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