Sunday, July 31, 2011

Come to Jesus

HT: Dan Orr

Thanks, D.O!

Observation # 4: Justification is Rooted in Our Union With Christ

We are only able to receive the benefits of Christ through our present union with Him. Because we are united to Him, we are seen as if we achieved His righteousness. The imputation of Christ's righteous to us finds its roots in our union to him. The Bible comes back to this teaching time and time again. Here are just a few verses that talk about our justification being 'in him', which is the equivilent to being united in Christ.

"It is because of him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:30

"God made him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might became the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

"...that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." Philippians 3:8-9

These 3 verses specifically refer to our righteousness before God, that is, our justification, as being rooted in our present union with Christ. It is 'in him' that we have attained a righteousness. We receive this righteousness because we are in him. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Observation # 3: Justification is Received by Faith Alone

There are two important elements to note in this statement. One, justification is something received, not earned. Second, the means by which it is received is through faith.

If justification is an act of God, whereby he declares us righteous based on the merit of Christ, then justification can only be received by faith. In fact, being a Christian consists of turning from self-justification and turning to justification through faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul states it beautifully in his letter to the church at Galatia,

"yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." Galatians 2:16

Again, justification has to do with trusting in the work of another. At times this can be a very difficult concept to functionally accept. There are two reasons this is true....

First, as Martin Luther said, our default mode is religion. In other words, our sinful, human tendency is to attempt to justify ourselves through 'doing'. This is religion. If we do x,y,z....then God will justify us. If we perform enough religious rituals, then we are OK with God. If we are nice people then we are righteous. If I get good grades and perform well on the sports field then I'm good. If I try to be moral and be a good parent, then God must accept me. The list is endless, and in some way, shape or form, applies to us all. Our default mode is to try to earn or merit our rightness with God. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that we can never do enough ______(fill in the blank) and we can never be good enough, so Jesus lived the perfect life and died for our shortcomings. Therefore, to be accepted by God, to be justified, we must look to Christ in faith, trusting only in Him.

The second reason justification by faith can be a hard reality to accept is that we are constantly falling into sin. Even as Christians, those redeemed from sin, being renewed in the likeness of Christ, we still struggle with sin. It can be hard to believe that we are justified when we keep messing up. It is hard to rest in the work of another and trust that His pardoning favor is sufficient. However, this is exactly what faith is. Fully casting ourselves upon, and trusting in the work of another. Growing as a Christian means to grow in ones faith in Christ's finished work. If our trust is in the fact that we are justified by faith in Christ, then our faith will be as solid as a rock. However, if we are trusting in ourselves, we will have no comfort, peace or rest. Martin Luther used to say that a Christian is able to simultaneously call himself both 'sinner' and 'saint'. Sinner because he still struggles with sin, and still cannot earn salvation. Saint because he is hid in Christ.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Observation # 2: Justification is a Declarative Act

Continuing the 10 observations on the doctrine of justification, we come to our second observation on this concept.

Observations #2: Justification is a declarative or judicial act of God.

It must be understood that justification is a declaration of ones right standing with God. Therefore, justification is not a process by which we become more or less justified. Rather, it occurs as an act. God declares us righteous. One moment we are under His wrath, the next moment, through faith in Jesus, we are forever seen as right. Throughout the entire Bible, the use of the word to justify (both in the hebrew OT and greek NT) has a legal tone to it. It is as we are before a judge, or were under condemnation for our acts. Justification is the announcement that a sinner who was under condemnation is now righteous. He is no longer under condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Justification is a one time, once for all. legal declaration that a guilty sinner is no longer under God's wrath, but is now declared as righteous.

Now, in the later observations we will discuss in more detail the grounds by which we are declared righteous, but for now, I will only say that we are declared as righteous before God not based on our own merit or goodness, but solely on the righteousness of Jesus. As we will see tomorrow, that is why justification must be by faith alone.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Concept of Justification

Over the next 10 days, I will be posting 10 observations from the concept of justification. In large, each of these observations will be taken from Anthony Hoekema's chapter on justification from his book on soteriology, 'Saved By Grace'. While these concepts may be simple in nature, my hope is whether we are visiting these beautiful truths for the first time, or revisiting them, that God would give us a deeper understanding of Christ's justifying work on our behalf, and that as a result, we would love Jesus more, and see Him as exceedingly glorious. I pray God would renew a sense of awe, wonder and joy in us for the doctrine of justification.

