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)