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J. C. Ryle’s “A Call to Prayer,” Monday

This week for our daily devotional we are reading through J. C. Ryle’s pamphlet, A Call to Prayer. You can download the entire booklet here. In addition to these separate, daily posts, using the copy we prepared you can follow this schedule:

Monday: pages 1-4
Tuesday: pages 4-8
Wednesday: pages 8-12
Thursday: pages 12-15
Friday: pages 15-18
Saturday: pages 18-22
Sunday: pages 22-24

I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, Do you pray?

The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers in your house or not, your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.

I beseech you in all affection to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers and another to pray. Do not tell me that my question is unnecessary. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you good reasons for asking it.

I ask whether you pray, because prayer is absolutely needful to a man’s salvation.

I say, absolutely needful, and I say so advisedly. I am not speaking now of infants or idiots. I am not settling the state of the heathen. I know that where little is given, there little will be required. I speak especially of those who call themselves Christians, in a land like our own. And of such I say, no man or woman can expect to be saved who does not pray.

I hold salvation by grace as strongly as any one. I would gladly offer a free and full pardon to the greatest sinner that ever lived. I would not hesitate to stand by his dying bed, and say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ even now, and you shall be saved.” But that a man can have salvation without asking for it, I cannot see in the Bible. That a man will receive pardon of his sins, who will not so much as lift up his heart inwardly, and say, “Lord Jesus, give it to me,” this I cannot find. I can find that nobody will be saved by his prayers, but I cannot find that without prayer anybody will be saved.

It is not absolutely needful to salvation that a man should read the Bible. A man may have no learning, or be blind, and yet have Christ in his heart. It is not absolutely needful that a man should hear public preaching of the gospel. He may live where the gospel is not preached, or he may be bedridden, or deaf. But the same thing cannot be said about prayer. It is absolutely needful to salvation that a man should pray.

There is no royal road either to health or learning. Princes and kings, poor men and peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all.

Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul’s health and well–being. Each must attend to these things for himself. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray. You must do it for yourself, for by nobody else can it be done.

To be prayerless is to be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope, and without heaven. It is to be on the road to hell. Now can you wonder that I ask the question, Do you pray?

I ask again whether you pray, because a habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian.

All the children of God on earth are alike in this respect. From the moment there is any life and reality about their religion, they pray. Just as the first sign of life in an infant when born into the world is the act of breathing, so the first act of men and women when they are born again is praying. This is one of the common marks of all the elect of God, “They cry unto him day and night” (Luke 18:1). The Holy Spirit, who makes them new creatures, works in them the feeling of adoption, and makes them cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). The Lord Jesus, when he quickens them, gives them a voice and a tongue, and says to them, “Be dumb no more.” God has no dumb children. It is as much a part of their new nature to pray, as it is of a child to cry. They see their need of mercy and grace. They feel their emptiness and weakness. They can not do otherwise than they do. They must pray.

I have looked carefully over the lives of God’s saints in the Bible. I cannot find one of whose history much is told us, from Genesis to Revelation, who was not a man of prayer. I find it mentioned as a characteristic of the godly, that “they call on the Father” (I Peter 1:17), or “the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 1:2). Recorded as a characteristic of the wicked is the fact that “they call not upon the Lord” (Ps. 14:4).

I have read the lives of many eminent Christians who have been on earth since the Bible days. Some of them, I see, were rich, and some poor. Some were learned, and some unlearned. Some of them were Episcopalians, and some Christians of other names. Some were Calvinists, and some were Arminians. Some have loved to use a liturgy, and some to use none. But one thing, I see, they all had in common. They have all been men of prayer.

I study the reports of missionary societies in our own times. I see with joy that heathen men and women are receiving the gospel in various parts of the globe. There are conversions in Africa, in New Zealand, in Hindustan, in China. The people converted are naturally unlike one another in every respect. But one striking thing I observe at all the missionary stations: the converted people always pray.

I do not deny that a man may pray without heart and without sincerity. I do not for a moment pretend to say that the mere fact of a person’s praying proves is everything about his soul. As in every other part of religion, so also in this, there may be deception and hypocrisy.

But this I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray.

And I say, furthermore, that of all the evidences of the real work of the Spirit, a habit of hearty private prayer is one of the most satisfactory that can be named. A man may preach from false motives. A man may write books and make fine speeches and seem diligent in good works, and yet be a Judas Iscariot. But a man seldom goes into his closet, and pours out his soul before God in secret, unless he is in earnest. The Lord himself has set his stamp on prayer as the best proof of a true conversion. When he sent Ananias to Saul in Damascus, he gave him no other evidence of his change of heart than this, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9: 11).

