Tuesday, December 31, 2013

He has played His hand ... Grace is not a hidden agenda.

We live in a time, in a religious atmosphere, where Christianity is often presented as something that needs to be appropriated by the individual. It's offered to you, but you have to do something, believe something, show some kind of earnestness, some kind of seriousness before it can really be yours. We take this so much for granted in our Western way of thinking, that it's hard to imagine that this is precisely how Martin Luther did not view the gospel. It was not something that was appropriated by the individual after assessing it's value. It was something that was given ... to the unacceptable, to the unworthy, even to those who didn't particularly want it. Now that is very different. 
I like the text this morning ... "The Lord has bared His Holy arm before all the nations. All the ends of earth shall see the salvation of God." Translation: He's played His hand. He's let it out in the open. It has become accessible, available, real.  Grace is not a hidden agenda. At Christmas we return again to that fundamental of the Christian faith.  
God has shown Himself.  God has expressed Himself. He's taken the mystery out of Himself, but for a very particular reason. Why does He show us what He shows us in Jesus? Why does He speak in the word so that our ears can detect what he says?  For this reason ... for our salvation.  God doesn't come in Christ Jesus, in the word of the gospel, to answer our religious questions, or to demonstrate Himself to us in the sense that He has to prove anything to us. He comes to do something for us. And to put a finer point on it, to do something 'to us'. He comes to give us salvation. 
God didn't wait for our assessment before He came into the world in the baby Jesus.  No, He came because He chose to come. He came even though He wasn't wanted. "He came to his own people and his own people didn't receive him. (John 1)"  He's not waiting for us to decide something or to change our lives and get ourselves straight or right with God. He comes to us in the midst of our tangledness, our lostness, our confusion, our sin, our hurts, our hopes, our dreams, and He takes a hold of us right there in the middle of it. That's the gospel!  He doesn't wait for us to make a decision. He makes the decision for us. This is a really challenging way of thinking about the faith for people today. Because we've all decided, one way or another, many of us, that somehow, "Well…that’s all well and good but we have to have the final say ... somehow." 
But today we are here to proclaim God with us ... Emanuel. Not because we've asked for Him. Not because we're particularly happy that He is around. But because in His grace, and His mercy, He has chosen to be with us. 
Your sin is forgiven for Jesus sake. If you heard it ... it happened. It's as simple as that. "But I have to do something…don’t I ?" And what's the answer?  "No". That's why the Christian community, early on, called this message, "Good News" ... of great joy! For everybody! Born for you, this day in the city of David, is a Savior. God has expressed Himself ... like a mother gives milk to a child. Like a parent takes a child in a warm embrace.  It's right there. Immediate. Present.  "This is my body, for you. This is my blood, for you." Don't try to take it inside and spiritualize it. Don't try to bring it inside and write theology about it. Don't try to take it inward and figure it out. Just taste it. Let it be what it is. God for you. Pressing and impressing Himself on you, with His forgiveness and mercy, promising you life and hope. 
So grace is not a hidden agenda. The gospel is not a spiritual idea for us to internalize and have to kinda figure out. It comes utterly from outside of us. Asking nothing from us. But given solely by His grace, to us, that our confidence may be in God's grace. And, as Luther said, "In God's grace ... alone."    Amen.

-- Pastor Mark Anderson

From the First London Confession of Faith (1646)

Faith is ordinarily begotten by the preaching of the gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or agency in the creature; but it being wholly passive, and dead in trespasses and sins, doth believe and is converted by no less power than that which raised Christ from the dead.

The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law, but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Kingdom must come to us

We cannot go to the kingdom; it must come to us. When we feel the desire to be restored to God, it is natural that we should think of returning to God, and we hope that, after a long journey, we may reach the kingdom. We resolve not to be discouraged by the steepness and length of the road, by its rugged heights and dangerous paths. Prayer, good works, piety ... these we imagine to be the road to God. But we cannot thus go to the kingdom; it must come to us. The door is before the narrow way, and the door is very nigh unto us—even Jesus Christ crucified for sinners.

Adolph Saphir
The Lord's Prayer

Friday, November 22, 2013

The church does not make the gospel effective

Certainly, we will seek to do all that we do with excellence.  However, we refuse to give room to the myth that our church is in the business of making the gospel effective.  Rather, we are committed to the exact opposite.  The church does not make the gospel effective, but the gospel makes the church effective.

-- Don Willeman,
    Founding pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Hanover, NH
    from, "A Gospel Driven Vision For All Of Life"

Friday, November 15, 2013

The real issue is whether we understand His welcome

Audio:  < 2 min.

So at the end of the service the pastor walked to her and simply asked, "Would you like to know the forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ, and the help that He can give you."   
And her eyes once fallen now fell even deeper, toward the floor, filled with tears.  And to the question, "Would you like to know Jesus, His forgiveness and help.", she said,  "I am not worthy." 
To which the pastor said, "The issue is not whether you are worthy, but whether you are welcome."   
What Jesus is doing in this particular passage is reminding us of what the real issue is.  In terms of His offer of His help and forgiveness to others, He is making it very clear ... the issue is not whether we are worthy, but whether we understand His welcome
If we don't understand that, something will wither in us too.  So that the welcome that God expects to extend through us, not only doesn't echo, but we don't even feel it any more ... if we don't understand that the issue is not worthiness, but welcome.

-- Bryan Chapell
Sermon, Nov. 3, 2013, at Grace Presbyterian Church  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Humility = Overlooking our own righteousness

 Remember this...  
All the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, does not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ.

--Thomas Brooks

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Have you missed the point of Christianity?

If I thought family was there to make me strong,
if I thought friends could be there when family was shattered,

if I could give you a thousand verses for the reasons
God wants to make those elements part of our faith,

I would be right.


since those gifts are not the Giver, 
they will cripple me if I use them to actually walk.

Until I am aware that my soul can be well and whole in my Jesus
without those earthly blessings,

until I learn that I am not broken without them,
that God will actually come through for me
and hear my prayers when I am utterly alone,

then I've missed the point of Christianity.

God's words to His children pierce through the pages of Deuteronomy.
He says He didn't love them
because they were "more in number than any of the peoples,"
because they were "fewest of all peoples."

He says He fed them in the wilderness,
because otherwise they might proclaim in their hearts,
"My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth."

He says "it is not because of your righteousness
that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess,
for you are a stubborn people."

And it all comes home to me.

I have been guilty of assuming that life goes well for me
when I have God's gifts around me.

With those gifts for support, I become arrogant,
because I've never known isolation.

I assume that so many of the blessings of walking with God 
have something to do with my power to surround myself with His creations.

I forget.

He can take those things away at any moment.

The question is, will I fall then?
Or will He answer my prayers when I am in truth,
as thoroughly alone as Israel
eating manna that came out of nowhere in the wilderness?

a reformatted excerpt from her blog post, read her complete post: here

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beware of Serving God

We do not glorify God by providing his needs, but by praying that he would provide ours - and trusting him to answer. 
Here we are at the heart of the good news of Christian Hedonism.  God’s insistence that we ask him to give us help so that he gets glory forces on us the startling fact that we must beware of serving God and take special care to let him serve us, lest we rob him of his glory. 
This sounds very strange. Most of us think serving God is a totally positive thing; we have not considered that serving God may be an insult to him.  
...There is a way to serve God that would belittle him as needy of our service. “The Son of Man came not to be served” (Mark 10:45). He aims to be the servant. He aims to get the glory as Giver.

--John Piper
Desiring God, page 168

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth,
does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, 
as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath
and everything." (Acts 17:24–25)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Your faith is too small. Your pleasure is too small.

Well I did it again this past weekend.  I listened to two sermons.  And I again see an opportunity for discernment of the Good News by juxtaposing them.  But it's not all smooth sailing.  The two sermons differ quite a bit, and even conflict in ways that I hope sharpen your powers of discernment.  Each perhaps gives some insight into a weakness or two of the other.  But it's my hope that ultimately, by comparing the two, it's the gospel that you will be able to see more clearly.  What do you come away with?

Each sermon has been distilled to almost exactly 5 minutes of audio.

Part of our gathering might have something to do with our desire for faith. And that would be OK.  But again, what is it we're actually asking for?  Well, Amy was pretty sure she knew what a lot of people were asking for when it came to faith: I want something to help me.  I want some advantage from belief.  I want it to do something for me.  And I think this plays right into our deep insecurity, doesn't it?  Because isn't that, in fact, what some of us think?  If God is good for anything, it ought to be to give some advantage to people who believe in Him.  Well there was a time when I thought that way too.  And the more I showed my seriousness, and my willingness to commit, that the more likely it would be that God would give me more faith.  And I'd get the benefits of all that work.  Well, somewhere along the way, I was dis-abused of this false idea.  And faith became something quite different.

And today, He speaks to His disciples.  And they, like we, want some advantage from Jesus.  So they say to Him, "Lord, how about a little more faith."  Plug us into the power source.  Give us more faith.  At just at that point in the text, we can say some things about what Jesus is doing.  And of course what He's doing is He's exposing them.  And of course what the scenario here portrays in the text among the disciples is ... well if even a tiny bit of faith can do these huge, amazing things, then there really must not be much faith in us at all.  And that's what Jesus is trying to point out.

Well that poses a problem for me because I thought that faith is supposed to be that empowering thing, that trusting thing, that makes it possible for me to be all that I can be.  No, that's not what the bible talks about as faith.  That's what religion talks about as faith.  The power source to overcome the obstacles of life.  But remember some months ago we talked here about the paradigm of the christian faith is not from lower to higher, from immoral to moral.  It is from death to life.

Years ago a very wise person said to me words that were oh so true.  And have always been a great help.  "Never forget that you are a dying man preaching to dying people."  Don't ever forget it.  Because they are going to want you to pretend you are a living man who is there to make them live even better than they are now.  And that's the false gospel of glory.

The faith that we are talking about is not the message that says, "If you only had more, think of what you could do."  "You need to get your christian act together."  "You need to read the bible more."  "Pray more, spend more time around the church."  "It's all you!"  That's not our message.  The faith that Jesus speaks of.  That faith that is *in* Jesus, is precisely that.  It is trust, (faith means trust), it trust that the promises of God, for us, will be fulfilled, in His time, for His sake, for Christ's sake.

Faith and love don't require a list of do's and don'ts.  You see, Jesus was on to these guys, these young men of his, his followers.  And He's on to us too.  How many of us need lists, so to speak, to do something decent once in a while, the right thing.  If when left to our own devices we'd just as soon blow it off and forget about it.

So, God has not left us to ourselves in the Gospel.  In Jesus Christ, God who fully understands our inwardly turned ways, our profound self interest, our lack of love and trust and faith, has taken it upon Himself, thereby ensuring that God's word of 'yes' is greater that our word of 'no'.  That this faith, this confidence, does not have to reside inside ourselves, where we start questioning it, and spinning it, and distorting it.  But that it is given to us externally in these words of promise, and so there our inner doubts and our inner failures, and our inner uncertainties are met by the certainty of God's promise... The body of Christ, the blood of Christ, given and shed for you, which cannot be compared to any word of faithfulness on our part, where God is concerned.

This is what the bible says ... to our world ... "your pleasure is too small."  That's what the bible says.  Do you understand this as a believer?  You need to understand this.  If you are anchored in God, if you have tasted the joy of salvation, the world can't touch you.  You have tasted eternal pleasure.  You have tasted the joy of obedience.  There is nothing more pleasurable than holiness.   And if we are not, in other words, finding pleasure and delight and happiness (pervasive happiness), [not in a kind of smile on your face way, but deep abiding happiness that winds its way through the path of life, in other words that navigates the valleys and the peaks of life and is always cemented in God.]  Then we are cued up to understand why heaven will not be boring. 
This eternal life, has begun now.  You and I aren't waiting for pleasure to kick in.  Do you see this?  We have seen the eternal way of pleasure, of joy, begin now.  That's why the bible looks at this world and says to it, "Your joy is too small."  Show me joy that lasts forever, and you will have my attention.  But God never promised us, did He, that we would be safe and secure in a worldly sense.  Right?  Outside of Christ.  The only security and comfort and confidence we have in this world is at the right hand of God. 
So this way of life has begun now.  You have security and pleasure now.  As you go about your life... working, raising children, going through the small parts of your day that are seemingly inglorious, you are living the life of pleasure.  It's not the people in the club, who are leading the life of pleasure.  It's not the people who have way more vacation time than you do who are leading the good life.  It's you! 
But lastly, how do we get there?  I want to suggest to you that there is only one answer to the problem of pleasure in an ultimate sense and it is Jesus Christ.  He is the way to pleasure.  How?  How do we take control of our lives?  ... Jesus Christ, slain and ascended.  How is it that we become transcendently happy?  ... We enter into this world, by the grace of God, taking up our cross.  In Jesus Christ, in repenting of all your sin, turning your life over to Christ, trusting in His death on that cross and His resurrection from the grave, it is in Him, it is by that work, that we become truly happy, and truly holy.  We want as much as we can get, more that we can handle, of pleasure.  And where do we find it? ... We find it in doing the will of Christ.

