J.C. Ryle was a Reformed writer and pastor who was dubbed by his contemporaries as “A Man of Granite with the Heart of a Child.” Some of his most popular works include Practical Religion, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), and Principles for Churchmen (1884).

Here are Ryle’s 7 tips when reading the Bible:

1) Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.

2) Read the Scriptures with a simple, childlike faith and humility.

3) Read the Word with a spirit of obedience and self-application.

4) Read the Holy Scriptures everyday.

5) Read the whole Bible and read it an orderly way.

6) Read the Word of God fairly and honestly.

7) Read the Bible with Christ constantly in view.

Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1998], 131-33.

“Look unto the Lord Jesus Christ; look unto him as he hung naked, wounded, bleeding, dead, and forsaken upon the cross. Look unto him again as he now reigns in glory, possessed of all power in heaven and in earth, with thousands of thousands of saints and angels worshipping before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand ministering unto him; and then compare your sins with his blood, your wants with his fullness, your unbelief with his faithfulness, your weakness with his strength, your inconstancy with his everlasting love.”

While in the Kuman Tribe of Papua New Guinea, my wife Deb had lots of time to reflect on missions and the Christian life. Here’s a look back at some of her thoughts during that year.

Moving into Kuman and getting adjusted to life in a very foreign culture has been really hard. I won’t sugar-coat it or tell you that every day is a super fun adventure, or that I never struggle to trust God or walk in joy. Culture stress is real, and we’re in the thick of it now as we begin building relationships with the people who have never heard the truth all around us.

For me, the hardest part has been accepting the way the people here view me and talk about me as a white woman.

White women are lazy, white women are weak, white women sit in their houses and do nothing…. and white women have money.  Here we have people trying to sell us things, asking us for money, stealing anything we’ve inadvertently left out, attempting to break into our storage. It just feels like we’re being used. It feels like anyone who wants to be my friend, wants to be my friend so that they can get something from me, or so that they can make others in the village jealous that they are good friends with “the white lady.” People even use me to get their children to behave when I’m around, “Don’t cry, the white lady will be angry!” That one bums me out because they are teaching their children to be afraid of us, and one day I hope to be able to minister to the children here. Yes, I’ve felt used, and I haven’t liked it.

But today God used my dear Kuman friend to challenge and encourage me. She has been a believer for many years and has helped to translate the New Testament. She studies God’s Word, and it takes root in her life. Lately she has been helping with the translation of Luke, and today, as we were talking, she said this:

“This is one sin that I have been guilty of many times: I see someone with something that they have stolen from me, and I am angry, and I go and I take it back.”

Honestly, that didn’t sound wrong to me at all. I mean, it was hers, and they stole it… she has the right to take it back. I sat there a minute trying to think of what to say (using my second language), and she went on to say, “But I see in God’s Word that He says ‘If someone wants to take something from you, let him have it.'” Wow! here I’ve been feeling so down about being used in my relationships here, thinking about my rights, my emotional needs, forgetting that this is exactly what we are all called to. The verse she was referring to is Luke 6:29, one which we are all familiar with, but may not have actually taken root in our hearts and lives:

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

If I am going to have joy here, it cannot be because I am finding emotional fulfillment and mutual respect in all my relationships, it cannot be because I feel that I am looked up to as someone who is hard-working and capable. I need to remember why I am here.

Christ is my reason, Christ is my identity, Christ is my fulfillment, and He loves me. Resting in Him I have all I need. When I allow His love to be my sense of worth, to fill every need in me, I am free to love others without thinking of myself. Just think of how He loved me… I didn’t acknowledge Him for who He was or somehow show Him love before He gave Himself for me freely. He didn’t seek to stay where He was only adored and worshipped — and comfortable. No — He came to where we are, in our sinfulness. He was used and abused, endured every kind of pain imaginable, all for love. And now His love is ever available to me, to love people whether they love me back or not; to love people who steal from me or talk bad about me; to love people who have destroyed others’ lives, just as Jesus loved and died for even those who tortured, beat and killed Him. And this is the love they need to see, so that they will be drawn to the One who is Love Himself, Jesus.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

When I was in 6th grade, I called my teacher a bad word.

