Saturday, December 31, 2011

If we seek, there's but one place to look

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 him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of goods abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Direction of Mankind's fall is UPWARD

Adam and Eve fell into sin. [But] the "fall" is really not what the word implies at all. It is not a downward plunge to some lower rung on the ladder of morality and freedom. Rather it is an upward rebellion, an invasion of the realm of things “above,” the usurping of divine prerogative. To retain traditional language, one would have to resort to an oxymoron and speak of an “upward fall.”

This, after all, is precisely what the temptation by the serpent in the garden implies: “You will not die… you will be like God, knowing good and evil”

A line had been drawn over which Adam and Eve were not to step. They were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There was a realm “above” which they were to leave to God; if they did not, their death would result.

--Gerhard Forde, "Theology is for Proclamation"

The first Adam ventured up into the “realm of things above” and brought death. The second Adam ventured down into the “realm of things below” and brought life.

--Tullian Tchividjian

The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.

--John Stott

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dependence is our blind spot

God's work begins when ours comes to its end.

Sometimes His presence is not felt with power through our methods however useful they may be, especially when we are confident we have the right approach and insights. God has a way of wanting to be God and refusing to get too involved where we have our own wisdom and strength. Then when we run out of wisdom and strength, He is suddenly present, a lesson I find myself relearning practically every day that I am in my right mind. (On my crazy days I am not ready to learn much!)

I think He wants our confidence to be exclusively in Him, and when we lose our self-confidence then He moves in to show what He can do. Perhaps self-dependence--and forgetting the strength to be found in Christ-dependence--is always our biggest blind spot. There is also presumption and pride that go with self-reliance.

So let's not lose our trust in God and the power of His gospel and the spirit of praise which goes with its proclamation (Rom 15:13; 1 Cor 1:18, 22-25; Gal 6:14).

--Jack Miller
(The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 200-201)


Jesus is quite aware of the Father’s personal presence and direction in his own life (John 5:19). From Jesus’s life we see a model of what it looks like to be God-centered. Jesus doesn’t pull out his platinum God card, borrowing power or strength to cope his way through temptations sinlessly; he lives within the limited equity of a human life bound by dependence upon God as his loving Father.

— Bill Clem
Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus, p 43

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An un-fragmented soul

This is the key to finding rest in your suffering. There is only one way in which rest is to be found: to let God rule in every­thing. Whatever else you might come to learn only pertains to how God has willed to rule. But as soon as unrest begins, the cause for it is due to your unwillingness to obey, your unwill­ingness to surrender yourself to God.

When there is suffering, but also obedience in suffering, then you are being educated for eternity. Then there will be no impa­tient hankering in your soul, no restlessness, neither of sin nor of sorrow. If you will but let it, suffering is the guardian angel who keeps you from slipping out into the fragmentariness of the world; the fragmentariness that seeks to rip apart the soul.

-Søren Kierkegaard

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not according to our nature at all

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer (Nashville, 2010), page 137.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

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.

Will you come and have it? It lies open before you.

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The gospel teaches us how to spell

I have known some that, at first conversion, have not been very clear in the gospel... They could not spell the word 'grace.' They began with a G, but they very soon went on with an F, till it spelt very like 'freewill' before they had done with it.

But after they have learned their weakness, after they have fallen into serious fault, and God has restored them, or after they have passed through deep depression of mind, they have sung a new song. In the school of repentance they have learned to spell. They began to write the word 'free,' but they went on from free, not to 'will' but to 'grace.' And there it stood in capitals, 'FREE GRACE'. . . . They became clearer in their divinity, and truer in their faith than ever they were before.

-- Charles Spurgeon,
quoted in Iaian Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth 1966), 69-70

Friday, October 21, 2011

It is not faith that saves us

Faith is nothing but the instrument of our salvation. Nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified because of our faith; nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified on account of our faith. The Scripture never says that. The Scripture says that we are justified by faith or through faith. Faith is nothing but the instrument or the channel by which this righteousness of God in Christ becomes ours.

It is not faith that saves us. What saves us is the Lord Jesus Christ and His perfect work. It is the death of Christ upon Calvary's cross that saves us. It is His perfect life that saves us. It is His appearing on our behalf in the presence of God that saves us. It is God putting Christ's righteousness to our account that saves us. This is the righteousness that saves; faith is but the channel and the instrument by which His righteousness becomes mine. The righteousness is entirely Christ's. My faith is not my righteousness and I must never define or think of faith as righteousness. Faith is nothing but that which links us to the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

-Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Something that God has done

The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God’s heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships.

