Monday, April 30, 2012

Faith Works

"So what is the relationship of grace to hard, moral effort? Well, hard, moral effort is a grace. It is not every grace, but it is a true grace. It is a gift of God, lest any should boast. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, and this is a description of someone being saved by grace through faith, and not by works (Eph. 2:8-10).

"This is all summed up in another glorious passage as well -- "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13). We are called to work out what God works in, and absolutely nothing else. If we don't work out that salvation (as evidenced by the fruit of it), then that is clear evidence that God is not working anything in."

-- Douglas Wilson, you can read his entire post here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Forget and forgive

Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee. (Proverbs 20:22)

Be not in haste. Let anger cool down. Say nothing and do nothing to avenge yourself. You will be sure to act unwisely if you take up the cudgels and fight your own battles; and, certainly, you will not show the spirit of the Lord Jesus. It is nobler to forgive and let the offense pass. To let an injury rankle in your bosom and to meditate revenge is to keep old wounds open and to make new ones. Better forget and forgive.

Peradventure, you say that you must do something or be a great loser; then do what this morning's promise advises: "Wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee." This advice will not cost you money but is worth far more, Be calm and quiet. Wait upon the Lord; tell Him your grievance; spread Rabshakeh's letter before the Lord, and this of itself will be an ease to your burdened mind. Besides, there is the promise "He shall save thee." God will find a way of deliverance for you. How He will do it neither you nor I can guess, but do it He will, If the Lord saves you, this will be a deal better than getting into petty quarrels and covering yourself with filth by wrestling with the unclean, Be no more angry. Leave your suit with the Judge of all.

-- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Frontline Prayer

“Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical and totally focused on physical needs inside the church or on personal needs of the people present. But frontline prayer has three basic traits: a) a request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves, b) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church, and c) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory.”

Tim Keller, “Kingdom-centered Prayer,” Redeemer Report, January 2006.
HT:  Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We know truly, but partially

‎"True theories in theology, whether about the atonement or anything else, will suspect themselves of being inadequate to their object throughout. One thing that Christians know by faith is that they know only in part."
-J. I. Packer "In My Place Condemned He Stood"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's the point of worry?

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength."
-- Corrie Ten Boom

Monday, April 23, 2012

"I was in prison and you visited me..."

‎"I have to believe that when Chuck Colson opened his eyes in the moments after death that he didn't hear anything about break-ins or dirty tricks or guilty consciences. I have to believe Mr. Colson heard a Galilean voice saying, 'I was in prison and you visited me' (Matt. 25:36). I have to believe that he stood before his Creator with a new record, a new life transcript, one that belonged not to himself but to a Judean day-laborer who is now the ruler of the cosmos. And in that Lamb's Book of Life there are no eighteen minute gaps. That's good news for guilty consciences, good news for recovering hatchet men and women like us." -- Russell D. Moore  from "Christianity Today online"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Idolatry: what it is and how it attracts us

from Kevin DeYoung:

Most Westerners have struggled at one time or another to understand the attraction of idolatry in the ancient world. What could be so compelling about an inanimate block of wood or chunk of stone? Hard core idolatry feels as tempting as beet juice. It’s likely someone out there loves a frothy glass of obscure vegetable extract, but the temptation doesn’t weigh heavily on our souls.

But idolatry made a lot of sense in the ancient world. And, had we lived two or three millennia ago, it almost certainly would have been tempting to each one of us. In his commentary on Exodus, Doug Stuart explains idolatry’s attraction with nine points. You’ll likely want to save this list and file it for future sermons or Bible studies.

1. Idolatry was guaranteed. The formula was simple. Carve a god out of wood or stone and the god would enter the icon. Now that you have a god in your midst, you can get his (or her) attention quickly. Your incantations, oaths, and offerings will always be noticed.

2. Idolatry was selfish. Scratch the gods backs and they’ll scratch yours. They need food and sacrifices; you need blessings. Do your stuff and they’ll be obliged to get you stuff.

3. Idolatry was easy. Ancient idolatry encouraged vain religious activity. Do what you like with your life. So long as you show up consistently with your sacrifices, you’ll be in good shape.

4. Idolatry was convenient. Gods in the ancient world were not hard to come by. Access was almost everywhere. Statues can be used in the home or on the go.

5. Idolatry was normal. Everyone did it. It’s how woman got pregnant, how crops grew, how armies conquered. Idolatry was like oil: nothing ran in the ancient world without it.

