Gospel-shaped lifestyle

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Since believers have been forgiven,
they will forgive.
Since they have received good for evil,
they will repay evil with good.
Since, when they were enemies of God,
God loved them,
they will love their enemies.

–Jürgen Moltmann

Gift of righteousness

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At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.

–Martin Luther
(1483-1546)

It is about relationship

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The . . . larger purpose of the Father, Son and Spirit for humanity is not merely the deliverance from sin and corruption (though this is critical), but our exaltation into the very trinitarian life of God.

Real relationship—shared life,
communion of the most personal
and profound order, union—
stands as the driving purpose of God
in creation and redemption.

Logically speaking, when the great apostle stated that the Father predestined us to adoption before the foundation of the world, he is setting forward the ultimate framework within which we are to understand the coming of Jesus. It is about relationship, about communion, about union with the very life of the Father, Son and Spirit.

–C. Baxter Kruger

Ultimate Truth

cc9d602b38d24f3646ac866c76159637The gospel
is not a truth
among other truths.
Rather, it sets
a question mark
against all truths.

–Karl Barth

Image: Giles Clare

Published in: on 10/23/2014 at 14:08  Leave a Comment  
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Bridge of grace

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The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.

– C. H. Spurgeon
(1834-1892)

Published in: on 10/13/2014 at 13:37  Leave a Comment  
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Grace upon grace

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“From his fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

The achievements of the Saviour, resulting from His becoming man, are of such kind and number, that if one should wish to enumerate them, he may be compared to men who gaze at the expanse of the sea and wish to count its waves.  For as one cannot take in the whole of the waves with his eyes, for those which are coming on baffle the sense of him that attempts it; so for him that would take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, it is impossible to take in the whole, even by reckoning them up, as those which go beyond his thought are more than those he thinks he has taken in.

–St. Athanasius
(296 – 373)

Image: Tim Curtis

Generous omnipotence

rembrandt-the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-the-hermitage-st-petersburg-prodig26-1In the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad is one of the finest collections of art masterpieces in the world. Most impressive of all are the Rembrandts that have been brought together in that one museum. Rembrandt’s last painting, found in his apartment at the time of his death in 1669, is there. Still unfinished, but totally compelling and powerful, this is his interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, entitled Return of the Prodigal. Rembrandt has shown the father with his hands upon the shoulders of his son who has come home. The face and hands of the father totally command the attention of all who experience this profound theological interpretation of Jesus’ parable. The hands are not the clutching hands of oppression, but the generous hands of salvation and freedom.

hands 2They are able to reach down to this son and to reach out to the severe, elder son as well. They are kingly hands—but rugged, suffering hands, too. This is a painting of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I thought when I saw it in the vast Leningrad museum that it is a dangerous painting to have in any country because it calls into question all of our values and the oppressive handholds we place upon people around us. The painting tells a dangerous story of the God of omnipotence who is Lord of all and who proves his omnipotence, not by terror but by his love.

–Earl F. Palmer
Laughter in Heaven

Fantasy and faith

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Someone says, “Listen, God doesn’t have time for your little problems. He is busy in the Middle East right now. He has bigger fish to fry. If you want something for yourself, you better get is the best way you can: buy this product and you will be important; wear these clothes and everyone will realize how distinguished you are; read this book and the knowledge will set you a cut about the crowd. Take care of yourself.”

less5divider2That sounds good, we begin to respond. And then we hear Paul’s indignant, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ.” Instinctively, immediately, we know that he is right. The only good news that will make a difference is that the living God personally addresses and mercifully forgives us. He sets things right at the center. This is what we need, what we want. We determine and we will not abandon the free life of the gospel and live in the fantasy dreams that others paint for us and then sell to us for a fee. We will live forgiven and in faith, not as a parasite on others, but creatively for others. We will not mope or cringe or whine. We will praise and venture and make.

–Eugene H. Peterson
Living the Message

Whispering forgiveness

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This is the gospel of grace. A God, who out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all.

–Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel

The Offer and the Dance

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The gospel of Jesus is not the Gospel of a Demand but the Gospel of an Offer. Christ offers life to men: “He that drinketh of the waters that I shall give him shall never thirst”…

Of course, at the center of that offer is a demand—for repentance, for self-surrender, for following—but once the offer is accepted, the demand dances its way into a delight and is gone.

–E. Stanley Jones
Christ at the Round Table

Drawn not driven

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The Gospel
is more powerful
in wooing us from our sin
than the Law is
in frightening us
from it.

–Frederick Dale Bruner

The dream come true

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Forgiveness is the answer
to the child’s dream
of a miracle by which
what is broken is made whole again,
what is soiled is made clean again.

