Monday, March 31, 2014

Find Your Identity Vertically

"...Gideon [in Judges 6:15] finds his identity in his own strength and in his own family. I think you should respect, love, and cherish your earthly family, but if you're a child of God, you have a new Father; you've been adopted into a new family. Gideon forgets that his identity is defined by God and not by Manasseh.

You will only be able to be the person you're called to be and do the things you're called to do when you find your identity vertically. Horizontal identities never give you the strength you need and never satisfy your soul...."

-- Paul Tripp (part of a very helpful set of articles based on the Book of Judges from Tripp's excellent website)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Trust....and obey

“By establishing his kingdom, God reveals his glory in the world through creating a people who will obey his commands as an expression of their confidence in his sovereignty.”

-- Scott Hafemann, p. 237 “For the Fame of His Name”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The King

"The man who was mocked as king—is the king." -- D.A. Carson (Matthew 27:42)  "Scandalous"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How heresy should be met....

From Ray Ortlund, Jr.: 

In the July 1954 issue of Reformation Review, Francis Schaeffer published “How Heresy Should Be Met.”  He proposed that, to neutralize the heresies defrauding people in our time, what is needed is a three-fold strategy:

“The final problem is not to prove men wrong, but to win them back to Christ.  Therefore, the only ultimately successful apologetic is, first, a clear, intellectual statement of what is wrong with the false doctrine, plus a clear, intellectual return to the proper scriptural emphasis, in all its vitality and in its relation to the total Christian faith, plus a demonstration in the life that this correct and vital scriptural emphasis meets the genuine needs and aspirations of men in a way that Satan’s counterfeit does not.”

"The ultimate apologetic is churches where (1) falsehood is exposed, (2) the gospel is clarified, and (3) we together, though imperfect, become living proof that the gospel creates beautiful human beings in beautiful community."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God, Superheroes and What We Really Believe

"In his 2012 memoir Supergods, Grant Morrison, arguably the greatest comics writer of this generation, explained the mass appeal of superheroes to the world in which we live: 'In a secular, scientific rational culture lacking in any convincing spiritual leadership, superhero stories speak loudly and boldly to our greatest fears, deepest longings, and highest aspirations. They're not afraid to be hopeful, not embarrassed to be optimistic, and utterly fearless in the dark.' Isn't that what Western society used to think about the prophets, apostles, and martyrs?

"Morrison goes on, explaining the paralyzing fear he felt as a child living under the constant threat of nuclear holocaust in Scotland. 'Before it was a Bomb, the Bomb was an idea. Superman, however, was a Faster, Stronger, Better Idea. It's not that I needed Superman to be 'real,' I just needed him to be more real than the Idea of the Bomb that ravaged my dreams.'

"Today, we live in age in which the Bomb is both atomic and metaphysical. Deep moral cynicism, physicalism, brutalism, and yes, even nihilism (an overused word which I deploy carefully here) are all very real, all very deadly Bombs. What is the idea that is better than the Bomb?

"We say, 'the gospel.' But before we congratulate ourselves, how confident are we really, outside of our ecclesial safe places? Does orthodoxy really strike the people we meet on the street as wild, dangerous, and romantic in that enigmatic Chestertonian way that we've all come to know and love? Maybe. But if I don't miss my guess, a great number of professional clerics and parishioners these days are pretty much not the droids the Empire is looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.

"As Peter Thiel told The Financial Times, 'from the average liberal in San Francisco to the average church lady in Alabama, I never know how much people believe any of the stuff that they say....'"

-- Gregory Alan Thornbury

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pleading Our Cause

from "Of First Importance"...

"Jesus’ intercession is his identification and involvement with the will of the Father. If we started with Jesus as the ultimate word of God to humankind, the Word incarnate, we now see him in his exaltation as the ultimate word of humankind to God. His resurrection has shown that he is the perfectly acceptable advocate for sinners. His very presence with the Father pleads our cause, but pleads it from the God who loves to give his true children what they ask. Since this role of Jesus is from start to finish on our account, it gives us confidence to ‘draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’" (Heb. 10:22).

— Graeme Goldsworthy
Prayer and the Knowledge of God
(Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 35

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness

'Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, "I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?" True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.'  -- Tim Keller

Sunday, March 23, 2014

J.C. Ryle: Comparing Justification and Sanctification

In what ways are justification and sanctification alike?

(a) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

(b) Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

(c) Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. …

(d) Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be [that is, becomes] a justified person; he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

(e) Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit's grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness [appropriateness] for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

In what ways are justification and sanctification different?

(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.