6. Idolatry was logical. Nations are different. People are different. Their needs and desires are different. Obviously, there must be different deities for different strokes. How could one god cover all of life? You don’t eat at one restaurant do you? The more options the better. They can all be right some of the time.

7. Idolatry was pleasing to the senses. If you are going to be especially religious, it helps to be able to see your god. It’s harder to impress people with an invisible deity.

8. Idolatry was indulgent. Sacrificing to the gods did not often require sacrifice for the worshiper. Leftover food could be eaten. Drink could be drunk. Generosity to the gods leads to feasting for you.

9. Idolatry was sensual. The whole system was marked by eroticism. Rituals could turn into orgies. Sex on earth often meant sex in heaven, and sex in heaven meant big rain, big harvests and multiplying herds.

Can you see the attraction of idolatry? “Let’s see I want a spirituality that gets me lots, costs me little, is easy to see, easy to do, has few ethical or doctrinal boundaries, guarantees me success, feels good, and doesn’t offend those around me.” That’ll preach. We want the same things they wanted.  We just go after them in different ways. We want a faith that gets us stuff and guarantees success (prosperity gospel). We want discipleship that is always convenient (virtual church). We want a religion that is ritualistic (nominal Christianity)....We all want to follow God in a way that makes sense to others, feels good to us, and is easy to see and understand. From the garden to the Asherah pole to the imperial feasts, idolatry was the greatest temptation for God’s people in both testaments.

A look around and a look inside will tell you it still is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Gospel is a message that must be preached

"‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary’ goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns."

— Mark Galli, quoted by Ed Stetzer in
Tabletalk (June 2012)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Real praying

“See the man at midnight [described in Luke 11:5-8].  Imitate that man.  Act it all alone at midnight.  Hear his loud cry, and cry it after him.  He needed three loaves.  What is your need?  Name it.  Name it out loud.  Let your own ears hear it. . . . The shameful things you have to ask for.  The disgraceful, the incredible things you have to admit and confess.  The life you have lived.  The way you have spent your days and nights.  And what all that has brought you to.  It kills you to have to say such things even with your door shut.  Yes, but better say all these things in closets than have them all proclaimed from the housetops of the day of judgment.  Knock, man!  Knock for the love of God!  Knock as they knock to get into heaven after the door is shut!  Knock, as they knock to get out of hell!”

-- Alexander Whyte, “The Man Who Knocked At Midnight,” in Lord, Teach Us To Pray (New York, n.d.), pages 174-176.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, April 16, 2012

We are never really neutral...

"Scripture never allows us to believe in a neutral, undirected, or unmotivated humanity. It requires us to admit that behind everything we do or say, we are pursuing something—some hope or dream or thing that we refuse to live without. There are things we value so much that we will willingly sacrifice other good things to get them. We will debase our humanity in order to deify the creation. The very things we seek to possess begin to possess us. We live for shadow glories and forget the only Glory that is worth living for."

-- Paul David Tripp (2011-09-16). Lost in the Middle (Kindle Locations 194-198). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spurgeon on Christ Being Forsaken by God

"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"—Psalm 22:1.

"We here behold the Saviour in the depth of His sorrows. No other place so well shows the griefs of Christ as Calvary, and no other moment at Calvary is so full of agony as that in which His cry rends the air—'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' At this moment physical weakness was united with acute mental torture from the shame and ignominy through which He had to pass; and to make His grief culminate with emphasis, He suffered spiritual agony surpassing all expression, resulting from the departure of His Father's presence. This was the black midnight of His horror; then it was that He descended the abyss of suffering.

"No man can enter into the full meaning of these words. Some of us think at times that we could cry, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' There are seasons when the brightness of our Father's smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness; but let us remember that God never does really forsake us. It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ's case it was a real forsaking. We grieve at a little withdrawal of our Father's love; but the real turning away of God's face from His Son, who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused Him?

"In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief: in His case, it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from Him for a season. O thou poor, distressed soul, who once lived in the sunshine of God's face, but art now in darkness, remember that He has not really forsaken thee. God in the clouds is as much our God as when He shines forth in all the lustre of His grace; but since even the thought that He has forsaken us gives us agony, what must the woe of the Saviour have been when He exclaimed, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'"

-- Charles H. Spurgeon

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Realities for every believer

"The believer has died, is buried, is raised, is seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and so on. These are not plateaus for victorious Christians who have surrendered all and willed their way to victory, but realities for every believer, regardless of how small one’s faith or how weak one’s repentance."

