Sunday, November 25, 2012

Come to Him on such a footing

Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.

--Horatius Bonar

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The law doesn't produce gospel behavior

Audio: (4:08 min.)

We know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.  So clearly in Paul's mind, there's a lawful use of law, and an unlawful use of law.  He says that his goal in his preaching is love, and he explains why certain people have failed to reach that goal because of the way they're using the law. 

So you see what's at stake here?  Love at Bethlehem Baptist Church is at stake.  You can totally botch love if you make an unlawful use of law.  Love comes not from list keeping or law keeping.  Lists cannot turn unloving, selfish hearts into humble, child-like, God dependent, Christ exalting, loving hearts.  It can't do it. 

We come to Christ for this.  You don't go to law for this.  You go to Christ for this.  And you cleave to Him like a desperate sinner, and hold onto Him as your only hope, and through that hope that flows into you... a cleansing of the heart  ... the heart is cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9 says).  And then the conscience is purified because Christ declares it pure. 

There is a lawful use of the law, and there is an unlawful use of the law.  There is a right way to move towards change in people's lives, and there's a devastating way to move towards change in peoples lives ... successful change.  There is deadly success in getting people changed in the wrong way.  And Christ gets no glory from it, and therefore is a failure, and is not a fulfillment of the law.  Notice he does not say [that] the law was added because so many of you are righteous and longing to do good and I want to give you some helpful advice, and counsel and guidance.  He does not say that.

So here's my question.  What produces behavior that is not contrary to sound doctrine, but is in accord with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God?  Answer:  The gospel produces behavior that accords with the gospel.  The law doesn't produce gospel behavior.  The gospel produces gospel behavior.  And the law can never to that.  You stay dead to the law in that sense. 

All you justified saints who have come to Jesus alone.  And I pray that it's all of you.  And if you haven't that you come right now... that you turn away from law keeping, and you draw near, in your hearts, right now, to Jesus Christ who alone can forgive all your sins and make you right before God.  So [to] all of us who've done that ... What do we do with Exodus 20?  I'll give you three answers.  Number one:  Read it, and meditate on it, as those who have died to it, as the ground of your justification, and the power for your sanctification.  Second:  Read it, and meditate on it, knowing Christ is my righteousness, Christ is my sanctification, Christ is my redemption, Christ is my wisdom.  Third:  Read it, and meditate on it, to know Christ better, and to treasure Him more.

-John Piper, sermon, "How to Use the law Lawfully to Bear Fruit for God"
source: here

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why the Law cannot sanctify

Audio: (6 min.)

So now today we pick it up, to talk about why the law cannot sanctify.  You can't even get to first base in becoming a holy person until the wrath of God against you is removed, and condemnation has become acquittal.

If you're justified this morning, by faith alone.  You've put your faith in Jesus Christ.  You've received Him as the savior and Lord and treasure of your life and your verdict has been changed and God says, "not guilty" over your life ... accepted, received, righteous in Christ.  Does God, now that you are justified by faith alone, send you back to the law to get sanctified?  And I'm answering no, He doesn't.

Everybody in this room is corrupt.  Where are you going to turn to have your heart revolutionized?  Law?  A list?  It isn't going to happen.  The law is powerless to take away your rebellion.  The law is powerless to take away your treasonist preference for things over God.  In fact, (let's say it the way Paul really says it), if you go to the law, as a rebel, do you know what you'll do?  You will make the law a new theater for revolt.

Now let's see this.  You need.  We need to erect some barriers between us, (and I'm talking us christians now), barriers between us justified sinners and running to the law as the first or chief or decisive instrument of our sanctification.  Don't do that.

If Christ's obedience becomes the obedience I need to be accepted with God (which it does...that's the meaning of justification), and the law presumably is given to help me perform my acts of obedience, and he already did that for me ... why the law?  And that's exactly the question in Paul's head when he says the next sentence:  "The law came in so that the transgression would increase."  ... Wow.  That's God's purpose for the law ... to move into the hearts of rebellious people and turn rebellion into many transgressions.

So the function of the law, the purpose of the law, the effect of the law ... is rousing sinful passions, not subduing sinful passions.  You go to the law to get your sinful passions fixed?  It won't work.  The law stirs sinful passions.  If you turn to the law to get your heart changed, it won't work.  It will make you worse.

If the law is not the place where you go to as the first and chief and decisive means of sanctification, where do you go?  Answer ... You go to Christ.  Die to the law.  Don't turn to the law first, chiefly, decisively, as the instrument whereby your corruption can be made into holiness and loving humility.  Turn to Jesus, welcome Jesus into your life, see Jesus, savor Jesus above all competitors, and you will be changed.  But not by the law.

Oh how many christians there are who are just doing external stuff with lists.  Lists of doctrines, and lists of do's and dont's, thinking that's christianity and will commend them to God.  It won't!  Trust in Jesus.  Treasuring Jesus, resting in Jesus, delighting in Jesus, valuing Jesus, hoping in Jesus, enjoying Jesus, leaning on Jesus, knowing Jesus ... will.  Turn away from the lists to the person behind the lists.  Go through the lists quickly to the person.

