Saturday, May 6, 2017

his heart open

“God declares to us that Jesus Christ, who once had his side pierced, today has his heart open, as it were, that we may have assurance of the love that he bears us; that as he once had his arms fastened to the cross, now he has them wide open to draw us to himself; and that as once he shed his blood, so today he wishes us to be plunged within it. So, when God invites us so sweetly and Jesus Christ sets before us the fruit of his death and passion, ...let us all come to take our stand with our Lord Jesus Christ.”


~ John Calvin, Sermons on Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death and Passion of Christ.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

schaeffer on spiritual life

I have been studying Romans 8:1-4 and thinking through the Apostle Paul's teaching on the spiritual life.  In the past, and now again, I have been helped by Francis Schaeffer's insights into the Christian life. Below are some excerpts, first from True Spirituality, and then from his Letters...

"Justification is once for all. At one moment my guilt is declared gone forever, but this [spiritual life] is not once for all. This is a moment-by-moment thing—a moment-by-moment being dead to all else and alive to God, a moment-by-moment stepping back by faith into the present world as though we had been raised from the dead."

"If we are to bring forth fruit in the Christian life, or rather, if Christ is to bring forth this fruit through us by the agency of the Holy Spirit, there must be a constant act of faith, of thinking, 'Upon the basis of your promises I am looking for you to fulfill them, O my Jesus Christ; bring forth your fruit through me into this poor world.'"

"[Salvation] is a single piece, and yet a flowing stream.  I became a Christian once for all upon the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification.  The Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment.  There is the same base (Christ's work) and the same instrument (faith); the only difference is that one is once for all and the other is moment by moment.  The whole unity of biblical teaching stands solid at this place.  If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength we will have sorrow, but if we live in this way, we will not only serve the Lord, but in place of sorrow, he will be our song.  That is the difference.  The 'how' of the Christian life is the power of the crucified and risen Lord, through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit, by faith moment by moment."  (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, p. 79)

"Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important, but only as a starting-point to go on into a living relationship - and not 
as ends in themselves." (Letters of Francis Schaeffer, p. 46) 

"If we would only allow the Agent of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to lead each individual instead of living in the areas of rules which are man-made and quite apart from the absolutes laid down in scripture."  (Letters, 76) 

"Reality does not just come as a mystical feeling.  It comes rather in the whole man knowing the objective truth of what is, [and knowing this] to be the existence of God and his character of holiness and love. Then, knowing that this is truth and having accepted Christ as Savior once for all, it is necessary to practice the meaning of the work of Christ as a present reality in our daily lives.  This means two things: first of all, claiming the work of Christ for forgiveness for those specific sins we know we have committed; and then--through faith, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit--looking to Christ, moment by moment, to bear His fruit through us."  (Letters, 98)

"Thus, we cannot start with our human reasoning autonomously and have it come out right. But with the open Bible before us, we do not have to park our reason outside the door. Emotion in Christianity can be right or it can be wrong. We should have emotion as a result of knowing how much God loves us and knowing we belong to him. But the emotion can never be the basis of our faith. The basis of our faith is the content of the Bible; the emotion should be a natural result." (Letters, 124) 






Thursday, March 30, 2017

evidences of the Holy Spirit


The Holy Spirit is the seal of our New Covenant relationship with Christ (Jer 31; Ezek 36-37; Eph 1:13).  The Christian life is a life in the Spirit. (Rom 8)   

How do I know when the Holy Spirit is at work in me?  How do I identify his supernatural work in distinction from my own efforts at living the Christian life?

I wrote and posted this about a year ago, and have edited slightly to re-post...


Ten Evidences of the Work of the Holy Spirit

1)  When we experience conviction of sin, not mere guilt and desire to escape punishment, but an awareness of sin against God which draws us to Christ for forgiveness and reconciliation – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (John 16:8-11)

2)  When Jesus Christ becomes attractive to us, and we begin to see him as glorious, powerful, and gracious (John 16:14; 1 Cor 1:23-24) – this is the work of the Spirit. 

