“We may, in reality, be nothing better than the devils” by J.C. Ryle

“We should notice, in this passage, the clear religious knowledge possessed by the devil and his agents. Twice in these verses we have proof of this.

‘I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God,’ (Luke 4:34) was the language of an unclean devil in one case.

‘Thou art Christ the son of God,’ (Luke 4:41) was the language of many devils in another.

Yet this knowledge was a knowledge unaccompanied by faith, or hope, or charity. Those who possessed it were miserable fallen beings, full of bitter hatred both against God and man.

Let us beware of an unsanctified knowledge of Christianity. It is a dangerous possession, but a fearfully common one in these latter days.

We may know the Bible intellectually, and have no doubt about the truth of its contents. We may have our memories well stored with its leading texts, and be able to talk glibly about its leading doctrines.

And all this time the Bible may have no influence over our hearts, and wills, and consciences. We may, in reality, be nothing better than the devils.

Let it never content us to know religion with our heads only. We may go on all our lives saying, ‘I know that, and I know that,’ and sink at last into Hell, with the words upon our lips.

Let us see that our knowledge bears fruit in our lives.

Does our knowledge of sin make us hate it?

Does our knowledge of Christ make us trust and love Him?

Does our knowledge of God’s will make us strive to do it?

Does our knowledge of the fruits of the Spirit make us labor to show them in our daily behavior?

Knowledge of this kind is really profitable. Any other religious knowledge will only add to our condemnation at the last day.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 96-97. Ryle is commenting on Luke 4:33-44.

“My father was a church planter in Québec” by D.A. Carson

“My life has been blessed by some influential models. I must begin by mentioning my own parents. I remember how, even when we children were quite young, each morning my mother would withdraw from the hurly-burly of life to read her Bible and pray.

In the years that I was growing up, my father, a Baptist minister, had his study in our home. Every morning we could hear him praying in that study. My father vocalized when he prayed—loudly enough that we knew he was praying, but not loudly enough that we could hear what he was saying.

Every day he prayed, usually for about forty-five minutes. Perhaps there were times when he failed to do so, but I cannot think of one. My father was a church planter in Québec, in the difficult years when there was strong opposition, some of it brutal. Baptist ministers alone spent a total of eight years in jail between 1950 and 1952.

Dad’s congregations were not large; they were usually at the lower end of the two-digit range. On Sunday mornings after the eleven o’clock service, Dad would often play the piano and call his three children to join him in singing, while Mum completed the preparations for dinner.

But one Sunday morning in the late fifties, I recall, Dad was not at the piano, and was not to be found. I finally tracked him down. The door of his study was ajar. I pushed it open, and there he was, kneeling in front of his big chair, praying and quietly weeping.

This time I could hear what he was saying. He was interceding with God on behalf of the handful of people to whom he had preached, and in particular for the conversion of a few who regularly attended but who had never trusted Christ Jesus.

In the ranks of ecclesiastical hierarchies, my father is not a great man. He has never served a large church, never written a book, never discharged the duties of high denominational office. Doubtless his praying, too, embraces idioms and stylistic idiosyncrasies that should not be copied.

But with great gratitude to God, I testify that my parents were not hypocrites. That is the worst possible heritage to leave with children: high spiritual pretensions and low performance.

My parents were the opposite: few pretensions, and disciplined performance. What they prayed for were the important things, the things that congregate around the prayers of Scripture.

And sometimes when I look at my own children, I wonder if, should the Lord give us another thirty years, they will remember their father as a man of prayer, or think of him as someone distant who was away from home rather a lot and who wrote a number of obscure books. That quiet reflection often helps me to order my days.”

–D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 25–26.