...In fact, our sanctification is simply a lifelong process of letting that Good News sink in and responding appropriately; becoming the people whom God says that we already are in Christ.

- Michael Horton
The Gospel-Driven Life
(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Books, 2009), 77

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Only in the old, old way

If you want health for your souls, and if you want to be the instruments of bringing health to others, do not turn your gaze forever within, as though you could find Christ there. Nay, turn your gaze away from your own miserable experiences, away from your own sin, to the Lord Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel.


It is the same old story, my friends-- the same old story of the natural man. Men are trying today, as they have always been trying, to save themselves-- to save themselves by their own act of surrender, by the excellence of their own faith, by mystic experiences of their own lives. But it is all in vain. Not that way is peace with God to be obtained. It is to be obtained only in the old, old way - by attention to something that was done once for all long ago, and by acceptance of the living Savior who there, once for all, brought redemption for our sin. Oh, that men would turn for salvation from their own experience to the Cross of Christ; oh, that they would turn from the phenomena of religion to the living God!

-- J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)
from: The Importance of Christian Scholarship in The Defense of The Faith

Friday, October 7, 2011

The way of trust

The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it as his presence and his promise.

— Brennan Manning (Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Effectually, Particularly, and Perfectly

Should we say “Christ died so that sinners might come to him”? Or, “Christ died for sinners”? There’s a big difference. Did Christ’s work on the cross make it possible for sinners to come to God? Or did Christ’s work on the cross actually reconcile sinners to God? In other words, does the death of Jesus Christ make us save-able or does it make us saved?


Certainly, we need to come to Christ in faith. But faith is not the last work that finally makes us saved. Faith is trusting that Jesus has in fact died in our place and bore the curse for us—effectually, particularly, and perfectly.


Christ does not come to us merely saying, “I’ve done my part. I laid down my life for everyone because I have saving love for everyone in the whole world. Now, if you would only believe and come to me I can save you.” Instead he says to us, “I was pierced for your transgressions. I was crushed for your iniquities (Isa. 53:5). I have purchased with my blood men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9). I myself bore your sins in my body on the tree, so that you might infallibly die to sins and assuredly live for righteousness. For my wounds did not merely make healing available. They healed you (1 Peter 2:24).”

--Kevin DeYoung
Excerpts from chapter 15 of "The Good News We Almost Forgot"
source: here

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The hard work we're called to

I used to think that when the Apostle Paul 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 Christian growth does not happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Rather, Christian growth happens by working hard to daily swim in the reality of what you do have. Believing again and again the gospel of God’s free justifying grace everyday is the hard work we’re called to.

This means that real change happens only as we continuously rediscover the gospel. The progress of the Christian life is “not our movement toward the goal; it’s the movement of the goal on us.” Sanctification involves God’s attack on our unbelief—our self-centered refusal to believe that God’s approval of us in Christ is full and final. It happens as we daily receive and rest in our unconditional justification.

...Our main problem in the Christian life is not that we don’t try hard enough to be good, but that we haven’t believed the gospel and received its finished reality into all parts of our life.

--Tullian Tchividjian

Source: here

Monday, September 19, 2011

The one who holds the future cares

If we can once again look to the cross and grasp the height and depth of the love of God for us in Jesus, then how can we doubt his desire to give us everything necessary for life and godliness? If we feel the smile of the Father’s favor toward us in Christ, in spite of our history of sin and failure, then we will be encouraged to step out again in faith. We will still not know what the future holds, yet if we know that the one who holds the future cares for us, that first step upward on the long road back to obedience becomes possible again.

— Iain Duguid
Esther and Ruth
(Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2005), 157-158

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sanctification means this...

We have been united with him in a death like his . . . .
Our old self was crucified with him . . . .
One who has died has been set free from sin.
(Romans 6:5-7)

We miss the radical nature of Paul’s teaching here to our great loss.  So startling is it that we need to find a startling manner of expressing it.  For what Paul is saying is that sanctification means this: in relationship both to sin and to God, the determining factor of my existence is no longer my past.  It is Christ’s past.

-Sinclair B. Ferguson,
“The Reformed View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification,
edited by Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, 1988), page 57.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Remember who canceled our sin

"Sin is not canceled by lawful living."

