30 September 2010

How Do We Make the Huge Decisions in Life?

With Calvinism and courage.

Calvinism says: The God presented to me in the Bible is so massive, so much more life-encompassing than the puny little super-god I could have conceived of on my own, that he determines the roll of the dice in Las Vegas (Prov 16:33) and the choices Obama makes (Prov 21:1) and 9/11 (Amos 3:6) and even human sin (2 Sam 24:1ff)--including the Sin of all sins, the murder of the only person who ever lived without deserving to be murdered (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28). This is a God so great, so magnificently in control, that he can tell us Jesus will be betrayed as it has been decreed from heaven and, in the same breath, pronounce woe on the one by whom he is betrayed (Luke 22:22).

Courage says: Game time. Let's go. Not sure what exactly is best here, but I'm going to trust God and take a leap. Life is short. Death is coming. Risk is good. God is big. Failure is likely. But even that can only be for my good. I'm not sure this parachute is going to open: I'm jumping anyway. Enough waiting. Enough pondering. It's time to kill the fierce instinct of self-preservation that keeps whispering to me to play it safe.

At the forks-in-the-road of our lives, these are the two things we need: Calvinism and courage. Calvinism without courage is robot-ism, vacation-ism, paralyzed lethargy. Courage without Calvinism is frantic, scurrying, anguished desperation.

Calvinism says, Relax, he's running the show. Courage says, Just take a risk and do something.

Big theology, big guts.

Do you have a decision to make in life? Trust God and plunge in, one way or the other. Go for it. What honors God more: days and weeks of delayed decision-making as you 'pray about it,' or getting off the couch and taking a risk? It's not a strict either-or, of course. Let's certainly bathe our big decisions in prayer and seek the wisdom of others. But having done this, just do something. Jump. Do it.

Yes, it might be painful. But I would like to lie on a hospital bed, breathing my last, in 50 years (or next week), and not wonder what might have happened had I taken that risk. I would like to have more scars, from taking more risks. Wouldn't you?

After all, he bears scars from taking the ultimate risk for us.

Adding to Our Sins While Repenting of Them

Spurgeon, writing reflectively on Ephesians 2:8-9--
What does faith exclude? Well, I am sure it excludes boasting. 'He that believeth is not condemned' (John 3:18). Oh, if it said, 'He that works is not condemned,' then you and I might boast in unlimited quantity. . . .

No, Lord, if I am not condemned, it is Your free grace, for I have deserved to be condemned a thousand times since I sat down to write this. When I am on my knees and I am not condemned, I am sure it must be sovereign grace, for even when I am praying, I deserve to be condemned. Even when we are repenting, we are sinning, and adding to our sins while we are repenting of them. . . .

Our best performances are so stained with sin that it is hard to know whether they are good works or bad works. . . . Ah, then, we cannot boast! Be gone, pride! Be gone! Quit boasting, Christian. Live humbly before your God, and never let a word of self-congratulation escape your lips.
--Charles Spurgeon, Faith (Whitaker House 1995), 88

29 September 2010

The Incarnation

'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .'

'Dwelt' here is the verb form of the noun skene, tent or tabernacle. OT-sensitive readers of John’s Gospel would immediately think of the portable temple, the tabernacle, transferred throughout the wilderness in their wanderings between Egypt and the promised land.

What was a tabernacle? What was a temple?

Unlike some other elements of Jewish faith, a temple was not unique to Judaism. Virtually every ancient religion had a temple of some kind. The temple, for Judaism and other religions, was a tangible, physical location where the immortal met the mortal, where the supernatural and the natural collided, where the eternal and the temporal intersected, where the sacred and the profane stood face to face. The temple was where the divine and the fleshly could meet--never to mix, but to come into brief contact with one another.

But at the center of all human history, the divine and the fleshly did mix. 'And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.' Rumbling through the OT was the development of the theme of the presence of God among his people, a presence centered in the most sacred of Jewish places, the tabernacle and then the temple. The tabernacling presence of God is ultimately clinched in a myriad of powerful ways in Revelation.

It was here in this movable temple that God dwelt among his people (Exod 25:8). It was here that glory rested. Fellowship with God briefly resumed. In a sense, the tabernacle was a miniature Garden of Eden—complete with a sky-blue ceiling and a lampstand decorated like a flourishing tree. In fact, the Hebrew word that corresponds to the Greek word skene was shekan, from which we get our language of Shekinah, the glory of God that became so terrifyingly palpable in the temple. Notice then what John says in the rest of verse 14: 'And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory.' And in Isaiah 40:6-8, glory, flesh, and God's word had already been clustered together, but there it was to erect an absolute antithesis between human flesh and God's word.

In 1 Kings 8:27 Solomon offered a prayer of dedication to the temple, wondering aloud at the notion that an earthly building could contain the God of the heavens. Jonathan Edwards rightly reflected on this verse with a handwritten note in the margin of his Bible:
If it was a thing so very wonderful in Solomon’s eyes, such a marvelous instance of condescension for God to dwell on earth in the manner he did in the tabernacle and temple, how much a greater and more wonderful thing was it for him to dwell with us as our Immanuel in the manner that he did in the human nature of Christ.
In the OT the supernatural collided with the natural in a physical building, where, with severely limited access, humans could meet with God in his glory. In the NT the supernatural collided with the natural in a physical body, where, with unlimited access, humans could meet with God in his glory. The OT temple repelled the sick, deformed and unclean. The NT temple attracted the sick, deformed and unclean.

We no longer enter into a temple of wood and stone to meet with God; God has entered into a temple of flesh and blood to meet with us.

What a Savior.

