Bewildering Grace

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In Christ, we are adopted by God, 
we are chosen without deserving,
loved without earning,
and saved without effort.

–Nick Lannon

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Absolute Ideals and Absolute Grace

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The Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murders and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.

–Philip Yancey,
The Jesus I Never Knew

Roadworthy Once More

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What I absolutely want is to suggest that before it’s anything else, redemption is God mending the bicycle of our souls; God bringing out the puncture repair kit, re-inflating the tires, taking off the rust, making us roadworthy once more. Not so that we can take flight into ecstasy, but so that we can do the next needful mile of our lives.

–Francis Spufford

Becoming What We Are

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When Paul . . . says that “if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation” he is teaching that God has done for us everything that needs to be done; when Peter says that ‘his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness’, there is the same note of completeness . . . Both Paul and Peter speak of the work of God in the past tense: it is our foundation inheritance as believers. The remainder of our earthly life is an outworking of what God has already ‘in-worked’. We are called to become what we are.

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This is the mighty imperative of Christian ethics. Every other ethical system calls us to the costly effort of becoming what we are not. But in the full salvation already bequeathed to us in Christ, the new nature is already ours, waiting for expression, poised for growth, until its potential is triggered by our obedience to the Word of God.

–Alec Motyer,
The Message of Philippians

Repaired and roadworthy

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Redemption is God mending the bicycle of our souls; God bringing out the puncture repair kit, re-inflating the tires, taking off the rust, making us roadworthy once more. Not so that we can take flight into ecstasy, but so that we can do the next needful mile of our lives.

–Francis Spufford

Not about a moral code

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Christianity is not a religion
about a moral code to keep.
It’s about a God who
saves people that don’t
keep the moral code.

–Tullian Tchividjian

Wonderful preview

healing-touch-of-jesus copyWe modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.

–Tim Keller
The Reason for God

Clinging to grace

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I am throwing all
my good works overboard,
and lashing myself
to the plank of free grace;
for I hope to swim
to glory on it.

–C. H. Spurgeon

Published in: on 12/28/2014 at 5:00  Leave a Comment  
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Sin is Relational

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Divine goodness is not just perfect, it is more than perfect. It spills out beyond itself like sunlight. It is agape, generosity, altruism, self-giving, self-sacrificial love. God seeks intimacy with Man . . . “Your creator shall become your Husband,” says Isaiah (54:5). To that end, He makes covenants, to prepare for the fundamental covenant, marriage.

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No pagan ever suspected the possibility of such intimacy, even with their finite, anthropomorphic gods: that is, the relationship scripture calls “faith,” or fidelity. And therefore no pagan ever understood the deeper meaning and terror of “sin” either, for sin is the breaking of that relationship. Sin is to faith what infidelity is to marriage. Only one who knows the wonder of marriage can know the horror of infidelity.

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That is why Jesus . . . took sin much more seriously than any pagan possibly could, and why He paid the ultimate price—His own life—to save us from it.

–Peter Kreeft
The Philosophy of Jesus

Art: Benjamin West

Sanctification

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In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

In the experience of Saint Paul,
it is only when we discover
that God really loves us
in all our unloveliness
that we ourselves start
to become godlike.

Paul’s word for this gradual transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse is sanctification, and he sees it as the second stage in the process of salvation.

Being sanctified is a long and painful stage because with part of themselves sinners prefer their sin, just as with part of himself the Beast prefers his glistening snout and curved tusks. Many drop out with the job hardly more than begun, and among those who stay with it there are few if any who don’t drag their feet most of the way.

But little by little—less by taking pains than by taking it easy— the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person to become a healing person, the loved person to become a loving person. God does most of it. The end of the process, Paul says, is eternal life.

  –Frederick Buechner
Beyond Words

Artwork: Scott Gustafson

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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Love must triumph

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Christ, the gift of God’s present forgiving love to every man and woman, is the door through which alone we can enter into our provision of hope.

Until we know the love of our Father’s heart to us, 
as manifested in Christ, the future must always be 
to us at best a dark and doubtful wilderness.

But when we know that all that we have conceived of our Father’s love, is as nothing to the reality—that he is indeed love itself—a love passing knowledge—a shoreless, boundless, bottomless ocean-fountain of love, of holy, sin-hating, sin-destroying love, which longs over us that we should be filled with itself—and be by it delivered from the power of evil—then, indeed, we are saved by hope, for we know that love must triumph and fulfill all its counsel.

–Thomas Erskine
(1788 – 1870)

Image: Robert Pejman

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

 

The full treatment

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When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother–at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie, if you gave them an inch they took an ell (45 inches).

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of or which is obviously spoiling daily life. Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.

–C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

Published in: on 07/10/2013 at 6:08  Leave a Comment  
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No whiff of negotiation

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Grace is created by God and given to man . . . On the basis of this point alone, Christianity is set apart from any other religion in the world . . .

Every other approach to God
is a bartering system;
if I do this God will do that.

I’m either saved by works (what I do), emotions (what I experience), or knowledge (what I know). By contrast Christianity has no whiff of negotiation at all. Man is not the negotiator; indeed man has no grounds from which to negociate.

–Max Lucado
In the Grip of Grace

Our prison door is open

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Look once again to Jesus Christ in his death upon the cross. Look and try to understand that what he did and suffered he did and suffered for you, for me, for us all. He carried our sin, our captivity and our suffering, and did not carry it in vain. He carried it away. He acted as the captain of us all.

He broke through the ranks of our enemies.
He has already won the battle, our battle.

All we have to do is to follow him, to be victorious with him. Through him, in him we are saved. Our sin no longer has any power over us. Our prison door is open . . . When he, the Son of God, set us free, we are truly free.

–Karl Barth
(1886 – 1968)

He is the seeker

Another picture that our Lord loves to use is that of the shepherd who goes out to look for the sheep that is lost.

So long as we imagine
that it is we who have to look for God,
then we must often lost heart.
But it is the other way about:
He is looking for us.

And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it, we are in full flight from Him, in high rebellion against Him. And He knows that and has taken it into account He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought finally to escape Him, we run straight into His arms.

So we do not have to erect a false piety for ourselves, to give us hope of salvation. Our hope is in His determination to save us. And He will not give in!

–Simon Tugwell

The solution to each problem

We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we all make progress in the kingdom.

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom 1:16-17).

It is very common in the church to think as follows: “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Colossians 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you—it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32).

The main problem, then, in the Christian life
is that we have not thought out
the deep implications of the gospel,
we have not “used” the gospel in and on
all parts of our life.

Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel—a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says (on Gal. 2:14), “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine… Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel—seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.

–Timothy Keller

Any recipe but grace

The world is by no means averse to religion. In fact, it is devoted to it with a passion. It will buy any recipe for salvation as long as that formula leaves the responsibility for cooking up salvation firmly in human hands. The world is drowning in religion. But it is scared out of its wits by any mention of the grace that takes the world home gratis.

–Robert F. Capon

Published in: on 01/11/2011 at 13:18  Leave a Comment  
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Faith, hope, love

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Published in: on 10/23/2010 at 2:03  Leave a Comment  
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