So where does our obedience come from?  Paul says if I were to take on my lips a description of where your obedience came from, I would not dare to speak of anything except what Christ did.

The hardest thing in my life is to see Jesus.  To see Him.  Him... Him! ... not sentences about Him merely, but Him.  That's the dynamic of sanctification.  That's the process of holiness.  That's what will get you changed, and Him glorified.  And I welcome you to join me in the quest to get to Jesus, know Jesus, love Jesus ... don't get stalled at the law.

-- John Piper, Sermon, Nov. 11, 2001
(Source: here)

Friday, November 2, 2012

I believe, that I can't believe

Audio: (< 4 min.)

We'll read Luther's explanation:

"I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.  In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this christian church, day after day, He fully forgives my sins, and the sins of all believers.  On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life.  This is most certainly true."

The third article of the Apostle's Creed as Luther looks at it, and interprets it, gets to the heart, in some ways, of the reformation understanding of the gospel.  With this alarming beginning he makes, he really gets to the heart of the matter.

He starts by saying, "I believe, that I can't believe."  What Luther is advocating, and what the reformers were advocating in this third article was that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to gain faith in God.  And the word is... NOTHING. 

The objections that are raised, of course, by the old sinner in us are union, and manifold, and all over the place:  "Well God has offered Christ, but we have to accept Him.  God has put Christ forward, but we have to believe in Him.  God has put Christ out there, He's put the parts in place, but we have to assemble it and make it our own."  ... Well that of course is exactly wrong.  That is not the gospel... That is the religion of the old sinner that takes the gospel and turns it to his or her own advantage. 

But Luther wants to be clear... When it comes to belief, what I confess is that I can't believe this.  For if it is true that there is nothing that we can do to believe, then that means that God has put an end to us. It means that God has brought us to the foot of the cross and there said, "That's it.  As far as you are concerned, it's over.  You can do nothing." 

What was completed on the cross was the work of Christ, obliterating, destroying, demolishing, smashing, everything that had come before Him:  The old way of Law, the old way of moral improvement, the old way of self justification, the old way of religion as pathway to God's acceptance ... all of that destroyed ... Now there is nothing left for us to do...  But hear, and by God's grace, believe, that this is true.

If we believe at all in Christ as our savior, if we have any hope in Him, if we have any faith, that He is ours, that He is our Lord, it is not because we've sized Him up and decided He's worth the effort.  It's not because we've taken the bits and pieces of the story of salvation that God has laid on the table, and managed to assemble them in such a way that now they fit for us.  It's because the Holy Spirit has reached into our hearts and minds somewhere along the life we've been living and has called out of us trust and faith even against ourselves.

-- Mark Anderson

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Still trying to redeem ourselves

But I'm the guy who struck out four times, waits on deck for his chance... and doesn't get to the plate. The guy in front of me hits the game-winning homer. We win! We're the champions! He did it, not me. I didn't redeem myself. Now, I'm sitting in the locker room, and I should be celebrating with everyone else.


Truth is, we find this very, very hard to accept, but we can't redeem ourselves. Oh, we like to think we can, deep down, so it's still about us. Carrying around guilt? Still about us. Feeling stupid? Still about us. Feeling like a failure? Still about us. Turning our guilt into seemingly productive energy, seemingly "right" things to do? Still about us. Seems so... so... so "righteous", and yet, when we can't take our eyes off ourselves to celebrate the win, it's just plain about us. That's pride.

And pride always hurts, but it's positively deadly when masked by our attempts to pay our own way with our religious activity.

The game is over. We're in the religious locker room, still trying to redeem ourselves.

And God is popping the cork.

--Brant Hansen
Please read! :
This quote above is just Brant's conclusion to a great real life illustration found: here

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The gospel: Our best minds are on it

What is the gospel?

Well, you remember the answer of the Apostle Paul, "It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom 1:16).

How easy it is to forget that. How easy to preach it as a system, to preach it as a collection of ideas, or just to preach it as a truth. Ah, but you can do that without power. There are people, says the Apostle Paul, who "have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5).

Christianity is primarily a life. It is a power. It is a manifestation of energy.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Crossway, 1987), 123

Monday, August 6, 2012

Free from the prison of pretending

Children like candy, not fine wine or espresso. ... The finer pleasures are more complex, and to a child seem to taste horrible and bitter, to sound like so much noise, to make no sense at all. ...

...The greater pleasures are hidden. So God is invisible, and so God’s greatest work in expressing mercy and justice is hidden in the horrendous act of the crucifixion. God’s wisdom is concealed in foolishness, and God’s beauty is concealed in ugliness.

