Book Review: Thoughts for Young Men

If there is one book I wish someone had given to me as a teenager it would be Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle.  To be honest, I probably would not have read it since I didn’t like to read at the time; that being said, this book should be in the hands of every teenage young man who is in your life.  Is there a birthday that’s coming up?  Buy the book as a gift.  Graduation? Perfect timing!  Christmas is only six and a half months away so why not an early Christmas gift?

Quickly: Ryle was a minister in the Church of England during the 19th century.  He had a love for God’s Word and God’s people that is clearly shown in this book.  His words in this book are not only for young men, but for anyone, however they apply especially to young men.  Believe me when I say, these are timeless truths that Ryle proclaims by pen and paper.  He understood that the heart and mind of young men in his day are the same hearts and minds of young men in any day.

But why should young men everywhere read this book from the 19th century?  Besides the reason that it is timeless, it’s not a hard read.  A thirteen year old would have absolutely no problem understanding what the author is writing.  If there are any “archaic” words, places or people mentioned, they are explained in short, concise footnotes.  But Ryle also deals with a whole gamut of issues that men face: pride, idleness, lust, Bible-reading and study, and the list goes on.  Nearly every paragraph is packed with wisdom that cannot, or at least should not, be dismissed.  I read this with a highlighter in my hand, but my problem was keeping myself from highlighting too much (it does no good to highlight the entire book).

I have read other short pieces by J. C. Ryle before, but this book has made me a fan.  I cannot wait to pick up another of his books to read.  I can only imagine what it may have in store for me.  He has definitely helped me in “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–[to] dwell on these things,” (Phil 4:8, HCSB).

The Power of God Powerless

I had the opportunity to present the gospel to a couple the other day.  I made sure that I presented the gospel and not some watered-down version of what is classified as the gospel.  I talked to them about sin, rebellion, holiness, the ten commandments, Jesus and His perfect life, substitutionary death, and glorious resurrection.  I spoke about heaven and hell.  It took me nearly 20 minutes to get through everything.  They had both listened politely, but at the end, as I had expected, neither was moved and neither received Christ.

It wasn’t until a few minutes before writing this (in fact, it is what compelled me to write this), that I realized that while I presented the gospel, I presented the gospel expecting nothing!  I was suddenly hit with Paul’s words, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek,” (Rom 1.16, HCSB).  I proclaimed the gospel ashamedly.  While I believe the gospel with all my heart, I proclaimed it apologetically (and I don’t mean biblical apologetics).  I was timid, almost apologizing for having to tell them such good news.

In my head I pictured a young man with a brilliant and sharp sword in his hand going against the fierce dragon.  The sword was a fine weapon that could easily slay such a beast, but the young man was too timid to use the weapon effectively.  So the dragon remained alive.  So it was when I presented the powerful gospel of Christ.  With such timidity no dragon of sin would be slain, and no man or woman would be set free from its lair.

I absolutely believe in the sovereignty of God, and I know that God can take my fumblings and make them great.  I know that God’s Word does not return void.  But I also know that God’s sovereignty and His Word ought to lead us to proclaim it with power and authority.  It ought to strengthen our resolve and propel us to speak without shame.  God’s sovereignty and Word should give us confidence not cowardice.  It comes down to this: do I really believe God’s Word, His promises, His sovereignty, or am I just giving lip service?

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things,” (Philippians 4.8, HCSB).

That being said…