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