Dag Hammarskjold
(1905-1961)

Published in: on 04/02/2014 at 22:39  Leave a Comment  
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The best sentence Calvin wrote

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We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are compre-hended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.” If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

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If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

 –John Calvin
Institutes of the Christian Religion

 

He seeks to release us

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Of course, in our incomplete world God’s gentle offer and demand press upon us as fearful things, almost threatening. But God’s offer and demand are neither fearful nor threatening. God in his gentle love longs to set us free from the prison we have stumbled into—the loveless prison where we refuse both the offer and the demand of forgiveness. We are like a frightened bird before him, shrinking away lest this demand crush us completely. But when we eventually yield—when he corners us and finally takes us in his hand—we find to our astonishment that he is infinitely gentle and that his only aim is to release us from our prison, to set us free to be the people he made us to be.

But when we fly out into the sunshine, how can we not then offer the same gentle gift of freedom, of forgiveness, to those around us? That is the truth of the resurrection, turned into prayer, turned into forgiveness and remission of debts, turned into love. It is constantly surprising, constantly full of hope, constantly coming to us from God’s future to shape us into the people through whom God can carry out his work in the world.

–N. T. Wright
Surprised by Hope

One clear message

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Everything Jesus said
and did and suffered
is nothing else but a chain
of pointers that keep saying
one thing over again:
“The Father is
seeking you.”

–Helmut Thielicke

Image: Emil Nolde

Published in: on 02/13/2014 at 7:36  Leave a Comment  
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The best is yet to come

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“You have kept the good wine until now” (Jn. 2:10).

In this world the best comes first. The wonder of childhood vanishes before the harsh realities of adulthood. The vigor of youth gives way to the feebleness of old age. Sin’s pleasure is followed by regret and remorse, dreams turn into illusions, and hope frequently gets reduced to cynicism. In a very short time the latest cutting edge innovation becomes outdated and obsolete.

We live on a planet where magnificence
quickly turns to monotony.

In Christ it works the other way. The best comes last. His love gets sweeter, his grace grows richer, his presence more comforting. The road that starts narrow keeps getting wider, the good news of the gospel continually shines brighter. The end is better than the beginning.

And when we finally get to the other side, we will discover that everything is more wonderful than we ever dreamed—and it will keep on getting better! In Christ we are involved in an everlasting process of going higher, an unending experience of “grace upon grace,” an eternal increase of goodness.

The phrase: “It doesn’t get any better than this”—is not applicable in God’s kingdom. However good it gets—the best wine is yet to come.

–Jurgen Schulz

Photo: Marek Jedzer

Invaded by God

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The Gospel is not an academic discussion of truth—a set of doctrines about life, but an interpretation of “things” (Lk. 1:1) . . . Some “things” had happened on this earth that had never happened before—our planet has been invaded by God—redemptively invaded. That is the biggest and most decisive “thing” that has ever happened or can happen on this planet. . . .

This is cosmic news—the Good News,
that will make every planet, every cell,
every thing dance with joy
at the wonder of it.

Of all the things that have happened, or could happen this is the thing . . . the Central Cosmic Fact: God appeared on a little planet to take us by the hand and put us back on the Way. This is news—Good News—comparatively speaking, the only Good News that every reached our planet.

–E. Stanley Jones

Image: Maxime Courty

Heaven in pursuit

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He pursued humanity
to such an extent that
His feet landed on earth . . .
and he chased after us
until He rescued us
at the cross.

–Mary DeMuth

Published in: on 12/12/2013 at 5:09  Leave a Comment  
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From Charismania to Christ

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Before I truly understood the Gospel, I needed angels, bizarre miracles, and the spooktacular in order to keep my attention. When one fad grew old, I needed to learn of another. I stayed on the cutting edge of all that was weird and wild in the crazy land of Charismania. I was bored with what I perceived the Gospel to be, and required shiny things to keep me interested. However, upon truly discovering the Glories of Jesus Christ and His perfect work, I instantly outgrew my obsession with the supernatural for the sake of the supernatural. I no longer needed portals, miraculous hankies, or supernatural flows of oil. I’d found the source of all things glorious, and my thirst was quenched.

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Trust me, I have no problem with the supernatural, or with the miraculous. However, I do find it disturbing when we are fascinated with the spooky simply for the sake of being spooky. When the most popular charismatic books have titles like, “How to live in the supernatural flow of Heaven’s supernatural economy while living under an open heaven and to the right of an ancient portal . . . while petting the four living creatures”, we need to be concerned. The supernatural is not an end to itself. Jesus is, however.

If you’re going to be fascinated
with something, don’t let it be
with feathers, gems, angels, or manifestations.
Let it be with Jesus Christ, Himself!

Don’t misread me! I’m for the supernatural. I’ll receive and rejoice in anything of that nature the Father sends my way. However, it is not my focus, and I no longer have an inordinate fascination with such things. When I did, it was simply because there was a vacuum in my life. I didn’t not truly grasp the depth of Christ’s finished work, and most of the time when folks obsess over such things, it’s a symptom of the very same problem. Let Jesus be your obsession. Nothing else.

–Jeff Turner

What it looks like

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Repentance is not
something that God
demands of you before
he takes you back,
it’s simply a description
of what going back
to God is like.