— Michael Horton
"Christ the Lord"
(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Book House, 1992), 113-114

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Love of Christ Keeps Us Safe

What is the best antidote against a believer’s fears and anxieties? What is most likely to cheer them as they look forward to the untried future and remember the weary past? I answer without hesitation, the doctrine of the final perseverance of God’s elect. Let them know that God, having begun a good work in them, will never allow it to be overthrown. Let them know that the footsteps of Christ’s little flock are all in one direction. They have erred. They have been vexed. They have been tempted. But not one of them has been lost. Let them know that those whom Jesus loves, He loves unto the end. Let them know that He will not allow the weakest lamb in His flock to perish in the wilderness, or the tenderest flower in His garden to wither and die! Let them know that Daniel in the den of lions, the three children in the fiery furnace, Paul in the shipwreck, Noah in the Ark, were not more cared for and more secure than each believer in Christ is at the present day. Let them know that they are fenced, walled in, protected, and guarded by the Almighty power of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and cannot perish. Let them know that it is not in the power of things present or things to come – of people or of devils – of cares within or troubles without – to separate one single child of God from the love that is in Christ Jesus."

~ J.C. Ryle

Tract: Perseverance

Thursday, April 12, 2012

John Piper -- “Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy” (Jude 1:24-25)

Justin Taylor's summary of John Piper's message from the Together for the Gospel conference (2012)

(You can listen to the audio of this message here.)

This message has two parts.

In the first part I will try to draw you into my amazement that I am still a Christian and still love the ministry of the word.

And in the second part I will try to draw you into an analysis of how that happened.

Our text is the book of Jude, and our focus will be mainly on verses 24 and 25.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

1. My Amazement that I Am Still a Christian

This year I complete:

60 years as a believer,
32 years pastoring Bethlehem Baptist Church,
44 years of marriage to Noël, and
40 years of being a father.
These are momentous days for me as we plan for my successor to assume responsibilities at Bethlehem. If there is a T4G in 2014, and if I am invited to come, I will not be speaking as the preaching pastor of Bethlehem. This is my last T4G as a pastor.

When I think about finishing these laps in my race, I am simply amazed that I have lasted:

lasted as Christian,
lasted as a pastor,
lasted as a husband and father.
This excerpt from my journal of 1986 is the sort of emotional vulnerability that I have dealt all my life. There were reasons when it seemed like I simply could not last. I was 40 years old. I had been at the church for six years. My four sons were ages 14, 11, 7 and 3.

Am I under attack by Satan to abandon my post at Bethlehem? Or is this the stirring of God to cause me to consider another ministry? Or is this God’s way of answering so many prayers recently that we must go a different way at BBC than building? I simply loathe the thought of leading the church through a building program. For two years I have met for hundreds of hours on committees. I have never written a poem about it. It is deadening to my soul. I am a thinker. A writer. A preacher. A poet and songwriter. At least these are the avenues of love and service where my heart flourishes. . . .

Can I be the pastor of a church moving through a building program? Yes, by dint of massive will power and some clear indications from God that this is the path of greatest joy in him long term. But now I feel very much without those indications. The last two years (the long range planning committee was started in August 1984) have left me feeling very empty.

The church is looking for a vision for the future—and I do not have it. The one vision that the staff zeroed in on during our retreat Monday and Tuesday of this week (namely, building a sanctuary) is so unattractive to me today that I do not see how I could provide the leadership and inspiration for it.

Does this mean that my time at BBC is over? Does it mean that there is a radical alternative unforeseen? Does it mean that I am simply in the pits today and unable to feel the beauty and power and joy and fruitfulness of an expanded facility and ministry?

O Lord, have mercy on me. I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand, even when I know that most of my people are for me. I am so blind to the future of the church. O Father, am I blind because it is not my future? Perhaps I shall not even live out the year, and you are sparing the church the added burden of a future I had made and could not complete?

I do not doubt for a moment your goodness or power or omnipotence in my life or in the life of the church. I confess that the problem is mine. The weakness is in me. The blindness is in my eyes. The sin—O reveal to me my hidden faults!—is mine and mine the blame. Have mercy, Father. Have mercy on me. I must preach on Sunday, and I can scarcely lift my head.

That was 26 years ago. Same church. We built that building—and another one and another one. I hated it every time.

There were worse days—way worse days. Days when the marriage was under attack. Days when the soul was so numb I feared for my faith.