Resurgence 2010-2011

Justin Holcomb and the good men in Seattle look toward the coming year of ministry at the Resurgence.

A Powerful Magnet (Col. 3:1)

'If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above . . .'

Robert Jamieson, Andrew R. Fausset and David Brown, writing in 1884:
The contrast is between the believer's former state, alive to the world but dead to God, and his present state, dead to the world but alive to God; and between the earthly abode of the unbeliever and the heavenly abode of the believer. We are already seated there in Him as our Head. . . . Of ourselves we can no more ascend than a bar of iron lift itself up from the earth. But the love of Christ is a powerful magnet to draw us up.
--Commentary: Critical, Practical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments (Toldeo, Ohio: Jerome B. James, 1884), 136-37

HT: Jim Lane

Showing, Hiding, and the Sermon on the Mount

'. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works . . .' --Matthew 5:16

'Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them . . .' --Matthew 6:1

How do the two fit together?

John Stott quotes A. B. Bruce from 100 years ago:
Bruce sums it up well when he writes that we are to 'show when tempted to hide' and 'hide when tempted to show.'
--A. B. Bruce, Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (London: Hodder, 1897), 116; quoted in John Stott, The Sermon on the Mount (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 69

HT: Stacey Ortlund

28 September 2010

Our Fatal Love Affair with the Law

Grace cannot prevail until law is dead, until moralizing is out of the game . . . until our fatal love affair with the law is over--until, finally and for good, our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed. As long as we leave, in our dramatizations of grace, one single hope of a moral reckoning, one possible recourse to salvation by bookkeeping, our freedom-dreading hearts will clutch it to themselves.

Restore to us, Preacher, the comfort of merit and demerit. Prove for us that there is at least something we can do, that we are still, at whatever dim recess of our nature, the masters of our relationships. Tell us, Prophet, that in spite of all our nights of losing, there will yet be one redeeming card of our very own. . . . But do not preach us grace. It will not do to split the pot evenly at 4 a.m. and break out the Chivas Regal. We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.

Lord, let your servants depart in the peace of their responsibility. If it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with some few shreds of self-respect to congratulate ourselves upon. But if that is too hard, leave us at least the consolation of our self-loathing. Only do not force us free. What have we ever done but try as best we could? How have we so hurt you, even by failing, that you should now turn on us and say that none of it makes any difference, not even our sacred guilt? We have played this game of yours, and it has cost us.

Where do you get off suggesting a drink at a time like this?
--Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (Eerdmans 1997), 7; italics original

Luther: Why the World is Damned

Let this be your one sure guide: Whatever you have to buy from the pope is neither good nor from God. For what God gives is not only given without charge, but the whole world is punished and damned for not being willing to receive it as a free gift. I mean the gospel and God's work.
--'To the Christian Nobility,' in Luther's Works, 44:189

27 September 2010

The Shock of Human History

All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isa. 40:6-8)
Isaiah contrasts human 'flesh' with the divine 'word.' Flesh falters, the word abides. Absolute antithesis.

In John 1:14, however, expounding the mystery of the incarnation, the two are overlaid--'The word became flesh and dwelt among us.' (HT: Martin Hengel, p. 269 of this book)

C. S. Lewis called the incarnation 'the humiliation of myth into fact, of God into Man.' He wrote: 'what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid--no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee.' ('Is Theology Poetry?' in The Weight of Glory, 99-100)

Take Your Pick

We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.
--'Bishop' Eddie Long, Christian preacher, describing his ministry to a newspaper in 2005
My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
--the Apostle Paul, Christian preacher, describing his ministry in 1 Corinthians 2

Bavinck: Grace Restores Nature

It is largely agreed that the center of Herman Bvinck's theology is the notion that grace restores nature. God's grace, exhibited through a history of salvation and climaxing in Christ, is not a second attempt at creation but a restoration of the first one.

In a striking expression of this, Bavinck once wrote:
It would have been much simpler if God had destroyed the whole fallen world and replaced it with an entirely new one. But it was his good pleasure to re-establish the fallen world, and to liberate from sin the same mankind that had sinned.
Part and parcel with this central thesis is a robust doctrine of creation. Bavinck even says that creation
is in itself of no less value than grace. . . . Because sin does not belong to the substance of creation, but is a deformation of that which exists, God can still love the world in spite of the corruption brought about by sin.
And Christ's resurrection is, among other things, a powerful statement about God's aim to restore nature, not sweep it away and start over from scratch.
The bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead is conclusive proof that Christianity does not adopt a hostile attitude toward anything human or natural, but intends only to deliver creation from all that is sinful, and to sanctify it completely.
--quotes from Jan Veenhof, Nature and Grace in Herman Bavinck (trans. Al Wolter; Dordt College Press 2006)

25 September 2010

The Grace of God in the Bible

There is always a danger of squeezing the Bible into a mold we bring to it rather than letting the Bible mold us. And, there could hardly be more diversity within the Protestant canon--diverse genres, historical settings, authors, literary levels, ages of history.

But while the Bible is not uniform, it is unified. The many books of the one Bible are not like the many pennies in the one jar. The pennies in the jar look the same, yet are disconnected; the books of the Bible (like the organs of a body) look different, yet are interconnected. As the past two generations' recovery of biblical theology has shown time and again, certain motifs course through the Scripture from start to end, tying the whole thing together into a coherent tapestry--kingdom, temple, people of God, creation/new creation, and so on.

Yet underneath and undergirding all of these, it seems to me, is the motif of God's grace, his favor and love to the undeserving. Don't we see the grace of God in every book of the Bible? (NT books include the single verse that best crystallizes the point.)
Genesis shows God’s grace to a universally wicked world as he enters into relationship with a sinful family line (Abraham) and promises to bless the world through him.

