What Is the Feast Day of Epiphany?

For the grace of God [i.e., Jesus] has appeared [Greek: epiphany], bringing salvation for all people.

Titus 2:11

The feast day of Epiphany is celebrated in the Western church every year on January 6th. It commemorates the appearing, or manifestation, of God in Christ as Savior to the world. Epiphany is the oldest feast in the church calendar, it is especially revered in the Orthodox East. Three events in the life of Christ are commemorated: the arrival of the Magi, the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana. Appropriately, these three stories, all revelatory events, are found at the beginning of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, respectively.

The Apostle John tells us, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Jesus who is God incarnate in human flesh is revealed to the Gentile wise men, manifested as the Lamb of God, and made known as Messiah in his first miracle. Now, the saving life of Christ has been fully manifested to both Jew and Gentile alike. Let us join the Magi, John the Baptist, and the wedding feast at Cana by worshipping Jesus in all his saving glory.

The conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith (Matt. 2:1-12). They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him – but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving – but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith.

They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. ‘They fell down and worshiped Him.’

We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a criminal, and yet prayed to Him and ‘called Him Lord.’ The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!”

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew, 12-13.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

Look Firmly at the Cross

 

 

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

Gal. 6:14 NLT

When I wake up in the morning and all the demands of the day flood upon my soul; I look firmly at the Cross of Christ. On Golgotha’s Hill, there I know I am forgiven, there I am healed, there I am freed from my selfishness and pride, and there I know-I know that I know-I am accepted by God. At the Cross, the world’s enticements and pleasures cannot compete with the love of God. After looking firmly at the Cross, all I desire to do is to please my Lord.

Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual.

As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As the taste of honey makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on, everyday, looking firmly at the cross of Christ.

J.C. Ryle, “The Cross of Christ”

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

He Knows All Our Shortcomings

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all.

Acts 1:24 ESV

The Lord Jesus Christ is gracious, all-loving, and forgiving. The marvel of Christ is that he knows everything about us, and yet, he still loves us. Our weaknesses, failures, and neediness attracts us to Jesus. He is full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness for those of us who cry out and express our need of him.

The Lord Jesus is very empathetic and full of tender mercy. “As a father pities his children, even so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13.) He does not deal with believers according to their sins, nor reward them according to their iniquities. He sees their weakness. He is aware of their short-comings. He knows all the defects of their faith, and hope, and love, and courage. And yet He will not cast them off. He bears with them continually. He loves them even to the end. He raises them when they fall. He restores them when they err. His patience, like His love, is a patience that passes knowledge. When He sees a heart right, it is His glory to pass over many a short-coming.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985), 86.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

The Friendship of Jesus

The Best Friend of All

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Prov. 18:24 NLT

I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

John 15:15 NLT

A true friend is someone who knows everything about you, and yet, still loves you. Jesus knows our every thought, word, and deed; past, present, and future, yet still pours out his love. Not only does Jesus love us, but he extends his grace to free us from our self-afflicted failures. Jesus is a better friend.

A real friend loves you and reminds you that Jesus is worthy to be trusted in any and every circumstance of life. Jesus knows when we are failing, and woos our hearts by the Holy Spirit to trust him. Jesus is a greater friend for he warns before we selfishly hurt others.

A faithful friend desires the best displaying sympathy and empathy in the struggles of life. Jesus experienced all the temptations, struggles, and pain of this life, he knows best how to counsel us in our perplexity. He is a superior friend.

Honesty is always first and foremost in a relationship. Even when speaking the truth in love is difficult and painful, a true friend will lovingly confront. Jesus is our best friend for he will not never wimp out, but always corrects us when we need it. Freedom exists in our relationship with Jesus to be forthright, he will confront our faults as only a true friend can do. Jesus is an excellent friend.

A good friend understands and emotionally supports their companion even if their failures are the result of their own stupidity and stubbornness. True friends trust in one another implicitly even when circumstances would question that loyalty. Jesus made a covenant bond with us, he will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus is a truly reliable friend.

Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love. They are thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. They have an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over their interests. The world may despise them, but they have no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast them out, but Christ having once taken them up, will never let them go. They are the friend of Christ even after they are dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the greatest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 275.

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

The Sabbath Rest of God

 

Resting From Your Works

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Heb. 4:9-10

The Sabbath Rest of God operates on two levels. First, the New Testament reserves Sunday as the designated time for corporate worship, but Sunday is not a new Sabbath with regulations and prohibitions. We know from Rev. 1:10 and 1 Cor. 16:2 that the earliest church moved their corporate worship time from the Sabbath (Friday night) to Sunday, the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is the day of resurrection. Therefore, the church is called to celebrate Jesus victory over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil as her central focus in praise and worship.

