“Religion” is the End for which God Created the World

Sam Storms: The noun “religion” and the adjective “religious” have both become nigh unto cuss words in today’s evangelical vocabulary. “Religion” is often thought to be synonymous with legalism and externalism. By externalism I mean an approach to life where the only thing that matters is behavioral conformity to a set of rules. The Pharisees were profoundly “religious” because in terms of what you could see, they obeyed the law with meticulous detail. But internally many of them were devoid of true love for God. Religion, then, is considered by many today to be equivalent to a rigid and lifeless traditionalism. We often contrast “religion” with the “gospel” and urge one another to avoid the former and embrace the latter. But it wasn’t until the late 20th century that “religion” became a cuss word in Christian circles. In James 1:26-27 and throughout most of church history the word “religion” simply referred to the totality of one’s ultimate allegiance and commitment.

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God’s Grand Design

Sam Storms: Recent events across the globe have cast many professing Christians into the throes of pessimism. Be it the expansion and brutality of ISIS abroad or the Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage here at home, one often hears cries of fear and doomsday. Now, make no mistake. These and other developments are to be lamented (and energetically resisted when possible) The full effect of terrorism and moral decay have yet to be felt and will undoubtedly wreak chaos and social havoc in the days ahead. But Christians must never yield to the perverse mentality that suggests God is losing or that his purposes might be thwarted. I was recently reminded of the proper perspective of God’s people upon reading Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Approaching the End of God’s Grand Design” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758, edited by Wilson H. Kimnach, Yale:25, pp. 113-126). Edwards delivered this message in December, 1744. The text on which he

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The beauty of Christ

Jonathan Edwards: He is indeed possessed of infinite majesty, to inspire us with reverence an adoration; yet that majesty need not terrify us, for we behold it blended with humility, meekness, and sweet condescension. We may feel the most profound reverence and self-abasement, and yet our hearts be drawn forth sweetly and powerfully into an intimacy the most free, confidential, and delightful. The dread, so naturally inspired by his greatness, is dispelled by the contemplation of his gentleness and humility; while the familiarity, which might otherwise arise from this view of the loveliness of his character merely, is ever prevented by the consciousness of his infinite majesty and glory; and the sight of all his perfections united fills us with sweet surprise and humble confidence, with reverential love and delightful adoration. — Jonathan Edwards Works, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth), cxxxix (HT: Of First Importance)

The beauty of Christ

  Jonathan Edwards: He is indeed possessed of infinite majesty, to inspire us with reverence and adoration; yet that majesty need not terrify us, for we behold it blended with humility, meekness, and sweet condescension. We may feel the most profound reverence and self-abasement, and yet our hearts be drawn forth sweetly and powerfully into an intimacy the most free, confidential, and delightful. The dread, so naturally inspired by his greatness, is dispelled by the contemplation of his gentleness and humility; while the familiarity, which might otherwise arise from this view of the loveliness of his character merely, is ever prevented by the consciousness of his infinite majesty and glory; and the sight of all his perfections united fills us with sweet surprise and humble confidence, with reverential love and delightful adoration. — Jonathan Edwards Works, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth), cxxxix (HT: Of First Importance)

How can we tell when God is really at work?

  Ray Ortlund: In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own imperfections and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  The light of God does not stream in unfiltered by us.  To some extent, we even block it out.  We are sorry for that.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The real work of God is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways: One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work. Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work. Three, when we are believing,

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Five things Jonathan Edwards teaches us about the Christian life

  Dane Ortlund: For many of us, Jonathan Edwards is a skinny white guy who never smiled, except when talking about hell. If we know anything more, it’s: that he wrote a lot of really dense books that he talked a lot about the glory of God that he was part of the Great Awakening that John Piper likes him a lot. And that’s about it. But there are riches to be mined in Jonathan Edwards far beyond what you may have been exposed to. Reading Jonathan Edwards is not for historians and professors mainly, but for the rest of us. Here are five things Edwards teaches us about the Christian life—your Christian life. 1. If you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically different and freshly empowered you now are. When sinners repent and believe for the first time, it often feels as if nothing much has happened, and it often looks as if nothing much has happened. Our

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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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Gentleness is Not an Option

  “[G]entleness is essential to Christian living. It is not an add-on. It is . . . one of the few indisputable evidences of the Holy Spirit alive and well within someone. Gentleness is not just for some Christians, those wired in a certain way. It cannot merely be an inherent character trait, a result of personality or genetic predisposition, because it is listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Looked at another way, nowhere in the New Testament’s lists of spiritual gifts is gentleness identified as one such gift. It is not a gift of the Spirit for a few. It is the fruit of the Spirit for all. To be gentle is to become who we were meant to be; that is, to return to who we once were, in Eden.” – Dane C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Crossway), 91. (HT: Jared Wilson)  

Praise God for His electing grace

  Make God the peculiar object of your praises. The doctrine of electing grace shows what great reason you have to do so. If God so values you, set so much by you, has bestowed greater mercies upon you than on all the ungodly in the world, is it too little a requital for you to make God the peculiar object of your praise and thankfulness? If God so distinguishes you with his mercies, you ought to distinguish yourself in his praises. You should make it your great care and study how to glorify that God who has been so peculiarly merciful to you. And this, rather, because there was nothing peculiar in you differing you from any other person that moved God to deal thus peculiarly by you: you were as unworthy to be set by as thousands of others that are not regarded of God, and are cast away by him forever as worthless and filthy. — Jonathan