--Martin Luther

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The real fig leaves that hide us from God

Our best duties are as so many splendid sins. Before you can know you are at peace with God, you must not only be made sick of your original and actual sin, but you must be sick of your righteousness, of all your duties and performances. There must be a deep conviction before you can be brought out of your self-righteousness; it is the last idol taken out of your heart. Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees of the garden, and sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness, so the poor sinner, when awakened, flies to his duties and to his performances, to hide himself from God, and goes to patch up a righteousness of his own. Says he, "I will be mighty good now — I will reform — I will do all I can; and then certainly Jesus Christ will have mercy on me."

But before you can know you are at peace with God you must be brought to see that God may damn you for the best prayer you ever put up; you must be brought to see that all your duties — all your righteousness ... are so far from recommending you to God, are so far from being any motive and inducement to God to have mercy on your poor soul, that he will see them to be filthy rags.

-George Whitefield
Snippets taken from his Sermon, "The Method of Grace"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Come each day with nothing in my hands

The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written:

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

Between that word 'save' and the next word 'sinners', there is no adjective. It does not say, 'penitent sinners', 'awakened sinners', 'sensible sinners', 'grieving sinners' or 'alarmed sinners'. No, it only says, 'sinners'. And I know this, that when I come, (and it is as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago) — when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon,
preaching on John 3:18, 17 February 1861.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Repentance is not so much a doing as a depending. It is not so much a striving for pardon as a posture of humility. In true repentance we confess our total reliance on God's mercy. We acknowledge the inadequacy of anything we would offer God to gain his pardon. In true repentance we rest upon God's grace rather than trying to do anything to deserve it. Reliance on God alone for mercy is the essence of repentance. Repentance is not a work of turning to new behaviors or to any conjured phrases or emotions in us. Such human efforts cannot be our basis for being made right with God. Repentance is not a turning from one category of works to another; rather it is a turning from human works entirely to God. New obedience follows true repentance, but we put no hope for pardon in what we do.

-Bryan Chapell, Holiness By Grace

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Something Better

I never used to be afraid. I was all faith.

Or so I thought.


What I feared most was being forgotten. I was afraid to live an insignificant life.


During one weekend away spent in whitespace, I decided to share my list of disappointments with God. After writing pages and pages of unanswerable dilemmas, God gently and lovingly brought two pictures to my mind:

* In the beginning, there was nothing.

It was in nothing, the Holy Spirit hovered, where God created something.

* Mary’s empty womb. How can this be? she asked.

It was in nothing, the Holy Spirit hovered again, where Jesus became flesh.


Nothingness. That’s me! I had never been so happy to discover I had become the perfect place for Jesus to rest in.


It irrevocably changed my direction. I decided to stop setting my sights on where I was going or what I would end up doing in the future. I set my sights on who I was walking with — Jesus.


I realized the best life — the most significant life I can live — is the one I grow in my faith.


In the Old Testament, the patriarchs of faith recognized God’s blessings by taking possession of a physical Promised Land. God’s presence was symbolized by physical blessings of harvest and goods.

This all changed after Jesus arrived in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews tells God prepared a spiritual blessing – something better.

“And all these [patriarchs of faith listed earlier],
having gained approval through their faith,
did not receive what was promised,
because God had provided something better for us…

fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith”
Hebrews 11:39-12:2

Our something better isn’t a plan.
Our something better is a Person.

Our spiritual Promised Land is life with Jesus.

-Bonnie Gray
Snippets from a worthwhile post: here

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Oh Come All Ye ... guilty

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

One is struck with the personality of this text. There are two persons in it, ‘you’ and ‘me.’ ... Jesus says, ‘Come to me, not to anybody else but to me.’ He does not say, ‘Come to hear a sermon about me’ but ‘Come to me, to my work and person.’ You will observe that no one is put between you and Christ. ... Come to Jesus directly, even to Jesus himself. You do want a mediator between yourselves and God, but you do not want a mediator between yourselves and Jesus. ... To him we may look at once, with unveiled face, guilty as we are. To him we may come, just as we are, without anyone to recommend us or plead for us or make a bridge for us to Jesus. ... You, as you are, are to come to Christ as he is, and the promise is that on your coming to him he will give you rest. That is the assurance of Jesus himself, and there is no deception in it. ... You see there are two persons. Let everybody else vanish, and let these two be left alone, to transact heavenly business with each other.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:171.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Biblical application...