(d) In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness [fitness] for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

-- J.C. Ryle

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Key to Change

"The key to change is continually returning to the cross. A changing life is a cross-centered life. At the cross we see our source of sanctification (Ephesians 5:25–27; Colossians 1:22; Titus 2:14). We find hope, for we see the power of sin broken and the old nature put to death. We see ourselves united to Christ and bought by his blood. We see the glorious grace of God in Jesus Christ, dying for his enemies, the righteous for the unrighteous. We see our hope, our life, our resources, our joy.

"At the cross we find the grace, power, and delight in God we need to overcome sin. If we don’t come to the cross again and again, we’ll feel distant from God, disconnected from his power, and indifferent to his glory — and that is a recipe for sin."

— Tim Chester
"You Can Change"
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 127

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Holiness and Love...Both

“If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise.  But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty.  And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation.  All too often young people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we are called upon to show to a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.

"Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity.  I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously.  In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.”

-- Francis A. Schaeffer, "The Church before the Watching World" (Downers Grove, 1971), page 63.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sin Does Not Have the Dominion

"It is of paramount concern for the Christian and for the interests of his sanctification that he should know that sin does not have the dominion over him, that the forces of redeeming, regenerative, and sanctifying grace have been brought to bear upon him in that which is central in his moral and spiritual being, that he is the habitation of God through the Spirit, and that Christ has been formed in him the hope of glory."

— John Murray
Redemption Accomplished and Applied
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 145-46

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living by Practical Faith

God, help me to live a truly Christ-centered life, looking to Jesus (Co. 3:1ff.), and leaning on Him for my justification, for my joy and for my direction --

… for my justification, believing I am totally forgiven and right with with You, in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2ff.; Rom. 8:1, 15-17, 28-39; Phil. 3:7-9)

… for my joy, knowing that my truest happiness is only found in You and your good purpose for me  (Jn. 10:10; Rom. 8:28;  Rom. 14:17; Gal. 5:22; Heb. 13:5-6)

… and for my direction, seeking to live by Your will, according to Your Word  (Deut. 8:2-3ff.  ; Ps. 1; Ps. 19:7-11;  119:9-10;  Jn. 17:17; Cor. 10:31;  Phil. 1:9ff.;  Col. 1:9ff.; 1 Cor. 15:58)

-- hour by hour, moment by moment, by Your grace (1 Cor. 15:10;  2 Cor. 12:9) and for Your glory (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 5:16;  Col. 1:18), in the power of Your Spirit.  (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16; 2 Cor. 3:17-18), forgetting the (forgiven – 1 John 1:9) past and pressing on to the future (Phil. 3:12-15a)

-- via the Word (Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16) and prayer (Matt. 6:9ff.; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 5:17; Phil. 4:4-7; 1 Pet. 5:7) including corporately/gathered, pastoral for both --> authentic worship   (Rom. 12:1-2;  Heb. 12:28f.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My prayer...

God, help me to live a truly Christ-centered life, looking to Jesus, and leaning on Him for my justification, for my joy and for my direction --

… for my justification, believing I am totally forgiven and right with with You, in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2ff.)
… for my joy, knowing that my truest happiness is only found in You and Your good purpose for me
… and for my direction, seeking to live by Your will, according to Your Word

-- hour by hour, moment by moment, by Your grace and for Your glory, in the power of Your Spirit.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A New Counter-culture

from Ray Ortlund, Jr:...

"And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to David.  And he became captain over them.  And there were with him about four hundred men."  1 Samuel 22:2

"Here in the South, we don’t mind God-talk.  We don’t even mind Jesus-talk.  But which Jesus are we talking about?  The majestic biblical Jesus, or a Jesus Jr. we’ve made up to suit ourselves?

"To break out of our diminished Christianity into powerful, vibrant, thrilling Christianity, which is the only real Christianity, we need a counterculture to replace our present culture.  We need a spiritual revolt and realignment.  We need the people in distress, those in debt, those embittered and fed up and longing for something better, to rally around Jesus our true Captain with an obvious new loyalty.  That is what happened so long ago, with those 400 men.  And they changed the course of history.

"When one culture has served its purpose but is no longer useful as a vehicle for communicating the grandeur of Jesus, that is when we need a new counterculture to challenge the status quo and replace it with a rediscovery of the Lord of glory, as he is defined by the Bible alone.  Such a movement will be spoken against.  It will need to keep itself too under the judgment of God’s Word, to stay fresh.  But a deliberate rejection of everything unworthy of the real Jesus, with an obedient reaching for everything consistent with his true stature, might just stand a chance of changing the course of our history."