Exodus shows God’s grace to his enslaved people in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage.

Leviticus shows God’s grace in providing his people with a sacrificial system to atone for their sins.

Numbers shows God’s grace in patiently sustaining his grumbling people in the wilderness and bringing them to the border of the promised land not because of them but in spite of them.

Deuteronomy shows God’s grace in giving the people the new land 'not because of your righteousness' (ch. 9).

Joshua shows God’s grace in giving Israel victory after victory in their conquest of the land with neither superior numbers nor superior obedience on Israel’s part.

Judges shows God’s grace in taking sinful, weak Israelites as leaders and using them to purge the land, time and again, of foreign incursion and idolatry.

Ruth shows God’s grace in incorporating a poverty-stricken, desolate, foreign woman into the line of Christ.

1 and 2 Samuel show God’s grace in establishing the throne (forever—2 Sam 7) of an adulterous murderer.

1 and 2 Kings show God’s grace in repeatedly prolonging the exacting of justice and judgment for kingly sin 'for the sake of' David. (And remember: by the ancient hermeneutical presupposition of corporate solidarity, by which the one stands for the many and the many for the one, the king represented the people; the people were in their king; as the king went, so went they.)

1 and 2 Chronicles show God’s grace by continually reassuring the returning exiles of God’s self-initiated promises to David and his sons.

Ezra shows God’s grace to Israel in working through the most powerful pagan ruler of the time (Cyrus) to bring his people back home to a rebuilt temple.

Nehemiah shows God’s grace in providing for the rebuilding of the walls of the city that represented the heart of God’s promises to his people.

Esther shows God’s grace in protecting his people from a Persian plot to eradicate them through a string of 'fortuitous' events.

Job shows God’s grace in vindicating the sufferer’s cry that his redeemer lives (19:25), who will put all things right in this world or the next.

Psalms shows God’s grace by reminding us of, and leading us in expressing, the hesed (relentless covenant love) God has for his people and the refuge that he is for them.

Proverbs shows us God’s grace by opening up to us a world of wisdom in leading a life of happy godliness.

Ecclesiastes shows God’s grace in its earthy reminder that the good things of life can never be pursued as the ultimate things of life and that it is God who in his mercy satisfies sinners (note 7:20; 8:11).

Song of Songs shows God’s grace and love for his bride by giving us a faint echo of it in the pleasures of faithful human sexuality.

Isaiah shows God’s grace by reassuring us of his presence with and restoration of contrite sinners.

Jeremiah shows God’s grace in promising a new and better covenant, one in which knowledge of God will be universally internalized.

Lamentations shows God’s grace in his unfailing faithfulness in the midst of sadness.

Ezekiel shows God’s grace in the divine heart surgery that cleansingly replaces stony hearts with fleshy ones.

Daniel shows God’s grace in its repeated miraculous preservation of his servants.

Hosea shows God’s grace in a real-live depiction of God’s unstoppable love toward his whoring wife.

Joel shows God’s grace in the promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.

Amos shows God’s grace in the Lord's climactic promise of restoration in spite of rampant corruption.

Obadiah shows God’s grace by promising judgment on Edom, Israel’s oppressor, and restoration of Israel to the land in spite of current Babylonian captivity.

Jonah shows God’s grace toward both immoral Nineveh and moral Jonah, irreligious pagans and a religious prophet, both of whom need and both of whom receive the grace of God.

Micah shows God’s grace in the prophecy’s repeated wonder at God’s strange insistence on 'pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression' (7:18).

Nahum shows God’s grace in assuring Israel of good news' and 'peace,' promising that the Assyrians have tormented them for the last time.

Habakkuk shows God’s grace that requires nothing but trusting faith amid insurmountable opposition, freeing us to rejoice in God even in desolation.

Zephaniah shows God’s grace in the Lord's exultant singing over his recalcitrant yet beloved people.

Haggai shows God’s grace in promising a wayward people that the latter glory of God’s (temple-ing) presence with them will far surpass its former glory.

Zechariah shows God’s grace in the divine pledge to open up a fountain for God’s people to 'cleanse them from sin and uncleanness' (13:1).

Malachi shows God’s grace by declaring the Lord’s no-strings-attached love for his people.

Matthew shows God’s grace in fulfilling the Old Testament promises of a coming king. (5:17)

Mark shows God’s grace as this coming king suffers the fate of a common criminal to buy back sinners. (10:45)

Luke shows that God’s grace extends to all the people one would not expect: hookers, the poor, tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles ('younger sons'). (19:10)

John shows God’s grace in becoming one of us, flesh and blood (1:14), and dying and rising again so that by believing we might have life in his name. (20:31)

Acts shows God’s grace flooding out to all the world--starting in Jerusalem, ending in Rome; starting with Peter, apostle to the Jews, ending with Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. (1:8)

Romans shows God’s grace in Christ to the ungodly (4:5) while they were still sinners (5:8) that washes over both Jew and Gentile.