So, looking back, I am amazed [laughs!] that I’m a Christian today and am about to finish my pastorate at Bethlehem.


my faith in Jesus, and
my eagerness to know him and his word, and
my thrill at preaching, and
my love for the church, and
my fitness for ministry, and
my fitness for heaven, and
my sexual continence, and
my spiritual marriage commitment to Noël
—depended decisively on me, I would have

ceased to be a Christian long ago
ceased to care about the word of God or thrill at exposition
given up on the church
ceased to be fit for ministry or heaven
given myself to sexual indulgence, and
ceased to be married to Noël.
I have no doubt about this—at all.

If the decisive cause for my faithfulness to Christ in any of those expressions must come from me, it will not come, because it is not there.

Therefore, the older I get, the more I am amazed, and full of wonder and thankfulness, that I am still a Christian—that I still love the word of God—more precious than gold, even much fine fold, and sweeter than honey and drippings from the honey comb—and that I still love the ministry of the word and the church of Christ, and that I still have not unfit myself for the eldership, and have still not given myself over to pornography or adultery, and that after 43 years I love my wife with the love of Christ. These things are to me utterly amazing.

So that I feel some sense of the wonder that Jude seems to feel. Because that’s what it took to keep me a Christian for sixty years, and to keep me alive in the pastoral ministry at Bethlehem for 32 years, and to keep me obediently married for 43 years—glory and majesty and dominion and authority, working before the creation ever existed, and working every present moment of my life, and working into the future to keep me holy and happy for ever.

That’s what it took to keep me from falling—and what it will take to get me home before the presence of his glory, blameless and full of unbridled joy. And that’s what it will take to keep you believing, and ministering, and holy to the end of your days, and then get you home.

This is the way doxologies work.

They refer first to something that God has done or will do, and then they ascribe attributes to God that account for that action, or are expressed in the action.

So, for example, you might say, “Now to him who fashioned the intricacies of the human eye and every molecule and atom in it—to him belong infinite, inscrutable wisdom and skill.”

Or you might say, “Now to him who adopts dirty, abandoned, rebellious children into his family—to him belong compassion and boundless mercy.”

In other words, the attributes that you ascribe to God are the ones that account for the action you are praising, or that come to expression in the action you are praising. These attributes account for the actions you are celebrating.

What is Jude celebrating and worshiping?

God keeps us from stumbling;
he presents us before the glory of God blameless,
and he presents us before the glory of God with great happiness.
What came to expression in these three acts of God?


That’s what it took to keep me a Christian for 60 years. Jude is amazed at what it takes to keep us Christian, to keep us saved.

Do we have any idea of the degree of divine glory and majesty and power and authority that it took

to give us spiritual life when we were dead (Eph. 2:5), and
to keep us spiritually alive moment by moment for 60 years, and
to stir up that spiritual life in such ways that it resisted sins and loved holiness and pursued spiritual fruit in the life of the church?
Do we know the degree of glory and majesty and power and authority that took?

No. We don’t.

We have no terms of measuring such things. How do you quantify a Spirit-creating spirit? Or a Spirit acting on spirit to sustain the life of that spirit?

God creates spiritual life when we are dead. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

We had no spiritual life.

Then the Spirit acted in us.

And now we are spiritually alive.

We are spirit. This is not spirit like the demons are spirit. This is holy spirit (little “s”). This is eternal, spiritual, God-created, and God-sustained spiritual life.

This spiritual life that we Christians have is not ours intrinsically. There is no autonomous life in me.

We have this life to the degree that we have the Holy Spirit in us, and to the degree that we are united to Christ—which are interwoven terms and realities. It is not the kind of spiritual life that we would have if the Spirit left us or we were not united to Christ. We would not be alive if we were not united to Christ by the Spirit. Our life is Christ’s life. The Spirit’s life.

The giving of this life, and the moment by moment sustaining of this life, and the stirring up of this life so that it treasures holiness and ministry is a work of God. This is why I said at the beginning:

If the decisive cause of my faithfulness to Christ must come from me, it will not come, because it is not there.

Christ created it by coming.

I bring nothing decisive to my creation. And I bring nothing decisive to the existence of this divine spiritual life in me. I exist as a Christian by it. I did not create it, and I don’t keep it in being. Not any more than the universe came into existence by its own power or is upheld by its own power (Heb. 1:3). It is upheld by Christ.

