The Affection of Christ Alone

Tim Keller: Luther says that if we obey God’s law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our good deeds we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning and happiness. We may be trusting in our good parenting or moral uprightness or spiritual performance or acts of service to be our real and functional “saviors.” If we aren’t already sure God loves us in Christ, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. This is why Luther says we are committing idolatry if we don’t trust in Christ alone for our approval. The first commandment is foundational to all the other commandments. We will not break commandments two through ten unless we are in some way breaking the first one by serving something or someone other than God. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something

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God Wants Us To Want

  Darryl Dash: I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference. Two examples: Peter writes to elders in churches that are experiencing some suffering. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” he writes, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). There’s a world of difference between elders who serve because they have to, and elders who serve because they want to. God, Peter says, desires the latter. God wants elders who want to serve him, even under the pressure of suffering. Paul writes to the Corinthians to ask for money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He doesn’t tell them to dig deep until

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A Catechism on the Heart

Sinclair Ferguson: Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God. Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn:  O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin

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Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

Sinclair Ferguson: Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was one of the most remarkable men of his time—a mathematician, evangelical theologian, economist, ecclesiastical, political, and social reformer all in one.  His most famous sermon was published under the unlikely title: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he expounded an insight of permanent importance for Christian living: you cannot destroy love for the world merely by showing its emptiness. Even if we could do so, that would lead only to despair. The first world–centered love of our hearts can be expelled only by a new love and affection—for God and from God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot dwell together in the same heart. But the love of the world can be driven out only by the love of the Father. Hence Chalmers’ sermon title. True Christian living, holy and right living, requires a new affection for the Father as its dynamic. Such new affection

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Preach to the Affections, Don’t Manipulate Them

Matt Smethurst: Should preachers aim for the affections? Is this even possible without resorting to manipulation techniques? In a new roundtable video, John Piper, Voddie Baucham, and Miguel Núñez—all Council members for The Gospel Coalition—explore differences between “working the crowd” and awakening authentic, God-honoring emotion. “As long as preaching unpacks the greatness of God, the emotions should be moved,” Núñez observes. Faithful exposition, then, is a excellent way to cultivate godly affection and safeguard against squalid manipulation. A bored preacher misrepresents the God he proclaims, Piper adds, since God is not boring. Moreover, he explains, “the difference between emotion and emotionalism is whether you’ve awakened it with truth.” Baucham references a complaint sometimes voiced in more traditionally emotional (e.g., black and Latino) cultures that emphasizing truth and theology amounts to “denying your culture, your heritage, your ethnicity.” But the call to awaken affections with biblical truth is not culturally specific. As Piper quips, “I want to be known as the best black preacher there

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Have You?

Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Have you, when you have thus been emptied of yourself and weaned from this vain world, found a better good? Have you had those discoveries of Christ, or that sense of his excellency or sufficiency and wonderful grace, that has refreshed and rejoiced your heart, and revived it as it were out of the dust, and caused hope and your comfort to spring forth like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain? Has there been light let into your soul, as the light of the sun pleasantly breaking forth out of the cloud after a dreadful storm, or as the sweet dawning of the light of the morning after long wandering in a dark night, or the bright and beautiful day star arising with refreshing beams? Have you had that divine comfort that has seemed to heal your soul and put life and strength

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Developing a “Taste” for Glory

Justin Taylor posts: From Kyle Strobel’s Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013), 62-64: While we journey to glory we should learn to trust the path laid before us. Sometimes, no doubt, we find that the path is of our own making. Our natural affections have turned us off course onto other things we find beautiful. But, broadly speaking, grasping the path of glory is really just grasping onto Jesus. By focusing our attention on Jesus and the “Jesus Way,” we come to gain a “taste” for this way over others. Some of the fleshliness that used to taste so good is now bitter. We are walking a path of putting to death our sin by slowly conforming to God’s glory and beauty. In doing so, the sin that still wages war within us begins to die. In Christ, our sight, hearing and taste are now sensitized to a different world, and therefore they help us

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What Is the Difference between Affections and Emotions?