So in preaching the message of radical grace, the constant fear is that the hearers will be released to run after damaging and sinful pleasures. It actually frees us from the prison of pretending to like what we hate, from the obligation to adhere to a practice that we only wish to escape from.  In the prison of obligation, we are not allowed to let our desires mature. The law does not allow us to touch on the subject of our actual loves, so they remain puerile and fixed on childish things.

--Jim McNeely
snippets from a blog post: here

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Works that arise from this belief

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance...
I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake...

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” 
(Rev 2:2-5)


What if we have abandoned the love we had at first because we’ve forgotten the news that "He first loved us?"  Is it possible that the works we did at first arise from the belief that Jesus’ works are all we need? What if keeping with repentance is simply going back to the start again and again?

-- John Dink

Source: here

Monday, July 30, 2012

Prone to wander

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

 - (from "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" by Robert Robinson)

[In a blog post that claims our christian hearts are NOT prone to wander, a commenter disagrees:]

I will have to put my two cents in as a minority. That's one of my favorite lines. I never saw it from the angle you (and others) do. My heart knows that it is God himself who keeps me faithful and walking with him with any degree of steadfastness. I think it's a matter of the author saying that we have an old nature still within us, and an enemy outside of us that are bent on steering us away from our beloved. So I tear up whenever I sing that line, as I HAVE wandered, and am prone to, but He keeps me til the end. So...the loss of that line would be sorely me. 

--PjB, a comment to a blog post: here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We fix our eyes on ... ? (be honest)

There is nothing in the gospel that encourages us to focus on ourselves. Nothing! It's never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ. Never! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to "fix our eyes on Christ" (Heb. 12:2). The truest measure of Christian growth, therefore, is when we stop spiritually rationalizing the reasons why we're taking our eyes off of Jesus to focus on ourselves.

It's sin that turns us inward. The gospel turns us outward. Martin Luther argued that sin actually bends or curves us in on ourselves. Any version of "the gospel," therefore, that places you at the center is detrimental to your faith—whether it's your failures or your successes, your good works or bad works, your strengths or weaknesses, your obedience or disobedience.


Maturity is not becoming stronger and stronger, more and more competent. Christian growth is marked by a growing realization of just how weak and incompetent we are, and how strong and competent Jesus is on our behalf. Spiritual maturity is not our growing independence. Rather, it's our growing dependence on Christ.


The focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. The Good News is his victory for us, not our "victorious Christian life." The gospel declares that God's final word over Christians has already been spoken: "Paid in full." Therefore, we now live with confidence that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).

--Tullian Tchividjian
from an article entitled: Blessed Self-Forgetfulness

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wash me, Saviour... Decisions, Decisons

[The] term ‘decide’ has always seemed to me to be quite wrong…A sinner does not ‘decide’ for Christ; the sinner ‘flies’ to Christ in utter helplessness and despair saying —

Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

No man truly comes to Christ unless he flies to Him as his only refuge and hope, his only way of escape from the accusations of conscience and the condemnation of God’s holy law.

... The convicted sinner no more ‘decides’ for Christ than the poor drowning man ‘decides’ to take hold of that rope that is thrown to him and suddenly provides him with the only means of escape. The term is entirely inappropriate.

--D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
taken from: Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan, 1972, pp. 279-280.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Are you processing whether you are fit for His mercy?

That which He wrought out in His heart's blood, would He barter it with us for our tears, and vows, ...and feelings and works?  He is not reduced to make a market of Himself.  He will give freely, as beseems His royal love.

But he that offereth a price to Him knows not with whom he is dealing, nor how grievously he vexes His free Spirit.  Empty-handed sinners may freely have what they will.  All that they can possibly need is in Jesus, and he gives it for the asking.

But we must believe that He is all in all, and we must not dare to breathe a word about completing what he has finished, or fitting ourselves for what He freely gives to us as undeserving sinners.
-- Charles Spurgeon, from, "Around the Wicket Gate"

God, the great Father, must not be so dishonored in your thoughts as to be conceived of as requiring a price of you!  You displease Him when you think that you are to do something or feel something or bring something in your hands as a recommendation to Him.
-- Charles Spurgeon, sermon, "Without money and without price."

Friday, July 13, 2012

We do not pry salvation from His hands

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way.” (John 14:1-6a)

Jesus does not just tell us about the Father’s house – he reserves a room for us. It’s a gift. And it grieves his Spirit that we assume we’ll have to pry it from his hands. All along, it’s been his good pleasure to tell us the way home!

--John Dink
The beginning of a longer and thoughtful blog post: here

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Discipleship: Paying more attention

The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment that God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness. We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasm.

- Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 128-129

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What kind of love says, "you win again"?

Do you ever get the sense, after a day of little regard for your Lord and Savior, or after a season of forgetting your first love, that what He whispers to you, across a distance of your own making, is this... "you win again".

He does not force our hand. He lets us win.

There is so much that He could have been for you that day, but you had to have it your way.   You win again. Is that what the father of the prodigal said to the wayward son, when the son requested the very means for his departure... "you win again"?

