Friday, July 30, 2010

Giving Up of Power

The following text comes from The Reason for God by Timothy Keller...

"What were the prophets and Jesus criticizing? They were not against prayer and fasting and obedience to Biblical directions for life. The tendency of religious people, however, is to use spiritual and ethical observance as a lever to gain power over others and over God, appeasing him through ritual and good works. This leads to both an emphasis on external religious forms as well as greed, materialism, and oppression in social arrangements. Those who believed they have pleased God by the quality of their devotion and moral goodness naturally feel that they and their group deserve deference and power over others. The God of Jesus and the prophets, however, saves completely by grace. He cannot be manipulated by religious and moral performance - he can only be reached through repentance, through the giving up of power. If we are saved by sheer grace we can only become grateful, willing servants of God and of everyone around us. Jesus charged his disciples: 'Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be servant of all' (Mark 10: 43-45)."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our Purpose

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

Acts 20:24

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You are Loved

His love...

fulfills our insecurity,
gives us our true significance,
carries us in our most painful moments,
forgets our past screw-ups,
showers us with grace,
grips us tightly in our loneliness,
never leaves us,
gives us hope that is worth banking on,
smiles on us every day and night,
accomplished everything for us,
frees us from the slavery of performance,
provides unprecedented and eternal joy.

In short, we are so deeply loved by the one true God, in Jesus Christ. May this truth be so instilled in our minds and engraved on our hearts anew each day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

That's My King: Dr. S.M. Lockridge

I have always loved this short video...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prideful Christians?

C.S. Lewis writes,

"This raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious. I'm afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pounds worth of Pride towards their fellow man."

Lewis continues,

"And any of us may at any moment be in this death trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good, above all, that we are better than someone else, I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether"

Real Love

Martin Luther writes in the final thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation (1518):

"The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it."


On our own, we are lowly, wicked and disgusting. It is of the utmost importance we realize that we are diseased with depravity, and ultimately, we are unlovely.

The truth is...God loves us. Nevertheless, God does not love us because of anything good we have done. God does not love us because we are lovely. God loves us, because He chooses to love us out of pure grace. For given our sinful state, we are completely undeserving. God's love for us is completely independent of us. If it was dependent on us, we would be in trouble. In fact, he has every reason and right to condemn us to an eternity in wrath. Yet he chooses not to. In short, God's love is completely due to his perfect, holy and merciful character.

God is Love. He chooses to love that which is unlovely. Thus, Love is a choice. May we love to love God for himself.

The world tells us what is lovely, and thus, what we should love. But, Jesus demonstrated on the cross what REAL LOVE was, to love the unlovely.

By His grace, may we seek to love others, not because of their apparent loveliness, but because He first loved us.


"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."

(1 John 3:16 ESV)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Where is Your Boast?

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" Galatians 6:14

Boast: verb
1. To speak with excessive pride or vanity, especially regarding oneself

This is a very strange passage. The Apostle Paul is essentially saying that his only boast is going to be in the work of another. The only thing that he will exult in, or glory in, or take pride in is going to be the cross of Christ.

One reason this is strange is because usually when we boast in something, it is in something that we have done well, or something that we take pride in. For example, you wouldn't normally boast in how bad you scored on a test. You might boast in how good your grades are, but it would be very strange to come home boasting about an F.

However, by Paul stating that his only boast is in the Cross, this is essentially what he is doing. Boasting in the work of Christ completely ruins any self boasting or self-promotion that we think we might deserve. Boasting 100% in the Cross means boasting 0% about ourselves. By boasting in the cross, Paul is recognizing his own self deficiency and need of grace. The cross completely crushes all attempts at self-justification.

This passage fits right in with Paul's proclamation in Philippians 3 that he counts 'all things as loss' compared to knowing Christ and being found in Him. In a world that places so much emphasis on success, achievement and approval, it is very hard for me to functionally boast only in the cross, and not in my successes, the approval of others and so on.

I pray that God would give us a continued sense of the enormity of our sin, and our desperate need of grace. Only then, will we place our pride, our exultation and our boast in the work of Christ alone. Only then will we recognize that our only hope is in the work of another. We have all alike scored F's in the Lord's eyes. However, Jesus got an A+ and is offering us the same score, if only we would trust in the work He did. Let's trust in Jesus. Let us boast in the glorious Cross of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow

The following is a hymn written by John Newton. It tells of the unique way in which God answers prayer. To me, this is a great encouragement that God will often humble His children to points of conviction, inadequacy and failure in order that he may bring them to a point of complete and utter dependence in His grace.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Washed, Sanctified, Justified

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Today, as I came across these verses from the Apostle Paul, they both struck me and reminded me of what the Gospel is about. For a large portion of my Christian life, my basic idea of the Gospel went a little something like this. 'People who are unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, if you want to be a Christian, if you want eternal life, you need to muster up the obedience and discipline to not be sexually immoral, or idolize, or steal, or drink, or revile, or cheat, or lie. Then you will be a good Christian'.

Looking back, it is glaringly obvious how ignorant I was to the truth of the Gospel, and how much I relied on my own self-righteousness and discipline to secure my inheritance in the kingdom of God. Isn't it interesting that the Apostle Paul, after listing acts of unrighteousness and stating that those who practice such things can't inherit the kingdom of God, goes on to say that 'and such were some of you'.

Paul does not continue by saying that the Corinthians used to be unrighteous, but then in obedience cleaned themselves up and started doing righteous things. Rather, he says that they were washed, sanctified, and justified. He says this in the passive. The acts of washing, sanctification and justification were something done TO them, not BY them. Their goodness had nothing to do with it. Rather, it flowed from the free grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was pleased, according to His purpose, to wash, sanctify and justify sinners.

This verse struck me because I still do, and always will have a sinful tendency to put an emphasis on my actions playing a role in my salvation. But, it is an even better reminder that it is God who washes by the precious blood of His Son, it is God who sanctifies by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is God who justifies through the finished work of Jesus. We are all alike unrighteous and unable to inherit the kingdom of God. But God, being rich in mercy, took upon himself the unrighteousness of us all, and provides for believers the perfect righteousness we need to inherit the kingdom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Do vs. Done

"The law says, Do, and you'll win;
But grace says, Live, for all is done;
The former cannot ease my grief,
The latter yields me full relief."

Ralph Erskine

Monday, July 19, 2010

God's Divine Sovereignty

John Calvin writes,

"...unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of all goodness, and that we must seek everything in him, and in none but him. My meaning is: we must be persuaded not only that as he once formed the world, so he sustains it by his boundless power, governs it by his wisdom, preserves it by his goodness, in particular, rules the human race with justice and judgement, bears with them in mercy, shields them by his protections; but also that not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause; in this way we must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive"

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 2

Law and Grace

The following are Martin Luther's comments on the Epistle to the Galatians...

"It is an absolute and unique teaching in all the world, to teach people, through Christ, to live as if there were no law or wrath or punishment. In a sense, they do not exist any longer for the Christian, but only total grace and mercy for Christ’s sake. Once you are in Christ, the law is the greatest guide for your life, but until you have Christian righteousness, all the law can do is to show you how sinful and condemned you are. In fact, to those outside of Christian righteousness, the law needs to be expounded in all its force. Why? So that people who think they have power to be righteous before God will be humbled by the law and understand they are sinners. Therefore we must be careful to use the law appropriately. If we used the law in order to be accepted by God through obedience, then Christian righteousness becomes mixed up with earned/moral righteousness in our minds. If we try to earn our righteousness by doing many good deeds, we actually do nothing. We neither please God through our works-righteousness nor do we honor the purpose for which the law was given. But if we first receive Christian righteousness, then we can use the law, not for our salvation, but for his honor and glory, and to lovingly show our gratitude. So then, have we nothing to do to obtain this righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only — that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation! Now God sees no sin in us, for in this heavenly righteousness sin has no place. So now we may certainly think, “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Religion vs. Gospel - According to Tim Keller



I obey – therefore, I’m accepted.

I’m accepted – therefore, I obey.

Motivation based on fear and insecurity.

Motivation is based on grateful joy.

I obey God in order to get things from God.

I obey God to get God – to delight and resemble him.

When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

When circumstances in my life go wrong I struggle, but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus, and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

When I am criticize I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person’. My identity is not build on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism. That’s how I became a Christian.

My prayer consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with him.

My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident. I feel like a failure.

My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ, I am simul justus et peccator – simultaneously sinful and lost – yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad.

My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the Other’.

My identity and self-worth is centered on the one who died for his enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

O Christ, what burdens bow'd Thy head!

"O Christ, what burdens bow'd Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner's stead,
Didst bear all ill for me.
A victim led; Thy blood was shed;
Now there's no load for me."

lyrics: Ann Ross Cousin
music: Ira David Sankey

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Object of our faith: Jesus

I often think if I want to know God better, I best pray harder, read scripture longer and do more work. I put the burden on myself to make it happen. However, I believe seeking to grow as a Christian is not the same as supplementing Christ with religiosity. That is a totally different gospel.

The gospel is...

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

(Romans 3:23-27)


John Calvin writes about Rom. 4:5 in his Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans...

"Some haves stumbled at this sentence - "his faith is counted for righteousness," and have misapplied it, as though faith were in itself the cause of righteousness, and hence a meritorious act, and not the way and means of attaining righteousness...hence, what is believed, or the object of faith, is what is counted for righteousness."


As we seek to grow in our faith, may we not look inwardly to ourselves, but outwardly to Jesus, and what he has done for us all by grace. May we refocus our vision from trying to improve our faith, to the object of our faith itself, Jesus Christ. By humbly clinging to Christ in faith and embracing His saving work on the cross, we are freed from the need to functionally save ourselves by doing more. In other words, may we continue to trust we are completely loved, accepted and justified before God in Christ Jesus already. For now, we are freed to obey, not in order to improve, but in a spirit of thankfulness, because we are united with Christ. In essence, may we allow our finished justification to fuel our daily sanctification.

The verdict is already in...may we grow in this truth as we look to Christ for everything.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Great is Thy Faithfulness

The following comes from Finding Peace in Life's Storms by Charles Spurgeon...

"If you have been sailing on the great waters of life for any length of time, you must be well aware that if it were not for everlasting truths, which continue to hold you securely, your spirit would quickly have been thrown into everlasting darkness long ago, and the proud waters would have gone over your soul long before this. When the mighty waves rose, it must have seemed to you as if your poor boat had gone down to the bottom of the sea, and if it had not been for the unchanging love and immovable faithfulness of God, your heart would have utterly failed. Nevertheless, here you are today, convoyed by grace, provisioned by mercy, steered by heavenly wisdom, and propelled by the Spirit's power. Thanks to the anchor, or rather to the God who gave it to you, no storm has overwhelmed you. Your ship is under way for the port of glory."

Heavenly Comfort Remains

Lamentations 3: 24 "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore, I will hope in Him."


The following comes from Finding Peace in Life's Storms by Charles Spurgeon...

"How can we be robbed, since our treasure is in heaven? Imagine that it is daylight, the sun is shining bright, and I am holding a lighted candle. Someone blows it out. Should I sit down and cry because my candle has been extinguished? No, not while the sun shines. God is my portion, and if I lose some little earthly comfort, I will not complain, for heavenly comfort remains."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone Before the Reformation

Here is an excerpt from a tract by the great scholastic theologian Saint Anselm (1033-1109)

"Question: Dost though believe that the Lord Jesus died for thee?
Answer: I believe it

Question: Dost thou believe that though canst not be saved except by his death
Answer: I believe it

Come then, while life remaineth in thee; in his death alone place thy whole trust; in naught else place any trust; to his death commit thyself wholly; with this alone cover thyself wholly; and if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, 'Lord, between thy judgement and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with thee.' And if he shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou; 'Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and thee.' If he say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say; 'Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and thee, and his merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.' If he say that he is wroth thee, say; 'Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thy wrath and me.' And when thou hast completed this, say again; 'Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and me.'"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do Not Be Anxious

Matthew 6: 25 - 34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Normally, things that lie outside of our control give the most unrest, because we have no power to influence them our way. However, I have realized in my life that it is things within my control that get me most anxious, because I want to do them well. Now, I don't believe desiring to do things well is what causes the anxiety, but rather, it is caused when my identity and acceptance with God, family and friends is dependent on my performance and success in these things.

I am learning if I truly believe that Jesus is my perfect righteousness, and accomplished everything on the cross for me, then I can freely embrace my failure in disgust, and joyfully claim His success on my behalf.

I believe in whatever we are called to do, we should strive to do it well, for it is a gift we can even do it in the first place. However, the difference between being enslaved in our doing and being freed in our doing is of the greatest magnitude. We are freed to work, and strive for things, when we functionally realize our doing .. a) can never earn us God's favor, for Jesus already earned it for us out of pure grace .. and .. b) is in response to what Jesus has already done for us on the cross, not in addition to it. In short, since we were purchased by His blood, we are now identified with His blood, and not ourselves. It's a beautiful gospel.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grace and Duty

With regards to our sanctification, specifically in regards to our overcoming temptation and our duty to holiness, puritan John Owen wrote,

"Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God. Some would separate these things as inconsistent. If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty. But our duty and God's grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for one absolutely supposes the other. We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give his grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty"

The Heart of the Issue: We Need Jesus

"In our deepest loss, we need more than friendship and a listening ear - though they are wonderful. We need more than mere arguments - though in some cases good arguments stabilize us. We need the reality of God himself - God as he has spectacularly and definitively disclosed himself to us in the person of his Son."

- D.A Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

Monday, July 5, 2010

The life-giving Preacher

"The life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for God, whose souls is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single to God, and in whom by the power of God's Spirit the flesh and the world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood of a life-giving river."

John Piper in 'Brother's We are Not Professionals'

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sweetly at Peace

The following is an excerpt from John Bunyan's 'Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners'.

"Now did my chains fall of my legs indeed; I was loosed 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 went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.....only that was brought to my remembrance, 1 Corinthians 1:30: "Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption", by this word I saw the other sentence true.

For by this scripture I saw that the Man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us, as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here therefore I lived, for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; "Oh!" methought, "Christ! Christ!" There was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes. I was not now only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considering Him as a whole Christ! as He in whom all these, and all His other virtues, relations, offices and operations met together, and that He sat on the right hand of God in heaven....Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification and all my redemption"

Notes on Preaching a Gospel Sermon

Though I am not studying to become a pastor, I found Keller's words to be a great reminder to all of us what a gospel-sermon consists of...


We have said that you must preach the gospel every week–to edify and grow Christians and to convert non-Christians. But if that is the case, you cannot simply ‘instruct in Biblical principles.’ You have to ‘get to Jesus’ every week.

For example, look at the story of David and Goliath. What is the meaning of that narrative for us? Without reference to Christ, the story may be (usually is!) preached as: “The bigger they come, the harder they’ll fall, if you just go into your battles with faith in the Lord. You may not be real big and powerful in yourself, but with God on your side, you can overcome giants.” But as soon as we ask: “how is David foreshadowing the work of his greater Son"? We begin to see the same features of the story in a different light. The story is telling us that the Israelites can not go up against Goliath. They can’t do it. They need a substitute. When David goes in on their behalf, he is not a full-grown man, but a vulnerable and weak figure, a mere boy. He goes virtually as a sacrificial lamb. But God uses his apparent weakness as the means to destroy the giant, and David becomes Israel’s champion-redeemer, so that his victory will be imputed to them. They get all the fruit of having fought the battle themselves.

This is a fundamentally different meaning than the one that arises from the non-Christocentric reading. There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done? If I read David and Goliath as basically giving me an example, then the story is really about me. I must summons up the faith and courage to fight the giants in my life. But if I read David and Goliath as basically showing me salvation through Jesus, then the story is really about him. Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sin, law, death) for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship). For example how can I ever fight the “giant” of failure, unless I have a deep security that God will not abandon me? If I see David as my example, the story will never help me fight the failure/giant. But if I see David/Jesus as my substitute, whose victory is imputed to me, then I can stand before the failure/giant. As another example, how can I ever fight the “giant” of persecution or criticism? Unless I can see him forgiving me on the cross, I won’t be able to forgive others. Unless I see him as forgiving me for falling asleep on him (Matt.27:45) I won’t be able to stay awake for him.

In the Old Testament we are continually told that our good works are not enough, that God has made a provision. This provision is pointed to at every place in the Old Testament. We see it in the clothes God makes Adam and Eve in Genesis, to the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs, to the Tabernacle and the whole sacrificial system, to the innumerable references to a Messiah, a suffering servant, and so on. Therefore, to say that the Bible is about Christ is to say that the main theme of the Bible is the gospel–Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

So reading the Old Testament Christocentrically is not just a “additional” dimension. It is not something you can just tack on - to the end of a study and sermon. ("Oh, and by the way, this also points us to Christ".) Rather, the Christocentric reading provides a fundamentally different application and meaning to the text. Without relating it to Christ, the story of Abraham and Isaac means: “You must be willing to even kill your own son for him.” Without relating it to Christ, the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel means: “You have to wrestle with God, even when he is inexplicable-even when he is crippling you. You must never give up.” These ‘morals-of-the-story’ are crushing because they essentially are read as being about us and what we must do.

The following may actually be four points in a presentation, or they may be treated very quickly as the last point of a sermon. But more generally, this is a foundational outline for the basic moral reasoning and argument that lies at the heart of the application.

The Plot winds up: WHAT YOU MUST DO.
“This is what you have to do! Here is what the text/narrative tells us that we must do or what we must be.”
The Plot thickens: WHY YOU CAN’T DO IT.
“But you can’t do it! Here are all the reasons that you will never become like this just by trying very hard.”
The Plot resolves: HOW HE DID IT.
“But there’s One who did. Perfectly. Wholly. Jesus the—. He has done this for us, in our place.”
The Plot winds down: HOW, THROUGH HIM, YOU CAN DO IT.
“Our failure to do it is due to our functional rejection of what he did. Remembering him frees our heart so we can change like this…”

a) In every text of the Scripture there is somehow a moral principle. It may grow out of because of what it shows us about the character of God or Christ, or out of either the good or bad example of characters in the text, or because of explicit commands, promises, and warnings. This moral principle must be distilled clearly. b) But then a crisis is created in the hearers as the preacher shows that his moral principle creates insurmountable problems. The sermon shows how this practical and moral obligation is impossible to meet. The hearers are led to a seemingly dead end. c) Then a hidden door opens and light comes in. The sermon moves both into worship and into Christ-application when it shows how only Jesus Christ has fulfilled this. If the text is a narrative, you can show how Christ is the ultimate example of a particular character. If the text is didactic, you can show how Christ is the ultimate embodiment of the principle. d) Finally, we show how our inability to live as we ought stems from our rejection of Christ as the Way, Truth, and Life (or whatever the theme is). The sermon points out how to repent and rejoice in Christ in such a way that we can live as we ought.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Rich Young Man and Repentance

"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a youth."
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
At this, the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Mark 10:17-22

This passage in Mark's Gospel contains a very peculiar interaction between Jesus and the rich young man. It provides us with an excellent depiction of exactly how not to connect with God. Specifically, the character of the rich young man is an inverse example of the true nature of repentance.

Repentance in its simple definition means to 'change one's mind' or to 'turn away from something'. In a Christian sense, I think we (or atleast me) immediately think of repentance as turning from outward sin. This is true. However, in turning from sin, it is important to realize the importance of turning from our own goodness and wholly clinging to Christ's. Therefore, I think repentance includes both the confessing and turning from our outward sinfulness (acts of the flesh), but also turning from trusting ourselves and our own accomplishments as the grounds for our acceptance/justification and instead, trusting in Christ and his accomplishments.

The rich young man's initial question "what must I do to inherit eternal life", shows his complete misunderstanding of the Gospel. He is trusting in something he can 'do' in order to earn God's favor. The question in itself seems silly. An inheritance is something you receive. It is something given to you, so to presume that one can earn it is ridiculous. This question reveals the heart of the rich young man. This interaction shows us that we cannot 'do' anything to merit eternal life, we can only turn to what Christ has done and receive eternal life.

In the back and forth interaction between Jesus and the rich young man, Jesus is trying to show the man both the enormity of his sin, and also the feebleness of his own efforts. Jesus does this by bringing God's unique holiness into the picture. When Jesus answers, "No one is good except God alone," he does this to bring the man to a point of recognition. It's as if Jesus is saying, 'look, God is the only one who is good, he is infinitely and uniquely holy, nothing you 'do' can ever bridge the infinite gulf that exists between you and Him. Stop trusting in your accomplishments, and trust in God. There is no one like him. He is perfect, your obedience does not measure up'. This was a perfect opportunity for the young man to realize the absurdity of his previous question in light of God's holiness and to repent.

Furthermore, true repentance always starts with God's holiness. It's only when we see God for who He really is, that we can begin to see our sin for what it really is. When we see just how vile we are in comparison to God's perfection, it will lead us to repentance. More so, our own obedience and accomplishments will pale in comparison to the awesome reality of God's complete holiness. Take for example the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 6, when he gets a glimpse of God's holiness, his only reaction is, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have see the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5)

The rich young man was unable to repent because he had no revelation of the holiness of God, and as a result, had no idea of the enormity of his sin. Therefore, he had no need for God's grace. He literally thought he was as good as God, as implied by him stating that he had kept all the commandments. However, we know that 'no one is righteous, not one, no one understands, no one seeks God, no one does good' (Romans 3:11-12). Jesus reveals the truth about the man's sinful heart by telling him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. While the young man thought he had kept all the commands, his unwillingness to sell his possessions reveals his failure to keep the very first commandment. The repentant heart is marked by a increasing awareness that there is no one who is righteous, and there is no one who truly seeks God.

Continuing, repentance is not supposed to be a one time thing. Rather, repentance should be a lifestyle. The mark of a maturing Christian should not be that they keep looking 'better' and doing more 'good', rather it will be marked by an increased awareness of sin and an increased awareness at the unworthiness of their own obedience. Both of these lead to increased repentance. They lead us to turn from ourselves, and turn to God.

Lastly, the nature of true repentance is marked by a longing for God's grace and results in an overwhelming joy. As stated before, an increase in the knowledge of God's holiness completely crushes our self-righteousness and convicts us of our own personal wickedness. It brings us to our knees in humility just as it did for Isaiah. However, the true nature of repentance does not end there. As we are made aware of our inability to 'do' something to merit God's favor, we will instead long for God's grace. We will long for Christ's righteousness, not wishing to establish a righteousness of our own, but rather trusting in Christ and the perfect righteousness that only He can provide. God bringing us to a point of brokenness allows him to pour grace and mercy into our lives. Only when we are broken by our sin can God restore us. The Gospel and the grace of God is only good newswhen we recognize our shortcomings. God desires mercy and not sacrifice, and when we repent, we will experience God's amazing grace. We will taste the glories of the Gospel in a fresh new way. God does not leave us in a state of despair. Rather, He restores His children, and richly lavishes His grace upon them. Experiencing God's grace and pardon and knowing our position as beloved children in Him will be marked by peace, rest, and joy unspeakable.

"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1: 8-9