Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Gospel is not a new way to win at the old game

There are those who are astonished at grace and those who are not.

Both would agree that we have continuing struggles with sin.
Both would agree that Jesus has died for our sins.

But the non-astonished seem to think that the important end-game, the goal of being Christian, is to be more successful at keeping the law. If there is grace, it is to produce this success under the law. And the presence and gift of the Holy Spirit is a means to this end. In the end, it's a new way to win at the old game.

On the other hand, astonishment dawns on us when we realize that the blood of Jesus has won the old game completely. Instead of saying that the blood of Christ is the beginning of our entry into righteous living, we say that we have been declared completely and eternally righteous.

Jim McNeely


Link: Our being in Christ is the goal of the law
(Our being under the law is not the goal of Christ.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

When is trusting in Christ alone, just not enough?

Audio: 1 min. 38 sec.  (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

...That other voice, which says, "you know faith just isn't enough." Trusting in Christ alone, it's just not enough.  After all, how are you behaving?

And I'm so uncertain and insecure... that I have to do something to give myself some assurance that I'm at least trying to compensate for myself.

That's the trap, you see.  And that's what these other preachers were saying to the Galations...

You've got to demonstrate faithfulness in specific deeds and actions.  Faith alone is not enough.  Confidence and trust in what God has said about me is replaced by how I feel about myself and how I measure my own performance.

Now this is epidemic, and it always has been, in the church...

Are you sure you're living a christian life the way you should?  I mean your salvation's at stake here.  Are you sure that you're living a godly life in every way you ought to be, in what you think and what you say and what you do?  Are you sure?

Well I don't know, maybe I'm not.  Let me start looking inside myself ... And there you go.  You see, you've taken your eyes off of Christ, and now the focus is on me, and my performance ... And Paul got wind of this ... and ohh boy... Paul opens up the shot-gun, loads both barrels,  and blasts away at them.

- Pastor Mark Anderson

Saturday, October 24, 2015

We're not saved from judgment, but through it

Audio: 3 min.  (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

Noah walked with God. Why did Noah walk with God?, because God had mercy on Noah.

What I want you to see is how profound this mercy is.

We tend to think of mercy, we tend to think of forgiveness, we tend to think of grace as God kind of winking at our sin, sweeping it under the rug. That's not at all the picture that you have here of God's grace.

But this mercy, and this grace, this salvation comes through judgment. Noah wasn't saved from the flood, he was saved through the flood. He wasn't saved from the judgment, he was saved through the judgment.

Our salvation always comes, not apart from judgment, but through judgment. And in the midst of judgment God protects us. How does He do it? He does it with an ark, doesn't he? He does it with an ark, and as the judgment comes, the ark rises above the water.

"Ark" is an old English term that actually means "box". It's not an original Hebrew word, it's an Egyptian word. And what does this Egyptian word mean? It means "coffin". God says to Noah, I want you to build me a box, and I want you to get in that box and I'm going to seal you in there, the very symbol of death. And when the judgment comes, that death will rise above the other death. When the judgment comes you will rise above the judgment.

My friends, do you see who's in view here? This is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be a christian? I means to be in the death of Jesus Christ. And then as the judgment comes on Jesus Christ ... what happened to Him on the cross?, He was judged by God for your sin and my sin, and we were in Him, just as Noah is in the ark. And when the judgment came, and it came down hard, where He cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." What happens? He rises from the dead.

What does it mean to be a christian? It means that you are in Him. My friend, if you are a christian, you are in the ark. And no matter what comes, it could be a judgment that takes down the entire world, you will rise above. Not because of yourself but because of the favor of God, the grace and mercy of God. Because of the ark, because of Jesus Christ, because of the cross, because of His resurrection.

Are you depending on faith?, repentance? - Never rest on them.

