Okay. Time for a little trivia! Can anyone guess who the man in this picture is? Anyone at all? "Beuller? Beuller? Anyone?" Could he possibly be one of our former U.S. presidents? Rutherford B. Hayes! Mmm. No. This man was not a U.S. citizen.
What if I told you he was a very good cricket player? Would you know who he is then? No guesses? Well, he lived in England (1816-1900). Still no guesses? Alright, new question then.
What else can you tell about him? What about his beliefs? What can you tell about the man's beliefs by looking at the picture? Zippo, right? We can't tell anything about anyone's beliefs by simply looking at their picture. Unless they are wearing a white collar, some flowing robes, or a turban or sari, we can't even hazard a guess.
This man is J.C. Ryle, the first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. One day, while hearing Ephesians 2 read in church in 1838, he felt a spiritual awakening and was ordained by Bishop Sumner at Winchester in 1842. For 38 years he was a parish priest. Let's just say, he knew his stuff. He KNEW what he believed and why he believed it.
There are many things we Christians believe or exhibit and they can vary from church to church and from one denomination to the next. But here are six essential doctrines that every Christian MUST adhere to if they are truly to be called Christians:
J.C. Ryle - Essential Doctrines of Christianity
- The Trinity - three distinct persons, one God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each one unique, each one the same. It is a difficult concept to grasp but we Christians worship one God. It's just that He exists in three different parts. The Three, in One. It's like having three candles in a room. There are three distinct candles but they produce one Light.
- The visible work of the Holy Spirit in a person. When we repent of our sins and make the decision to follow Christ, we receive God's Holy Spirit into our hearts. We become changed. That change will be evident in how we live our lives. We receive power over sin through God's Holy Spirit. Power to change. And that change should be very evident in how we live our lives.
- The inward work of the Holy Spirit. This is related to the previous characteristic about the visible work of the Holy Spirit, only this work is INvisible. Our souls, our convictions, our thoughts turn towards things of God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit rather than to things of the world or of ourselves. When we sin we feel convicted, repent and seek forgiveness.
- The Doctrine of Human Sinfulness and Corruption. When we read in his Word that none of us are good enough and we all fall short of God's high standard of sinlessness, we realize that we are without hope. Hopeless, that is, without a saving faith in Christ Jesus. We are humbled by our sins in the face of Holy and Just God.
- The work and office of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is our only hope. Our faith in Him saves us. What was done for us on The Cross has the power to raise the dead of this world to new life. Jesus is our judge, yet he is our advocate. He is Lord of all and we must be in submission to His prefect will and authority in our lives.
- The absolute supremacy of Holy Scripture. God's Word is true. There are many who will debate this characteristic, some of whom still call themselves Christians yet they deny this last point. God's Word was "breathed out" by God in the 66 letters of the Bible. As it says in John 1, "In the beginning was The Word and The Word was with God and the Word was God." Jesus is The Word in that verse and His written word is like a two-edged sword with the power to destroy it's enemies. The Word of God is truth and it is a lamp unto our feet.
Does that sound rather exclusive? Does it sound like it's either God's way or the highway? That's because it IS God's way. He OWNS the highway. When we die and go to heaven there will be a toll booth of sorts on that highway. When we show up at that tollbooth, the gate will be lifted for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. All others will be turned away. The toll was paid for all when Jesus dies on the cross, but only those who accepted the payment God made through the death of His Son, will enter in. All others who, having been offered the gift of salvation through Jesus yet refused to take it, will be turned away when they come knocking on God's door.
"Let your Christianity be so unmistakable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward, that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are and whom you serve." - JC Ryle
Here is a video of some people receiving a Bible translated into their own language. They are receiving God's Word for the first time. Do we react the same when we pull our own dusty Bibles off the shelf . . . whenever we happen to want to read them?
Indonesian tribe receives Bible for the first time
The words that made a believer out of J.C. Ryle:
"1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:1-10
[The six doctrinal points came from an episode of WretchedTV]