Today begins a seven part series on evangelism and thoughts from J C Ryle. Ryle came from a wealthy family who lost everything. He could have ventured a successful career in any occupation, and he chose to minister out of affection for God. Surviving the death of two spouses and marrying a third time, Ryle demonstrates the fortitude of finding our solace in God alone.
It is my hope that these daily posts will spur you on to sharing the gospel correctly and earnestly.
Over the last several weeks I have been reading through J C Ryle’s book Holiness. I find it to be a great challenging book that stirs the soul. We need books like this for often we settle for comfortable platitudes. However, a disciple of the Lord need to be challenged and spurred on. The sanctification process that moulds us into the image of Christ is one of action, removing complacency. Thus God has given us J C Ryle.
Below I quote his criticisms and corrections for evangelism. These bear serious consideration. I have often found that current evangelism is much like a sales deal with a time share. The only difference is time share salesmen often take more time in presentation. Over the next few blog entries I hope to walk with you and the good Dr. Ryle in an analysis of evangelism as it should be. As it stands, please read and ponder the truths he shares.
The defects of the theological system I have in view appear to me to be these: (1) The work of the Holy Ghost in converting sinners is far too much narrowed and confined to one single way. Not all true converts are converted instantaneously, like Saul and the Philippian jailor. (2) Sinners are not sufficiently instructed about the holiness of God’s law, the depth of their sinfulness, and the real guilt of sin. To be incessantly telling a sinner to “come to Christ” is of little use, unless you tell him why he needs to come, and show him fully his sins. (3) Faith is not properly explained. In some cases people are taught that mere feeling is faith. In others they are taught that if they believe that Christ died for sinners they have faith! At this rate the very devils are believers! (4) The possession of inward joy and assurance is made essential to believing. Yet assurance is certainly not of the essence of saving faith. There may be faith when there is no assurance. To insist on all believers at once “rejoicing,” as soon as they believe, is most unsafe. Some, I am quite sure, will rejoice without believing, while others will believe who cannot at once rejoice. (5) Last, but not least, the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, and the absolute necessity of preventing grace, are far too much overlooked. Many talk as if conversions could be manufactured at man’s pleasure, and as if there were no such text as this, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” (Rom. ix. 16.)
On the other side, many graceless people are deluded into thinking they are “converted,” because under the pressure or animal excitement and temporary feelings they arc led to profess themselves Christians. And all this time the thoughtless and ungodly look on with contempt, and rind fresh reasons for neglecting religion altogether. The antidotes to the state of things I deplore are plain and few. (1) Let “all the counsel of God be taught” in Scriptural proportion; and let not two or three precious doctrines of the Gospel be allowed to overshadow all other truths. (2) Let repentance be taught fully as well as faith, and not thrust completely into the background. Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul always taught both. (3) Let the variety of the Holy Ghost’s works be honestly stated and admitted; and while instantaneous conversion is pressed on men, let it not be taught as a necessity. (4) Let those who profess to have found immediate sensible peace be plainly warned to try themselves well, and to remember that feeling is not faith, and that “patient continuance in well-doing” is the great proof that faith is true. (John viii. 31.) (5) Let the great duty of “counting the cost” be constantly urged on all who are disposed to make a religious profession, and let them be honestly and fairly told that there is warfare as well as peace, a cross as well as a crown, in Christ’s service.