Our tendency is to try to do something in order to save ourselves; but we must beat that tendency down, and look away from self to Christ. Labour to get away from your own labours; labour to be clean rid of all self-reliance; labour in your prayers never to depend upon your prayers; labour in your repentance never to rest upon your repentance; and labour in your faith not to trust your faith, but to trust alone to Jesus

When you begin to rest upon your repentance, and forget the Saviour, away with your repentance; and when you begin to pray, and you depend upon your prayers, and forget the Lord Jesus, away with your prayers. When you think you are beginning to grow in grace, and you feel, “Now I am somebody,” away with such spurious growth as that, for you are only being puffed up with pride, and not really growing at all. Labour not to labour; labour to keep down your natural self-righteousness and self-reliance; labour to continue where the publican was, and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

--Charles Spurgeon,“The Believer’s Present Rest,” June 6, 1873, in Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia, 13:176

Friday, June 5, 2015

Something solid and tangible to preach

Our faith is a person; the gospel that we have to preach is a person; and go wherever we may, we have something solid and tangible to preach, for our gospel is a person.  If you had asked the twelve Apostles in their day, ‘What do you believe in?’ they would not have stopped to go round about with a long sermon, but they would have pointed to their Master and they would have said, ‘We believe him.’  ‘But what are your doctrines?’  ‘There they stand incarnate.’  ‘But what is your practice?’  ‘There stands our practice.  He is our example.’  ‘What then do you believe?’  Hear the glorious answer of the Apostle Paul, ‘We preach Christ crucified.’  Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus.

--C. H. Spurgeon, in Lectures Delivered before the Young Men’s Christian Association in Exeter Hall 1858-1859 (London, 1859), pages 159-160.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our Being in Christ is the Goal of the Law

Audio: 3 minutes.  (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

What's wrong with the picture? It's a very dangerous picture. Because the picture puts the law at the center and makes Christ the servant of the law, instead of putting Christ at the center and making the law the servant of Christ. Such a delicate difference here. Try to get with me here.

Put it in other words: The picture makes the law the goal of our being in Christ instead of making our being in Christ the goal of the law. And the danger here is that we may want to get into this house, this house of law, this house of commandments. And once we get in be so thankful (thank you Jesus, thank you) and leave Him at the door, while we move from room to room using the keys He gave us. And we say, "We finally got the law. We got where we wanted to be. We figured out the real meaning of the law. And now I can do the law. (Thank you Jesus, by the way, thank you.)"

There's something wrong there. There's something deeply, deeply wrong there. Oh how easy for us to come so close to getting the Christian life right. Newness of the Spirit, not oldness of the letter. Christ, not law. And then fall right back into the old legal way, with Christ as the new list giver! Or the one who gave us the key to all the rooms in the house so that we can enjoy the law. Doing the law, finally I can do the law. And He's out there, He's out there at the door.

I don't think that's what verse 4 means, here in our text. Die to the law, it says, so that we can belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead. I don't think that verse means die to the law so that you can belong to the one who will cause you to now belong to the law. That verse does not mean die to the law so that you can belong to Him who can figure out the law, and give you the keys to the law, and now hand you over to good law keeping.

That's not what it says, and it's not what it means. It skews things terribly to make Christ a means to the law, instead of the law a means to a relationship with Christ.

-- John Piper

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Don't reduce love for Jesus to Law-keeping

Audio: 3 minutes.  (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

So... key question... What do christians do with God's holy, just and good law? Do we do anything with it?

We die to it as law keeping. We're dead to it, we don't exist to it, we belong wholly to Jesus. We devote all our time to knowing Him and loving Him and trusting Him and seeing Him and savoring Him and walking with Him and resting with Him and being shaped by Him and defined by Him and controlled by Him. He's our everything. Christ is all, and in all.

And thus we become loving people, and thus we, through the back door, fulfill the law. But do we do anything with the written law? Should you ever look at it? I have two answers.

One, we should look into the written law to see Christ. To know Him, and trust Him, and love Him more. Remember what Jesus said in John 5:39? "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they which speak of me!" Yeah, go there, to find "Me".  Not a new list.

[The] First thing we do with the law, now, is we read it to know God in Christ... To know a person, and love him, more. ... Trust Him more. That's why you read the bible.

Second, you look into the law in order to test to see if you do know Him, trust Him, and love Him, as you ought. Because Jesus said, "If you love me, you'll keep my commandments."

Don't ever turn that around. So many people who don't get the personal relationship of christianity turn it around and say, "keeping commandments is loving Jesus" ... It's not! If you try to reduce love to Jesus to commandment keeping, you're right back at the front door fiddling with that lock.

