Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

Much of the material I see on “Christian Parenting” is really just repackaged moralism.  When reading or watching materials on Christian parenting you should ask yourself, “could this teaching be given if Jesus never came in the flesh, never died on a cross and never rose from the dead?”  Sadly, I could say MOST of the teaching I have heard on “Christian Parenting” could be given if Jesus never came, therefore it is not really Christian at all but another form of legalism thinly disguised.  Below is a good example of a man earnestly trying to apply the reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to his parenting.  His gray hairs tell me he knows more about it than I do so I listened closely!

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Below is an excerpt from this sermon by Charles Spurgeon, where he gives us what I believe to be a very helpful tool for our private spritual lives as well as for our corporate lives in the family of Christ, that is the church.  First in our private lives, when we feel under attack, to whom do we turn?  If we turn immediately to discplines, resolutions, commitments etc., then the devil has successfuly turned us away from trusting in Christ.  Here we will surely fail.  Likewise, when we hear a sermon or teaching we must ask “who did the teacher/ preacher encourage me to trust in?”  If the answer is self, then the teacher/ preacher has failed.  In fact, he has assisted Satan in turning you away from Christ.  Rather, good internal counsel and good public exhortation in preaching is “LOOK TO CHRIST!!! TRUST IN HIM ALONE!!!” Don’t trust your feelings, your faith, your actions, your guilt, your innocence or your righteousness but look only to Christ.  That is the very marrow of the Gospel.

Now I will give the poor sinner a means of detecting Satan, so that he may know whether his convictions are from the Holy Spirit, or merely the bellowing of hell in his ears. In the first, place, you may be always sure that that which comes from the devil will make you look at yourselves and not at Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work is to turn our eyes from ourselves to Jesus Christ, but the enemy’s work is the very opposite. Nine out of ten of the insinuations of the devil have to do with ourselves. “You are guilty,” says the devil—that is self. “You have not faith”—that is self. “You do not repent enough”—that is self. “You have got such a wavering hold of Christ”—that is self. “You have none of the joy of the spirit, and therefore cannot be one of his”—that is self. Thus the devil begins picking holes in us; whereas the Holy Spirit takes self entirely away, and tells us that we are “nothing at all,” but that

“Jesus Christ is all in all.”

Satan brings the carcass of self and pulls it about, and because that is corrupt, tells us that most assuredly we cannot be saved. But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou dost that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down, but as long as thou lookest at thyself, the meanest of those evil spirits may tread thee beneath his feet.

Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol I book II pg 307

read the whole thing here

Watson’s extended treatment of Mal 3.16-18 in his short book “The Great Gain of Godliness” reaches a truly wonderful crescendo in this section. Watson talks of the “book of remembrance” where the names and the deeds of the saints are recorded. But what are the deeds of the saints? Nothing less than God’s free grace! His free grace is actuallytheir good works, which Watson describes as “trophies of God’s mercies.” I picked this book up a short time ago and I’m so thankful I have. You can buy it online if you absolutely must have paper in your hands (like me!) or you can read the whole book online by clicking here.

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord hearkened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my jewels. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:16-18

A. The first of the good effects of the saints piety—is that God REGARDED it. “The Lord hearkened and heard.” These blessed ones in the text were speaking and thinking of God—and he did not turn away his ear from them, as if he had not minded them. But he hearkened and heard; which expression denotes both diligence and delight.

1. It notes the diligent heed God gave to these saints—he “hearkened”. Here was attention of ear, and intentness of mind. Hearkening is the gesture of one who intently listens to what another says.

2. God’s hearkening shows the delight he took in the holy dialogues of these saints. He was pleased with them; they were to him as a sweet melody.

God takes special notice of the good which he sees in his people. The children of God may perhaps think that God does not regard them: “I cry unto you—and you do not hear me” (Job 30:20). The church complains that God shuts out her prayer (Lam. 3:8)—but though God is some times silent—he is not deaf! He takes notice of all the good services of his people: “The Lord hearkened and heard.”

Why is it that God takes such notice of his people’s services?

First, not from any merit in them—but the impulsive cause is his free grace! The best duties of the righteous, could not endure God’s scales of justice—but God will display the trophies of his mercy. Free grace accepts—what stern justice would condemn!

Secondly, God’s taking notice of the good in his people, is through Christ! “He has made us accepted—in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Or, as Chrysostom renders it, he has made us “favorites”. Through a red glass everything appears of a red color. Just so, through Christ’s blood, both our persons and duties appear ruddy and beautiful in God’s eyes!

Thirdly, God takes notice of the services of his people—because they flow from the principle of grace. God regards the voice of faith: “O my dove … let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice” (Song of Sol. 2:14). The services of the wicked are harsh and sour—but the godly give God the first-ripe cluster (Mic. 7:1), which grows from the sweet and pleasant root of grace.

