Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heart Surgery

Deuteronomy 30: 6 "And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."

Ezekiel 36: 26-27a "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you.."

Jeremiah 31: 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people."


My older brother, Jason, led me to these passages in scripture where God promises to perform spiritual heart surgery on His people. I love the illustration of God acting as our physician. We are utterly helpless, alone in our ill state. However, He has diagnosed our illness, and given us the cure in Himself, through his son Jesus Christ. How wonderful it is that out of God's love, He pursued us, claimed us as his own, sent His Son to die for us, and then gave us His Spirit to sanctify us daily, and reset the beat of our hearts to His Word, His Will and His Gospel.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Out of the Father's Goodness

The following excerpt comes from Bryan Chapell's 'Holiness by Grace'. I think he paints a wonderful picture of how even our best obedience, and our best 'goodness', does not merit the Father's acceptance. Rather, we are accepted out of His goodness.

"One of the things my father taught all his sons was how to use a cross-cut saw. His daddy and his daddy's daddy had taught their sons, and my father was not going to let this rite of passage for rural southern manhood end with him....One brisk fall morning, we began sawing on a log that we did not know had a rotten core. When we had sawed partially through the log, it split and fell off the sawing frame. The timber hit the ground so hard that a large piece was sheared off from the rotten log. In my childhood imagination, the unusual shape of the sheared piece looked like a horse head. It so captured my imagination and I took it home from the day of sawing.

For my father's birthday, I attached a length of two-by-four to the log, attached a rope tail and stuck on some sticks to act as legs. Then I halfway hammered in a dozen or so nails to the two-by-four body of the 'horse'. I wrapped the whole thing in paper and put a bow on it.

When I gave it to my dad, he took off the wrapping, he smiled and said, 'Thank you, it's wonderful....what is it?'

'It's a tie rack', Dad, I said. 'You can put your ties on those nails going down the side of the horse's body. My father smiled again and thanked me. For years he used it as a tie rack.

Now when I first gave my father that rotten log horse tie rack, I really thought it was good. In my childish mind this creation was a work of art ready for the Metropolitan Museum. But as I matured, I realized that my work was not nearly as good as I had once thought. In fact, I understood ultimately that my father had received and used my gift not because of its goodness, but out of his goodness. In a similar way, our heavenly father receives our gifts, not so much because they deserve his love, but because he is love"

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Radical Christianity"

I came across the following Wall Street Journal article through The Gospel Coalition Blog...It is a neat story.


Jon A. Shields:
Manute Bol's Radical Christianity

As any churchgoer who tuned in to watch the recent NBA finals contest between the Lakers and Celtics already knows, the term redemption is probably now heard more often in NBA sports broadcasts than in homilies. A Google search under "redemption" and "NBA" generates approximately 2 million hits—more hits than "redemption" and "Christianity." The term can also be found in more than 2,600 stories on ESPN.com.

Associated Press
Manute Bol

What does redemption mean in the world of professional basketball and sports more broadly? It involves making up for—or, yes, "atoning"—for a poor performance. When the Lakers beat Boston, for instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the victory "redemption for the Celtics' 2008 Finals beating."

More often, though, sports journalists use the term to praise the individual performances of NBA superstars. Thus, the Associated Press reported that Kobe Bryant "found redemption" after he won a title in 2009 without the aid of his nemesis and former teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: "God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back."

He was not blessed, however, with great athletic gifts. As a center for the Washington Bullets, Bol was more spectacle than superstar. At 7 feet, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds, he was both the tallest and thinnest player in the league. He averaged a mere 2.6 points per game over the course of his career, though he was a successful shot blocker given that he towered over most NBA players.

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: "Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals."

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William "the Refrigerator" Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol's life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior "humiliation" by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

It is of little surprise, then, that the sort of radical Christianity exemplified by Bol is rarely understood by sports journalists. For all its interest in the intimate details of players' lives, the media has long been tone deaf to the way devout Christianity profoundly shapes some of them.

