Friday, October 31, 2014

Luther on the Goal of God's Grace

"For God is not gracious and merciful to sinners to the end that they might not keep his Law, nor that they should remain as they were before they received grace and mercy; but he condones and forgives both sin and death for the sake of Christ, who has fulfilled the whole Law in order thereby to make the heart sweet and through the Holy Spirit to kindle and move the heart to begin to love from day to day more and more."

— Martin Luther
"Complete Sermons of Martin Luther"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Salvation that is not enjoyed is no salvation

"The new life in Christ, just like all natural life, must be nourished and strengthened. This is possible only in communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit and through the word of Scripture. Enlightened by the Spirit, believers gain a new knowledge of faith. The gospel is the food of faith and must be known to be nourishment. Salvation that is not known and enjoyed is no salvation. God saves by causing himself to be known and enjoyed in Christ.""

— Herman Bavinck
"Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation"
(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Academic, 2008), 96

What it means to be God's children

“The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s now (Rom.8:17, 32, 38-39).

“Here and now, believers are under God’s fatherly care and discipline (Matt.6:26; Heb.12:5ff.) and they are directed, especially by Jesus, to live their whole lives in light of the knowledge that God is their Father in heaven, praying to him as such (Matt.6:5-13), imitating him as such (Matt.5:44-48; 6:12, 14-15; … Eph.4:32-5:2), and trusting him as such (Matt.6:25-34).

“[In living this way they express] the filial instinct that the Holy Spirit has implanted in them (Rom.8:15-17; Gal.4:6).

“Adoption and regeneration accompany each other as two aspects of the salvation that Christ brings (John 1:12-13), but they are to be distinguished. Adoption is the bestowal of a relationship, while regeneration is the transformation of our moral nature.

“Yet the link is evident; God wants his children, whom he loves to bear his character, and takes action accordingly.”

-- J.I. Packer “Concise Theology” pp. 167-168 (Tyndale)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cheerful Joy of the Spirit

"O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams." ~ Augustine

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What does it mean to truly love others?

"If any of you perhaps wish to maintain love, brethren, above all things do not imagine it to be an abject and sluggish thing; nor that love is to be preserved by a sort of gentleness, nay not gentleness, but tameness and listlessness. Not so is it preserved. Do not imagine that . . . you then love your son when you do not give him discipline, or that you then love your neighbor when you do not rebuke him. This is not love, but mere feebleness. Let love be fervent to correct, to amend. . . . Love not in the person his error, but the person; for the person God made, the error the person himself made."

-- St Augustine

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Place Where God Is Present

“The gathered church is the place of God’s own personal presence, by the Spirit….. There is not a more important word in all the New Testament as to the nature of the local church than this one! The local church is God’s community where it is placed; and it is so by the presence of the Spirit alone, by whom God has now revisted his people.”

-- Gordon Fee, "Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God"

What is the goal of a good pastor?

"A good pastor attaches the sheep to the Great Shepherd, not to himself." -- John Calvin

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Imagine there IS a Heaven....

“Now suppose both death and hell were utterly defeated. Suppose the fight was fixed. Suppose God took you on a crystal ball trip into your future and you saw with indubitable certainty that despite everything — your sin, your smallness, your stupidity — you could have free for the asking your whole crazy heart’s deepest desire: heaven, eternal joy. Would you not return fearless and singing? What can earth do to you, if you are guaranteed heaven? To fear the worst earthly loss would be like a millionaire fearing the loss of a penny — less, a scratch on a penny.”

--  Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

False Teaching Described

"False teaching starts as shallow, tries to be trendy, and pursues innovation without boundaries, and before you know it, you’re standing in a church where the Nicene Creed is either mocked or meaningless. Fresh readings of Scripture are fine, so too is a new engagement with old questions, but excavating ancient dung and calling it a diamond is not kosher." -- Michael Bird (from his upcoming commentary on Romans

The Entire Bible Calls Us to World Evangelization

"Our mandate for world evangelization is the whole Bible. It is to be found

  • in the creation of God (because of which all human beings are responsible to Him)
  • in the character of God (as outgoing, loving, compassionate, not willing that any should perish, desiring that all should come to repentance)
  • in the promises of God (that all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s seed and will become the Messiah’s inheritance)
  • in the Christ of God (now exalted with universal authority, to receive universal acclaim)
  • in the Spirit of God (who convicts of sin, witnesses to Christ, and impels the church to evangelize)
  • and in the church of God (which is a multinational, missionary community, under orders to evangelize until Christ returns)."

– John Stott, “The Bible in World Evangelization” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Church as an Environment of Grace

“How wonderful it is to come every Sunday into a liberating church!  All week long we swim in an ocean of judgment and negative scrutiny.  We constantly have to comply with the demands of a touchy world, and we never measure up. . . .

"Then on Sunday we walk into a new kind of community where we discover an environment of grace in Christ alone.  It is so refreshing.  Sinners like us can breathe again!  It’s as if God simply changes everyone’s topic of conversation from what’s wrong with us, which is plenty, to what’s right with Christ, which is endless.  He replaces our negativity, finger-pointing, and self-attack with the good news of his grace for the undeserving.  Who couldn’t come alive in a community which inhales that heavenly atmosphere?

"Here is where every one of us can happily take our stand right now: ‘The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).  Our self-focus was crucified with Christ.  The need to conceal failure and display false superiority no longer lives.  Christ is enough to complete every one of us, without adding anything of ourselves.

"As we humbly keep in step with the truth of this gospel, people will find a new kind of community in our churches where sinners and sufferers can thrive.”

-- Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ (Wheaton, 2014), pages 90-91.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reality Check

Malcolm Muggeridge was a famous British liberal who became a conservative. Asked why, he replied, “I’ve been mugged by reality.” We in the West have lived so long with faddish notions expressed in sayings like, “Well, that’s your truth, but not mine” that I’m afraid we have actually lapsed into a kind of bizarre ‘wishful thinking’ that apparently imagines that we can alter Reality just by ‘thinking’ things are different than they are. But as John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.” And Reality – the way things actually are – is even more unyielding. Here are some current examples, I think, of things that modern people have tried to imagine differently than what actually exists: 1) the nature and goals of Muslim extremism; 2) the Ebola virus, and 3) Hell.