Jude is clearly amazed at what it takes to sustain spiritual life—to keep it from collapsing and to bring it to glory blameless and happy. He must sense that what it takes to keep us believing—to keep us alive—is very great.

So how do we measure that so that we can join him in the amazement?

How Do We Measure What It Took God to Preserve Our Spiritual Life?

I can only think of two ways that we can measure what it takes to accomplish the preservation of our spiritual life.

One is to think about the fact that this is something we cannot do at all, and God does. And the difference between nothing and anything is infinite.

If God says to you: Create a being with divine spiritual life, you will say, “I can’t.” And you will be right. You absolutely can’t.

Then he does it with a word.

The difference between your absolute inability and his absolute ability is immeasurably great. The measurement is the distance between us and God.

And the second way we know the measurement of what it took for God to sustain our spiritual life blameless and joyful before the glory of God is that he reveals it to us in verse 25: it took glory and majesty and power and authority. That is, it takes just about anything he’s got to do this.

Your creation and your preservation takes divine glory and majesty and power and authority. And any amount of divine glory and majesty and power and authority is infinitely greater than what you bring to your creation and preservation.

(2) How This Happened

How does God keep us

when Paul’s strategies of not losing heart seem remote (2 Cor 4),
when the language to articulate the gospel with words one more time won’t come,
when I’m not depressed that your church false converts, but I fear that I may be one,
when I can remember countless times when I have given no evidence of trusting the power of the gospel to convert a neighbor, let alone a terrorist,
when Spirit-empowered, gospel-driven, faith-fueled effort feels as likely as flying by flapping your arms,
when the fuel tank of death-defying devotion to world missions seems empty,
when he holds out a treasure to me that I want almost as much as anything but says I can’t have it
when the crown jewel of Jerusalem is cut in slivers by a propeller or by the prophetess Jezebel?
How does God keep us? Keep us believing, keep us serving, keep us married, keep us fathering?

Notice that Jude’s letter begins (v. 1) and ends (vv. 24-25) with the assurance that God is decisively our keeper.

Verse 24: “Now unto him who is able to keep you . . .”

Verse 1: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,  To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.”

We are

kept for/by Jesus Christ.
The love of God moves him to call his elect to himself out of death and unbelief—and those whom he calls he keeps.

None is lost.

1 Corinthians 1:8-9, “He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called.”

The called are sustained guiltless in the last day.

Romans 8:30, “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

The called are kept. No drop-outs.

That’s the framework of the book—being kept by divine, omnipotent, faithful power.

Sandwiched in there he warns against the false teachers who “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” (v. 4) and who presume that they are saved but are “destroyed because they don’t believe (v. 5).

So these professing Christians are not called and they are not kept. And the evidence that they are not called and not kept is that don’t crave Christ, they crave physical sensations. They don’t prize they God of grace; they prostitute the grace of God.

Then after those many warnings, Jude tells us what we must do—not only for ourselves to be kept (vv. 20-21) but also what we must do for others who must be kept  (vv. 22-23).  I’m only going to deal with the first part (what we do for ourselves) because this brings out the paradox of the Christian life most clearly. I want to underline Kevin DeYoung’s message—because it’s here (and everywhere).

Verses 20-21:

But you, beloved,

building yourselves up in your most holy faith and

praying in the Holy Spirit,

keep yourselves in the love of God,

waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

So now Kevin DeYoung’s message starts to come into focus again—as it does all over the Bible.

1 Corinthians 15:10: “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Jude “Keep yourselves in the love of God, for God is the one who keeps you in his love.”

Verse 1: the love of God called you; the love of God will keep you; therefore keep yourselves in the love of God.

Keep yourself in God’s commitment to keep you.

“Keep yourselves in the love of God” is the main verb—the only imperative verb in verses 20-21, and the other three verbs are supporting participles—they define how Jude understands keeping ourselves in the love of God. Verse 20:

“building yourselves up in your most holy faith” (v. 20)
“praying in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20)
“waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (v. 21)
So keep yourselves in the love of God—keep yourselves in the omnipotent commitment of God’s love to keep you—

by trusting that omnipotent commitment,
by praying for its daily application to the specifics of your life, and
by waiting patiently for God to finish his merciful work.
As I have prayed on my little prayer bench I built in 1975, I have probably prayed a thousand times “help me,” “keep me from temptation.” And what’s happening there? God is keeping me. The means of God’s keeping you is being provided by God.

The psalm I pray the most: “Preserve me O God, for in you I take refuge!”