The Bible is the word of God by virtue of its relationship to Christ and not by virtue of its spiritual application to our lives... Any attempt to relate a text directly to us or our contemporary hearers without inquiring into its primary relationship to Christ is fraught with danger. The only thing that controls the matter of the relationship of the text to us is its prior relationship to Christ.

Graham Goldsworthy,
Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p. 113

Saturday, June 25, 2011

He offers ... Himself

Christ is not offered us merely as a Savior who does something for us, but he is offered us as Someone who, having done something for us, is himself the propitiation [Romans 3:25]. . . .

It is not as if Christ handed you something and said, ‘Here is your redemption, here is your forgiveness,’ and then ran away, as a messenger hands a gift in at the door and the door shuts and away goes the messenger; he has done his job. Not a bit of it! It is Christ himself, the Worker, who comes to us himself. It is Christ personally who is our salvation. . . . It is Christ himself, personally, who comes to us with all the efficacy, the fruit of what he has done, and is the propitiation for our sin.

William Still, The World Of Grace, page 96.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Snippet: Our rescue is objective

The Sunday Snippet: A talk worth sharing edited to 3 minutes or less.

Tullian Tchividjian wraps up a sermon series on the book of James:

My Snippets (<3 min.):

The entire sermon can be found: here

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Snippet: Repentance

The Sunday Snippet: A talk worth sharing edited to 3 minutes or less.

Bryan Chapell talks about repentance:

My Snippets (<3 min.):

Entire Talk (26 min.):

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Measuring yourself in Him

The measure of our new self in Christ—the renewed mind—is the degree to which we look away from ourselves to Christ as our treasure. If Christ is more to you, you are more. If Christ is less to you, you are less. Your measure rises and falls with your measure of him. Your valuing him is the value that you have. Your esteeming him is the esteem that you have. Your treasuring him is the treasure that you are.

— John Piper
"Assessing Ourselves with Our God-Assigned Measure of Faith, Part 2"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

We are made holy ... how?

A man may be brought, by reason and conscience, to change his conduct, but not to change his heart. A sense of duty may force him to give alms to a man he hates, but it cannot change hatred into love. The desire of happiness may induce him to engage externally in the service of God, but it cannot make that service a delight. The affections do not obey the dictates of reason, nor the commands of conscience. They may be measurably restrained in their manifestation, but cannot be changed in their nature. . . .

The Scriptures teach us a different doctrine. They teach that believers are so united to Christ, that they are not only partakers of the merit of his death, but also of his Holy Spirit, which dwells in them as a principle of life, bringing them more and more into conformity with the image of God. . . .

The doctrine of sanctification, therefore, as taught in the Bible is, that we are made holy not by the force of conscience, nor of moral motives, nor by acts of discipline, but by being united to Christ so as to become reconciled to God, and partakers of the Holy Ghost. Christ is made unto us sanctification as well as justification.

--Charles Hodge
The Way of Life (1869), 321-25

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In order to let you know...

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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

But when I found God so kind

While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.

-C.H. Spurgeon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A New Identity

There is no antithesis between faith and works. Humans cannot live without acting. You cannot be without doing. You will, in other words, work. The question is merely from which identity will you work.

--Clyde Snodgrass

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sonship first

It is not imitation that makes sons; it is sonship that makes imitators.

-- Martin Luther

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making every effort

Tullian Tchividjian responds to a blog comment regarding the ‘make every effort’ side of Christian living:

To be sure, nothing I say in this post or anywhere else would indicate that I “stand back from stressing the make-every-effort-side of Christian living.” As I say in my comment above, the “every effort”, the fight, the battle, is against unbelief. It’s our failure to believe the gospel that produces bad behavior. It’s the bad root which produces the bad fruit.

It’s comparably easy to spend our lives “making every effort” to address the fruit. It’s a war of worlds to spend our lives “making every effort” to address the root. Unbelief is the root. That’s the front line. That’s where we need to “make every effort.”

--Tullian Tchividjian, in a blog comment: here

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Easter is about my limp

This Easter is about my limp.

This week's a reminder how my flesh is knocked out of joint and I'm living the crippled life, out of socket. How I must now lean on Him to walk straight. How my handicapped heart needs revealing so that I become desperate for His touch.