In his book, Hoekema defines justification as "that gracious and judicial act of God whereby he declares believing sinners righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ which is credited to them, forgives all their sins, adopts them as his children, and gives them the right to eternal life".

Observation # 1:

The Doctrine of Justification presupposes a recognition of the reality of God's wrath. 

The need for justification stems from God's holiness. Inherently, the word holy means to be 'set apart' or 'separate from'. In the biblical sense, it means that God is perfect. He is sinless. He is 'other' from us. He stands alone in His holiness. The Bible is clear in its teaching that because is holy, he cannot tolerate sin. Darkness cannot stain the perfect light. The prophet Habakkuk puts it this way, "Your [God's] eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong" (Hab. 1:13).

In order for the gospel to be good news, we must understand what we are saved from. Our state of sin demands God's wrath. Because He is holy, because He is perfect in all His ways, God cannot simply overlook sin. Rather, Sin deserves God's wrath.

Some observations from verses describing God's wrath:

God's wrath abides on those who reject Jesus (John 3:36)
We are all by nature, objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
God's wrath comes upon those who are disobedient (Ephesians 5:6)
Because God's wrath abides on us, we are alienated from God (Colossians 1:21)
Christ saves us from God's wrath (Romans 5:9)

So, the first observation of the doctrine of justification is that it presupposes the reality of God's wrath. Because God is holy, and we have sinned, we deserve His wrath. This fits in line with God's perfect justice. We would not say it is unjust for a judge to give a fair punishment to a criminal. How much more  perfect is God's justice than an earthly judge. Our rebellion against God, our turning away from him rightly and justly demands His wrath. Therefore, in order to have any understanding of justification, we must understand what we are justified from, and why we need to be justified.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Heidelberg Catechism on Justification

This comes from question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Gold.

Q. How are you right with God?

A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. 
Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously 
sinned against all God's commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.
All I need to do
is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart. 

Praise God! This is the best news ever! What a gracious father! Without deserving it at all, God, out of sheer grace, grants and credits to Christians the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. Understanding this truth is imperative to understanding the Gospel, and I pray  God continues to enliven my heart to the glorious riches of Christ's saving work. 

Assurance: Objectivity, Promise and Holy Spirit

The following texts are from Christopher J.H. Wright's Salvation Belongs to Our God. It is a short and clear outline of redemptive history, and the story of God's covenant with His people. His section on the assurance of salvation really gripped me, and taught me a lot. He outlines this section as follows.

Assurance comes from...
1. The Objectivity of the Story
2. The Promises of God
3. The Witness and Work of the Holy Spirit

The Objectivity of the Story
1. "Salvation is not something we ourselves do, feel, think, wish or achieve. If it were, then we might rightly doubt whether we have done enough to be sure of being saved. Or we might worry that we don't feel saved. But the Bible makes it clear that salvation is something that God has accomplished. That means our salvation is grounded in the objectivity of the story. By objectivity, I mean something that stands outside and independent of ourselves...So assurance of salvation comes not from trusting in my own faith for its own sake, but rather from trusting in the object of my faith - what God has actually done to make my salvation possible."

The Promises of God
2. Hebrews 6: 13-20 "For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."

"And you notice how the writer of Hebrews makes the example of Abraham relevant to us by saying at the end of the passage that we too can have the same rock-solid security in our faith because of the character and promise of God."

Romans 8: 28-30 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

The Witness and Work of the Holy Spirit
3. "Is there not also a profoundly personal, internal, emotional and spiritual experience of salvation? Am I not actually supposed to feel saved? And of course the answer is a resounding and joyful 'YES'!...Then, once we have come into that new relationship with God through Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who bears witness within our own minds and hearts that it has indeed happened - that we have indeed been born again and have become children of God. God has made us sons and heirs, objectively. But it is the Spirit who gives us the inner assurance that it is indeed so, and our life of prayer, in which we call God 'Abba Father', as Jesus did, confirms that relationship."

Romans 8: 15-17 "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

"So, another aspect of our assurance of salvation comes from the way our lives are being changed more and more into the image of Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit, and to exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and to 'walk in the Spirit', then we grow in our assurance of salvation because the evidence of that salvation at work within us is being seen in our lives."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Calvin on Assurance

John Calvin writing on the assurance of salvation says,

"He alone is truly a believer who, convinced by a firm conviction that God is a kindly and well-disposed Father toward him, promises himself all things on the basis of his generosity; who, relying upon the promises of divine benevolence toward him, lays hold on an undoubted expectation of salvation.....No man is a believer, I say, except him who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death."

