Saturday, January 31, 2015

How you think of God; how you think of the atonement

"All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell–deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before. "

— John Stott
The Cross of Christ
(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 109

Friday, January 30, 2015

Knowing Christ

“the knowledge of Christ . . . is not the apprehension of what he is, simply by the intellect, but also a due apprehension of his glory as a divine person arrayed in our nature, and involves not as its consequence merely, but as one of its elements, the corresponding feeling of adoration, delight, desire and complacency (i.e., restful satisfaction)." -- Charles Hodge

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bring the Strangers Home

How sweet and aweful is this place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

Author: Isaac Watts, c. 1707

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Every Sin Is Vertical

"Every sin is first vertical, no matter how thunderous the horizontal implications of it are. Every act of human wickedness committed against another human being starts with the breaking of intimate, vertical relationship with God. To experience victory over sin, we need a greater love for him than we have for ourselves, and his divine grace is the only thing that has the power to produce that kind of love in us." -- Paul David Tripp

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Can We Tell When God Is Really at Work?

An insightful post from Ray Ortlund, Jr., based on the teaching of Jonathan Edwards:

"In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own imperfections and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  The light of God does not stream in unfiltered by us.  To some extent, we even block it out.  We are sorry for that.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The real work of God is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways:

"One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work.

"Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work.

"Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work.

"Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him and in one another, God is at work.

"Satan not only wouldn’t produce such outcomes, he couldn’t produce them, so opposite are these from his nature and purposes.  These simple and obvious evidences of grace are sure signs that God is at work, even with the distractions we inevitably introduce.

"Biblical, fairminded discernment keeps our eyes peeled for fraudulence but also frees us, and even requires us, to rejoice wherever we see the Lord at work.  Indeed, that is the real purpose of discernment — not to fasten on whatever is wrong, but to rejoice in and promote whatever is right.

"After all, God is at work."

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, January 26, 2015

If Man Knew Who He Truly Was...

'“The Christian man,” Gaudium et Spes tells us, is “conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers.” Christ “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” and is “Himself the perfect man.” His life is man’s paradigm and the virtues are the template for how Christ, the perfect man, lived.

'The commandments are not arbitrary “does and don’ts.” Rather, they are the way man would naturally live—if man knew who he truly was. Those who have virtue will spontaneously live in accord with the commandments. They are not perceived as impositions that deny us pleasure, but as safeguards against harming ourselves and others. Such was the case with Christ.' -- Daniel Mattson

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Church and 'Cultural Relevance'

"....The Bible doesn’t want to speak to the modern world; the Bible wants to convert the modern world."

"Our time as preachers is better spent acculturating modern, late-twentieth-century Americans into that culture called church. When I walk into a class on introductory physics, I expect not to understand immediately most of the vocabulary, terminology, and concepts. Why should it be any different for modern Americans walking into a church?

"This is why the concept of 'user-friendly churches' often leads to churches getting used. There is no way I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within 15 minutes. One can’t do that even with baseball!" -- William Willimon

...from his truly prophetic essay, "The Culture Is Over-rated"

Friday, January 23, 2015

Practically Unbelieving

“There is one particular sin you must be greatly troubled for, and yet I fear there are few of you think what it is. It is the reigning, the damning sin of the Christian world, and yet the Christian world seldom or never thinks of it. And pray what is that? It is what most of you think you are not guilty of, and that is the sin of unbelief.”

Treating God as unreal at a functional level in our hearts and lives and churches and strategies (Ray Ortlund's comment).

“Most of you have not so much faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the devil himself. I am persuaded the devil believes more of the Bible than most of you do.” -- George Whitefield

For Ray Ortlund's entire post regarding Whitefield's 'Archaeology of Repentance', click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Moral Momentum in Our Lives

"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, from Mere Christianity

The Bible and the Voice of God

"When the Bible is truly taught then the voice of God is truly heard." -Alistair Begg

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Preaching: God's Present Voice

"To be effective the preacher's message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God's present voice to a particular people."

-- A.W. Tozer

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conservative? Radical?

“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”

–John R. W. Stott

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sobering words from John Calvin, to pastors

“It is no light matter to be a representative of the Son of God, in discharging an office of such magnitude, the object of which is to erect and extend the kingdom of God, to procure the salvation of souls which the Lord himself hath purchased with his own blood, and to govern the Church, which is God’s inheritance.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

What is prayer?