I know that much may go on in a man’s mind before he is brought to pray. He may have many convictions, desires, wishes, feelings, intentions, resolutions, hopes, and fears. But all these things are very uncertain evidences. They are to be found in ungodly people, and often come to nothing. In many a case they are not more lasting than the morning cloud, and the dew that passeth away. A real, hearty prayer, coming from a broken and contrite spirit, is worth all these things put together.

I know that the Holy Spirit, who calls sinners from their evil ways, does in many instances lead them by very slow degrees to acquaintance with Christ. But the eye of man can only judge by what it sees. I cannot call any one justified until he believes. I dare not say that any one believes until he prays. I cannot understand a dumb faith. The first act of faith will be to speak to God. Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension, and how a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.

Never be surprised if you hear ministers of the gospel dwelling much on the importance of prayer. This is the point we want to bring you to; we want to know that you pray. Your views of doctrine may be correct. Your love of Protestantism may be warm and unmistakable. But still this may be nothing more than head knowledge and party spirit. We want to know whether you are actually acquainted with the throne of grace, and whether you can speak to God as well as speak about God. Do you wish to find out whether you are a true Christian? Then rest assured that my question is of the very first importance—Do you pray?

Eternity and Time

This message was preached by Pastor Dan Greenfield during Orwell Bible Church’s morning service, November 6, 2022.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 Solomon teaches that you must submissively recognize God’s sovereignty and gratefully rejoice in his gifts.

You can follow along on a provided outline, available here.

Soul Liberty

The doctrine of soul liberty is that no person, religious power, or civil authority can force, compel, or coerce belief. Each person has a conscience and is answerable only to God for his beliefs.

This message given on Reformation Sunday was preached by Pastor Dan Greenfield during Orwell Bible Church’s morning service, October 30, 2022.

The doctrine of soul liberty is that no person, religious power, or civil authority can force, compel, or coerce belief. Each person has a conscience and is answerable only to God for his beliefs.

You can follow along on a provided outline, available here.

Can—and Should—a Christian Enjoy Life?

This message, teaching through Ecclesiastes 2:22-26, was preached by Pastor Dan Greenfield during Orwell Bible Church’s morning service, October 23, 2022.

Christians can—and must!—sensibly enjoy life by submitting to Christ!

You can follow along with a sermon outline here.

Luke 9

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

Here Luke relates a transition in Jesus’ ministry toward his death, resurrection, and ascension, even looking ahead to his rule on earth in the kingdom of God.

Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim to Israel that he was their promised Messiah and King. Jesus also gave them power to do works reversing sin’s effects in creation, proving that what they said about Jesus was true. Jesus also taught and did the same (vv. 1-17, 37-42).

Jesus began telling his disciples of his coming betrayal, rejection by Israel, death, and resurrection, but they failed to grasp the significance of what he said (vv. 21-22, 43-45).

Three times Jesus taught what believe and following him means and involves (vv. 23-26, 46-48, 57-62). In two of those Jesus tied such to the coming kingdom when he would be seen in his full glory (vv. 27-36, 60-62).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Following Christ involves sacrificing and losing everything (vv. 23-26, 57-62), yet having the assurance of gaining all in the kingdom of God (vv. 26-36).
  2. No one is “fit for the kingdom of God” who loves anything in a sin-cursed world more than they love the King.

Luke 8

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

Jesus went through every city and village teaching that he was Israel’s promised Christ, their King. He taught that those who truly believe his message will show it by faithful, persevering obedience (vv. 1-21). The “mysteries of the Kingdom of God” (v. 10) are truths Jesus taught about the Kingdom. Jesus taught such truth in parables, which would be understood by those who believed him but completely missed by those who rejected him. Each parable makes one point and the parable’s details must be understood in relation to that one point.

As the God-man King of Israel, Jesus has the power and authority over every aspect of creation (vv. 22-25), all demons (vv. 26-39), and the effects of sin, whether sickness or death (vv. 40-56).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Genuine faith hears, obeys and keeps, transforms one’s life, rests, and wholly and entirely believes in Jesus.
  2. In this chapter we see how Jesus is the King and Teacher, the Lord of creation (controlling the seas), the Lord of spirits (controlled demons), and the Lord of life (reversing sickness and death).

Luke 7

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

A Roman centurion had a terminally ill servant (vv. 1-10). The centurion heard of Jesus and believed he could heal his servant without coming to his house. Jesus did so, marveling at such faith in contrast to Israel who should have had such.

Jesus, moved with compassion, caused a widow’s dead son to come back to life (vv. 11-17). Jesus as God has the power to give life to the dead.

John the Baptist had been imprisoned (Matt 11:2), perhaps making him wonder if Jesus was the Christ after all (Luke 7:18-19) so his disciples came to Jesus regarding this (vv. 18-19). Jesus “answered” by doing indisputable miracles that only the Christ could do (vv. 20-23).

