October 06, 2010

From the First Epistle

My home church in Jackson has a weekly newsletter that I often find encouraging and uplifting. I would like to share some of this week's message from the "Pastor's Perspective" section. My pastor pulls a good amount of commentary from J.C. Ryle:

"This past Sunday, looking at Luke 13:6-17, and especially at the story of the woman "who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years" and who was "bent over and could not fully straighten herself" (Luke 13:11) and yet who was faithfully coming to worship Sabbath after Sabbath. I love what J.C. Ryle says about her:

"We see in these verses a striking example of diligence in the use of means of grace. We are told of a "woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could not straighten up." We know not who this woman was. Our Lord's saying that she was "a daughter of Abraham," would lead us to infer that she was a true believer. But her name and history are hidden from us. This only we know, that when Jesus was "teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath," this woman was there. Sickness was no excuse with her for tarrying from God's house. In spite of suffering and infirmity, she found her way to the place where the day and the word of God were honored, and where the people of God met together. And truly she was blessed in her deed! She found a rich reward for all her pains. She came sorrowing, and went home rejoicing.

"The conduct of this suffering Jewess may well put to shame many a strong and healthy professing Christian. How many in the full enjoyment of bodily vigor, allow the most frivolous excuses to keep them away from the house of God! How many are constantly spending the whole Sunday in idleness, pleasure-seeking, or business, and scoffing and sneering at those who "keep the Sabbath holy!" How many think it a great matter if they attend the public worship of God once on Sunday, and regard a second attendance as a needless excess of zeal akin to fanaticism! How many find religious services a weariness while they attend them, and feel relieved when they are over! How few know anything of David's spirit, when he said, "I was glad when they said to me, Let us go into the house of the Lord." "How lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!" (Psalm 122:1; Psalm 84:1.)

"Now what is the explanation of all this? What is the reason why so few are like the woman of whom we read this day? The answer to these questions is short and simple. The most have no heart for God's service. They have no delight in God's presence or God's day. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." The moment a man's heart is converted, these pretended difficulties about attending public worship vanish away. The new heart finds no trouble in keeping the Sabbath holy. Where there is a will there is always a way.

"Let us never forget that our feelings about Sundays are sure tests of the state of our souls. The man who can find no pleasure in giving God one day in the week, is manifestly unfit for heaven. Heaven itself is nothing but an eternal Sabbath. If we cannot enjoy a few hours in God's service once a week in this world, it is plain that we could not enjoy an eternity in His service in the world to come. Happy are those who walk in the steps of her of whom we read today! They shall find Christ and a blessing while they live, and Christ and glory when they die."

That was a hard page for me to read in some ways. It is convicting to think about how sometimes church can tend to be something to "check off" your to-do list for the week. That's not to say that forcing yourself to go even if you don't feel like is bad. "Duty, desire, delight" is a three-word phrase that often reminds me that if I will do something I don't feel like doing (duty) for the Lord, he will often turns my desires towards that thing and then I will delight in it. God is so good. He built us and knows that we are MADE to WORSHIP him and that we will be happiest and most whole when we are doing just that.


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