Mike Reeves: Psalm 130:4 is one of those verses that makes your eyes screech to a halt on the page: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” It sounds all wrong. “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be loved” would make sense. So would “But with you there is judgment, that you may be feared.” But that is not what it says. Stranger still is the fact that the psalmist just doesn’t look afraid of God. Quite the opposite. Straight after v. 4, he goes on to write of how “his soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen [wait] for the morning” (Ps. 130:5–6). He fully embraces the fact that “with the Lord there is steadfast love” and “plentiful redemption” (Ps. 130:7). That is because the fear of the Lord that Scripture commends and which the gospel produces is actually the opposite of being afraid of God. See, for example, Exodus 20, where the people of Israel gather
Michael Reeves: The Heart’s Inclinations The fear of God is not a state of mind you can guarantee with five easy steps. It is not something that can be acquired with simple self-effort. The fear of God is a matter of the heart. How easily we can mistake the reality of the fear of God for an outward and hollow show! As Martin Luther put it: “To fear God is not merely to fall upon your knees. Even a godless man and a robber can do that.”1Scripture presents the fear of God as a matter of the heart’s inclinations. So, reads Psalm 112:1, Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,who greatly delights in his commandments! The one who fears the Lord, then, is not merely one who grudgingly attempts the outward action of keeping the Lord’s commandments. The one who truly fears the Lord greatly delights in God’s commandments! In other words, fear runs deeper than behavior: it drives behavior. Sinful fear hates God and therefore acts sinfully.
Mike Reeves: How Grace Triumphs As Spurgeon saw it, the new birth of a Christian has to be a work of pure divine grace: the sinful human heart is impotent, unwilling, and wholly unworthy. In fact, he declared, God’s work of new creation is even more glorious than his original work of creation. After all, more than having to create out of nothing, in regenerating hearts God must overturn that which is overtly hostile to himself. Therefore, Spurgeon said, “I believe the Eternal might sooner forgive the sin of ascribing the creation of the heavens and the earth to an idol, than that of ascribing the works of grace to the efforts of the flesh, or to anyone but himself.”1 This provided him with great pastoral comfort as he worked amid all the mass degradation of working-class London. It meant that he was not left supposing that there are some more able and some so dehumanized as to be beyond
Michael Reeves: Internal vs. External Transformation The issue at the heart of the Reformation was without a doubt the question of justification. When Luther was growing up, the understanding of justification that he was taught (and which really drove him to despair) was an understanding of justification inherited from Augustine who had thought that Romans 5:5 was the clearest single text to articulate justification. It says that “God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he’s given us.” So with that understanding, God pours his love, by the Holy Spirit, into my heart so that in my heart, I am transformed to become more and more loving, more and more holy, more and more justified. It is an internal transformative process and that’s simply not what Romans 5:5 is actually about. But that understanding of justification as the transformative process meant that you could not be sure that you’d been internally transformed enough to be worthy
Michael Reeves: 1. His ministry began in the year of his conversion as a young man. Spurgeon was raised in a Christian home, but was converted in 1850 at fifteen years old. Caught in a snowstorm, he took refuge in a small Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester. After about ten minutes, with only twelve to fifteen people present, the preacher fixed his eyes on Spurgeon and spoke to him directly: “Young man, you look very miserable.” Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” Spurgeon later wrote, ‘Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.’ 1 The ‘Prince of Preachers’ was tricked into preaching his first sermon that same year. An older man had asked Spurgeon to go to the little village of Teversham the next evening, “for a young man was to preach there who was not much
From Michael Reeves’ latest book Rejoicing in Christ: Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful. God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives. (86–87) (HT: Tony Reinke)
Tony Reinke: The power of a great book to awaken your soul to the majesty of God is on full display in Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. If you get this — or if it “gets” you — your life will never be the same. Next time you look up at the sun, moon and stars and wonder, remember: they are there because God loves, because the Father’s love for the Son burst out that it might be enjoyed by many. And they remain there only because God does not stop loving. He is an attentive Father who numbers every hair on our heads, for whom the fall of every sparrow matters; and out of love he upholds all things through his Son, and breathes out natural life on all through his Spirit. And not only is God’s joyful, abundant, spreading goodness the very reason for creation; the love and goodness of the triune God is the
Tony Reinke: Here’s one quote from what I think will end up proving to be one of the very best books published in 2014, Michael Reeves, Christ Our Life (Paternoster; September 1): When Christians define themselves by something other than Christ, they poison the air all round. When they crave power and popularity and they get it, they become pompous, patronizing, or simply bullies. And when they don’t get it they become bitter, apathetic or prickly. Whether flushed by success or burnt by lack of it, both have cared too much for the wrong thing. Defining themselves by something other than Christ, they become like something other than Christ. Ugly. Our union with Christ thus has deep plough-work to do in our hearts. It automatically and immediately gives us a new status, but for that status and identity to be felt to be the deepest truth about ourselves is radical, ongoing business. That is the primary identity of the believer,