2 Motivations for Pursuing Holiness

Anthony Carter: Peter gives us two truths worth remembering as motivations for our pursuit of holiness. First, we must remember from what we have been ransomed. The Bible says we have been ransomed “from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). Life apart from a right relationship with God is futile. “Vanity of vanities,” the Bible calls it (Eccl. 1:2). No matter how religious, lavish, or popular your life before Christ was, it was empty. How empty? The Apostle Paul called it skubalon (“rubbish, dung, sewage”): For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a

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United in Redeeming Love

  Mankind, spiritually bankrupt, has nothing to offer, but God, prompted by pure grace, and drawing on his eternal wisdom, prepares a counsel of salvation in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are united in redeeming love and pity for the human race. The triune God resolves to save the world, and to accept the good offices of a Mediator who shall act for mankind as their representative and suffer for them as their substitute: so accommodating is the divine will, and so predisposed to forgive our transgressions. But the Three-in-One, acting to save the world, go further: they resolve that the salvation shall be free to the human race. It will cost them nothing. For them, it will be an act of pure love and mercy. From sinners as such no satisfaction will be required. Instead, everything will flow from the loving-kindness of God. He will bear the whole cost. He will provide the one who

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Christ is Everything

  When you put your trust in Christ, the overpowering attraction of the world is broken. You are a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. Or to put it positively, you are a ‘new creation’ (Galatians 6:15). The old you is dead. A new you is alive — the you of faith in Christ. And what marks this faith is that it treasures Christ above everything in the world. The power of the world to woo your love away is dead. Being dead to the world means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything. — John Piper Fifty Reason Why Jesus Came to Die (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 85 (HT: Of First

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It is finished: A reflection on John 19:30

Matthew Barrett: Looking back upon the first half of the twentieth century, H. Richard Niebuhr famously described liberal Christianity’s understanding of the gospel like this: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” Sadly, such a view is alive and well today in the twenty-first century. The reason we cannot begin to fathom a God who is holy and just, and the reason we are so hostile to a God who executives his wrath and judgment is because we do not truly understand two things: (1) Just how holy God is, and (2) just how sinful we are. Bad news Because we do not understand how desperately wicked and depraved we are, nor how offensive and hideous our sin is to a righteous Judge, a God who pours out his wrath through a cross is offensive, foolish, detestable, and sour to our taste buds. Unfortunately, many

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Agnus Victor: Satan defeated through the substitution of the Lamb

Martin Downes: The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism views the atoning work of Christ as dealing with the satisfaction made for all our sins (penal substitution) and his redeeming us from all the power of the devil (Christus Victor). What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him. Thus the Catechism holds together what ought

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The truth about penal substitution

Michael Lawrence: Penal substitution does not turn God into a cosmic child abuser. It does not reduce Christ to the passive victim of some divine injustice. It does not put the Trinity against itself. No, in the God-forsakenness of Christ on the cross, the love of God and the justice of God are revealed on our behalf. United in purpose, Father and Son act in concert to save God’s people. The sinless Son of God bears our sin, and then God pours out the wrath that our sin deserves, and Jesus the Son endures it so that we, who deserve the wrath, might never encounter it. This is the gospel, the good news of the cross, and it calls is to forsake our sin, to turn away from it and embrace Christ, the forsaken one, so that we may not be forsaken. Christian, what sin are you cherishing these days that you should not be? What sin do you feel

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On the Cross: The Multifaceted Diamond of Christ’s Atoning Work

Trevin Wax: The atonement is like a multi-faceted diamond. What Christ accomplished on the cross is so massive, and the window into the heart of God is so big that no one explanation or description of the atonement can tell the whole story. Because the atonement is at the heart of who God is and what he has done for us, we can never fully exhaust the riches that flow from this event. But recognizing our inability to mine all the theological treasures represented in the cross of Christ should not keep us from pondering the beautiful truth of this event. In recent weeks, guest contributors have written about the different aspects of Christ’s atoning work. Here is a summary of their posts, with links for you to dig deeper into the significance of each truth. On the cross, Christ slays the Dragon and wins our victory: In the cross and resurrection, Christ the warrior king is the new and

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What Does It Mean to Know Nothing except Christ and Him Crucified?

R.C. Sproul: One of the most important subdivisions of theology is Christology, which is the study of the person and work of Christ. Within that field of study, when we want to get at the aspect that is most crucial, the aspect that we may call the “crux” of the matter of Jesus’ person and work, we go immediately to the cross. The words crucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for “cross,” crux, and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of biblical Christianity. In a very real sense, the cross crystallizes the essence of the ministry of Jesus. This was the view of the apostle Paul. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul made an astonishing statement about the importance of the cross to the entirety of the Christian faith: “And I, brethren, when

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The cross and criticism

“In light of God’s judgement and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blame shifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.” — Alfred Poirier “The Cross and Criticism” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring 1999) 17 (HT: Of First Importance)

He Loved Me and Gave Himself for Me

John Piper: I want believers in Christ to enjoy being loved by God to the greatest degree possible. And I want God to be magnified to the greatest degree possible for loving us the way he does. This is why it matters to me what Jesus really accomplished for us when he died. There is a common way of thinking about Christ’s death that diminishes our experience of his love. It involves thinking that the death of Christ expressed no more love for me than for anyone else in the human race. If that’s the way you think about God’s love for you in the death of Jesus, you will not enjoy being loved by God as greatly as you really are. Feeling Specially Loved by God I wonder if you have ever felt especially loved by God because of Ephesians 2:4–5? “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead

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The multifaceted cross-work of Christ

The New Testament presents the death of Christ as a multifaceted diamond. One facet of the gem is expiation: Christ’s sacrifice removed the liability to punishment and condemnation under which sinful people suffered (Heb. 9:6–15). A second facet is propitiation: Christ’s death appeased the wrath of God against his sinful creatures (Rom. 3:25–26; 1 John2: 2). The gem’s third facet is redemption: The death of Christ is the payment he offered to God to buy captives out of the slave market of sin (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18–19). The fourth facet of the diamond is reconciliation: Christ’s death has taken sinners from being enemies of God to being his friends and children (2 Cor. 5:17–21). The fifth facet is Christ the Victor: Through his death, Christ achieved ultimate victory over Satan and the demons (Heb. 2:14–15; Col. 2:15). A sixth facet is example: Christ’s death is both a demonstration of Gods love and a model of obedience and suffering for believers to follow (Rom. 5:8; 1

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Jesus dies on the cross, but not of the cross

“To use the magnificent words of B.B. Warfield, ‘Jesus dies on the cross, but not of the cross.’ The cross was the means by which He died, but not the reason why He died. He died through being crucified, but not because He was crucified. He was nailed to the tree, but that wasn’t the cause of His dying. The cause of His dying is precisely because He is there as the substitutionary atonement for the sins of His people. He dies bearing my sins in His body to that tree, so that I might live; so that through His condemnation at Calvary, the Judge in heaven will say to the sword of justice as it hangs over my head for my sins, ‘Do not slay my son. Jesus has been crucified. He has been put to death’; and I am now pardoned through His dying, justified by His blood, saved from the wrath to come.” — Iain D. Campbell, “The Children of

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Tim Keller: How Real Christian Change Happens

How do we change and grow as Christians? In the same way we became Christians. That’s why in Galatians 3 v 1-3, Paul reminds the Galatian Christians how it was that they came to Christ. And in essence, “Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (v 1). This portrayal was achieved through preaching, through “what you heard” (v 2, 5). Paul isn’t referring to a literal picture, but a metaphorical one. There was a message communicated—“Jesus Christ … crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2 v 1-5). Notice that the essence of this message is not how to live, but what Jesus has done for us on the cross. The gospel is an announcement of historical events before it is instructions on how to live. It is the proclamation of what has been done for us before it is a direction of what we must do. But it also says that this message gripped the heart. Jesus was “clearly portrayed”. The NIV

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What Does Jesus Do With Sin?

By Jared Wilson: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” – John 1:29 John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin? Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin: 1. He Condemns It. Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead. Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.” 2. He Carries It. Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer. 1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and

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How to Deal with Persistent Guilt

From a fantastic little book, The Bookends of the Christian Life, by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington: [A] little-known seventeenth-century Puritan, Thomas Wilcox . . . wroteHoney Out of the Rock, one of the most helpful essays we’ve found on dealing with persistent guilt. We’ve updated into modern language a series of Wilcox’s instructions for dealing with persistent guilt: – Shift your focus away from your sin and onto Christ: don’t persist in looking upon sin; look upon Christ instead, and don’t look away from him for a moment. When we see our guilt, if we don’t see Christ in the scene, away with it! In all our storms of conscience, we must look at Christ exclusively and continually. – Shift your focus to Christ, our mediator. If we’re so discouraged we cannot pray, then we must see Christ praying for us (Romans 8:34), using his influence with the Father on our behalf. What better news could we ever want than to know

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A cursed Christ — for us

    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”  Galatians 3:13 “To the Jews, this was absolute blasphemy: a cursed Messiah on a cursed cross.  No wonder the cross was such a stumbling block to them!  To put it in the most shocking and yet perhaps the most accurate way, the apostolic message was about a God-damned Messiah.” Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians (Phillipsburg, 2005), page 115. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Pardon, full and free!

“The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God’s hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it.  Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross.  O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God!  How glorious, how free, how accessible!  Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless, may come.  Here too the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering.  All are welcome here. The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and

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My New Year Resolution: Resolved To Know Nothing

From Tony Reinke: 1 Corinthians 2:2: For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (NIV) Anthony C. Thiselton (First Corinthians, NIGTC, p. 211): Did Paul steadily resolve to empty his mind of everything except the message of the cross? … As the Greek stands, the act of resolution or of firm, considered decision is qualified by the negative. Paul’s firm, considered policy on which he committed himself was only that which concerned Christ crucified. Whether or not he spoke of anything else would be incidental; to proclaim the crucified Christ, and Christ alone, remains his settled policy. He did not take a vow of excluding everything else, whatever might happen, but he did make a commitment that nothing would compromise the central place of Christ crucified. David E. Garland (First Corinthians, BECNT, p. 84): Paul is not anti-intellectual, but he does oppose intellectual vanity. He did not come to them as a know-it-all or

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This is that mystery

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours.  He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.” “Learn Christ and him crucified.  Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin.  Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine.  Thou hast taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not.’” Martin Luther, quoted in J. I. Packer and Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood (Wheaton, 2008), page 85, footnote 31. (HT: Ray Ortlund)