Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jesus is not a plan B

Grace gives you your dignity back. Your dignity is rooted in the identity of Jesus. Jesus came FIRST. He’s not a plan B. He’s not an afterthought. He’s not a result of God saying, ‘Fine. I’ll do this.’

. . .

When we sin, we have all of hell trying to get us to believe that we have ruined everything. However, sin illuminates the need for Jesus. Hell wants you to believe that you’re only good enough if you’re good enough. God is trying to get you to see that He created you to need Him, therefore, without grace you are never going to be good enough. It’s not about your failure, it’s about the way this whole thing is set up. We’re useless without Him. Would you want it any other way?

-- S. Woods

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Never look at yourself again

Like Abraham, you must never look at yourself again, and at all that is so true of you. You are justified in spite of all that; it is what God has done in Christ. Look to that, rest on that, be confident in that. Hold up your head with boldness; yea, I say it with reverence, go even into the presence of God with ‘holy boldness’ and in ‘the full assurance of faith’; not boldness in yourself, but in your Mediator, in your great High Priest, in the One whom God raised from the dead in order to let you know that your sins were dealt with at the Cross once and for ever, and that He looks upon you as His dear child.

-Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, p. 250

Friday, December 10, 2010

Faith is not our Rock

Too many Christians live in constant despondency because they cannot distinguish between the rock on which they stand and the faith by which they stand upon the rock. Faith is not our rock; Christ is our rock. We do not get faith by having faith in our faith or by looking to faith, but by looking to Christ. Looking to Christ is faith.

Nor is it perfect faith, great faith, fruitful faith, strong faith that justifies. If we start qualifying our faith, we destroy the gospel. Our faith may be weak, immature, timid, even indiscernible at times, but if it is real faith it is justifying faith (Matthew 6:30). Our degree of faith affects sanctification and assurance, but not justification. Faith's value in justification does not lie in any degree in itself but in its uniting us to Christ and His glorious achievement. As George Downame illustrates:

"A small and weak hand, if it be able to reach up the meat to the mouth, as well performs its duty for the nourishment of the body as one of greater strength, because it is not the strength of the hand but the goodness of the meat which nourishes the body."

Far too often we are prone to look to the quality of our faith, the quality of our conviction of sin, the quality of our evangelical repentance, the quality of our love for the brethren for confirmation of our justification, forgetting that it is Christ alone who saves by gracious faith alone.

-- Dr. Joel Beeke

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From this fountain, and from no other

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

--John Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.19.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's not about getting it right

The spiritual journey is not about living as we should so life works as we want. It’s not a linear path.

It’s not about growing up into the maturity of a good self-image and developing the energy to do good things; it is about growing down into the brokenness of self-despair and deepening our awareness of how poorly we love compared to Trinitarian standards. It’s not about working hard to get it right so we can present ourselves before God to receive the blessings we desire; it is about coming before Him as we are, honestly, pretending about nothing, becoming increasingly convinced that we can’t get it right though we try as hard as we can, then listening for the whisper of the Spirit, “Welcome! You’re home. You’re loved. You’ll be empowered to speak with your unique voice as you hear the Voice of God singing over you with great love.

The Spirit is inviting each one of us to walk a very different path, to embark on a radically different journey. We’re bidden to come as we are, boldly, without fear, even though our souls still sometimes seem a cesspool of foul muck with no living waters in sight, abandoning ourselves to God for whatever He chooses to allow, waiting for Him to reveal how near we are to Him already in every circumstance of life, and to then draw us nearer. That’s the new way of the Spirit.

--Larry Crabb, "The Pressure’s Off: There’s a New Way to Live"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

He knows what we want

I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion — which raises its head in every temptation — that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it.

The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . . The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite — an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.

--C. S. Lewis, in Walter Hooper, editor, They Stand Together (New York, 1979), page 465.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The human experience

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience."

- Teilhard de Chardin, 1881 - 1955. A French Jesuit and philosopher.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Strong enough to exult in monotony

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun: and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.

It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.

It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

—G.K. Chesteron, ”The Ethics of Elfland,” chapter 4 in Orthodoxy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Bible’s really not about you

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you – it’s about him.

-- Tim Keller (perhaps quoting an unknown source)
source: here

Friday, October 22, 2010

Are you in God's story or is God in yours?

We are uprooted from our own existence and are taken back to the holy history of God on earth. There God has dealt with us, with our needs and our sins, by means of the divine wrath and grace. What is important is not that God is a spectator and participant in our life today, but that we are attentive listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the story of Christ on earth. God is with us today only as long as we are there. Our salvation is ‘from outside ourselves’ (extra nos). I find salvation, not in my life story, but only in the story of Jesus Christ. … What we call our life, our troubles, and our guilt is by no means the whole of reality; our life, our need, our guilt, and our deliverance are there in the Scriptures.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, October 18, 2010

We have forgotten who we are

We drove the five hours back to my home, with mom beside me and a few of her possessions in the back. She dozed- which is most of what she does these days- and on the radio, someone had won the Powerball jackpot of $340 million.

I realized that, at this moment, $340 million would do nothing for my mom that I was not doing. I was loving her the best way I could by taking her to my family. The hugs of her grandkids, the meals we can fix, the care in the declining days to come- these are the gifts I want to give her. In reality, $340 million does nothing for this particular human being at this point in the journey.

Of course, this is always true. It is true for all of us, now, as much as it will be true when we are within sight of the end of life. But yet we live as if $340 million, or another hour at work, or a bigger house, or bigger church facility will give us what we need.

The truth is, we have forgotten who we are. We do not want to look at where we are going, and we do not want to accept that what we need most of all is there for us all the time in the grace of Christ.

I close with a prayer from someone in a similar class.

“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you – the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.” --St. Augustine, Confessions

-- from an archived blog entry by Michael Spencer
source: here

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The great danger facing all of us

The great danger facing all of us… is not that we shall make an absolute failure of life, nor that we shall fall into outright viciousness, nor that we shall be terribly unhappy, nor that we shall feel [that] life has no meaning at all—not these things. The danger is that we may fail to perceive life’s greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to tender the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God—and be content to have it so—that is the danger: that some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with husks and trappings of life and have really missed life itself. For life without God, to one who has known the richness and joy of life with Him, is unthinkable, impossible. That is what one prays one’s friends may be spared—satisfaction with a life that falls short of the best, that has in it no tingle or thrill that comes from a friendship with the Father.

--Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Sermons [1878]

Friday, September 24, 2010

He will not rule people with laws

“There are laws enough in the world, more than people can keep. The state, fathers and mothers, schoolmasters, and law enforcement persons all exist to rule according to laws. But the Lord Christ says, 'I have not come to judge, to bite, to grumble, and to condemn people. The world is too much condemned. Therefore I will not rule people with laws. I have come that through my ministry and my death I may give help to all who are lost and may release and set free those who are overburdened with laws, with judgments, and with condemnation.'"

-Martin Luther
(Taken from his sermon on John 3, WA 47:27)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leaving virtue, embracing grace

"Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace."

-Gerhard Forde

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emmanuel ... "God With Us"

I realized that rather than focusing my ministry on trying to get more people to change more of their circumstances to do more for God, what I really want to do, and what I think my core calling should be in ministry, is helping people get a vision of life with God.
- Skye Jethani

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Including Christ vs According to Christ

"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elementary spirits of the world, and not according to Christ". (Colossians 2:8)

What is Christian? What makes anything Christian? Not that it has to do with theology, not that it has to do with ministry, not that it has to do with church business, and so forth. What makes anything Christian is that it reflects Christ. It is “according to Christ.”

“We reach the sacred watchword here, and pause to listen to it. ‘Not according to Christ,’ not on His line, not measured by Him, not referred to Him, not so that He is Origin and Way and End and All. The ‘philosophy’ in question would assuredly include Him somehow in its terms. But it would not be ‘according to Him.’ It would take its first principles and draw its inferences, a priori and from other regions, and then bring Him in as something to be harmonized and assimilated, as far as might be. But this would mean a Christ according to the system of thought, not a system of thought according to the blessed Christ. . . . It must have Him for Alpha and for Omega, and for all the alphabet between. It must be dominated all over by Him.”

H. C. G. Moule, Colossians and Philemon Studies, pages 142-143.

--Ray Ortlund, also quoting H.C.G. Moule
Source: here

Saturday, September 4, 2010

You can't fix this, so I have to fix it for you

More than just duty or doctrine:

The simplest thing ... to look at a passage and not simply say, "What duty or doctrine is here." If you didn't approach [the gospel] with just those glasses on, but put on another set of lenses. And you said, "What is the human dilemma here." What is the aspect of our falleness that the Holy Spirit is addressing in this place. And how is God showing us that He fixes the problem. He's not just saying to people, "You be better and I'll love you." Or, "You can fix this because you're able." He's actually over and over again saying in His word, "you can't fix this, so I have to fix it for you." So if we look at the text and we just begin by saying, "What's the human dilemma, what's the burden, what's the fallen condition that requires a divine solution?" And just those two questions, "What's the fallen condition? What's the divine solution?", will begin to have us see a biblical text for more than just behaviors or knowledge. We'll actually begin seeing redemptive truth that's there, that's teaching us what our situation is, but more, how God is redemptively providing our way out of that situation.

-- Bryan Chapell

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Love the Lord your God

Oswald Chambers asks, "Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Himself?"

"Yes, Lord, I am."

How often I pick the path of performing for him over loving him.

I'm embarrassed to tell you that I take refuge almost every day in my idea of what Jesus wants. I'll venture to say that most of us have our own ideas of that, and we feel satisfied or even prideful when we manage to put checkmarks in our spiritual 'to do' list or paste in gold stars when we successfully avoid what's prohibited.

Give me a Bible to read. Give me your prayer requests. Give me a 40-day fast every year. Give me the chance to turn over my money. Give me some act of service to do. Give me lots of opportunities to be nice, nice, nice. Just don't make me do something that others might not like. Don't make me face any danger. Don't cloud any black and white issues with something gray. Above all, don't make me put down what I hold dear - my people, my reputation, or my work.


The rich young ruler walked away sad. As it turned out, his devotion was to his idea of what Jesus wanted. Jesus surprised him by demanding something he did not anticipate - a love that would make him lay down everything he held dear and follow a wandering rabbi to unknown places living a life he couldn't reconcile with what he'd always believed.


David, on the other hand, lived. Looking at David's life, there is a pretty fair balance between action and adoration, but if one outweighed the other, David's love of God trumped his behavior, even in an age of Law. God reminded Samuel as he was about to anoint David as future king, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

According to Acts 13:22, "'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'" This verse seems to link David's distinction as a man after God's heart, with action - doing what God wanted him to do.


This is really the crux of the matter for us. Do we merely believe in him and serve him carefully, or do we love him and follow him, even if it means living with the contempt of others - even if it makes life untidy, even if it departs from what we always thought Jesus wanted?


"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment."

It seems to me that when we love God, we please him most. The ruler came minus sins, but also minus love and was sent away sad. David came dancing and loving and yes, sinning. Expressing the most fervent contrition, David deplored his own sin, but he neither walked self-consciously through life nor stopped running toward God with a passion. It was David's passion that pleased God and moved him in love to call this flawed king a man after his own heart.

And that is my desire as well.

--Lisa Dye
excerpts from a blog post: here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The grammar of the gospel

There is a grammar by which Paul speaks the gospel. We need to learn to speak the gospel properly, but natively the gospel is a foreign language to us.

Those of you who studied Latin in high school remember that one of the first strange things that you have to learn is that you put the verb at the end. The doing word comes at the end. This is very difficult for us as Americans to understand how anybody could speak a language in which you put the doing word at the end, because we are a doing community.

But you see the gospel teaches us, doesn't it, to put our doing word at the end, and Jesus' doing word at the beginning. But our native tendency is to drag back the doing word and put it at the beginning, and then top that up with Jesus' doing, just to make life a little better.

But there's a very clear grammar in the gospel. We know that sometimes Paul seems to almost create words in order to express the gospel. He uses the greek language occasionally in a way that seems to have no parallel in classical greek because the gospel demands that we speak the gospel with a grammar that's characteristic of the gospel.

And in that sense we need to learn several principles. The first is, we need to learn that the grammar of the gospel has its appropriate mood. In our language we speak of the indicative mood and the imperative mood. The indicative mood is saying, "these are the things that are true". The imperative mood is saying, "these are the things you need to do". And in the gospel, the structure of the grammar is always: indicative gives rise to imperative.

That's why as gospel ministers we need to soak ourselves in such things as what the cross achieved. To be soaked in all that Christ has done, so that it oozes from us. So that preaching Christ is not something that we learn as a technique because we understand that it's the right thing to do, but we speak the grammar of the gospel because by God's grace through the word by the Spirit, that grammar has become instinctive to us. And it oozes from us. It's a very difficult thing to pin down isn't it?

There is an atmosphere that we give out in our preaching, isn't there? God has made it that way. And what oozes out of a preaching that in its depths has reversed the grammar of the gospel ... (No matter how much we speak formal gospel language) ... what is conveyed in the manner in which we say it is, "Pull yourself up by your bootstrings and do better." And we crush rather than convert.

--Sinclair Ferguson, from a sermon: "Paul on Union With Christ"
found: here

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stopping long enough to really want Him

We pray “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…” Meanwhile, our hearts are packed with the trickling of wanting. How to make it stop?

It sounds so good. Getting rid of clutter, the excess. Stuff. But, will having less make us want less?

Spurned by a poor economy, people are riding the growing wave of goal-oriented minimalists. It’s a head turning cultural phenomenon, shedding as much as possible. People are re-evaluating what makes them happy. They are asking, "What is tying me down and how can I be free from it?" The trend to live simply is a growing expression of relieving that frustration.

But if these people are willing to radically change to a simpler life because of ... happiness, what radical changes am I willing to simplify… to pursue God?

It became plain and simple to me. I can get so caught up trying to capture life, I miss the moments to simply live life with Jesus. If we are to live godly lives, we must remember Jesus. Jesus is the One we want to possess. He is the only reason why we would let go of anything. If we were to stop long enough to really want Him, He would be the prize we’d dump everything for. Just to savor His touch and His words.

Decluttering possessions to pursue happiness is a far cry from godliness.

Decluttering our priorities, so that God can possess us: Irrevocably… Life… Changing.

Paraphrased snippets from a blog post: here, by Bonnie Gray

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Believing what we believe we believe

Do I just "believe that I believe"? Or do I really "believe"?

On April 25, 1951, the gospel came home to C. S. Lewis. This fascinating event does not seem to be well known, even among admirers. Yet Lewis refers to it no less than five times in volume three of the Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, which covers the final years of his life, 1950 to 1963.

From a letter to St. Giovanni Calabria in December 1951:
During the past year a great joy has befallen me. Difficult though it is, I shall try to explain this in words. It is astonishing that sometimes we believe that we believe what, really, in our heart, we do not believe.

For a long time I believed that I believed in the forgiveness of sins. But suddenly (on St. Mark’s Day [April 25]) this truth appeared in my mind in so clear a light that I perceived that never before (and that after many confessions and absolutions) had I believed it with my whole heart.

So great is the difference between mere affirmation by the intellect and that faith, fixed in the very marrow and as it were palpable, which the Apostle wrote was substance. . . .(p. 151-152)

In 1956, Lewis remarked to Mary Van Deusen, concerning the gospel:
I had assented to the doctrine years earlier and would have said I believed it. Then, one blessed day, it suddenly became real to me and made what I had previously called “belief” look absolutely unreal. (p. 751)

--both quotes from the Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol 3

Some remarks made by Dane Ortlund in a blog post concerning these quotes:

Lewis was 53 in 1951. He had 12 years left to live. He had been a Christian for many years—a fruitful Christian for many years. And grace came home to Lewis one day in 1951 in such freshness and power that his previous grasp of grace seemed “absolutely unreal.”

By 1951 Lewis had written The Pilgrim’s Regress, the Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and much more. Seasoned Christian leaders never outgrow the need for a fresh outpouring of visceral awareness—a renewed “sense of the heart,” as Jonathan Edwards called it—of gospel grace.

-- source: here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dead to the Law

"But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." (Romans 7:3-6)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Real Strength

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

--Ralph W. Sockman

Sunday, August 1, 2010

He has anchored himself to us

We ought never to set present communion with Christ, as so many are doing, in opposition to the gospel; we ought never to say that we are interested in what Christ does for us now, but are not so much interested in what He did long ago.

Do you know what soon happens when men talk that way? They soon lose all contact with the real Christ; their religion would really remain essentially the same if Jesus never lived.

That danger should be avoided by the Christian man with all his might and main. God has given us an anchor for our souls; He has anchored himself to us by the message of the Cross. Let us never cast that anchor off; let us never weaken our connection with the events upon which our faith is based.

Such dependence upon the past will never prevent us from having present communion with Christ. Unlike the communion of the mystics it will be communion not with the imaginings of our own hearts, but with the real Saviour Jesus Christ.

The gospel of redemption through the Cross and resurrection of Christ is not a barrier between us and Christ, but it is the blessed tie by which He has bound us for ever to Him.

--J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 153-54

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Falling in love

Jesus replied: " ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. "

- Matthew 22:37-38

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

-Pedro Arrupe

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sanctification: The end of self sufficiency

"Personal holiness"—what thoughts does this phrase engender?

If I had to guess, I would say your mind went to thinking about spiritual disciplines or moral performance. Or at least that's what mine did. The word "personal" has a way of making our brains forget God's self-attested holiness and focus only on our own, which we typically equate to nothing more than our conceived progress in fulfilling certain do's and don'ts.

Moral code can easily become our attempt to live up to God's holiness. Ontology gives way to function. Being is replaced by doing (and not doing). Welcome to planet frustration. This is the world of many followers of Christ—the disappointing drudgery of the religious treadmill.

But there is good news. The gospel doesn’t stop where sanctification begins. Our holiness is not isolated from God’s holiness—it is dependent upon it.

John Webster explains in his book Holiness that sanctification is not an "acquired sufficiency" and that a Christian's holiness must always be in reference to the "triune work of grace." He writes,

The Christian’s sanctity is in Christ, in the Spirit, not in in itself; it is always and only an alien sanctity. Sanctification does not signal birth of self-sufficiency, rather it indicates a 'perpetual and inherent lack of self-sufficiency'.

Sanctification 'in' the Spirit is not the Spirit's immanence in the saint. Quite the opposite: it is a matter of the externality of Christian holiness, the saint being and acting in another.

'Sanctification in the Spirit' means: it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 'Christ lives in me' means: by the Spirit's power I am separated from my self-caused self destruction, and given a new holy self, enclosed by, and wholly referred to, the new Adam in whom I am and in whom I act.

-Jonathan Parnell, sharing some thoughts about "personal holiness" at the Desiring God website, and quoting John Webster

source: here

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's all about what we have

Tullian Tchividjian on Colossians 1:9-14 :

It’s important to note that in these verses Paul doesn’t pray for something the Colossian Christians don’t have. Rather, he prays they will grow in their awareness and understanding of what they do have. Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Christian growth happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you do have.

I used to think that when the Bible tells us to work out our salvation, it meant go out and get what you don’t have-get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, get more love, and so on. But after reading the Bible more carefully I now understand that real gospel fruit happens, not as we “work harder” but only as we continually rediscover the gospel. You could put it this way: rediscovering the gospel is the hard work we’re called to.

You see, the secret of the gospel is that we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us. The irony of the gospel is that we actually perform better as we grow in our understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ’s performance for us, not our performance for him.

-Tullian Tchividjian

Source: here

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rest in the covenant

God will conquer your sin; God will sanctify you; God will save you; God will keep you; God will bring you to Himself. Rest in the covenant. Then, moved by intense gratitude, go forward to serve your Lord with all your heart and soul and strength. Being saved, live to praise Him. Do not work so that you may be saved, but serve him because you are saved, for the covenant has secured your safety.

-C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, July 16, 2010

Theology of Glory vs. Theology of the Cross

1. Theologians of Glory
2. Theologians of the Cross

Gerhard O. Forde gives his definitions of these two terms found in his work: "On Being a Theologian of the Cross" (an in depth look at Martin Luther's Heidelberg Disputation):

Theologians of Glory – “operate on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted to sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to do good works. Of course the theologian of glory may well grant that we need the help of grace. The only dispute, usually will be about the degree of grace needed. If we are “liberal,” we will opt for less grace and tend to define it as some kind of moral persuasion or spiritual encouragement. If we are more “conservative” and speak even of the depth of human sin, we will tend to escalate the degree of grace needed to the utmost. But the hallmark of a theology of glory is that it will always consider grace as something of a supplement to whatever is left of human will and power. It will always, in the end, hold out for some free will.” (Forde, p. 16) – in short a theologian of glory sees the cross as a means to an end rather than the end itself. He/ she is interested in progression to glory as opposed to death and resurrection.

Theologians of the Cross – “operate on the assumption that there must be – to use the language of treatment for addicts – a ‘bottoming out’ or an ‘intervention.’ That is to say, there is no cure for the addict on his own. In theological terms, we must come to confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self, whatever form that may take, pious or impious. SO theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because those things are themselves the problem. The truth must be spoken. To repeat Luther again, the thirst for glory or power or wisdom is never satisfied even by the acquisition of it. We always want more – precisely so that we can declare independence from God. The thirst is for the absolute independence of the self, and that is sin. Thus again Luther’s statement of the radical cure in his proof for thesis 22: “The remedy for curing desire does not lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it.” The cross does the extinguishing. The cross is the death of sin, and the sinner. The cross does the ‘bottoming out.’ The cross is the ‘intervention.’ The addict/sinner is not coddled by false optimism but is put to death so that new life can begin. The theologian of the cross ‘says what a thing is’ (thesis 21). The theologian of the cross preaches to convict of sin. The addict is not deceived by theological marshmallows but is told the truth so that he might at last learn to confess, to say, ‘I am an addict,’ ‘I am an alcoholic,’ and never to stop saying it. Theologically and more universally all must learn to say, ‘I am a sinner,’ and likewise never to stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true.” (Forde, p. 17) – in short a theologian of the cross sees the cross as the end where we die to our sin with Christ and are raised a new creation with Christ. The work is truly finished as Christ promised and there is no moving on from His cross.

--Gerhard O. Forde

Monday, July 12, 2010

The essence of holiness

You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behavior, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin and desiring God in its place.

-- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 28.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A poor sinner who dares ...

To come to Christ as a saint is very easy work. To trust to a doctor to cure you when you believe you are getting better is very easy. But to trust to your physician when you feel as if the sentence of death were in your body, to bear up when the disease is rising in your skin and when the ulcer is gathering its venom, to believe even then in the efficacy of the medicine--that is faith.

And so, when sin gets the master of you, when you feel that the law condemns you--then, even then, especially then--as a sinner, to trust Christ is the most daring feat in all the world. The faith that shook down the walls of Jericho, the faith that raised the dead, the faith that stopped the mouths of lions, was not greater than that of a poor sinner who dares to trust the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ when he is in the jaws of all his sins.

--Charles Spurgeon, Faith (Whitaker House 1995), 20-21

Monday, July 5, 2010

When His deep feedback invades our hearts

We live in a feedback culture. Move your eyes to the right or the left and you’ll spot someone looking for feedback. There’s nothing wrong with feedback. The problem is most people are living FOR feedback, rather than FROM feedback.

We live FOR feedback when we base our identity/happiness on the evaluation others give of us.

This is the plot line of every reality TV show. A group of contestants have a job to perform (sing well, dance well, woo a woman’s heart, etc.). At the end of each show the contestants stand before the judges panel, anxiously awaiting the evaluation, their identity hanging in the balance (will I get a rose, or will I be rejected and sent home?).

I fear that many of us live the Christian life this way. We live FOR feedback. The deep feedback of the gospel hasn’t invaded our hearts, so we spend each day following the plotline of reality TV, anxiously unsure of what the people we’ve placed on the judgment panel of our lives really think about us. We feel the same lack of assurance with God.

Jesus creates a paradigm shift in our relationship to feedback. Jesus shows us a new way: living FROM feedback, not FOR feedback.

On that day when Jesus got a hold of your life, he gave you a rose that will never wilt or be taken back. He gave you feedback that transformed your identity and remains true with each ongoing day of your Christian life. And what God wants from us, what gives him so much glory, is for us to be a people who live FROM his deep feedback, rather than FOR feedback.

As the good news evaluation of the Father seeps deeper into the caverns of our feedback craving hearts, the Spirit empowers us to live radically confident lives, lives that look very different from a feedback-starved world. If we could only begin each day remembering the feedback we’ve already received from the Father.

Today, live FROM feedback, not FOR feedback. Begin your day remembering that your name is already written in the book of life! You don’t have to go out and make a name for yourself today. When you’re tempted today to base your joy and identity on how others evaluate you/your performance, catch yourself, stop yourself–make a decision to live FROM feedback (the feedback of your Father), not FOR feedback.

-Justin David Buzzard
source: here

Friday, June 18, 2010

The gospel in four words

‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’ You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’ He does not want anything. Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’ Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation. ‘I will give you’ — that is the gospel in four words.

- C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175. Italics original.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some Kind of Wonderful

John Hughes was the muse of the 80s high schooler. His writing credits include such giants of the genre as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In 1987, he finished his run of high school smash hits with Some Kind of Wonderful, the story of a guy (Eric Stoltz) who falls in love with a girl (Lea Thompson) who is completely out of his league. He recruits his best friend (Mary Stuart Masterson) to help him win Thompson's heart, never knowing the obvious truth: Masterson is desperately in love with him.

In true romanitc comedy form, Thompson proves not the vision of perfection she seemed to be from afar, and Stoltz realizes that the girl he really wanted, Masterson, was right there all along. This is not a unique trope, but it might be the clearest distillation of the Christian life, both misguided and proper, that we could ever hope to find.

Christians begin their life desperately seeking to know more about God. At first blush, there is nothing wrong with this goal.

But Luther himself said that the quest to know God was folly, and that the only reason we seek to know God was to domesticate and control him. It is Jesus who we draft into service as our guide to "become more like God" or to "get to know Him more."

Eric Stoltz thinks that he can turn himself into someone that Leah Thompson will love. This is the Christian quest to "know God." To know him, to become like him, so that he will love us more. We call this quest innocuous things like "deepening our relationship" and the goal seems laudable. But it doesn't work. Lea Thompson is inscrutable. Hard to understand. Counter-intuitive. Like God, she can't be "gotten to." It just doesn't work.

It is Mary Stuart Masterson, in the Christ role, who is there for us. Stoltz sees her as a means to an end...and yet, she is the end. She is the love of his life. We too often see Christ as a means to get us closer to God, but it is Christ who is there to pick us up when our quest for God ends as it must: in bitter defeat and failure.

John Hughes puts in our common language what Luther, and before him John the Evangelist (John 1:17-18), said in theological language: We cannot know God. To try is to waste our time, at best, and to struggle for independence from him, at worst. God, though, has made himself known, in God the Son, Jesus Christ. The one we try to use as a means to an end is, in fact, the end in himself. He is the Savior.