So in application, four quick things.  Number one, remember that you were made for happiness.  You're not supposed to grimly discharge your duty as a christian until you get booted up to heaven.  Right now you are made for happiness.  Number two, know that you will grow in happiness as you grow in holiness.  Happiness will not ultimately come outside of holiness.  So number three, kill sin.  Kill every sin you can find.  If you are killing sin, you are undertaking truly pleasant work.  Ask a friend, if you're single, ask a friend how you can grow in holiness.  If you're in a marriage, have a conversation and say, "how could I grow as a believer?"  "How could I care for you better as a husband or wife?"  And then lastly remember that it is in setting our eyes on Christ, and daily taking up our cross, that we will be most happy. 
[Let us pray...]  Heavenly Father, we are pulled by the world, the flesh, and the devil today.  ... Father I pray for myself and for this congregation, that we will resist that temptation ... and we will recognize that your gospel is far more powerful than the flesh, and than satan.  You have made us, as Paul said, more than conquerors through Christ.  So we can conquer any setting, any trial, any sin, any challenge.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What glorifies Him most

“I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5)

Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify your friend if a stranger came to see you? 
Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”  And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him and asking him for help and counting on him. 
In John 15:5, Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So we really are paralyzed. Without Christ, we are capable of no good. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” 
But Jesus, as our strong and reliable friend — “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) — promises to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

--John Piper

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Two preachers, one Gospel

I've listened to two sermons since Sunday.  And below is a two minute segment from each.  In length they differ by a mere second or two.  And yet perhaps you can see how they are different from each other in other ways.  Two pastors, both devoted to the call of the great commission and feeding Christ's sheep, both addressing the issue of us being too filled up with ourselves.  What do you come away with?

 Audio (2 min)

Now I've been speaking to believers this morning. I want to say, in closing, a word to any unbelievers in our midst. And I want to say straight up... that God wants to fill you with His glory and greatness. Did you hear me? My dear unbelieving friends, are you listening to me... God wants to fill you with His glory and greatness. But there's a problem right now. The problem is there's no room for Him because you're all filled up with yourself. In fact that's why you worship yourself ... because you're filled up with yourself. And naturally, given that that's whom you're beholding, that's who you worship.

Now I was once filled up with myself, so I'm not looking at you over my spectacles, wagging the finger. We're sinners. We need a savior, but if you want to be filled up with God, you've got to repent of this gross self idolatry. You've got to stop being filled up with yourself. Empty yourself, as the Lord Jesus Christ did, and let God fill you with His glory, with His greatness, with His power, with His dominion. Let Him fill you with His holiness, with His justice, with His love. Let Him fill you with salvation. He'll do it. He'll do it.


 Audio (2 min)

And so, the great reversal that Jesus speaks of finally comes to rest in the glorious gospel.  Because the greatest reversal of all is that He takes people like you and like me, the lukewarm folks tepidly existing in the middle, and He exchanges our sin for His righteousness.  He takes upon himself the brokenness of our lives, and on the cross He dies for our sin and He gives us the merits of His love and mercy and goodness and forgiveness.  That's the great exchange that matters. 

So we must end where we always must end in the proclaiming of God's word.  We must always point out how it exposes us for what we are.  And we see that the way of God is not really our way.  But that is precisely why He came in His Son.  Because, (as we stood in the threshold here of worship this morning and confessed), we are in bondage to this way of being in the world.  We cannot *not* do it.  I'm stuck in me.  And I confess that.  And then the glorious word comes ... In the name of Christ a great exchange has taken place.   He's taken that old broken you that's so full of yourself you can't see straight, and He said, "I'll take that one, you take Jesus." And everything that is His is now yours.

The great exchange of the gospel is that God has given Himself completely to us in Christ.  Holding nothing back.  Exchanging our broken lives and broken world for the promise of a new life, and a new world, and a new creation.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Faith... Between the Lightning and the Thunder

 Audio (2:23 min)

Someone once said that we live as christian people... we live between lightning and thunder.  What's the lightning?  The lightning is Christ.  The coming of Christ.  The flash of divine brilliance that came into the world in Jesus of Nazareth.  But now we're waiting.  We're waiting for that thunder.  Which is the end, the culmination.

We as christian people are people who live in the time between the times.  We live in that moment when the lightning has illuminated the world, our lives, and yet the culmination, the final stroke of power has not yet arrived.  Now when you're in that moment after the lightning flashes, what's that feel like?  It feels like a  ......huhAhhhhh.     ...   That's what the new testament's trying to talk about when it talks about the christian life ... what Jesus's trying to talk about ... that's the kind of attitude that the christian church is called to have in this world.

And so as people who live between the times, we are called to have a kind of posture of expectation, of waiting.  The bible talks about being in the world but not of the world.  Remember that language? Yeah, we fall in love with it [the world] far too easily and far too quickly and far too deeply at times don't we?  And when we do we start to think that everything depends on us.  That's the message we hear all the time is that it's all on our shoulders.  And that's what the world turns in to when it loses real hope.  It all falls back on us.

And then into that kind of a world and to people like you and me, Jesus says, "Don't be afraid little flock.  Your father has decided to give you His kingdom."    ...   Huh?  ... So I take a step back and I take a deep breath and I try to, I try to hear those words in a world of loss, a world of demand, a world of fear.  And by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, and by the miracle of God's grace among us in His Word ...  those words create something.  Suddenly, trust is born.  It's called faith.


 Audio (1:37 min)

I was going to take out a key, as I have here, and I was going to say, "OK, there's a door here."  And we need to get through the door. [But] there's a problem.  There has to be a key.  Oh, here's a key!   But there's another problem.  The lock is on the outside, and we're on the inside.  So what good does this key do me now?  So what has to happen if I'm going to walk through the door?  And the answer is ... somebody on the outside has to open the lock.

That's what faith is!  Faith is not me opening the lock on the inside.  Faith is God continuing to open the lock on the OTHER SIDE.  The future coming toward us.  That's what the resurrection of Jesus means.  The future is let out ahead of time, so we can have confidence that even as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life, the bible says.  Not because we crank up our faith and turn the key, but because we stand in trust in all the circumstances of life and wait for God to open the door.  And doesn't He?  Isn't that your experience as a christian?

Isn't that what it really means as a christian to live by faith and trust?  That God will bring His future in His time for each and all of us, and for the whole creation.  When the thunder finally rattles and rolls.


 Audio (2:15 min)

That's why Jesus can say, to this beleaguered band and young men, His disciples, who are about to face the greatest test of their lives, "Don't be afraid."  Don't be afraid little, vulnerable, flock, when the powers set themselves against you.  For your Father in heaven has decided ... has made the decision ... to give you the kingdom.

Well if THAT'S what's in store ... then [Martin] Luther would write, "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.  The body they may kill.  God's truth abidest still.  His kingdom lives forever. "  Remember that verse from "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"?  That's what he was talking about.  Let the world roll over you if it has to.  Let it have its works and its ways.  So what!  God has chosen to give us the kingdom.

That's what christians sing about and celebrate.  At least they used to.  I guess some of us still do.  For that's the heart of our message.  Jesus Christ crucified for sinners.  Crucified for people like you and me.  Who live in fear.  Who take life into our own hands, who think it all depends on us, and we live and act like it.  ... And was raised from death three days later.  And to say it was all done for you.  That when the [your] crosses come, and the suffering comes, and the struggles come, and the heartaches come, and the losses come, you may know and trust and believe, that they are not greater than the promises of God in Jesus Christ.

That at the end of the day is what the christian faith is all about.  It's daring to trust.  And we dare to do so, not because we have demonstrated to ourselves the verity and the veracity of this trust, but because as Paul says beautifully ... "The Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts through Jesus Christ."  And knowing Him, and having the confidence of His presence among us, we can dare to trust His Word, and face every day and tomorrow that comes.

-- Pastor Mark Anderson
You can access the full 17 minute sermon: here

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The anatomy of a changed life

In the end, it was not the dangers and sinful self-destruction
that brought about the change,
nor was it a visionary moment of super-powered reversal.

It was forgiveness.

Forgiveness preached, forgiveness confessed,
forgiveness sung, and forgiveness bestowed

over all my tears and failed attempts

[which] propelled me one day to wake
with my self-destructive habit far enough behind me
that it hasn't entrapped me again.

But I make no mistake: my sin is not gone,
nor will it be this side of the Last Day.
Nor do I believe for a moment that I came closer to God
by segregating myself from one addictive corner of this world.

It was because God had already come close to me,
just as I am,
that He was able to bring His success
in doing the one thing we in the world need most --

we need to be killed.
He killed me,
and He raised me in the person of His Son.
Right now. Already. By faith alone.

--Jonathan Fisk
"Broken - Seven "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible"
(formatting mine)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The cross is not a ... "good idea"

 Audio (3 min)

Your human agendas no longer hold water when it comes to what is finally important, and that's why [Paul] said in the same breath, "far be it from me if I preach anything but the cross."

The big mistake that the church has struggled with for twenty centuries when it comes to the crucifixion of Jesus, is thinking that the cross simply means something.  (We have to figure out what it means.) ... It wouldn't be wrong to say God loves us, but that's not what the cross is about.  The new testament tells us that the cross brings to an end ... human prospect.

The reason Jesus had to die is because we have to die.  And it was not in the meaning of the dying that we were to see what is happening, it was in the dying itself.  There is no way out.  The patient must die.  The great power of the cross is not that it's a message about how loving God is, although that's true!  It isn't even a great message about how giving Jesus was, although that's true as well!  The great power of the cross is that it shows you your future, no matter what you do in this life, no matter how high you climb, how much you amass, how beautiful you are, how big your bank account is:  The cross says, "this is your future".  Make no mistake about it.

You see, and that is why for centuries the gospel was actually good news.  Because you don't start from the standpoint [which says], "You know I have all of these little penultimate realities and I have to somehow prop them up... maybe God can help me do it."  It starts from the standpoint [which says], "I don't have any leg to stand on ... now what?"  And then God steps in and says, "Jesus ... that's now what."  The one who died and suffered as you must ... is the one who God raised from the dead.  And there is the promise that the christian faith has held out for all these years.

Of course nowadays ... we're spinning it other ways, aren't we.   Because the cross as a "good idea", as a nice symbol of what God means, is a lot more palatable to our generosity and our reason and our own projects.  That fits in a lot better with the way we go about doing things.  And so God in His grace saw fit not to set before us an example, but in His grace saw fit to die.  So that there would be no illusions left for us to hide behind and to play around with for these few short decades we dance here on this earth.

-- Pastor Mark Anderson

Listen to the entire sermon in context:
Audio (19:30 min)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

What's so sufficient about Grace?

On Sunday I heard a sermon.  The topic was "The Real Gospel: It's Grace".  A summary statement printed in the bulletin went like this:

"What separates the real gospel from all other messages is grace which alone puts sinful man eternally right with a holy God."

In the actual sermon, the sufficiency of God's grace to believers was a topic that came up, and I'd like to use the words I heard on this topic as a starting point to try to touch upon the subtle wonders of the Good News.  Here is part of what I heard from the sermon to describe the sufficiency of God's grace for believers:

"It's all of grace... It's grace for unbelievers and it's grace for believers ... God's ongoing power through His indwelling spirit to say 'no' to sin, and to say 'yes' to righteousness - over, and over, and over again.

