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A Whole World Hangs on a Word

piper

John Piper:

Sometimes a whole world — a whole theology — hangs on a word.

Consider the word “this” in Ephesians 2:8. Does it refer to “faith” or “grace” or both? Is faith a gift of God?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from you; it is the gift of God.

What does “this” refer to? “And this is not from you; it is the gift of God.” What is its antecedent? The question is not settled by the fact that in Greek “this” is singular and neuter, while “grace” and “faith” are both feminine. “This” is just as ambiguous in Greek as it is in English.

Faith As a Gift

But consider these four pointers to seeing faith as a gift in Ephesians 2:8.

1. When Paul says “this is not from you, it is the gift of God,” he seems to be referring to the whole process of grace-faith-salvation. That may be why “this” is neuter and not feminine.

2. But more important than that is the way Paul uses the phrase “by grace you have been saved” back in verse 5. In verse 8, he says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Back in verse 5, he said, “When we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him.”

This is striking. Paul breaks the flow of his sentence in order to insert “by grace you have been saved.” And he does it precisely after saying, “When we were dead, God made us alive.” Why does he insert “by grace you are saved” just here?

Is it not because he wants to make clear the true nature of grace? He made you alive when you were dead — by grace you are saved! This grace is God’s free act of giving life to the dead. By inserting “by grace are you saved” immediately after saying “when you were dead, God raised you,” he shows that this saving grace is not caused by our participation. We are dead when it happens to us. This saving grace is resurrection of the dead.

So when Paul gets to verse 8, one of the reasons he repeats, “By grace you have been saved,” is to describe how we experience this divine miracle of being raised from the dead. He adds “through faith.” “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” In other words, the life God creates by grace out of death is experienced in our believing. Our believing is what this new life does that grace creates. So faith is the creation of grace. Therefore, it is part of the gift in verse 8 that is not from ourselves.

3. This is confirmed in verse 10 when Paul actually uses the language of “creation” to describe our new life as believers: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” The language of “creation” confirms that when God “made us alive” (verse 5), we were not part of the cause.

Things that are created do not cause their creation. The existence of a new believer is a “creation in Christ Jesus.” And that confirms that this new believing is part of the gift in verse 8. Our faith is a gift of God.

4. Finally, consider that Paul says the same in Philippians 1:29 — that our faith is a gift: “It has been given to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Literally: “It has been given to you to trust him.”

A Different World

So when Paul says, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is the gift of God,” part of his meaning is that our faith is a gift of God. It is a divine creation. It is the work of grace when we were dead. It is not “from ourselves.” Therefore, our faith is the mark of being chosen by God. He chose to give us faith.

A whole world — a whole theology — hangs on a word. “This is not from yourselves.” “It is the gift of God.” That is, faith is not from yourselves. Faith is a gift of God.

To believe this changes everything. You live in a different world if you believe this. We will be discovering the wonders of this world for all eternity.

Why doesn’t God always heal the sick?

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Sam Storms:

God loved the Apostle Paul. Yet God sovereignly orchestrated Paul’s painful thorn in the flesh and then declined to remove it, notwithstanding Paul’s passionate prayer that he be healed (2 Cor. 12:8-9).

We are not apostles. Yet, God loves us as his children no less than he loved Paul. We don’t know the nature of Paul’s thorn, but each of us has undoubtedly suffered in a similar way, and some considerably worse.

We, like Paul, have prayed incessantly to be healed. Or perhaps knowing of a loved one’s “thorn,” we have prayed for him or her. And again, as with Paul, God declined to remove it.

Why?

It’s hard to imagine a more difficult, confusing, and controversial topic than why God chooses not to heal in response to the intercessory pleas of his people. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I think I’ve got a few.

1. FAITH

Occasionally healing does not occur because of the absence of that sort of faith that God delights to honor. This does not mean that every time a person isn’t healed, it is because of a defective faith, as if healing inevitably follows a robust and doubt-free faith. But it does mean that faith is very important.

How can we conclude otherwise in view of the many texts that closely link healing to someone’s faith? I hope you’ll take the time to pause and read these passages: Matthew 9:2228–2915:28Mark 2:5115:349:17–24Mark 10:52Luke 17:19Acts 3:1614:8–10James 5:14–16.

