Sinclair Ferguson: What do the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace, justification by faith, and new life in union with Christ mean for the living of the Christian life? For Martin Luther, they carry four implications: The first implication is the knowledge that the Christian believer is simul iustus et peccator, at one and the same time justified and yet a sinner. This principle, to which Luther may have been stimulated by John Tauler’s Theologia Germanica, was a hugely stabilizing principle: in and of myself, all I see is a sinner; but when I see myself in Christ, I see a man counted righteous with His perfect righteousness. Such a man is therefore able to stand before God as righteous as Jesus Christ—because he is righteous only in the righteousness that is Christ’s. Here we stand secure. The second implication is the discovery that God has become our Father in Christ. We are accepted. One of the most beautiful accounts found in Luther’s Table Talk was,
Marshall Segal: We discover where we really find our strength not when we feel strong, but when we feel weak. Exhaustion and frustration have a way of blowing away the fog, revealing what’s really happening inside of us: Have we been leaning on God for all that we need, or have we made his help, his strength, his guidance a kind of last resort? Many of us are more self-reliant than we would admit, and self-reliance is far more dangerous than it sounds. The widespread delusion, especially among more secular people, is that I can do anything, if I am willing to work hard. I am stronger than I think, strong enough to do anything I want to do in the world. The reality, however, is that the vast majority of us are weaker than we realize — and yet love to think ourselves strong. And that false sense of strength not only intensifies our arrogance and our ineffectiveness, but it also offends our God. His
Ligon Duncan: Undergird Your Hope While we may not understand what God is doing, we can always trust who he is. We must never interpret God’s character by our circumstances. We must instead interpret our circumstances by God’s character. In Psalm 89, we can find three doctrines that undergird the psalmist’s hope in God and that sustain him in the midst of his suffering. 1. The Doctrine of Election First, we find the psalmist taking comfort from the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election is not an esoteric theological point for seminarians to fight about. Election in Scripture is meant to generate both hope for the people of God and worshiping hearts in the people of God. Notice how the psalmist celebrates God on account of his electing grace: I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. . . . You have said, “I have made a covenant
Jeremy Treat: The great American theologian Al Pacino once said, “I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.” Pacino’s statement taps into a tension that we all sense intuitively but maybe have not expressed explicitly. If God is forgiving, then why strive for a holy life? If the penalty has been paid, then why must progress be made? I believe the tension felt here ultimately comes from a confused view of grace. What Is Grace? I used to think of grace as a spiritual substance that God stores in piles behind his heavenly throne and dispenses to his people below. In other words, grace is stuff that God gives apart from himself. How wrong I was! Grace is not a thing. Grace is not stuff that God gives us apart from himself. He doesn’t run out of it. God gives us himself when we don’t deserve it; that is
Tony Reinke: The Purest Act of Pleasure – Why God delights in election: Unconditional election is God’s decision to choose a people for himself, a bride, from out of all the God-ignoring sinners on earth. God will begin with a whore and make himself a splendid spouse. This bride is the object of his eternal love. She will be pulled from the brothel of sin. It’s all “unconditional” because it is not based on any positive condition in the bride. He cannot love this new bride for her beauty; only his unrelenting love will forge beauty in her. From among every ethnicity, God chooses men, women, children, ranchers, sailors, bankers, graphic designers, the disabled, poets, schoolteachers, merchants, athletes, and housewives. He even chooses murderers, prostitutes, blindly religious people, and tax collectors. He chooses the soft-spoken and the brash. He chooses some who are famous, some who are geniuses, and some who are wealthy. But mostly he chooses nobodies (1 Corinthians 1:18–31).
By Paul David Tripp. Adapted from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional: TWO VERY DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO SIN Since sin is deeper than bad behavior, trying to do better isn’t a solution. Only grace that changes the heart can rescue us. There is a difference between a person in whom disappointment leads to self-reformation and someone in whom grief leads to heartfelt confession. I think that we often confuse the two. The first person believes in personal strength and the possibility of self-rescue, while the second has given up on his own righteousness and cries out for the help of another. One gets up in the morning and tells himself that he’ll do better today, but the other starts the day with a plea for grace. One targets a change in behavior, and the other confesses to a wandering heart. One assesses that he has the power for personal change, while the other knows that he needs to be given
By Bryan Chapell, author of Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life. Getting the Order Right When you see the message of grace unfolding in the Bible a pattern emerges. God is gracious to us, and then expects us to respond. It is never the other way around—we respond in obedience and then somehow God decides to be gracious to us. There is always this order of the “who” and the “do”. We are loved; we are the children of God. Therefore we respond in what we do. God never says, “You obey me and then I’ll love you.” He is always saying, “Because I have loved you, because I have claimed you, you are mine. Now walk in my ways.” This is the pattern of the ten commandments themselves. There are certainly many things we’re told to do in the ten commandments. But before God tells us to do anything he says,
Ryan Griffith: In a Christian subculture that often privileges the extraordinary, a real temptation exists to discount the mundane — and perhaps rarely more so than at the end of summer. Summer can throw us off-kilter. “Mountaintop experiences” — whether through mission trips, summer camps, or periods of spiritually-intense isolation in natural beauty — can give us an extraordinary sense of God’s presence — and an unusual sense of power, clarity, and courage. These moments, of course, are important. But privileging them may contribute to our discouragement when the power seems to fade. When we return to the mundane world of everyday challenge, we can become disheartened. This is because we fundamentally tend to undervalue the power of ordinary spiritual life. We fail to grasp the reality that the ordinary Christian life is the result of the uncommon working of God’s Spirit. We need to eclipse the relatively rare mountaintop experience with a clearer vision of the vital, gracious, and personal
Denny Burk: This morning, I’ve been pondering and praying the words of Moses in Exodus 33:13: “If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight.” –Exodus 33:13 Notice three crucial things about this prayer, each of which illuminate how we ought to pray as well. 1. The Basis: Even though the sentence begins with “If I have found favor,” God’s favor toward Moses is not in question. We know that because God has already told Moses that his favor rests on him (v. 12), and God will tell him again “you have found favor in my sight” (v. 17). God’s gracious disposition toward Moses is not in question, and so the basis for Moses’ request is God’s free grace. 2. The Request: Moses asks to know God’s “ways.” God’s “ways” refer to God’s behavior and manner of conduct. It is God’s behavior
Justin Dillehay: It’s safe to assume that if you’re a Christian, you love the gospel. For that reason, it’s safe to assume that if something were diminishing the gospel, you’d want to know what it was. That’s why Wayne Grudem’s new book, “Free Grace” Theology: Five Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, is relevant for you. It’s relevant even if you’ve never heard of the “Lordship salvation” controversy. And it’s relevant because it deals with an issue at the heart of the gospel: the nature of saving faith. How does saving faith relate to repentance? Does it always produce good works? Should we ever doubt our faith is genuine? And what does it mean to say we’re justified by faith alone? These are the sorts of vital questions Grudem tackles in this book. What’s ‘Free Grace’ Theology? In case you were worried, Grudem—author of numerous books including the widely read Systematic Theology—hasn’t suddenly turned against the doctrine of free grace. Look closely at the book’s title.
Jason Helopoulos: Every Christian sins. Every child of light stumbles into momentary darkness. Every prince or princess acts like a rebel at times. As Christians in this world, we are sinners and saints. Redeemed, yet still needing to repent. Forgiven, yet still needing to forsake. Confessing Christ, yet still needing to confess sin. This reality of our lives is not easy. In fact, few moments in life pain or discourage the Christian more than the instant we become conscious of having committed yet another sin against our heavenly Father. Surely, it grieves us. And at times, it can lead to anxiety, guilt, melancholy, embarrassment, and even depression for many Christians. In the midst of such struggle, the Christian does well to remind themselves of the gospel comforts of Scripture. There is peace to be had and love to enjoy. Our Heavenly Father ever extends His grace to us. The Christian also does well to take to heart gospel encouragements.