And to hear Him say, "my grace is sufficient for you" to be able to do that.  My grace is sufficient for you to say 'no' to sin, and to say 'yes' to righteousness.  I have given you my spirit.  He has circumcised your heart.  You are no longer under the tyranny of sin.  If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed - to say 'no' to sin by His amazing grace, His all-sufficient grace.  And to say 'yes' to righteousness."

My purpose in writing this post is not to tear down these words in any way.  I say let them stand.  Let them stand as a window that lets in precious light for believers to walk by.  And I say 'Amen' to that light.  But a window that lets in light is not always the same as a window that lets in fresh air.  And while it is light that I need to direct my path, it's fresh air that sustains me for my walk.

And so like a breath of fresh air, there is another kind of "sufficiency" to God's grace on behalf of believers that I would like to touch upon.  Perhaps a more "subtle wonder" if you will.  But first, let's look at these words from Paul in 2nd Corinthians:

"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
(2 Cor. 12, 7-9)

Herein lies a subtle wonder.  What did Paul ask for?  He asked for power to render a thorn removed.  He wanted that which he could not say 'no' to ... dealt with.  What God provided, however, was an empowering breath of fresh air, and a sufficiency that comes not from a power sent, but by a promise given.  As in, "My grace is sufficient for you", and "It is finished" and "Your sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake". Period.

There is a kind of sufficiency to God's grace that does not depend upon a pathway for power to run into our daily lives.  This other kind of sufficiency lies in a reality completely external to you and me, concerning what God has done, outside of us.  We call this, The Good News.  We call this The Gospel.  And believing it is far more important than utilizing it.  Jesus is not just a sufficient means.  He is the sufficient end.  I was crucified with Him and it is no longer I who live.  It's not about me.

And as we walk in the light of sound doctrine, let us breathe in the new, the resurrected, the always fresh life giving reality that sin is not "dealt with" because I say 'no' to it over, and over, and over again.  Sin is dealt with because it was nailed to a cross in the body of Jesus.  And that's where true freedom in me is born. The Son has set me free, and so I am free indeed.  Does there reside in me "a freedom to" walk by the light that is given in His word?  Yes!  But there is "a freedom from" my sin that was accomplished long ago, and to which I contributed nothing, and continue to contribute nothing, and never will contribute anything, but my sin.  It's not about me.

So what were Paul's very next words in 2nd Corinthians? After receiving the promise of a sufficiency embodied, not in a means, but in an end:

"For the sake of Christ, then, I am ... content..."

Finally then, let us end where we began. "What separates the real gospel from all other messages?"  "A grace which alone [and all-sufficient] puts sinful man eternally right with a holy God."  Not by a sufficiency of power in me, but by a sufficiency of  promise in Him, concerning which God says, "it is finished". 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Real Gospel Life ... comes out of death, and God says, "I will do it"

Audio: (44 sec.)

Real Gospel Life:

This is a story of genuine hope in the midst of genuine despair.  It's at that crossroads where the finality of death and the end of all our hopes and dreams and prospects, meets God's grace ... God's desire to bring life where there is no life.

That's the great paradigm of the Gospel.  Not some moralistic call to spruce yourself up, but it's a promise to a dying world:  I will bring life out of death.  I will do it, for your sake.  That's the Gospel.  For you!  Not, you do it.  God will do it.

--Pastor Mark Anderson

Audio: (< 2 min.)

Real Gospel Life:

That's what gripped Paul.  That's what changed him.  That's what transformed the early church.  That's what over the centuries has gripped people, in the power of the Holy Spirit ...

... is that God is not asking me to be something, He is giving me a life.  As a gift.  He's not calling me to be righteous.  He's declaring me to be righteous.  There is nothing for me to do, but to say with Paul, "I count everything else as lost, as worthless, in comparison to knowing "that", to knowing Him, to being known, by the God who brings life out of the dead ones." 

One of my professors once said to me (preaching professor), "Never forget when you stand on Sunday morning you're a dying man preaching to dying people.  Don't ever forget it.  Don't call them to some kind of moral project.  Don't you dare let them think that they have something to offer in comparison to the cross of Jesus Christ.  But take them to that cross, and there remind them of what He has done for them."  For that's the story.  Out of the death on the old wooden cross, came the life of the resurrection. From death to life, that's the christian paradigm. Not from vice to virtue.  It is to glory in the cross of Christ and what He has done for us, the grace He has given us, the forgiveness He has given us.

--Pastor Mark Anderson

To hear these quotes in more context, here is a 15 minute version of Pastor Mark's full sermon:
Audio: (15 min)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My hope is in a spring, not a watering trough

A watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket brigade ...

... God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough ...

If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell people what you’ve found.

My hope as a desperate sinner hangs on this truth: that God is the kind of God who will be pleased with the one thing I have to offer — my thirst. That is why the sovereign freedom and self-sufficiency of God are so precious: they are the foundation of our hope that God is delighted not by the resourcefulness of bucket brigades, but by the bending down of broken sinners to drink at the fountain of grace.

John Piper
from, The Pleasures of God, pages 196–197

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's because God sees the blood

Beloved, see, we are preserved in Christ Jesus! Did not God see the blood before you and I saw it, and was not that the reason why He spared our forfeited lives when, like barren fig trees, we brought forth no fruit for Him? When we saw the blood, let us remember it was not our seeing it which really saved us—one sight of it gave us peace, but it was God’s seeing it that saved us.

"When I see the blood I will pass over you."  (Exodus 12:13)

--Charles H. Spurgeon

Monday, April 29, 2013

Our end, and not our means

Does Christ come to improve our existence in Adam or to end it? (sweeping us into his new creation)

Is Christianity all about spiritual and moral makeovers or about death and resurrection?  (radical judgment and radical grace)

Is the Word of God a resource for what we have already decided we want and need, or is it God’s living and active criticism of our religion, morality, and pious experience?

In other words, is the Bible God’s story, centering on Christ’s redeeming work, that rewrites our stories, or is it something we use to make our stories a little more exciting and interesting?