Justin Taylor: As Gerald McDermott explains, Jonathan Edwards saw affections as “strong inclinations of the soul that are manifested in thinking, feeling and acting” (Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment, p. 31). A common confusion is to equate “affections” with “emotions.” But there are several differences, as summarized in this chart from McDermott (p. 40): Affections Emotions Long-lasting Fleeting Deep Superficial Consistent with beliefs Sometimes overpowering Always result in action Often fail to produce action Involve mind, will, feelings Feelings (often) disconnected from the mind and will He explains why affections are different than emotions: Emotions (feelings) are often involved in affections, but the affections are not defined by emotional feeling. Some emotions are disconnected from our strongest inclinations. For instance, a student who goes off to college for the first time may feel doubtful and fearful. She will probably miss her friends and family at home. A part of her may even try to convince her to go back home. But

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2 Ways to Know You Are Saved

J.D. Greear: I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (which you can pre-order here). I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13–18, John identifies 2 ways that we can be sure of our salvation. 1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13) “I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place. The gospel, by its very nature,

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The Heart of Discipleship

By Jonathan Parnell: Discipleship is about values. This could not be clearer in the Gospels. Jesus’ call is for a double action: leave and follow. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he first said to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19. And “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Then to James and John. And “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Whether nets or family, the call to follow Jesus is the call to walk away from something else. It is the call to this, not that. Here, not there. The disciples knew this. They knew they were forsaking one thing for another. And they knew pleasure was at the root. That’s why Peter asked what he did in Matthew 19:27. To be sure, he was still putting the pieces together, but he tipped his hand here. He was waiting for the pay off. Jesus had just taught on riches, which I imagine seemed out of the

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A suitable Saviour

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) Faith implies the enlightening of the understanding to discover the suitableness of Jesus Christ as a Saviour, and the excellency of the way of salvation through him. While the sinner lies undone and helpless in himself, and looking about in vain for some relief, it pleases a gracious God to shine into his heart, and enables him to see his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now this once neglected Saviour appears not only absolutely ncessary, but also all-glorious and lovely, and the sinner’s heart is wrapt away, and for ever captivated with his beauty: now the neglected gospel appears in a new light, as different from all his former apprehensions as if it were quite another thing. — Samuel Davies, Sermons of the Rev.

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The Cure for Cold Religion

From Erik Raymond: So encouraging to know that neither the problem nor the solution has changed in the last 350 years: “The reason our affections are so chilled and cold in religion—is that we do not warm them with thoughts of God. Hold a magnifying glass to the sun, and the glass burns that which is near to it. So when our thoughts are lifted up to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, our affections are set on fire. No sooner had the spouse been thinking upon her Savior’s beauty—but she fell into love-sickness. (Song of Sol. 5:8). O saints, do but let your thoughts dwell upon the love of Christ, who passed by angels and thought of you; who was wounded that, out of his wounds, the balm of Gilead might come to heal you; who leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath, to save you from drowning in the lake of fire! Think of this unparalleled love, which

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None can hurt those who are true lovers of God

Edwards, preaching on 1 Corinthians 13:4: Love to God disposes men meekly to bear the injuries which they receive. . . . None can hurt those who are true lovers of God. . . . The more men love God, the more will they place all their happiness in God; they will look on God as their all, and this happiness and portion is what men cannot touch. The more they love God, the less they set their hearts on their worldly interest, which is all that their enemies can touch. Men can injure God’s people only with respect to worldly good things. But the more a man loves God, the more careless he is about such things, the less he looks upon the enjoyments of the world worth regarding. . . . And so they do not look upon the injuries they receive from men as worthy of the name of injuries. Though they are intended as injuries, yet they

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Transformed!

