Jerry Bridges: The Gospel is for Believers Too

19 12 2011

I think Bridges has a lot of good things to say, espcially in his book The Discipline of Grace, which was given to all of our folks who renewed or were confirmed in the faith.  Below is an essential truth about the Christian life, namely that the Gospel is for believers too.  Too often in evangelical America we shake hands at the cross with Jesus, thank him for what he’s done then get on to the “real work” of discipleship.  These folks have never come to the cross in the first place.  It was simply a detour on their future career in legalism.  Rather the true Christian, as Bridges commends to us, stays always at the cross.  This is a timely reminder for us in the performance driven culture we all live in. 

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6,” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and then say, “Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.”

I came to see that Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,” was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: “The life I now live ….” Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.

Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds — our spiritual sacrifices — are acceptable to God

only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

read it all here





Spurgeon Part II: How Do We Battle Spiritual Depression?

19 12 2011

Last week I put out a post on a particularly striking sermon of Charles Spurgeon called “Songs in the Night.” I found the sermon not only spiritually edifying but also tremendously practical. Below is a brief attempt to summarize Spurgeon’s thoughts on battling spiritual depression.

Spurgeon says in times of “night”, which he here uses as a metaphor for spiritual depression, we may “sing” about three things to cheer our hearts. “Either we sing about the yesterday that is over, or else about the night itself, or else about the morrow that is to come.”

In times of spiritual depression we may first sing about the “yesterday that is over.” By this Spurgeon means that we take the time to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past in order that we may gain comfort in our present difficulties.  He writes:

“Christian, perhaps the best song thou canst sing, to cheer thee in the night, is the song of yester-morn. Remember, it was not always night with thee: night is a new thing to thee. Once thou hadst a glad heart, a buoyant spirit; once thine eye was full of fire; once thy foot was light; once thou couldst sing for very joy and ecstacy of heart. Well, then, remember that God, who made thee sing yesterday, has not left thee in the night. He is not a daylight God, who can not know his children in darkness; but he loves thee now as much as ever: though he has left thee a little, it is to prove thee, to make thee trust him better, and serve him more.”

So what kind of things did Spurgeon have in mind when he encourages us to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past?  We can remember the electing love of God (Eph 1.4), which is a faithfulness to us which began before the foundations of the world.  We can remember his mighty act of redemption in Jesus Christ.  We can remember his giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  But we can also remember when we were first called to Christ.  We can remember times of particularly intense fellowship with him.  We can remember when he has delivered us from evil, temptation or strife.  If for one reason or another we cannot think of God’s faithfulness to us in the past, Spurgeon encourages us to think of God’s faithfulness to others most often applied to the great protagonists in the scriptures.  Spurgeon’s exhortation to remember when we were first called to Christ is particularly moving.  He writes:

What! man, canst thou not sing a little of that blessed hour when Jesus met thee; when, a blind slave, thou wast sporting with death, and he saw thee, and said: “Come, poor slave, come with me?” Canst thou not sing of that rapturous moment when he snapped thy fetters, dashed thy chains to the earth, and said: “I am the Breaker; I came to break thy chains, and set thee free?” What though thou art ever so gloomy now, canst thou forget that happy morning, when in the house God thy voice was loud, almost as a seraph’s voice, in praise? For thou couldst sing: “I am forgiven! I am forgiven:”

“A monument of grace, A sinner saved by blood.”  Go back, man; sing of that moment, and then thou wilt have a song in the night.