We win again and again, and still He does not let us go. We win until every drop in our own cisterns runs dry, and then He willingly becomes for us a fountain of living waters. He lifts the cover, and looks inside our heart. There is no fight. You can't fight a battle of love with Him. He will simply reply, "you win again", and continue His relentless pursuit. For He knows that no other Life can see you through. And when His love does break through, He's going to break down your defenses one by one. It's a love that doesn't depend on you. Nobody stops His Body from ransoming you. He's going to be there when you fall. It is He that could never let you cast aside the greatest love of all. 


The gospel according to ... The Bee Gees?:


I couldn't figure why
You couldn't give me what everybody needs
I shouldn't let you kick me when I'm down
My baby

I find out everybody knows that
You've been using me
I'm surprised you
Let me stay around you

One day I'm gonna lift the cover
And look inside your heart
We gotta level before we go
And tear this love apart

There's no fight you can't fight this battle of love with me
You win again, so little time, we do nothing but compete
There's no life on earth, no other could see me through
You win again, some never try but if anybody can, we can
And I'll be, I'll be following you
Oh girl

Oh baby, I shake you from now on
I'm gonna break down your defenses, one by one
I'm gonna hit you from all sides, lay your fortress open wide
Nobody stops this body from taking you

You better beware, I swear
I'm gonna be there one day when you fall
I could never let you cast aside
The greatest love of all

There's no fight you can't fight this battle of love with me
You win again, so little time, we do nothing but compete
There's no life on earth, no other could see me through
You win again, some never try but if anybody can, we can
And I'll be, I'll be following you
Oh girl

You win again, so little time, we do nothing but compete
There's no life on earth, no other could see me through
You win again, some never try but if anybody can, we can
And I'll be, I'll be following you
Oh girl

You win again, so little time, we do nothing but compete
There's no life on earth, no other could see me through
You win again, some never try but if anybody can, we can

There's no fight you can't fight this battle of love with me
You win again, so little time, we do nothing but compete
There's no life on earth, no other could see me through
You win again, some never try but if anybody can, we can

There's no fight you can't fight this battle of love with me
You win again ...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

This thing called trust

And as I see that I cannot trust much of what is going on around me, I’ve been struck recently by how often I trust myself in all the wrong ways. I am so prone to believe my own terrible advice, and so prone to doubt and despair when things don’t work out the way I think they should.

...When I lose hope and despair, does that not show that I am more confident in the strength of the world than the strength of my God Who created it? I trust my ability to understand the situation I am in instead of trusting the almighty God Who is at work in even the most difficult of circumstances. I am more confident in my own weakness than I am in God’s strength. In the end, it’s a worship issue. I am not worshiping God when I forsake His word for my own advice. I am not worshiping God when I refuse to trust Him with all that is going on.

It’s all backwards. I’m all backwards. And I need the Gospel to rescue me once again from these things. ...God calls me to trust Him, to rely on Him, to worship Him. He calls me to be free of my own self-confidence, self-reliance, self-worship. He calls me to doubt myself and believe in Him. Only in Christ are we able to say that we are both more sinful and weak than we would like to admit, and yet more loved that we could ever dare to dream.

I’m trying to trust myself less, even as I realize that so much around me is like shifting sand and untrustworthy. This world is subject to constant change, and my heart seems to flow right with it. I need a Rock to stand on. Fortunately Jesus has given us that Rock—Himself. And, as I seek to love and know Him, He continually reminds me that He has made me one with Him and His Father, and I really have nothing to fear. I’m so thankful that He does not leave me to die as I trust myself, but rescues me even then.

--David Bibee
from his blog post: here

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ardency for our Savior

I am just beginning to learn it and see it painfully in me:  The modern-day Pharisees focus on sin avoidance and not firstly on Savior ardency.

What all us Pharisees need to experience is this: Ardency for your Savior is the most direct path of sin avoidance.

--Ann Voskamp
from a blog post: here

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To come, on the mere encouragment of mercy

"The way to be accepted is to come - not on any such encouragement, that now you have made yourselves better, and more worthy, or not so unworthy, but - on the mere encouragement of Christ's worthiness, and God's mercy."


"Men cannot get off from the notion, that it is for some goodness or service of their own, either done or expected to be done, that God accepts persons, and receives them into favor."


"Spread all your wickedness before him, and do not plead your goodness; but plead your badness, and your necessity on that account: and say as the psalmist in the text, not 'Pardon mine iniquity, for it is not so great as it was,' but 'Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.'"

-- Jonathan Edwards

Friday, May 25, 2012

It is not we who overcome

Contrary to our distorted intuitions, the gospel does not encourage our conquest of heaven through intellectual, mystical and moral striving. It announces that even while we were enemies, God reconciled us. While we were dead in sins, he made us alive in Christ. We are saved by God’s good works, not our own. Because we are sinners, God’s speech is disruptive and disorienting. It is not we who overcome estrangement, but God who heals the breach by communicating the gospel of his Son… While a theology of glory presumes to scale the walls of God’s heavenly chamber, a theology of the Cross will always recognize that although we cannot reach God, he can reach us and has done so.