Second, the New Testament teaches that the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8) is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Now for believers, our Sabbath is internal rest that we can experience every day, all day.

The Sabbath Rest of God is experiencing by faith God’s adequacy and faithfulness in every life situation resulting in freedom from worry, anxiety, and care. This rest is not passivity, inactivity, or idleness. Rest is experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit lifting us up to Jesus in the midst of all our earthly fears and worldly burdens. New Testament rest is the peace of Christ, confidence in God’s covenant promise, and assurance in the Holy Spirit’s keeping power.

The two key verses for this New Covenant understanding of rest is Col. 2:16 and Heb. 4:8-10. The ESV Study Bible states, “the Sabbath rest remains possible for God’s people to enter even now, in this life (v. 9). The promise of entering now into this rest means ceasing from the spiritual strivings that reflect uncertainty about one’s final destiny; it means enjoyment of being established in the presence of God, to share in the everlasting joy that God entered when he rested on the seventh day (v. 10).”

Last, as believers we are no longer bound by law to keep Friday night as a day of obligation in worship, but we are bound to trust Christ by faith to be the adequacy of God in us.

The rest that Christ gives is an inward and spiritual thing. It is rest of heart, rest of conscience, rest of mind, rest of affection, rest of will. It is rest, from a comfortable sense of sins being all forgiven and guilt all put away. It is rest, from a solid hope of good things to come, laid up beyond the reach of disease, death and the grave. It is rest, from the well-grounded feeling, that the great business of life is settled, its great end provided for, that in time all is well done, and in eternity heaven will be our home.

J.C. Ryle, Old Paths (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999), 368.

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

Come to Christ

Don’t Wait, Come!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Matt. 11:28 NLT

Thirty years of pastoral experience has shown me that often, very often, seekers of truth will do anything and everything to find peace, but do the one thing needful–meet Christ. They will attend church, float from conference to conference, adore celebrity Christian speakers, but they avoid a living encounter with the risen Christ. Why circle around Christ, but never meet him? To encounter Christ means laying down your life for others, it means yielding your rights to his Lordship, and it means following the Lamb wherever he goes. Do we want true freedom? Do we want real peace? Do we want release from guilt and shame? Do we want a love that never lets go? Come to Christ. Run straight to him. Know that he never reject you (John 6:37). Know that real life–genuine life–resides only in Christ (John 10:10).

He that thirsts and wants relief must come to Christ Himself. He must not be content with coming to His church and His ordinances, or to the assemblies of His people for prayer and praise. He must not stop short even at His holy table, or rest satisfied with privately opening his heart to His ordained ministers. Oh, no! He that is content with only drinking these waters ‘shall thirst again’ (John 4:13).

He must go higher, further, much further than this. He must have personal dealings with Christ Himself all else in religion is worthless without Him. The King’s palace, the attendant servants, the richly furnished house, the very banquet itself—all are nothing unless we speak with the King. His hand alone can take the burden off our backs and make us feel free. The hand of man may take the stone from the grave and show the dead; but none but Jesus can say to the dead, ‘Come forth and live’ (John 11:41–43). We must deal directly with Christ.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness : It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots, electronic ed. (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996), 258.

HT: Ray Ortlund

“Practically Godly”

Practical Godliness Is On-Going Sanctification

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

Titus 2:11-12

Sanctification is a inward work of the Holy Spirit which delivers us from the control and influence of sin and transforms us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Spirit takes our worldly thinking, fleshly habits, and unrighteousness behavior and convicts us of our wrongful thoughts, breaks our selfish patterns, and transforms our attitude and actions. The Holy Spirit uses the means of grace: the Word of God, sacraments, prayer, circumstances, godly fellowship, and Spirit-filled worship as his tools of instruction and transformation.

Sanctification is the progressive work of the Spirit: Christian growth is a life-long process which creates Spirit-filled souls. The Holy Spirit removes sinful imperfections as we are daily enabled to put off the bondages of sin and put on the life of Christ. Walking in the Spirit is actively attained for it involves continuous choices of faith and obedience. Simultaneously, we passively receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit as we purposely choose to appropriate the Holy Spirit’s power over sin.

Christ lives in us by the power of the Spirit and he enables us by grace to make righteous choices. His grace enables us to say, “no,” to ungodliness and worldly passions and say, “yes,” to uprightness and godliness (Titus 2:11-14).

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 19.

Sanctification is the moment by moment subordination of the mind, the affections, and the will, to the rule of the Holy Spirit. Not in the energy of the flesh are these things done, but in the power of the indwelling Spirit himself. To watch unto prayer, to hide God’s word in your heart, to resist the devil, to make no provision for the lusts of the flesh, to follow holiness-to do these things is to ‘walk after the Spirit. ‘So shall the righteousness of the law  . . . be fulfilled in us.’