-- Michael Horton
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Finding Him vs He has found you already

Even when the apostles of the New Testament exhort you to love your neighbor, to pursue gentleness, and to refrain from debauchery ... that's awesome, but that's not a way to find God, to please God, or to satisfy God, because God is not found, pleased, or satisfied with the work of your hands.

He is satisfied already.  
He is pleased already. 
He has found you already... In Jesus.

God is never found in what you do.  God is found in what Jesus has done for you with His birth, His life, His suffering and death, with His glorious resurrection and ascension, and with the current preaching of who He is and what He has done.

-- Jonathan M. Fisk
Broken - Seven "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible

Monday, April 1, 2013

The cross does not merely inform us

True knowledge of God, therefore, does not come on a theological platter.  We are predisposed do distort things, to see wrongly, and to speak falsely.  We construct a doctrine of God amenable to our own projects.  So the only way to know God is through suffering, the suffering of the one who saves us.

God can be known and had only through suffering the divine deed of the cross.  The cross does not merely inform us of something.  It attacks and afflicts us.  Knowledge of God comes when God happens to us, when God does himself to us.  We are crucified with Christ.  The sinner, the old being, neither knows nor speaks the truth about God and consequently can only be put to death by the action of God.

In the cross, God has literally taken away from us the possibility of doing anything of religious merit.  Religiously, we like to look on ourselves as potential spiritual athletes desperately trying to make God's team, (having, perhaps, just a little problem or two with the training rules).  We have a thirst for glory.  We feel a certain uneasiness of conscience or even resentment within when the categorical totality of the action of God begins to dawn on us.  We are always tempted to return to the safety and assurance of doing something anyway. 

But to surrender the "wisdom" of law and works, or better, to have it taken away, is the first indication of what it means to be crucified with Christ

-- Gerhard O. Forde
On Being a Theologian of the Cross

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Freedom = An indifference swept away

From the moment I resigned, two days before leaving the school, I discovered that several things were happening to me in my new state of freedom. I was recapturing the spirit of play – not the play of youth which is games (aggression under the restraint of rules), but the play of childhood which is all imagination, which improvises. I became light-headed. The spirit of play swept away the cynicism and indifference into which I had fallen. Moreover, a readiness for adventure re-awoke in me – for risk, for intruding myself into the lives of others, for extracting fun from danger.

Thornton Wilder
from his novel, "Theophilus North"

Friday, March 29, 2013

There are no standing lovers

There are no standing lovers: the only way to love is to lay down.

Lay down plans.

Lay down agendas.

Lay down self.

Love is always the laying down.


Love lets go of its plans — to hold on to a person.

--Ann Voskamp   (source: here)


“It is not your love that sustains the marriage —
 but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

--Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Borrowed from heaven, for our journey home

We enter the world crying, and suffering marks our path at every bend in the road towards home. When will we learn that joy on this road must be borrowed from heaven, not from earth? Joy, like redemption, comes from You, O Lord. Yet while we acknowledge the futility of attempting to earn our salvation, we are forever attempting to supply our own joy.

(from her "about me" page on her blog: here )

Monday, March 25, 2013

If we'll only allow for it

... [I told her the story of] the Israelites looking to the snake in the wilderness. Poisoned and dying, they were given a simple instruction. To look up at that snake on the pole and be healed. If they looked, they lived. If not, they died. Such is a picture of Jesus on the cross, I told her. We live when we look to His work on that cross for us. We do wonderful things when joy and thankfulness inspires us because of what He has already accomplished. Looking at ourselves, at our failures, and mistakes never got us anywhere.

How much of our lives revolve around this one simple truth I wonder? In teaching people how to sing, I am constantly reminded how our human nature is inclined at every step, to attempt things in our own power  ...  Our constant inclination is to try other things to make the whole process work. Maybe we'll sing better if we tighten the muscles in our jaw and face in order to manipulate the process. Maybe we'll sing better if our chest and shoulders are involved and we exaggerate the articulation of every word. Maybe... just maybe, we can work a little harder with the things we own and control, and it will all come into place for us.

I cannot tell you how many times my students are in awe of how easy singing is when it is correct. The breath does the work and we are all inclined to be shocked. That singing rightly should be so simple, so easy, so effortless-this seems wrong to us. Almost like we are stealing grace.

Yet there it is, again and again, in every part of our lives. Discovering what God has done for us is freeing, shocking, humbling.

To find out that we really don't have to make our throats hoarse if we'd like to sing for hours at a time. Why? Because He's put breath in our bodies to make the production of sound so very, very effortless, if we'll only allow for it.

And to find out that we really don't have to weary our spirits attempting to live a life that is pleasing to God. Why? Because He sent His Son to live a pleasing life in our place and die on a cross for us. This, believe it or not, can make our good deeds so very, very effortless, if we'll only allow for it.

Yet how inclined we are to find new man-made systems that will help us "be like Jesus." When in reality, becoming like Him comes of noticing Him. Of recognizing how much greater His work was and is than any of our own Christian muscle flexing.

...In the end, we obey out of joy because of what has been done, not to get something done. We're not called to prove that we're Christians, or know when we became Christians, or work a little harder every day to become better ones. All of that pales in comparison to the blinding beauty which flows from a life that has seen the cross.

...Are you afraid you won't really do good things for God if you relinquish your grip on the law and start looking to the cross?

I dare you to try it.

Begin gazing at Jesus. On the cross because of you. Lifted up like the snake in the wilderness to be your healing. If you don't start singing a new kind of life, I guarantee, you haven't really seen Him.

Just like my dear, driven, type A student has lost focus of breath every time her voice goes astray. We also, when we begin slipping, have lost focus of the cross. May we learn, in failure, not to focus on where we went wrong in our ability to adhere to God's standards but to look back at Jesus. It is a simple instruction. Who would ignore it?

Surprisingly, not all the Israelites looked up at the snake in the wilderness. May we heed their end. May we trust that the grace that has been given-this shocking, easy, joy-filled, living because He lived, this, THIS will transform us.

-- by Kellie
excerpts from a blog post: here

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Free Gift

Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

--The Westminster Confession, chapter 11

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

First things first

If you will see sin’s sinfulness to loathe it, and mourn,
do not stand looking upon sin, but look upon Christ first,
as suffering and satisfying for it.