-- Nick Lannon
source: here

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Let His Love Win Your Love

When we go to the cross, we see our God dying for us. If you let any other god down, it will beat you up. If you live for people’s approval or your career or possessions or control or anything else and you don’t make it or you mess up, then you’ll be left feeling afraid, downcast, or bitter. But when you let Christ down, he still loves you. He doesn’t beat you up; he died for you.

Let his love win your love, and let that love replace all other affections. The secret of change is to renew your love for Christ as you see him crucified in your place.

- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 128.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How do you accept Jesus?

You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. There is a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We tell ourselves we’re this way because we’re so busy with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we’re just divided, unfocused, hesitant, unfree.

That kind of person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways. One way is to invite him onto the committee. Give him a vote too. But then he becomes just one more complication. The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you. Please run my whole life for me.” That is not complication; that is salvation.

- Ray Ortlund
source: here

Friday, May 28, 2010

Singular weakness

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Romans 8:26

Romans 8:26 does not say, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses” but singular “weakness.” Our problem is not just weaknesses. More profoundly, our problem is weakness. Weakness is not just one more experience alongside our other experiences; weakness is the platform on which we have all our experiences. Weakness is a pervasive presence in all we are and do. It will not always be so. But for now, it is.

Every Sunday I am a weak man preaching to weak people. Admonition has its place. But what weak people need, more than admonition, is help. For weak people to live the Christian life in a way that is humane and sustainable, rather than defeating and shaming, we need good news more than good challenge.

Weak sinners, continually reassured by grace, will accomplish more for Christ than they would if continually confronted by demand. I am thankful that the Spirit meets us not in our strength but in our weakness, where alone His help enters in.

-Ray Ortlund

source: here

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

I used to think Christian growth happened as we go out and get what we don’t have–if we’re going to grow we have to go out and get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, etc. But after reading the Bible more carefully I’ve learned that Christian growth does not happen by working hard to get something you don’t have; Christian growth happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you do have.

-Tullian Tchividjian

source: here

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Taking sin seriously

The divine word does not impose constraints, make demands, and level requirements. Rather it simply frees. The Gospel forbids nothing, it merely liberates us for lives of true fullness.

Of course to many this will seem woefully inadequate. Is this not simply a cover for moral libertinism? Does not all this fanciful talk of “opened opportunities” merely mask a maneuver that seeks to use “freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence” (Gal 5:13)?

Actually, no not all. In fact this resurrection-centered understanding of the nature of the Gospel’s morality is the only way I can possibly imagine to take sin seriously. This notion insists that all sin is never a matter of some “thing” I can do that I ought not to do. Rather sin is always and everywhere a falling into slavery. The Gospel does not, therefore “forbid” us to sin — what real sense would it make to say that we are “forbidden” to enslave ourselves, mutilate ourselves, denigrate ourselves? — rather the Gospel frees us from sin.

The problem with the traditionally “serious” way of talking about sin and ethics is that it ends up simultaneously not taking sin seriously and making it far too interesting. If we view sin simply as bad, but nearly always seductive and at least fleetingly pleasurable things we ought not to do, we at once make sin interesting and rather un-serious. If however we take the logic of the Gospel seriously we must understand sin always and only as slavery, as domination, denigration, and futility. We are not “forbidden” to be enslaved, we are freed from our slavery. We are not “commanded” to no longer dominate and denigrate ourselves and one another, we are freed from that infantile and dreadful compulsion.

This, it seems to me is the only way to really take sin seriously and to recognize how uninteresting it is. Sin is simply the slaveries we subject ourselves and one anther to. It is a world of striving, suffering, and death. God doesn’t come to us with commands not to do such things, God in Christ breaks the power of these forces and frees us from them. The Gospel closes down no true opportunity for anything interesting, rather it always on only opens opportunities and creates new possibilities. It is always and only a liberation. Nothing more, nothing less. Anything else simply doesn’t take sin seriously.

--Halden Doerge
Source: here

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My human love for God, in context

One of the more profound statements ever made by a Christian theologian is the final thesis of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, written in 1518, barely six months after he had nailed his epoch-making Ninety-five Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. The Ninety-five Theses were a call to arms against church abuses. The final thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation summed up the “ideology” that generated the call. Luther formulated it as a contrast between two kinds of love, human and divine: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”

Consider, first, what Luther calls human love, but which is better described as distorted love. It’s elicited by the object of love; it’s basically passive in the sense that it depends on the object of love. Its only activity, says Luther, consists in “receiving something.” A person sees beauty – or goodness or truth – and wants to have it. As a consequence, people who love in this way seek their “own good” in those they love; they don’t bestow any good on them. A man may shower a woman with gifts, but he may be doing it so that he can ingratiate himself to her, enjoy her, keep her, or even worse, so that he can display her as a trophy. When we love in this way, we are receivers, not givers.

Contrast this kind of possessive love with divine love. First, divine love never had to come into being at all; it wasn’t elicited by its object. It simply is. It doesn’t depend on the truth, beauty, or goodness of the beloved. Second, as Luther stated, because God’s love isn’t caused by its object, it can love those who are not lovable, “sinners, evil persons, fools, and weaklings in order to make them righteous, good, wise and strong.” Luther concluded, “rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good.” Such divine love is supremely manifested on the cross on which Jesus Christ took the sin of the world upon himself. ”This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person.” Unlike merely human love, divine love gives and doesn’t receive.

-Miroslav Volf, "Free of Charge" (p. 38-39)

Friday, April 30, 2010

As the tide lifts a grounded ship

Poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.

-- C.S. Lewis
from "The Weight of Glory"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christ dwells only in sinners

Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ . . .

Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation.

-Martin Luther, writing to George Spenlein, quoted in Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Philadelphia, 1955), page 110. Language updated.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't put your hope in doing right

What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but ... To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing...