Jesus’ commended John the Baptist’s character and ministry (vv. 24-28a) but pointed out that the lowest citizen in the coming kingdom had a greater position than John did under the law (v. 28b).

Though many “sinners” believed God’s truth from John the Baptist and Jesus (v. 29), the religious leaders—who should have believed them—refused to (vv. 30-35). This was illustrated by Jesus’ supper with a self-righteous Pharisee when the Lord forgave the sins of a repentant woman (vv. 36-50).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. True faith in Jesus hears what has been said about him in the Scriptures and simply and fully believes and rests in that truth. Is your response to God’s truth in the Scriptures like the centurion’s (vv. 6-8) or like the fickle generation of unbelieving Jews who wouldn’t believe no matter what (vv. 31-35)?
  2. Only Jesus can forgive sin’s guilt (vv. 41-50). The evidence that one’s sins have been forgiven is a devoted love for Jesus. have your sins been forgiven? If so, how great is your love for Christ seen in what you’re willing to do for him?
  3. It is a sad fact that the more self-righteous and religious a person is, the less he sees his need for forgiveness. He believes he has done and is doing enough for God to accept him. What—who—are you relying on to be accepted by God?

Luke 6

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

In verses 1-11 Jesus did not break God’s law to Israel regarding the Sabbath, though the Pharisees believed he did. The Pharisees added numerous details to God’s Word to “protect” the Law, but such were created by men. Jesus as God (v. 5) rightly interpreted and kept God’s Law.

In verses 20-49, Jesus taught Jews living in Israel under the jurisdiction of the Law about the character and conduct of those who are citizens of the coming Kingdom. Jesus taught as Israel’s Christ and King. Though the kingdom was not present (cf. 11:2), the King was present and he taught how his followers must live in a sin-cursed world.

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day of the week (Exod 20:1). God commanded the nation of Israel to rest and do no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a distinctly Israelite ordinance (Exod 31:13, 16). Disobeying this constitutional law was punishable by death (Exod 31:14; Num 15:32-36). Sadly, the entire nation’s disobedience of God’s law resulted in the destruction of the nation and their being removed from the land (Neh 13:18; Jer 17:19-27). Israel did not trust the Lord and so disobeyed him. we must learn from them (1 Cor 10:6-11)!!
  2. As the church is not Israel it is under the jurisdiction of Christ’s Law (1 Cor 9:21; Gal 6:2) not Moses’ Law to Israel (Rom 7:1-4). Nowhere in the NT did Jesus transfer the Sabbath to the first day of the week, Sunday (cf. Col 2:16-23).
  3. If you are a follower of and believer in Jesus Christ, does your lifestyle and response to Jesus’ teaching (Luke 6:43-49) support and demonstrate that? do you live for God’s approval (vv. 20-23) or man’s (vv. 24-26)? Love and be merciful (vv. 27-36). Forgive and be generous (vv. 37-38). Be holy and helpful (vv. 39-42).

Luke 5

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

One of Luke’s emphases is on following Christ. here in chapter five two instances of following Christ are given, first when Jesus called peter, James, and John to follow him (vv. 1-11) and then when he called Matthew (vv. 27-28). These followed Jesus to be his particular helpers and representatives in ministry; that is why they abandoned their occupations and devoted themselves full-time to following Christ.

Two miracles are included here—healing a leper (vv. 12-16) and a paralyzed man (vv. 17-26). These miracles substantiated Jesus’ teaching that he is God in the flesh, Israel’s promised King, the Savior.

Included in the events of this chapter are two times when Jesus was opposed by Pharisees (vv. 21-24, 30-32). While the Pharisees adhered to the Mosaic Law they added hundreds of additional man-made commands to it which blinded them to the truth of who Jesus was.

John the Baptist’s disciples fasted and prayed for the messiah to come and thus wondered why Jesus’ disciples didn’t (John the Baptist’s disciples asked this question in v. 33; see Matt 9:14). Fasting and praying for the Messiah to come when he was present is as foolish as not eating at a wedding feast when the bridegroom was present (v. 34) and in the two examples Jesus mentioned in verses 36-39.

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Sin is not conforming to God’s  holy character (Rom 3:23) and disobeying his Word (1 John 3:4). The consequences of sin are separation from God (Eph 2:1), separation from physical life (Jam 2:26), and eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev 20:14-15). The effects of sin are seen throughout this chapter and mankind is unable to escape/save themselves from it.
  2. Jesus—the eternal Son made man, Israel’s Christ, the promised Savior—came to save sinners! Sinners must receive and rest on Christ alone for salvation (“faith”) and must turn from sin with sorrow for and hatred of it (“repentance,” cf. v. 32).