Institutes, III.ii.16.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mumford and Sons Jamming out to Amazing Grace

Mumford and Sons have become one of the most popular and influential bands in the world today. In terms of live shows, besides U2, they are regarded as probably the best live band around. Something that makes them unique is the wide variety of people their music attracts. From young hipsters to old lovers of classic rock, to post-modern relativists to atheists to reformed Christians. Their music is excellent and it appeals to many. It is an amazing thing and it brings me joy to hear a band like Mumford and Sons singing Amazing Grace and Come Thou Fount, praising God in the midst of their audience. It is wonderful that God uses common ground among people, such as music, in order to make His name known. I don't even know if Mumford and Sons are Christians, but based on their music, I think they are. Either way, God's beautiful grace is being declared among people who would otherwise never step in a church. That excites me.

The Ruler of Israel

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, 
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his 
flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, 
for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace."
Micah 5:2-5

The ruler of Israel of which the prophet Micah foretells is indeed Jesus. The Son is from ancient of days. It has been predestined from before the foundations of creation that Jesus would come and save a particular people (Ephesians 1:5). By the blood of His cross, He has united a people unto himself. His wounds are their peace. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sake of His sheep. Surely he shepherds God's children in the strength and majesty of the LORD. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Greatly He Exults

"O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
   and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2You have given him his heart’s desire
   and have not withheld the request of his lips. 
3For you meet him with rich blessings;
   you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
    length of days forever and ever.
5His glory is great through your salvation;
    splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;[a]
   you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7For the king trusts in the LORD,
   and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved."

Psalm 21:1-8

In this psalm, David exults greatly in the salvation of the Lord. David rejoices that God has richly blessed him. He rejoices that God has given him life. He is overwhelmed by the joy of God's presence with him. 

My prayer this morning is that our life would be an exultation of the greatness of God. How wonderful are His works! Though we were once far off, hostile to God, alienated from His presence, without life and joy, though there was once a great dividing wall between us and our Creator, though we did not formerly belong to His beloved people, the Son of God descended from heaven and became man to give us salvation. He is Immanuel, God with us. Though humanity was wrecked, though our shame ran deep, His grace runs deeper. I exult in God because of His great love. Jesus came to earth to give us new life. Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection has now brought us near. At the cross, the hostility was crushed. If we believe in Him, we are no longer aliens, but sons. Through the Son, our life is being restored. Through Him, the dividing wall has been shattered once and for all. This truly is good news!

Like David, I rejoice in the strength of the Most High. I exult greatly in God's salvation because it is by His strength, not my might. Jesus said that he came to give us life to the full, or life abundantly (John 10:10) and to give us fullness of joy (John 15:11). Because we are united to Christ, we now have access to true life and true joy. Jesus is restoring to us life as it is intended to be. It is meant to be lived in fellowship with him. What a great salvation that God has made this possible!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jesus Our Benefactor

From 'Valley of Vision'.

My dear Lord,
I depend wholly on thee,
wean from me all other dependencies.
Though are my all, thou dost overrule all and delight in me.
Thou art the foundation of goodness,
how can I distrust thee?
how be anxious about what happens to me?
In the light of thy preciousness the world
and all its enjoyments are infinitely poor:
I value the favor of men no more than pebbles.
Amid the blessings I receive from thee
may I never lose the heart of a stranger. 
May I love thee, my benefactor, in all my benefits,
not forgetting that my greatest danger arises from all my advantages.
Produce in me self-despair that will make Jesus precious to me,
delightful in all his offices,
pleasurable in all his ways,
and may I love his commands as well as his promises.
Help me to discern between true and false love, 
the one consisting of supreme love to thee, the other not,
the former uniting thy glory and man's happiness
that they may become a common interest,
the latter disjointing and separating them both,
seeking the latter with neglect of the former.
Teach me that genuine love is different in kind 
from that wrought by rational arguments or the motive of self-interest,
that such love is a pleasing passion affording joy to the mind where it is.
Grant me grace to distinguish between the genuine and the false,
and to rest in thee who are all love. 