–C. S. Lewis

Image: B. E. Murillo

Published in: on 11/30/2013 at 2:24  Comments (1)  
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Getting his family back

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In a nutshell,
the Bible from Genesis 3
to Revelation 22
tells the story of a God
reckless with desire
to get his family back.

–Philip Yancey

No more to offer

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If you are a Christian, I have no blessing to offer you, because you have them all in Jesus Christ. All you can do is begin to discover the blessings in Him that you already have but have not yet possessed in experience.

The moment you are redeemed and the moment the Lord Jesus is come to indwell your redeemed humanity, God has given you the plenitude of heaven. You will never be wealthier than the day you were redeemed, but you can live in self-imposed poverty for the rest of your life if want do. What we want to do is to discover how to explore and enjoy all that God has already given you if you are saved. It will be the Devil’s business to prevent it.

–Major W. Ian Thomas

Love seeks entry

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Nor will God force any door to enter in. He may send a tempest about the house; the wind of His admonishment may burst doors and windows, yea, shake the house to its foundations; but not then, not so, will He enter.

The door must be opened
by the willing hand,
ere the foot of Love
will cross the threshold.

He watches to see the door move from within. Every tempest is but the other side of His love; it is love outside, that would be inside — love that knows the house is no house, only a place, until it enter.

–George MacDonald

Published in: on 11/19/2013 at 5:37  Leave a Comment  
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Rabbi, begone

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He had wrought for them a sign
of love, and hope,
and tenderness divine—
They wanted swine.
Christ stands without your door
and gently knocks;
But if your gold, or swine,
the entrance blocks,
He forces no man’s hold—
he will depart,
And leave you to the treasures
of your heart.

–John Oxenham
(1852 – 1941)

Image: James Tissot

Not a blessed thing

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Neither the lost coin nor the lost sheep was capable of any repentance at all. The entire cause of the recovery operation in both stories is the shepherd’s, or the woman’s determination to find the lost. Neither the lost sheep nor the lost coin does a blessed thing, except hang around in its lostness. On the strength of this parable, therefore, it is precisely our sins, and not our goodnesses, that most commend us to the grace of God.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

Image:  James Tissot

Just say thank you

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The life of grace
is simply believing
that Somebody Else
has made it all right, and
you just say thank you
and shut up.

–Robert Farrar Capon

Published in: on 11/01/2013 at 5:58  Leave a Comment  
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The Good Wine

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No one really cares that it was on the third day
and there were six stone waterpots able to hold
twenty or thirty gallons each. Those are simply
details the beloved apostle used to tip the occasion
toward its toast, toward the one I AM statement
the sober commentators have always missed.

Only after a few gleaming cups at Cana would
guests be honest enough to hear among all the
revelry what the son of Mary actually meant:

I AM the good wine, kept until now.
Now is the earth’s privileged season.
Now is the beginning of my pouring out.

–John Blase

Where the road ends

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The conscience, our own anxiety, and all slaves of the law bid us go the way of obedience to the very end in order to find peace with God. But the way of obedience has no end. It lies endlessly before you, bringing continually severer demands and constantly growing indebtedness. If you seek peace on that road, you will not find peace, but the debt of ten thousands talents instead.

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But now Christ is the end of the law;
the road ends at His feet, and here
His righteousness is offered
to everyone who believes.

It is to that place, to Jesus only, that God has wanted to drive you with all your unrest and anguish of soul.

Bo Giertz
The Hammer of God

When God set things right

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From the dim beginnings of our history right up to the present day, there is not a man, woman, or child of us who has ever been immune to the temptation to think that the relationship between God and humanity can be repaired from our side by our efforts. Whether those efforts involve credal correctness, cultic performances, or ethical achievements – or whether they amount to little more than crassly superstitious behaviour – we are all, at the same level, committed to them.

divider-1If we are not convinced that God can be conned into being favorable to us by dint of our doctrinal orthodoxy, or chicken sacrifices, or the gritting of our moral teeth, we still have a hard time shaking the belief that stepping over sidewalk cracks, or hanging up the bath towel so the label won’t show, will somehow render the Ruler of the Universe kindhearted, softheaded, or both.

But as the Epistle of the Hebrews pointed out long ago, all such behaviour is bunk. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins, nor can any other religious act do what it sets out to do…

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But the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is precisely Good News. It is the announcement, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that God has simply called off the game – that he has taken all the disasters religion was trying to remedy and, without any recourse to religion at all, set them to rights by himself.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

Redeemed

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“And don’t forget….. don’t ever forget. You’ve promised to become a new man, Jean Valjean, my brother. You no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I’ve bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. Now I give you back to God.”

–Monsignor from “Les Miserables”
(Victor Hugo)

Image: http://www.movieweb.com/movie/les-miserables-2012/the-monsignor

Published in: on 10/13/2013 at 3:36  Leave a Comment  
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