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Love's Descent

"Love is not the upward ascent of our souls that sublimates us into union with the deity. Rather, love is the descent of God’s royal grace that conquers our rebellion, atones for our guilt, and draws us into sonship."

— Edmund P. Clowney
Christian Meditation
(Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2002), 47

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Not (Mainly) About You

"...evangelism is not ultimately focused on or about the potential convert. Indeed the irony is that much seeker-sensitive evangelism and worship is about making the seeker the focus of attention : everything is designed or adjusted or aligned to make it so palatable for the seeker that he or she would come back next week.

"Is it any wonder that the fruit of this kind of evangelism frequently is church members who assume they are and should be the focus of attention? Should we not from the very beginning indicate that it is not about them? It is not about any of us.

"When we gather for worship, Christ Jesus is the passion and focus of our commitment and adoration. In mission, our commitment is to witness in word and deed to the reign of Christ. And evangelism is about learning that it is all about Christ. You are welcome to join us in worship and in mission, but only if you can appreciate that it is not about you. You are not the focus or the prime concern of this exercise. You are welcome to join us, but without any illusions or missing the point that this is all about Jesus."

-- Gordon T. Smith, "Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity" (Kindle Locations 842-849). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Faith, Works, Justification?

Good works ≠ justification
Faith + good works ≠ justification
Faith = justification + good works
(Ephesians 2:8-10)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Salvation of God IS the Lordship of Christ

"To be the church is to be a learning community that seeks together in faith to know Jesus, to grow together in love for Jesus and to align our lives, mission and way of being in the world to the in-breaking of the reign of Christ. The salvation of God is found specifically as the one and the many come under the reign of Christ and participate in this reign. Thus there is no conceivable split between knowing Jesus as “Savior” and knowing him as “Lord.” Indeed, the salvation of God is specifically the lordship of Christ."

-- Gordon T. Smith, "Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity" (Kindle Locations 518-522). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Billy Graham on True Repentance and Conversion

“If repentance could be described in one word, I would use the word renounce.  ‘Renounce what?’ you ask.  The answer can also be given in one word – ‘sin.’…

“Not only are we told that we must renounce the principle of sin but we are also to renounce sins – plural.  We are to renounce the world, the flesh and the Devil.  There can be no bargaining, compromise or hesitation.  Christ demands absolute renunciation…..

“…repentance and faith go hand in hand.  You cannot have genuine repentance without saving faith and you cannot have saving faith without repentance….

“…[To repent] means a great deal more than just regretting and feeling sorry about sin.  The Biblical word repent means ‘to change, to turn.’  It is a word of power and action.  It is a word that signifies a complete revolution in the individual.

“When the Bible calls upon us to repent of sin, it means that we should turn away from sin, that we should do an about-face and walk in the opposite direction from sin and all that it implies….

“….True repentance means ‘to change, to turn away from, to go in a new direction.’  To be sorry is not enough in repentance….

“….repentance cannot take place unless first there is a movement of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind….”

“….There must be a determination to forsake sin – to change one’s attitudes toward self, toward sin, and God; to change one’s feelings; to change one’s will, disposition and purpose.

“Only the Spirit of God can give you the determination necessary for true repentance….

“There is not one verse of Scripture that indicates you can be a Christian and live any kind of a life you want to.  When Christ enters into the human heart, He demands that He be Lord and Master.  He demands complete surrender….

“…He must have first place in everything you do or think or say, for when you truly repent you turn toward God in everything.

“We have the warning of Christ that He will not receive us into His kingdom until we are ready to give up all, until we are ready to turn from all sin in our lives.  Don’t try to do it part way.  Don’t say, ‘I’ll give up some of my sins and hang on to some others.  I’ll live part of my life for Jesus and part for my own desires.’”

“God demands a total change, a total surrender.”

-- “Peace with God," pp. 100-107

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Story of the Bible: God Making Things Right

"The Bible is the story of God’s counteroffensive against sin. It is the grand narrative of how God made it right, how he is making it right, and how he will one day make it right finally and forever. "

— Greg Gilbert
"What is the Gospel?" (Crossway)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

God Is the Ultimate Musician

"God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life. The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life. His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity."

— Paul David Tripp
"A Quest for More"
(Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 145

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Learning from the Book of Job

"The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer.  It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them?  The answer is, he wants our trust...."

Another Biblically-wise meditation from Ray Ortlund, Jr., helping us to rightly respond to suffering.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Luther on God's Love

"The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it" -- Martin Luther

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How to Repent

"True repentance has a distinct reference to the Saviour. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love."

— Charles Spurgeon
"Morning and Evening"
October 13