Thursday, August 28, 2014

One Great and Predominant Affection

"It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us — it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible."

— Thomas Chalmers
"The Expulsive Power of a New Affection"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It Is Finished -- There Is Enough

“If today you feel that sin is hateful to you, believe in Him who has said, ‘It is finished.’  Let me link your hand in mine.  Let us come together, both of us, and say, ‘Here are two poor naked souls, good Lord; we cannot clothe ourselves,’ and He will give us a robe, for ‘it is finished.’ . . . ‘But must we not add tears to it?’  ‘No,’ says He, ‘no, it is finished, there is enough.’

"Child of God, will you have Christ’s finished righteousness this morning, and will you rejoice in it more than you ever have before?”

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), II:675.  Style updated. HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Will Pre-occupy the Saints in Eternity

"The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or in each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what shall be seen of God in them." -- Jonathan Edwards

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Good News: God and Our True Happiness

Here's the summary of the teaching I shared last night about how I would try to present the Good News, the message of the Bible, to an unbeliever, inviting them to trust in Christ....

God created us for perfect happiness in a perfect world – that’s where mankind began in the Garden of Eden.

But humankind, in Adam and Eve, did not believe that God could be trusted for our true happiness, and went looking for it elsewhere instead – disobeying in rebellion against our good Creator, and plunging themselves into misery instead.

But God is so loving and gracious he was determined to bring us back to Himself and to happiness again, and set in motion a plan for rescue (salvation) that led Him to send His Son to be our Savior, dying as our substitute/sacrifice.

Now God offers his salvation happiness again for all who will turn back from their wandering and rebellion, and trust in Him, as we should have all along, for our true happiness.

One day God, in Christ, will judge the world, so that those who refuse Him, choosing misery instead, will not be able to forever hold hostage those who want to experience and live in His perfect happiness forever.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Testimony of Belief in the Gospel

I am a Christian now. I have come to believe the biblical gospel's account of how things really are. And this has led me to put my trust in Jesus to be my Savior and to give my allegiance to him as Lord. Now everything in my life needs to change in light of this fundamental and all-encompassing reality. That will undoubtedly be a long and painstaking process but there is no doubt that it is the right road to take. God created us good and happy, but we, being deceived by the Devil into thinking that God wasn't the source of our happiness, rebelled against Him and brought misery and deserved judgment upon ourselves.

God in great grace, though, was determined to rescue us from this and so, ultimately, He sent his Son to become our Savior to bring us back to happiness and to one day return as Judge so that those who stubbornly persist in sin and unbelief, vandalizing shalom, will not be allowed to forever hold hostage the people who want to experience and live in God's perfect happiness forever.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Past the Point of No Return

“Someone still stubborn after much reproof will suddenly be broken past mending.” Prov. 29:1 (REB)

"Some people (most people?) seem to imagine that you can keep on abusing and abusing (your body, your credit limit, your relationship to others, your relationship to God, your conscience….) and it’s still OK because you can always recover if and when you want to, even if it’s at the last minute. Changing your mind, changing your ways and thus changing your future is always out there as an option, an option you can exercise whenever you want, on your timetable, and on your terms.

"Reality check: sometimes, that is simply not true. Your body can only take so much, at some point it is virtually impossible to climb out of a certain amount of debt, trust lost through habitual deception, or love and affection that has been vandalized by years of emotional abuse, the stirrings of conscience that have tried so long to pull you back, and the Spirit speaking his convicting Word to a heart that just gets harder and harder – according to Scripture and the life stories of millions and millions of people, at some point you cross the line, at some point you plunge on past the point of return. It’s just reality. It’s the way the world works. It’s how we, and the world we inhabit, are built.

"Of course God is amazingly gracious – the parable of the prodigal son shouts the father’s invitation to come home across the years and across the miles. But it is possible for our wandering and abusing and wasting, and our vandalizing of all the good God has given us, to go so far that WE are the ones who trudge stubbornly past the point of no return, having ignored and refused (and even been ‘righteously indignant about’!) a thousand warnings and reproofs (from people, circumstances, providences) until that terrible day arrives, catching us entirely off guard, when the crushing brokenness breaks in, and there’s just no possibility of repair or recovery (Prov. 29:1).