2. UNCONFESSED SIN

Sometimes healing does not occur because of the presence of sin for which there has been no confession or repentance. James 5:15–16 clearly instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed.

Again, please do not conclude from this that each time a person isn’t healed it is because he or she has committed but not repented of some specific sin. But in some cases (not necessarily all) this is undoubtedly true.

3. LACK OF DESIRE

Odd as it may sound to hear it, healing may not happen because the sick don’t want it to happen. Jesus asked the paralyzed man in John 5:6, “Do you want to be healed?” What on the surface may appear to be a ridiculous question is, on further examination, found to be profoundly insightful.

Some people who suffer from a chronic affliction become accustomed to their illness and to the pattern of life it requires. Their identity is to a large extent wrapped up in their physical disability.

4. LACK OF PRAYER

We must also consider the principle articulated in James 4:2, where we are told, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” The simple fact is that some are not healed because they do not pray. Perhaps they pray once or twice, and then allow discouragement to paralyze their petitions. Prayer for healing often must be prolonged, sustained, persevering, and combined with fasting.

5. DEMONIC INFLUENCES NOT ADDRESSED

Some are not healed because the demonic cause of the affliction has not been addressed. Please do not jump to unwarranted conclusions. I am not suggesting that all physical disease is demonically induced.

It is interesting, is it not, that in Paul’s case God used “a messenger of Satan” to inflict the thorn? There is also the case of the woman in Luke 13, who had “a disabling spirit [or, a spirit of infirmity] for 18 years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself” (Luke 13:11). According to Jesus, “Satan” had “bound” her (Luke 13:16; see also Acts 10:38).

6. DIVINE PROVIDENCE

We must also consider the mystery of divine providence. There are undoubtedly times and seasons in the purposes of God during which his healing power is withdrawn or at least largely diminished. God may have any number of reasons for this to which we are not privy, whether to discipline a wayward and rebellious church or to create a greater desperation for his power or to wean us off excessive dependence on physical comfort and convenience or any number of other possibilities. If this leaves you confused, that’s why it’s called a mystery!

7. A BETTER THING

Oftentimes there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God in us that he desires more than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less-than-perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is a good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can be attained only by means of physical weakness.

PERSEVERE IN PRAYER

We may never know why a person isn’t healed. What, then, ought to be our response?

In the first place, don’t stop praying! Some people find this difficult to swallow. Many times I’ve been asked, why should Paul bother to pray for release from something that God wills to inflict? The answer is that Paul didn’t know what God’s will was in this particular case until such time as God chose to make it known. And neither do you or I with regard to any particular illness we may suffer.

If, like Paul, you are able to discern, through some prophetic disclosure or other legitimate biblical means, that it is not God’s will now or ever to heal you, you may cease asking him to do so. Otherwise, short of death itself, you must persevere in prayer.

I’m sure there are other ways to account for why God chooses not to heal, but I trust that these have proved helpful. There is much I do not know about this matter, but of this I’m quite certain: God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances so that we, “for the sake of Christ” (2 Cor.12:10), might learn that in our weakness his power is made perfect!

Don’t Feel Your Way into Your Belief; Believe Your Way into Your Feelings

J.D. Greear:

urlIf you were honest, you’d probably admit there are moments when you do not feel “Christian” at all. Moments in which you care more about what’s coming on TV that night than you do the spread of the kingdom of God in the world. Moments in which you have fallen to that same old temptation for the thousandth time. Moments when God feels distant, almost like a stranger. Seasons in which your emotions for Him are lukewarm, if not downright cold. When you don’t jump out of bed in the morning hungry for His Word. When your mind wanders all over the place during prayer—that is, when you can bring yourself to pray. Moments when you’re not even sure you believe all this stuff.

Does that sound familiar to you? Times like that are familiar to me. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but certainly more often than I’d care to admit.

What do you do in that moment? Pray “the sinners’ prayer” again? Should I call my old church and have the pastor fill up the all-too-familiar baptismal?

The answer is to keep believing the gospel, to keep your hand on the head of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how we feel at any given moment, how encouraged or discouraged we feel about our spiritual progress, how hot or cold our love for Jesus, the answer is always the same—exercise faith in the gospel.

On your very best of days, you must rest all your hopes on God’s grace to you in Christ. On your worst of days, it should be your refuge and your boast. Your posture should always be one of dependence on it.