If you would see your graces, your sanctification,
do not stand gazing upon them;
but look at Christ’s righteousness in the first place;
see the Son and you see all.
Look at your graces in the second place.

--Thomas Wilcox
Honey Out of the Rock

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Strength, weakness, and connecting the dots

We are too big in ourselves when we do well, and too little in Christ in our failings. O that we could learn to be nothing in ourselves in our strength, and to be all in Christ in our weakness!

--Samuel Bolton
The True Bounds of Christian Freedom

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God's Promise: Not an offer, but our end

Virtually our entire existence in this world is shaped, determined and controlled by conditional promises and calculations.

We are brought up on conditional promises.
We live by them.
Our future is determined by them.

Conditional promises always have an “if-then” form…

If you are a good girl, then you can go to the movies.
If you do your schoolwork, then you will pass the course.
If you do your job, then you will get your pay.
If you prove yourself, then you will get a promotion.

And so on and so on, endlessly until at last we die of it, wondering if we had only done this differently, perhaps then…

Though such conditional promises are often burdensome and even oppressive, they are nevertheless enticing and even comforting in their own way because they give life its structure and seem to grant us a measure of control. If we fulfill the conditions, then we have a claim on what is promised. We have what we call “rights,” and we can control our future, at least to a certain extent.

So, we hang rather tenaciously onto these conditional promises. We hang desperately onto the conditional promises, hoping to control our own destiny. We live “under the law” and cannot get out–because we really don’t want to. We prefer to go our own way even up to the last barrier: death. Religion is most often just the attempt to extend this conditionality into eternity and to gain a certain measure of control even over the eternal itself.

But the saving act of God in Jesus Christ–comprehended in justification by faith alone–is an unconditional promise. Unconditional promises have a “because-therefore” form. Because Jesus has overcome the world and all enemies by his death and resurrection, therefore… you shall be saved. Because Jesus died and rose, therefore God here and now declares you just for Jesus’ sake… Because Jesus has borne the sin of the whole world in his body unto death and yet conquered, therefore God declares the forgiveness of sins.

Now, we have a desperately difficult time with such an unconditional promise. It knocks everything out of kilter. Is it really true? Can one announce it just like that? No strings attached? Don’t we have to be more careful about to whom we say such things? It appears wild and dangerous and reckless to us, just as it did to Jesus’ contemporaries.

The best we can do is to try to draw it back into our conditional understanding–so all the questions and protests come pouring out. But surely we have to do something, don’t we? Don’t we at least have to make our decision to accept? Isn’t faith, after all, a condition? Or repentance? Isn’t the idea of an unconditional promise terribly dangerous? Who will be good? Won’t it lead perhaps to universalism, libertinism, license and sundry disasters? Don’t we need to insist on sanctification to prevent the whole from collapsing into cheap grace? Doesn’t the Bible follow the declaration of grace with certain exhortations and imperatives? So the protestations go, for the most part designed to reimpose at least a minimal conditionality on the promise.

It is true, you see, that [as sons of Adam] we simply cannot understand or cope with the unconditional promise of justification pronounced in the name of Jesus. What we don’t see is that what the unconditional promise is calling forth is a new being. The justification of God promised in Jesus is not an “offer” made to us as old beings; it is our end, our death. We are, quite literally, through as old beings.

--Gerhard Forde
from the essay, "Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

God's purpose ... in my failures

The God of the Bible knows what he is doing.  His work is, as scripture says, “past finding out.”  He asks for no advice.  He is not holding question and answer press conferences.  He is not writing books of ten easy-to-understand bullet pointed explanations.  He has spoken, and it is up to me to hear, believe and live accordingly.

And for me, at least, it’s difficult.  It’s difficult knowing that I have failed in so many ways, hurt so many people, brought so many sinful consequences into my relationships… and God is at work, somehow, in all of it.

I want God’s purposes to be carried out through what I’ve done right.  I’ve studied, preached, taught, served, counseled, led, encouraged and lived for the Gospel for more than 35 years.  I don’t want God’s purposes to be about my failures, broken promises and abuses of others.  I want to put what I want on the table, and I want God to work with that. But that’s not the way it’s going to be. God is going to do what he wants to do, for reasons that can't fit into a sentence in the Bible, but which are far too mysterious to wrap my mind around.

Sunday night I’m going to preach on “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  I know what the text means, but I can’t read it without thinking that I am, in a way, fearful of what God is up to.  God is not invested in hearing me say what I “need.” If he wants to take away, he will take away, and his purpose will be for me to go on without whatever he took away.  The same with suffering, obscurity, humiliation and failure.  God cannot be manipulated into carrying out my plans with my selected materials. He is about carrying out his plans with whatever materials he chooses.

I am guilty of wanting God to make much of me rather than make me into a soul who makes much of him now and forever.  The quest is not for understanding, but is for joy. The promise is not that God will do what he determines, but that he is determined to satisfy me forever with himself.

My prayer is that I would trust God by exalting in his love, goodness and grace poured out in Christ and directed invincibly and irresistibly toward me.

-- Michael Spencer

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Can you help me?

Let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us:

‘I will help you.  It is but a small thing for me, your God, to help you. Consider what I have done already.  What! not help you?  Why, I bought you with my blood.  What! not help you?  I have died for you; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less?  Help you!  It is the least thing I will ever do for you.  I have done more, and will do more.

Before the world began I chose you.  I made the covenant for you.  I laid aside my glory and became a man for you, I gave up my life for you; and if I did all this, I will surely help you now.  In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already.  If you had need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it to you; you require little compared with what I am ready to give.  ‘Tis much for you to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow.  Help you?  Fear not!  If there were an ant at the door of your granary asking for help, it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat; and you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of my all-sufficiency.  I will help you.’

--Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A fire I cannot escape

I’m a little like the duck hunter who was hunting with his friend when far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke. A wind came up and he realized the terrible truth: a brush-fire was advancing his way.

... The hunter began to empty all the contents of his knapsack. He soon found what he was looking for ... a book of matches.

