Saturday, May 31, 2014

Union with Christ and Sanctification

"We could not take one step in the pursuit of holiness if God in His grace had not first delivered us from the dominion of sin and brought us into union with His risen Son. Salvation is by grace and sanctification is by grace."

— Jerry Bridges
The Discipline of Grace
(Colorado Springs, Co.: NavPress, 1994),

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Imagine a world flooded with powerful happiness...."

-- from Ray Ortlund, Jr.

"Imagine a world flooded with overwhelmingly powerful happiness.  A world with no painful memories for you.  A world where you can drive though any part of town and you feel no negative associations with anything at all.  Nothing is there to kidnap your moment and take you back into sorrow.  It is a world where every new experience, every moment, only increases your joy.

"Imagine a world with a new you.  Not only is your willpower freed from hesitation but even your brain, your chemicals, your psychological pathways all work together to intensify your focused happiness.  You never need to fear yourself.  No more caution.  No more restraint.  Nothing within you but beauty, reflecting the beauty of God himself.

"Imagine a world with no hope of heaven, because it has become heaven.  All hopes are realized.  All the waiting is over.  No more distance.  No more absence.  No more discipline.  Nothing but the happiness of your Father pouring over you in full measure.  You are experiencing the fulfillment — the full fulfillment — of all the promises of the Bible.  The only expectation left is that his presence will keep getting better, exponentially, with asymptotic intensity, forever.

"Imagine a world populated by a vast number of human beings of every race, every language, every culture — the various forms of dress and humor and music and art and play and thought — all represented in the people around you, every person fascinating, every person radiant, every person your new best friend.

"That, for starters, is the world where Jesus will reign.  Imagine!

"For now — this coming Sunday — our privilege is to foreshadow that world, to some modest but felt degree, in our churches.  Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture, where more people can taste the powers of the age to come and join us in Christ."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spurgeon on Not Compromising the Call to Conversion

"If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows the Lord's will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their Savior, while they are wedded to their idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness." -Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In glorious thoughts of this let my soul live...

"By his cross, divine holiness and justice were exalted, and through his triumph, grace and mercy are poured out to the full. In glorious thoughts of this let my soul live, and in believing it let my soul die. And let the present wonder of this glory make way for the eternal enjoyment of it in its beauty and fullness.

"One view of Christ’s glory by faith will scatter all the fears, answer all the objections and disperse all the depressions of poor, tempted, doubting souls. To all believers it is an anchor which they may cast within the veil, to hold them firm and steadfast in all trials, storms and temptations, both in life and in death."

— John Owen
The Glory of Christ

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What Christianity Cannot Be

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.
The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” -- C.S. Lewis

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"When I am afraid...."

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (Psalm 56:3)

"The condition of the psalmist’s mind was complex—he feared, but that fear did not fill the whole area of his mind, for he adds, I will trust in thee. It is possible, then, for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment.

"We are strange beings, and our experience in the divine life is stranger still. We are often in a twilight, where light and darkness are both present, and it is hard to tell which predominates. It is a blessed fear which drives us to trust. Unregenerate fear drives from God, gracious fear drives to him. If I fear man I have only to trust God, and I have the best antidote. To trust when there is no cause for fear, is but the name of faith, but to be reliant upon God when occasions for alarm are abundant and pressing, is the conquering faith of God’s elect."

— Charles Spurgeon
The Treasury of David

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Where your treasure is....

"Those who 'treasure' (i.e., set their hearts on and supremely value) the things of the kingdom of God have an invulnerable happiness, since what they treasure cannot be lost or destroyed….not so for those who supremely value something/someone here on earth." (cp. Matt. 6:19-20; Col. 3:1-4; 1 Pet. 1:4). – Jon G. Baldwin

"The gospel spirit is a catholic spirit"

“The gospel spirit is a catholic spirit, a noble and unconfined benevolence, like unto that of our Creator, not confined to any particular part of mankind exclusive of others. . . . To make the wickedness of men the cause of contention and strife in us is to make one sin the cause of another. We cannot please the devil better than by hating men’s persons under pretense of duty.”