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord—lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness—that you are on the verge of becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything—how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, you sins, your virtue. It’s called the new birth because its so radical”

--Tim Keller, from his book "The Prodigal God"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On this I ground my hope

And though I am sorely distressed by spiritual and internal foes, afflicted, tormented and bowed down almost to death with the sense of my own present barrenness, ingratitude and proneness to evil, he secretly shows me his bleeding wounds and softly and powerfully whispers to my soul, ‘I am thy great salvation.’ His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul. On this I ground my hope, often times when unsupported by any other evidence, save only the Spirit of adoption received from him. When my dry and empty barren soul is parched with thirst, he kindly bids me come to him and drink my fill at the fountainhead. In a word, he empowers me to say with experiential evidence, ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and amen.

--Joseph Hart (1712-1768)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Born free

"For freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:1)

The other day, I heard this song, and I heard the words with new ears. Nothing overly profound. Just in ways that touch upon the subtle wonders of the Good News. I'll probably listen again tomorrow and just see lion cubs jumping around all over again. :-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Digging for gold

Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, you will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away?

So, for God to say, Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified.

--Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, pp. 13-14:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rest to the soul

It is always the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus. But Satan’s work is just the opposite; he is constantly trying to make us look at ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you do not have the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that Christ is everything.

Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you– it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you– it is Christ; it is not even your faith in Christ, although that is the instrument– it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, do not look so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ as to Christ; do not look to your hope but to Jesus, the source of your hope; do not look to your faith, but to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith.

We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our deeds, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we are to overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking to Jesus.’

Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession be fresh upon your mind. When you waken in the morning look to Him; when you lie down at night look to Him.

Oh! Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.’

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “June 28: Looking to Jesus,” in Morning and Evening, ed. Alistair Begg (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 192.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Boring He is not

We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine. ... The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness.


The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man. ... The people who hanged Christ never accused Him of being a bore — on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe.

It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

-- Dorothy Sayers

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Will power

Only a person of will can become a Christian; for only a person of will has a will that can be broken. But a person of will whose will is broken by God is a Christian. The stronger the natural will, the deeper the break can be and the better the Christian. ... A Christian is a person of will who no longer wills his own will but with the passion of his crushed will – radically changed – wills another’s will.

-Søren Kierkegaard

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quiet admiration

And Christ's life indeed makes it manifest, terrifyingly manifest, what dreadful untruth it is to admire the truth instead of following it. When there is no danger, when there is a dead calm, when everything is favorable to our Christianity, then it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a follower.

And this can happen very quietly. The admirer can be under the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing it safe. Give heed, therefore, to the call of discipleship!

If you have any knowledge of human nature, who can doubt that Judas was an admirer of Christ?


Monday, March 15, 2010

This thing called grace

It is legitimate to speak of “receiving grace,” and sometimes (although I am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misusing language) we speak of the preaching of the Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as “means of grace.” That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus... There is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself.

Grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a Christian’s life. So while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

-Sinclair Ferguson

The current issue of TableTalk magazine has a brief interview with Sinclair Ferguson inspired by the forthcoming release of his new book, By Grace Alone.

Source: here

Friday, February 26, 2010

As I re-experience the surprise

Justification by grace empowers and spreads sanctification by grace.

I think of my inner self as a globe, a world, with many dark continents still unexplored, uncivilized, vast jungles of primitive impulses. But Jesus the Liberator steps ashore on the coast of one of those continents, plants the flag of his kingdom in my consciousness and declares peace. That is justification.

Then sanctification begins. For example, it doesn’t take long for a half-naked savage to run out onto the beach with spear in hand to attack Jesus. This is some selfish desire in me rising up against the King. But he declares peace all over again and subdues that aspect of me by the force of his grace.

The King starts moving steadily inland, planting his flag in ever new regions of my being. He brings one dark thing after another into my awareness, declares peace again and again and again, and thereby establishes civilization.

Sanctification works as I re-experience the surprise of justification, applied to new points of need.

--Ray Ortlund
Source: here

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An appeal to desire

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened?

A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

... Indeed, if we consider ...the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.

-- C.S. Lewis
from "The Weight of Glory"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thy Kingdom come

Could it be that you have shrunk the kingdom of God down to the size of your little kingdom treasures? Could it be that your excitement with the things of the Lord is not really about the Lord at all?

Could it be that the transcendent glory of God and His kingdom has become for you more of a means to an end rather than the end itself?

The scary thing about the kingdom of self is that it is a costume kingdom. It very quickly takes on the shape and appearance of the kingdom of God.

It is very easy to think that we are living for God, while our personal agenda still rules our hearts and shapes our decisions, words, and actions.

It is very easy to think that we are living for the transcendent joys of intimate communion with God, fueled by a personal enthusiasm for His glory, when in fact we have placed our hope in the shadow glories of this created world.

It is very easy to think that we have exited the narrow confines of our little cubicle kingdoms to breathe the spiritually invigorating air of the kingdom of God, when really we are more entrapped in our cubicles than ever before.

It is very easy for our earth-bound treasures and anxiety-bound needs to masquerade as love for Christ and enthusiasm for His work on earth.


You are not alone in this battle to unmask and dismantle the little kingdom in your life. Be excited! Your Messiah gives you just what you need for this battle.

--Paul David Tripp,
A Quest For More: Living For Something Bigger Than You, pp. 81-82.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A love disorder

Augustine considered sin a matter of "disordered love" -- all sin (a manifestation of) the love that isn't rightly ordered, the love gone wrong, turned wrong, become wrong.

