Our falls and bruises

Oct 08, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“After conversion we need bruising, that reeds may know themselves to be reeds and not oaks.  Even reeds need bruising by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy. . . . Thus Peter was bruised when he wept bitterly.  This reed, till he met with this bruise, had more wind in him than pith.  ‘Though all forsake thee, I will not.’  The people of God cannot be without these examples.  The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do.”

Richard Sibbes, “The Bruised Reed,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:44.

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Honorable, holy, useful, ready

Oct 02, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  2 Timothy 2:20-21

“Lord and Master, make us thus fit for that infinitely precious privilege, a state of consecrated readiness for Your holy use.  We are altogether Yours.  Enable us as such so to ‘cleanse ourselves from’ complicity with evil within and without that we, when You require us for Your purposes, may be found by You handy to Your touch, in the place and in the condition in which You can take us up and employ us in whatever way, on the moment, for Yourself.”

H. C. G. Moule, The Second Epistle to Timothy (Grand Rapids, 1952), page 97.  Italics original.  Style updated.

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How to advance the great work of God in our time

Sep 28, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“At such a day as this, God especially calls his people to the exercise of extraordinary meekness and mutual forbearance.  Christ appears as it were coming in his kingdom, which calls for great moderation in our behavior towards all men: ‘Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand’ (Phil. 4:5).  The awe of the Divine Majesty that appears present or approaching should dispose us to it and deter us from the contrary.

For us to be judging one another and behaving with fierceness and bitterness one towards another, when he who is the Searcher of all hearts, to whom we must all give an account, appears so remarkably present, is exceeding unsuitable.  Our business at such a time should be at home, searching and condemning ourselves and taking heed to our own behavior.

If there is glorious prosperity to the church of God approaching, those that are the most meek will have the largest share in it.”

Jonathan Edwards, “Thoughts on the Revival,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:421.

“. . . when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth.”  Psalm 76:9

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The Awakening Seminar

Sep 26, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Next Saturday, October 3rd, at Vintage Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, it will be my privilege to teach on spiritual awakening. What does awakening or revival look like? How is the gospel itself an awakening power? And how can we experience more of that divine power for ourselves in this generation?

I hope to see many friends next Saturday at The Awakening.

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Gospel culture sets a new tone

Sep 25, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  Psalm 16:3

As for the saints in the land.  They are in Christ.  That is what distinguishes them.  It is all they need to be distinguished.  Not their own talents or merits or attainments, and certainly not their likeness to me or to us, but only what God has done for them in Christ.  God has set them apart to himself.  It changes my perceptions completely.

They are the excellent ones.  There is much to admire in every Christian.  Just start asking questions.  About thirty seconds into the conversation, the excellence will become obvious.  Rather than rate them, grade them, scrutinize them, to see if they are up at our level, rather than say, “Well, they aren’t perfect,” which is condescending and irrelevant, rather than point out their shortcomings, gospel eyes choose to observe and notice and talk about the many excellencies divinely invested in another Christian.

In whom is all my delight.  This is the final step.  It is personal.  It is emotional.  It is wholehearted.  It is so bold that it might feel like borderline idolatry (“all my delight”).  But the gospel allows for no aloofness, no “wait and see” attitude, no standoffishness.  We move toward one another with intensely sincere joy.

The world doesn’t think this way.  We must think this way.  The gospel demands it and provides it.

If we will openly, publicly rejoice in one another for the Lord’s sake, we might live down Anne Rice’s assessment that “Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love.”

Nothing is more urgently needed than this gospel culture to take over everywhere and set a new tone among us all.

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The greatest enemies

Sep 25, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.  Galatians 4:29

“The persecution of the true church, of Christian believers who trace their spiritual descent from Abraham, is not always by the world, who are strangers unrelated to us, but by our half-brothers, religious people, the nominal church.  It has always been so.  The Lord Jesus was bitterly opposed, rejected, mocked and condemned by his own nation.  The fiercest opponents of the apostle Paul, who dogged his footsteps and stirred up strife against him, were the official church, the Jews.  The monolithic structure of the medieval papacy persecuted all Protestant minorities with ruthless, unremitting ferocity.  And the greatest enemies of the evangelical faith today are not unbelievers, who when they hear the gospel often embrace it, but the church, the establishment, the hierarchy.  Isaac is always mocked and persecuted by Ishmael.”

John. R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (London, 1968), page 127.

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If you can only groan or sob or sigh

Sep 24, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“If you can cry out to Jesus, he will joyfully hear you.  If you will give him no rest, he will give you all the rest you need.  The Lord finds music in his children’s cries.  ‘Oh,’ you say, ‘I would cry, but mine is such a discordant and foolish cry.’  You are the very one to cry, for your sorrow will put an emphasis into your voice.  Of all the cries your children utter, that comes closest home to you which arises out of their pain and deep distress.  A dying moan from a little one will pierce a mother’s heart.  See, she presses the babe to her bosom!  She cries, ‘My dear dying child!’ and weeps over it.  You too shall be pressed to the bosom of everlasting love, if you can only groan or sob or cry.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London, 1879), XXIV:442-443.

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What it means to be revival-ready

Sep 23, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“I cannot pray but I sin.  I cannot hear or preach a sermon but I sin.  I cannot give an alms or receive the sacrament but I sin.  Nay, I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very confessions are still aggravations of them.  My repentance needs to be repented of, my tears need washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer.”

William Beveridge, Private Thoughts (London, 1720), page 52.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

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Movement, monument, mausoleum

Sep 21, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


Some years ago a friend of mine used these three simple categories to objectify the stages of a church’s rise and fall.


A healthy church is born as a burst of positive gospel energy.  It’s a Pentecost-like explosion of joy, a vital gospel movement.  Such a church has a sense of mission, even a sense of destiny.  It’s exciting to be in this church.  Think of a steep upward trajectory.


Given human weakness, after a time, this movement becomes a monument.  The spirit of the church changes from hunger to self-satisfaction, from eagerness to routine, from daring new steps of faith to maintaining the status quo, from outward to ingrown.  It’s easy not to notice this shift.  The self-image of the church might still be that of a vital movement.  But deep within, everything has changed.  Think of leveling off.


If the trend toward mediocrity is not arrested, the church will decline and become a mausoleum, a place of death.  The church as an institution may have enough social momentum and financial resources to keep churning on.  But as a force for newness of life, it no longer counts.  Think of steep decline – indeed, a death spiral.

The responsibility of a church’s leaders is to discern when their movement is starting to level off as a monument.  It is at this crucial point that they must face themselves honestly and discover why they have lost their edge and go into repentance and return to the costly commitments that made them great to begin with.  They may need to deconstruct much of what they have become, which is painful and embarrassing.  But if the leaders will have the humility, clarity and courage to do this, their church will go into renewal and re-launch as a movement once more.  Jesus will become real again, people will be helped again, and those bold, humble leaders will never regret the price they paid.

“Remember from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  Revelation 2:5

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Tozer: pathways into revival

Sep 20, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


1.  Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself.  Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. . . . When speaking of earthly goods Paul could say, “I have learned to be content,” but when referring to his spiritual life he testified, “I press toward the mark.”  So stir up the gift of God that is in you.

2.  Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life.  Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they start.  We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God. . . .

3.  Put yourself in the way of the blessing.  It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met.  There are plainly marked paths which lead straight to the green pastures; let us walk in them.  To desire revival, for instance, and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk another.

4.  Do a thorough job of repenting.  Do not hurry to get it over with.  Hasty repentance means shallow spiritual experience and lack of certainty in the whole life.  Let godly sorrow do her healing work. . . . It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.

5.  Make restitution wherever possible.  If you owe a debt, pay it, or at least have a frank understanding with your creditor about your intention to pay, so your honesty will be above question.  If you have quarreled with anyone, go as far as you can in an effort to achieve reconciliation.  As fully as possible, make the crooked things straight.

A. W. Tozer, quoted in Stephen F. Olford, Heart-Cry For Revival (Westwood, 1962), page 30.

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