Mercy and Morality

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There is a tendency to think that the ardent freeness of grace should not be diminished or clouded by ethical demands. This is contrary to the logic of the gospel of Christ. The most striking thing about our Lord, as Lewis comments, is the union of great ferocity with extreme tenderness. We should not separate mercy and morality, or disconnect justification from sanctification. Both need to be stressed side by side in creative tension. It has been pointed out that “the essence of orthodoxy is paradoxy.” We cannot overstate the vast abundance of grace or the strong demands it makes upon us.

We are now called to wear the regal robe that was purchased with blood and custom-made by God. It is our high privilege. We can relax within the luxurious folds of this magnificent garment. When our conduct is out of character for a member of heaven’s kingdom, we must not throw off the royal robe. We should throw off the unrighteous behavior. We are learning to live in a new way. We are learning to enjoy the gift that was fashioned for us before the foundation of the world.

–Jurgen Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

Artwork:
Guercino, Return of the Prodigal Son

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Next to the Gospel

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To have peace and love
in a marriage is a gift
that is next to the knowledge
of the gospel.

–Martin Luther

Published in: on 11/06/2017 at 4:33  Leave a Comment  
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A Powerful Secret

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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

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

Uniqueness of the Gospel

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We see that the uniqueness
of the Gospel is that when He who is
self-giving love takes over a human life,
the one who is taken over himself
becomes an other-lover,
and not just blessed but a blesser,
not just healed but a healer,
not just loved but a lover.

–Norman P. Grubb

The Gladdest News of All

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Christianity tells us we are part of a story that has an Author. It tells us He is good—indisputably, overwhelmingly, irresistibly good— and He is the source of everything that is beautiful and worthwhile and true. He created us to play a role in His story and placed within our hearts a deep longing to know Him. Christianity warns us there is a villain and dangers and distortions and perversions of the truth. It declares that tragedy, evil, and chaos have been defeated in Jesus Christ. It calls us to believe that the gospel is not only the greatest truth—but the most wonderful one of all. It invites us to become the beloved sons and daughters of the Writer of the story.

Could there be anything more astounding than that?

–J. O. Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

Preposterous Grace

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Grace is the word that sums up the heart-grabbing essence of the gospel. And the illustration that stands head and shoulders above the rest is found in Jesus’ prodigal parable.

The rascal who did everything possible to break the heart of his father deserves flogging—but the red carpet is rolled out for him. Extravagant privileges are heaped upon him in what looks like a lottery win. The father can’t find enough gifts to shower on the boy.

Admittedly, it’s unwarranted. It’s ludicrous.

The kid is clobbered by kindness. It’s the scandalous peripety of grace.

Grace is divine prodigality gone wild. It is ridiculous generosity, reckless open-handedness, audacious extravagance. It is goodness on steroids.

Grace shows flagrant disregard for moderation, fairness, or bookkeeping. It dishes out in outrageous excess to those who don’t have it together and have nothing to give in return.

Michael Spencer put it like this: “Real grace is simply inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people and all those things.”

Grace completely abolishes any idea of merit. It floods the undeserving with blessing. Grace is love shown to the unlovely, favor bestowed upon the unworthy. It is indiscriminating, uncoerced, and delightfully gratuitous.

It doesn’t keep score.

–Jurgen Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

 

The Gospel Storyline

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Out of the cross comes the resurrection.
Out of weakness comes real strength.
Out of repentance and admitting
you are weak comes real power.
Out of giving away and serving others
comes real strength.
Out of generosity and giving . . .
comes real wealth.
That’s the gospel storyline.

–Tim Keller

Published in: on 04/19/2017 at 9:59  Leave a Comment  
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A Door Has Swung Open

 

door-to-paradise-7He has done it. With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all. A great door has swung open in the cosmos which can never again be shut. It’s the door to the prison where we’ve been kept chained up. We are offered freedom: freedom to experience God’s rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we now have access.

In listening to Jesus, we discover whose voice it is that has echoed around the hearts and minds of the human race all along.

–N. T. Wright

A Gospel Without the Trinity

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Cause for Wonder

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There are tremendous astonishments in the Christian evangel which, however baldly stated, should fire my sluggish soul with wonder, and fill it with amazement. The fact that I listened so blandly shows that I have I have become blasé. I am like soldier in the trenches who no longer notices the bursting shells about him.

— F. W. Boreham,
The Baby and Bombshell

Published in: on 08/03/2016 at 11:26  Leave a Comment  
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Not Wild Enough

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Published in: on 06/18/2016 at 16:48  Leave a Comment  
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God’s eternal thought

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Our sonship rests on a love that never began as well as a love that will never end. In eternity before the beginning of time and obviously before the beginning of us, God chose to make us His children. The gospel was not God’s afterthought or even His forethought; it was His eternal thought.

