Tag Archives: Grace

All of God is Ours in Christ

lookinguntojesus.jpgHere is the propriety of saints – “the Lord thy God.” What is this, that God is thy God? Heaven and earth, angels and men, may stand astonished at it. What! that the great and mighty God, God almighty, and God all-sufficient, should be called thy God! It is observable what the apostle speaks, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Would not a prince be ashamed to take a beggar, a base and adulterous woman, to be his wife? But we are worse than so, and God is better than so; sin hath made us worse than the worst of women; and God is better, holier, higher, than the best of princes; and yet God is not ashamed to own us, nor ashamed that we own him as our own – “I am thy God.” It is as if the Lord should say. Use me, and all my power, grace, mercy, kindness, as thine own. Go through all my attributes; consider my almighty power, consider my wisdom, understanding, goodness, truth, faithfulness; consider my patience, longsuffering, forbearance, all these are thine: as thus, — my power is thine, to work all thy works for thee, and in thee, to make a passage for thee in all thy straits, to deliver thee out of six troubles, and out of seven: my wisdom is thine, to counsel thee in any difficult cases, to instruct thee in things that be obscure, to reveal to thee the mysteries of grace, and the wonderful things contained in my law: my justice is thine, to deliver thee when thou art oppressed, to defend thee in thy innocence, and to vindicate thee from the injuries of men. What needs more? O my soul, think of these, and all other God’s attributes; say in thyself, All these are mine: nay more; think of God in Christ, (for otherwise what hast thou to do with God in a covenant of grace?) and say in thy heart, Jesus Christ is mine, my Saviour, my Redeemer, my Head, my elder Brother. His doings are mine, and his sufferings are mine; his life and death, his resurrection and ascension, his session and intercession, all are mine: nay more; If Christ be mine, why then all good things are mine in Christ; I say, in Christ, for they come not immediately, but through the hands of a Redeemer; and though he be a man who redeemed us, yet because he is God as well as man, there is more of God, and heaven, and free-love, in all our good things, than if we received them immediately from God. Ravens have their food, and devils have their being, from God by creature-right; but we have all we have, from God in Christ, by covenant-right. This, surely this very promise, is the principal promise of the covenant; it is the very substance, soul, and life of all. Oh then! how careful shouldst thou be to improve the strength of thy mind, thoughts, and affections, on this only subject!

Isaac Ambrose (1604-64), Looking Unto JesusBook II.2.2

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Applied Theology, Bible, Big Picture, Christian Thinking, Christology, Church History, God, Gospel, Grace, Puritans, Soteriology, Theology, Uncategorized, Worship

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15

The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy? If the throne which is placed there must have an occupier, and the tyrant that now reigns has occupied it wrongfully, he may not leave a bosom which would rather detain him than be left in desolation. But may he not give way to the lawful sovereign, appearing with every charm that can secure His willing admittance, and taking unto himself His great power to subdue the moral nature of man, and to reign over it? In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new. To obliterate all our present affections by simply expunging them, and so as to leave the seat of them unoccupied, would be to destroy the old character, and to substitute no new character in its place. But when they take their departure upon the ingress of other visitors; when they resign their sway to the power and the predominance of new affections; when, abandoning the heart to solitude, they merely give place to a successor who turns it into as busy a residence of desire and interest and expectation as before – there is nothing in all this to thwart or to overbear any of the laws of our sentient nature – and we see how, in fullest accordance with the mechanism of the heart, a great moral revolution may be made to take place upon it.

heartThis, we trust, will explain the operation of that charm which accompanies the effectual preaching of the gospel. The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity – and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one. Nothing can exceed the magnitude of the required change in a man’s character – when bidden as he is in the New Testament, to love not the world; no, nor any of the things that are in the world for this so comprehends all that is dear to him in existence, as to be equivalent to a command of self-annihilation.

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God – and to live without hope, is to live without God; and if the heart be without God, then world will then have all the ascendancy. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy. It is when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance_it is then, that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom. It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us – it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible. And that faith which is revealed to us from heaven, as indispensable to a sinner’s justification in the sight of God, is also the instrument of the greatest of all moral and spiritual achievements on a nature dead to the influence, and beyond the reach of every other application….

The object of the Gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience, and to purify his heart; and it is of importance to observe, that what mars the one of these objects, mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.
Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again. On the tenure of “Do this and live,” a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence from the intercourse between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator, is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness, instead of God’s glory; and with all the conformities which he labours to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy ever can be. It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance – or, that he can repose in Him, as one friend reposes in another – or, that any liberal and generous understanding can be established betwixt them – the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good – the other finding that the truest gladness of his heart lies in the impulse of a gratitude, by which it is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace – salvation by free grace – salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God – salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness. To do any work in the best manner, we should make use of the fittest tools for it.