-- Jonathan Edwards, quoted in George M. Marsden, "Jonathan Edwards: A Life" (New Haven, 2003), page 97.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Love-based Repentance

"In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake.

"But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us — seeing what it cost him to save us from sin — we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God.

"What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin."

— Tim Keller
"Counterfeit Gods"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Even though the world is upside down...

"Upstarts frequently usurp the highest places, while the truly great pine in obscurity. The world is upside down, and therefore, the first are last and the last first . . . This is a riddle in providence whose solution will one day gladden the hearts of the upright. Patience, believer; eternity will right the wrongs of time . . . We were not new created to allow our passions to rule over us, but that we, as kings, may reign in Christ Jesus over the triple kingdom of our spirit, soul, and body. Let us not disturb the divine arrangement, but ask for grace that we may keep ourselves under subjection to our great King." --C.H. Spurgeon (edited), MORNING AND EVENING

Monday, May 19, 2014

Your Thoughts and Feelings, or God's Word?

"You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you." - Martin Luther

Sunday, May 18, 2014

No Awful Beyond

"In Christ all things are ours. There is now for us no awful Beyond of mystery and fear. We cannot, indeed, explain the world, but we rejoice now that we cannot explain it. To us it is all unknown, but it contains no mysteries for our Saviour; He is on the throne; He is at the centre; He is ground and explanation of all things; He pervades the remotest bounds; by Him all things consist. The world is full of dread, mysterious powers; they touch us already in a thousand woes. But from all them we are safe."

— J. Gresham Machen
What Is Faith?
(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 116-17

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What This Life Is and Isn't

This life, therefore,
is not righteousness but growth in righteousness,
not health but healing,
not being but becoming,
not rest but exercise.

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not yet finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.

-- Martin Luther

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Beauty is what makes God God...."

"Beauty is what makes God God. [Writes Edwards,] “God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above them, chiefly by his divine beauty.” Not sovereignty, not wrath, not grace, not omniscience, not eternity, but beauty is what more than anything else defines God’s very divinity. Edwards clearly believed in these other truths about God and saw all of them as upholding and displaying and connected to God’s beauty. Yet none of them expresses who God is in the way that beauty does." (24–25)

-- Dane C. Ortlund,  "Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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"

Monday, May 12, 2014

Christianity Explains the Universe

“It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe.”-- Dorothy Sayers

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Beautiful Reverence

"It is not reverent to erect barriers of icy formality [with God] which Jesus died to tear down. Doing so is pious rebellion. There is no more beautiful reverence in the sight of God than the simple heartcry, ‘Abba! Father!’ "

— Ray Ortlund, Jr.
Supernatural Living for Natural People
(Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, 2010), 85

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Rejoicing...and Weeping" -- a meditation for Mother's Day

‘Rejoicing with those who rejoice; weeping with those who weep’(Rom. 12:15)…on Mother’s Day too

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you  [Matthew 12:46-50]
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience [and we pray for God's mercy and his justice]
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be [and we urge you to trust and God’s good will for you -- 1 Cor. 7:7]

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you. –

-- from Amy Young’s “An Open Letter to Pastors”  [with my own few additions in brackets]

Friday, May 9, 2014

Love for the Truth

"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it." -- Blaise Pascal

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What to do when you fall...

"Since even the just man, the holiest man, falls as often as seven times a day, indeed, seventy times seven, what are you to do in these slips and falls? If you fall, and you cannot avoid it, do not lie still, do not sleep there where you have fallen. It would be a shame to sleep, therefore rise again. And how are you to rise? By lifting your soul and running to the fountain of grace and mercy, by repairing to Christ Jesus, to obtain mercy for your soul, and to ask Him to send from Himself the needed peace to put your conscience to rest, and to restore your soul to health."

— Robert Bruce
Mystery of the Lord’s Supper
(Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications), 160

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Whom Do You Fear?

Wise words from George Mueller via Kevin DeYoung:

"For years I carried around in my wallet a little card folded up with a quote from George Müller (1805-1898), the man of faith who prayed in funds for his orphanage in England. The quote I had with me at all times–until he shriveled to pieces–was this:

'There was a day when I died, utterly died — died to George Müller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends — and since then I have only to show myself approved to God.'