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Dane Ortlund: Edwards on the Christian Life

  Justin Taylor: I am so thankful for Dane Ortlund’s new book, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God. As George Marsden notes in his foreword, “Books such as Edwards on the Christian Life are especially welcome as part of the current Edwards revival precisely because Edwards is so many-sided and complex. The essence of his theology needs to be distilled from his many writings and to be presented in practical terms for Christians today. Dane Ortlund does just that. Reading Edwards’s own works can inspire Christians today, but often it is best to start with a more accessible introduction, such as the present one.” In Ortlund’s introduction he provides an outstanding overview of where he is going: Our strategy will be to ask twelve questions about the Christian life and provide, from Edwards, corresponding answers. These will form the chapters of this book, with a final thirteenth chapter diagnosing four weaknesses in Edwards’s view of the

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God himself is the great good of our redemption

  Jonathan Edwards: The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ has purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world. The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the ‘the river of the water of life’ that runs, and the tree of life that grows, ‘in the midst of the paradise of God.’ The glorious excellencies and beauty of

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The sufferings of Christ do fully repair the injury

God may save any of the children of men without prejudice to the honour of his majesty. If men have affronted God, and that ever so much, if they have cast ever so much contempt on his authority; yet God can save them, if he pleases, and the honour of his majesty not suffer in the least. If God should save those who have affronted him, without satisfaction, the honour of his majesty would suffer. For when contempt is cast upon infinite majesty, its honour suffers, and the contempt leaves an obscurity upon the honour of the divine majesty, if the injury is not repaired. But the sufferings of Christ do fully repair the injury. Let the contempt be ever so great, yet if so honourable a person as Christ undertakes to be a Mediator for the offender, and in the mediation suffer in his stead, it fully repairs the injury done to the majesty of heaven by the greatest

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More Blessed than the Virgin Mary

Justin Taylor: Can you imagine if you had been there? What would it have been like to be with our Lord Jesus face to face? To walk with him and to listen to him for hours on end. To hear the tone of his voice. To ask him any question you want. What if, instead of just being one of the disciples in the outer circles, you were one of the key players: Mary the humble mother of God; Peter the exuberant bumbler turned repentant leader; John the Baptizer, who leaped for joy at Jesus in Elizabeth’s womb and then was able to baptize his cousin and Lord. But if you are in Christ, the reality is that things are better for you know than it would have been to be any of these folks who knew Christ in the flesh. For example, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one

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Jonathan Edwards on Spiritual Pride

Justin Taylor: Jonathan Edwards found human language almost inadequate to express the insidious nature of spiritual pride. It would take several metaphors even to begin describing this strategy of Satan. “This is,” he wrote, “the main door by which the Devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of religion. ‘Tis the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind, and mislead the judgement; this is the main handle by which the Devil takes hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God. This cause of error is the mainspring, or at least the main support of all the rest. Till this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal all other diseases.” Later, he writes: “There is no sin so much like the Devil as this, for secrecy and subtlety, and appearing in great

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God’s Sovereignty Encompasses Everything

How can we really say God is sovereign over all when there is so much chaos and pain in the world? Jonathan Edwards: Nothing shall hinder his great design. God’s great ends will be obtained: all his ends will be obtained, and by his own means. After all this seeming confusion and vast succession of strange and wonderful revolutions, everything shall come out right at last. There is no confusion in God’s scheme; he understands his own works and every wheel moves right in its place. Not one mote of dust errs from the path that God has appointed it; he will bring order at last out of confusion. God doesn’t lose himself in the intricate endless moves of events that come to pass. Though men can’t see the whole scheme, God sees. The course and series of events in divine providence is like the course of a great and long river with many branches and innumerable windings and turnings

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The Wrath of God and the Heart of the Atonement

Denny Burk: “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.” –Isaiah 53:10 “God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.” –Romans 3:25 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” –Galatians 3:13 “It is those who cannot come to terms with any concept of the wrath of God who repudiate any concept of propitiation… It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God

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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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Delighting in Scripture

Sam Storms: As you read what Jonathan Edwards said about Scripture, ask yourself if it reflects your own point of view: “I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders” (Personal Narrative). How far removed this is from the declarations of boredom that I so often hear from people who describe their reaction to reading Scripture! I think what Edwards here refers to must be what the author of Psalm 119 had in mind when

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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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Jonathan Edwards on Heaven, a World of Love

Sam Storms: “The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness; to be with God, and to spend my eternity in divine love, and holy communion with Christ. My mind was very much taken up with contemplations on heaven, and the enjoyments there; and living there in perfect holiness, humility and love: And it used at that time to appear a great part of the happiness of heaven, that there the saints could express their love to Christ. It appeared to me a great clog and burden, that what I felt within, I could not express as I desired. The inward ardor of my soul, seemed to be hindered and pent up, and could not freely flame out as it would. I used often to think, how in heaven this principle should freely and fully vent and express itself. Heaven appeared exceedingly delightful, as a world of love; and that all happiness consisted in living in pure, humble, heavenly, divine

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