Our Willing Savior

Excerpted from the book, Holiness, by J. C. Ryle

‘And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, “If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.” But the other answering rebuked him, saying, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss.” And he said unto Jesus, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” And Jesus said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise”—Luke 23:39-43

There are few passages in the New Testament which are more familiar to men’s ears than the verses which head this paper. They contain the well-known story of ‘the penitent thief’.

And it is right and good that these verses should be well known. They have comforted many troubled minds; they have brought peace to many uneasy consciences; they have been a healing balm to many wounded hearts; they have been a medicine to many sin-sick souls; they have smoothed down not a few dying pillows. Wherever the gospel of Christ is preached, they will always be honoured, loved and had in remembrance.

…we are meant to learn from these verses Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners.

This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches us that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it: it teaches us that Jesus Christ is ‘mighty to save’ (Isaiah 63:1).

I ask anyone to say whether a case could look more hopeless and desperate than that of this penitent thief once did. He was a wicked man, a malefactor, a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked, for at first, when he was crucified, he railed on our Lord. And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered; the grave was ready for him.

There was but a step between him and death. If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first; he began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to ‘remember him when He came into His kingdom’. He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change!

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved; but it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late, the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy; but it proved not too late at all. The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer, spoke kindly to him, assured him he should be with Him that day in paradise, pardoned him completely, cleansed him thoroughly from his sins, received him graciously, justified him freely, raised him from the gates of hell, gave him a title to glory. Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list, from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to him as these: ‘Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’

I believe the Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that He was a strong deliverer. In the hour when His body was racked with pain, He showed that He could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now, have I not a right to say, ‘Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him’? (Hebrews 7:25.) Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say, ‘Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none’? Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, ‘By grace ye may be saved through faith, not of works: fear not, only believe’? Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized; he belonged to no visible church; he never received the Lord’s Supper; he never did any work for Christ; he never gave money to Christ’s cause! But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, ‘The youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true’? Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old; but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a Physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.

Footnote

‘O Saviour, what a precedent is this of Thy free and powerful grace! Where Thou wilt give, what unworthiness can bar us from Thy mercy? When Thou wilt give, what time can prejudice our vocation? Who can despair of Thy goodness, when he, that in the morning was posting to hell, is in the evening with Thee in Paradise?’ (Bishop Hall.)

Ryle, J. C.. Holiness (pp. 161-163). Heritage Bible Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

 

The Powerful Root of Practical Love

Devotional by John Piper

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (1 John 3:14)

So, love is the evidence that we are born again — that we are Christians, that we are saved.

Sometimes the Bible makes our holiness and our love for people the condition of our final salvation. In other words, if we are not holy and not loving, we will not be saved at the judgment day (e.g., Hebrews 12:14Galatians 5:211 Corinthians 6:10). This doesn’t mean that acts of love are how we get right with God. No, the Bible is clear again and again as Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.” No, when the Bible says that we are saved by faith but that we must love people in order to finally be saved, it means that faith in God’s promises must be so real that the love it produces proves the reality of the faith.

So, love for others is a condition of future grace in the sense that it confirms that the primary condition, faith, is genuine. We could call love for others a secondary condition, which confirms the authenticity of the primary and essential condition of faith which alone unites us to Christ, and receives his power.

Faith perceives the glory of God in the promises of future grace and embraces all that the promises reveal of what God is for us in Jesus. That spiritual sight of God’s glory, and our delight in it, is the self-authenticating evidence that God has called us to be a beneficiary of his grace. This evidence frees us to bank on God’s promise as our own. And this banking on the promise empowers us to love. Which in turn confirms that our faith is real.

The world is desperate for a faith that combines two things: awestruck sight of unshakable divine Truth, and utterly practical, round-the-clock power to make a liberating difference in life. That’s what I want too. Which is why I am a Christian.

There is a God of Grace who magnifies his own infinite beauty and self-sufficiency by fulfilling promises to helpless people who trust him. And there is a power that comes from prizing this God that leaves no nook or cranny of life untouched. It empowers us to love in the most practical ways.

 

Devotional is excerpted from Future Grace, pages 257-259
By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org
Used with permission.

Our Groanings

J. C. Philpot

Today’s Daily Portion

“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself.” – Jeremiah 31:18

The spiritual feeling of sin is indispensable to the feeling of salvation. A sense of the malady must ever precede, and prepare the soul for, a believing reception and due apprehension of the remedy. Wherever God intends to reveal his Son with power, wherever he intends to make the gospel “a joyful sound” indeed, he first makes the conscience feel and groan under the burden of sin. And sure am I that when a man is laboring under the burden of sin, he will be full of groans.