We might also sing of “the night itself”.  This is the shortest section of the sermon and perhaps the most brutal in its honesty.  Whatever “night” you and I are enduring, Spurgeon reassures us that things are not as bad as they could be, nor are they as badas we deserve.  Psalm 103 vs 10 reads “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities.”  The application of this verse is the crux of Spurgeon’s argument in this section.  To make it very simple and very clear, no matter what you are currently suffering through it is not hell.  When describing a particularly trying event people will occasionally say “it was hell.”  But of course it wasn’t.  Hell is a place of unimaginable torment.  Spurgeon’s point here is that you are not in hell, even though you deserve to be.  So take some comfort and derive some joy from the fact that God has indeed had mercy upon you through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Spurgeon says we can sing a song in the night by singing about the day to come.  I was speaking with a man recently who suffers from depression.  He said to me, “at least I know I will one day be happy in heaven.”  This is true!  He will one day be happy in heaven, and he can derive some joy from that now by resting in that hope and allowing some of that future joy to break into his present life.  Perhaps the most ready analogy is that of a pregnancy.  When a family is expecting a child, the day they long for and wait for is the day when their baby is born.  But in the meantime, the imminent birth of that child breaks into their present day lives.  They put together a crib, they paint a nursery, they buy diapers and blankets, they select the perfect teddy bear.  The expectation they have of the future gives them joy and motivates behavior in the present.  So too can our joy and expectation of a future with Jesus in heaven break into our lives now, shaping and affecting us.





Rob Sturdy: Jesus, Puberty, and the Mid-Life Crisis

19 12 2011

In between readings of “Your Best Life Now,” I occasionally like to look back, dust off the cover of some old, stuffy theologian and see what he might have to say that was important enough to endure 1800 years of Christian thought.  To this end we turn to the early church father, Irenaeus. For those of you caught unawares, Irenaeus lived from 120-202 A.D., studied as pupil under Polycarp and later became the Bishop of Lyon (178).  He devoted much of his life to combating heresy, specifically the many heresies that fall under the big tent of Gnosticism.  His most famous work, adversus haereses, is a celebrated Christian classic.  While he is principally known for his defense of orthodox Christianity, Irenaeus is also known for his thoughts onrecapitulation, which actually speak in some quite important ways to major life changes (such as our title infers) that introduce no small degree of difficulty in our lives and leads us into no small measure of sin.

First off, what is recapitulation and why should I care?  Let’s begin with the condition of our humanity.  Genesis ch. 3 presents us with the narrative of the fall of humanity into sin and disobedience.  If Gen ch. 3 presents the fall, it is the Apostle Paul who presents the consequences of the fall.  The consequences are as follows:

1.   Sin came into the world through Adam’s disobedience (Rom 5.12)

2.   In the one man’s sin, all have sinned in him (Rom 5.12)

3.   Since all have sinned in him, all men have been made sinners (Rom 5.19)

4.   Death enters the world as penalty and condemnation for sin (Rom 5.14; 5.16)

5.   Death reigns over the world (Rom 5.14)

One quick note of clarification on point two.  How did all men sin in Adam?  Why does the responsibility not lay on his shoulders alone?  There are two ways to look at it.  The first way to look at it is through the lens of human solidarity.  Human solidarity is the rallying cry for all of us to band together against injustice, global warming, poverty, etc.  Why?  Because we are all one.  The one’s decisions affect the many.  Adam’s one decision, as the father of all humanity, has affected the many through his disobedience.  The second way to look at this is genetically.  The author of Hebrews can easily conceive of this, as he sees the Levites, born after Abraham, nevertheless part of Abraham as they were “still in the loins” of their ancestor (Heb 7.9-10).  Adam, the father of all humanity, carried a DNA that was radically corrupted by the fall, a corruption that he has not failed to pass down to each and every one of us.

So where is the specific application to puberty?  Well, this sin and disobedience passed down to us from Adam affects the whole of our life.  There is not one age, nor desire or motivation from that age that can be said to be free from the taint of Adam’s corruption.  From birth until death you and I will demonstrate through our private thoughts and our public actions that we are indeed heirs to a fallen race.  There are portions of our life when this is more evident than others and the two I have identified compose the title of this post although we could easily identify others.  However in terms of puberty, it is easy for the parents or concerned well-wishers to say, “it is just a phase,” or “he’ll grow out of it.”  While he may ”grow out of it,” it does not mean that it is merely a phase, but is evidence of a deep corruption of the soul that the individual may learn to disguise but will never grow out of nor escape from by his own power.  ”For was it was not possible that the man who had once for all been conquered (by sin), and who had been destroyed through disobedience, could reform himself, and obtain the prize of victory” (Irenaeus, AH). 