This week is about looking to that cross, the broken body who came to fill our empty soul-tombs. And when we finally grab hold with all desperation, don't be startled or embarrassed by this Holy cripple. There's deep joy in this crutch. Because your crippled life {in Him} just means "you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28

-- Tammy
Part of a larger post from her blog: "If Meadows Speak"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We don't offer people a system

We cannot treat the Bible as a collection of therapeutic insights. To do so distorts its message and will not lead to lasting change. If a system could give us what we need, Jesus would never have come. But he came because what was wrong with us could not be fixed any other way. He is the only answer, so we must never offer a message that is less than the good news. We don't offer people a system; we point them to a Redeemer.

--Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (P&R, 2002), 9

Friday, April 8, 2011

Struggle = to rest in what He freely gives

The fight is not the oppressive struggle to earn God’s final rest, but the satisfying struggle to rest in the peace that Jesus freely gives. . . .Don’t think of striving to get his favor. Think of striving with the favor of his help.

-John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World, 184-5.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Which tree are you most aware of?

We are all the same. We have plucked fruit from that forbidden tree. We have proudly declared that we know best, that we can take care of ourselves. We have crowned ourselves deities. 'Have you eaten from the tree?' Oh, yes and yes, over and over again in ways both glaring and hidden.

But the God-Man has been slain. The Lamb's blood has been spilt, and it covers us. Our rags have been replaced with his robes... 'Here, eat of this, it will give you life.'

...Have you eaten from that tree today? Have you satiated your soul with the luscious fruit that grows from this blood-soaked ground? Have you nourished your heart with his strength, his righteousness, his perfection, and the gospel? Have you shunned self-righteousness, self-reliance, self-improvement? Which tree are you most aware of?

Eat from the blessed tree, friend. Eat and eat and never stop. When you are hungry for something else, something more, something new, run to that tree. Stay there; rest in his shade. The door is open; the meal is ready. Sit down and eat.

--Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time (Crossway, 2009), 137-38

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Come close to grace

God has assuredly promised his grace to the humble, that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves.

But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.

For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is--or at least hopes or desires that there may be--some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation. But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace.

-- Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, in LW, 33:61-62

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A relationship never altered by me

There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest.

--B. B. Warfield (1851 – 1921)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gospel: Live it? or Believe it?

At the heart of the reformation's hermeneutics was the distinction between "Law" and "Gospel." ... The Law condemns and drives us to Christ, so that the Gospel can comfort without any threats or exhortations that might lead to doubt.


We often hear calls to "live the Gospel," and yet, nowhere in Scripture are we called to "live the Gospel." Instead, we are told to believe the Gospel and obey the Law, receiving God's favor from the one and God's guidance from the other. The Gospel--or Good News--is not that God will help us achieve his favor with his help, but that someone else lived the Law in our place and fulfilled all righteousness.

Others confuse the Law and Gospel by replacing the demands of the Law with the simple command to "surrender all" or "make Jesus Lord and Savior," as if this one little work secured eternal life.

Earlier this century, J. Gresham Machen declared, "According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as 'making Christ master' of one's life...But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism."(1)

In another work, Machen added, What good does it do to me to tell me that the type of religion presented in the Bible is a very fine type of religion and that the thing for me to do is just to start practicing that type of religion now?...I will tell you, my friend. It does me not one tiniest little bit of good...What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?(2)

Does that mean that the Word of God does not command our obedience or that such obedience is optional? Certainly not! But it does mean that obedience must not be confused with the Gospel. Our best obedience is corrupted, so how could that be good news? The Gospel is that Christ was crucified for our sins and was raised for our justification. The Gospel produces new life, new experiences, and a new obedience, but too often we confuse the fruit or effects with the Gospel itself. Nothing that happens within us is, properly speaking, "Gospel," but it is the Gospel's effect. Paul instructs us, "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ..." (Phil. 1:27).


But there are many, especially in our narcissistic age, whose ignorance of the Law leads them into a carnal security. Thus, people often conclude that they are "safe and secure from all alarm" because they walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or signed a card, even though they have never had to give up their own fig leaves in order to be clothed with the righteousness of the Lamb of God.