The Bible records hundreds of the groans of God’s people under the burden of sin. “My wounds stench and are corrupt,” cries one, “because of my foolishness. I am troubled–I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long” (Psalm 38:5, 6). “My soul,” cries another, is full of troubles, and my life draws near unto the grave” (Psalm 88:3). “He has led me,” groans out a third, “and brought me into darkness, but not into light” (Lam. 3:2). A living man must cry under such circumstances. He cannot carry the burden without complaining of its weight. He cannot feel the arrow sticking in his conscience without groaning under the pain. He cannot have the worm gnawing his vitals without groaning of its venomous tooth. He cannot feel that God is incensed against him without bitterly groaning that the Lord is his enemy.

Spiritual groaning then, is a mark of spiritual life, and is one which God recognizes as such. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself.” It shows that he has something to mourn over; something to make him groan, being burdened; that sin has been opened up to him in its hateful malignancy; that it is a trouble and distress to his soul; that he cannot roll it like a sweet morsel under his tongue, but that it is found out by the penetrating eye, and punished by the chastening hand of God.

Our Gladness

J. C. Philpot

Today’s Daily Portion

“That I may rejoice in the gladness of your people.” –Psalm 106:5

What is “the gladness of God’s people?” To be saved “without money and without price;” to be saved by grace–free, rich, sovereign, distinguishing grace, without one atom of works, without one grain of creature merit, without anything of the flesh. This is “the gladness of God’s nation;” to rejoice in free grace, grace super-abounding over the aboundings of sin, grace reigning triumphant over the dreadful evils of our heart. It is grace that “gladdens” a man’s heart. Oh! sweet grace, blessed grace! when it meets our case and reaches our souls. Oh! what a help, what a strength, what a rest for a poor toiling, striving, laboring soul, to find that grace has done all the work, to feel that grace has triumphed in the cross of Christ, to find that nothing is required, nothing is needed, nothing is to be done. It is a full and perfect, complete and finished work. Oh! sweet sound, when it reaches the heart and touches the conscience, and is shed blessedly abroad in the soul.

This is “the gladness of God’s nation;” this makes their heart glad, that the work is finished, that the warfare is accomplished, that the Church of God “has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins;” this is the comforting sound with which God “comforts his people;” this makes the nation glad, and their heart to leap and dance for joy. Has your heart never leaped at the sound?–only for a moment? Has grace never sounded sweetly in your soul, and made your very heart dance within you? If it has, you know what is “the gladness of God’s nation.”

A Reminder Of the Blood To Which You Have Come

C. H. Spurgeon

Today’s Morning Meditation

“We have come to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:24

Reader, have you come to the sprinkled blood? The question is not whether you have come to a knowledge of doctrine, or an observance of ceremonies, or to a certain form of experience—but have you come to the blood of Jesus? The blood of Jesus is the life of all vital godliness.

If you have truly come to Jesus, we know how you came—the Holy Spirit sweetly brought you there. You came to the sprinkled blood with no merits of your own. Guilty, lost, and helpless, you came to take that blood, and that blood alone, as your everlasting hope. You came to the cross of Christ, with a trembling and an aching heart; and oh! what a precious sound it was to you—to hear the voice of the blood of Jesus! The dropping of His blood is as the music of heaven to the penitent sons of earth. We are full of sin—but the Savior bids us lift our eyes to Him, and as we gaze upon His streaming wounds, each drop of blood, as it falls, cries, “It is finished! I have made an end of sin! I have brought in everlasting righteousness.” Oh! sweet language of the precious blood of Jesus!

If you have come to that blood once, you will come to it constantly. Your life will be “Looking unto Jesus.” Your whole conduct will be epitomized in this, “To whom coming.” Not to whom I have come—but to whom I am always coming. If you have ever come to the blood of sprinkling, you will feel your need of coming to it every day. He who does not desire to wash in it every day—has never washed in it at all. The believer ever feels it to be his joy and privilege that there is still a fountain opened. Past experiences are doubtful food for Christians; a present coming to Christ—alone can give us joy and comfort. This morning let us sprinkle our door-post fresh with blood, and then feast upon the Lamb, assured that the destroying angel must pass us by.