You pray for God to keep you (“Preserve me O God!”). You trust the promise that he will (“for in you I take refuge”). And you wait for his mercy.

Even your praying is his doing—it is by the Spirit that you pray (v. 20). And your faith is his doing, not your own, “it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

My praying for his keeping and my trusting in his keeping is his keeping!

The glory and the majesty of his keeping consists very much in the power and the authority that he has keep you through the means of your keeping yourself in the love of God.

You are not a robot. And you are not autonomous. You a new creation, a new race. Your coming into being and your being sustained is unlike anything the world can ever experience. It is a mystery. A daily miracle. You are those who by prayer and trust keep yourselves in the commitment of God’s love to keep you praying and trusting.

God’s act to keep you praying and trusting, so that you remain in his love and are kept blameless and joyful for the glory of God, is the fulfillment of the New Covenant.

“I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40).

The New Covenant promise is that God will act so decisively for his elect that they will not turn from him. God will see to it that they will pray and they will trust and they will keep themselves in the love of God.

The New Covenant was bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. “This cup is the new covenant in/by my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25). When Jesus died for us, all the promises of God became Yes in him (2 Cor. 1:20). I will see to it that my own will not turn from me (Jer. 32:40). I will keep them from falling.

And that is the ultimate reason why Jude 25 says,

“To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority.”

The glory and majesty and power and authority that it takes to keep you and me alive in Christ—to keep us praying and trusting, to keep us in the love of God—was unleashed for us sinners, when Christ died for us. Therefore the glory and majesty and dominion and authority that keeps us from falling and presents us blameless and joyful to God is through the blood of Jesus Christ—the blood of the New Covenant.

Therefore when we ascribe glory and majesty and dominion and authority to God we do it through Jesus Christ.

So do not underestimate the power of the blood of Christ to keep you from falling. It’s power was at work “before all time” (Rev. 13:8), it is at work “now,” and it will be at work “forever.” Your keeping began before creation, it is happening now, and it will never end.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Ps. 121:3-8).

He sealed that promise—he bought it—with the blood of his Son. Therefore, keep yourself in the love of God.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

T4G Affirmations and Denials

In a time when so many professedly Christian/evangelical groups are vague and ambiguous about their beliefs, it is heartening to read the clarity of the statement of faith from "Together for the Gospel"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Messages from the T4G Conference

Justin Taylor is posting summaries of the messages from the Together 4 the Gospel conference in Louisville.  Not surprisingly they look like very good.

The messages will also be available online at the T4G site.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Love is the lesson..."

Most glorious Lord of Life, that on this day
didst make thy triumph over death and sin,
and having harrowed hell didst bring away
captivity thence captive us to win,
this joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin.
And grant that we, for whom thou didst die,
being with thy dear blood clean washed from sin
may live forever in felicity!
And that thy love we weighing worthily
may likewise love thee for the same again;
and for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
with love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought;
love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Sonnet LXVIII, in The Works of Edmund Spenser (London, 1877), page 477.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Inauguration of the New King

"The story of the Gospels is one in which Jesus inaugurates a new reign of God and deals a deathblow to the imposter king through his death on the cross. If the Cross is the defeat of the old king, the Resurrection is the enthronement of the new." -- J.R. Daniel Kirk

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Seven Stanzas at Easter"

by John Updike:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Good Friday...Easter Sunday...What About Saturday?

"Holy Saturday speaks a peculiarly needed word to a world that demands satisfaction now, immediately. It is a day of quiet waiting, when obedience to the command to rest, to observe Sabbath as the women did, is harder than ever in Israel’s history. The resurrection is not yet. Holy Saturday is quintessentially the day when the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper and God is silent. It is the day when 'the souls under the altar' are told to rest for a little while until their number is completed. It is in its own way the emblem of the entire present age." -- Jon Laansma

Christ's Victory Over Death

Thabiti Anyabwile shares this encouraging Easter weekend meditation:

"The Death of the Death in the Death of Christ Means Victory Over Death for Those Who Believe"

Friday, April 6, 2012

"The Strangest Story Ever Told"

from "The Trinity Forum"

Heresy & Holy Week

"While Easter may commonly be celebrated with brunches, egg hunts, and candy trappings, properly understood, it should be the most profound and potentially divisive of holidays. Its claims are both extravagant and exclusivist; its assertions strange and supernatural: that God, who came to earth as mortal man, was himself killed to atone for the wrongdoing of others, triumphed over death, and made possible a new way of life for those who want to know Him and follow his example.

