character and be like him. Because He has shown us love while we were yet His enemies (Romans 5:10). He showed us His love by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins and pay the penalty for us. Instead of punishing us, He had mercy upon us. That, my dear readers, should immediately crush your proud thoughts and lead you to seek to do good to others because God has done it for you.
We are to have affection and love towards our brothers and sisters in Christ also knowing this truth, because He died for their sins also. God sees them as his precious ones for they are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We must throw away all lies that may hurt our brother or hurt others. And also be quick and determined to expose any kind of falsehood that could mislead our brothers into sin against the God.
A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others.
He will not be lazy. He will not be pleased with just doing no harm, but rather he will try to do what is good. He will work hard to become useful for the house of God and in the life of others around him. He will do it out of gladness and love, not for gain, nor for selfish intentions. He will be like the Apostle Paul who wrote “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you”(2 Corinthians 12:15).
Paul desired to give not to take. To “spend” is showing to us the willingness that he had to give himself for them. As our Lord gave himself up for our sake, by taking His own life on the cross and receiving the wrath and punishment that we deserved. T hese words are full of the aroma of Christ’s mercy for us.
A holy man will follow after a purity of heart.
Here purity does not mean hastening ourselves away from sexual impurity only, it also means in general to keep away from sin. The world we live in is throwing words, thoughts and deeds all around us that spell the word ‘unclean’. For the ruler of the world’s system is Satan himself, the one who has been the accuser of Christians for centuries. He will try as hard as He can to lead us to sin and make us filthy again. He has thousands of years of experience of deceiving. J.C Ryle writes “Who shall dare to talk of strength when David can fall?”. No matter how strong you may think you are, you cannot win the battle for purity with your own strength. You need the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must not think that we ourselves can keep our heart unaffected by even the tiniest filth we find in the world either. Ryle adds that the man who follows after purity of the heart “knows his own heart is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptations”.
How many times have we watched something and we said to ourselves ‘this will not affect me’ ‘it’s just this one time’, ‘no one will know’. And then it swallows us into sinful thinking and before we know it we become captives of the great Sin Master, because we thought we were capable and strong enough to resist sin’s persuasion.
Ryle gives us the illustration of one of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. whoever touched a dead body, or a sick person, or even a bone, immediately became unclean in the sight of God. That is how careful we must be if we are to follow after purity of heart. Let us be wise. We must constantly be in fear of being eaten by an unclean lifestyle; in fear of allowing it to take over us. Because if it does and we die in our sins, then it will only prove that we were never saved and that we were always enemies of God. Our punishment will be eternal pain and suffering, there will be no rest for our souls.
So let us take the words of Solomon “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
Let us look to the One who will strengthen our sanctification, the One who has said “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He is the only One who has mastered a holy life, was able to resist every temptation thrown at Him by the devil, even unto death because He humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5-8). Remember the writings of the Apostle’s Paul “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may also be able to endure it”(1 Corinthians 10:13).
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