And this house may look disordered and upended, but you beautiful children are teaching me how to order the love right, to love the things unseen more than the things seen.

Absolutely everything in the world is love, even the most vile of sins, but it is a love disorder, the passions upset, disordered, twisted.

And the work of a life is to reorder the love, right the love again, turn all things towards the True Lover.

-Ann Voskamp
(from her blog post, "Fixing the One Disorder that We all Have")

Friday, February 12, 2010

A promise to be kept

The Christian has the assurance which no heir in temporal things can ever have. He knows with absolute certainty that the inheritance will not merely be kept for him, but that he will be kept for it.

- Geerhardus Vos, Grace & Glory, pg 143

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who does God save?

God saves sinners. We don't believe that. We bank our happiness on other things. But God says to us, "I'm better than you think. You're worse than you think. Let's get together."

- Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
"ISAIAH: God Saves Sinners", pg 13

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A temptation that tops the list

This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (I think St. John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only dabble and splash.

C. S. Lewis, “A Slip of the Tongue,” in The Weight of Glory, page 187.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not the virtues of Adam but of Jesus

“All my fresh springs shall be in Thee.”
Psalms 87:7

Our Lord never patches up our natural virtues, He re-makes the whole man on the inside. "Put on the new man," i.e., see that your natural human life puts on the garb that is in keeping with the new life. The life God plants in us develops its own virtues, not the virtues of Adam but of Jesus Christ. Watch how God will wither up your confidence in natural virtues after sanctification, and in any power you have, until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus. Thank God if you are going through a drying-up experience!

The sign that God is at work in us is that He corrupts confidence in the natural virtues, because they are not promises of what we are going to be, but remnants of what God created man to be. We will cling to the natural virtues, while all the time God is trying to get us into contact with the life of Jesus Christ which can never be described in terms of the natural virtues. It is the saddest thing to see people in the service of God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them, depending on what they have by the accident of heredity. God does not build up our natural virtues and transfigure them, because our natural virtues can never come anywhere near what Jesus Christ wants. No natural love, no natural patience, no natural purity can ever come up to His demands. But as we bring every bit of our bodily life into harmony with the new life which God has put in us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus.

"And every virtue we possess
Is His alone."

-Oswald Chambers,
My Utmost for His Highest, "And Every Virtue We Possess", December 30

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He doesn't promise to save us from becoming sinners

Who are his people? We are eager to know who they are, and we are glad to find that his people need to be saved, and will be saved, for it is written, ‘He will save his people.’ It is not said, ‘He will reward his people for their righteousness,’ nor is it promised that he will ’save them from becoming sinners,’ but ‘He will save his people from their sins.’ . . .

If you are righteous in yourself, you are not one of his people. If you were never sick in soul, you are none of the folk that the Great Physician has come to heal. If you were never guilty of sin, you are none of those whom he has come to deliver from sin. Jesus comes on no needless errand and undertakes no unnecessary work. If you feel yourselves to need saving, then cast yourselves upon him, for such as you are he came to save.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament, I:4-5, on Matthew 1:21.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The most important business of your life

We have, through the goodness of the Lord, been permitted to enter upon another year, and the minds of many among us will no doubt be occupied with plans for the future and the various fears of our work and service for the Lord.

If our lives are spared, we shall be engaged in those: the welfare of our families, the prosperity of our business, our work and service for Christ may be considered the most important matters to be attended to; but according to my judgment the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.

Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life.

This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.

–George Mueller,
A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Mueller, Written by Himself, pp. 730-732. It is excerpted from a sermon the 59-year-old Mueller preached to his congregation at a New Year’s service.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Filling voids

“All sins are attempts to fill voids.” -Simone Weil

We might try to fill the voids we so deeply feel by doing bad things or by doing good things. When we salve the ache in our hearts, which only God himself can satisfy, by doing good things, we then feel proud and think God owes us and we get angry when he doesn’t fork over. When we salve the ache within by doing bad things, we feel shamed and think God despises us and slink away from him in bitterness and cynicism. But we are the ones complicating our souls.

Filling the void with anything but God is a sin. Sin can involve doing a good thing, or sin can involve doing a bad thing. But only God can comfort us. Only God can fill our souls with the magnitude of the One we long for. And he does, freely, on terms of grace. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” 1 Peter 3:18

To be empty and disappointed and brokenhearted does not disqualify you from God. It means God is near, if you’ll have him.

--Ray Ortlund
source: here

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The cross redefining our theology

[Referring to The Heidelberg Disputation...]

According to Martin Luther's terminology, the "theologians of glory" are those who build their theology in the light of what they expect God to be like—and, surprise, surprise, they make God to look something like themselves. The "theologians of the cross," however, are those who build their theology in the light of God's own revelation of himself in Christ hanging on the cross.

The implications of this position are revolutionary. For a start, Luther is demanding that the entire theological vocabulary be revised in light of the cross. Take for example the word power. When theologians of glory read about divine power in the Bible, or use the term in their own theology, they assume that it is analogous to human power. They suppose that they can arrive at an understanding of divine power by magnifying to an infinite degree the most powerful thing of which they can think. In light of the cross, however, this understanding of divine power is the very opposite of what divine power is all about. Divine power is revealed in the weakness of the cross, for it is in his apparent defeat at the hands of evil powers and corrupt earthly authorities that Jesus shows his divine power in the conquest of death and of all the powers of evil. So when a Christian talks about divine power, or even about church or Christian power, it is to be conceived of in terms of the cross—power hidden in the form of weakness.

Luther's Theology of the Cross
by Carl Trueman
source: here