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.):