3)  When God’s love is so understood and felt in the heart that we are moved to call out to God as our Father – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Rom 5:5; Gal 4:6) 

4)  When we joyfully believe and confess that Jesus is Lord – this is the work of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3; 1 John 4:2-3) 

5)  When we have felt the truthfulness of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and inwardly experience the authority and goodness of God’s word – this is the work of the Holy Spirit. (Eph 1:13; 1 Thess 1:5; 2:13)

6)  When we have freedom, even boldness, to speak of Christ to others – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 1:8; 4:31).  

7)  When we are receiving insight and understanding into God’s word, so that we are sensing its truth, power, and application to us – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.   (1 Cor 2:12; Eph 1:17-18; 1 John 2:27; 4:6)

8)  When we turn away from sin and fleshly desires, and are being led and empowered to manifest God’s holy character in our lives – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-23)

9)  When we truly desire to sing God’s praises and join with believers in corporate worship – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Eph 5:18-20)

10)  When our service to others brings God’s blessing to the body of Christ, and gifts that he has given us work supernaturally to build up others – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor 12:4-11)

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"  (Luke 11:13 ESV)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

first step to holiness

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.   (Romans 7:21-23 ESV)

John Stott writes, "...why does Paul describe his experience in terms not only of conflict but of defeat?  why does he say not only that he wants to do good, but that he does not and cannot do it?  The simple answer, surely, is this.  In the previous paragraph (verses 7-13) he has shown that as an unbeliever he could not keep the law.  In this paragraph (verses 14ff.) he shows that even as a Christian believer by himself he still cannot keep the law.  He can recognize the goodness of the law, he can delight in the law, and he can long to keep the law, none of which was possible to him as an unbeliever.  But the flesh, his fallen nature, which was his undoing before his conversion, leading him to sin and death, is still his undoing after his conversion--unless the power of the Holy Spirit subdues it (which is what he comes to later, in chapter 8).  Indeed, an honest and humble acknowledgement of the hopeless evil of our flesh, even after the new birth, is the first step to holiness.  To speak quite plainly, some of us are not leading holy lives for the simple reason that we have too high an opinion of ourselves.  No man ever cries aloud for deliverance who has not seen his own wretchedness.  In other words, the only way to arrive at faith in the power of the Holy Spirit is along the road of self-despair.  No device exists to settle this issue for good.  The power and subtlety of the flesh are such that we dare not relax one moment.  The only hope is unremitting vigilance and dependence." 

~ John R. W. Stott, Men Made New: an exposition of Romans 5--8 (Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), p. 74.




the christian and politics

In the early years of the publication of Christianity Today, Carl Henry, serving then as editor, delineated five tenets on Christian social and political action.  I think this is a sound and balanced approach:

1.  The Bible is critically relevant to the whole of modern life and culture -- the socio-political arena included.

2. The institutional church has no mandate, jurisdiction or competence to endorse political legislation or military tactics or economic specifics in the name of Christ.

3. The institutional church is divinely obliged to proclaim God's entire revelation, including the standards or commandments by which men and nations are to be finally judged, and by which they ought now to live and maintain social stability.

4. The political achievement of a better society is the task of all citizens, and individual Christians ought to be politically engaged to the limit of their competence and opportunity. 

5. The Bible limits the proper activity of both government and church for divinely stipulated objectives-- the former, the preservation of justice and order, and the latter, the moral-spiritual task of evangelizing the earth. 

~ Carl F. H. Henry, Confessions of a Theologian, pp 270-71.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

how far can we trust him?

"We have trusted in Jesus.  But how far can we trust him?  Just in this transitory life?  Just in this little speck that we call the earth?  If we can trust him only thus far we are of all men most miserable.  We are surrounded by stupendous forces; we are surrounded by the immensity of the unknown.  After our little span of life there is a shelving brink with the infinite beyond.  And still we are subject to fear--not only fear of destruction but a more dreadful fear of meeting with the infinite and holy God. 

"So we should be if we had but a human Christ.  But now is Christ our Savior, the one who says, 'Your sins are forgiven,' revealed as very God.  And we believe.  Such a faith is a mystery to us who possess it; it seems folly to those who have it not.  But if possessed it delivers us forever from fear.  The world to us is all unknown; it is engulfed in an ocean of infinity.  But it contains no mysteries to our Savior.  He is on the the throne.  He pervades the remotest bounds.  He inhabits infinity.  With such a Savior we are safe."
  
(J. Gresham Machen, The Person of Jesus)