What then can be done about this?  We have a two fold problem.  First, we need something (or someone?) to, like bleach through shirt stains,  pass through the many troubled layers of our lives (puberty, mid-life crisis, etc.) andwash them clean.  This will take care of the corruption.  However, as the Apostle Paul has already noted, corruption is not the only problem, but we also have to deal with the penalty for corruption and this is the greater problem.  When I was at military college, to have a stain on my shirt was a problem, but the real problem was the penalty that the sergeants would impose upon me for that stain.  To arrive before the throne of God with stains on the soul carries with it a penalty.  Namely, that we must be excluded from his presence (Psalm 5.4) and cast into hell.  So we not only need a solution to the corruption, we need to pay the price for the time that we have carried the corruption.  In Christ, we have a solution to both problems.

First off, the answer to the problem of our corruption.  Irenaeus writes “For He came to save all through means of Himself- all, I say, who through him are born again to God- infants, and children, and boys and youths and old men.  He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age…so likewise He was an old man for old men…Then at last, he came to death itself.”  Like bleach through many blankets, or a mighty river that over time wears through the surface of the earth, washing each layer as it passes through, so too Christ has passed through every stage of human life and sanctified it with his perfect life.  This means that Christ has passed through the utter selfishness of my infancy, the wild lusts of my teenage years, and the return of my selfishness in my twenties! and will be with me through every stage of life, having already passed through it and bound it to himself.  If then through I receive this gift through faith, he has passed through my life, then he has been my selfless infancy, he has been the purity of my teenage years, he has been the courage and innocence of my young adult life because in passing through my sin I have taken on his righteousness.  “Because of his measureless love,” Irenaeus writes, “He became what we are in order to enable us to become what He is.”

If we were to leave it here, however, we would be missing the crucial piece of the puzzle.  There is a difference between removing the stain of sin, as a simple matter of spring cleaning.  It is another thing altogether to remove the stigmaand penalty of sin.  This is what we turn to next.  As Christ has become an infant for infants, a teenager for teenagers, an adult for adults, and an old man for old men, he has not only cleansed their lives, but he has appropriated their lives to himself.  In a very real exchange, we have taken on his righteousness, but he has taken on our sinfulness.  To allude once again to our analogy of the river cutting great deeps into a canyon, the canyon rock is cleansed by the rushing river, but the river itself carries with it ever increasing amounts of sediment and filth from the canyon rock.  So it is with Christ, who after passing through humanity and cleansing it, leaving behind clean rock, the Christ himself has picked up our stench and filth and carried it straight to the throne of the Father…that he might bear the condemnation for our corruption.

Ireneaus writes:  “this then is what we call the day of retribution…this day does not signify one which consists of twelve hours, but the whole time during which believers in Christ suffer and are put to death” in Him, having been gathered together in his flesh and punished corporately in his crucifixion.

Adam introduced sin into the world, Christ passed through the sin cleansing it and gathering it to himself.  All who have descended from Adam sinned in Adam, but all who are descended from Christ through faith have been innocent in him.  Adam’s transgression brought the condemnation of death upon us all, but Christ gathering us to himself bore our condemnation releasing us from the penalty of death.  Adam’s descendants, sold as slaves to death and sin because of the debt of their father, are released not only because the debt is paid, but because they have a new Father in heaven that is indebted to no one.  Or, as Paul put it

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.  But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Rom 5.12-21)

This is the comfort of that peculiar word “recapitulation” and it is the marvelous work of Christ both in his incarnation, but especially upon his cross.





Augustine: On the Incarnation

19 12 2011

This is not only a clever bit of Christology, but it is also a powerful argument for the orthodox claim that salvation is found exclusively in knowing Christ. Note for Augustine, it is in the knowing that we are saved because only Christ does man  (Jesus) mark a trail for men to follow.  Only Christ as God can mark a trail to our salvation.  Thus, it is only in knowing the God-Man, Jesus Christ, that we can come to salvation.