Many people assume the “feeling” of being saved indicates whether or not they actually are saved. Feelings, however, are fickle and dangerously misleading, and Scripture never points us to our “feelings” for assurance. Feelings come from assurance; they are not the basis for it. Assurance is based on the fact of Christ’s finished work; our “feelings” of being saved come from faith in that finished work.

“Feelings” are the fruit of faith, not the source of it. So don’t feel your way into your beliefs; believe your way into your feelings.

J.D. GreearStop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know For Sure You are Saved.

Eight Reasons Why My Anxiety Is Pointless and Foolish

From Justin Taylor:

1. God is near me to help me.

Philippians 4:5-6: “The Lord is at hand; [therefore] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

2. God cares for me.

1 Peter 5:7: “. . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

3. My Father in heaven knows all my needs and will supply all my needs.

Matthew 6:31-33: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

4. God values me more than birds and grass, which he richly provides for and adorns; how much more will he provide for all my needs!

Matthew 6:26-30: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

5. The worst someone can do to me is to kill me and take things from me!

Matthew 6:25: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” [I.e., you still have eternal life even if you have no food; you will still have a resurrection body even if you are physically deprived.]

Luke 12:4: “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.”

Luke 21:1618: “Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.”

Romans 8:31-323538-39: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

6. Anxiety is pointless.

Matthew 6:27: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” [Answer: no one.]

7. Anxiety is worldly.

Matthew 6:31-32: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things. . . .”

James 4:4: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

8. Tomorrow has enough to worry about and doesn’t need my help.

Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Lamentations 3:23: “[God's mercies] are new every morning.”

 

Humility Is Compatible with Certainty

Michael Kruger:

Christians believe that God has revealed himself clearly in his Word.   Thus, when it comes to key historical questions (Who was Jesus? What did he say? What did he do?) or key theological questions (Who is God? What is Heaven? How does one get there?), Christians believe they have a basis on which they can claim certainty: God’s revelation.  Indeed, to claim we don’t know the truth about such matters would be to deny God, and to deny his Word. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that Christians are certain about everything; but there can be certainty about these basic Christian truths).

Thus, for Christians, humility and uncertainty are not synonymous.   One can be certain and humble at the same time.  How?  For this simple reason: Christians believe that they understand truth only because God has revealed it to them (1 Cor 1:26-30).  In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen.  Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God.  Christian knowledge is a dependent knowledge.  And that leads to humility (1 Cor 1:31).  This obviously doesn’t mean all Christians are personally humble.  But, it does mean they should be, and have adequate grounds to be.

John Frame:

Scripture says some negative things about doubt (Matt. 14:3121:21,28:17Acts 10:2011:12Rom. 14:23Jas. 1:6). In Matt. 14:31 and Rom. 14:23, it is the opposite of faith and therefore a sin. Further, knowing God in Scripture often seems to have a sureness about it. . . . Note especially the “certainty” of Luke 1:4, the “proofs” of Acts 1:3, and the centurion’s words of Luke 23:47. . . . If the revelation of God to which we submit is infallible, then it must serve as the criterion of all other knowledge. As such it is the standard of certitude and must be regarded as itself in some sense maximally certain.

G. K. Chesteron:

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.

Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . .

The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. (Orthodoxy [reprint, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995], 36-37.)

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Blessed Is She Who Believed

 

John Bloom:

Mary was “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42). She received the singular holy gift of being the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:43). God the Son dwelled inside of her body in human form. Then he lived in her home and was under her care until adulthood. This has tempted some to worship her.

In fact, one woman publicly exalted Mary by crying out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed” (Luke 11:27)! But Jesus corrected her by replying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28)!

Do you see what Jesus is doing? In this correction Jesus is protecting Mary’s true blessedness and protecting us from idolatry.

Gabriel told Mary that she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Certainly bearing and raising the Christ Child was an incredible favor. But it was not the greatest favor God bestowed on Mary. Though he gave Mary a completely unique calling, he favored her in a way similar to how he favors all his children.

Mary was not sinless. Mary deserved God’s wrath along with every other fallen human. This meant that God’s favor on her was unmerited — his grace upon her was of staggering proportions. Mary’s greatest blessing was not being mother of The Child. Her greatest blessing was that her Child would save her from her sins. And this blessing is given to everyone who believes in him (Matthew 1:21).