He lit a small fire around the two of them. Soon they were standing in a circle of blackened earth, waiting for the brush fire to come. The fire came near-and swept over them, but they were completely unhurt. They weren’t even touched. Fire would not burn the place where fire had already burned.

The law is like the brush-fire. I cannot escape it. But if I stand in the burned-over place, where law has already burned its way through, then I will not get hurt. Not a hair of my head will be singed. The death of Christ is the burned-over place. There I huddle, hardly believing yet relieved. Christ’s death has disarmed the law. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

--Dr. Paul Zahl
Who Will Deliver Us? The Present Power of the Death of Christ (pg. 42-43)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Allow Jesus to arrive on the scene

However much we may pay tribute to grace with our lips, our hearts are so thoroughly marinated in law that the Christian life must be, at core, one of continually bathing our hearts and minds in gospel grace. We are addicted to law. Conforming our lives to a moral framework, playing by the rules, meeting a minimum standard – this feels normal. And it is how we naturally seek to cure that deep sense of inadequacy within...

...Law feels safe; grace feels risky. Rule-keeping breeds a sense of manageability; grace feels like moral vertigo… The Jesus of the Gospels defies our domesticated, play-by-the-rules morality. It was the most extravagant sinners of Jesus’ day who received his most compassionate welcome; it was the most scrupulously law-abiding people who were the objects of his most searing denunciation. The point is not that we should therefore take up sin. It is that we should lay down the silly insistence on leveraging our sense of self-worth with an ongoing moral record. Better a life of sin with penitence than a life of obedience without it...

...The Jesus of the Gospels defies our safe, law-saturated, reward-conscious existence. He is many things. But predictable is not on the list. ... No sooner have we convinced ourselves that God is real and the Bible meaningful than Jesus arrives on the scene and turns all our intuitive expectations on their heads. The deeper into grace we go, the deeper will be our wonder. But though Jesus’ intuition-defying grace surprises us, our confusion does not surprise him. He knows all about it. And he is a patient teacher, more patient than we have yet dared to believe.

--Dane Ortlund, Defiant Grace, pages 12-15.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Consider that the blood was enough

I see. I see for the first time. It’s clear to me. You died for me and for my sin. You took my verdict.

I did.

So tell me what I can do to show you how grateful I am.

You’re not ready for that.  You have forgotten what Anselm said: "You have not yet considered the depth of your sin."

But I want to show you I have. I really have. I know it is really deep. Talk to me. Teach me sanctification.

I told you. You aren’t ready for sanctification yet. You just imagine that you are ready. You are arrogant and you don’t know it.

Well, what then?

Just sit there. Sit there for a long while.

And do what?

Consider the shed blood. Consider that the blood was enough. Think about the fact that it isn’t your repenting that has saved you. Think about the fact that it isn’t your faith that is saving you.

Can’t I just, as you said, just think about my sin and the depth of it?

That is a start. But you like doing that. You like it too much.

This makes no sense. What are you saying?

I am saying that you like atoning for yourself by feeling guilty. And you like atoning for yourself by thinking about your faith.

Well, what else is there?

There is Jesus Christ – but you don’t consider Him. You are not used to gifts. You don’t think much about them. Gifts make you nervous and tense. You don't know what to do, so you jump to trying to impress Me. I am not impressible.

I’m confused.

You are.

Are you saying that I find a thousand ways to avoid your graciousness to me in the cross of Jesus, the shed blood of Jesus?

I am.

Are you saying that I try to buy your gifts, try to pay you for them so I don't think about them being gifts? Because I’m afraid that if they are gifts, it is really too good to be true?

That is what I am saying.

You mean I don’t like letting you freely justify me? I resist what is really a free justification?

Yes. You like what is inside of you. You like your commitment, your Christian life. My gifts make you nervous. You want to think about you. You like thinking about you. You would walk a thousand miles barefoot over glass shards to avoid My gifts to you.

Why haven’t I seen this?

Because you are a child of Adam.

I know. But I’m not stupid. I have two master’s degrees. I’m a child of Adam with two master’s degrees.

It is not a matter of intelligence. It is a matter of sin.

Well, what’s the answer?

I’ve been telling you the answer all along. The answer is the gift, the blood.  The answer is you looking for once in your life to something other than yourself. Your religiousness is your enemy! You don’t hate it. And you should.  I do.

You mean I worship me?

That is what I mean. Your sanctification is your golden calf. You love thinking about your lack of it. And you love thinking of how full you are of it. Either way, you are your own favorite idol.

That’s not true. I just want to play my part.

You have no part.

Well, a fine kettle of fish this is! A salvation without me as even a part of it.

That’s the only kind of salvation there is.

Well, if You’re not impressed by my thoughts or my feelings, what does impress you, anyway?

Nothing in you impresses Me.

Well, does anything impress You?

My Son’s shed blood impresses Me. And His shed blood is yours. It is reckoned to you.

Oh, Father, I’m sorry.

You are. And I gave you that, too.

You gave me, “I’m sorry?”


Is there anything good or true that I don’t get from your generosity?


--Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, excerpts from a conversational sermon
source: here

Sunday, January 6, 2013

We've been told so much

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

We are told to realize something that is already true of our position or status. It is not an exhortation to us to do anything with regard to sin, but to realize what has already been done for us with respect to our relationship to sin.  It is an exhortation to us to remember what is already true of us... And what is true of us is that we are already in an entirely new position and standing with respect to sin.

This is something which we have to believe solely because the Word of God teaches it. You do not 'experience' your position, you are told about it and you believe it. That is what justification by faith alone means.

...We have all got to do what Abraham did. We must just take the bare Word of God, believe it, submit to it, and act upon it. That is what we have to do with this statement.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones
(Romans 6: The New Man, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 120.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A kingdom hidden from willpower

John Dink is reminded (by a quote from Louis Berkhof) that God, and not man, is the author of sanctification:
"… it’s a sobering reminder, aimed at the ways we tend equate our Father’s house with bigger-faster-stronger living.  Instead, Jesus makes his home with those who mourn. He waits for the weak. He conquers by laying down his life. God’s kingdom is a gift for any receiver — yet, it is hidden from those armed with willpower instead of faith."

--John Dink
source: here