The Grand Secret of Becoming “Thoroughly Christian”

  Tony Reinke: Whether it’s getting free from our worldly sin, or getting free from the shackles of self-righteousness, our solution is found in one “grand secret,” writes Jonathan Edwards (Works, 20:90–91): There is a twofold weanedness from the world. One is a having the heart beat off or forced off from the world by affliction, and especially by spiritual distresses and disquietudes of conscience that the world can’t quiet; this may be in men, while natural men. The other is a having the heart drawn off by being shown something better, whereby the heart is really turned from it. So in like manner, there is a twofold bringing a man off from his own righteousness: one is a being beat or forced off by convictions of conscience, the other is a being drawn off by the sight of something better, whereby the heart is turned from that way of salvation by our own righteousness. . . . In these

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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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How to Count It All As Loss

John Piper: What does it mean to count everything as loss for the sake of Christ? What does it mean to renounce all that we have for Christ’s sake? Paul said he does this. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). And a few verses later he said, “Brothers, join in imitating me” (3:17). So this is commanded of all believers. This Is Basic Christianity This is what it means to be a Christian. It is not advanced discipleship; it is basic Christianity. This is confirmed in Jesus’s words, “Any one of you who does notrenounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Renouncing all we have is the same as “counting everything as loss.” This is what happens in conversion. You can’t be a disciple without it. Jesus said this. He describes this conversion in a parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in

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The key to the Christian life comes not from trying harder but from enjoying more

Sam Storms: I have a simple but profound philosophy when it comes to the Christian life. When it is fully understood it can be revolutionary. By that I mean it can take a self-absorbed, idolatrous rebel and empower him to pursue a life that truly honors God. It can take a hopelessly depressed, self-loathing woman and restore meaning and value and joy to her lowly life. I’ve said this before, so I doubt if it will strike you as novel or unique. But here it is again: The key to the Christian life comes not from trying harder but from enjoying more. Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me explain. I’m not saying you can experience success in Christian living without trying harder. I’m not at all suggesting that the Christian life isn’t hard work. It’s a war, a daily conflict, a moment-by-moment challenge that stretches us often beyond our limits. What I am saying is that pleasure

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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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Joy Comes to the Rescue

Jonathan Parnell: Your heart matters. It really, really matters. The heart, after all, is the “noble faculty of the soul,” as John Flavel explains in his 1668 publication now titled, Keeping the Heart. Most generally, the heart refers to the inner man, and most importantly, a person’s everlasting state depends upon its condition. Writing in a style more practical than sliced bread, Flavel exhorts Christians to give their hearts upmost attention. Be diligent in heart-work, he says, which eventually translates into two things: 1) preserve the soul from sin; and 2) maintain sweet communion with God (18). Said another way, repent and believe; or mortify and vivify; or put off and put on. This work is “one great business of a Christian’s life.” The Hour of Temptation After stating his case and laying a strong foundation, Flavel rolls up his sleeves to describe specific seasons in life that require our upmost care in this keeping labour. The ninth “season” is the

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10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering

Jared Wilson, in Gospel Deeps, writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are labouring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.” Here’s an outline of ten reasons he identifies in God’s Word: To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23]. To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin. To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin. To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7]. So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world. To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:11]. To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:67, 71]. To make the bliss of heaven

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Look Away from Self to Jesus

Octavius Winslow: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”      Jeremiah 2:13 GOD speaks of it as involving two evils-the evil of forsaking Him, and the evil of substituting a false object of happiness for Him. Dear reader, the true painfulness of this subject consists not in the sorrow which your heart may have felt in seeing your cisterns broken. Ah no! the true agony should be, that you have, in your wanderings and creature idolatry, sinned, deeply sinned, against the Lord your God. This, and not your loss, ought to lay you low before Him. This, and not your broken scheme of earthly happiness, ought to fill you with the bitterness of sorrow, and clothe you with the drapery of woe.  Oh! to have turned your back upon such a God, upon such a Father, upon such

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I Have Been Preaching Christ For Nearly Forty Years

I have been preaching Christ for nearly forty years, and in the contemplation of him I am more and more filled with wonder, admiration, and joy. Perhaps this may have given some new freshness, and power and unction to my preaching. ‘O, that I all but knew him!’ In Christ there is a beauty that is unspeakable; there are wonders which human language cannot describe. If I may say so, in Christ there is a an ocean of wonders. For, how wonderful, that he who was so rich, for our sakes became poor–so poor as to have no place to lay his head. How wonderful, that he who, in heaven, is the Savior of all, should for our sakes on earth, become a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief!…This has been the principal theme of all my sermons, and hence what some are pleased to call the ‘remarkable success’ which has crowned my preaching. And to God be all

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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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My song is love unknown

  My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be Oh who am I, that for my sake My Lord should take frail flesh and die? He came from His blest throne salvation to bestow But men made strange and none the longed-for Christ would know But O my Friend, my Friend indeed, Who at my need His life did spend Sometimes they strew His way and His sweet praises sing Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King Then “Crucify!” is all their breath And for His death they thirst and cry They rise and needs will have my dear Lord made away A murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay Yet cheerful He to suffering goes That He His foes from thence might free Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine Never was love, dear King, never was grief like Thine This