That’s why Jesus directs our attention away from Mary to his Word in Luke 11. The greatest blessing anyone can receive is the gift of the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8). Mary’s vocational calling as the mother of Jesus was a great blessing, but it was nowhere near the blessing of her salvation.

God was “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) to Mary in a way no one else has experienced. But the most important way God dwelled with Mary was the same as he dwells with all his children: through faith (Ephesians 3:17).

And so with her relative, Elizabeth, we say of Mary, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Because God’s greatest blessing is given to those who believe him.

Why is it that Faith Alone Justifies?

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Erik Raymond writes:

Have you wondered why the Bible repeatedly emphasizes faith as the means by which we receive justification? John Piper begins to walk down this road and think it through in this helpful quote:

“To get at the nature of that faith, it is helpful to ponder why faith alone justifies. Why not love, or some other virtuous disposition? Here’s the way J. Gresham Machen answers this question in his 1925 book What Is Faith? ’The true reason why faith is given such an exclusive place by the New Testament, so far as the attainment of salvation is concerned, over against love and over against everything else in man . . . is that faith means receiving something, not doing something or even being something. To say, therefore, that our faith saves us means that we do not save ourselves even in slightest measure, but that God saves us.’

In other words, we are justified by faith alone, and not by love, because God intends to make it crystal clear that he does the decisive saving outside of us, and that the person and work of Christ are the sole ground of our acceptance with God.”

– John Piper, Think! The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

JI Packer – God’s Promises: The Foundation of Our Faith

“Faith in the Bible is not, as existentialists make out, a leap in the dark, but rather a step in the light, whereby (to extend the metaphor) one puts one’s whole weight on the firm ground of God’s unshakeable promises . . . The truth is that all faith, at every stage in our Christian pilgrimage, is essentially a resting upon God’s promise. It has the nature of assurance, because it relies on God’s assurances . . .

The heart of the life of faith is in fact the recognition that all the promises which God is recorded as having made to His people in the past are still in principle (not always, of course, in detail, because of differing circumstances) extended to each individual Christian in the present . . .

[T]he promises of God are the ground of faith; for where professed Christians are not living in the joy of the knowledge that all of God’s promises are theirs, the truth is that God’s Word is not being heard.”

J.I. Packer - God Has Spoken

(HT: BibleMesh blog)

The Dynamics of Faith and Receiving from God

Jeremiah Burroughs:

All good is in God, true, but how shall we come to partake of that good? There is such a distance between you and God that, were not Christ in the middle, you would never come together.

But Christ has come between and joined you together so that all is yours because you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Think of God as the Fountain of all good, and Christ, as it were, the Cistern, and from Him are pipes converged to every believer. Faith sucks at the mouth of every pipe and draws from God, but it comes from God through Christ.

The Father fills the Son with all good and so it comes from the Father, through the Son, by faith unto the soul of every believer.

Excerpted from Christ Is All In All.

(HT: Desiring God Blog)

Sam Storms on faith

“Faith is not a weapon by which we demand things of God or put him in subjection to us. Faith is an act of self-denial. Faith is a renunciation of one’s ability to do anything and a confession that God can do everything. Faith derives its power not from the spiritual energy of the person who believes but from the supernatural efficacy of the object of belief-God! It is not faith’s act but its object that accounts for the miraculous … The leper in Matthew 8 said to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (v. 2). The leper didn’t question Christ’s ability. He trusted that completely. He did have doubts about the willingness of Jesus to do it. But Jesus didn’t rebuke him for such doubts, as if it were a shortcoming in his faith that might jeopardize his healing. He healed him because of the leper’s confidence that he could do it.”

(Storms, C. Samuel. The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Ventura, CA: Regal/Gospel Light, 2004. Print. 56-57)

(HT: Jude St.John)

 

Through the Spirit and by faith

How do those things belonging to Christ become our own? The answer is that it is accomplished through the Spirit and by faith. We are grafted into Christ by faith and we continue to receive the blessings of that union by faith. The Spirit brings to us everything that belongs to Christ through the instrument of faith.

— Neil H. Williams, “The Theology of Sonship” (Jenkintown, Pa.: World Harvest Mission, 2002), 6

(HT: Of First Importance)

Looking to Christ IS faith!