What the text says is, "if you love me" ... If I carry you and you love being carried, if you see into my face and love what you see, if you trust me and know me and depend upon me and my cross and my resurrection to make you right with God and to fill you with everything you need filling with. ... You'll fulfill the law. You'll never be perfect in this life, but you'll begin to become a loving person, with me, if you love me.

--John Piper

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is your faith in Christianity? Or in Christ?

"There really is no place for Christ in many people's Christianity. 
  Their faith is not actually in Christ; 
  it is in Christianity and their ability to live it out."

- Paul David Tripp

A sermon delivered this past Sunday has some words I think Paul Tripp would want us to hear:

Audio: 3 minutes.  (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

What I want you to see here is simply this ... is how simple, how utterly simple a thing faith is. Faith is not a power. It's absolutely, utterly, and completely weak and empty. Faith has no power. Faith is the smallest thing in the world, it finds all its strength, all its power, all of its impressiveness, in its object. Faith grabs hold of, it receives that which it does not intrinsically own, that which it does not intrinsically have. The only thing Abraham could do is say, "Amen, be it done to me according to your word." Utterly helpless.

Faith actually comes about by God's word. In other words, it's God's word, it's God's promise that created, [and] called out the faith, in Abraham even. Biblical faith is not some human achievement or invention, it comes from the word of God. This is what the New Testament says ... faith comes by ... what? ... Hearing. I mean what's more helpless than hearing? What's more passive than that? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Believing comes by hearing.

You see, what this means, christian friend, if you're a christian, is that God doesn't accept you because you're such a good person, or are trying to be a good person, or someday hope to be a better person. God accepts you because you believed his promise ... not because of anything that you've done, not because of anything you promise to do. It's simply a gift received by faith. Moreover, God doesn't accept you because your faith is so strong, or so perfect. No, Abraham's faith is not. But God accepts you simply because in your helplessness you believe His promise.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus because God himself has already been sacrificed for you. This is what strengthens faith, this is what gives assurance of faith. What you need is to hear, not from conjured up within you some strength, but you need to hear again and again that God Himself has given everything at the cost of His own blood, for you. This is good news, and there's no other place that we can go to find our faith reassured than in this. We can no sooner fail, we can no sooner sink, than the Lord Jesus sink, for we have been wedded to Him, we have been given His righteousness.

-- from a sermon by Don Willeman

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What does perseverance look like?

What does perseverance look like?

"For we have become partakers of Christ, 
if we hold fast 
the beginning of our assurance 
firm until the end." (Heb. 3:14)


- What assurance did you have at the beginning?
- What part did you play in this assurance?
- To persevere, what is it that you are supposed to hold firm until the end?

Sinclair Ferguson speaks about what we are to hold firm.

Audio: 5 min. 17 sec.   (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

The great question of Martin Luther's church world was the question of how God gives you grace.

-- The Roman Catholic perspective described
In your baptism, God gives you a gift of grace. And throughout the whole course of your life, by means of your response to God's grace, you grow in righteousness.  Yes you slip back, but if you slip back there is grace for those who slip back. There are sacraments in the church to help you. But over an extended period of time, what God does is He gives you more grace as you respond to His grace. And as you respond to His grace, He gives you more grace.

Grace was thought of, even spoken of, as though it were a substance that was infused into people's souls. Actually, it's surprising, almost alarming, how many protestants speak that way too. And speak about grace as though it were a thing, as though it were a substance ... "I got grace."  Not having an appreciation that when the bible speaks about grace it always means the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, it means Christ.

The goal was, that a time would come when your faith would be so suffused with love for God that God's grace would have worked righteousness into your life, and because God had worked righteousness into your life, it was righteous of God to justify you.

So it wasn't that they didn't believe in the righteousness of God. It wasn't, from one point of view, that they denied that justification was by grace. They insisted that justification was by grace, but it was by grace on the basis of the righteousness that had been worked into you.  You were justified because you were justifiable. And Luther's problem was very simple. How can I ever be sure that grace has done enough in my life.

-- The Protestant perspective responds...
This is not the righteousness that God is looking for at the end of my life, as the result of the work of His grace in me.

[Rather it is His own righteousness.]

Oh blessed be His name. This is the righteousness of God which God gives to me as a free gift at the beginning of my christian life. As I come with the empty hands of faith, He gives me this righteousness in my justification. And so it's not something that I'm striving for for the rest of my life. It's something that the rest of my life is actually grounded in.

And now [Luther] understood that he was as righteous before God as Jesus Christ is righteous, because the only righteousness he had was Jesus Christ's righteousness.

The non-christian lives his or her life forwards, to the future. The christian lives his or her life backwards from the future. We've already seen the future. We've already seen the final verdict. And all fear is gone because we are as righteous in God's sight, and therefore we are permanently righteous. We could no more lose our justification than Christ could lose His righteousness, because the righteousness that is ours is not the righteousness that is wrought within, but the righteousness that lies outside. So Luther said, in this sense, the gospel is entirely outside of us.

Some of us are so inward. Some of us can get so caught up in how am I doing spiritually. And that's all very well, but it's not all very well if we dislocate it from the ground in which we start ... that we are justified in Christ, with the justification that God gives to us in Christ, and therefore we are as permanently, and as irreversibly, and as fully righteous in the sight of God as Jesus Himself is.

-- from a sermon by Sinclair Ferguson

Saturday, March 7, 2015

It's not trust in my belief. (That's the trap)

Audio: 1 min. 10 sec.   (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

Instead faith is entirely confidence in another. It's what pushes us away from any confidence in self.  So that ultimately in that emptiness of trust in us, we are ready for the freight that's going down the canal. 
And the freight that's going down the canal is God's grace.  I have to provide for you what you cannot provide for yourself. Faith is not so much something we build in ourselves. It's an emptying of ourselves. It's ultimately saying there's nothing in me. I rely entirely upon God. In the historic christian statements, faith is receiving and resting upon Christ alone for our salvation.

It's not trust in my faith. It's not trust in my belief. You know, that's that trap. Do you understand that? That's the trap -- that we will forever go through our lives saying alright, do I have enough of this faith thing? Do I have sufficient quality or quantity of it? Instead of saying, no, listen, my faith is that God provides everything I need. I'm just collapsing upon Christ. I'm not looking to something in me.
-- Bryan Chapell

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Saving faith is not, at root, a decision

Audio: < 4 min.   (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

Your saving faith is not at root a decision about Christ's truth, but a sight of Christ's glory.

When you are confronted with infinite, all satisfying beauty, the question is not, "so what's your decision?" The question is, "what do you see?"

Do you see Christ in the gospel as beautiful? More beautiful, more glorious, more satisfying than anything else? That's the question. The question is not, "so, what's your decision?"

Picture yourself in an art class, and the teacher holds up a beautiful painting. And the teacher says to you, "Decide. Is it beautiful or is it boring?" Your proper response to the teacher is, "It doesn't work like that! You show me a painting. I think it's boring. And you tell me 'decide'. Decide. It's not what you do when you see something. You don't decide. You just either see it as boring, or you see it as beautiful. You don't decide."

You can't decide yourself into seeing as beautiful what you think is boring. It doesn't work like that. Deciding isn't what gets you there.

I was 18 once. And I sang a song. "I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back." I sang that. I loved that. I meant that. And I'm singing it now! And meaning it! It's a good song!

However, I have learned something. Beneath and before I could ever decide to lay my life down in the discipleship of Jesus Christ, I had to SEE HIM! Otherwise I'm playing with Him. But I had seen. I had. So when I sang it, now I meant it. I'd go anywhere with you. I'll do anything for you, because I've seen [that] you are infinite, all satisfying beauty for ever. There is no religion, no movement, nothing in the world that could ever come close to what you are for me now that I have seen.

So, deciding is good. You can make decisions all your life long about Jesus, and about your life. And those decisions must be made. And they are either good or bad. And they must be, if they are going to be authentic discipleship, they must be rooted in: "Have you seen Him?"

Your saving faith is not at root a decision. It is at root, seeing.

--John Piper
from his talk at the 2015 Passion conference