Archive for January, 2011

The quote is from The Epistle to Diognetus 9, translated by Roberts-Donaldson. This text dates from early to mid 2nd century AD. It is an early indication that the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and double imputation were not first the product of the Protestant Reformation, but were held dear by the earliest generations of Christians. The author is unknown – he refers to himself simply as a mathetes “disciple”.

But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

(HT:Effectual Grace)

Gospel delight

Posted: January 29, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Uncategorized

“Surely the gospel does not confine men’s hearts to delight in the present life, but lifts them to the hope of immortality. It does not fasten them to earthly pleasures, but by announcing a hope that rests in heaven it, so to speak, transports them thither.”

– John Calvin, Institutes, Book II.10.3

My apologies for not posting this sooner. I’ve had a baby daughter and that has set me back a few weeks! Now that I’m back, we will discuss this question with a bit more regularity. Enjoy.


A good friend in Charleston recently asked the question “What does it mean to be Reformed?” That question sparked this most recent series on AwakeningGrace which I suspect will go on for several weeks if not months.

Access Part I by clicking here

In the first post I noted that the Reformed faith is not nearly as much a way about thinking through the faith as it is a way of living life. I noted that the life of the Reformed Christian is lived out in a theocentric manner. Theocentric simply means God-centered. I noted that this is not merely an intellectual commitment, though it is certainly that. More than that however, this commitment to theocentricity is a matter of the heart, a matter of worship. In the last post I reflected on the desire of the Reformed Christian for God alone to have the glory in all things. In this post I would like to focus on what creates this desire in the first place.

We might begin this discussion using a simple metaphor. Picture a magnetic compass. If you were to shake the compass or spin it around the needles would spin as well. However, once you quit shaking the compass and the needle settled it would undoubtedly be drawn to the strong magnetic field of the North Pole. In the same way that the needle on a compass is drawn by a strong magnetic field, to be theocentric means that your heart has been drawn to God. But what draws a heart to God?

The fact that God is powerful is certainly a drawing force. Powerful people are used to others being drawn to them like moths to a flame. The wealthy, the influential, and the famous all know what its like to have groupies. Power itself and powerful people can be intoxicating. But just as power can draw, so too can power drive away. It was at the foot of Mt. Sinai, after the redemption of Israel that the people of Israel were confronted with an all powerful God. It was of course nice to know that this super powerful deity was on their side, nevertheless being in such close proximity to something so powerful was also unimaginably terrifying. We read in Exodus:

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:18-19 ESV)

If the only thing to God was his mighty power, this would be a hard case for leading a theocentric life for a theocentric life demands that one not only love God but also draws near to God. But as the reading from Exodus illustrates, it is hard to draw near raw power. The sun is nice to look at from a distance but no one wants to travel to its surface! You would be destroyed.

So the Reformed Christian recognizes that God is powerful, but the Reformed Christians knows more of God than his power. The Reformed Christian also recognizes that God is gracious. Shortly after the raw power of God was revealed at Sinai another glimpse of God was given to Moses. Moses begged God “Show me your glory!” To which God replied “I will cause all my goodness to pass before you.” And here’s what happened next:

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:5-6 ESV)

God is power. There is no denying that. But his “goodness” is not merely his power, but his mercy. Charles Spurgeon combines the two describing God as powerfully merciful, or to use Spurgeon’s own language “Sovereignly Gracious.” Rather than try and describe it myself, I’ll let Spurgeon speak with his own pen.

Put the two together, goodness and sovereignty, and you see God’s glory. If you take sovereignty alone, you will not understand God. Some people only have an idea of God’s sovereignty, and not of his goodness; such are usually gloomy, harsh, and ill-humored. You must put the two together; that God is good, and that God is a sovereign. You must speak of sovereign grace. God is not grace alone, he is sovereign grace. He is not sovereign alone, but he is graciously sovereign. That is the best idea of God. When Moses said, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory,” God made him see that he was glorious, and that his glory was his sovereign goodness.

Thus it is the sovereign goodness of God that trains the heart of the Reformed Christian to desire to live in a theocentric way.  When the Reformed Christian speaks of God’s “sovereign goodness,” or “sovereign grace” this can be a term that can be applied exhaustively. Because the Reformed Christian views all of life through the lens of the glory of God, the Reformed Christian sees God’s sovereign goodness exhibited in just about everything. For example, it is God’s sovereign grace that causes the rain to fall and water the crops for the food we eat. It is God’s sovereign grace that has equipped humans with creativity to produce art, film and theatre to delight and inspire us. It is God’s sovereign grace that granted biological organisms the ability to reproduce life, which most recently has been cause for thanksgiving in my own family. However, there is a way to speak more specifically about God’s sovereign grace if we wish and that is by speaking of the person of Jesus Christ.

On a clear day if you look up into the sky you will be overwhelmed by the light of the sun. There is a tool however that can break the light of the sun down into its particulars, or spectral colors so that it can be examined more clearly. This tool is called a prism. Light in all its glory goes into the prism and then is neatly broken down and represented in the spectral colors of the rainbow. Jesus Christ is the prism of God’s sovereign grace. All of God’s goodness passes through the prism of Jesus Christ where it is made small enough, or accommodated to our senses so that we can see God’s grace clearly, understand it well, and apply it to our lives.

For example, we know that God’s provision is part of his sovereign mercy. But when we consider the provision of God, it can be quite overwhelming? What happens when the provision of God passes through the prism of Jesus Christ? In the passage below excerpted from Mark’s Gospel we’re presented with a father whose son is demon possessed. Many have tried to cure the boy, even some of Jesus’ disciples and failed. Finally, the boy is brought to Jesus. Here’s what happened next.

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-24 ESV)

Now where is God’s provision required in this story? First, both the father and the boy need a healer to come into their life to restore the health of the boy and free him from bondage. Second, the father lacks faith. “Help my unbelief!” is his cry to Jesus. The sovereignty of God in Jesus Christ is recognized. He could heal the boy, he could grant faith to the father. But, and oh what cause for great rejoicing! The grace of God in Jesus Christ is demonstrated as well! Not only can he heal the boy. Not only can he grant faith to the father. Not only can he do all these things but he wants to! Here’s how the story ends.

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.  (Mark 9:25-27 ESV)

Thus sovereignty and grace come together in the prism of Jesus Christ, applied personally to a father and his son. Those who have had the sovereign grace of God refracted upon them through the prism of Jesus Christ are changed people. They have experienced the sovereign goodness of God. Now out of a heart irresistibly changed by this experience of sovereign grace, they will seek the glory of God first in all things, but they will seek it through the prism of Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of their experience of sovereign grace. When they need righteousness, they recognize God is sovereign and gracious. He can give them righteousness and he wants to, but he will do it through the prism of Jesus Christ. When they need mercy, they recognize God is sovereign and gracious. He can give them mercy and he wants to, but he will do it through the prism of Jesus Christ. When they need to cultivate a loving heart, they recognize God is sovereign and gracious. He can give them a loving heart and he wants to, but he will do it through the prism of Jesus Christ.

So we find that the Reformed Christian not only lives Soli Deo Gloria, that is, to the glory of God alone. But the Reformed Christian lives this way solus Christus, that is through the prism of Christ alone.

Teachings on the Doctrines of Grace from The Gospel according to John

by Steve Lawson

 

5 MP3s here

 

(HT:John Sampson)

Chosen to Believe

Posted: January 24, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity, Church Fathers

God chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe…   Augustine (354-430)

If You agree you might be…..

Posted: January 20, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Reformed Theology

At the bottom is a “nick name” for what you might be if this is what you believe:

 

 

I believe I am so spiritually corrupt and prideful and rebellious that I would never have come to faith in Jesus without God’s merciful, sovereign victory over the last vestiges of my rebellion. (1 Corinthians 2:14Ephesians 3:1–4Romans 8:7).

I believe that God chose me to be his child before the foundation of the world, on the basis of nothing in me, foreknown or otherwise. (Ephesians 1:4–6Acts 13:48;Romans 8:29–3011:5–7)

I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners to provide a bona fide offer of salvation to all people, and that he had an invincible design in his death to obtain his chosen bride, namely, the assembly of all believers, whose names were eternally written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. (John 3:16John 10:15Ephesians 5:25;Revelation 13:8)

When I was dead in my trespasses, and blind to the beauty of Christ, God made me alive, opened the eyes of my heart, granted me to believe, and united me to Jesus, with all the benefits of forgiveness and justification and eternal life. (Ephesians 2:4–52 Corinthians 4:6Philippians 2:29Ephesians 2:8–9Acts 16:14Ephesians 1:7;Philippians 3:9)

I am eternally secure not mainly because of anything I did in the past, but decisively because God is faithful to complete the work he began—to sustain my faith, and to keep me from apostasy, and to hold me back from sin that leads to death. (1 Corinthians 1:8–91 Thessalonians 5:23–24Philippians 1:61 Peter 1:5Jude 1:25;John 10:28–291 John 5:16)

 

(HT:DesiringGodBlog)

read the whole thing here

 

 

 

 

then you might be called a

 

 

Our greatest need

Posted: January 19, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, The Christian Life

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.

– Max Lucado