Consider just a small sample of Scripture passages that all tell this same story: Luke 16:19-31 (and esp. vv. 23-26); Romans 2:4-9; Hebrews 10:26-27; Hebrews 13:15-17; Revelation 22:14-15

"No wonder the apostle Paul expressed this heartfelt warning: '…we beg you who have received God's grace NOT TO LET IT BE WASTED. Hear what God says:

‘When the time came for me to show you favor,
I heard you;
when the day arrived for me to save you,
I helped you.”
Listen! THIS is the hour to receive God's favor; TODAY is the day to be saved!’” (2 Cor. 6:1-2)

-- Jon G. Baldwin

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Sin Is Most Deceitful

“It is rightly called the deceitfulness of sin because it deceives under the appearance of the good.  This phrase ‘the deceitfulness of sin’ ought to be understood in a much wider sense, so that the term includes even one’s own righteousness and wisdom.  For more than anything else one’s own righteousness and wisdom deceive one and work against faith in Christ, since we love the flesh and the sensations of the flesh and also riches and possessions, but we love nothing more ardently than our own feelings, judgment, purpose, and will, especially when they seem to be good.  For the same reason Christ said, when he healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, that it was impossible for such people to be able to believe: ‘How can you believe who receive glory from one another?’ (John 5:44).  Why are they not able to believe?  Because the ‘deceitfulness of sin,’ that is, the love of their own righteousness, blinds them and hardens their heart.  Yet at the same time they think it a good thing to glory in their own righteousness and be pleased with it, though that indeed is the very worst of all vices, the extreme antithesis of faith. Faith rejoices and glories in the righteousness of God alone, that is, in Christ himself.”

-- Martin Luther, on Hebrews 3:13.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Worldly Pleasure Vs. Joy that Comes from Jesus

"Let the world pursue whatever they want, thinking there’s ultimate joy and pleasure waiting under that guillotine with the attractive, half-naked woman beside it, asking you to lay your head down r-i-g-h-t here, right on this nice little stump. Put gobs of money on top of it. Park a new car behind it. Stand some important business contacts around it, or anything that’s often felt to you like it would be the greatest thing possible if you could have it. And let everybody knock themselves out going for it. Because when all those allures have packed up and gone home , and their victims look back on a life spent chasing those joy -baiters with all their might, the only things left will be blood and horror and another tragic testimony to tell their children and grandchildren, of the “thousand” and “ten thousand” who’ve fallen to the same, sorry fate (Ps. 91: 7).

"But you know what? Those cheap versions of joy don’t ever need to come “near you,” not again, like that verse from Psalm 91 goes on to say— because you’ve found the one-and-only joy in life, the joy that comes from being at home in Jesus."

-- Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer, "Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change"

Monday, August 18, 2014

Christian Faith: An All-encompassing World-view

"He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of redemption, to a view of the purpose of God in creation and history, to a view of human destiny, found only in Christianity."

— James Orr
"The Christian View of God and the World"

Sunday, August 17, 2014

PBS-style Religion

Once again it’s PBS pledge week, which means it’s a time that PBS presents its most popular programs. Year after year that includes Wayne Dyer’s “I Can See Clearly Now” – a hodge-podge of New Age ‘spirituality’. This leads me to two conclusions: 1) people really are incurably religious – even the network noted for scientific programs like “Nova” or journalism from a secular world-view finds itself compelled to turn to the transcendent; 2) when our Constitution speaks of “freedom of religion” the common mistake we make is to think that Christians, Jews, Mormons and Muslims are “religious” but that ‘secular’ folks are not. But in the world-view of those who wrote the Constitution, “religion” essentially means one’s fundamental beliefs about the nature of reality. At the time, nearly everyone’s world-view included a deity of some kind, but in terms of what the Constitution was getting at, a deity need not be involved. To say it another way, secular naturalism, summarized in the ‘creed’ of someone like Carl Sagan (“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be”) – is, for all intents and purposes, every bit as much a ‘religion’ as Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The worst kind of evil is the wrong kind of love...