"It is, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, 'the strangest story ever told.' The events we commemorate this week – the death of Christ on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Easter – are so vast to comprehend, so freighted with world-altering import, that it is not altogether surprising that some would seek to manage their interpretation, to trim the tale a bit there, render it a little more plausible, and refashion a myth more suitable for the times.

"Later this month, we will host an Evening Conversation with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, along with syndicated columnist Mike Gerson and NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, on Douthat’s extraordinary new book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. In this work, Douthat argues that 'America’s problem isn’t too much religion, or too little of it. It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place… A growing number are inventing their own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke their egos and indulge or even celebrate their worse impulses.'

"Others have done so with the best of intentions. Douthat continued: 'Heretics are often stereotyped as wild mystics, but they’re just as likely to be problem solvers and logic choppers, well-intentioned seekers after a more reasonable version of Christian faith than orthodoxy supplies.'  Where orthodoxy admits of paradoxes and mysteries, the great heresies have attempted to fashion a more palatable, accessible Jesus – either a more ethereal mystic, or a non-divine moral teacher, or political critic, or simply a model of a more actualized or advanced being – depending on the times and audience.

"But the fullness of life, death and resurrection of Jesus – the crux of the Christian faith -- flouts all such attempts. If, as Douthat asserts, 'The boast of Christian orthodoxy, as codified by the councils of the early Church and expounded in the Creeds, has always been its fidelity to the whole of Jesus' it is a boast that includes paradox and mystery. Showing himself to be both God and man, King over all and suffering servant, revolutionary and non-political, vulnerable and immortal, subject to birth and death and claiming 'I Am,' Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and claims confound the rationalists, materialists, pantheists, and deists alike.

"At its core, the Christian belief in Christ’s resurrection defies all natural explanations. It is not, strictly speaking, a reasonable claim, but it does not oppose reason so much as transcend it. Humans did not rise from the dead with any greater frequency in Jesus’ time than in our own; the miracle of resurrection was as astounding then as now. And while his resurrection was both prophesied centuries in advance, and contemporaneously attested to by many eyewitnesses, there is no natural accounting for the fact. It remains, millennia later, a mystery – one that has outlasted heresies and corruptions, opposition and apathy. And so this Sunday, we will again celebrate the great mystery, the omnipotent and omnipresent One who became the point on which our hope hangs and history pivots:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.


Cherie Harder
The Trinity Forum

The Centrality of Propitiation

"With all due respect to those who insist that penal substitution is just one gospel metaphor of many, propitiation is in fact what holds together all the other biblical ways of talking about the cross."

-- D.A. Carson, in his excellent new book, "Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus" (Crossway), p.67

('Propitiation' means that in his death Christ endured the penalty of God's wrath in our place, so that we could be forgiven.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Surely there is forgiveness with God"

"Is Christ dead? and did he die the violent, painful, shameful, cursed, slow, and lonely death of the cross? Then surely there is forgiveness with God, plenteous redemption for the greatest of sinners, who by faith apply the blood of the cross to their poor guilty souls.

"There is sufficient power in the blood of the cross to wash away the greatest sins. Before the efficacy of this blood, guilt vanishes and shrinks away as the shadow before the glorious sun. Every drop of it has a voice, and speaks to the soul that sits trembling under its guilt better things than the blood of Abel (Heb. 10:24). For having enough in it to satisfy God, it must needs have enough in it to satisfy conscience.

"Can God exact satisfaction from the blood and death of his own Son, the surety of believers, and yet still demand it from believers? It cannot be."

— John Flavel
The Fountain of Life

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Heart of the Gospel: The Cross of Christ

"The cross of Christ is the heart of the apostles’ gospel and of their piety and praise as well; so surely it ought to be central in our own proclamation, catechesis, and devotional practice? True Christ-centeredness is, and ever must be, cross-centeredness. The cross on which the divine-human mediator hung, and from which he rose to reign on the basis and in the power of his atoning death, must become the vantage point from which we survey the whole of human history and human life, the reference point for explaining all that has gone wrong in the world everywhere and all that God has done and will do to put it right, and the center point for fixing the flow of doxology and devotion from our hearts.

"Healthy, virile, competent Christianity depends on clear-headedness about the cross; otherwise we are always off-key. And clear-headedness about the cross, banishing blurriness of mind, is only attained by facing up to the reality of Christ’s blood-sacrifice of himself in penal substitution for those whom the Father had given him to redeem.