According to Bill Cosby, “Kids say the darnedest things.” I wish I could claim that moniker in that unfortunate moment, but I couldn’t as a 12-year old. I was certainly cognizant enough to know that just letting underdeveloped, unfiltered vocabulary flow out of my mouth was a poor choice, like picking Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of your fantasy league. I had certainly been disciplined for ill-advised, out-loud musings in the past, but this was pretty funny — I actually made a kid pee his pants because he couldn’t stop laughing.

As the school day was winding to a close and our work was being turned in, the mood in the classroom was decidedly light as everyone was putting their stuff together to take to their lockers. Our teacher was in an especially good mood too, though I don’t really remember why. My buddy made a joke about getting to go home, our teacher made a sarcastic comment (in jest of course), and I called my teacher something that rhymes with “fast bird.”

Total silence. My teacher gathered her wits, told me to grab a dictionary (which was exclusively in book-form those days), and I promptly headed up to her desk. I was so red with embarrassment and confusion that I looked like a walking stop sign. It was…not ideal.

Here’s breaking news: sin still lives in me, and many of the struggles I faced as a 12-year old, I’m still dealing with. Even though I’m no longer a slave to my old nature through my co-crucifixion with Jesus, I find myself wandering from the mind-bending truth that I can experience real, joyful, uninterupted life and fellowship with God by abiding in Christ right now. 

When a difficult moment strikes, I still struggle to keep my mouth shut. 

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless…

The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…

No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Ja 1:26; 3:5-6; 3:8-12

Particularly jarring to me, James dismisses the worship of any Christian who doesn’t restrain his tongue. Long, beautiful prayers in public or private, preaching, and church attendance are worth little if the person who offers them has lips filled with slander, deceit, and cursing when he talks with others.

Gill says,

This man’s religion is vain; useless, and unprofitable to himself and others; all his preaching, praying, hearing, and attendance on the ordinances will be of no avail to him; and he, notwithstanding these, by his evil tongue, brings a scandal and reproach upon the ways of God, and doctrines of Christ

What hypocrisy! We speak marvelously of the Christian’s imputed righteousness and union with God’s beloved Son, yet we turn around and slander those to whom Christ’s righteousness was freely given.

We praise God for his unending mercies, yet we speak harsh words to our neighbor who forgot to chain up their dog.

We speak often of Christ’s glorious return, yet we pass on incredible conspiracy theories and chain letters about our least favorite Presidential Candidate in fear that he or she might win. 

The tongue is terrifying: it destroys marriages, ruins fellowship in our churches, frightens our kids, gives our testimonies pock-marks  — and worse yet, it cannot be tamed by man.

Hopeless.

But, with God, all things are possible. As Christ said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” As we walk in fellowship with our Lord, as George Müeller said, “keeping God before our eyes” in dependence, He will work in us to will and work for His good pleasure. 

He’ll teach us to stop trusting ourselves to get the job done. He’ll reveal how much damage we do when we sin through our words. Through the inexhaustible riches of God’s grace in Christ, when that moment comes again, I pray we’ll see victory and give Him the glory. 

Sometimes, our greatest act of worship is keeping our mouths shut. 

What is the Doctrine of Perspicuity?

Also known as the Doctrine of Scriptural Clarity, “Perspicuity” is the belief that Scripture is comprehensible enough so that, with the aid of the Holy Spirit and by using a sound hermeneutic that allows Scripture to interpret itself, anyone who desires to do so can understand God’s message.

Martin Luther defined three categories of perspicuity: 1) the Bible is grammatically clear to all men of sound mind; 2) it is spiritually clear to all who believe in Christ; 3) it is essentially clear to the saints in heaven, who see God face to face.”

Does Scripture Support It?

Yes.

‘The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).”

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7).”

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).”

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).”

Why does it matter?

It matters a whole lot: If Scripture can’t be understood with certainty, then a saving comprehension of the gospel is impossible.

What Do the Important People Have to Say About it?

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130). —Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7)

To begin with, it is important to note what the clarity of Scripture does not mean. It does not mean, first of all, that interpretation is unnecessary – the biblical meaning will be delivered up by some mystical process of hermeneutical osmosis. Nor does it mean that an autonomous individual can, by employing critical techniques alone, wrest the meaning from the text. Rather, clarity means that the Bible is sufficiently unambiguous in the main for any well-intentioned person with Christian faith to interpret each part with relative adequacy. In the context of the Reformation, the perspicuity of Scripture was the chief weapon for combating the authority of the dominant interpretive community: Rome (pg. 315). —Kevin J. Vanhoozer Is There a Meaning in This Text?