1 Corinthians shows God’s grace in favoring what is lowly and foolish in the world. (1:27)

2 Corinthians shows God’s grace in channeling his power through weakness rather than strength. (12:9)

Galatians shows God’s grace in justifying both Jew and Gentile by Christ-directed faith rather than self-directed performance. (2:16)

Ephesians shows God’s grace in the divine resolution to unite us to his Son before time began. (1:4)

Philippians shows God’s grace in Christ’s humiliating death on an instrument of torture—for us. (2:8)

Colossians shows God’s grace in nailing to the cross the record of debt that stood against us. (2:14)

1 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in providing the hope-igniting guarantee that Christ will return again. (4:13)

2 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in choosing us before time, that we might withstand Christ’s greatest enemy. (2:13)

1 Timothy shows God’s grace in the radical mercy shown to 'the chief of sinners.' (1:15)

2 Timothy shows God’s grace to be that which began (1:9) and that which fuels (2:1) the Christian life.

Titus shows God’s grace in saving us by his own cleansing mercy when we were most mired in sinful passions. (3:5)

Philemon shows God’s grace in transcending socially hierarchical structures with the deeper bond of Christ-won Christian brotherhood. (v. 16)

Hebrews shows God’s grace in giving his Son to be both our sacrifice to atone for us once and for all as well as our high priest to intercede for us forever. (9:12)

James shows us God’s grace by giving to those who have been born again 'of his own will' (1:18) 'wisdom from above' for meaningful godly living. (3:17)

1 Peter shows God’s grace in securing for us an unfading, imperishable inheritance no matter what we suffer in this life. (1:4)

2 Peter shows God’s grace in guaranteeing the inevitability that one day all will be put right as the evil that has masqueraded as good will be unmasked at the coming Day of the Lord. (3:10)

1 John shows God’s grace in adopting us as his children. (3:1)

2 and 3 John show God’s grace in reminding specific individuals of 'the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.' (2 Jn 2)

Jude shows God’s grace in the Christ who presents us blameless before God in a world rife with moral chaos. (v. 24)

Revelation shows God’s grace in preserving his people through cataclysmic suffering, a preservation founded on the shed blood of the lamb. (12:11)

Redemption (Matt Giles)

'But God . . .' (Eph. 2:4)

Enriching Poverty of Spirit

In conversation, the disciple who is truly poor in spirit always leaves the other person feeling, My life has been enriched by talking with you. This is neither false modesty nor phony humility. His or her life has been enriched and graced. He is not all exhaust and no intake. . . . He listens well because he knows he has so much to learn from others. The poor in spirit . . . get along well with sinners.
--Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (Multnomah 2005), 81

24 September 2010

He came to make us what he teaches we should be

Oswald Chambers, reflecting on Matthew 5:3:
Beware of placing Our Lord as a Teacher first.

If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I can not attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. What is the good of telling me to be what I never can be--to be pure in heart, to do more than my duty, to be perfectly devoted to God?

I must know Jesus Christ as Saviour before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be.
--My Utmost for His Highest, July 21

'I was bemercied'

Puritan Thomas Goodwin's rendering of the opening phrase of 1 Timothy 1:16.

HT: Kent Hughes


Luther, early 1530's:
World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won't succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won't harm me. I have One who will give me a new one.
--Off the Record with Martin Luther: An Original Translation of the Table Talks (trans. Charles Daudert; Hansa-Hewlett 2009), 402

Our Problem, the Solution

Al Mohler:
Most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What they gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands an alien solution—a righteousness that is not our own.
--'Preaching with the Culture in View,' in Preaching the Cross (Crossway 2007), 81

That's very clarifying.

The world says: the problem is outside you, the solution inside you.
The gospel says: the problem is inside you, the solution outside you.

Penitent Hookers

Doug Wilson, commenting on Matthew 21:
A life of prostitution with repentance is far to be preferred than a life of theology without it.

23 September 2010

A Picture of Christian Manhood

If, says C. S. Lewis, we want to understand the old notion of what it means to be 'chivalrous' (or what we would say today it looks like for us men to man up),
we cannot do better than turn to the words addressed to the greatest of all the imaginary knights in Malory's Morte Darthur. 'Thou wert the meekest man,' says Sir Ector to the dead Launcelot. 'Thou wert the meekest man that ever ate in the hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.'

The important thing about this ideal is, of course, the double demand it makes on human nature. The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth.
--C. S. Lewis, 'The Necessity of Chivalry,' in Present Concerns (Fount 1986), 13

22 September 2010

'But according to his own mercy' (Titus 3:5)

And from a slightly different angle (!) . . .

Bavinck on Providence

Here's how the grouchy Netherlander concludes his marvelous treatment of the providence of God in Reformed Dogmatics.
In this consoling fashion Scripture deals with the providence of God. Plenty of riddles remain, both in the life of individuals and in the history of the world and humankind. . . . But God lets the light of his Word shine over all these enigmas and mysteries, not to solve them, but that 'by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope' (Rom 15:4).

The doctrine of providence is not a philosophical system but a confession of faith, the confession that, notwithstanding appearances, neither Satan nor a human being nor any other creature, but God and he alone--by his almighty and everywhere present power--preserves and governs all things.

Such a confession can save us both from a superficial optimism that denies the riddles of life, and from a presumptuous pessimism that despairs of this world and human destiny. For the providence of God encompasses all things, not only the good but also sin and suffering, sorrow and death. For if these realities were removed from God's guidance, then what in the world would there be left for him to rule?

What an impoverished faith it would be if it saw God's hand and counsel from afar in a few momentous events but did not discern it in a person's own life and lot?
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:618-19

21 September 2010

Dealing with Spiritual Dehydration

Good wisdom from our brother C.J. Mahaney.

The difference is not sin or no sin, but penitence or no penitence

Henri Nouwen:
Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied him. Both were lost children.

Judas, no longer able to hold on to the truth that he remained God's child, hung himself. In terms of the prodigal son, he sold . . . his sonship. Peter, in the midst of his despair, claimed it and returned with many tears.

