Friday, October 31, 2014

Luther on the Goal of God's Grace

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

— Martin Luther
"Complete Sermons of Martin Luther"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Salvation that is not enjoyed is no salvation

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

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

What it means to be God's children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cheerful Joy of the Spirit

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What does it mean to truly love others?

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

-- St Augustine

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Place Where God Is Present

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

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

What is the goal of a good pastor?

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Imagine there IS a Heaven....

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

--  Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

False Teaching Described

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

The Entire Bible Calls Us to World Evangelization

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Church as an Environment of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reality Check

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Worldliness today

"Worldliness" -- something that the Bible warns Christians about (Rom. 12:2 and 1 John 2:15-17) -- is often very hard to detect precisely because it's just a part of the world (of ideas, values, practices) that we inhabit (almost unconsciously). That means Christians and churches need to be especially diligent and vigilant, habitually applying Scripture as the standard and filter for our beliefs, practices and values. (Here's one potential example: in the Bible, the younger are habitually called upon to defer to the older...but in popular, contemporary Christianity, which group is more influential?) The motto of the Protestant Reformation is still important: '...the church always being reformed/renewed by the Word of God...'

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

True Christians Persevere in Faith

John Murray:

The very, expression, “The Perseverance of the Saints” in itself guards against every notion or suggestion to the effect that a believer is secure, that is to say, secure as to his eternal salvation, quite irrespective of the extent to which he may fall into sin and backslide from faith and holiness. It guards against any such way of construing the status of the believer because that way of stating the doctrine is pernicious and perverse.

It is not true that the believer is secure however much he may fall into sin and unfaithfulness. Why is this not true? It is not true because it sets up an impossible combination. It is true that a believer sins; he may fall into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. And therefore it is utterly wrong to say that a believer is secure quite irrespective of his subsequent life of sin and unfaithfulness. The truth is that the faith of Jesus Christ is always respective of the life of holiness and fidelity. And so it is never proper to think of a believer irrespective of the fruits in faith and holiness. To say that a believer is secure whatever may be the extent of his addiction to sin in his subsequent life is to abstract faith in Christ from its very definition and it ministers to that abuse which turns the grace of God into lasciviousness.

The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere; it cannot be too strongly stressed that it is the perseverance of the saints. And that means that the saints, those united to Christ by the effectual call of the Father and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will persevere unto the end. If they persevere, they endure, they continue. It is not at all that they will be saved irrespective of their perseverance or their continuance, but that they will assuredly persevere. Consequently the security that is theirs is inseparable from their perseverance.

Perseverance means the engagement of our persons in the most intense and concentrated devotion to those means which God has ordained for the achievement of his saving purpose. The scripture doctrine of perseverance has no affinity with the quietism and antinomianism which are so prevalent in evangelical circles”

-- John Murray, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied”,  pp. 154-155

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Are You Looking For?

"We are all glory-chasers and pleasure [happiness]-seekers.  The question is where you’re looking."

A very wise essay from Jonathan Parnell and Desiring God Ministries.

Our Brother

"As a tempted brother, he feels for us; as a sinless brother he can save us."

— Sinclair Ferguson, "Children of the Living God" (Heb. 2:16-18)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Friendship with God is the highest good

Your true and deepest good (happiness/flourishing) is, and comes by means of, the friendship with God that He so graciously offers (Isa. 48:17f.). (And you are ruined by spiritually adulterous friendship with the world -- that is, life not devoted to God's glory [James 4:4]).

Friday, October 10, 2014

We Live in and by Looking

"His finished work, His accepted sacrifice, His precious blood, His completed expiation on ‘the accursed tree.’ On this work we live daily. It is a quickening work; a work the knowledge of which is life to the dead soul.

"To disbelieve that work, or to lose sight of it, is death; to believe it, and to keep our eye upon it, is life and healing. The sight of it, or the thinking about it (call it by what name we please), draws in life; we live in and by looking. This work contains the divine fullness provided for the sinner."

— Horatius Bonar
The Gospel in Galatians

Thursday, October 9, 2014


“Although affection characterizes many of the friendships portrayed in the Bible, affection is ancillary to the animating center of friendship, which is nothing less than the willingness to lay down one's life for one's friend (Jn 15:13). Such friendships are not optional for Christians; Jesus commands his disciples to befriend one another in this distinctive way. Moreover, Paul recommends that new converts and those who are young in the faith should 'devote themselves to the service of the saints' (1 Cor 16:15) and place themselves under 'the authority of the elders' (1 Pet 5:5). For Paul, friendships of accountability and training are central to growth in holiness.”

-- Kent Dunnington, "Addiction and Virtue"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Wed Scripture and Song in Corporate Worship

"There cannot be religion where there is not reason. There cannot be the exercise of religion where there is not an exercise of the rational faculties. . . . . All worship must be for some end—the worship of God must be for God. It is by the exercise of our rational faculties that we can intend an end [purpose/goal]." (Stephen Charnock, "The Existence and Attributes of God")

"The Word of God does many things, but engaging the mind in worship is one of its most undervalued uses. Scripture is living and active....."

This is such a wise and important article.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Right worship relates all activity to God

“Worship is adoration of, devotion to and complete submission to God. Right worship strives to relate all human desire and activity to God; it is an exercise in reorientation toward one all-sufficient end. All human desires and activities are put into question: How does this love, this commitment, this activity avow or disavow, affirm or disclaim my relationship to God as the fundamental expression of my identity and destiny?

"Worship is therefore a totalizing activity; it demands that everything in a person's life be put in the dock before God, interrogated by one standard and consequently renounced or reordered. This is why the form of worship is prayer. In confession we repent of that in us that does not conduce to love of God, and in praise and intercession we reorder our vision and our desires to the love of God. The end [goal] of right worship is that everything be taken captive for Christ, that our lives as Christians be the expression of one unceasing prayer to God.”

-- Kent Dunnington, "Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice"

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sin Is Counterfeit Worship

"For all sin, as idolatry, is essentially counterfeit worship. All sin is the effort to attain independently of God that flourishing, integrity of self and delight that can only be attained through, that just IS in fact, right relationship with God."

-- Kent Dunnington, "Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

No Longer Pause

“Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies.  God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there.  This is to be known to us in conscious experience.  It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.”

-- A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (London, 1967), pages 36-37.

Conversion means 'a new king must reign'

“It is not conversion to think that you will turn, or to promise that you will turn, or resolve that you will turn, but actually and in very deed to turn, because the Word has had a true entrance into your heart. You must not be content with a reformation; there must be a revolution: old thrones must fall, and a new king must reign. Is it so with you?”

- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014