It is a great and very rare thing for a man, after he has contemplated the whole creation, corporeal and incorporeal, and has discerned its mutability, to pass beyond it, and, by the continued soaring of his mind, to attain to the unchangeable substance of God, and, in that height of contemplation, to learn from God Himself that none but He has made all that is not of the divine essence.  For God speaks with a man not by means of some audible creature dinning in his ears, so that atmospheric vibrations connect Him that makes with him that hears the sound, nor even by means of a spiritual being with the semblance of a body, such as we see in dreams or similar states; for even in this case He speaks as if to the ears of the body, because it is by means of the semblance of a body He speaks, and with the appearance of a real interval of space,—for visions are exact representations of bodily objects.  Not by these, then, does God speak, but by the truth itself, if any one is prepared to hear with the mind rather than with the body.  For He speaks to that part of man which is better than all else that is in him, and than which God Himself alone is better.  For since man is most properly understood (or, if that cannot be, then, at least, believed) to be made in God’s image, no doubt it is that part of him by which he rises above those lower parts he has in common with the beasts, which brings him nearer to the Supreme.  But since the mind itself, though naturally capable of reason and intelligence is disabled by besotting and inveterate vices not merely from delighting and abiding in, but even from tolerating His unchangeable light, until it has been gradually healed, and renewed, and made capable of such felicity, it had, in the first place, to be impregnated with faith, and so purified.  And that in this faith it might advance the more confidently towards the truth, the truth itself, God, God’s Son, assuming humanity without destroying His divinity, Homine assumto, non Deo consumto. established and founded this faith, that there might be a way for man to man’s God through a God-man.  For this is the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.  For it is as man that He is the Mediator and the Way.  Since, if the way lieth between him who goes, and the place whither he goes, there is hope of his reaching it; but if there be no way, or if he know not where it is, what boots it to know whither he should go?  Now the only way that is infallibly secured against all mistakes, is when the very same person is at once God and man, God our end, man our way.   Quo itur Deus, qua itur homo.

From Augustine’s The City of God, XI.2

the thought is expressed almost word for word in Chrysostom, but since I can’t remember the reference I must resort to what Calvin and Luther often do; “Chyrsostom somewhere says…”  Anybody know the reference? 





John Bunyan: Prayer is a pouring out of the heart

19 12 2011

The following was written by John Bunyan from an English jail cell, where he was imprisoned for refusing to pray according to the forms contained in the Book of Common Prayer.  Spurgeon said of this work that it had the “smell of the jail cell about it.”  I am grateful for the heritage of the Anglican Communion and grateful for the theologically informed and beautiful prayers contained in our liturgy.  NEVERTHELESS, God help the Christian whose prayer life is limited to the forms in the Book of Common Prayer!!!  God help the Christian who knows no deeper communion with God than reading words on a page!  I pray that God’s Spirit will assist each of us in praying according to the manner which Bunyan sets forth below. 

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and an AFFECTIONATE pouring out of the soul to God. O! the heat, strength, life, vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer! “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psa 42:1). “I have longed after thy precepts” (Psa 119:40). “I have longed for thy salvation” (ver 174). “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psa 84:2). “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times” (Psa 119:20). Mark ye here, “My soul longeth,” it longeth, it longeth, &c. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God” (Dan 9:19). Every syllable carrieth a mighty vehemency in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James. And so again, “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). Or had his affections more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O! How wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, PRAYER in God’s account! Alas! The greatest part of men make no conscience at all of the duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared that many of them are very great strangers to a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out their hearts or souls to God; but even content themselves with a little lip-labour and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then, then the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessing (Psa 69:3; 38:9,10; Gen 32:24,26).

All this is too, too evident by the ignorance, profaneness, and spirit of envy, that reign in the hearts of those men that are so hot for the forms, and not the power of praying. Scarce one of forty among them know what it is to be born again, to have communion with the Father through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts: but for all their prayers, they still live cursed, drunken, whorish, and abominable lives, full of malice, envy, deceit, persecuting of the dear children of God. O what a dreadful after-clap is coming upon them! which all their hypocritical assembling themselves together, with all their prayers, shall never be able to help them against, or shelter them from.