Our Soul In God’s Light

J. C. Philpot

Today’s Daily Words for Zion’s Wayfarers

“But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatever does make manifest is light.” Ephesians 5:13

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, Ephes. 5:13

Feeling is the first evidence of supernatural life; a feeling compounded of two distinct sensations, one referring to God, and the other referring to self. The same ray of light has manifested two opposite things, “for that which makes manifest is light;” and the sinner sees at one and the same moment God and self, justice and guilt, power and helplessness, a holy law and a broken commandment, eternity and time, the purity of the Creator and the filthiness of the creature. And these things he sees, not merely as declared in the Bible, but as revealed in himself as personal realities, involving all his happiness or all his misery in time and in eternity.

Thus it is with him as though a new existence had been communicated, and as if for the first time he had found there was a God. One ray of supernatural light, penetrating through the veil spread over the heart, has revealed that dreadful secret–a just God, who will by no means clear the guilty. This piercing ray has torn away the bed too short, and stripped off the covering too narrow. A sudden, peculiar conviction has rushed into the soul. One absorbing feeling has seized fast hold of it, and well-near banished every other. “There is a God, and I am a sinner before him,” is written upon the heart by the same divine finger that traced those fatal letters on the palace wall of the king of Babylon, which made the joints of his loins to be loosed, and his knees to smite one against another (Dan. 5:5, 6).

“What shall I do? Where shall I go? What will become of me? Mercy, O God! Mercy, mercy! I am lost, ruined, undone! Fool, madman, wretch, monster that I have been! I have ruined my soul. O my sins, my sins! O eternity, eternity!” Such and similar cries and groans, though differing in depth and intensity, go up out of the new-born soul well-near day and night at the first discovery of God and of itself. These feelings have taken such complete possession of the heart that it can find no rest except in calling upon God. This is the first pushing of the young bud through the bark, the first formation of the green shoot, wrapped up as yet in its leaves, and not opened to view. These are the first pangs and throes of the new birth, before the tidings are brought, “A man-child is born.” “What shall I do to be saved?” cried the jailer. “God be merciful to me a sinner!” exclaimed the tax-collector. “Woe is me, for I am undone!” burst forth from the lips of Isaiah.

Our Guilt Atoned For

C. H. Spurgeon

This Morning’s Meditation

“And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” Leviticus 1:4

Our Lord’s being made “sin for us” is set forth here by the very significant transfer of sin to the bullock, which was made by the elders of the people. The laying of the hand was not a mere touch of contact, for in some other places of Scripture, the original word has the meaning of leaning heavily, as in the expression, “Your wrath lies hard upon me” (Psalm 88:7). Surely this is the very essence and nature of faith, which does not only bring us into contact with the great Substitute—but teaches us to lean upon Him with all the burden of our guilt.

Jehovah made to meet upon the head of the Substitute, all the offences of His covenant people—but each one of the chosen is brought personally to ratify this solemn covenant act, when by grace he is enabled by faith to lay his hand upon the head of the “Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.”

Believer, do you remember that rapturous day when you first realized pardon through Jesus the sin-bearer? Can you not make glad confession, and join with the writer in saying, “My soul recalls her day of deliverance with delight! Laden with guilt and full of fears, I saw my Savior as my Substitute, and I laid my hand upon Him; oh! how timidly at first—but courage grew and confidence was confirmed until I leaned my soul entirely upon Him! And now it is my unceasing joy to know that my sins are no longer imputed to me—but laid on Him, and like the debts of the wounded traveler, Jesus, like the good Samaritan, has said of all my future sinfulness, Set that to My account!” Blessed discovery! Eternal solace of a grateful heart!

“My numerous sins transferred to Him,
Shall never more be found,
Lost in His blood’s atoning stream,
Where every crime is drowned!”

Speaking To Our Love For the Lost

C. H. Spurgeon

This Evening’s Meditation

“It is time to seek the Lord!” Hosea 10:12

This month of April is said to derive its name from the Latin verb aperio, which signifies to open, because all the buds and blossoms are now opening, and we have arrived at the gates of the flowery year.

Reader, if you are yet unsaved, may your heart, in accord with the universal awakening of nature, be opened to receive the Lord. Every blossoming flower warns you that it is time to seek the Lord; do not be out of tune with nature—but let your heart bud and bloom with holy desires.

Do you tell me that the warm blood of youth leaps in your veins? Then, I entreat you—give your vigor to the Lord. It was my unspeakable happiness to be called in early youth, and I could sincerely praise the Lord every day for it. Salvation is priceless, let it come when it may—but oh! an early salvation has a double value in it. Young men and maidens, since you may perish before you reach your prime, “It is time to seek the Lord!” You who feel the first signs of decay—quicken your pace! That hollow cough, that hectic flush—are warnings which you must not trifle with—with you it is indeed time to seek the Lord.