Thus, Machen writes,A new and more powerful proclamation of law is perhaps the most pressing need of the hour; men would have little difficulty with the gospel if they had only learned the lesson of the law. As it is, they are turning aside from the Christian pathway; they are turning to the village of Morality, and to the house of Mr. Legality, who is reported to be very skillful in relieving men of their burdens... 'Making Christ Master' in the life, putting into practice 'the principles of Christ' by one's own efforts--these are merely new ways of earning salvation by one's obedience to God's commands. And they are undertaken because of a lax view of what those commands are. So it always is: a low view of law always brings legalism in religion; a high view of law makes a man a seeker after grace.(3)

--Michael S. Horton (with quotes from J. Gresham Machen)
source: here

(1) J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (Erdmans, 1923), p. 143.
(2) J. Gresham Machen, Christian Faith in the Modern World (Macmillan, 1936), p. 57.
(3) J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? (Macmillan, 1925), pp. 137, 139, 152.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hell, stressed in unwise ways

Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God's active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer.

--Tim Keller

Source: here

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The outward virtues are only maidservants

And if I gave him even all I could, it would be of no use to him; he would have no regard for it, even if I wore all the hoods of all the monks. He wants my whole heart; for the outward things, as the outward virtues, are only maid servants, he wants the wife herself. He demands, that I say from the bottom of my heart: I am thine. The union and the marriage are accomplished by faith, so that I rely fully and freely upon him, that he is mine. If I only have him, what can I desire more?

-- Martin Luther

Friday, March 4, 2011

What if...

"What if gratitude was as natural as breathing, because we knew in our bones that the air we breathe is grace?"

-- Ann Voskamp

Full, worthwhile post: Here

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Only one thing blots out sins

There is only one thing in the world that blots out sins. It is not our acts of contrition, not our repentance, not our alms or our good works. It is not even our prayers. It is the blood of Jesus Christ: ‘the blood of Jesus Christ … cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).

— Adolphe Monod
Living in the Hope of Glory, ed. Constance K. Walker
(Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2002), 46

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I need first of all

What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel; not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me.

--John Gresham Machen

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Before any demand is made

Christian existence is a strangely relaxed kind of strenuousness, precisely because the Christian gospel is what it is. Before ever any demand is made, the gift is offered: the announcement of good news precedes the challenge.

The indicative precedes the imperative as surely as the rope is made fast round a firm piece of rock for the climber’s security before he has to apply himself to the struggle. Moreover (if the parable may be extended one clause further), the climber must attach himself to the rope before starting his effort. So the gospel not only begins with the indicative statement of what God has done, before it goes on to the imperative: even the imperative is first a command to attach oneself, before it becomes a command to struggle.

The striving does come: strenuousness is indispensable for the Christian climber—but only in dependence on all that has first been given by God and then appropriated through the means of grace.

--C. F. D. Moule, “’The New Life’ in Colossians 3:1-17,” Review and Expositor 70:4 (1973), page 479 [ht]:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I cannot get it into my head

Even though we are now in faith . . . the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say: 'After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account.' We even want to haggle with God to make him regard our life.


But it cannot be done. With men you may boast: (I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense). But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.


I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. Still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet this is what I should and must do.

--Martin Luther

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gospel mortification

The difference between legal and gospel mortification:

They differ in their motives and ends. The believer will not serve sin, because he is alive to God, and dead to sin (Rom 6:6). The legalist forsakes sin, not because he is alive, but that he may live. The believer mortifies sin, because God loves him; but the legalist, that God may love him. The believer mortifies, because God is pacified towards him; the legalist mortifies, that he may pacify God by his mortification. He may go a great length, but it is still that he may have whereof to glory, making his own doing all the foundation of his hope and comfort.

--Ralph Erskine (1685-1752)

Monday, January 31, 2011

But when I found God so kind

When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.

-- Charles H. Spurgeon

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Christian Obedience

So the issue is not whether obedience, the pursuit of holiness, and the practice of godliness is important. Of course it is. The issue is how do we keep God’s commands? What stimulates and sustains a long obedience in the same direction? Where does the power come from to do God’s will and to follow God’s lead?


When John talks about keeping God’s commands as a way to know whether you love Jesus or not, he’s not using the law as a way to motivate. He’s simply stating a fact. Those who love God will keep on keeping his commands. As every parent and teacher knows, behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be shallow and short-lived. But shallow and short-lived is not what God wants (that’s not what it means to “keep God’s commands.”). God wants a sustained obedience from the heart. How is that possible? Long-term, sustained obedience can only come from the grace which flows from what Jesus has already done, not guilt or fear of what we must do.