Judas chose death. Peter chose life. I realize that this choice is always before me.
--The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (Doubleday 1994), 50

A Few Chosen Friends

Martin Luther:
A student who doesn't want his work to go for nothing ought to read and reread some good author until the author becomes part, as it were, of his flesh and blood. Scattered reading confuses more than it teaches. Many books, even good ones, have the same effect on the student. So he is like the man who dwells everywhere and therefore dwells nowhere. Just as in human society we don't enjoy the fellowship of every friend every day, but only of a few chosen ones, so we ought to do in our studies.
--Table Talk, in LW 54:179, quoted in Timothy Lull, 'Luther's Writings,' in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, p. 59

Such a friend you have been for me, Martin!

16 September 2010

Offline for a few days

Back Tuesday, September 21.

15 September 2010

Lewis: The Inner Ring

In a 1944 lecture at the University of London, C. S. Lewis reflected on the universal human desire to be included. He called the object of this mysterious craving the 'Inner Ring.' The lecture is now included in the collection of essays The Weight of Glory. It's fascinating, and illuminating of my own heart and much of the remaining Self there.

'I believe,' he said, 'that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many men's lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.' Lewis spoke of 'the delicious knowledge that we . . . are the people who know,' 'the delicious sense of secret intimacy,' and the way 'the world seems full of "insides," full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities.'

'Of all passions,' he writes, 'the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.' A desire simply to be on the inside—whatever that inside may be—is a core motivation that propels us in all sorts of ways and is the root of a host of different sins. A desire to be on the inside may lead to stealing if the inner ring is wealthy, immorality if the inner ring is the promiscuous, cheating if the inner ring is academically superior, legalism if the inner ring is scrupulously moral, or duplicity if the inner ring is really, really, really, really nice.

'It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons,' remarks Lewis, 'but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.'

He goes on to say:
The torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion; if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.
Lewis says there are certainly legitimate reasons to want to be an insider. If one loves playing cards, it is natural to want to be part of a Bridge club. 'But,' he says,
if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short-lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic. . . . You merely wanted to be 'in.' And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow’s end will still be ahead of you.
So true to life, and penetrating. I am instructed and helped. I do wish, though, that Lewis had closed not with his exhortation to avoid seeking to be in the inner ring, but with the gospel.

The gospel is the only yard tool whose blades go deep enough to uproot the inveterate craving in each of us to be inside. For those who belong to Christ are, finally, gloriously, 'in.' Really in. (Yes, I just compared the good news to a shovel.)

Jesus is the one person who ever lived who was, on his own steam, an insider. But he went outside the camp. Outside. On the cross, he allowed himself to be made an outsider so that outsiders like us can be in for free, so long as we admit our out-ness and look to him.

In the terms of biblical theology: Adam and Eve sinned and were kicked out. Ever since we've been trying to get back in. In mercy God established the tabernacle and then the temple, but even then only a handful of priests were allowed in. But Jesus showed up and said he was the temple (John 2). Believers, those who are in Christ, are part of that temple (1 Pet 2). And in the new city there will be no need for a temple (Rev 21:22).

The School of All Wisdom

From the preface to the Geneva Bible, 1560, describing Scripture:
. . . the light to our paths, the key of the kingdom of heaven, our comfort in affliction, our shield and sword against Satan, the school of all wisdom, the glass wherein we behold God’s face, the testimony of his favor, and the only food and nourishment of our souls.
--quoted in Gerald Bray, ed., Documents of the English Reformation (James Clarke 2004), 361


Luther to a Discouraged Young Man

In 1530 Luther wrote a letter to 31-year-old Jerome Weller, who had lived in Luther's home for eight years before becoming a theology professor in Freiburg. Weller was extremely shy and often depressed. Though the letter is not explicit, I believe Weller was discouraged at this time because of failures in sexual purity. Luther wrote to his downcast friend:
This temptation is more necessary to you than food and drink. Let me remind you what happened to me when I was about your age. When I first entered the monastery it came to pass that I was sad and downcast, nor could I lay aside my melancholy. On this account I made confession to and took counsel with Dr. Staupitz and opened to him what horrible and terrible thoughts I had. Then said he: 'Don't you know, Martin, that this temptation is useful and necessary to you? God does not exercise you thus without reason. You will see that he intends to use you as his servant to accomplish great things.' And so it turned out. . . . although at the time when I suffered this temptation I never would have believed it possible. . . .

Whenever the devil pesters you . . . at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some sin in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. . . .

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.
Martin Luther

--quoted in Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death (Harvard University Press 2000), 122-23

A cold, sluggish heart will take this as encouragement to sin. One way this is mitigated is by remembering the kind of person to whom this letter was directed. Fundamentally, though: a heart sensitized to the gospel and to our own startling ongoing sin even as those who have been born again will find, with me, a world of gospel wisdom and sanity here.

Schaeffer Collection to SEBT

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary announces the receipt of a collection of Francis Schaeffer's papers and correspondence. The collection was given by the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation, overseen by Schaeffer's son-in-law Udo Middleman.

HT: Theoblog

14 September 2010

Long Praying

Methodist minister David Stoner:
Long praying is, in general, both a symptom and a cause of spiritual deadness.
--quoted in Iain Murray, Wesley and the Men Who Followed (Banner of Truth 2003), 121


A great window into why I love Covenant Seminary--Phil Douglass' chapel message last week.

Every institution is filled with nothing but sinners. We are fallen, and our schools reflect that. And when I left three years ago, the school's overall sin-meter dropped considerably. But: the norm is for institutions, even seminaries, to contain islands of grace amidst an ocean of self. Covenant is the only school I've ever set foot on that contains, in the mercy of God, islands of self amid an ocean of grace.

I shake my head with wonder at God's kindness to this institution.

Schaeffer: How to Avoid Wasting Your Life

Francis Schaeffer:
As I see it, the Christian life must be comprised of three concentric circles, each of which must be kept in its proper place. In the outer circle must be the correct theological position, true biblical orthodoxy and the purity of the visible church. This is first, but if that is all there is, it is just one more seedbed for spiritual pride.

