Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Yesterday our Bishop, Mark Lawrence, preached on Luke 7:36-8:3.  This section tells the story of a promiscuous woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and annointed them with oil.  Mark handled the text wonderfully showing the tender love of Jesus for the most marginalized of sinners.  When the Pharisee who’s house Jesus is in complains that Jesus is allowing Himself to be associated with such a woman, Jesus informs him that “He who has been forgiven much loves much.  He who has been forgiven little loves little.”  As he was preaching, something else stood out to me about this text.  

Luke makes a point of recording in Jesus’ reply the Pharisee’s name.  When the Pharisee is considering how scandalous it is for Jesus to be involved with this woman, Jesus says “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  Why give this detail?  Jesus confronts scores of Pharisees who disapprove of His friendliness towards ‘sinners.’   Why record this one?  One simple answer is that that is what Jesus said.  I think Luke intends more than this though.  

Emerging scholarship has begun to recognize the use of a sort of name dropping as a means of what we would today consider academic citation.  So, when Luke is telling a story, he tells you one of the key players as a way of saying “This is my primary source.  If you want to verify my story, go talk to him.”  What if this is the case in this passage? What if Luke is recording Simon the Pharisee’s name because Simon was his source for this particular story?  I think it changes the thrust of the story significantly.  

Imagine Luke the historian interviewing Simon the Pharisee.  Imagine Simon telling him this story.  I cannot see Simon telling him the story grimacing around the name of Jesus.  I cannot see him telling Luke about this day inserting commentary on how inappropriate it was for Jesus to be with this woman.  In other words, I think it is highly likely that this conversation did something to Simon or else he would not have been telling so many people about it that it attracted the attention of someone wanting to verify the details about Jesus’ life.  

If I had to guess, I would think that Simon would tell the story something like this: “I had heard of Jesus and I had my suspicions.  I invited him into my home to see if He was as dangerous a heretic as He was made out to be.  He came to my door and I didn’t offer him water to cleanse his feet, oil to refresh himself with, or even the courtesy of greeting him with a kiss.  I wanted to vet him out first before I offered him any hospitality.  Then this woman comes in.  She was obviously a lady of the night.  She begin to weep over his feet, annointed them with oil, and dried them with her hair.  I thought ‘How scandalous!  Some prophet.  He can’t even identify a prostitute when he sees one.’  It was as if Jesus saw into my soul.  Immediately he explained to me that those who are forgiven much love much.  I saw how wrong I had been not only about this woman, but about myself.  Jesus knew this woman’s sin better than I did, and yet he forgave her.  Her heart was bursting with gratitude, but despite all my theological and moral precision, my heart was as cold as a cadaver!  He who has been forgiven much loves much?  How true.  I slighted Jesus.  I despised those He loved.  I was too self-righteous to ever seen my need for grace.  He loved me and forgave me despite all this.  You can’t imagine how much I love Jesus now!”  

This is the great beauty of the grace of God revealed in Jesus.  No one, not the most profligate sinner or the most precise Pharisee is too far from God’s grace.  We often speak of God’s grace as if it’s only for the prodigal.  But God is as pleased to forgive a stony hearted religious zealot as He is to welcome the most broken libertine.  When I came to Christ in college, there was no denying that I needed grace.  My life was as worldly as anyone’s.  However, I continue to need that grace as much today as ever I did, if not more.  I have been the Pharisee and the Sinner.  Thank God His grace extends to both!

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!

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

Grace has implications.  Implications for sin.  Implications for the individual.  Implications for society.  Implications for race.   Living out those implications can be joyous, and they can be costly.  Christ died for all people.  Some men are willing to lay their lives down to make Gospel implications lived out realities.  Listen to this short clip from King’s last speech. 

An excerpt from Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State.  Click through to read the whole excerpt.  It is short, profound, and humbling.  Boston systematically works through denying man’s ability and exalting the grace of Jesus.  Well worth your time.  To read it all, click here

A man that is fallen into a pit cannot be supposed to help himself out of it, but by one of two ways; either by doing all himself alone, or taking hold of, and improving, the help offered him by others. Likewise an unconverted man cannot be supposed to help himself out of his natural state, but either in the way of the law, or covenant of works, by doing all himself without Christ; or else in the way of the Gospel, or covenant of grace, by exerting his own strength to lay hold upon, and to make use of the help offered him by a Saviour. But, alas! the unconverted man is dead in the pit, and cannot help himself either of these ways; not the first way, for the first text tells us, that when our Lord came to help us, ‘we were without strength,’ unable to recover ourselves. We were ungodly, therefore under a burden of guilt and wrath, yet ‘without strength,’ unable to stand under it; and unable to throw it off, or get from under it: so that all mankind would have undoubtedly perished, had not ‘Christ died for the ungodly,’ and brought help to those who could never have recovered themselves. But when Christ comes and offers help to sinners, cannot they take it? Cannot they improve help when it comes to their hands? No, the second text tells, they cannot; ‘No man can come unto me,’ that is, believe in me (John 6.44), ‘except the Father draw him.’ This is a drawing which enables them to come, who till then could not come; and therefore could not help themselves by improving the help offered. It is a drawing which is always effectual; for it can be no less than ‘hearing and learning of the Father,’ which, whoever partakes of, come to Christ (verse 45). Therefore it is not drawing in the way of mere moral suasion, which may be, yea, and always is ineffectual. But it is drawing by mighty power (Eph. 1:9), absolutely necessary for those who have no power in themselves to come and take hold of the offered help.

both necessary for a new heart

Justification and Sanctification: both necessary for a new heart

Iain has been reading a lot from the former Bishop of Liverpool lately and I’ve been blessed by the insights he’s gained. Below is a handy little excerpt on justication and sanctification. Enjoy!

In what, then, are justification and sanctification alike?

(a) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

(b) Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

(c) Both are to be found in the same persons. those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.

(d) Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

(e) Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

Such are the points on which justification and sanctification agree. Let us now reverse the picture and see wherein they differ.

read the rest here