Obituary titles for Bol, for example, described him as a humanitarian rather than a Christian. The remarkable charity and personal character of other NBA players, including David Robinson, A. C. Green and Dwight Howard, are almost never explicitly connected to their own intense Christian faith. They are simply good guys.

Christian basketball players hope that their "little lights" shine in a league marked by rapacious consumption and marital infidelity. They could shine even brighter if sports journalists acknowledged that such players seek atonement and redemption in a far more profound way than mere athletic success.

Jon A. Shields is assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

John Bunyan: Puritan Prisoner

Most well known for his literary classic Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan highlights for us the story of his conversion in another one of his works titled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, which he wrote while in prison...

"But one day as I was passing into the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand there, I say, was my righteousness so that wherever I was or whatever I was doing God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and to day and for ever (Heb xiii 8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosened from my afflictions and irons, my temptations also fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.


His story makes me think of the fourth verse of the wonderful hymn And Can It Be That I Should Gain? by Charles Wesley...

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.


May we remember 'It is Finished'. As we are in Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness. I know I struggle in thinking I need to do better in effort to gain something of my own. It is a lie, and it is enslaving; and countless times it leaves me in a state of anxiety and restlessness. But I also know, I am freed from that bondage when I simply look to Jesus on the cross, because for me, He gained everything already.

Monday, June 21, 2010

He Became the Curse For Us

In an introduction to Martin Luther's Freedom of a Christian, Mark D. Tranvik writes...

"Luther's view of the cross began to change when he realized that Christ’s cry or scream was the result of bearing human sin. Christ himself had not committed sin; he voluntarily took upon himself the entire sin of the world. This was not done only in a conceptual or theoretical way. Christ really and truly took sin upon himself, as if he had committed them in the first place."


May we continue to see Jesus' life, death and resurrection as an eternal reality in which all things revolve. May God grant us faith to believe in what happened 2000 years ago, and may we further taste its sweetness. May we realize the miracle that Christ's righteousness is fully ours, and it is the root of our good standing before our Heavenly Father. Now, may we rejoice and be thankful in Him.

Finding Rest in Jesus

The following excerpt comes from the book titled Living Water by the Welsh minister Martyn Lloyd Jones (1899-1981). This book is an in depth examination of the story in John 4 about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. As it looks at each verse in detail, it consistently points to Jesus as the eternal answer to our overwhelming thirst for true life in Him. In short, this book is pure honey in gospel content and in Lloyd Jones' easy to read writing style. That was actually what I was told by the Crossway books salesman who got me interested, and it indeed is true.


"On what are we actually living? By what are we living? On what do we really depend?

I wonder, are we kept going by our own activities, by the various things that we have to do? This a question that every one of us should face.

Now this applies, I repeat, to all of us. The very routine of life sustains many people; they go on because they have to. Certain things must be done, and if they are not done, everything will end in chaos. So they are kept going by the demands, the needs, the necessities of life. And very often when, for various reasons such as illness or accident, they have to stop, they suddenly find that they have nothing to rest upon. Others are kept going by things that happen to them, by events and by circumstances, and so, centrally they have nothing on which they can depend and on which they live, nothing that ultimately sustains them.

Or, to put this question in a slightly different form, do you have a central rest in your life, a place of quiet, a place into which you can always retreat? Amid all the multifarious activities of life and of business, is there a place at the center where you can always go, where you know that you will have peace and quiet, where you delight to go because it gives you ultimate rest for your soul?

Or to put it still more directly, what does the Lord Jesus Christ himself really mean to us? This is ultimately the only question that matters...We shall never know him truly, and we shall never know this experience that he himself here describes to the woman of Samaria, until we realize our deepest need, which is this ultimate rest of our soul, the final peace and quiet and confidence and assurance, the ability to stand in the midst of life with all that is happening and all that may happen and know exactly where we are because of our relationship to him."


Simply, in order to know our need for Jesus, we must realize our deepest need...an ultimate rest for our souls. Through the ups and downs of life...through the daily battle of trying not to fall into a cancerous self-justifying lifestyle...through the constant, idolatrous temptation of success and advancing in the earthly realm of whatever...through the warfare the human race has waged against its creator, we need peace. Rest is not easy to find within ourselves; more so, I believe it is impossible to find apart from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus stabilizes the roller coaster of life by his steadfast promises we have in Him and His Word...Jesus sufficiently justified those in Him through faith on the cross 2000 years ago...and Jesus acts as the mediator between us and His father, to bring us back to Him. May we have rest in these truths for eternity.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Calvin's Romantic Life

I came across this text as I am slowly making my way through Michael Reeves The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.


"One cannot really speak of Calvin's romantic life. He was no Gallic paramour.

[John Calvin says,]

'As for marriage, I am not one of those infatuated lovers who, captivated by a pretty face, kiss even her vices. The only beauty which interests me is that she should be modest, obliging, not haughty, not extravagant, patient and solicitous for my health.'

Nevertheless, he was keen to express his Protestant approval of marriage, and 1540 in Strasbourg became a whirl of matchmaking as his friends tried to help him find such a girl."


Though I realize there is great wisdom to appreciate about his words, I also chuckle at the underlying humor Calvin inadvertently speaks with, because any kind of infiltration of the female kind into his life is probably the farthest thing from his mind...haha. I love it, and wish I was alive to hear it.

The Despair of an Ordinary Pastor

In his recent book, 'Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor', D.A. Carson captures the moving and encouraging life story of his father, Pastor Tom Carson. Tom Carson spent his life ministering to the people of Canada in the Quebec and Montreal regions. He never was famous. He was not big. He did not author a book. He often felt despair for his apparent failures in his ministry.

In one section, Dr. Carson talks about his dad's perfectionist mentality. This always left Tom Carson feeling like he could have done more. This led to periods of Tom Carson's life where he felt deep despair and a sense of failure. Of this, D.A. Carson writes,

"So many aspects of ministry demand excellence, and there are not enough hours in the day to be excellent in all of them. It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight and so forth. But, I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather, it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the Gospel of Grace, and God accepts us because of His son. I must learn to accept myself, not because of my putative successes but because of the merits of God's Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christian's must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the Gospel of Grace."

What a great reminder. Like Tom Carson, I usually feel like a complete failure when it comes to ministry. I need to constantly remind myself that my assurance and joy are not tied to my 'performance' in ministry, but in Christ himself. I can't be any more or less justified based on apparent successes in the ministry. More so, when our acceptance is grounded in Christ, failures will drive us to a deeper dependancy in God. We will realize more and more that we can do nothing apart from Christ, and that everything is by His sovereign grace, according to His purpose.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Union with Christ

Bryan's Chapell's book 'Holiness by Grace' has really been opening my eyes up to the beauty of our union with Christ. In my life, far too often I assimilate my standing with God with my personal level of holiness. The better I am 'performing' or the more godly I am, the more loved or accepted I am by God. This way of thinking is detrimental for two reasons. One, it is ultimately motivated by fear. Secondly, it leads to despair, because given God's holy standard, we will never be 'doing' enough.

Chapell writes,

"We are united to God not on the basis of our good deeds, but on the basis of faith in what he has done for us in Christ. even this faith is not a work of merit but is a gift of God's grace, so that we can be assured that our relationship with God does not lie in our human performance or resolve. Thus, to find release from the bondage and burden of sin, and to access the joy that is the strength of the Christian life, we must believe that we can rely entirely on our union with Christ to make us right with God"

This is good news. Christ has already accomplished that which we never could have. As we trust in His finished work and realize the victory and union we have in Him through faith, the burden of sin and the fear based motivation dissolve. We are drawn to holiness out of joy, knowing full well that our right standing with God depends on Christ and not us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Heaven, Hell and the Gospel

This is a quote from Ray Ortlund as posted by his son Dane Ortlund:

"Hell is full of people who believe they deserve to be in heaven. Heaven is full of people who believe they deserve to be in hell."

Luther on self-justification

Since we are on the topic of Luther, thought I'd throw this in there. This is from Luther's 'Sum of a Christian Life'.

"Even though we are now in faith....the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say: After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account. But it cannot be done. With men you may boast. But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.

But Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator. I myself have been preaching and cultivating the Gospel for almost 20 years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. And stil I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet I know that this is what I should and must do."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Luther's Gospel Revelations

The following three excerpts are beautiful gospel truths that were revealed to Martin Luther through the grace of Jesus Christ. They not only ended up rocking his theological universe, but also the rest of the world around 1500 AD. They are recorded in a wonderful historical and gospel-centered introduction to the Reformation in the book titled The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation by Michael Reeves...

"For some time, the answer eluded him. Then, in 1519, when he was looking again at the issues of confession and repentance, it struck him that, after the sinner had confessed, the priest would pronounce God's promise of forgiveness. It was a whole new way of looking at things for Luther: now, the question was, would the sinner trust God's promise? And with that, everything changed. Now he saw that forgiveness is not dependent on how certain the sinner is that he has been truly contrite; forgiveness comes simply be receiving the promise of God. Thus the sinner's hope is found, not in himself, but outside himself, in God's word of promise."

"Luther saw that the sinner, on accepting Christ's promise in the gospel, is simultaneously a sinner at heart and righteous by status. What has happened is the 'joyful exchange' in which all that she has (her sin) she gives to him, and all that he has (his righteousness, blessedness, life and glory) he gives to her. Thus she can confidently display 'her sins in the face of death and hell and say, "If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his".'"

"Faith, thought Luther, is not some inner resource we must summon up; if it were, it would by his definition be sin! For him, the question 'Have I got enough faith?' completely misunderstands what faith is, by looking to and so relying on itself, rather than Christ. Faith is a passive thing, simply accepting, receiving, believing Christ - taking God seriously in what he promises in the gospel."

Holiness by Grace

I just started reading Bryan Chapell's 'Holiness by Grace', and it has been a tremendous blessing. I am thankful for this book as, even in the few pages I've read, it has given me a fresh perspective on how our union with Christ is the basis for not only our justification, but also our sanctification. Here was a particularly encouraging quote.

"Grace overwhelms us with God's love, and as a result our heart resonates with the desires of God. His purposes become our own. Our soul delights in his service as love for him and thanksgiving for his mercy make us long to honor him. True grace produces joy and promotes godliness."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reformed Theology can become an Idol

I didn't know what "reformed" meant just a year ago. However, a lot can happen in a year. I now love reformed theology and reformed things in general. I believe the Holy Spirit has used the reformed theological disposition to magnify God, the cross and His Gospel in my life more than anything else. However, as Tim Keller, Senior Minister of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has said, "any thing (including inherently good things) that becomes an ultimate thing has now become an idol."

The following excerpt comes from his book Counterfeit Gods. Along with his book titled Prodigal God, no two books have affected my heart and mind for the sake of gospel more so than these.


"An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false God. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace. It is a subtle but deadly mistake."


It is really easy to get excited about Reformed (Calvinist) theology. To me, it illuminates the truth of the gospel in an unprecedented way. It is very, very awesome. However, I need to remember that Reformed theology is only a means to point to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. In itself, being reformed is a good thing, but it is not an ultimate thing. Reformed theology is not saving. Being washed white as snow by the blood of Jesus on the cross is an ultimate thing...Being completely accepted by the King of the universe in my lowest, most disgusting state is an ultimate thing...Having daily peace in knowing I can't and don't have to merit God's favour out of my own doing because Christ already did it for me out of sweet mercy is an ultimate thing...In short, Jesus is the ultimate thing. His presence with us on this earth today and in heaven for eternity is an ultimate thing. And we can be grateful that there is nothing that can ever take that away from us.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Christian Community

The following quote comes from William Still's book 'The Work of the Pastor'

"Don't you know that sinners are the only kind of men Jesus can love?...A true Christian fellowship is a place where stray cats and dogs can find a home. It is a hospital where the only sin is to hide your wounds from the Doctor. And the true pastor's job is to strip all the fearful ones, however gently, patiently, faithfully, and all the hypocritical ones of their camouflage and cloaks. Grace and truth come by Jesus Christ." (pg. 55-56)

We are One in Christ

The following text comes from Ray Ortlund's blog, Christ is Deeper Still, found on the Gospel Coalition website


#10: Truly Reformed

I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism.

The Judaizers in Galatia did not see their distinctive – the rite of circumcision – as problematic. They could claim biblical authority for it in Genesis 17 and the Abrahamic covenant. But their distinctive functioned as an addition to the all-sufficiency of Jesus himself. Today the flash point is not circumcision. It can be Reformed theology. But no matter how well argued our position is biblically, if it functions in our hearts as an addition to Jesus, it ends up as a form of legalistic divisiveness.

Paul answered the theological aspects of the Galatian error with solid theology. But the “whiff test” that something was wrong in those Galatian churches was more subtle than theology alone. The problem was also sociological. “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians 4:17). In other words, “The legalists want to ‘disciple’ you. But really, they’re manipulating you. By emphasizing their distinctive, they want you to feel excluded so that you will conform to them.” It’s like chapter two of Tom Sawyer. Remember how Tom got the other boys to whitewash the fence for him? Mark Twain explained: “In order to make a man or boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” Paul saw it happening in Galatia. But the gospel makes full inclusion in the church easy to attain. It re-sets everyone’s status in terms of God’s grace alone. God’s grace in Christ crucified, and nothing more. He alone makes us kosher. He himself.

The Judaizers would probably have answered at this point, “We love Jesus too. But how can you be a first-rate believer, really set apart to God, without circumcision, so plainly commanded right here in the Bible? This isn’t an add-on. It’s the full-meal deal. God says so.”

Their misuse of the Bible showed up in social dysfunction. “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised. . . . They desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh” (Galatians 6:12-13). In other words, “When Christians, whatever the label or badge or shibboleth, start pressuring you to come into line with their distinctive, you know something’s wrong. They want to enhance their own significance by your conformity to them: ‘See? We’re better. We’re superior. People are moving our way. They are becoming like us. We’re the buzz.’” What is this, but deep emotional emptiness medicating itself by relational manipulation? This is not about Christ. This is about Self. Even Peter fell into this hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). But no matter who is involved, this is not the ministry of the gospel. Even if a biblical argument can be made for a certain position, and we all want to be biblical, the proof of what’s really happening is not in the theological argumentation but in the sociological integration.

Paul had thought it through. He made a decision that the bedrock of his emotional okayness would forever lie here: “Far be it from me to boast [establish my personal significance] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:14-15). In other words, “Here is all I need for my deepest sense of myself: Jesus Christ crucified. His cross has deconstructed me and remade me, and I am happy. Everything else is at best secondary, possibly irrelevant, even counterproductive. Let Jesus alone stand forth in my theology, in my emotional well-being and in my relationships with other Christians!” This settledness in Paul’s heart made him a life-giving man for other people. He was a free man, setting others free (Galatians 5:1). This is the acid test of a truly Reformed ministry – that other believers need not be Reformed in order to be respected and included in our hearts.

Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It can even become a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us.

What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.


I know I needed to hear this.

Scriptural Reference for Imputation

"The cluster of texts that I think are most helpful about imputation would be Philippians 3:7–9, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 1:30, the flow of thought from Romans 3:20–4:6, especially 4:4–6. Galatians 2:16 and all of chapter 3. As far as biblical texts, that is where I would go."

- John Piper, at T4G 2010 conference in Louisville, KY in Panel IV Discussion

John Piper Full Sermon and Panel IV Discussion: Did Jesus Preach Paul's Gospel?

Monday, June 7, 2010

He is FOR us

I often have to be reminded that God is 100% completely for me and delights in me right now in this very moment, due only to His grace. This prayer, as written in the following text, serves as a wonderful reminder...

"Continue, O God, to teach me that faith apprehends Christ's righteousness not only for the satisfaction of justice, but as unspotted evidence of thy love to me.

Help me to make use of his work of salvation as the ground of peace, and of thy favour to, and acceptance of me the sinner, so that I may live always near the cross."

- The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Nehemiah's Prayer

And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3And they said to me, "The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and(F) shame.(G) The wall of Jerusalem is broken down,(H) and its gates are destroyed by fire."

4As soon as I heard these words I(I) sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the(J) God of heaven. 5And I said, "O LORD God of heaven,(K) the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6(L) let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants,(M) confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even(N) I and my father’s house have sinned. 7(O) We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules(P) that you commanded your servant Moses. 8Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful,(Q) I will scatter you among the peoples, 9(R) but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them,(S) though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them(T) to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.' 10(U) They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11O Lord,(V) let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Heidelberg Catechism: God's Grace

Tonight during the evening service at Independent Presbyterian Church, we read this excerpt from the Heidelberg Catechism. It served as an excellent reminder of the firm foundation on which a Christian stands. Following a prayer of confession then an assurance of Pardon, this was collectively read...

How does it help you now that you believe all this?
That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.

How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, have never kept any of them, and that I am still inclined always to all evil, yet God, without any merit on my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.

Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith; for only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God, and I can receive this righteousness and make it my own only by faith.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It is Finished

I am reminded daily of my complete depravity in my inability to simply believe. For me it is the hardest thing to do, because it requires nothing of myself, but rather, everything of who or what I am believing in. By nature, I am such a doer. My consistent refusal to see that my doing has no power in itself represents my unbelief in Christ and that he already did everything. I continually want to have a part in my own salvation...

May He give me more and more belief in the reality of His finished work on the cross. He has given tastes of it to me. It is wonderful, and its implications are miraculous. In his book The Heart of the Cross, Senior minister of Tenth Church and President elect of Wheaton College Phil Ryken speaks about it in a simple way...

"Consider building a tower out of blocks for your favorite toddler. When she comes along to add a block to your architectural masterpiece, she will knock the whole thing over. The tower is complete just the way it is. For her to add to it would be to destroy it. The finished work of Jesus Christ is like that. To add to it is to disfigure it, mar it, and destroy it altogether. There is nothing you can contribute to the payment that Jesus made on the cross for sin. There is no penance you can undergo, no good work you can perform, no pilgrimage upon which you can embark, no punishment you can endure to clear your guilt before God. When Jesus said, "It is finished," he meant it. He meant that he had completely paid the price to release his people from their bondage to sin. So for you to try to pay for your own sins is to deny that Jesus really did finish paying for sin. For you to try to do something to earn your own salvation is to make Jesus Christ out to be a liar...But if you come and meet Jesus at the cross, you can be finished with the debt that you owe to God once and for all...If you do that, then Jesus' mission will be accomplished in your life, and what he said on the cross will be true about the price he paid for your sins: It is finished."

The First Sacrifice

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" Genesis 3: 6-11

21"And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." Genesis 3:21

As is known, Genesis 3 tells of the fall of man. Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, and in doing so, their eyes are opened to their nakedness. Their sin brought a deep sense of guilt and shame. As a result they attempt to hide themselves and cover their nakedness. More so, Adam's sin is imputed to all those who are in him. As all humans are by nature in Adam, that is why we faced with the same guilt and shame that go along with our rebellious hearts.

However, reading this passage the other day, the thing that struck me was God's actions that followed. Following the fall, God clothes Adam and Eve's nakedness. He covers their guilt and shame. How does he do this? He uses animal skins. This means that something had to die in order for their guilt and shame to be covered. Something had to pay the price. The clothing is a free gift of God's grace and provision, but it was not without a cost.

In the Old Testament, God institutes animal sacrifices in order to atone for sin. However, these were not permanent. They, along with the first sacrifice in Genesis 3, were just a foretaste of the ultimate sacrifice to come; the ultimate sacrifice that came in the person of Jesus Christ. Unlike the previous sacrifices, the Cross was once and for all. Jesus took the full sting of death, in order to clothe those who trust in Him. This sacrifice is sufficient to completely remove all the guilt and shame from those who are in Adam's helpless race. More so, not only is our guilt and shame completely removed, but we are clothes in much more than animal skins. We are clothed in the perfect righteousness of the Son of God. This is good news.

Friday, June 4, 2010

All I Have is Christ

In April, Mike and I had the unique opportunity to attend the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, KY where we were introduced to this wonderful song...

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Power of the Word

My senior pastor, Josh Moody, once said in a sermon that a bible-preaching church is "like a piece of apple pie with whipped cream on top." I love this simile not merely because apple pie is my favorite dessert (especially from Grand Lux Cafe), but because bible-preaching churches are becoming more and more of a rarity. I strongly believe in a pulpit that simply preaches Christ-crucified from scripture every week with the confidence that God will give faith. There is no burden to persuade and no burden of life and death, but rather, a joy in knowing God is sovereign in calling His children to faith by the preaching and hearing of His Word.

The following quote comes from
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer...

"The Word of God seeks a Church to take unto itself. It has its being
in the Church. It enters the Church by its own self-initiated movement. It is wrong to suppose that there is so to speak a Word on the one hand and a Church on the other, and that it is the task of the preacher to take that Word into his hands and move it so as to bring it into the Church and apply it to the Church's needs. On the contrary, the Word moves of its own accord, and all the preacher has to do is to assist that movement and try to put no obstacles in its path. The Word comes forth to take men to itself; the apostles knew that and it was the burden of their message. They had seen the Word of God for themselves, they had seen how it came and took flesh, and in this flesh the whole human race. Now the burden of their testimony was simply this - the Word of God had become flesh, it had come to take sinners to itself, to forgive and to sanctify. It is this same Word which now makes its entry into the Church. This Word makes flesh, this Word which already bears the whole human race, can no longer exist without the humanity it has assumed. Furthermore, when this Word comes, the Holy Spirit comes, showing to Christians, both individually and corporately, the gifts of the incarnate Christ to man. He produces faith in his hearers, that they may discern in the preaching the entry of Jesus Christ. He opens their eyes to see Christ coming into their midst in the power of his Body to tell us that he has received us and will receive us again to-day."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Freedom to Give

The following quote comes from Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther...

"Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true. Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches? I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me."

This text is an unbelievable summary of the gospel received by grace through faith. We can fully rest in knowing we have everything we need in Christ completely free of any charge. Thus, our actions do not have to be out of fear in measuring up to the law, but rather, in the joy of being in the presence of Christ, and in thankfulness for what he has already done.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Almost one month ago, I graduated from Wheaton College and now am beginning to take my first steps into real life. Well, not quite yet, as I technically will not have a real job for about a decade still. However, with much time recently to reflect on my last four years, I have begun to realize that I will miss Wheaton College very much. Though my home is in Wheaton and I will be visiting often, it isn't simply the campus I will miss; rather, it is the wonderful gospel centered community I found myself surrounded by which served to edify my life in a powerful way. In short, my four years at Wheaton represents the time in my life when real gospel truth infiltrated my heart, mind and soul. Moving on without this physical and spiritual community, the idea for this blog stemmed in effort to encourage one another in the beautiful and redeeming gospel of Jesus.

As this blog commences with this post, we (Mike and I) hope and pray it might magnify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we seek to know His love and grace more fully.