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Such an experience of his love

Apr 11, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

moody

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”  2 Thessalonians 3:5

“As Dwight Moody walked the streets of New York seeking funds for rebuilding the religious facilities of Chicago [after the great Chicago fire], he admitted, ‘My heart was not in the work of begging.  I could not appeal.  I was crying all the time that God would fill me with his Spirit.’  Moody was so burned out that nothing else really mattered.  He said that ‘it did not seem as if there were any unction resting on my ministry.’  He had endured almost four months of intense spiritual agony.  ‘God seemed to be just showing me myself.  I found I was ambitious; I was not preaching for Christ; I was preaching for ambition.  I found everything in my heart that ought not to be there.  For four months a wrestling went on in me.  I was a miserable man.’

But suddenly, ‘after four months the anointing came.  It came upon me as I was walking in the streets of New York.’  The Holy Spirit came upon Moody in great force while he was walking down Wall Street.  All of a sudden nothing was important except to be alone with the Lord.  He went as fast as he could to the residence of a New York friend and asked for a room to pray in.

‘Ah, what a day!  I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name.  Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years.  I can only say God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand.'”

Lyle W. Dorsett, A Passion For Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody (Chicago, 1997), page 156.

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How to fight back and win

Apr 10, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell.  What of it?  Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation?  By no means.  For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf.  His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Where he is, there I shall be also.'”

Martin Luther, writing to Jerome Weller, quoted in Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Philadelphia, 1955), pages 86-87.

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This is our Beloved

Apr 09, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“How many millions of sins in every one of the elect, every one of which is enough to condemn them all, hath this love overcome!  What mountains of unbelief doth it remove!  Look upon the conduct of any one saint, consider the frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities with which his life is contaminated, and tell me whether the love that bears with all this is not to be admired.  And is it not the same towards thousands every day?  What streams of grace, purging, pardoning, quickening, assisting, do flow from it every day!  This is our Beloved.”

John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1980), 2:63.

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Words matter

Apr 08, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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Nobility

Apr 08, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.  1 Peter 2:12

F. W. Beare comments, “The word [honorable] unites aesthetic with moral elements.  It is used of goodness which commends itself to the beholder by its evident quality, goodness that manifests itself in beauty, in nobility, in attractive power.”

There is nothing mediocre about Christian conduct, because there is nothing mediocre about Christ.  He is honorable, and he creates honorable, noble, beautiful people.  There is a reason why the apostle Paul speaks of “the upward call of God in Christ” (Philippians 3:14).  The gospel lifts us to practical nobility.

There are moments when we may feel like treating others shabbily.  Our hearts can sink to low levels of ugly self-indulgence.  That is why this verse deserves to be near us at all times.  The call of Christ is so beautiful, it will cost us dearly and deeply.

Francis Schaeffer, in his famous address “Two Contents, Two Realities,” proposed that the two realities which must mark us are (1) true spirituality and (2) the beauty of human relationships.  Those two realities always go together.  Where there is true spirituality, there will also be relational beauty.  Where that beauty is not obvious, true spirituality may be lacking.

How many people in our cities, if a poll were taken, would associate the word “church” with words like “honor,” “beauty,” “nobility”?  But if we will honor Christ with honorable conduct, fewer people will be dismissive, and more people will say, “I don’t believe what those Christians believe.  But I have to admit I am attracted.”

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Great meltings

Apr 07, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“‘It was a common thing, as soon as the Bible was opened, after the preliminary services, and just as the reader began’ — here, you will observe, it was the simple reading of the word without preaching; yet such was the power upon the minds of the people that ‘it was a common thing, as soon as the Bible was opened, after the preliminary services, and just as the reader began, for great meltings to come upon the hearers.  The deepest attention was paid to every word as the sacred verses were slowly and solemnly enunciated.  Then the silent tear might be seen stealing down the rugged but expressive countenances turned upon the reader. ‘. . . The word of the Lord was precious in those days.”

Charles J. Brown, quoting a report of revival in Scotland, in The Revival of Religion: Addresses by Scottish Evangelical Leaders delivered in Glasgow in 1840 (Edinburgh, 1984), pages 316-317.

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Blunt Belloc

Apr 04, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“We sit by and watch the Barbarian.  We tolerate him.  In the long stretches of peace we are not afraid.  We are tickled by his irreverence.  His comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us.  We laugh.  But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there is no smile.”

Hilaire Belloc, This and That and The Other (New York, 1912), page 282.

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On this Day of days

Apr 03, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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The simple (but costly) grace of love

Apr 02, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

BouveretLastSupper

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:35

“Let us note that our Lord does not name gifts or miracles or intellectual attainments as the evidence of discipleship, but love, the simple grace of love, a grace within reach of the poorest, lowliest believer, as the evidence of discipleship.  If we have no love, we have no grace, no regeneration, no true Christianity! . . .

Let us note what a heavy condemnation this verse pronounces on sectarianism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, party-spirit, strife, bitterness, needless controversy between Christian and Christian.

Let us note how far from satisfactory is the state of those who are content with sound doctrinal opinions and orthodox correct views of the Gospel, while in their daily life they give way to ill temper, ill nature, malice, envy, quarreling, squabbling, bickering, surliness, passion, snappish language, and crossness of word and manner.  Such persons, whether they know it or not, are daily proclaiming that they are not Christ’s disciples.  It is nonsense to talk about justification, and regeneration, and election, and conversion, and the uselessness of works, unless people can see in us practical Christian love.”

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, on John 13:34-35.

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What is our ministry?

Mar 31, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

RembrandtReturnOfTheProdigalSon-feat

“All this is from God, who . . . gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  2 Corinthians 5:18

The apostle did not say, “God gives us moments of reconciliation now and then, when we feel like it, with the people we prefer.”  No, he said, “God gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  In other words, for us Christians, reconciliation is all we do.  Reconciliation is how we roll.  Reconciliation is our ministry, and from God at that.  We have no right to do anything else.  We have no desire to do anything else.  Only a ministry of reconciliation is biblical.  Anything else is something we’ve made up.  But whatever that is, why should anyone care about it?

What if we dared to take new steps of reconciliation toward our enemies and critics and ex-friends?  They might refuse us.  The Bible says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).  Our enemies might turn away.  But have we tried?  What might God do for us, if we did try?  What might God do with churches from whom nothing but forgiving reconciliation flows out?

The Bible says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19).  The wrath of God is all the wrath this world needs.  What would it be like for nothing but love to flow out from us?  People expect us to love our friends who love us.  They do not expect us to love our enemies who harm us.  People expect us to meet injury with injury.  They do not expect us to meet injury with mercy.  But that’s how Jesus loved at the cross.  He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).  He did not say, “Father, punish them.”

We might wonder, “I’m so small.  What can I do to make Jesus more visible in my world?”  Here’s what every one of us can do.  We can go to the cross, where he died for us, and never leave, but stay right there as we interact with the people who mistreat us.  Let’s just stay right there.  He will help us, and he will say something prophetic through us.

Reconciliation is our ministry.  Our only ministry.

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