–Michael P. V. Barrett,
Complete in Him

Not a code or an idea

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If the Word had become printer’s ink, it would have become a code. If the Word had become an idea, it would have been a philosophy. But the Word became flesh and therefore became a gospel—good news.

–E. Stanley Jones
The Way to Power and Poise

Redemptively invaded

earth 22 copy 2The 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 ever reached our planet.

-–E. Stanley Jones

Living in the Gospel

120847__autumn-sun-trail-trees-leaves-green-yellow-grass-branches-forest-nature_p copyThe “power” for life that so many clamor for, and in some cases perform charismatic gymnastics to try to “receive the download,” is as simple as being reoriented to the gospel on a moment by moment basis. Every second of life, and every challenge life brings, is an opportunity to be reoriented to the truth that is in Jesus Christ in the gospel. Thanks be to God who has given us (note: past tense) the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t have to sing, shout, dance or engage in other diluted pagan practices to condition God to “release the victory” to me. I just have to believe and receive. It really works, and it is really that simple, and will always be that simple.

–Stephen R. Crosby

No strings attached

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The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law — each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.

–Philip Yancey
What’s so Amazing about Grace?

Too good to believe

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Indeed the mystery
of Christ runs the risk
of being disbelieved
precisely because
it is so incredibly
wonderful.

–Cyril of Alexandria
(412—444)

Living in the Gospel

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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.”

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That 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.

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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

Embracing both messages

a861c76fbad61f0e2eef5ab379dcd953The gospel presents both high ideals and all-encompassing grace. Very often, however, the church tilts one direction or the other. Either it lowers the ideals, adjusting moral standards downward, softening Jesus’ strong commands, rationalizing behaviour; or else it pulls in the boundaries of grace, declaring some sins worse that others, some sinners beyond the pale. Few churches stay faithful both to the high ideals of gospel and its bottomless grace . . . I am convinced that unless we embrace both messages we will betray the good news that Jesus brought to earth.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

His Eternal Thought

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Our sonship rests on a love that never began as well as a love that will never end. In eternity before the beginning of time and obviously before the beginning of us, God chose to make us His children. The gospel was not God’s afterthought or even His forethought; it was His eternal thought.

–Michael P. V. Barrett
Complete in Him

The gospel story line

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Out of the cross comes the resurrection.
Out of weakness comes real strength.
Out of repentance and admitting
you are weak comes real power.
Out of giving away and serving others
comes real strength.
Out of generosity and giving
your money away comes real wealth.
That’s the gospel story line.

–Tim Keller

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

He was the message

Christ 1D copy 2Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.

–J. Sidlow Baxter
Explore the Book

Not a fairy tale

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In the salvation
of Jesus Christ
we learn that
the happy ending
we all long for
is not a fairy tale.

–Tim Keller

Published in: on 02/13/2015 at 5:48  Leave a Comment  
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Under or overwhelmed?

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If we’re underwhelmed
with the gospel we’ll be
more easily overwhelmed
with almost anything.

–Scotty Smith ‏

Image: Maxwell Dickson

Published in: on 02/08/2015 at 5:17  Leave a Comment  
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Once upon a time is now

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But the whole point of the fairy tale of the Gospel is, of course, that he is the king in spite of everything. The frog turns out to be the prince, the ugly duckling the swan, the little gray man who asks for bread the great magician with the power of life and death in his hands, and though the steadfast tin soldier falls into the flames, his love turns out to be fireproof. There is no less danger and darkness in the Gospel than there is in the Brothers Grimm, but beyond and above all there is the joy of it, this tale of a light breaking into the world that not even the darkness can overcome.

That is the Gospel,
this meeting of darkness and light
and the final victory of light.

That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, the one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still. To preach the Gospel in its original power and mystery is to claim in whatever way the preacher finds it possible to claim it that once upon a time is this time, now, and here is the dark wood that the light gleams at the heart of like a jewel, and the ones who are to live happily ever after are…all who labor and are heavy laden, the poor naked wretches wheresoever they be.

–Frederick Buechner
Telling the Truth

Joining the conversation

2014-01-01-looking out-crop-windows on right-640x480Take the Gospel in hand. Here is a letter God sends you in friendship today. Let no person, no pretext, stop you from listening to this Word, from joining in this intimate conversation.

—Servias Pinckaers

 

Image: Jeremy Sutton

Not only wild and wonderful

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And if there is a God who can take the dead and, without a single condition of credit-worthiness or a single pointless promise of reform, raise them up whole and forgiven, free for nothing—well, that would not only be wild and wonderful; it would be the single piece of Good News in a world drowning in an ocean of blame.

–Robert Farrar Capon

Art: Mikki Senkarik

Published in: on 01/24/2015 at 8:20  Leave a Comment  
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