"Why then is it that in today's churches, even in some professedly evangelical congregations, this emphasis is rare? Why is it that in seminary classrooms, professional theological guilds, Bible teaching conferences, and regular Sunday preaching, not to mention the devotional books that we write for each other, so little comparatively is said about the heart-stirring, life-transforming reality of penal substitution? Several reasons spring to mind.

"First, we forget that the necessity of retribution for sin is an integral expression of the holiness of God, and we sentimentalize his love by thinking and speaking of it without relating it to this necessity. This leaves us with a Christ who certainly embodies divine wisdom and goodwill, who certainly has blazed a trail for us through death into life, and who through the Spirit certainly stands by each of us as friend and helper (all true, so far as it goes), but who is not, strictly speaking, a redeemer and an atoning sacrifice for us at all.

"Second, in this age that studies human behavior and psychology with such sustained intensity, knowledge of our sins and sinfulness as seen by God has faded, being overlaid by techniques and routines for self-improvement in terms of society's current ideals of decency and worthwhileness of life. It is all very secular, even when sponsored by churches, as it often is, and it keeps us from awareness of our own deep guilty and shameful alienation from God, which only the Savior, who in his sinlessness literally bore the penalty of our sins in our place, can deal with.

"Third, in an age in which historic Christianity in the West is under heavy pressure and is marginalized in our post-Christian communities, we are preoccupied with apologetic battles, doctrinal and ethical, all along the interface of Christian faith and secularity—battles in which we are for the most part forced to play black, responding to the opening gambits of our secular critics. Constant concern to fight and win these battles diverts our attention from thorough study of the central realities of our own faith, of which the atonement is one.

"Fourth, heavyweight scholars in our own ranks, as we have seen, line up from time to time with liberal theologians to offer revisionist, under-exegeted accounts of Bible teaching on the atonement, accounts which in the name of Scripture (!) play down or reject entirely the reality of penal substitution as we have been expounding it. The effect is that whereas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century evangelicals stood solid for penal substitution against unitarianism (Socinianism) and deism, and taught this truth as no less central to the gospel than the incarnation itself, today it is often seen as a disputed and disputable option that we can get on quite well without, as many already are apparently doing.What in the way of understanding our Savior and our salvation we lose, however, if we slip away from penal substitution, is, we think, incalculable."


Taken from "In My Place Condemned He Stood" by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever, pp. 150-151, © 2008, Crossway Books

Monday, April 2, 2012

God's Good Providence

"All the affairs of the kingdom of providence are ordered and determined by Jesus Christ for the special advantage and everlasting good of his redeemed people.

"He looks down from heaven upon all that fear him; he sees when you are in danger by temptation, and casts in a providence, you know not how, to hinder it. He sees when you are sad, and orders reviving providence, to refresh you. He sees when corruptions prevail, and orders humbling providence to purge them.

"Whatever mercies you have received, all along the way you have gone hitherto, are the orderings of Christ for you. And you should carefully observe how the promises and providence have kept equal pace with one another, and both gone by step with you until now."

— John Flavel
The Fountain of Life

Sunday, April 1, 2012

God's Abundant Goodness

This post from Ray Ortlund, Jr. is in the context of expectations on a wedding day, but it applies much more widely too....

"Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you."  Psalm 31:19

"This bold promise belongs to you through the finished work of Christ on the cross.  You have every right to expect God to be abundantly good to you, your whole life long, for Jesus’ sake.

"Oh, how abundant is your goodness.  The goodness of God is not small.  The goodness of God is abundant.  Your life together will prove it.  God will be faithful to show his massive goodness to you, and not because you deserve it but because of the merit of Jesus.  Believe it.  Look for it.  Enjoy it.  Give him thanks for it.

"Which you have stored up.  God has a storehouse of goodness you’re going to need.  He won’t give it to you all at once.  He will give it out moment by moment, day by day.  But God never has to wonder where he’s going to come up with his next good idea.  We’re sometimes tempted to think God is about to run out of good will toward us.  We sometimes feel we’re on the edge of a cliff about to fall into an abyss.  But the Bible says God will always have more goodness stored up for you.

"For those who fear you.  This is your part.  What then does it mean to fear God?  The Bible says, when Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, that he feared God (Genesis 22:12).  That’s what it means – putting God first, even before one another.  C. S. Lewis said, 'When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.  Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all.  When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.'  God’s goodness is so abundant that, fearing him first and foremost, you will always have more love for one another."