In the second circle must be good intellectual training and comprehension of our own generation. But having only this leads to intellectualism and again provides a seedbed for pride.

In the inner circle must be the humble heart--the love of God, the devotional attitude toward God. There must be the daily practice of the reality of the God whom we know is there. . . .

When each of these three circles is established in its proper place, there will be tongues of fire and the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, at the end of my life, when I look back over my work since I have been a Christian, I will see that I have not wasted my life.
--No Little People, 74-75

HT: Ray Ortlund

Generation, Degeneration, Regeneration

Graeme Goldsworthy:
If the covenant with Abraham stands behind the whole process of redemption in Israel, behind the covenant with Abraham stands God's original commitment to the creation. . . . I have emphasized the theme of creation and re-creation. That which God generated at the beginning degenerated through the fall of mankind. Redemption and salvation are seen as the process of regeneration, which affects the whole degenerated creation, including mankind.
--According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (IVP 1991), 188; emphasis original

13 September 2010

Redemptive History: The Mighty River

Sidney Greidanus:
The Old Testament proclaims God's mighty acts of redemption. These acts reach a climax in the New Testament when God sends his Son. Redemptive history is the mighty river that runs from the old covenant to the new and holds the two together. It is true, of course, that there is progression in redemptive history, but it is one redemptive history. . . .

A single, God-guided redemptive history is the basis, the foundation, of the unity of the Old and New Testaments. . . .

Jesus Christ is the link between the Old Testament and the New. God's revelation reaches its climax in the New Testament--and this climax is not a new teaching or a new law, but a person, God's own Son. The Old and New Testaments are related, therefore, not as law-gospel but as promise-fulfillment (a person).
--Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Eerdmans 1999), 48

He Shared the Horror

How impossible it would be now to face sorrow without rage if God Himself had not shared the horrors of the world He made.
--Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, 3:1161

Preaching in the Power of the Spirit

Edmund Clowney:
On one occasion I had tea with Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Ealing, London, and decided to ask him a question that concerned me. 'Dr. Lloyd-Jones,' I said, 'how can I tell whether I am preaching in the energy of the flesh or in the power of the Spirit?' 'That is very easy,' Lloyd-Jones replied, as I shriveled. 'If you are preaching in the energy of the flesh, you will feel exalted and lifted up. If you are preaching in the power of the Spirit, you will feel awe and humility.'
--Edmund Clowney, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture (Crossway 2003), 55; quoted in Darrin Patrick, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission (Crossway 2010), 144

11 September 2010

Beale: 2010 Westminster Seminary Convocation

Audio here.

HT: Carl Trueman


' . . . canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.' --Colossians 2:14

Don't Be Trivial, Young Men

Have a horror of sinking into a tattling, twaddling, trivial sort of man, talking much and achieving nothing. Steer clear of a young man's rock, self-importance. Walk humbly with God.
--Thomas Collins, 18th century Methodist preacher, in his personal resolutions; quoted in Iain Murray, Wesley and the Men Who Followed (Banner of Truth 2003), 212

10 September 2010

Scougal: Solid Joy

Henry Scougal, professor of divinity at the University of Aberdeen who died at age 28 of tuberculosis, in a 1677 letter to a friend--
Never doth a soul know what solid joy and substantial pleasure is, till once, being weary of itself, it renounce all propriety, give itself up unto the Author of its being, and feel itself become a hallowed and devoted thing, and can say, I am content to be anything for him, and care not for myself, but that I may serve him.
--Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Christian Focus 1996; repr.), 96

Lloyd-Jones on Galatians 6:14

The Doctor's collection of sermons entitled The Cross (Crossway 1986) are all based on a single verse--Galatians 6:14. 'Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' In the final sermon of this collection Lloyd-Jones reflects on this exultation by Paul.
He does not say that is it just one incident in a remarkable life, a tragic one, a very regrettable one, that is not what he says at all. Neither, let us observe, does he say that it is just something at the beginning of the Christian life. There are many Christians who have said that in one way or another. You start with the cross, they say, then you go on. . . . The cross, they say, is only for conversion, the cross only deals with forgiveness of sins. It is something that marks the beginning, and then you go on and you do not come back any more to the cross. . . .

That is not what the apostle says. Here is a man writing at the full height of his maturity as a Christian, the great apostle to the gentiles. At the very height of his experience he says, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.' He has not left it to go on to some higher reaches. The cross is still everything to him. Why? Because, he has found that everything proceeds from the cross. It is the source and the fount of everything that he has as a Christian, everything that he has become, everything that he can ever hope for. (198-99)

09 September 2010

The Reason for Christian Order

The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.
--G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (repr.; Serenity 2009), 82

HT: Jeremy Weese

08 September 2010

Hodge: Union with Christ

Charles Hodge (1797-1878), Princeton theologian, in a book written for youth:
A man may be brought, by reason and conscience, to change his conduct, but not to change his heart. A sense of duty may force him to give alms to a man he hates, but it cannot change hatred into love. The desire of happiness may induce him to engage externally in the service of God, but it cannot make that service a delight. The affections do not obey the dictates of reason, nor the commands of conscience. They may be measurably restrained in their manifestation, but cannot be changed in their nature. . . .

The Scriptures teach us a different doctrine. They teach that believers are so united to Christ, that they are not only partakers of the merit of his death, but also of his Holy Spirit, which dwells in them as a principle of life, bringing them more and more into conformity with the image of God. . . .