A great prayer for this morning. That we would lean more wholly upon Christ and trust in His benefits and that Jesus would be increasingly precious to us. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Martin Lloyd-Jones on Preaching and the Gospel

A few lessons Tim Keller has learned from Martin Lloyd-Jones.

"The lesson I eventually learned from him was—don't preach to your congregation for spiritual growth thinking everyone there is a Christian—and don't preach the gospel evangelistically thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. In other words—evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize. These are two different by intimately related ideas, and we will tackle one in each of the next two posts."

You can read the rest of the article here.

You Alone Can Rescue

A great contemporary song we've been singing @ The Journey

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lean on Him

"I seemed to depend wholly on my dear Lord, wholly weaned from all other dependencies. I knew not what to say to my God, but only lean on His bosom, as it were, and breathe out my desires after a perfect conformity to Him in all things...God was so precious to my soul that the world with all its enjoyments was infinitely vile. I had no more value for the favor of men than for pebbles. The Lord was my ALL; and that He overruled all greatly delighted me...I saw Him such a fountain of goodness that it seemed impossible I should distrust again, or be any way anxious about anything that should happen to me."

-The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, edited by Jonathan Edwards


So often am I overwhelmed that I have no idea what to say to God. I'm too exhausted to speak, but I desperately need Him...To catch me...To let me rest in Him...To let me give my biggest sigh of relief, knowing that He has got me, because of Christ. He does catch us. It is not based on how great our faith is, but how great He is. Simply trust He will catch you. He will. Those moments filled with grace wipe anxiety away like nothing else.

Christ, The Only Mediator

A post-worthy quote from Augustine's Confessions. What a beautiful reminder that Christ is the only one by whom we may be reconciled to God. Neither religion, nor morality, nor spirituality, nor rituals may mediate sinful humans to a good and holy God. Only Jesus. He is the one True Mediator. He alone is sufficient to mediate man to God.

"Who could be found to reconcile me to you? Was I to beg the help of angels? What prayer should I use? What sacred rites? Many have tried to return to you, and have not had the strength in themselves to achieve it, so I have been told. They have attempted these methods and have lapsed into a desire for curious visions, and have been rewarded with illusions. For in their quest they have lifted up by pride in their high culture, inflating their chest rather than beating their breast. Through an affinity in heart they attracted themselves as associates and allies of their pride....They sought a mediator to purify them, and it was not the true one......But a mediator between God and the human race ought to have something in common with God and something in common with humanity....

The true Mediator you showed to humanity in your secret mercy....He is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. He appeared among mortal sinners as the immortal righteous one, mortal like humanity, righteous like God. Because the wages of righteousness are life and peace, being united with God by his righteousness he made void the death of justified sinners, a death which it was his will to share in common with them. He was made known to ancient saints so that they could be saved through faith in his future passion, just as we are saved through faith in his passion now that it is past. It is as man that he is mediator. He is not midway as Word; for the Word is equal to God and with God.

How you have loved us, good Father; you did not spare your only Son but delivered him up for sinners. How you have loved us, for whose sake he did not think it a usurpation to be equal to you and was made subject to the death of the cross. He was the only one to be free among the dead. He had power to lay down his soul and power to take it back again. For us he was victorious before you and victor because he was victim. For us before you he is priest and sacrifice, and priest because he is sacrifice. Before you he makes us sons instead of servants by being born of you and being servant to us. With good reason my firm hope is in him. For you will cure all my diseases through him who sits at your right hand and intercedes with you for us. Otherwise, I would be in despair. Many and great are those diseases, many and great indeed. But your medicine is still more potent."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dr. Phil Ryken on Year One at Wheaton College

I am very thankful that Dr. Ryken is at Wheaton College and for the kind of gospel-centered leadership he offers the school. I think he is just what Wheaton College needs.

Pastor-President Ryken on Year One at Wheaton from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Measure of Friendship

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."
John 15: 13-15

"A friend loves at all times,
   and a brother is born for adversity."

Proverbs 17:17

"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

Biblically, friendship is defined by sacrifice. It is measured by what someone is willing to give up for the other. In both verses written by John, we see the utmost display of friendship is seen in the giving of ones life. From these criteria, we can see how Jesus is the ultimate friend. Here is a prayer that I wrote this morning.