"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God."

— John Bunyan
(Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1991), 13

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God the Judge...and Father

“To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”

–J. I. Packer

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Story of Human History

“Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

–C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reasons to Rejoice

"There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice."

-- John Calvin

Monday, January 12, 2015

We are not mushrooms, but oaks

"Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom—but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed—but surely.

"Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection. And in winter, when it seems to be dead—it is gathering strength at the root.

"Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eye upon Jesus—and all shall be well."

— John Newton
Cardiphonia: Letters from a Pastor's Heart

Sunday, January 11, 2015

From your affliction glory will spring

"When your faith endures many conflicts, and your spirit sinks low, do not condemn yourself. There is a reason for your season of heaviness. Great soldiers are not made without war. Skillful sailors are not trained on the shore. It appears that if you are to become a great believer, you will be greatly tested. If you are to be a great help to others, you must pass through their trials. If you are to be instructed in the things of the kingdom, you must learn from experience. The uncut diamond has little brilliance, and the unthreshed corn feeds no one, and the untried believer is of little use or beauty.

"There are GREAT BENEFITS to come from your trials and depression. The one who is much plowed and often harrowed will thank God if the result is a larger harvest to the praise and glory of God by Jesus Christ. If your face is now covered with sorrow, the time will come when you will bless God for that sorrow. The day will come when you will see great gain from your losses, your crosses, your troubles and your affliction. From your affliction this glory shall spring, and the deeper your sorrow the louder you'll sing.

-- Charles Spurgeon, "Beside Still Waters"

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"You have visited me by night." -- Ps. 17:3

“Now, you may be saying to yourself, ‘I have not enjoyed such visits as these.’  Yet you may enjoy them.  If the Father loves you even as he loves his Son, then you are on visiting terms with him. . . . If you long for him, he much more longs for you.  No sinner was ever half as eager for Christ as Christ is eager for the sinner; no saint was ever one-tenth as anxious to behold his Lord as his Lord is to behold him.  If you are running to Christ, he is already near you.  If you sigh for his presence, that sigh is the evidence that he is with you.  He is with you even now; therefore, be glad.”

-- Charles Spurgeon, Joy in Christ’s Presence (New Kensington, 1997), page 15.
HT:  Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Essence of Faith

"Belief in God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ is the very essence of faith. To believe in God implies trusting Him, being loyal to Him, obeying Him and loving Him. Faith is the cardinal allegiance in life." -- James M. Grier

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Eternal Life -- Abundant Life

What does it say when a Christian who professes to have received 'eternal life' (John 3:16) seems to know nothing of the 'abundant life' (John 10:10, 'rich and satisfying life' [NLT]) that Christ says he came to give?

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Unavoidable Choice

“The thief’s [Satan’s] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My [Jesus’] purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10 (NLT).

The New Living Translation’s paraphrase of this verse is a good one, and reminds us of this crucial fact that we so often shrink from facing: there are only these two alternatives. This is the choice we all inevitably face. There is no third alternative.

So we must choose: to stay on the broad way of the Thief, with its inevitable miseries, or to enter into the narrow way of Jesus that leads to “a rich and satisfying life” (in this world, and in the next). Not to choose, is to choose nonetheless.

News Upon Which the History of the Planet Turns

"‘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)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Simple Synopsis of Our Christian Faith

…God my Creator/Father, Jesus my Savior, the Spirit my Helper, the Bible my rule….

What we all really need....

An excellent post from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

Gospel + safety + time.  It’s what everyone needs.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.

Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly.  A lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  God is patient.

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s where we’re finally free to grow.

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christianity Offers Only a Real Happiness

"If you seek happiness, you will never find it. If you seek holiness, happiness will find you. Christianity does not offer us an easy happiness, only a real happiness."

-- Matt Papa, "Look and Live"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Power of Free Grace

"The object of the Gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience , and to purify his heart; and it is of importance to observe, that what mars the one of these objects, mars the other also . The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner [that is, the more a person realizes how much he has freely received fromg God], the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again."

-- Thomas Chalmers, "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection"