Church Vs. Kingdom

Ray Ortlund: “My passion isn’t to build up my church.  My passion is for God’s Kingdom.” Ever heard someone say that?  I have.  It sounds noble, but it’s unbiblical and wrong.  It can even be destructive. Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage.  My passion is for Marriage.  I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again.  I’ll work for that.  I’ll pray for that.  I’ll sacrifice for that.  But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani.  I’m aiming at something grander.” If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”?  Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind? If you care about the Kingdom, good.  Now be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church.  Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, throw yourself into the life

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Drawing near in 2012

  “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8 Great stuff from Ray Ortlund: How can we draw near to God in 2012?  Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel.  They are not heroic.  They only require faith and honesty. One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it.  Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15).  And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence.  It is his way.  God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342).  Let’s open up.  If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us.  But the truth is, he draws

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How To Know What Real Revival Looks Like

From Ray Ortlund: In 1972 I heard J. I. Packer lecture at my seminary. One simple sentence of his has echoed in my mind ever since: “Do not neglect the revival dimension in your ministry.” Revival is powerfully Christ-exalting. That is what I desire. And I am guessing that you, as you follow The Resurgence, feel the same passion. What is a true revival? But how can we distinguish true revival from false? Not everything labeled “revival” can be trusted and welcomed. Fortunately, we have guidance from a master theologian, Jonathan Edwards, who studied the Bible profoundly and experienced revival personally. In his essay The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God Edwards offered categories for discernment from 1 John 4:1, where the apostle writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” Not everything going on in church is of God Edwards broke it down into two broad categories. First, negative

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A matter of hermeneutics

Ray Ortlund: For a church to preach gospel doctrine and embody gospel culture is ultimately a matter of hermeneutics. Not the pastor’s cheery personality, though that helps, but hermeneutics. What is this Bible we are reading? If it really is good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross — if “good news” is the hermeneutic with which every passage is interpreted and every sermon preached, then by God’s help that church will build a gospel culture where sinners can breathe again. But it is possible for a church, reading the Bible, even revering the Bible, never to become a gospel culture. Why? Hermeneutics, how they perceive their Bible. And if the only light we have is darkness, how great is our darkness. We tend toward a sinister reading of reality. We see God that way, we see each other that way, we see life that way. The Bible sets us free. Wise churches keep their

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Gospel doctrine, gospel culture

Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, healing, revival, because Jesus himself touches us through his truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Ephesians 2:1-9). The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Galatians 2:11-16). The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Ephesians 2:14-16). The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Romans 6:20-23). The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Romans 5:2). If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t disregard the culture. But churches where the doctrine and culture converge bear living witness to the power of Jesus. (HT: Ray Ordlund)

Preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Outstanding from Ray Ortlund: There is a difference between preaching Christ and preaching about Christ.  Preaching Christ is presenting him so clearly and directly that the people experience the sermon this way: “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1).  Preaching about Christ is presenting ideas related to him.  It’s a good thing to do.  But preaching Christ is more profound, more daring and more helpful. In Intellectuals, page 31, Paul Johnson wrote of the poet Shelley, “He burned with a fierce love but it was an abstract flame and the poor mortals who came near it were often scorched.  He put ideas before people and his life is a testament to how heartless ideas can be.”  It is not enough for us preachers to burn with a fierce love.  We must burn with a fierce love for Christ the crucified Friend of sinners and for the sinners right there before us who need that Friend. 

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Ortlund: ‘Healthy churches feed on the doctrine of justification’

From Colin Hanson: Ray Ortlund Jr., lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, longs to see revival break out in that city.  And you can expect that any awakening will feature Christians who reject efforts at self-justification and rejoice that God has justified them in Christ. You say, “Self-justification is the deepest impulse in the fallen human heart.” Can you elaborate? Let’s consider our position. We were created to image God, but now we are distortions of God. We were located in a glorious universe, but now we experience it as an environment of accusation. And we will never change. Not even a little. We are the way we are, our wills are unfree, and facing ourselves honestly is unendurable. That existence is impossible to bear. What do we do with it? We shift the blame, in order to justify ourselves and relieve our anxiety. The whole world is a mess, and it’s always someone else’s fault. When was the last time

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“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

From Ray Ortlund: Humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, disapprove of one another, run one another’s lives, confess one another’s sins, intensify one another’s sufferings, point out one another’s failings . . . . In a soft environment, where we settle for a false peace with present evils, we turn on one another.  In a realistic environment, where we are suffering to advance the gospel, our thoughts turn to how we can stick up for one another. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”  John 15:12-13

Not primarily ethics

The Christian life is not most profoundly a matter of ethics; most profoundly, it is a matter of faith. Abraham trusted God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. As Kierkegaard points out in The Sickness Unto Death, “The opposite of sin is not virtue but faith. Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).” Ethics we can manage on our own. We can even observe biblical ethics to keep God at a safe distance. But if our hearts are believing the promises of God, we cannot say no to him. We yield to him. We suffer dislocation in this world for his sake. We feel the ground shifting under our feet and we don’t panic. Nothing seems stable, but we accept that. We surrender to God. Drawn on toward his promises, we start changing. The most urgent question in our lives today is not moral versus immoral but true versus false, heavenly versus earthly, divine promise versus human

