04 May 2015

What Is the End Result of a Christian's Sins?

Goodwin:
God often blesses us when we are not aware of it. God lets you fall into a sin perhaps, and that drives you to the throne of grace, with outcries for help, as the apostle's word is in Heb 4:16, as a man undone utterly and forever, if God pity you not.
This prayer, though in itself a less good than thy sin was evil, yet to you is turned a far greater blessing than your sin has evil in it (as to you).

Such is his goodness. Your sin shall be pardoned, and though it be a loss in itself, yet to you, having so great a consequent and effect of it, you come off a gainer. God has blessed you with a further increase in the heavenlies, and it shall never be taken from you.
--Thomas Goodwin, preaching on Ephesians 1:3, in Works, 1:63

23 April 2015

Dazzling the Eyes of Angels

In his little book Saved by Grace on Ephesians 2:5 John Bunyan considers God's 'carriage' toward sinful men and women. How does he come to us? In what heart? What is the look on his face, the tone of his voice? 
God comes to the sinner while he is in his sins; he comes to him now, not in the heat and fire of his jealousy, but in the cool of the day, in unspeakable gentleness, mercy, pity, and bowels of love: not clothing himself with vengeance, but in a way of entreaty, and meekly beseeches the sinner to be reconciled to him.

It is expected among men that he who gives the offense should be the first in seeking peace; but, sinner, betwixt God and man it is not so. God is the first that seeks peace.

O sinner, will you not open? Behold, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ stand both at the door of your heart, beseeching you to be reconciled to him, with promise to forgive all your sins if you will but comply.

O grace! O amazing grace! To see a prince entreat a beggar to receive alms would be a strange sight; to see a king entreat the traitor to accept of mercy would be a stranger sight than that; but to see God entreat a sinner, to hear Christ say, 'I stand at the door and knock,' with a heart full and a heaven full of grace to bestow upon him that opens, this is such a sight as dazzles the eyes of angels. 
--John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in The Works of John Bunyan (Banner of Truth), 1:350

22 April 2015

The Cross and Relational Annoyances

'. . . and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.' --Ephesians 2:16

Goodwin, preaching on this text:
We are to look upon Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross as an equal arbiter between both parties, that takes upon himself whatever either party has against the other.

Lo, here I hang, says Christ dying, and let the reproaches wherewith you reproach each other fall on me, the sting of them all fix in my flesh, and in my death die all together with me; lo, I die to pacify you both. Have then any of you something against each other? Quit it, and take me as a sacrifice in blood between you: only do not kill me and each other too, for the same offense; for you, and your enmities, have brought me to this altar of the cross, and I offer myself as your peace, and as your priest.

Will you kill me first, and then one another too?
--Thomas Goodwin, Works, 2:381

25 March 2015

Most Like a Crucifixion

Reading The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis for the first time and came upon this passage today. How I need to hear this, again and again.
We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church–read on–and gave his life for her (Eph 5:25).

This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely. 
The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence.

As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical, or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labors to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs.
--C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pp. 105-6

22 March 2015

Acts 1:8


21 March 2015

Discerning a Pastoral Call

Dennis Johnson:




25 February 2015

A Multitude of Mercies

Goodwin:
God hath a multitude of all kinds of mercies.

As our hearts and the devil are the father of variety of sins, so God is the father of variety of mercies. There is no sin or misery but God hath a mercy for it. He hath a multitude of mercies of every kind.

As there are variety of miseries which the creature is subject unto, so he hath in himself a shop, a treasury of all sorts of mercies, divided into several promises in the Scripture, which are but as so many boxes of this treasure, the caskets of variety of mercies.

If thy heart be hard, his mercies are tender.

If thy heart be dead, he hath mercy to liven it.

If thou be sick, he hath mercy to heal thee.

If thou be sinful, he hath mercies to sanctify and cleanse thee.

As large and as various as are our wants, so large and various are his mercies. So we may come boldly to find grace and mercy to help us in time of need, a mercy for every need.

All the mercies that are in his own heart he hath transplanted into several beds in the garden of the promises, where they grow, and he hath abundance of variety of them, suited to all the variety of the diseases of the soul.
--Thomas Goodwin, Works, 2:187-88

24 February 2015

United in Redeeming Love

Mankind, spiritually bankrupt, has nothing to offer, but God, prompted by pure grace, and drawing on his eternal wisdom, prepares a counsel of salvation in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are united in redeeming love and pity for the human race. The triune God resolves to save the world, and to accept the good offices of a Mediator who shall act for mankind as their representative and suffer for them as their substitute: so accommodating is the divine will, and so predisposed to forgive our transgressions.
But the Three-in-One, acting to save the world, go further: they resolve that the salvation shall be free to the human race. It will cost them nothing. For them, it will be an act of pure love and mercy. From sinners as such no satisfaction will be required. Instead, everything will flow from the loving-kindness of God. He will bear the whole cost. He will provide the one who will take the sinner's place.

But he will go even further: he will become the one who takes the sinner's place. God the Son will suffer for the world's sin. God the Father will suffer in the Son's pain. God the Holy Spirit will share in the pain of both.

At Gethsemane and Golgotha the Three will be One, as God, not sparing himself, takes blood, his own blood, and sheds it to redeem the world.
--Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP, 2014), 177

21 February 2015

Who He Most Deeply Is

From one perspective all God's attributes are equally non-negotiable. For God to cease to be just would un-God him just as much as if he were to cease to be good.

But Thomas Goodwin and John Bunyan are convincing me that from another, deeper angle there are some things that pour out of the heart of God more naturally than others.

God is unswervingly just. But what is his disposition? What is natural to him?

Who is he?

Volume 2 of Goodwin's works is 500 pages devoted to sermons on Ephesians 2. He slows way down especially in the first 10 verses of this great chapter and reflects at length on the programmatic assurances of God's love and mercy. It is unspeakably wonderful.

Here's part of his reflection on the phrase "rich in mercy" in describing God in Ephesians 2:4.
It is his disposition to be merciful. It is his nature, his being.

The mercies of God n Scripture are called his bowels; now there is nothing so intimate or so natural to a man as his bowels are. And they are called his bowels because they are his inwards; and all that is within him, his whole being and nature inclines him to it. . . .

Mercy is his nature and disposition, because when he shows mercy, he does it with his whole heart. . . .

My brethren, though God is just, yet his mercy may in some respect said to be more natural to him than all acts of justice itself that God does show, I mean vindictive justice. In these acts of justice there is a satisfaction to an attribute, in that he meets and is even with sinners. Yet there is a kind of violence done to himself in it, the Scripture so expresses it; there is something in it that is contrary to him. 'I will not the death of a sinner'--that is, I delight not simply in it, for pleasure's sake. The Arminians slander the other party, accusing them of making God delight in the death of a sinner. No; when he exercises acts of justice, it is for a higher end, it is not simply for the thing itself. There is always something in his heart against it.

But when he comes to show mercy, to manifest that it is his nature and disposition, it is said that he does it with his whole heart. There is nothing at all in him that is against it. The act itself pleases him for itself. There is no reluctance in him.

Therefore in Lamentations 3:33, when he speaks of punishing, he says, 'He does not from his heart afflict nor grieve the children of men.' But when he comes to speak of showing mercy, he says he does it 'with his whole heart, and with his whole soul,' as the expression is in Jeremiah 32:41. And therefore acts of justice are called his 'strange work' and his 'strange act' in Isaiah 28:21. But when he comes to show mercy, he rejoices over them, to do them good, with his whole heart, and with his whole soul.
--Thomas Goodwin, Works, 2:179-80; language slightly updated

And this from the man who stood up and spoke more often (357 times) than any other Westminster divine at the creation of the Westminster standards in the 1640s, that great, precise, hell-believing, justice-affirming statement of faith. Goodwin was not mushy.

There is a kind of preaching that has not felt the heart of God for his fickle people, has not tasted what naturally pours forth from him, which for all its precision ultimately deadens its hearers.