My thanks to Tim Challies for posting this article by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Recently I ran into a woman I had not seen for several weeks. I hardly recognized her. Her hair, normally blonde, had turned completely white. The transformation was dramatic. All it took was forty minutes and some bleach. If only spiritual transformation were that easy. Just read a book, see a counselor, attend a conference, make a fresh commitment, shed a few tears at an altar, memorize a few verses … and, presto, out comes a mature, godly Christian. To the contrary, the experience of many believers looks like this. Commit. Fail. Confess. Re-commit. Fail again. Confess again. Re-re-commit. Fail again. Give up. After all the struggle and effort, we tend to want a “quick fix”—a once-for-all victory—so we won’t have to keep wrestling with the same old issues. In my own walk with God, I have discovered some helpful principles about how spiritual change takes place. 1. Deep, lasting spiritual change rarely happens

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13 Questions to Diagnose Your Idolatries

From Desiring God: This past Sunday, Kenny Stokes preached his second message on 1 John 5:20-21, which ends, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (See his first sermon on this passage.) Near the end he laid out 13 questions, adapted from an old Puritan sermon, to help us identify the idols of our hearts: What do you most highly value? What do you think about by default? What is your highest goal? To what or whom are you most committed? Who or what do you love the most? Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most? Who or what do you fear the most? Who or what do you hope in and hope for most? Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied? Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure? Who or

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The Essence of Holiness

“You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behaviour, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behaviour. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin and desiring God in its place.” – Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 28. (HT: Of First Importance)

How is Your Worship Life?

An excerpt from Marcus Honeysett’s EMA address: The question I most want to ask any Christian, but especially any group of Christian leaders is “how would you describe the state of your worship life at the moment?” Do you currently have the space, capacity and leisure to enjoy God? If not, something will have to go. The reason I say this is that biblical leadership and preaching are by-products of joy in God. They don’t work properly unless they spring from this source. You can’t say “I honour God in my preaching” if you heart is not bursting for him in your affections and adoration. You really can’t. The tasks of leadership and preaching centre around working with people for their progress in the Lord and their joy in the Lord (Phil 1, 2 Cor 4). And the strength to carry out the task, that ability to labour and struggle with God’s energy powerfully working in us, comes from the joy

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Tom Nettles on Experiential Theology

“Without a justification-driven, christocentric foundation all [self]examination results either in self-righteousness or despair, legalism or antinomianism. A clear and forceful integration of the biblical doctrines of the Trinitarian existence of God, the intrinsic glory of the Godhead, Christ’s infinite condescension, humanity’s fall and consequent just condemnation and punitive corruption, divine sovereignty in election, reconciliation and redemption, calling, resurrection, and eternal occupation—all of these and others constitute the pastoral task from the very beginning of establishing a worshipping congregation. The biblical responsibility of the pastor consistently to place the believers in the context of this picture is at once both experimental and theological, practical and doctrinal. What we do and how we feel and how we respond to life’s details flows out of who we believe we are in God’s relentless push toward subduing all things to Christ, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” – Tom Nettles (HT: Timmy Brister)

Sinning as a Christian

From Reformation Theology: In one of the Q&A sessions this week at the Ligonier National Conference, R.C. Sproul asked questions submitted by attendees. On the panel were Michael Horton, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler and Steven Lawson. An effort was made to capture in brief form the questions and answers but you may wish to track down the audio or video to hear lengthier responses. Here is one such question: Why don’t Christians care, or care enough, that they are sinning? Begg: Because we don’t truly understand the nature of the atonement and what has happened in Christ bearing our sins. A low view of the atonement goes in line with an easy-going view of sin in the same way that when people take sin seriously they have a solid and clear grasp of what has happened in Christ dying for us. This was not a moot question for Paul in writing Romans where the same question applied to the people

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The one inestimable gift

“If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things — even lofty and unselfish things — then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. Has it never dawned on us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have

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