"I wrote that down, not because I felt I was living like that, but because I knew I needed to. For everyone there is some friend, some sphere of influence, some colleague, some journal, some peer, some big shot in your profession, some one somewhere you so respect, or so fear, that you can bear the thought of disappointing them.

"That fear must die. For if the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, the fear of man is the beginning of misery, compromise, and disappointment.

"You will not last as a Christian–and you will not be truly happy–unless you fight to be dead to the approval of the world and live to show yourself only approved unto God."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"I want to know Christ..."

On my 54th birthday, my essential  aspiration is to know Christ (not merely know about Him) with the kind of reality and intensity reflected in this hymn/poem  (Phil. 3:7-11)….

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Idols oft they win thee, charm thee
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee hence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth ...

...Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter void and smart [pain],
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.

[For] Who extinguishes their taper [candle]
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer hath begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw;
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw....

...Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Chorus: Captivated by His beauty
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King!
--Miss Ora Rowan (1834-1879)

Monday, May 5, 2014

"This comes from the Lord..."

From Ray Ortlund, Jr.

For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.  2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1

Connecting “this comes from the Lord” with “having this ministry” forces a disturbing question.  How many of our churches today can say, “Our ministry comes from the Lord.  Our life-giving impact is of him.  What we are experiencing is coming down from above”?  How many of our churches have a clear awareness that what’s happening in their midst is not due to their cleverness or relevance or traditions or anything of Self?  How many of us can honestly say, “What’s happening among us here is from the Lord.  There is no other way to account for it.  We’re not that smart, not that attractive, not even that virtuous.  We want to do our best for him, of course.  But our church is under the touch of God.  Our ministry is by his mercy”?

Too many of our churches get together every Sunday, week after week, and the people are nice and the music is nice and the preaching is nice, but they never expect the Lord to be obviously involved.  They’re not even thinking in those categories.  Any church in that condition must understand that their ministry is not biblical, however orthodox it may be theologically.  Their ministry is not by the mercy of God; it is of themselves.  It has no authority, no power, no glory.  What swept over the Mediterranean world in the first century was not better branding; what swept over the world was an undeniable newness from above.  It had authority, power, glory.  And that is our only valid ministry today.

We are always in danger of replacing the Lord with something else, something related to the Lord but not itself divine.  Let’s see our danger and be alert to its constant approach.

Maybe what we need now and then is to fail so miserably that we cannot ignore it but must face it.  Maybe we need to fall so flat on our faces that we go back to the mercy of God, we relearn ministry from the New Testament, we go back with humility and honesty and openness to what comes from the Lord.

When our churches are experiencing gospel ministry as coming down from the Lord above by his mercy, then we do not lose heart.  Then we are resilient, because we are experiencing reality with God.  Then we are not tempted to resort to underhanded ways (2 Corinthians 4:2).  We wouldn’t think of stooping to our own fancy footwork, because the Lord of glory is with us.

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

"The Gospel is the food of faith...."

"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

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"God Is the Gospel..."

"When I say that God is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment. The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself.

"Since we are sinners and have no right and no desire to be enthralled with God, therefore God’s love enacted a plan of redemption to provide that right and that desire. The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our sins and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence forever."

— John Piper
God is the Gospel
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 13-14

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Better to go limping into heaven than leaping into hell."

Matthew 5:27-30:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

"The central meaning of Jesus’ advice is to take decisive, drastic action against that habit, thing, or person, that though pleasurable and perhaps seemingly necessary, is in fact ruining life . . . Better to go limping into heaven than leaping into hell." -- Frederick Dale Bruner

HT:  Chris Brauns

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How can you find a happy life where there is no life?

"The good you love is from him, but only insofar as it is used for him is it good and sweet. But with justice will it become bitter, if you, as a deserter from him, unrighteously love what comes from him [because you love it more than you love Him]. Whither do you walk, farther and farther along these hard and toilsome roads? There is no rest to be found where you seek it: seek what you seek, but it lies not where you seek it. You seek a happy life in the land of death, but it is not there. How can you find a happy life where there is no life?" -- Augustine, "Confessions"