Ernest F. Kevan, “The Saving Work of the Holy Spirit,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 192.

Theological Note: The Reformed definition (Bishop Ryle) and the Deeper Life definition (Rev. Kevan) are in agreement. Both emphasize Christ work in us as we choose to walk apart from sin. Both the passive work of the Spirit and the active work of the will are stressed in each view.

HT: Kevin DeYoung, J. C. Ryle Quotes

Ever Looking

The Second Advent and Christlikeness

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The second coming (i.e., Second Advent) occurs when Christ returns in bodily form to receive the church and judge the nations. That coming is personal and real for we, the Christ-followers, will see him face-to-face and rejoice in his appearing. Knowing that one day we will see Jesus visibly, we are powerfully motivated to walk in holiness (1 John 3:2-3). Christ died on our behalf, the Holy Spirit changed our hearts; as result, God freed us from our bondage to live for him. In gratitude, we desire to please our Savior by our behavior. “No shame,” is the watchword for the expectation of Jesus’ coming (1 John 2:28). We desire our lives, attitudes, and actions to honor Christ upon his return.

Living in the reality of Christ’s return makes a difference in a Christian’s behavior. Since Christians someday will be like Him, a desire should grow within the Christian to become like Him now. That was Paul’s passion, expressed in Phil. 3:12–14 (see notes there). That calls for a purifying of sin, in which we play a part (see notes on 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; 1 Pet. 1:22).

John MacArthur, NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, Electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Word, 1998), 1 Jn 3:3.

Those who denounce the doctrine of the second advent as speculative, fanciful and unpractical, would do well to reconsider the subject. The doctrine was not so regarded in the days of the apostles. In their eyes, patience, hope, diligence, moderation, personal holiness, were inseparably connected with an expectation of the Lord’s return. Happy is the Christian who has learned to think with them! To be ever looking for the Lord’s appearing is one of the best helps to a close walk with God.

J.C. Ryle, Day by Day with J.C. Ryle, “Second Coming”, 281.

Gazing Upon What God Has Done

Pondering the Cross of Christ

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

Yesterday’s theme was change. We determined that only Christ and his finished work on the Cross can change a heart. Jesus can transform a hardened heart that is torn apart through sin, torn-up through selfishness, and torn-down through suffering. By grace, a shattered, hard, and resentful heart can be made tender, loving, and whole again.

Change is not something that happens once in the Christian life. On-going change is needed to free us from the effects of living in the midst of the fallout of the fall. What do we do? We gaze upon what God has done in Jesus Christ and his triumph on the Cross.

In the reading, preaching, and teaching of the Word of God, we learn and apply the victory of the Cross.  In prayer and worship, we experience the Holy Spirit who supernaturally works his cleansing, purifying, and transforming grace. In the sacraments, we meet Christ, he touches us bringing healing, restoration, and deliverance from our self-afflicted pain.

His triumph has defeated our greatest foes: the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. His victory can be applied to every struggle, hurt, sin, and frustration. We do not have to stay trapped dealing with the same problems over and over again. We can be free. We can be free to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit. We can be free to experience and enjoy God’s love. We can be free indeed (John 8:36).

Let us remember what we are, corrupt, evil, and miserable sinners. Let us remember who the Lord Jesus is, the eternal Son of God, the maker of all things. And then let us remember that for our sakes Jesus voluntarily endured the most painful, horrible, and disgraceful death.

Surely the thought of this love should constrain us daily to live not unto ourselves, but unto Christ. It should make us ready and willing to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him who lived and died for us (2 Cor. 5:4, Rom 12:1). Let the cross of Christ be often before our minds. Rightly understood, no object in all Christianity is so likely to have a sanctifying as well as a comforting effect on our souls.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985), 344.

HT: J.C.Ryle Quotes

The Eucharist: Humility Before the Lord’s Table

The Lord’s Supper Reminds Us How Sinful Sin Must Be

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

1 Cor. 11:27-29

Holy Eucharist is the act of giving thanks through the partaking of the Lord’s Supper; commemorating the death of Christ by participating in Christ through the elements of bread and wine.

Right reception of the Lord’s Supper has a ‘humbling’ effect on the soul. The sight of the bread and wine as emblems of Christ’s body and blood, reminds us how sinful sin must be, if nothing less than the death of God’s own Son could make satisfaction for it, or redeem us from its guilt. Never should we be so ‘clothed with humility,’ as when we receive the Lord’s Supper.

J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, “Going to the Table”, 152.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes