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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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

God had to come

Keller

Published in: on 12/16/2015 at 3:51  Leave a Comment  
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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

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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Heaven already inside

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If you have really handed yourself over to Him it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.

–C. S. Lewis
Christian Behavior

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

Our true home

cuadros-paisajes“Lord, You have been
our dwelling place
in all generations.”
(Psalm 90:1)

Even the best home is only a pale reflection of the perfect home: the shared life and love of Father, Son, and Spirit. The story of salvation can be understood in this way: God, our true home – the source and goal of all our longings – makes his home among us (John 1:1,14) in order to make his home in us (John 14:23; cf. Eph. 3:17) and to make us a fit dwelling place of God (Eph. 2:22). God wants us to abide in him and welcome his abiding in us. God wants us to share his life and love. In short, God wants us to find our home, not just with him but in him.

–Richard J. Vincent
Home: Life in God

Artwork: Stephen J. Darbishire

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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Transformation

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The sinful heart
is never transformed
by conformity to
the imperatives
but only by relationship
with the One who
cleanses hearts.

— Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

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

 

Cause for rejoicing

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Joy is the rarest and most infrequent thing in the world. We already have enough fanatical seriousness, enthusiasm, and humorless zeal in the world. But joy? This shows us that the perception of the living God is rare. When we have found God our Saviour – or when he has found us – we will rejoice in him.

–Karl Barth
(1886 – 1969)

Published in: on 02/28/2014 at 7:39  Leave a Comment  
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The overflow of grace

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Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing “outside of” God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity — it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in unison — and at infinitely great cost — this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.

–Sinclair Ferguson

The only punishable offence

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Bookkeeping is the only punishable offence in the kingdom of heaven. For in that happy state, the books are ignored forever, and there is only the Book of life. And in that book, nothing stands against you.

There are no debit entries
that can keep you out of the clutches
of the Love that will not let you go.

bookeepingThere is no minimum balance below which the grace that finagles all accounts will cancel your credit. And there is, of course, no need for you to show large amounts of black ink, because the only Auditor before whom you must finally stand is the Lamb — and he has gone deaf, dumb, and blind on the cross. The last may be first and the first last, but that’s only for the fun of making the point: everybody is on the payout queue and everybody gets full pay. Nobody is kicked out who wasn’t already in, the only bruised backsides belong to those who insist on butting themselves into outer darkness.

For if our world
could have been saved
by bookkeeping,
it would have been saved
by Moses, not Jesus.

The law was just fine. And God gave it a good thousand years or so to see if anyone could pass a test like that. But nobody did — when it became perfectly clear that there was “no one who was righteous, no even one” (Rom. 3:10; Ps. 14:1-3), that “both Jews and Gentiles alike were under the power of sin (Rom. 3:9) — God gave up on salvation by the books. He cancelled everybody’s records in the death of Jesus and rewarded us all, equally and fully, with a new creation in the resurrection of the dead.

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And therefore the only adverse judgment that falls on the world falls on those who take their stand on a life God cannot use rather than on the death he can. Only the winners lose, because only the losers can win: the reconciliation simply cannot work out any other way . . . the kingdom of heaven is for everybody; hell is reserved only for the idiots who insist on keeping nonexistent records in their heads.

Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
(emphasis added)

A change of residence

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All the clutter that, like decrepit bachelors, we have allowed to pile up in the house of our living, all the hates, the lies, the lusts, and the lunacies – the whole lifetime’s accumulation of irretrievable mistakes – has been forgiven, absolved, put away, carted off.

If then we accept that absolution, that housecleaning that is a house-removal – and if we take up residence in the clean emptiness of Jesus’ death – we will have his life and have it abundantly. But if we try to hang onto the old house of our living we will have only hell . . . To go back to that life is to go back to nothing.

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The only real dwelling we have now is the Father’s house of many mansions: hell is simply the stupid pretense that nowhere really would be a nicer place to spend eternity.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

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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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)

Not about to be forsaken

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As God did not at first choose you
because you were high,
he will not now forsake you
because you are low.

–John Flavel
(c.1627–1691)

Published in: on 01/16/2013 at 19:41  Leave a Comment  
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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

Trinity is Essential

Christians say God is who you know when you know Jesus.

Jesus introduces us to the Triune God.

Only the Son knows the Father, and anyone to whom the Son makes him known.

Start somewhere else and you end up somewhere else.

If the Father did not send his Son in the power of the Spirit to bring us home into the life of God then we have no gospel, we have no Christianity. No other god is worth knowing or telling about.

“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain”, as John Calvin put it. “Seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.”

Trinity is gospel.

Or in the immortal words of Athanasius’ creed: the saved are those who hold to Trinity.

Strong stuff, but what is salvation if not entering into the life of the Triune God?

What else is a Christian but someone who knows this God?

Christianity isn’t a ticket to heaven.

Christianity is what happens when you’re joined with Jesus and step inside his life.

Do you need to be able to articulate that fully? No – but it’s not exactly complicated, it’s beautiful.

Just look at Jesus.

–Dave Bish


Invited into the Inner Circle

Here we have a window into the deep inner truth of Christianity. The life of the Holy Trinity—the relationship and beauty and passion, the creative and joyous and abounding fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit, the love of the Triune God—is given to us in Jesus Christ, shared with our innermost beings . . . Such is the kingdom of God and the very meaning of salvation.

–Baxter Kruger

Incomprehensible excess

We sinned
for no reason but
an incomprehensible
lack of love.
And He saved us
for no reason but
an incomprehensible
excess of love. 

–Peter Kreeft

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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