The doctrine of sanctification, therefore, as taught in the Bible is, that we are made holy not by the force of conscience, nor of moral motives, nor by acts of discipline, but by being united to Christ so as to become reconciled to God, and partakers of the Holy Ghost. Christ is made unto us sanctification as well as justification.
--The Way of Life (1869), 321-25

Quit Asking for Forgiveness

One way I reinforce my inveterate functional Pelagianism is by allowing remembrance of a past sin to bring me back into despondency and a renewed plea for forgiveness every time it comes to mind.

The trouble is that (normally) I've asked the Lord to forgive me in the wake of the sin, yet when it comes to mind again I find myself crumpling internally into yet another anguished prayer for forgiveness.

The enemy loves it. He sees I'm not letting a decisive placing of that sin under the blood of Christ settle the issue once and for all. Somehow I allow myself to feel that the more often I ask for forgiveness, and the greater the anguish, the more effectual the blood of Christ on my behalf.

Which is itself works-righteousness. It's a denial that the blood of Christ is enough. It's thinking: I need to help out Christ's work by a super intense, repeated, pleading for that blood. The very gospel application is a gospel denial. My mind pleads grace while my heart self-atones.

Place it under the blood. Once. Then quit asking for forgiveness.

'. . . and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.' --Isaiah 53:6

Here Is Your God

A new sermon series on Isaiah has just begun at Grace Evangelical Free in La Mirada, California. To accompany the preaching, music elder Walt Harrah wrote a worship album out of Isaiah. Erik Thoennes, another elder at Grace, sits down with Walt to talk about the album.

Wonderfully edifying, even if you aren't familiar with these two brothers.

Samples and downloads of the album available here.

HT: Gavin Ortlund

MLJ Biographical Clip

A 1o-minute introduction to the Doctor.

HT: Theoblog

07 September 2010

'Pray, and Let God Worry'

--Martin Luther, to his wife Katie; quoted in Eric W. Gritsch, 'Luther on Humor,' in The Pastoral Luther: Essays on Martin Luther's Practical Theology (Eerdmans 2009), 94

Mark 8:35

C. S. Lewis:
[A] crucifixion of the natural self is the passport to everlasting life. Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.
--'Membership,' in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Touchstone 1996), 129

Throw Off the Bowlines

Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.
HT: Keith Scherer

Remember Your Leaders

The man who made the greatest mark on me during the period of life (college, 1997-2001) that made the greatest mark on me was Lyle Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett taught in the Christian Ed department at Wheaton for many years before going to Beeson Divinity School in 2005.

In college I took several classes with him. Stacey and I asked him to do our premarital counseling. In college we attended the Anglican church he pastored.

Dr. Dorsett is a conservative Anglican whose greatest historical hero was John Wesley. Other heroes of his were D. L. Moody, A. W. Tozer and C. S. Lewis (on each of whom he has written biographies). In some ways, then, Dr. Dorsett and I were (are) on very different pages theologically. But there are only one or two non-family members who have shaped what I perceive authentic Christianity to be, and what I would like the Lord to do with my own life, more than than Lyle Dorsett.

Six things come to mind that I learned from and saw in him that I to build into my life in the remaining years God gives me.

1. The importance of the Spirit-filled life. This is the number one thing I learned from him.

2. The deceptiveness of pride and the elusiveness of humility. In a letter to me during seminary Dr. Dorsett made this the single point of his note.

3. The value of candor. I found his frank words, face to face, both valuable and rare.

4. The healthy blend of gravity and joy. Utterly serious and cheerfully childlike. At the same time. In mature Christianity the two are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.

5. The weight of ultimate rescue. Dr. Dorsett knew what it meant to be saved.

6. The worth of all-out effort for the sake of Christ. Dr. Dorsett pastored a church full-time while teaching full-time (and since teaching at Beeson started another church). Bearing in mind #1 above, I believe he views himself as Spurgeon did when asked by David Livingstone how he accomplished the work of two men: 'You have forgotten: there are two of us.'

I don't love this guy in competition with Jesus. I love him because he helps me love Jesus more. 'So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men' (Phil 2:29).

For a glimpse into why I love and honor Dr. Dorsett, here's a brief sermon he preached at the ordination of one of his former Beeson students.

Sanctified Distractions

Your wife and your children (if you have them) are God's sanctified distractions from ministry idolatry.
--Darrin Patrick, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission (Crossway 2010), 101

04 September 2010

When Waves of Trouble Roll

Dear refuge of my weary soul on Thee when sorrows rise
On Thee when waves of trouble roll my fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief for Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief for every pain I feel

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face and shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace be deaf when I complain?
No, still the ear of sovereign grace attends the mourner's prayer
O may I ever find access to breathe my sorrows there
--Anne Steele (1716-1778), whose mother died when she was three, who was injured and an invalid the rest of her life, and who fiance drowned in a river the day before their wedding when she was 21

03 September 2010

A Marvelous Comfort and Quietness

Thomas Bilney (1495-1531), one of the key participants early on in the White Horse Inn in Cambridge, England (which was a focal point of the onsetting of gospel reformation in England in the fifteenth century), on 1 Timothy 1:15:
I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Timothy 1. 'It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief and principal.'

This one sentence, through God's instruction and inward working . . . did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that even immediately I seemed unto myself inwardly to feel a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch as 'my bruised bones leaped for joy' (Ps 51). After this, the Scripture began to be more pleasant unto me than the honey or the honey-comb.
--Quoted in Kent Hughes, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit (Preaching the Word; Crossway 2000), 41-42

Bilney was burned at the stake for preaching this gospel on August 19, 1531.

Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures

A brief article from Dennis Johnson over at Modern Reformation.