Helpful words on justification from Joel Beeke that are gospel-rich:

Too many Christians live in constant despondency because they cannot distinguish between the rock on which they stand and the faith by which they stand upon the rock. Faith is not our rock; Christ is our rock. We do not get faith by having faith in our faith or by looking to faith, but by looking to Christ. Looking to Christ is faith.

Nor is it perfect faith, great faith, fruitful faith, strong faith that justifies. If we start qualifying our faith, we destroy the gospel. Our faith may be weak, immature, timid, even indiscernible at times, but if it is real faith it is justifying faith (Matthew 6:30). Our degree of faith affects sanctification and assurance, but not justification. Faith’s value in justification does not lie in any degree in itself but in its uniting us to Christ and His glorious achievement. As George Downame illustrates:

A small and weak hand, if it be able to reach up the meat to the mouth, as well performs its duty for the nourishment of the body as one of greater strength, because it is not the strength of the hand but the goodness of the meat which nourishes the body.

Far too often we are prone to look to the quality of our faith, the quality of our conviction of sin, the quality of our evangelical repentance, the quality of our love for the brethren for confirmation of our justification, forgetting that it is Christ alone who saves by gracious faith alone.

Augustus Toplady: “A feeble faith my lay hold on a strong Christ.”

(HT: Jarred Wilson)

Perseverance – “God cannot fail”

“I’ve heard it said that the most arrogant person on earth is the person who believes that salvation can be lost, but still believes himself to be saved. If you ask an Arminian “who deserves the blame if he loses his salvation?”, he will say that he himself does. If you ask him “who should get the credit if he perseveres to the end?”, he is therefore required to answer the same. To say otherwise is logically inconsistent. If God truly deserves ALL the glory for our perseverance, we will never ultimately or finally fall away because God CANNOT fail. To be an Arminian, you either have to believe that God does not have the ability to hold onto us (at least not in every instance), or else that we must contribute in some sense to our own salvation (since we might lose it if we don’t). As I see it, a denial of the doctrine of perseverance requires one to reject at least 4 of the 5 Solas–salvation would NOT be by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ’s work alone, to the glory of God alone. This is serious doctrinal error indeed.” – Dan Fisher

(HT: Monergism)

Not Faith, But Christ

“Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Saviour is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.

Our security is this, that it matters not how poor or weak our faith maybe: if it touches the perfect One, all is well. God has asked and provided a perfect righteousness; He nowhere asks nor expects a perfect faith. So a feeble, very feeble faith, will connect us with the righteousness of the Son of God; the faith, perhaps, that can only cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief.’ “

- Horatius Bonar, “Not Faith, But Christ”

(HT: Of First Importance)

By faith we have the fullness of Christ – NOW!

“The New Testament portrays the ‘Christ event’, which happened two thousand years ago, as the finished, perfect work of God for the salvation of all His people, both Jew and gentile. The gospel- the first coming of Christ- wins for believers all the riches of glory. The acceptance of the believer with God is perfect the moment he believes because Christ and His work are perfect. The status of the believer can never be improved upon- he possesses all the riches of Christ. There is nothing the believer will possess in glory that he does not now possess in Christ. All this he possesses by faith, but that it is by faith does not make it any less real.”

Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament, p. 95.

(HT: John Fonville)

It Is Christ

“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 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 doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down.”

(The Forgotten Spugeon, Iain Murray, 42.)

(HT: Monergism)

Luther on Idolatry and Trust

Martin Luther’s Large Catechism begins with a shrewd reflection on the first commandment:

“You are to have no other gods.”

martin_lutherThat is, you are to regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What does “to have a god” mean, or what is God?

Answer: A “god” is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.

—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, “[The First Part: The Ten Commandments],” The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert; trans. Charles Arand, et al.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 386.

Luther proceeds to elaborate further on the relationship between idolatry and trust (386–92). You can read it via Google Books.

(HT: Andy Naselli)

Spiritual Life & Faith in Jesus

“Spiritual life and faith in Jesus come into being together. The new life makes the faith possible, and since spiritual life always awakens faith and expresses itself in faith, there is no life without faith in Jesus. Therefore, we should never separate the new birth from faith in Jesus. From God’s side, we are united to Christ in the new birth. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. From our side, we experience this union by faith in Jesus.”

- John Piper, Finally Alive (Scotland, UK; Christian Focus, 2009), 32.

(HT: Of First Importance)

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