Did I observe a little grey mingled with your once luxurious tresses? Years are stealing on apace, and death is drawing nearer by hasty marches—let each return of spring arouse you to set your house in order. Dear reader, if you are now advanced in life, let me entreat and implore you to delay no longer. There is a day of grace for you now—be thankful for that—but it is a limited season and grows shorter every time that clock ticks!

Here in this silent chamber, on this first night of another month, I speak to you as best I can by paper and ink, and from my inmost soul, as God’s servant, I lay before you this warning, “It is time to seek the Lord!” Slight not that work, it may be your last call from destruction, the final syllable from the lip of grace.

This month of April is said to derive its name from the Latin verb aperio, which signifies to open, because all the buds and blossoms are now opening, and we have arrived at the gates of the flowery year.

Reader, if you are yet unsaved, may your heart, in accord with the universal awakening of nature, be opened to receive the Lord. Every blossoming flower warns you that it is time to seek the Lord; do not be out of tune with nature—but let your heart bud and bloom with holy desires.

Do you tell me that the warm blood of youth leaps in your veins? Then, I entreat you—give your vigor to the Lord. It was my unspeakable happiness to be called in early youth, and I could sincerely praise the Lord every day for it. Salvation is priceless, let it come when it may—but oh! an early salvation has a double value in it. Young men and maidens, since you may perish before you reach your prime, “It is time to seek the Lord!” You who feel the first signs of decay—quicken your pace! That hollow cough, that hectic flush—are warnings which you must not trifle with—with you it is indeed time to seek the Lord.

Did I observe a little grey mingled with your once luxurious tresses? Years are stealing on apace, and death is drawing nearer by hasty marches—let each return of spring arouse you to set your house in order. Dear reader, if you are now advanced in life, let me entreat and implore you to delay no longer. There is a day of grace for you now—be thankful for that—but it is a limited season and grows shorter every time that clock ticks!

Here in this silent chamber, on this first night of another month, I speak to you as best I can by paper and ink, and from my inmost soul, as God’s servant, I lay before you this warning, “It is time to seek the Lord!” Slight not that work, it may be your last call from destruction, the final syllable from the lip of grace.

Understanding Our Life After Salvation

J. C. Philpot

Today’s Daily Words for Zion’s Wayfarers

“O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; but in me is your help.” Hosea 13:9

God is all-wise, and therefore takes no rash, precipitate steps. As the original plan of salvation was devised by infinite wisdom, so all the successive steps of the execution of that plan are directed by the same boundless wisdom also. “Wherein he has abounded towards us,” says Paul (Eph.1:8), “in all wisdom and prudence.” Thus, in his dealings with his people, God does not put them at once into possession of all the blessings which he has laid up for them.

He has pardoned, for instance, their sins; but he does not immediately, when he calls them by his grace, put them into possession of this blessing. He has first to teach them their need of it. He has to prepare their heart for the right reception of it. It is no common gift, and he has to teach them how to value it. They are saved from wrath and eternal misery, from his dreadful displeasure and ever-burning indignation against sin. They have need to be shown, and made deeply to feel, from what they are saved, as well as to what they are saved. And as the oak does not grow to its full stature in a day, but needs years of sunshine and storm, of beating winds and howling tempests, to give it strength and constancy, a deep and wide root, as well as a lofty and branching stem, so do God’s children need months and years of trial and temptation, that they may push a deep root downwards, and shoot up healthy and vigorous upwards.

Thus, before the soul can know anything about salvation, it must learn deeply and experimentally the nature of sin, and of itself, as stained and polluted thereby. It is proud, and needs to be humbled; careless, and needs to be awakened; alive, and needs to be killed; full, and requires to be emptied; whole, and needs to be wounded; clothed, and requires to be stripped. It is, by nature, self-righteous and self-seeking; is buried deep in worldliness and carnality; is utterly blind and ignorant; is filled with presumption, arrogance, conceit, and enmity, and hates all that is heavenly and spiritual. Sin, in all its various forms, is its natural element. “The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots.” To make man the direct opposite of what he originally is; to make him love God instead of hating him; fear, instead of mocking him; obey, instead of rebelling against him; and to tremble at his terrible majesty, instead of running upon the thick bosses of his shield;–to do this mighty work, and to effect this wonderful change, requires the implantation of a new nature by the immediate hand of God himself.