Ray Ortlund: The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty. Exodus 34:6-7 “Well, you say, but though God is able to help me, I fear that God is not willing to help me, and therefore I am discouraged. But be of good comfort, says the Lord, for my name is Merciful, and therefore I am willing to help you. But you say, though the Lord is willing to help me, yet I am a poor unworthy creature and have nothing at all to move God to help me. Yet be of good comfort, for the Lord says again, My name is Gracious. I do not show mercy because you are good, but because I am good. Oh, you say, but I have been sinning a long time, ten,
Dane Ortlund: In his little book Saved by Grace on Ephesians 2:5 John Bunyan considers God’s ‘carriage’ toward sinful men and women. How does he come to us? In what heart? What is the look on his face, the tone of his voice? God comes to the sinner while he is in his sins; he comes to him now, not in the heat and fire of his jealousy, but in the cool of the day, in unspeakable gentleness, mercy, pity, and bowels of love: not clothing himself with vengeance, but in a way of entreaty, and meekly beseeches the sinner to be reconciled to him. It is expected among men that he who gives the offense should be the first in seeking peace; but, sinner, betwixt God and man it is not so. God is the first that seeks peace. O sinner, will you not open? Behold, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ stand both at the door
Darryl Dash: I ran out of grace this week. It happens quite often. People push me, and after a while I’ve expended any supply of grace that I have available. Even though I think of myself as a patient person, I reach the point at which I’ve exhausted all that I have to give, and I’m ready to push them away. It’s sometimes easy to even write people off. I’m glad God isn’t like this. As I reached the end of my rope once again this week, I thought of a verse that brings me no end of comfort: “But he gives more grace” (James 4:6). The context: James is writing about our tendency to make bad (read sinful) choices. He uses the starkest of terms. He compares our behavior to adultery. We turn our backs on God, and are completely unfaithful. It’s betrayal of the first order. Anyone who has experienced this type of betrayal, even in a
Martin Luther on never tiring of the gospel of God’s grace: “People don’t earn God’s approval or receive life and salvation because of anything they’ve done. Rather, the only reason they receive life and salvation is because of God’s kindness through Christ. There is no other way. Many Christians are tired of hearing this teaching over and over. They think that they learned it all long ago. However, they barely understand how important it really is. If it continues to be taught as truth, the Christian church will remain united and pure — free from decay. This truth alone makes and sustains Christianity. You might hear an immature Christian brag about how well he knows that we receive God’s approval through God’s kindness and not because of anything we do to earn it. But if he goes on to say that this is easy to put into practice, then have no doubt he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,
Sam Storms: Look with me at what Paul says in Ephesians 2:7. God made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” If you ever wondered what God’s going to do in heaven, there it is! The ultimate motivation in God’s heart for saving lost souls was so that they might become, throughout all eternity, trophies on display for all to see the magnificence and the surpassing riches of God’s grace in kindness in Christ! He employs the plural “ages” to make the point that like waves incessantly crashing on the shore, one upon another, so the ages of eternity future will, in endless succession, echo the celebration of sinners saved by grace, all to the glory of God. There will not be in heaven a one-time momentary display of God’s goodness, but an everlasting, ever-increasing infusion and impartation
Ray Ortlund: “. . . so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.” Colossians 1:10 We should not be afraid of this clear biblical teaching. It does not counteract the gospel in our lives; it is the sweet fruit of the gospel in our lives. The good news of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from all our works, is thrilling. The message of forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, all by radical divine grace — I never get tired of hearing it and preaching it. It is oxygen to me. Every day. I hope it means that to you too. But this grace is also a power that transforms. It both reassures us and changes us. Both/and. How else can we account for the New Testament? “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:10 “We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how
Ray Ortlund: “. . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Luke 7:34 What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered? That’s a popular concept these days. Good. What if we were scrambling to be law-centered? But the difference is not so easy in real terms. A gospel-centered church holds together two things. One, a gospel-centered church preaches a bold message of divine grace for the undeserving — so bold that it becomes the end of the law for all who believe. Not our performance but Christ’s performance for us. Not our sacrifices but his sacrifice for us. Not our superiority but only his worth and prestige. The good news of substitution. The good news that our okayness is not in us but exterior to us in Christ alone. Climbing down from the high moral ground, because only Christ belongs up there. That message, that awareness, that clarity. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Two, a gospel-centered church translates that theology into
Kevin DeYoung: When God saves sinners he makes them a new person and he gives them a new purpose. Never underestimate the gift of new life in Christ. We are new creations. The old has passed away, and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no long I who lives but Christ who lives in me and the life I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). When you become a Christian you may wake up the next morning with the same family, the same job, the same house, the same money, the same looks, but make no mistake: you are a new person and you have a new purpose. You no longer live for the glory of your name, but for the glory of the Name. And let’s be honest, this is why many people
Those spots which a Christian finds in his own heart can only be washed out in the blood of the Lamb. ‘Oh,’ says such a poor soul, ‘I pray—and yet I sin; I resolve against sin—and yet I sin; I combat against sin—and yet I am carried captive by sin; I have left no outward means unattempted—and yet after all, my sins are too hard for me; after all my sweating, striving, and weeping—I am carried down the stream.’ It is not our strong resolutions or purposes which will be able to overmaster these enemies. There is nothing now but the actings of faith upon a crucified Christ, which will take off this burden from the soul of man. You must make use of your graces to draw virtue from Christ; now faith must touch the hem of Christ’s garment—or you will never be healed. — Thomas Brooks The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (HT: Of First Importance)