Jesus, I praise and thank You for being the ultimate friend. You have unconditionally loved the loveless. You alone have loved me at all times. I confess to you Lord both my undeserving state of this friendship, and my self-justifying attempts to make myself appear worthy of this friendship. Yet, I rejoice in the truth that my union with You in completely contingent upon Your grace. You are the true friend, who at my very need your life did spend. And in what manner did you spend your life? You spent your life for me in the most extravagant way. For man or woman could lay down their life for me in order to preserve my temporal life here on earth, but only You could lay down your life in order to atone for my sins and to give me fullness of life. Jesus, you are the ultimate friend because you paid the ultimate cost. For you humbly left your glorious throne, you left your exalted position, and stooped down to my level. You saw your friends in dying need and you laid aside your glory, becoming man, being born in a manger, living among the filth which we caused, and died the death you didn't deserve, in order to save your friends. You have saved me from the ultimate adversity.There is no greater sacrifice. There is no greater friend. More so, you did not do so grudgingly, but out of gladness and joy. You are the pinnacle of friendship.

Jesus, I also praise you for the earthly friends which you have given me. Though imperfect and weak, their friendship gives me a faint, yet beautiful glimpse at your perfect friendship. Hints of Your radiant glory shine forth through their selfless love and raise my yearning to better know you, the true friend. I marvel at Your grace, as seen in the gift of friends. May we continue to sharpen each other, and to help each other more clearly behold the beauty of you, Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Taste and See that the Lord is Good

Psalm 34 Promises

Vs. 4 "I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears."

Vs. 6 "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles."

Vs. 7 "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."

Vs. 18 "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit."

Vs. 19 "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

Vs. 22 "The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned."


The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

He came to rescue the SCARED, the POOR, the TROUBLED, the HUMILIATED, the BROKENHEARTED, the CRUSHED, the AFFLICTED and those LOW IN STATURE.

Gospel promises are made manifest in the lives of repentant sinners. Sinners who claim nothing of their own, but simply claim Jesus Christ. He is the power and perfect fulfillment of every saving promise. Because of his life, death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God, we are united to Him by grace through faith, and are promised the gift of being raised from our lowly state to His TRIUMPHANT state in eternal glory. If that isn't freeing, I don't know what is.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" Psalm 34:8

Christ Is The Point

An excellent article from Tullian Tchividjian's blog on the Gospel Coalition site. The article is written by Mark Galli who is the senior editor at Christianity Today. Mark has written a book entitled, God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and How the Good News is Better Than Love Wins, which as you can imagine, is a response to Rob Bell's recent book, Love Wins. This article is excellent.

Christ Is The Point

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Authentic Happy Life

"Far be it from me, Lord, far from the heart of your servant who is making confession to you, far be it from me to think myself happy, whatever the joy in which I take my delight. There is a delight which is given not to the wicked (Isaiah 28:22), but to those who worship you for no reward save the joy that you yourself are to them. That is the authentic happy life, to set one's joy on you, grounded in you and caused by you. That is the real thing, and there is no other. Those who think that the happy life is found elsewhere, pursue another joy and not the true one. Nevertheless, their will remains drawn towards some image of the true joy."

Saint Augustine, Confessions, page 198-199

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Wonderful Grace of Jesus

A hymn by Haldor Lillenas written in 1918 called 'The Wonderful Grace of Jesus'

The wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free;
The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

The wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching a mighty host,
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty;
The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

More patient than my fight, more faithful than my doubt,
Persistent though I run, O how his grace abounds!
Broader than my sin, deeper than my shame,
Stronger than my evil, O praise Jesus name!

The wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven, for all eternity;
The wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

More patient than my fight, more faithful than my doubt,
Persistent though I run, O how his grace abounds!
Broader than my sin, deeper than my shame,
Stronger than my evil, O praise Jesus name!

The wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?

How Men Change

The following is by Ray Ortlund, Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, from a recent small group setting a few weeks ago. Attending Immanuel this summer has been so transforming in my understanding of "how we change in light of the gospel". Thanks, Ray.


"What steps do we men often walk through to get out of the shadows and into the light?

1. Keeping up appearances successfully, even unconsciously.
2. Failure, followed by brokenness. 'Brokenness' is not dysfunction, but a willingness to be real at the foot of the cross. Unbroken men MUST look good. Broken men need a Savior too urgently to care any more about appearances. The walls fall down. The need comes out.
3. Confession. The proof that our confession before God is sincere is that we are candor about our own sins with one another. Real confession is not general and vague, but detailed and up-to-date.
4. Prayer, forgiveness and cleansing. The biblical response to one another's confession is not therapy, but prayer for healing. All the promises of the gospel converge on the sinner who repents and confesses before God and others.
5. Refreshment, joy, and witness. Whenever people hear fresh stories of God's real mercy to real sinners, they marvel, they are drawn in, and the light spreads."


