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J.C. Ryle: 10 Questions to Test Whether You Are a True Christian

10. Do we know anything of being ready for Christ’s second coming?

That He will come again the second time, is as certain as anything in the Bible. The world has not yet seen the last of Him. As surely as He went up visibly and in the body on the Mount of Olives before the eyes of His disciples, so surely will he come again in the clouds of Heaven, with power and great glory (Acts 1:11). He will come to raise the dead, to change the living, to reward His saints, to punish the wicked, to renew the earth, and take the curse away, to purify the world and to set up a kingdom where sin shall have no place and holiness shall be the universal rule.

The early Christians made it a part of their religion to look for His return. Backward they looked to the cross and the atonement for sin, and rejoiced in Christ crucified. Upward they looked to Christ at the right hand of God, and rejoiced in Christ interceding. Forward they looked to the promised return of their Master, and rejoiced in the thought that they would see Him again.

And we ought to do the same. What have we really received from Christ? And what do we know of Him? And what do we think of Him? Are we living as if we long to see Him again, and love His appearing? Readiness for that appearing is nothing more than being a real, consistent Christian. It requires no man to cease from his daily business. The farmer need not give up his farm, nor the shopkeeper his counter, nor the doctor his patients, nor the carpenter his hammer and nails, nor the bricklayer his mortar and trowel, nor the blacksmith his smithy. Each and all can do no better than be found doing his duty—but doing it as a Christian, and with a heart packed up and ready to be gone. In the face of truth like this, no reader can feel surprised if I ask, How is it with our souls in the matter of Christ’s second coming?

The world is growing old and running to seed. The vast majority of Christians seem like the men in the time of Noah and Lot, who were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, planting and building, up to the very day when flood and fire came. Those words of our Master are very solemn and heart-searching, “Remember Lot’s wife.” “Take heed lest at any time your heart be overcharged with the cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 17:32; 21:34). Once more I ask: In the matter of readiness for Christ’s second coming, how are we doing?

I end my inquiries here. I might easily add to them; but I trust I have said enough, at the beginning of this volume, to stir up self-inquiry and self-examination in many minds. God is my witness that I have said nothing that I do not feel of paramount importance to my own soul. I only want to do good to others.

A few words of Practical Application for each True Christian

A. Is any reader of this article asleep and utterly thoughtless about Christianity?

Oh, awake and sleep no more! Look at the churchyards and cemeteries. One by one the people around you are dropping into them, and you must lie there one day. Look forward to a world to come, and lay your hand on your heart, and say, if you dare, that you are ready to die and meet God. Ah! You are like one sleeping in a boat drifting down the stream towards the falls of Niagara! “What do you mean, oh sleeper! Arise and call on your God!” “Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light!” (Jonah 1:6; Ephesians 5:14).

B. Is any reader of this article feeling self-condemned, and afraid that there is no hope for his soul?

Cast aside your fears, and accept the offer of our Lord Jesus Christ to sinners. Hear Him saying, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). “If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink.” (John 7:37). Him that comes unto me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37).

Do not doubt that these words are for you as well as for anyone else. Bring all your sins, and unbelief, and sense of guilt, and unfitness, and doubts, and infirmities—bring all to Christ! “This man receives sinners,” and He will receive you (Luke 15:2). Do not stand still, wavering between two opinions, and waiting for a convenient season. On your feet! He’s calling you. Come to Christ this very day (Mark 10:49).

C. Is any reader of this article a professing believer in Christ but a believer without much joy and peace and comfort?

Take advice this day. Search your own heart, and see whether the fault is not entirely your own. Very likely you are sitting at ease, content with a little faith, and a little repentance, a little grace, and a little sanctification—and unconsciously shrinking back from extremes. You will never be a very happy Christian at this rate, if you live to the age of Methuselah. Change your plan, if you love life and would see good days, without delay. Come out boldly and act decidedly. Be thorough, thorough, very thorough in your Christianity, and set your face fully towards the sun. Lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets you. Strive to get nearer to Christ, to abide in Him, to cleave to Him, and to sit at His feet like Mary, and drink full draughts out of the fountain of life. “These things,” says John, “we write unto you, that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:4). “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” (1 John 1:7).

D. Is any reader of this article a believer oppressed with doubts and fears, on account of his feebleness, infirmity and sense of sin?

Remember the text that says of Jesus, “A bruised reed will He not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” (Matthew 12:20). Take comfort in the thought that this text is for you. Why is your faith weak? It is better than no faith at all. The least grain of life is better than death. Perhaps you are expecting too much in this world. Earth is not Heaven. You are yet in the body. Expect little from self—but much from Christ. Look more to Jesus—and less to self.

E. Finally, is any reader of this article sometimes downcast by the trials he meets with on the way to heaven—bodily trials, family trials, trials of circumstances, trials from neighbors and trials from the world?

Look up to a sympathizing Savior at God’s right hand, and pour out your heart before Him. He can be touched with the feelings of your trials, for He Himself suffered when He was tempted. Are you alone? So was He. Are you misrepresented and slandered? So was He. Are you forsaken by friends? So was He. Are you persecuted? So was He. Are you wearied in body and grieved in spirit? So was He. Yes! He can feel for you, and He can help as well as feel. Then learn to draw nearer to Christ. The time is short. Yet in a little while, and all will be over; we shall soon be “with the Lord”. “There is an end, and your expectation shall not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18). “You have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who shall come will come and will not tarry.” (Hebrews 10:36-37).