--Michael Horton, The Christian Life, page 51, 53.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What will write the final chapter of our lives?

There are two ways to look at this universe we’re stuck in. One is to see it as vastly sinister, mocking our desires. The other is to see it as exploding with love, inviting our trust. If the first is true, we should rage at everything, especially the (apparently) positive things. If the second is true, we can never despair, no matter what happens.

In her book The Death of Adam, page 78, Marilynne Robinson sees the first outlook in the cynicism of our times:

“When a good man or woman stumbles, we say, ‘I knew it all along,’ and when a bad one has a gracious moment, we sneer at the hypocrisy. It is as if there is nothing to mourn or admire, only a hidden narrative now and then apparent through the false, surface narrative. And the hidden narrative, because it is ugly and sinister, is therefore true.”

The apostle John shows us another way to see reality: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

For God — the ultimate explanation

so loved — the open secret of our real lives

the world — a wretched evil, defiling every one of us

that he gave — the unthinkable sacrifice

his only Son — the unique, pure, worthy One

that whoever — startling openness to all

believes — simple trust, and no more will be required later

in him — a new focus for our lives

should not perish — the destruction we deserve

but — a surprising reversal

have — personal possession on terms of grace

eternal life — a deluge of joy forever.

The gospel is a clear alternative. And the gospel, because it is true, will write the final chapter of our lives, if we will see it

--Ray Ortlund
in a blog post: here

Sunday, May 13, 2012

We remember, for He first remembers us

Sometimes the words from an ordinary person are stumbled upon, who has no listing on a page of quotes, nor a book listed on Amazon, nor a congregational following to recommend him:

"And [the thief] said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."(Luke 23:42)

I'm a natural born forgetter.

Sure, I can remember the most odd and obscure things, but when it comes to what I need most to remember, it seems like I was born to forget. I'm slowly learning that the Christian life is a fight to remember. So easily I forget my need for a Savior. I forget how sinful I really am and how utterly desperate I am for the person and work of Jesus Christ on my behalf. How strongly is my flesh opposed to the gospel! It will do anything to make me forget. When I forget the gospel, I forget the ugliness of my sin and the beauty of Christ and his cross. I forget the unsurpassed worth of knowing my Lord and his unfathomable love for sinners.

It's also very easy to forget I'm not an orphan. It's so natural to live like my life is in my own hands. I run around and do things believing I have to somehow keep my life together by my own strength and wisdom. I forget I have a loving Father who has loved me from before I was born and will not stop now. I forget he accepts me not on the basis of anything I do, but on the basis of Christ and his righteousness. I forget all things, good and evil, are from his hand and are working for my good. I forget that he is my helper, my strength, and my salvation.

But in all of my forgetfulness, I have never been forgotten. Although my doubt and unbelief often hinder my view of Jesus, Jesus' view of me is never hindered and he looks upon me with nothing but tender mercy and grace. Even when I forget his love and promises, he remembers me in my low, forgetful estate and loves me with an everlasting love. There is hope for forgetters like me and it's in remembering this Savior who loves us despite all the ways in which we forget him. He is the ultimate rememberer of his mercy towards forgetters.

--Jeff Lawson

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Christian Growth: Why the slowness?

It seems desirable to ascertain, as precisely as we can, the reasons why Christians commonly are of so diminutive a stature and of such feeble strength in their religion.

When persons are truly converted they always are sincerely desirous to make rapid progress in piety; and there are not wanting exceeding great and gracious promises of aid to encourage them to go forward with alacrity. Why then is so little advancement made? Are there not some practical mistakes very commonly entertained, which are the cause of this slowness of growth? I think there are, and will endeavor to specify some of them.

And first, there is a defect in our belief of the freeness of divine grace.

To exercise unshaken confidence in the doctrine of gratuitous pardon is one of the most difficult things in the world; and to preach this doctrine fully without verging towards antinomianism is no easy task, and is therefore seldom done. But Christians cannot but be lean and feeble when deprived of the proper nutriment. It is by faith, that the spiritual life is made to grow; and the doctrine of free grace, without any mixture of human merit, is the only true object of faith.

Christians are too much inclined to depend on themselves, and not to derive their life entirely from Christ. There is a spurious legal religion, which may flourish without the practical belief in the absolute freeness of divine grace, but it possesses none of the characteristics of the Christian's life. . . . Even when the true doctrine is acknowledged, in theory, often it is not practically felt and acted on. The new convert lives upon his frames, rather than on Christ; and the older Christian still is found struggling in his own strength . . . and then he sinks into a gloomy despondency. . . .

Here, I am persuaded, is the root of the evil; and until religious teachers inculcate clearly, fully, and practically, the grace of God as manifested in the gospel, we shall have no vigorous growth of piety among professing Christians.

--Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), founder of Princeton Seminary
Thoughts on Religious Experience (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1844), 201-2

Monday, April 30, 2012

God has reserved for Himself the business of your salvation

At the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane when the crowd comes out against Jesus with swords and clubs, the disciples want to do something. They still want to do their bit for God. They want to take up the sword and risk their lives, perhaps, and fight. One of them grasps a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the assailants. But Jesus will have none of it: ‘Put up your sword,’ he says, ‘for there is absolutely nothing you can do!’ In Luke’s account, Jesus even stretches out his hand to undo what the disciple had done – he heals the wounded man. At that point, no doubt, everything within us cries out in protest along with the disciples. Is there nothing we can do? Could we not at least perhaps stage a protest march on God’s behalf? Could we not seek, perhaps, an interview with Pilate? Could we not try to influence the ‘power structures’? Something – however small? But the unrelenting answer comes back, ‘No, there is nothing you can do, absolutely nothing. If there were something to be done, my Father would send legions of angels to fight!’ But there is nothing to be done. And when it finally came to that last and bitter moment, when these good ‘righteous’ men finally realized that there was nothing they could do, they forsook him and fled.

Can you see it? Can you see that hidden in these very words, these very events, is that death itself which you fear so much is coming to meet you? When they finally saw there was nothing they could do they forsook him and fled before this staggering truth. You, who presume to do business with God, can you see it? Can you see that this death of self is not, in the final analysis, something you can do? For the point is that God has once and for all reserved for himself the business of your salvation. There is nothing you can do now but, as the words of the old hymn have it, ‘climb Calvary’s mournful mountain’ and stand with your helpless arms at your side and tremble before ‘that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete! It is finished; hear him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die!’

At the cross, God has stormed the last bastion of the self, the last presumption that you really were going to do something for him…He has died in your place! He has done it. He made it. It is all over, finished, between you and God! He died in your place that death which you must die; he has done it in such a way as to save you. He has borne the whole thing! The fact that there is nothing left for you to do is the death of self and the birth of the new creature.

--Gerhard Forde

Sunday, April 29, 2012

More important to be loved than to love?

The real [dichotomy] in the American Church is not conservatives, liberals, fundamentalists, charismatics, but it’s the aware and the unaware. To live in the awareness of God’s love, maintain a calm in the presence of pressure, and not be shattered by a word of criticism. This sounds crazy but it’s more important to be loved than to love. Because when you don’t have the experience of being loved then ministry becomes a chore, an obligation, you can become resentful, which easily leads to burnout and leaving the ministry. The impostor is the slick, sick, and subtle impersonator of my true self… who wants only to be liked, admired, approved, accepted, to fit in. It’s a point of maturity in your life to accept the impostor, because it’s a part of my real self. And if I cannot accept the impostor and all the falseness and all the phoniness, all the pretense, and all the game-playing the impostor goes through, then I can never really accept myself… as a man of strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, a broken man who’s desperately in need of a Savior.

--Brennan Manning, The Imposter, sermon notes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Only the stripes of Jesus heal us, not our repentance

Do you inquire, "Is there anything for us to do, to remove the guilt of sin?" I answer: There is nothing whatever for you to do. By the stripes of Jesus we are healed. All those stripes he has endured, and left not one of them for us to bear. "But must we not believe on him?" Ay, certainly. If I say of a certain ointment that it heals, I do not deny that you need a bandage with which to apply it to the wound. Faith is the linen which binds the plaster of Christ's reconciliation to the sore of our sin. The linen does not heal; that is the work of the ointment. So faith does not heal; that is the work of the atonement of Christ. "But we must repent," cries another. Assuredly we must, and shall, for repentance is the first sign of healing; but the stripes of Jesus heal us, and not our repentance.
- Charles Spurgeon (Around the Wicket Gate)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The God who is with us and for us

Remember the time when someone thanked you for doing something for them, and you said to them, "Oh it was nothing", and you really mean't it?

... Isn't that the most glorious feeling, when you realize you've actually done something for a person because you ARE FOR them, not out of obligation, not because it's required, but because you have acted in freedom? What you've done has been consistent with who you are. Who you are is consistent with what you've done.

... God is not in bondage. God is without boundaries. God acts freely. God always acts in a way that's consistent with who God really is, so that when we see that baby in the manger, we DON'T look in that manger and say:

"Wow, look what God did this time. Isn't that an interesting anecdote in God's life."

[No!] We look in that manger and we say:

"Hallelujah, this is who God is, a baby. One who has not only done things for us, but IS with us and for us."

-Dr. Cynthia Rigby
from a keynote address that can be found in its entirety: here

The quote above appears in the following snippet of the keynote address (6.5 min.):

mp3 file of snippet can be found: here

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sanctification is not a repair job

Sanctification is not a repair job. God is after something new.


But is there not such a thing as growth in sanctification?, progress in the Christian life? ... There is a kind of growth and progress, but it is growth in "grace", a growth in coming to be captivated more and more by the totality and the unconditionality of the grace of God. It is a matter of getting used to the fact that if we are to be saved, it will have to be by grace alone.

We should make no mistake about it: sin is to be conquered and expelled. But if we see that sin is the total state of standing against the unconditional grace and goodness of God, if sin is our very incredulity, unbelief, mistrust, and insistence on falling back on our self to maintain control, then it is only through the total grace of God that sin comes under attack, and only through faith in that total grace that sin is defeated. To repeat: sin is not defeated by a repair job, but by dying and being raised new.

--Gerhard Forde
(from his essay, "A Lutheran View of Sanctification")

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Subduing sin - is that where peace is found?

It is neither the tyranny, nor the troublesomeness of sin in a believer, that doth eclipse the beauty of Christ, or the favor of God to the soul. Our standing is not founded upon the subduing of our sins, but upon that foundation that never fails; and that is Christ himself, upon his faithfulness and truth.

...Though there be ebbings and flowings of the outward man, nay, of the inward man, in the business of sanctification; yet this is certainly true: "That believers are kept by the mighty power of God, through faith, unto salvation." They are kept in holiness, sincerity, simplicity of heart; but all this hath nothing to do with the peace of his soul, and the salvation and justification thereof: Christ is he that justifies the ungodly; Christ is he that is the peace-maker; and as Christ is the peace-maker, so all this peace depends upon Christ alone. Beloved, if you will fetch your peace from any thing in the world but Christ, you will fetch it from where it is not.

...While your acts, in respect of filthiness, proclaim nothing but war, Christ alone, and his blood, proclaim nothing but peace. Therefore, I give this hint by the way, when I speak of the power of Christ subduing sin; because, from the power of it in men, they are apt to think their peace depends upon this subduing of sin. If their sins be subdued, then they may have peace; and if they cannot be subdued, then no peace: fetch peace where it is to be had; let alone subduing sin for peace; let Christ have that which is his due; it is he alone that speaks peace.

--Tobias Crisp (1600–1643),
[The Complete Works of Tobias Crisp (London: 1832), 1:12–14]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Perhaps I can help ... what you must know

Dear Elise,

... Perhaps I can help you if you will recognize that all I can do is be a small finger pointing to a large Christ. But if you trust yourself to Him, be confident He is not only willing to help you but has the power to help you.

What do you need to know? . . . When you turn to Christ, you don't have a repentance apart from Christ, you just have Christ. Therefore don't seek repentance or faith as such but seek Christ. When you have Christ you have repentance and faith. Beware of seeking an experience of repentance; just seek an experience of Christ.

The Devil can be pretty tricky. He doesn't mind you thinking much about repentance and faith if you do not think about Jesus Christ. . . . Seek Christ, and relate to Christ as a loving Savior and Lord who wants to invite you to know him.

--Jack Miller,
The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 244-45

Monday, February 20, 2012

The one fatal temptation in life

"Life is a web of trials and temptations", says Robert Capon, "but only one of them can ever be fatal - the temptation to think it is by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life." The truth is, that you can’t live your way to life – you can only "die your way there, lose your way there"...

"For Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to reward the rewardable, improve the improvable, or correct the correctable; he came simply to be the resurrection and the life of those who will take their stand on a death he can use instead of on a life he cannot."

Moral renovation, in other words, is to refocus our eyes away from ourselves to that Man’s obedience, to that Man’s cross, to that Man’s blood-to that Man’s death and resurrection!

Learning daily to love the glorious exchange (our sin for his righteousness), to lean on its finishedness, and to live under its banner is what it means to be morally reformed!

--Tullian Tchividjian quoting Robert Capon
in a blog post: here

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why must we die to the law?

"Why is it that we must die to the Law?"

"Why die to the very thing we long to fulfill?"

"The Law is not the goal of our being in Christ, but rather our being in Christ is the goal of the Law."

-- John Piper

Listen to John Piper expound on these important issues for 8 minutes:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Make Jesus your okay-ness

In a world of secrets, outward success is everyone’s goal. If we can just succeed, we won’t have to face ourselves. No wonder that doesn’t work. It can’t work. The reality of what we are will always topple this house-of-cards persona we so earnestly wish were true.

The gospel is not God’s way of giving us an even better self-improvement goal. The gospel is God’s judgment on our better selves and his replacement of it all with Jesus.

Every one of us thinks, “If only I could do __________ or be __________, then I would arrive.” So, what does “arrival” look like to you? If it isn’t Jesus, the risen Lord himself, every arrival you achieve is only another set-back.

If you make financial security your arrival, you are already trapped in anxiety. If you make a thin body your identity, you will hate yourself more. If you make a porn-free life your okayness, you are doomed to compulsion. God’s remedy for you is not more money or better looks or perfect control. God’s gift to you is Jesus. With Jesus, we are saved. Everything is going to be okay. Without Jesus, we are damned. Nothing will go right.

