Friday, April 27, 2012

Christ's death even for Christian failure

Here's an older article in Modern Reformation by Rod Rosenbladt in on how some views of sanctification destroy confidence in our once-for-all salvation by grace...

What should the Christian do if he is reading the law and says, "This is not yet true of me: I don't love God with all my heart, and I certainly don't love my neighbor as I love myself. In fact, just today I failed to help a poor man on the side of the road who was having car trouble. I must not yet be a Christian." The answer of the Higher Life movement to the struggling Christian is, "Surrender more!" or, "What are you holding back from the Lord?" 

The Reformation answer is different: "You hurry back to the second use of the law and flee to Christ where sanctification is truly, completely, and perfectly located." After this experience, the believer will feel a greater sense of freedom to obey (thus fulfilling the third use of the law), and this is the only way that one will ever feel free to obey. The most important thing to remember is that the death of Christ was in fact a death even for Christian failure. Christ's death saves even Christians from sin. There is always room at the cross for unbelievers, it seems. But we ought also to be telling people that there is room at the cross for Christians, too.

Read the complete article here.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

the cost of non-commitment

My friend Don shared this quote the other day at lunch...

"By no means does He [God] guarantee an easy life.  But He does promise to spare us the bitter results of going our own way.  His way may be harder for us, but it is easier on us.  The cost of non-commitment far exceeds the cost of commitment, for self-rule ultimately brings self-ruin."  

--Warren & Ruth Myers, Praise: A Door to God's Presence, p. 82

Friday, April 20, 2012

time paradox -- so true

how people see calvinists

Courtesy of Credo House.   

to remember the benefit

“Luther taught that every time you insist that I am a sinner, just so often do you call me to remember the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins. So, when you say that I am a sinner, you do not terrify, but comfort me immeasurably.”  

--Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader (Eerdmans, 2002)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

excerpts, true spirituality

Reading again (and profiting again!) from Francis Schaeffer's True Spirituality.  Schaeffer, like Keller today, does such a great job integrating justification by faith with an active faith of sanctification.  

Some recent highlights...

Only one is self-sufficient in himself, and he is God. But now as Christians we are introduced to the great reality: our calling is to be creatures in this high, tremendous, and glorious way, not because we must be, but by choice. 

...the scriptural teaching [about faith] is not mere resignation. I am a creature, it is true, but I have a calling to be the creature glorified. I must be the creature, but I do not have to be the creature like the clod in the field, the cabbage that is rotting in the field as the snows melt. I am called to be a creature by choice, on the basis of Christ’s finished work, by faith: the creature glorified.

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."

This is the “how” [of spiritual life], and there is no other. It is the power of the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit by faith.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume ;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour ?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

(George Herbert)

Friday, April 6, 2012

a boundary event

“It is obvious that the story of the empty tomb cannot be fitted into our contemporary worldview, or indeed into any worldview except one of which it is the starting point.  That is, indeed, the whole point.  What happened on that day is, according to the Christian tradition, only to be understood by analogy with what happened on the day the cosmos came into being.  It is a boundary event, at the point where (as cosmologists tell us) the laws of physics ceased to apply.  It is the beginning of a new creation – as mysterious to human reason as the creation itself.”  

(Lesslie Newbigin: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society).  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

the new gardener

"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed." (Genesis 2:7-8 ESV)

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." (John 20:15)

"How intriguing that He should be buried in a garden, and that His first steps as the resurrected Adam should be in a garden, and one of His most devoted disciples should (mistakenly) address Him as though He were the gardener (John 20:15). Gardener? In truth He was … taking His first steps in the resurrection body, the first fruits of the final restoration."  
(--Sinclair Ferguson in "Jesus our Navy Seal")

"For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Monday, April 2, 2012

a clear conscience

From Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper...

#16 To Give Us a Clear Conscience

"How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."  (Hebrews 9:14)

Some things never change. The problem of a dirty conscience is as old as Adam and Eve. As soon as they sinned, their conscience was defiled. Their sense of guilt was ruinous. It ruined their relationship with God—they hid from him. It ruined their relation to each other—they blamed. It ruined their peace with themselves—for the first time they saw themselves and felt shame.

All through the Old Testament, conscience was an issue. But the animal sacrifices themselves could not cleanse the conscience.  “Gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:9-10). As a foreshadowing of Christ, God counted the blood of the animals as sufficient for cleansing the flesh—the ceremonial uncleanness, but not the conscience. 

No animal blood could cleanse the conscience. They knew it (see Isaiah 53 and Psalm 51). And we know it. So a new high priest comes—Jesus the Son of God—with a better sacrifice: himself.  "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

The animal sacrifices foreshadowed the final sacrifice of God’s Son, and the death of the Son reaches back to cover all the sins of God’s people in the old time period, and forward to cover all the sins of God’s people in the new time period. 

So here we are in the modern age—the age of science, Internet,  organ transplants, instant messaging, cell phones—and our problem is fundamentally the same as always: Our conscience condemns us. We don’t feel good enough to come to God. And no matter how distorted our consciences are, this much is true: We are not good enough to come to him. 

We can cut ourselves, or throw our children in the sacred river, or give a million dollars to the United Way, or serve in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, or perform a hundred forms of penance and self-injury, and the result will be the same: The stain remains, and death terrifies. We know that our conscience is defiled—not with external things like touching a corpse or eating a piece of pork. 

Jesus said it is what comes out of a person that defiles, not what goes in (Mark 7:15-23). We are defiled by pride and self-pity and bitterness and lust and envy and jealousy and covetousness and apathy and fear—and the actions they breed. These are all “dead works.” They have no spiritual life in them. They don’t come from new life; they come from death, and they lead to death. That is why they make us feel hopeless in our consciences. 

The only answer in these modern times, as in all other times, is the blood of Christ. When our conscience rises up and condemns us, where will we turn? We turn to Christ. We turn to the suffering and death of Christ—the blood of Christ. This is the only cleansing agent in the universe that can give the conscience relief in life and peace in death. 

Download the pdf of this booklet here.