“The worst kind of evil is the wrong kind of love, love that clutches and possesses rather than loosening and liberating. . . . That is Lewis’ final statement on evil.  Essentially, it is the wrong kind of love. . . . What the evil man calls love is only a sort of hunger aimed at the total consumption of the emotional lives of those around him.  What he calls justice is the selfish granting of his own welfare and pleasure, whether on a personal or a universal scale.  And what he calls good is that which will benefit his own aims at the expense or despite the needs of those around him.  He is evil not because he wills to be an evil man but because he can do nothing else but will his own narrow desires.”

-- Janice Witherspoon Neulieb, reviewing Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, in Christianity Today, 28 March 1975, page 16

HT:  Ray Ortlund, Jr..

Friday, August 15, 2014

There's a gospel app for that...

Burdened by guilt and shame? 'There's a gospel app for that'...

'Our God has forgiven us “ all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2: 13– 14).

So— That sense of condemnation you feel for things you’ve done in the past that you’ve tried as hard as you can to confess and repent of . . . That struggle you’re having right now with a sinful, frustrating habit or tendency that’s become such a natural part of the way you react to stress and insecurity . . . Those doubts you carry around, not sure you’ll ever be able to overcome the squeezing grip of this particular sin in your life, no matter how long you keep trying . . .

'Let’s just say there’s a gospel app for that. For all of that. The cancelling of your debt by the forgiving blood of the Lamb means the guilt from all your sin is gone— past, present, and future— as well as all your reasons for allowing guilt to crank itself up into angry fits and other defensive measures. You’ve been pardoned. You’re free. You’ve been given innocence. Believe it. And be changed by it.-

-- Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer, "Recovering Redemption"

"My sin -- oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin -- not in part, but the whole, has been nailed to His cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!"


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Can you trust Him?

“Those hands that keep a million worlds from spinning into oblivion were nailed motionless to a cross— for us.  .  .  . Can you trust him?” -- Elisabeth Elliot

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Repentance is lifetime learning

"Repentance is not just the beginner course; repentance is lifetime learning. The goal of Christian living is not to get past the point of needing to repent, but to realize that God has made us capable through Christ of doing repentance well— repentance that the Bible calls “godly” in nature— what the apostle Paul described as “repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2: 25)—repentance that leads to real change. At the root level. Where it can grow us up into character and consistency and confidence in Jesus’ power and strength, fully at work in our pitiful weakness."

-- Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer, "Recovering Redemption"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What We Were to Begin With

....“'In the beginning' (Genesis 1) is where we need to start . . . because we’ll always find it hard to understand our dysfunction unless we understand what it means to function. We won’t be able to make sense of our chaos and disorders without seeing what true order with God really looks like. We can never grasp the extent of our depravity until we recognize the excellencies of our created dignity."

-- Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer, "Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change"

Monday, August 11, 2014

"The Deepest Desire of the Christian Heart"

From John Piper (Desiring God Ministries):

Since I was 22 years old all my Bible reading, all my journaling, all my counseling and writing and preaching and thinking, has circled back to this: “Hallowed be your name.” I have come back again and again to the prayer, the longing, the pursuit, that God would make his name supremely treasured as holy — first in my life, and then in all the world.

I want you to join me in this passion.

How could I not? That is what the prayer means! “Hallowed be your name” means I am asking God to cause you (and me) to treasure his name above all else. If I pray it honestly, I must want it — for you, for everyone. (This is why Desiring God exists!)

First and Ultimate

The plea, “Hallowed be your name,” is the only petition in the Lord’s prayer where an explicit act of the human heart is named. The act of hallowing. All the other petitions serve this. The kingdom comes for this. God’s will is done for this. Daily bread is for this. Forgiveness is for this. Escape from temptation and evil is for this.

“Hallowing” involves reverencing, honoring, esteeming, admiring, valuing, and treasuring God’s name above all things. This is the first and ultimate desire of the Christian heart. (Ask him to make it so!) That’s why Jesus told us to seek it first — to pray for it. First. Foremost. It is to be our supreme passion in life.