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 John, Anthropology, Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Living, Christian Thinking, Christology, Church History, God, Gospel, Grace, Mortification of Sin, Regeneration, Sanctification, Soteriology, Sovereign Grace, Theology, Uncategorized

“Infinite Upon Infinite”: Sin and God’s Grace

edwardsI have often since I lived in [Northampton] had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness; very frequently so as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together: so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, since my conversion, than ever I had before. It has often appeared to me, that if God should mark iniquity against me, I should appear the very worst of all mankind; of all that have been since the beginning of the world to this time: and that I should have by far the lowest place in hell. When others that have come to talk with me about their soul concerns, have expressed the sense they have had of their own wickedness, by saying that it seemed to them, that they were as bad as the devil himself; I thought their expressions seemed exceeding faint and feeble, to represent my wickedness. I thought I should wonder, that they should content themselves with such expressions as these, if I had any reason to imagine, that their sin bore any proportion to mine. It seemed to me, I should wonder at myself, if I should express my wickedness in such feeble terms as they did.

My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and infinitely swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or infinite mountains over my head. I know not how to express better, what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. I go about very often, for this many years, with these expressions in my mind, and in my mouth, “Infinite upon infinite. Infinite upon infinite!” When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fullness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth, in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty; I should appear sunk down in my sins infinitely below hell itself, far beyond sight of everything, but the piercing eye of God’s grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth, and to the bottom of such an abyss.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), Letters and Personal Writings, 802.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Thinking, Christology, Church History, Classics, God, Gospel, Grace, Sin, Soteriology, Sovereign Grace, Sovereignty, Theology

Justified by Grace to Serve Not to Judge

It is the struggle of natural human beings for self-justification. They find it only by comparing themselves with others, by condemning and judging others.  Self-justification and judging belong together in the same way that justification by grace and serving belong together….

serve

It is certain that the spirit of self-justification can only be overcome by the spirit of grace… It must be a decisive rule of all Christian community life that each individual is prohibited from talking about another Christian…

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Where this discipline of the tongue is practiced right from the start, individuals will make an amazing discovery. They will be able to stop constantly keeping an eye on others, judging them, condemning them, and putting them in their places and thus doing violence to them. They can now allow other Christians to live freely, just as God has brought them face to face with each other. The view of such persons expands and, to their amazement, they recognize for the first time the richness of God’s creative glory shining over their brothers and sisters. God did not make others as I would have made them. God did not give them to me so that I could dominate and control them, but so that I might find the Creator by means of them. Now other people, in the freedom with which they were created, become an occasion for me to rejoice, whereas before they were only a nuisance and trouble for me. God does not want me to mold others into the image that seems good to me, that is, into my own image. Instead, in their freedom from me God made other people in God’s own image. I can never know in advance how God’s image should appear in others. That image always takes on a completely new and unique form whose origin is found solely in God’s free and sovereign act of creation. To me that form may seem strange, even ungodly. But God creates every person in the image of God’s Son, the Crucified, and this image, likewise, certainly looked strange and ungodly to me before I grasped it.

Strong and weak, wise or foolish, talented or untalented, pious or less pious, the complete diversity of individuals in the community is no longer a reason to talk and judge and condemn, and therefore no longer a pretext for self-justification. Rather this diversity is a reason for rejoicing in one another and serving one another. Even in this new situation all the members of the community are given their special place; this is no longer the place, however, in which they can most successfully promote themselves, but the place where they can best carry out their service. In a Christian community, everything depends on whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. The chain is unbreakable only when even the smallest link holds tightly with the others. A community, which permits within itself members who do nothing, will be destroyed by them. Thus it is a good idea that all members receive a definite task to perform for the community, so that they may know in times of doubt that they too are not useless and incapable of doing anything. Every Christian community must know that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak.  The elimination of the weak is the death of the community.

The Christian community should not be governed by self-justification, which violates others, but by justification by grace, which serves others.  Once individuals have experienced the mercy of God in their lives, from then on they desire only to serve.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45), Life Together, 94-6.

Leave a comment

Filed under Applied Theology, Character, Christian Living, Christian Thinking, Christology, Commentary, Ecclesiology, God, Gospel, Grace, Justification, Theology

Law and Grace in Giving

offering-plate

I have mixed feelings on tithing. I detest legalism. I certainly don’t want to pour new wine into old wineskins, imposing superseded first covenant restrictions on Christians. However, the fact is that every New Testament example of giving goes beyond the tithe. This means that none falls short of it. The strongest arguments made against tithing today are “law versus grace.” But does being under grace mean we should stop doing all that was done under the law?

I’m a strong believer in the new covenant’s superiority over the old (Romans 7; 2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 8). On the other hand, I believe there’s ongoing value to certain aspects of the old covenant. The model of paying back to God the firstfruits (tithing) and giving freewill offerings beyond that is among those. Because we are never told that tithing has been superseded, and because Jesus directly affirmed it (Matthew 23:23) and prominent church fathers taught it as a requirement for Christian living, it seems to me the burden of proof falls on those who say tithing is no longer a minimum standard for God’s people. The question is not whether tithing is the whole of Christian giving or even at the center of it. Clearly it is not. Many people associate the command to tithe with the command to keep the Sabbath. New Testament Christians are not obligated to keep the Sabbath with all its legislated rules under the Mosaic covenant (Colossians 2:16). However, a weekly day of rest based on God’s pattern of creation was instituted before the Law (Genesis 2:2-3). It’s a principle never revoked in the New Testament. The special day of observance changed to Sunday, “the Lord’s day,” yet the principle of one special day set aside for worship remained intact.

Christ fulfilled the entire Old Testament, but he didn’t render it irrelevant. Old Testament legislation demonstrated how to love my neighbor. Although the specific regulations don’t all apply, the principles certainly do, and many of the guidelines are still as helpful as ever. Consider the command to build a roof with a parapet to protect people from falling off (Deuteronomy 22:8). When it comes to the Old Testament, we must be careful not to throw out the baby (ongoing principles intended for everyone) with the bathwater (detailed regulations intended only for ancient Israel).

We don’t offer sacrifices anymore, so why should we tithe? Because sacrifices are specifically rescinded in the New Testament. As the book of Hebrews demonstrates, Christ has rendered inoperative the whole sacrificial system. But where in the New Testament does it indicate that tithing is no longer valid? There is no such passage. With a single statement, God could have easily singled out tithing like he did sacrifices and the Sabbath. But he didn’t.

Some argue against tithing by saying, “The New Testament advocates voluntary offerings.” Yes, but as we’ve seen, so does the Old Testament. Voluntary giving is not a new concept. Having a minimum standard of giving has never been incompatible with giving above and beyond that standard. If both mandatory and voluntary giving coexisted under the old covenant, why not the new? It’s not a matter of either tithing or voluntary offering. The two have always been fully compatible.

The disciples gave all that they had because “much grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). It was obvious from the beginning that being under grace didn’t mean that New Testament Christians would give less than their Old Testament brethren. On the contrary, it meant they would give more.

Being under grace does not mean living by lower standards than the law. Christ systematically addressed such issues as murder, adultery, and the taking of oaths and made it clear that his standards were much higher than those of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-48). He never lowered the bar. He always raised it. But he also empowers us by his grace to jump higher than the law demanded.

Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity, Chapter 12.

Leave a comment

Filed under Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Living, Christian Thinking, Ecclesiology, God, Gospel, Grace, Law, Obedience, Theology, Worship

Jesus Paid It All

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. –  Colossians 2:13-15

  • I hear the Savior say,
    “Thy strength indeed is small;
    Child of weakness, watch and pray,
    Find in Me thine all in all.”
  • Refrain:
    Jesus paid it all,
    All to Him I owe;
    Sin had left a crimson stain,
    He washed it white as snow.
  • For nothing good have I
    Whereby Thy grace to claim;
    I’ll wash my garments white
    In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
  • And now complete in Him,
    My robe, His righteousness,
    Close sheltered ’neath His side,
    I am divinely blest.
  • Lord, now indeed I find
    Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
    Can change the leper’s spots
    And melt the heart of stone.
  • When from my dying bed
    My ransomed soul shall rise,
    “Jesus died my soul to save,”
    Shall rend the vaulted skies.
  • And when before the throne
    I stand in Him complete,
    I’ll lay my trophies down,
    All down at Jesus’ feet.
  • Chorus: O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead
    O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead
    O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead
    O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead.

Elvina M. Hall, 1865.

Leave a comment

Filed under Assurance, Atonement, Bible, Christology, Classics, Cross, Gospel, Grace, Love, Sin, Soli Gratia, Soteriology, Sovereign Grace, Sovereignty, Theology, Worship

Faith is… (Repost)

Faith is not the human notion and dream that some people call faith. When they see that no improvement of life and no good works follow – although they can hear and say much about faith – they fall into the error of saying, “Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.” This is due to the fact that when they hear the Gospel, they get busy and by their own powers create an idea in their heart which says, “I believe”; they take this then to be a true faith. But it is a human figment and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, nothing comes of it either, and no improvement follows.

Faith, however, is a divine work in us, which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, (John 1:12-13; 3). It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith! It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everyone, out of love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace. Thus it is as impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers who imagine themselves wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that He may work faith in you. Otherwise you will surely remain forever without faith, regardless of what you may think or do.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), “Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans,” in Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, 94-95.

Leave a comment

Filed under Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Thinking, Church History, Commentary, Faith, God, Gospel, Gospel of John, Grace, Reformation, Reformers, Romans, Soteriology, Sovereign Grace, Sovereignty, Theology