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John Bunyan: “There is in Christ a fullness of all-sufficiency of all that which is needful to make us happy. . . . While we keep our eyes upon him, we never desire to change him for another, or to add to ourselves some other thing, together with him, to make up our spiritual joy. O the heart-attracting glory that is in Jesus Christ.” -John Bunyan, Come, and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, in The Works of John Bunyan(2 vols; Philadelphia: James Locken, 1832), 2:22; language slightly adapted (HT: Dane Ortlund)

Material Wealth May Cloak Spiritual Poverty

“In spite of persecution and poverty, they experienced an abundance of joy, which resulted in a wealth of generosity (the Greek uses cognates, “the abundance of their joy abounded . . .”). In the New Testament the Christian’s experience of joy has no correlation to his or her outward circumstances. Paradoxically, Christians can experience joy in the midst of great persecution and personal suffering. Poverty overflowing into wealth also may seem paradoxical, but it fits the crazy-quilt logic of the gospel: joy + severe affliction + poverty = wealth. Here, wealth relates to a wealth of generosity and joy multiplied. Material wealth, on the other hand, may cloak spiritual poverty, as Christ’s condemnation of the wealthy but tepid church at Laodicea reveals (Rev 3:14–22). That church considered itself rich and prospering, but the Lord considered it “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” By contrast, Christ praises the poverty stricken church at Smyrna, also beset by affliction, as rich (Rev 2:8–11).” —David E.

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God in a Manger

  David Mathis’s three part series is a great refresher course on Christology (the doctrine of Christ). He writes: Advent is my yearly reminder to brush up on Christology, the doctrine of the person of Christ. I’ve found it helpful to approach the subject under three headings: Jesus as Lord (fully divine), Jesus as Savior (fully human), and Jesus as Treasure (one person). God in a Manger, Part 1: Jesus Is Lord In this Christological triad (Lord-Savior-Treasure), Jesus’ Lordship is tied to his divinity. He is rightly called Yahweh, the name surpassingly more excellent than the angels (Hebrews 1:4), the name above every name (Philippians 2:9). Here’s the connection between Lordship and the divine name. God in a Manger, Part 2: Jesus Is Savior Not only did he remain fully divine when he took humanity to himself, but the humanity that he took was full humanity. And so Jesus has a fully human body, emotions, mind, and will — and this in

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Love feeds on news of the Beloved

  The attempt to be practical in a sermon is based on a misun­derstanding about the kind of word the gospel is. If the gospel of Christ were a theory, then it wouldn’t be worth much until you put it into practice. “Practical application” would be the only way to make it real in your life. But the gospel is not a theory to apply; it’s a story to believe. It is good news that gladdens the heart, and it changes our hearts precisely by giving us something to be glad about—something we embrace by faith alone, not by doing something about it. To be precise, it gives us someone to be glad about. For the gospel, being the story of our Lord Jesus Christ, does not give us practical advice or a theory about how to live our lives. It gives us God in the flesh. Think of it this way: we who believe in Christ belong to him

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Let Us Drink Our Fill From This Fountain

  John Calvin: If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [1 Cor. 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood, if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection,

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Wash and be clean, drink and be refreshed

On that day a fountain will be opened … to cleanse them from sin and impurity.(Zechariah 13:1) “Jesus is a fountain containing all good, and flowing with streams of richest, choicest blessings. Nothing can be needed — but Jesus has it. Nothing can be desired that has a tendency to make us blessed — but Jesus has promised to bestow it. Here we may wash and be clean. Here we may drink and enjoy immortal health. Here we may live and find every needful good. This fountain flows in streams as clear as crystal, making glad the city of God. Why then should we live smarting under the wounds of sin, or groaning beneath its load? Behold, the living, the open fountain — wash and be clean, drink and be refreshed. Why should we complain of spiritual need, or groan in indigence and poverty? Let us go to Jesus. His immortal fullness contains all we can need, and he bids us

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Pleasure Is the Measure of Your Treasure

From John Bloom: No one puts it as bluntly as Blaise Pascal in his Pensées: All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. There you are. Warrior, pacifist, suicide, sluggard, workaholic; if you’re a human, you’re a hedonist. You can try to deny it, but you can’t change it. If you want to try your hand at stoicism, forget the Bible. It has little for you. Scripture does not support the idea that our motives are more pure the less we are pursuing our own joy. Nope. In fact, according to the Bible, unless we are pursuing our happiness we cannot

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What preaching the gospel to yourself means

From Erik Raymond: There is a lot of (necessary) talk these days about preaching the gospel to yourself. This is truly a great need for every Christian. We all found ourselves slouching back to the self-promoting, self-worshiping default position of our hearts. That is, we forget the gospel. But let’s be very clear about what it means to forget. We are not simply talking about forgetting facts or Bible verses. It is not like we somehow can’t remember the definition of substitutionary atonement or that Jesus came to save sinners. No, no, it is much bigger than this. The Issue is Our Satisfied Delight When we talk about forgetting the gospel we are talking about forgetting to see the glory of Christ in the gospel. That is, we forget to see the infinite value of Jesus as the redeemer. In this we see our infinite sinfulness, hopelessness, idolatry, and separation from God. The only thing we have to do with

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