The Holy Spirit as the “wellspring and taproot of all holy and Christ-like action”

J. I. Packer’s insight into the nature of godly living must be noted. He rightly insists that: “we can never hope to do anything right, never expect to perform a work that is truly good, unless God works within us to make us will and act for his good pleasure. Realizing this will make us depend constantly on our indwelling Lord – which is the heart of what is meant by abiding in Christ. Our living should accordingly be made up of sequences having the following shape. We begin by considering what we have to do, or need to do. Recognizing that without divine help we can do nothing as we should (see John 15:5), we confess to the Lord our inability, and ask that help be given. Then, confident that prayer has been heard and help will be given, we go to work. And, having done what we could, we thank God for the ability to do as much

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Quintessential Christianity

Sam Storms: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Define “Christian”. What does it mean? Shift your mind out of neutral for just a moment and think. What is the essence of Christianity? When the secondary issues are set aside, when the extra baggage is eliminated, when all the superficial junk so often associated with Christianity is done away, what is left? What does it mean to be a Christian? Define it in the purest, simplest, most basic and foundational terms. I suspect that if we actually did that and you each turned in your answer on a piece of paper, we’d have an incredibly enlightening experience reading them aloud. More than enlightening, it might even in some cases prove shocking. I ask this question of you simply because I believe Peter provides

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Your sin does not want to die

Sam Storms posts: The Christian life, or sanctification, is partly a matter of putting “to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13), what some translations refer to as the “mortification” of sin. “This too,” notes J. I. Packer, “is hard. It is a matter of negating, wishing dead, and laboring to thwart, inclinations, cravings, and habits that have been in you . . . for a long time. Pain and grief, moans and groans, will certainly be involved, for your sin does not want to die, nor will it enjoy the killing process” (Rediscovering Holiness, 175). But how precisely is this done? Packer helps us here: “Outward acts of sin come from inner sinful urges, so we must learn to starve these urges of what stimulates them (porn magazines, for instance, if the urge is lust; visits to smorgasbords, if the urge is gluttony; gamblings and lotteries, if the urge is greed; and so on). And when the urge

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Only the blood can wash out these spots

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)

You Can’t Avoid the Missionary Implications of Our Faith

John Stott: “If we have resisted the missionary dimension of the church’s life, or dismissed it as if it were dispensable, or patronized it reluctantly with a few perfunctory prayers and grudging coins, or become preoccupied with our own narrow-minded, parochial concerns, we need to repent, that is, change our mind and attitude. Do we profess to believe in God? He’s a missionary God. Do we say we are committed to Christ? He’s a missionary Christ. Do we claim to be filled with the Spirit? He’s a missionary Spirit. Do we delight in belonging to the church? It’s a missionary society. Do we hope to go heaven when we die? It’s a heaven filled with the fruits of the missionary enterprise. It is not possible to avoid these things.” – from The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World, 335. (HT: Trevin Wax)

J.I. Packer on Individualism vs. Idividuality

“The gospel fosters individuality, in the sense of realization that as regards the present decisions that determine eternal destiny one stands alone before God; no one can make those decisions for someone else, and no one can enter the kingdom of God by hanging on to someone else’s coat-tails. The individuality that consists of a sense of personal identity and responsibility Godward is a Christian virtue, making for wise and thoughtful behaviour, and is a necessity for mature life and growth in Christ. But it has nothing to with individualism, which is actually a proud unwillingness to accept a place in a team of peers and to be bound by group consensus. The gospel condemns individualism as disruptive of the life of the divine family, the new community of believers together that God is building in each place where individual Christians have emerged. Harmonious consensus, undergirded by brotherly love, is to be the goal for every church, and individualism is to be

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How to Survive a Cultural Crisis

By Mark Dever: Public opinion appears to be changing about same-sex marriage, as are the nation’s laws. Of course this change is just one in a larger constellation. America’s views on family, love, sexuality generally, tolerance, God, and so much more seems to be pushing in directions that put Bible-believing Christians on the defensive. It’s easy to feel like we’ve become the new “moral outlaws,” to use Al Mohler’s phrase. Standing up for historic Christian principles will increasingly get you in trouble socially and maybe economically, perhaps one day also criminally. It’s ironic that Christians are told not to impose their views on others, even as the threat of job loss or other penalties loom over Christians for not toeing the new party line. In all this, Christians are tempted to become panicked or to speak as alarmists. But to the extent we do, to that same extent we show we’ve embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity. Here, then, are seven principles

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Gospel doctrine, gospel culture

Ray Ortlund: Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture.  The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, as Jesus himself touches us through his truths.  Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile.  Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless.  For example: 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). The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10).  And what could be more basic than that? 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.

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Gospel Peace in Suffering

“Gospel peace prepares the heart for suffering, as it brings along with it and possesseth the soul where it comes, with such glorious privileges as lift it above all danger from any sufferings whatever, from God, man, or devils. If a man could be assured that he might walk as safely on the waves of the sea, or in the flames of fire, as he doth in his garden, he would be no more afraid of the one than he is to do the other. Or, if a man had some coat of mail secretly about him, that would undoubtedly resist all blows and quench all shot that are sent against him, it would be no such scareful things for him to stand in the midst of swords and guns. Now, the soul that is indeed at peace with God, is invested with such privileges as do set it above all hurt and damage from sufferings. ‘The peace of God’

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Theology is practical

Theology makes all the difference in your life. In John 10, as John Piper explains, the doctrine of Jesus’s deity is presented in terms of its upmost impact on how we live. In short, because Jesus and the Father are one, our souls are incredibly secure (John 1:28–30). Biblical doctrine is not for the abstract. It’s for where you are right now. This excerpt is from the sermon, “I and the Father Are One” (August 20, 2011).