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul. There is in prayer an unbosoming of a man’s self, an opening of the heart to God, an affectionate pouring out of the soul in requests, sighs, and groans. “All my desire is before thee,” saith David, “and my groaning is not hid from thee” (Psa 38:9). And again, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me” (Psa 42:2,4). Mark, “I pour out my soul.” It is an expression signifying, that in prayer there goeth the very life and whole strength to God. As in another place, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, – pour out your heart before him” (Psa 62:8). This is the prayer to which the promise is made, for the delivering of a poor creature out of captivity and thralldom. “If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deut 4:29).

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul TO GOD. This showeth also the excellency of the spirit of prayer. It is the great God to which it retires. “When shall I come and appear before God?” And it argueth, that the soul that thus prayeth indeed, sees an emptiness in all things under heaven; that in God alone there is rest and satisfaction for the soul. “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God” (I Tim 5:5). So saith David, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline thine ear to me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: – for thou art my rock and my fortress; deliver me, O my God, – out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For thou art my hope, O Lord God, thou art my trust from my youth” (Psa 71:1-5). Many in a wording way speak of God; but right prayer makes God his hope, stay, and all. Right prayer sees nothing substantial, and worth the looking after, but God. And that, as I said before, it doth in a sincere, sensible, and affectionate way.

John Bunyan, Prayer (Banner of Truth Trust: 2005 pg 16-17)





Martin Luther: The Greatest Evil

19 12 2011

Listed below are excerpts from Luther’s Works (American Ed.) vol. 42. The excerpts are from Luther’s work called Fourteen Consolations.  Within this work Luther carefully sets out his perspective on suffering and the sovereignty of God.  Well worth a read and thoughtful contemplation…Enjoy! 

The greatest evil that man can know is the evil within one’s self. If true knowledge of this evil came to us it would destroy us immediately. “therefore, when God in his mercy chastens us, he shows us and lays upon us only the lighter evils, for God knows that if he were to lead a man to a full knowledge of his own evils, that man would die at once. Therefore, they speak the truth who say that our physical sufferings are monitors of the evil within. In Hebrews 12.6, the Apostle calls them God’s fatherly chastenings when he says, ‘He scourges every son whom he receives.’ By such scourgings and lesser evils he drives out the greater evil. Pg 125

This is what Paul says. Who would not be terrified by these words of Paul in which he clearly states that those who are without the chastisement of God are not then children of God? On the other hand, who could be more powerfully enheartened and more fully comforted than he who hears that those who are chastened are loved by the Lord, that they are sons of God, that they are members in the communion of saints, and that those who suffer are never alone? Such a powerful exhortation must make chastisement something to be loved. Pg 138

How does this come to pass? Surely it comes to pass when you hear that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has by his most holy touch consecrated and hallowed all sufferings, even death itself, has blessed the curse, and has glorified shame and enriched poverty so that death is now a door to life, the curse a fount of blessing, and shame the mother of glory. How, then, can you be so hardhearted and ungrateful as not to long for and love all manner of sufferings now that these have been couched and bathed by Christ’s pure and holy flesh and blood and thus have become holy, harmless, wholesome, blessed and full of joy for you? Pg 142

If you kiss, caress, and embrace as sweetest relics the robe of Christ, the vessels, the water jugs, and anything Christ touched or used or hallowed by his touch, why will you not much more rather love, embrace, and kiss the pain and evils of this world, the disgrace and shame which he not only hallowed by his touch but sprinkled and blessed with his most holy blood, yes, even embraced with a willing heart and with supreme, constraining love? Pg 143





Martin Luther: Through His Suffering, All of Creation is Radically Altered

19 12 2011

By virtue of the person, this suffering is extremely, indescribably great. For one drop of Christ’s blood is incomparably greater than heaven and earth. There is a great difference between the killing of a king and the killing of a peasant. The greatness of the person makes the wrong committed against him all the greater. But we shall skip this now, and only state that his suffering must be highly esteemed because of its fruit and benefit, namely that through this suffering all creation is radically altered and all things made new, heaven too. This is what the words spoken on the cross make plain, words which every Christian should know by heart.

The first word Jesus spoke on the cross was his prayer for his crucifiers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” These words are indeed brief but very comforting. The Lord may have spoken other words, but only these are recorded and they are written for our consolation.

Now as our dear Lord Jesus Christ is lifted into the air to hang on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, with nothing any longer on earth to call his own, he is exercising his true, real, priestly office, accomplishing the work he came on earth to do, not only with his suffering, by offering up himself, but also by his intercessions. For both constitute a priest’s work, to sacrifice and to intercede.

The purpose of his suffering and priestly offering is, as he himself states in the Gospel (John 17.19): “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” And John 10: 15: “I lay down my life for my sheep.” There is it stated that his suffering is a suffering for us, not for himself personally. Plainly he affirms in those words that he is a faithful shepherd, priest, and bishop of our souls, who accomplishes his priestly work so that the entire world may become new.

But when he offers himself thus for us, what garment or priestly gard does this priest, Jesus Christ, wear and what is his altar? His adornment is not a gold or silk cloak, decked with pearls or jewels, like the pope’s bishops adorn themselves, nor like the Old Testament high priest who had his special priestly resplendent robes. Instead he hangs on the cross bare and naked, covered with wounds, and has, so to speak, not a thread on his body. Instead of a purple robe he is red with blood, his body covered with wounds and welts, badly swollen. Instead of a priestly headdress he wears a bloodied crown of thorns.

Martin Luther, Fourth Sermon of Holy Week, preached at the parish church on Good Friday, April 2, 1534 taken from Luther’s Church Postil, vol V pg 420.





Richard Baxter: How to Spend the Day with God

19 12 2011

This was written by Baxter for his parishioners as a useful guide on how to make Sunday morning relevant for the rest of the week. Some people might be a bit put off by Baxter’s apparent legalism, let me just say however that having read much of the man he is no legalist. Rather, there are certain practices that enhance the depth of grace a person experiences in their life. For example, one may experience the message of God’s grace in a conversation at a coffee shop but if that person doesn’t go back and make a habit of scripture reading then his experience of grace will likely be quite shallow. The other thing that strikes me about this little guide is how much more seriously previous generations of Christians took their journey with God than Christians in the church do today. As a final thought, I’m left wondering about young people who come to the church seeking guidance on how to grow spiritually. The church in recent decades has taken a “discover for yourself” approach becaue they think to do anything more would be arrogant. But because the young people didn’t get the guidance they were looking for, they just hop on over to new age which has NO PROBLEM giving them lists on how to spend their day. Sorry for the random asides. Check out Baxter’s list. Maybe try it out for a week and report back how it went.

A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.

Sleep
Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labour, and not to slothful pleasure.

First Thoughts
Let God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.

Familiarise yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night’s rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonising pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.

Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.

Prayer
Let prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible let it be first, before any work of the day.

Family Worship
Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.

Ultimate Purpose
Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day’s work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.

Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it, and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Diligence in Your Calling
Follow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:

(a) You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.
(b) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.
(c) You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.
(d) You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.
(e) You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.
(f) You may expect God’s blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.
(g) it may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.

Temptations and Things That Corrupt
Be thoroughly acquainted with your temptations and the things that may corrupt you – and watch against them all day long. You should watch especially the most dangerous of the things that corrupt, and those temptations that either your company or business will unavoidably lay before you.

Watch against the master sins of unbelief: hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, flesh pleasing and the excessive love of earthly things. Take care against being drawn into earthly mindedness and excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world, under the pretence of diligence in your calling.

If you are to trade or deal with others, be vigilant against selfishness and all that smacks of injustice or uncharitableness. In all your dealings with others, watch against the temptation of empty and idle talking. Watch also against those persons who would tempt you to anger. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require. If you converse with flatterers, be on your guard against swelling pride.

If you converse with those that despise and injure you, strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.

At first these things will be very difficult, while sin has any strength in you, but once you have grasped a continual awareness of the poisonous danger of any one of these sins, your heart will readily and easily avoid them.

Meditation
When alone in your occupations, improve the time in practical and beneficial meditations. Meditate upon the infinite goodness and perfections of God; Christ and redemption; Heaven and how unworthy you are of going there and how you deserve eternal misery in Hell.