Forsake all fraudulent success. Make Jesus your goal, your arrival, your identity, your comfort, your okayness, and he’ll gladly give himself to you — and on terms of grace. But reach for anything else, and it will turn into its opposite and betray you.

--Ray Ortlund
from his blog post: here

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies...

I was not just devastated, or hurt, or ill-used, or broken; I was dead. Unless you have been through such an experience, you may find this overblown; but my life, as I had known it, was over, gone, kaput.

If I ever lived again--and it was inconceivable to me that I could--it would not be by my hand. Fairness or unfairness, guilt or innocence, blame or exculpation had nothing to do with the case. My life-designing capabilities were not impaired or in need of remedial treatment; I just didn't have my life anymore.

But far from being a sad state of affairs, that turned out to be the best news I had ever heard. My death was not the tragedy I first thought; it was my absolution, my freedom. Nobody can blame a corpse--especially not the corpse itself. Once dead, we are out from under all the blame-harrows and guilt-spreaders forever. We are free; and free above all from the messes we have made of our own lives.

And if there is a God who can take the dead and, without a single condition of credit-worthiness or a single, pointless promise of reform, raise them up whole and forgiven, free for nothing--well, that would not only be wild and wonderful; it would be the single piece of Good News in a world drowning in an ocean of blame. It was not all up to me . It was never up to me at all. It was up to someone I could only trust and thank.

It was salvation by grace through faith, not works.

--Robert Farrar Capon,
The Romance of the Word: One Man's Love Affair with Theology (Eerdmans, 1995), 8
(italics original)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Theology begins with admiration, not problems

We do not need to have either God or creation explained to us; we are already sick to death of explanations. We have forgotten, you see, not what reality means, but how it smells and what it tastes like. The work of theology in our day should be not so much interpretation as contemplation: God and the world need to be held up for oohs and aahs before they can safely be analyzed.

Theology begins with admiration, not problems. If we walk through the world doing psychedelic puzzles rather than looking at reality, if we insist on tasting the wine of being with our nose full of interpretive cigarette smoke, the cure is not to hand us better puzzle books or more lectures on wine. We must be invited to look at what is in front of us and to get rid of those nasty cigarettes.

--Robert Farrar Capon,
The romance of the word: one man's love affair with theology

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Build on what's strong, great, holy, and gracious

The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives.

...We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. … Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.

- Sinclair Ferguson, message from the 2007 Banner of Truth Conference,
Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Putting the Promise in Perspective

An expression which grated on my ear the other evening from the lips of a certain good man ran something in this fashion: ‘There is a Heaven prepared for all of you, but if you are not faithful you will not win it. There is a crown in Heaven laid up for you, but if you are not faithful it will be without a wearer.’

I do not believe it. I cannot believe it. That the crown of Eternal Life, which is laid up for the blessed of the Father will ever be given to anybody else or left without a possessor, I do not believe. I dare not conceive of crowns in Heaven and nobody to wear them. Do you think that in Heaven, when the whole number of saints is complete, you will find a number of unused crowns?

‘Ah, what are these for? Where are the heads for these?’ ‘They are in Hell.’ Then, Brother, I have no particular desire to be in Heaven. If all the family of Christ are not there, my soul will be wretched and forlorn because of their sad loss, because I am in union with them all. If one son that believed in Jesus does not get there I shall lose respect for the promise and respect for the Master, too. He must keep His word to every soul that rests on Him.

— Charles Spurgeon
"The Reward of the Righteous"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I know that I am a child of God because...

We can put it this way: the man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not even look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and rests on that alone. He has ceased to say, “Ah yes, I used to commit terrible sins but I have done this and that.” He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith. Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, “Yes I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin, yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ and God has put that to my account.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our decision for God vs His decision for us

This past Sunday at church, during the sermon, I listened to the following words:

"The writing is on the wall dear unbeliever. You've been weighed. You've been measured. And you've been found wanting. And judgement is coming, and it is certain if you continue to stand outside of Christ.

I plead with you...

to let go of your idols,
to let go of your pride,
to let go of your self consumption,
to let go of your obsession with material things. (with money, clothes and stuff).

(Is your stuff worthy of eternity in hell? Does it mean that much to you?)

Let go of your reputation.
Lose your life for Christ's sake.

...Some of you have been in this church for ten years or more. And you still haven't bent the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. What are you waiting for? It's January 1st. Are you going to go another whole year standing outside, looking in through the windows? Why would you do that? Why would you be so cruel to your soul?"

After you read these words, I invite you to ask, for yourself and yourself alone, two questions:

1. To what extent do these words plead with those who are dead in their trespasses and sins to summon their resources and make a decision for God?

2. To what extent does the Gospel plead with those who are dead in their trespasses and sins to abandon all of their resources and receive the decision that God made for them?

Lastly, snippets from John Piper talking about the nature of faith (< 3 min.):