I think Bridges has a lot of good things to say, espcially in his book The Discipline of Grace, which was given to all of our folks who renewed or were confirmed in the faith.  Below is an essential truth about the Christian life, namely that the Gospel is for believers too.  Too often in evangelical America we shake hands at the cross with Jesus, thank him for what he’s done then get on to the “real work” of discipleship.  These folks have never come to the cross in the first place.  It was simply a detour on their future career in legalism.  Rather the true Christian, as Bridges commends to us, stays always at the cross.  This is a timely reminder for us in the performance driven culture we all live in. 

 

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6,” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and then say, “Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.”

 

I came to see that Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,” was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: “The life I now live ….” Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.

 

Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds — our spiritual sacrifices — are acceptable to God

only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.

 

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

 

read it all here

Preached 2.08.09

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” –Blaise Paschal Pensees VII.1.425

Paschal’s quote from Pensees is useful for the fact that it reminds us of something that every inch of our current era strains to help us forget, namely, that you and I are desiring creatures.  What do we desire?  Essentially we desire, Paschal says, to be happy.  Our hearts desire our happiness, our minds conceive of what might make us happy, and our bodies strain to achieve this end.  It is out of a desiring heart, that our mind say “going to the mall today will make me happy,” so our bodies strain to the mall.  It is out of the desiring heart that our mind says “watching House tonight will make me happy,” so my body strains to watch House, even if I’m tired or have other responsibilities.  We are desiring creatures and we always do what we desire and what satisfies us in the end. 

Why do we behave this way?  Well, we behave this way in short because we believe that there is something out there that will eventually satisfy our desire.  Of course the comeback is, just because I think there is something out there, doesn’t mean it exists.  I could imagine a pristine island in the South Pacific that has a sign on the beach that says “reserved for Rob Sturdy” and it doesn’t mean it exists.  But, on the other hand, a baby who is newly born, who desires food desires the food because he was made to consume it.  So, while it doesn’t necessarily prove it, I think it is a strong argument that a desire to be in heaven after we die, to have communion with God, to have a transcendent purpose in life, is a reasonably strong argument that such things exist. (more…)

Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot's Peasant Woman

Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot's Peasant Woman

Below is an excerpt from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. It is a famous section with a well known parable. I have placed an enormous amount of text on this post. Simply click through to read it all. It reaches an emotional crescendo in the final few paragraphs and is quite moving. This is a stunning piece of philosophical devotion to the Lord Jesus.  This excerpt I think will be a joy to anyone who reads it.  Don’t worry if you get lost from time to time.  It’s worth pushing through to the finish.  The greatest Kierkegaard junkie to the guy who says “who’s Kierkegaard?” will reap great rewards for spending time in these few paragraphs.  Enjoy.

Suppose then a king who loved a humble maiden. The heart of the king was not polluted by the wisdom that is loudly enough proclaimed; he knew nothing of the difficulties that the understanding discovers in order to ensnare the heart, which keep the poets so busy, and make their magic formulas necessary. It was easy to realize his purpose. Every statesman feared his wrath and dared not breathe a word of displeasure; every foreign state trembled before his power, and dared not omit sending ambassadors with congratulations for the nuptials; no courtier groveling in the dust dared wound him, lest his own head be crushed. Then let the harp be tuned, let the songs of the poets begin to sound, and let all be festive while love celebrates its triumph. For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love. — Then there awoke in the heart of the king an anxious thought; who but a king who thinks kingly thoughts would have dreamed of it! He spoke to no one about his anxiety; for if he had, each courtier would doubtless have said: “Your majesty is about to confer a favor upon the maiden, for which she can never be sufficiently grateful her whole life long.” This speech would have moved the king to wrath, so that he would have commanded the execution of the courtier for high treason against the beloved, and thus he would in still another way have found his grief increased. So he wrestled with his troubled thoughts alone. Would she be happy in the life at his side? Would she be able to summon confidence enough never to remember what the king wished only to forget, that he was king and she had been a humble maiden? For if this memory were to waken in her soul, and like a favored lover sometimes steal her thoughts away from the king, luring her reflections into the seclusion of a secret grief; or if this memory sometimes passed through her soul like the shadow of death over the grave: where would then be the glory of their love? Then she would have been happier had she remained in her obscurity, loved by an equal, content in her humble cottage; but confident in her love, and cheerful early and late. What a rich abundance of grief is here laid bare, like ripened grain bent under the weight of its fruitfulness, merely waiting the time of the harvest, when the thought of the king will thresh out all its seed of sorrow! For even if the maiden would be content to become as nothing, this could not satisfy the king, precisely because he loved her, and because it was harder for him to be her benefactor than to lose her. And suppose she could not even understand him? For while we are thus speaking foolishly of human relationships, we may suppose a difference of mind between them such as to render an understanding impossible. What a depth of grief slumbers not in this unhappy love, who dares to rouse it! However, no human being is destined to suffer such grief; him we may refer to Socrates, or to that which in a still more beautiful sense can make the unequal equal. (more…)

duel

What a wonderful excerpt from Luther’s 1535 commentary on Galatians.  Below Luther outlines a duel between Christ’s eternal righteousness and sin’s most powerful destructive force.  It is edifying and fascinating to see how he works it out.  Enjoy!

This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through teh Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who at the apple in Paradise; the thief on teh cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find HIm a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!” And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except the sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them. (more…)