The Only Motive
Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.

Redeeming The Time
Place a high value upon your time, be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.

Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life that would rob you of your time than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.

Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.

Eating and Drinking
Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.

Remember the sin of Sodom: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness” – Ezekiel 16:49.

The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ” – Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh lest you die (Romans 8:13).

Prevailing Sins
If any temptation prevails against you and you fall into any sins in addition to habitual failures, immediately lament it and confess it to God; repent quickly whatever the cost. It will certainly cost you more if you continue in sin and remain unrepentant.

Do not make light of your habitual failures, but confess them and daily strive against them, taking care not to aggravate them by unrepentance and contempt.

Relationships
Remember every day the special duties of various relationships: whether as husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, pastors, people, magistrates, subjects.

Remember every relationship has its special duty and its advantage for the doing of some good. God requires your faithfulness in this matter as well as in any other duty.

Closing the Day
Before returning to sleep, it is wise and necessary to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies and humbled for all your sins.

This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, whether sin goes down and grace goes up and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death and eternity.

May these directions be engraven upon your mind and be made the daily practice of your life.

If sincerely adhered to, these will be conducive to the holiness, fruitfulness and quietness of your life and add to you a comfortable and peaceful death.

This was adapted by Matthew Vogan and can be found in its original context here





John Piper: Why fear of Hell won’t scare people into Heaven

19 12 2011

There is much of value here. It would be a worthwhile 3:25 min for you





Rob Sturdy: An Introduction to Soren Kierkegaard

19 12 2011

I delivered the following introduction to Soren Kierkegaard at St. Paul’s Theological Center, hosted by St. Andrew’s Mount Pleasant on March 10th, 2010 as part of the “Great Theologians” series.  Read more about it here.

“What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, excerpt insofar as knowledge must precede every act.  What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die…what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points- if it had no deeper meaning for my life?…I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced, but then it must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all.  This is what my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water.”[1]

This excerpt, taken from Kierkegaard’s journal entry dated August 1, 1835, in many ways sums up the man and his thought and is a fine argument for why it is well worth our time to spend an evening on Kierkegaard.  I would like to point out a few things from the journal entry to prepare you to listen for specific themes and styles that I will keep drawing us back to throughout our time together.

First, notice Kierkegaard’s earnestness.  It should be evident from the quote above that the search for truth and meaning is not a casual affair for Kierkegaard.  Rather than pursuing thought for thought’s sake, Kierkegaard is searching for an idea not only worth dying for, but also worth living for.

Second, notice that for Kierkegaard the aim of thought is to produce action in life.  If you understand this point you will understand his earnestness.  Kierkegaard’s question is not so much “what should we think about…,” but rather “how should we live?”  Our modern concerns will no doubt misunderstand Kierkegaard’s point on this issue.  The modern refrain is “it is not important what we believe, but how we act.”  If this is how you understand the quote then you have failed to read it properly.  Let us focus on one sentence from the excerpt to draw out this very important point.  “I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced…”  What is being said here?  What is being said is that knowledge, that is what you believe, is of supreme importance.  But this knowledge must translate to concrete behavior in our actual lives.  This is what Kierkegaard mean’s by “it must come alive in me.”  The thoughts of the mind must take on flesh, arms, legs, eyes, ears etc. and move and act and have consequences in the real world.

Third, notice that unlike many philosophers today, Kierkegaard takes for granted that the truth he is so desperately searching for is bound up within the will of God.  “What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do.”  Kierkegaard is not looking for universal principles that could exist without God.  In fact, as we shall see momentarily, Kierkegaard believed such universal principles could be suspended if God demanded.  Rather, for Kierkegaard “What matters” is ultimately determined by the command of God and its appropriation by the human will.

And finally, notice that Kierkegaard is a poet.  We will not be studying a dry, distant, dizzyingly complex philosopher/ theologian tonight.  We will be studying a philosophy/ theologian who wraps every thought in a beautiful parable.  “This is what my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water.” Read the rest of this entry »