As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have wrongly concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules. The fact is, however, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners.

In Romans 6:1-4 the Apostle Paul answers lawlessness not with more law but with more gospel! In other words, licentious people aren’t those who believe the gospel of God’s free grace too much, but too little. ...The gospel swallows the tyranny as well as the guilt of sin. The irony, in other words, of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s.


It sounds backward, but the path to holiness is through (not beyond) the grace of the gospel, because only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God—grace so free that it will be (mis)heard by some as a license to sin with impunity. The route by which the New Testament exhorts radical obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home all the more deeply.


The Apostle Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; he always uses the gospel. ...Because God is not concerned with just any kind of obedience. What motivates our obedience determines whether or not it is a sacrifice of praise. The obedience that pleases God is obedience that flows from faith and grace; not fear and guilt.

Now, hear me: The law of God has its rightful place in the life of a Christian. It’s a gift from God. It’s good. It graciously shows Christians what God commands and instructs us in the way of holiness. But nowhere does the Bible say that the law possesses the power to enable us to do what it says.


The gospel serves the Christian by reminding us that God’s love for us does not get bigger when we obey or smaller when we disobey. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less!


Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

--Tullian Tchividjian
snippets from a blog post: here

Saturday, January 29, 2011

And the devil says, "Amen"

The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, "Amen."

--Martin Luther
Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 3

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rely solely

That the Holy Scriptures cannot be penetrated by study and talent is most certain. Therefore your first duty is to begin to pray, and to pray to this effect... that if it please God to accomplish something for His glory—not for yours or any other person's—He very graciously grant you a true understanding of His words. For no master of the divine words exists except the Author of these words, as He says: 'They shall be all taught of God' (John 6:45). You must, therefore, completely despair of your own industry and ability and rely solely on the inspiration of the Spirit.

--Martin Luther, 1518
(What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 1, p. 77)
Quoted by John Piper: here

Saturday, January 22, 2011

He demands you give it to him

Someone asked me, “Don’t you think Jesus wants us to have better marriages?” I thought for a minute and then said, “No. No, I don’t think he really cares one way or another whether we have better marriages or not. I don’t think he is concerned about us being better parents or getting promoted at work. No, I definitely think these are things that matter not in the least to him.”

You can probably understand why I’m not exactly at the top of the list for guest preachers any longer.

Let me just say this straight out. If all you are interested in is becoming is a better person, then Jesus is not your best avenue to get there. You can find lots of self-help books that deal with marriage, health, finances and life-issues you find yourself dealing with. They are piled high on tables leading into the temple. As a matter of fact, you can buy them in many temples every Sunday, credit cards accepted.

Jesus is not a self-help guru. He is not interested in you becoming a better person. He could not care less with you improving in any area of your life. Because in the end that is your life. Yours. And he demands you give it to him. All of it. An unconditional surrender. He did not come to improve you, or encourage you, or spur you on to bigger and better things. He came to raise the dead. And if you insist on living, then you’re on your own. Good luck. Sign up for all the seminars, workshops and marriage improvement weekends that you can, because you’re going to need them.

The Gospel is this: We are dead in our sins. Jesus, too, is dead in our sins. But because he is very God of very God, death could not hold him. He conquered sin and death and rose again. And the only life we are now offered is the life he lives in us. Period. He wants us dead. He’ll do the rest.


Jesus did not attract a huge following, simply because he refused to play the religious games of his day. As a matter of fact, he went out of his way to make the religious professionals hacked at him. And he also turned on those who followed him simply for what they could get. “You want to follow me? Hate your spouse, your kids, your extended family. Hate them.” “Oh, you like the food I provided for you? Want some more? Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Not exactly the kind of thing to say in order to build your ministry now, is it?

-- Jeff Dunn
source: blog post - here

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If you knew

If you knew that there was one greater than yourself, who knows you better than you can know yourself and loves you better than you can love yourself, who can make you all you ought to be, steadier than your squally nature, able to save you from squandering your glorious life, who searches you beyond the standards of earth . . . one who gathered into himself all great and good things and causes, blending in his beauty all the enduring color of life, who could turn your dreams into visions and make real the things you hoped were true, and if that one had ever done one unmistakable thing to prove, even at the price of blood — his own blood — that you could come to him, and having failed, come again, would you not fall at his feet with the treasure of your years, your powers, service and love? And is there not one such, and does he not call you?

-- A. E. Whitham