Kevin Vanhoozer on What the Word Does

Justin Taylor: Here is chapel message at Wheaton College by Kevin Vanhoozer (October 27, 2010), who reminds us that sola scriptura is not the same as solo scriptura, that it is not enough to profess sola scriptura but that we also have to do it, and that sola scriptura serves sola Christus (that is, God’s written word serves his living word). Vanhoozer encourage us to remember that the word lights our way, orients us to the truth, and indwells us with the life of Jesus Christ.

Does Grace Make You Lazy?

Tullian Tchividjian: The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all of the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus. The gospel announces that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us. Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves. He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done.” The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail. This means you don’t have to transform the world to matter, you don’t have

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To be a good person you need to be a God person

Kevin DeYoung: We equate love with indifference to sin when the Bible’s logic is exactly the opposite. The cross is the fullest expression of God’s love not because it shows God’s indifference to sin, but because it shows God’s holy hatred toward sin and his willingness to pay for it himself. That’s love. At the end of Acts 7, we see Stephen praying for the angry mob stoning him to death. He says with his dying breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Surely this is love: Stephen wanted them to receive a mercy they did not show him. He had done nothing wrong. Stephen was not deserving of death. Their actions were a profound instance of criminal injustice. And yet in a final gasp, on his knees, he cries out on their behalf,  “Lord have mercy.” How did he do that? How could Stephen love like that? How do we love like that? Pray like that? Forgive

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Belief: why present posture matters more than a past memory

J.D.Greear: Here is how many Christians think of “getting saved:” You realize you’re a sinner and you need Jesus to save you. So you approach Him and ask. Of course He says, “Yes,” writes your name in the Lamb’s book of life, and gives you a “certificate” of salvation. If you begin to doubt whether or not you are really “saved,” you go back and replay the moment of your conversion. Wrong image, I believe. Here’s the problem with it: What if you begin to ask, as I did, “Did I really feel sorry enough for my sin? Did my life change enough after I asked Him into my heart? Did I understand enough about Jesus, or my sin, or grace, when I prayed?” Uh-oh. Better ask again. Back you to go to Jesus, asking Him again to save you, and you feel better for a while. You can do this as much as you want until you meet Jesus in heaven, at

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Tim Keller: How Real Christian Change Happens

How do we change and grow as Christians? In the same way we became Christians. That’s why in Galatians 3 v 1-3, Paul reminds the Galatian Christians how it was that they came to Christ. And in essence, “Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (v 1). This portrayal was achieved through preaching, through “what you heard” (v 2, 5). Paul isn’t referring to a literal picture, but a metaphorical one. There was a message communicated—“Jesus Christ … crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2 v 1-5). Notice that the essence of this message is not how to live, but what Jesus has done for us on the cross. The gospel is an announcement of historical events before it is instructions on how to live. It is the proclamation of what has been done for us before it is a direction of what we must do. But it also says that this message gripped the heart. Jesus was “clearly portrayed”. The NIV

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Jellyfish Christianity

Tim Challies: Some words are written down and are here for a day and then gone. Other words are so pointed, so perfect, that they stand for many years. J.C. Ryle is a man who wrote many books and pamphlets and sermons that are as powerful and relevant today as they were in the 19th century. His description of jellyfish Christianity could as easily have been written here in the 21st century. “[Dislike of dogma] is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defence, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid

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The upside-down mission of Jesus

Dane Ortlund’s book Defiant Grace, concisely, but deeply, explores the gospel of Christ’s kingdom in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Here’s a great quote from his chapter on Mark’s Gospel: To take up the cross is to take up joy — painful joy, but real joy. For to take up the cross is to walk with the one who in great love bore the ultimate cross in our place. Aim at joy, and you will miss it. Aim at Christ, and his cross-bearing call, and you will find it. Contrary as it is to all presuppositions, the way to save our life is to lose it. Death was the way to life for Jesus. Death is the way to life for Jesus’ disciples. “Die before you die. There is no chance after,” remarks a character in C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. If we tunnel in to the very heart of Christian discipleship as articulated by Mark, we find, echoing the mission

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Remembering All Four Elements of Our Identity in Christ

Identity & Perspective By Terry Johnson: What happens when one or two aspects of our Christian identity get emphasized at the expense of others? What happens when we fail to keep the four central elements (sons, saints, servants, sinners) of our identity in tension with each other? Let’s see. Some have made “sons” and “saints” the message of the gospel and have neglected the categories of “servant” and “sinner.” The result has been a strong emphasis on our unchanging security as children of God and our safe status as “holy ones,” righteous in Christ. Many hurting souls have derived great comfort from this constant refrain. Those of “tender conscience,” to use the Puritan term, have found deep consolation in regular reminders of sonship and sainthood. However, in the absence of an ongoing emphasis on “servant” and “sinner” the result too often has been complacency about duty, service, responsibility, and even about sin. “Don’t should me,” some preachers have been known to say. “There

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