Passions like this are awakened by hearing the voice of God — God himself, not a mere man — declare pervasively in his speech that the hallowing of his name is his main goal in history. This is why all things exist.

The Pervasive Theme

Give your ear — and your heart — to this:

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in saving us.

“Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalms 106:8).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in pardoning and forgiving us.

For your name’s sake, O Lᴏʀᴅ , pardon my guilt, for it is great” (Psalms 25:11).

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1 John 2:12).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in restraining his anger.

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you” (Isaiah 48:9).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in not forsaking us or spurning us.

“The Lᴏʀᴅ will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake” (1 Samuel 12:22).

“Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne” (Jeremiah 14:21).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in leading us in righteousness.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3; 31:3).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in helping, delivering, atoning.

“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (Psalms 79:9).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in preserving our lives.

“For your name’s sake, O Lᴏʀᴅ, preserve my life! (Psalms 143:11).

  • He seeks the hallowing of his name in gathering, cleansing, and renewing his people.

“I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, declares the Lord Gᴏᴅ, . . . when I gather you from all the countries . . . and sprinkle clean water on you, . . . and give you a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 36:23–26).

That is a small sample of God’s passion for the hallowing of his name. But if you ponder this, I believe the Holy Spirit (whose mission is to move our hearts to hallow the name of Jesus, John 16:14) will give you an unshakable joy in this unshakable reality: God does all for the hallowing of his all-satisfying name.

I am praying for you (Ephesians 6:18).

-- from John Piper, Desring God Ministries

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When grace is in the pulpit....

"Few practices will energize and affect your Christian life as much as sitting attentively under faithful preaching...." A great essay on the crucial importance of gathering in worship to receive God's Word.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Holding Happiness Hostage

"If there were no final Day of God’s Judgment, then those who refuse the happiness that God freely offers would endlessly be held hostage by those who refuse that blessedness, and keep choosing misery -- vandalizing shalom (the way things are supposed to be) -- for themselves and for others instead." -- Jon G. Baldwin

Friday, August 8, 2014

Moral Momentum

"Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible."
-- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Romans 12:15

The last few days (since my father's death) have reminded me of what I kind of already knew: friends are great for two reasons -- they are there (or want to be there) to weep with you when you have reason to weep, but, just as important, they are there to rejoice with you when you have reason to rejoice. And what makes a friend a true friend is that he's there for you for both. (Rom. 12:15)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Forget Not All His Benefits

'"We do not want to be like Israel and “forget” the Lord and all he’s done (e.g., Judg. 8:34; Ps. 106:21; Hos. 8:14). .... D. A. Carson is right: “Believers who spend no time reviewing and pondering in their minds what God has done, whether they are alone and reading their Bibles or joining with other believers in corporate adoration, should not be surprised if they rarely sense that God is near.'"

-- Ivan Mesa

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Who can fight the Lord's battles?

“We should never come to [differences] with true Christians without regret and without tears.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Believe me, evangelicals often have not shown it.  We rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at times, to find other men’s mistakes.  We build ourselves up by tearing other men down.  This can never show a real oneness among Christians.

There is only one kind of man who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the man who by nature is unbelligerent.  A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way.  The world must observe that, when we must differ with each other as true Christians, we do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight, but because we must for God’s sake.  If there are tears when we must speak, then something beautiful can be observed.”

-- Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian (Downers Grove, 1970), pages 26-27.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Wake Up!

“There are times when some situation or circumstance is used by God’s providence in such a compelling way that it seems as if you’ve finally been awakened from a long and drowsy sleep – and thus ‘revived’ you have a sense that you have fallen behind in what you were called and meant to do. Now, startled awake by your reinvigorated conscience and recovered spiritual perception, you pray God’s help to shake off your soul’s slumber, and get back to what you know you ought to have been doing. And so, enabled by grace and directed by God’s Word, your feet hit the floor to follow again, walking in the Spirit, in a way that is bound to impact every relationship with family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, and every aspect of one’s calling to a worthy walk.” -- Jon G. Baldwin (Eph. 5:14; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Rom. 13:11-14)