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