Your Gravestone

This message, teaching through Ecclesiastes 2:12-21, was preached by Pastor Dan Greenfield during Orwell Bible Church’s morning service, October 16, 2022.

Here in Ecclesiastes 2:12-21, Solomon demonstrates that regardless of who you are, you will die.

You can follow along with a sermon outline here.

Luke 4

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

After Jesus’ baptism, which signaled the beginning of his public ministry, he was tempted by the devil (vv. 1-13).  Jesus rebuffed each temptation by quoting God’s written Word.

Jesus’ ministry involved going to synagogues and teaching (vv. 14ff). An example is given in verses 16-20 when Jesus taught in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth. He read Isaiah 61:1-2, stopped in the middle of a sentence, and proclaimed that what he read was fulfilled—he was the promised Messiah and he came to save the lost. The rest of Isaiah 61:2 (that Jesus did not read) would be fulfilled at his Second Coming (Rev 19:11ff). The Nazarene Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah (v. 22) and Jesus pronounced judgment on their unbelief (vv. 23-27). Though the Jews sought to kill him it was not yet his time and so he simply left them (vv. 28-30).

Jesus continued proving he was Israel’s promised Messiah and King through his teaching and miracles (vv. 31-44).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Temptation is a solicitation to live contrary to God’s revealed character and will. Satan’s first temptation began by questioning God’s authority (Gen 3:1). Temptation is thus an invitation to rebel against God for immediate gratification. Christian, you must respond like Jesus did to every temptation to rebel against God, by resisting the Devil and obeying God (Jam 4:7; 1 Pet 5:9).
  2. Miracles are supernatural acts of God that infrequently occurred in biblical history. Miracles served as supporting signs of God’s messengers and their message, verifying such were truly from him (1 Kings 17:24; Matt 11:2-6; Acts 2:22; 4:29-30; Heb 2:4). Jesus’ miracles proved he was the Savior of sinners by effectively dealing with the effects of sin.
  3. The Kingdom Jesus preached (v. 43) was not different in any way from what God said about it in the OT. Jesus picked up right where the OT prophets had left off. The basic character of God’s promised, coming Kingdom is that God in the flesh will enter a rule of loving sovereignty and fellowship with His people and dwell with them forever (Isa 2:4; 11:6-10; 12:1-6; 32:1-4; 56:6-8; 61:1-9). All the physical, political, moral, ethical, and social blessings that will be present in the Kingdom are based on and flow from God’s spiritual blessings of salvation. Jesus came declaring he was Israel’s promised King, and that Jews must believe him to be that in order to enter the Kingdom.

Luke 3

The following is from OBC’s daily devotional for today:

John the Baptist’s ministry was to call Israelites to repent of their sins, believing that the promised Christ was coming (vv. 1-4). Only then would they be ready to receive him. They publicly testified of their repentance and readiness to receive the Messiah by being baptized (v. 3). True repentance was to be concretely seen in a changed, everyday life (vv. 7-15). They were not to rely on their being Jews (v. 8). God will judge with fire those who do not rightly respond to his Word (vv. 9, 17).

Jesus was baptized, not to show he repented of sin (he had none) but because he was committed to doing what was right (vv. 21-22; cf. Matt 3:15). The Holy Spirit’s coming upon Jesus was God’s public endorsement that Jesus was Israel’s King (cf. Acts 10:38). The Father commended Jesus as the Messiah (v. 22), Israel’s King and sinner’s Savior.

Genealogies in the Bible do not always detail every ancestor; sometimes, as with Luke’s here (vv. 23-38), key representatives are listed. The names here not only show Jesus’ humanity but also that he is David and Abraham’s descendant, and thus able to fulfill the promises God gave to those men (Abraham—Gen 12:1-3; David—2 Sam 7:12-14). As Adam’s descendant he is related to humanity. As the Son of God he is the God-man who would perfectly obey him and bring salvation through his life, death, and resurrection.

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. The necessity, character, and results of repentance. Repentance is turning from sin with sorrow and hatred of it and turning to God with humble love and obedience. One who has truly turned from sin to God/Jesus Christ continually demonstrates that throughout his entire life in personal, practical ways. Who do you love more, yourself, or the Lord Jesus? How is that seen in your thoughts, affections, decisions, priorities, responses, etc.?
  2. John the Baptist’s baptism was a Jew’s public testimony that he repented of his sins and was ready to welcome the coming Messiah. Christian baptism is a new believer’s public testimony that he repented of his sins and believed that Jesus is the Lord God, the Savior, the Christ, Israel’s Messiah (cf. Acts 19:1-5).
  3. Baptism does not result in the forgiveness of sins but is the outward testimony that one’s sins have been forgiven. Have your sins been forgiven? Have you obeyed Jesus by publicly testifying that your sins have been forgiven by being baptized/immersed in water (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:41)?
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