1 John 1: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.


Jesus is in the light. Jesus is the light. We can have forgiveness, healing and life by running to the light (openness and confession with God and others), as we fix our eyes, and throw our lives onto Jesus.

The Delight of Eternity

"But, as it is written,
'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined, 
what God has prepared for those who love him.'"
1 Corinthians 2:9

"The conversation led us towards the conclusion that the pleasure of the bodily senses, however delightful in the radiant light of this physical world, is seen by comparison with the life of eternity to be not even worth considering."

Saint Augustine, Confessions, page 171. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Missional Community?

With the recent resurgence in gospel-centered church plants from groups such as ACTS 29, Sovereign Grace and Redeemer, the word 'missional' has become exceedingly trendy. Churches love to label themselves as 'missional', or love to call their small groups 'missional communities'. All this really means is that the church sees itself as part of God's mission. A missional church is a community of Christians who live and experience life together, who are united together in the gospel, meeting regularly to worship, speak biblical truth to each other, to build up, encourage, rebuke, and to partake in the Lord's Supper together. It is also a group that considers its purpose not only to inwardly build each other up and experience life among each other, but to share their lives with those outside the church. Missional churches are serious about living and proclaiming the gospel outside the church walls. They long to see the redemption of all things, and being indwelled with the Holy Spirit, are partakers in this mission. Yet, they do this together. They do this as a community of believers.

The reason I am posting this is because this term 'missional' seems to be so modern and trendy, but it is really an ancient idea. In fact, Israel was called to be a 'missional' community. They were to be a holy nation that mediated God's presence to the rest of the world. They were called to be a blessing to the rest of the world. Also, Saint Augustine mentions the idea in his Confessions. In this quote, Augustine had just recently become a Christian along with a few of his close friends. The next step? They were to move back to Africa together, live together in 'missional' community, so that they be of whatever service the Lord saw fit for them. That is 'missional' community.

"'You make people to live in unanimity' (Psalm 67:7): So you made Evodius a member of our circle, a young man from my home town. When he was a civil servant as an agent in the special branch, he was converted to you before we were. He was baptized and resigned his post on taking up your service. We were together and by a holy decision resolved to live together. We looked for a place where we could be of most use in your service; all of us agreed on a move back to Africa."

Saint Augustine, Confessions, pg. 166

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grace More Abundant

"My sins are more than the wide sea's sand, but where sin abounds, there is grace more abundant. Look to the cross of thy beloved Son, and view the preciousness of his atoning blood; Listen to his never-failing intercession, and whisper to my heart, 'Thy sins are forgiven, be of good cheer, lie down in peace'."

- Valley of Vision, The Prayer of Love

The First Christian Sermon

Following Christ's ascension, the Holy Spirit came upon the 12 disciples during the festival of Pentecost. It was during this time that the first ever Christian sermon was given.

"But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words." Acts 2:14

There are a few things we can learn from Peter's first sermon in Acts 2.
First, it is Christ-centered. The culmination of his words are to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Christ. His death and resurrection are the climax.

"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." Acts 2: 23-24

"Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Acts 2: 26

And Peter finishes his sermon with how we are to respond to this good news.

"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." Acts 2: 38-39

Pretty simple.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

That Which Does Not Perish

"When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

John 6:25-29

A couple things.....

1) We all labor for some form of food
         No, this passage is not primarily talking about physical food, but rather what we fill our souls with. Every person on the planet tries to fill their lives with something. We all look to something to find our purpose, significance, security and life. We all look to find satisfaction in something. Here, Jesus confronts his audience by putting a fork in the road.

          In one direction, is the life in pursuit of perishable food.  This could be a number of things. Especially prevalent in American culture are financial security, academic prestige, vocational success, physical appearance, a care-free life, and happiness. For many of us, we look to these things daily. We eat of them daily with the hope that they will give us life; with the hopes that they will give us purpose, meaning, significance and security. The perishable food we pursue often time takes the form of obvious sin, but it is important to realize that not all perishable food has a marred appearance. In fact, many of the perishable things we pursue can be good things. Many of us look to relationships, to family, to love in order to fill us. These things certainly make a good appearance. However, they are in fact perishable. They do not give life. They do not satisfy. They only end in death. Imagine the crowd following Jesus in this story. They continued to follow Jesus because he miracously provided them with physical bread. Yet, they completely failed to realize the purpose of this miracle. It was to point them to Jesus the Savior, the only one who could give them real life. The crowd was completely ignorant to this and foolishly followed Jesus hoping to get more physical food. That is why Jesus asks them why they are seeking perishable food when imperishable food is offered to them. We are the same way. We ignorantly pursue perishable food, hoping it will satisfy us, hoping it will give us life. But we fail to realize that the Bread of Life has himself been given to us, to fill us, and to give us life as it was intended. 

2) Jesus as the Bread of Life
         Later in John 6, Jesus refers to himself as the Bread of Life. He himself is the imperishable food. Someone who eats or fills themselves with imperishable food eats of it, and it is never enough. They come back again and again. It doesn't stick. It doesn't fill the void. In Jesus' interaction with the following crowd, he offers himself as the source of this imperishable food. Jesus freely offers himself to those who seek him. Why then would we eat of anything else?

3) Jesus is only one qualified 
          How is it that Jesus is the one who can satisfy the hearts of men? Well, he answers this very question. Because the Father has set His seal on Him. Since Adam, mans heart has been restless. We have been trying to fix this, but something just isn't quite right. No matter how much success, comfort, prestige, happiness we have, we still are empty. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we try to cover our shame. Deep down, we all know that there is lack of true life in us. That is because we are out of the fellowship for which we were created. Jesus is the only one qualified to restore this all-satisfying fellowship. All our desires and wants in this life only point to the one true desire for which we were created, and which will truly bring us satisfaction. Jesus gives true joy, true hope, true peace, true life. He is qualified to give this because from eternities past, the Father has set His seal on Jesus to be the Savior of the world. He is the one who is to restore the earth. He is the one whom the Scriptures speak of. THe Old Testament tells of His coming. By Christ's life, death and resurrection, a return to an all-satisfying fellowship is possible. This is what we were made for. We were made to eat of this food. Why tarry?

4) How do we eat this bread?
           Jesus tells us what it means to do the work of God. Actually, the answer is sort of contradictory. Doing the work of God is actually believing in the One whom he has sent (Jesus). It is our human tendency to think what we can actively be doing to be right with God. However, Jesus tells us to do the work of God, is to believe in Him. It is a resting in Jesus. We eat of this bread by trusting in Christ and the work he has done. There is no work we can do to earn this imperishable bread. Therefore, to labor for imperishable food is to believe and trust in Jesus. Doing the work of God means to lean more heavily upon the Break of Life. 

Joy Comes in the Morning

Psalm 30:5

"Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning."


We meet every qualification to deserve the eternal wrath of God on us, and condemnation in hell. In short, Christ absorbed his Father's anger for us on the cross. Our heavenly Father now looks at us in utter delight in every moment, because He sees his perfect Son united to our hearts by faith, clothing us with every favorable thing. All of grace.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not Mere Improvement

I am continually struck at the vivid language the Bible uses to describe the transformation that a Christian undergoes. The Gospel is not mere improvement, it is a complete overhaul. It is complete newness. It is an eternal change in identity. It is a sad reality that many life long church goers have not experienced this eternal identity change. For the most part, Christianity is merely viewed as an elevated moral code or a set of guidelines for an improved life. Both of these rob the Gospel of its radical call to new life.

One doesn't need to search hard to find the Bible's elicit use of transformational language. Notice the vivid contrasts, the complete newness, the eternal identity change. A Christian is one who, by the Gospel was

Dead in their trespasses but now made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
an enemy of God, but now reconciled (Romans 5:10)
alienated from God, far off, but now brought near (Colossians 1:21, Eph. 2:13)
walking in darkness, but now is in the light (Isaiah 9:2)
orphaned, but now adopted (Romans 8:15)
under condemnation, now free (Romans 8:1-2)
a slave to sin, but is now redeemed (John 8:34, 1 Peter 1:19)
guilty, but now justified (Romans 3:10, Galatians 2:16)
spiritually bankrupt, but now filled with the riches of God's grace (Eph. 1:7)
hungry, but now satisfied (John 6:35)

The list goes on.....