After suggesting that covenant is what ties the whole Bible together, Dr. Johnson writes that
every historical narrative in Israel's ancient Scriptures attests to the need not only for the Lord's gracious intervention on behalf of the undeserving but also for the arrival in history of a flawless human Servant to fulfill our part of the bargain. Jesus is the gracious Lord who is also the well-pleasing obedient Servant. This discovery opens to us the connection of every event recounted in the Bible to Jesus the mediator of the new and better covenant (Heb. 7:22; 12:24). . . .

Jesus is both the Law-giving Lord and the Law-keeping Servant, uniquely authorized to inherit every covenant blessing as the one--the only one--who has loved the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and his neighbor as himself (Matt. 22:37-39). This discovery opens to us the connection of every command in Scripture to the Christ who kept it for us and who now conforms our hearts to it by his quiet, relentless life-giving Holy Spirit.
See Dennis Johnson's book-length treatment of Christ-centered preaching here.

Humility Exalts, Pride Debases

St. Augustine:
There is, therefore, something in humility which, strangely enough, exalts the heart, and something in pride which debases it.
HT: Gavin Ortlund

02 September 2010

Owen: The Death of Sin

John Owen (1616-1683):
[N]othing but the death of Christ for us will be the death of sin in us.
--A Treatise of the Dominion of Sin and Grace, in Works, 7:529; emphasis original

Bryan Chapell: Gospel Preaching and Living

A few good clips of a Darrin Patrick-to-Bryan Chapell interview that I just came across.

How can a young pastor begin to preach the gospel every week?

How do we see the gospel in the law?

How do we motivate people with the gospel to obey?

01 September 2010

What's the Key to Healthy Christian Growth in Godliness?

That’s the question I asked a handful of thoughtful men of God last week. Responses below.

Please understand: I explicitly asked our brothers to keep it to a single, short sentence. Of course, whole volumes could be (and have been!) written addressing this question (here’s my favorite). So we gladly receive these wise statements remembering that sanctification is not a math problem. There is no formula. Every answer below needs a hundred footnotes. Point taken.

The purpose of this exercise is not to provide an opportunity to nit-pick but to re-center, refresh, encourage, spur on, help one another.

Thabiti Anyabwile:
‘If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’ (Col. 3:1)
Mike Bullmore:
I believe the key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is a deep life in the Word of God (Psalm 1:1-3) in which we are encountered by Christ, the Living Word (John 5:39-40, Col. 3:16), in whom we find all the fullness of God himself (Col. 1:19, 2 Cor. 1:20, and a hundred other verses).
Justin Buzzard:
Trusting and enjoying God as your Father, living as his son/daughter, on account of Christ's work.
Graham Cole:
The key is to treasure Jesus Christ, for that will be where your heart is.
Jonathan Dodson:
Growth in godliness is not character-centered but Christ-centered, a constant expression of repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus.
Lyle Dorsett:
Radical, unreserved love for Jesus Christ manifested in obedient intimacy.
Zack Eswine:
Jesus. Mercy. Tears. A friend. Time.
Sean Lucas:
The key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is to live out of the reality of your union with Christ.
Doug Moo:
The constant, disciplined practice of reminding ourselves who we are in Christ.
Steve Nichols:
Self-determination is a myth.
Eric Ortlund:
The key to healthy (un-Pharisaical, un-ugly) Christian growth is the thing you believed when you first became a Christian, which delivers you into that deep rest and rightness and OK-ness before God, and which exposes sin as counterfeits which can’t match Christ’s righteousness.
Gavin Ortlund:
The key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is experiencing the grace and glory of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Ray Ortlund:
Applying the interruptive ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21 to my heart moment by moment.
Darrin Patrick:
We must have an increasing sense of our unworthiness before God by ourselves and an increasing sense of our own acceptance from God in Christ.
George Robertson:
The key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is faithful attention to gospel preaching.
Tim Savage:
Having the strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ in us (cf. Eph. 3:18).
Tom Schreiner:
The key to growth is trust in God, and faith comes from hearing God’s word.
Steve Smallman:
I’ve become convinced from Scripture and experience that personal spiritual growth is rooted in participation in a healthy church; personal growth comes from community growth.
Colin Smith:
A lively sense of all that Christ is for us and all that is ours in Him.
Sam Storms:
Healthy Christian growth in godliness doesn’t primarily come from trying harder but from enjoying more; or again, pleasure in God is the power for purity in life.
Justin Taylor:
The key to healthy growth in godliness is to seek and to enjoy fellowship with the Father, in union with Christ, through the power of the Spirit, in accordance with the Word, with the body of Christ.
Joe Thorn:
I believe the key to healthy growth in godliness is the cultivation and exercise of Scripture-saturated prayer by which we express and experience our dependence on, joy in, and work through Jesus Christ.
Carl Trueman:
The key to healthy growth in godliness is to be an active, serving member of a local church where the gospel is preached and the eldership care about nurturing the congregation as outward-looking, humble servants of Christ.
Bruce Ware:
Growing knowledge of and love for God, particularly as revealed in Christ and through the Scriptures, that re-structures one’s mind and enflames one’s heart, resulting in increasing transformation into Christ-like character.
Jared Wilson:
As pat as the answer may sound, the key to healthy Christian growth in godliness is submissive study of the Scriptures.
Bob Yarbrough:
Hard work in response to Christ’s cross.

Good answers, brothers! Thought-provoking and helpful. Thank you for serving us in this way.

(My own response would be something like:
Resolutely enjoying our full and free justification from God in Christ, in the shadow of which all the beckoning functional justifications of the world lose their vice-like grip on our hearts.)

God grant us grace to move forward with the glad abandon of faith in September 2010 as never before.