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From Ray Ortlund: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  Romans 8:26 Last week at the meetings of The Gospel Coalition, one of the men pointed out that Romans 8:26 does not say, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses” but singular “weakness.”  Our problem is not just weaknesses.  More profoundly, our problem is weakness.  Weakness is not just one more experience alongside our other experiences; weakness is the platform on which we have all our experiences.  Weakness is a pervasive presence in all we are and do.  It will not always be so.  But for now, it is. Every Sunday I am a weak man preaching to weak people.  Admonition has its place.  But what weak people need, more than admonition, is help.  For weak people to live the Christian life in a way that is humane and sustainable, rather than defeating and shaming, we need good news more than good challenge. Weak sinners, continually reassured by grace, will accomplish more

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The Daily Cross

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23 When asked what God had taught him most deeply about life, George Mueller (1805-1898), pastor and philanthropist, explained: “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will, died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.” Quoted in A. T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol (London, 1899), page 367. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Q&A with Storms and Ortlund

My thanks to Justin Taylor for this excellent resource: Last year at the Clarus conference—where Wayne Grudem and Randy Alcorn will be the keynotes at this year’s conference—Sam Storms and Ray Ortlund fielded a number of great questions from Pastor Ryan Kelly of Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. The links below take you to the YouTube videos for each question. Questions on Worship How does the average Christian pursue worship in spirit and truth? Part 1 How does the average Christian pursue worship in spirit and truth? Part 2 How does the average Christian pursue worship in spirit and truth? Part 3 Questions on Miraculous Gifts If we believe in the continuation of all spiritual gifts, should we pursue them? Tell us about being a “charismatic Calvinist.” Further thoughts on pursuing miraculous gifts… Questions on Election and Predestination If God has already chosen who will be saved, why witness and pray? How did you begin to understand election? Does “foreknowledge” mean God

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Delight yourself in the Lord!

Richard Baxter, in A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 140, lists seven benefits of delighting ourselves in God.  Updating the language a little: 1.  Delight in God will prove that you know him and love him and that you are prepared for his kingdom, for all who truly delight in him shall enjoy him. 2.  Prosperity, which is merely the small addition of earthly things, will not easily corrupt you or transport you. 3.  Adversity, that is, the withholding of earthly delights, will not much grieve you or easily deject you. 4.  You will receive more profit from a sermon or good book or conversation you delight in, than other people, who don’t delight in them, will receive from many such opportunities. 5.  All your service will be sweet to yourself and acceptable to God; if you delight in him, he certainly delights in you (Psalm 149:4; 147:11; 1 Chronicles 29:17). 6.  You will have a continual feast with you, to sweeten all

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The Good Shepherd

“He restores my soul.”  Psalm 23:3 “When we take the history of a child of God, compressed within the short period of a single day — mark what flaws, what imperfections, what fickleness, what dereliction in principle, what flaws in practice, what errors in judgment and what wanderings of heart make up that brief history — how we are led to thank God for the stability of the covenant, that covenant which provides for the full redemption of all believers, which from eternity secures the effectual calling, the perfect keeping and certain salvation of every chosen vessel of mercy!” Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul (London, 1962), page 169. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

No more “. . . or else.”

From Ray Ortlund: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”  Galatians 3:13 What is the curse of the law?  It is the or-else-ness of the law: “Do this, or else.”  Christ took the or-else-ness of the law onto himself at the cross, so that there is no more or-else for anyone in Christ, as God looks upon us now.  Or-else is gone forever from your relationship with God. “We, being delivered from these everlasting terrors and anguish through Christ, shall enjoy an everlasting and inestimable peace and happiness.” Martin Luther, commentary on Galatians 3:13.

Spurgeon on Repentance

“Remember that the man who truly repents is never satisfied with his own repentance. We can no more repent perfectly than we can live perfectly. However pure our tears, there will always be some dirt in them; there will be something to be repented of even in our best repentance. But listen! To repent is to change your mind about sin, and Christ, and all the great things of God. There is sorrow implied in this; but the main point is the turning of the heart from sin to Christ. If there be this turning, you have the essence of true repentance, even though no alarm and no despair should ever cast their shadow upon your mind.” C. H. Spurgeon, All Of Grace, page 70. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Certainty and Openness

This is excellent from Ray Ortlund: Some Christians seem “all certainty.” Maybe it makes them feel heroic, standing against the tide. They see too few gray areas. Everything is a federal case. They have a fundamentalist mindset. Other Christians seem “all openness.” Maybe it makes them feel humble and cool. They see too few black-and-white areas. They’re giving away the store. They have a liberal mindset — though they may demonstrate a surprising certainty against certainty. The Bible is our authority as we sort out what deserves certainty and what deserves openness. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 defines the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins, Christ buried and Christ risen again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, as “of first importance.” Here is the center of our certainty. From that “of first importance” theological address, we move out toward the whole range of theological and practical questions asking for our attention. The more clearly our logic connects with that

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Ortlund and Storms: “The Convergence of Doctrine and Delight”

The audio from the May 2009 Clarus Conference is now online: Ray Ortlund: “True Spirituality: Delighting in Truth” (Psa. 1) Sam Storms: “Jonathan Edwards on Religious Affections: The Soul Set on Fire for God” Ray Ortlund: “False Spirituality: Flirting Around” (2 Cor. 11:1-4) Sam Storms: “Enjoying Election: Finding Delight in God’s Decree” Panel Discussion 1 Ray Ortlund: “Dangerous Moderation: The Nausea of Christ” (Rev. 3:14-22) Panel Discussion 2 Ray Ortlund: “Break Through: No Other Desire” (Psa. 73) Sam Storms: “Delighting Ourselves in the Lord: Why Joy in God Matters” (Psa. 37:4) Audio from previous Clarus conferences is here. (HT: Justin Taylor)