Obedience…Not “Victory”

Jerry Bridges, in his classic The Pursuit of Holiness, offers some convicting and clarifying words relating to the process of Christian growth:

“It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say
we are “defeated” by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient! It might
be well if we stopped using the terms “victory” and “defeat” to describe our progress in holiness.
Rather we should use the terms “obedience” and “disobedience.” When I say I am defeated by
some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something
outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for
my sin squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because
we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor
resentment, or to shade the truth a little.

We need to brace ourselves up, and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts,
attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer
has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has
given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s
provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”

(From The Pursuit of Holiness – Chapter 8)

REVIEW: Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (CCEF)

I can say, without a doubt, that some of the most potent, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered biblical counsel I have encountered has come through the speaking and writing of the faculty at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF).  These men and women are not interested in quick-fix, self-help, moralistic nonsense.  They are unswervingly committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are of the conviction that real, Spirit-wrought power for the changing of the human heart occurs as we dive more deeply into the gospel, applying it to the myriad of circumstances and situations of our daily lives.

The writings and resources of the CCEF are incredibly extensive.  Effectively working through all of them, though undoubtedly worthwhile, would take years to accomplish.  That’s why I was immensely excited when I was introduced to Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (New Growth Press, 2012),ed. by Nancy B. Winter.  This daily devotional is a collection of some of the most powerful excerpts from the writings of those on staff at CCEF.  The authors include, but are not limited to, Paul David Tripp, Edward T. Welch, David Powlison, and Timothy S. Lane. Organized by the calendar year and paired with a daily reading from the Scriptures, these vignettes are sincere, to the point, and clearly hopeful in the power of God to change hearts through the gospel of Christ.  While deeply steeped in the grace believers have received from God in Christ, each devotion then includes questions for personal reflection and application.  As I mentioned, these devotions are not designed to give the reader 5-steps to personal change/fulfillment, but rather are written to make the reader aware of the sovereignty of God, the grace presently available in the gospel, and hope that real Sprit-wrought change is possible.

Two things that make this resource particularly helpful are the Source Index and Scripture Index included at the conclusion of the volume.  This will be of great assistance to readers who, when particularly impacted by a given devotional, desire to know the resource from which the excerpt came.  Additionally, the Scripture Index allows the reader to use the devotional as a companion when studying a specific book of the Bible.

In a day and age where so many “Christian” devotionals are filled with mere fluff, Heart of the Matter is a distinctly different resource that will assuredly encourage believers to reflect more seriously upon the gospel and be used by God to powerfully change hearts and lives to the praise of his glorious grace.  I wholeheartedly commend it to you!

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: New Growth Press
Author: CCEF Faculty
ISBN-13: 9781936768653
Cover Type: Hardcover
List Price: $19.99
Pre-Order at Westminster Bookstore: $17.99 - 10% Off

You may also pre-order the volume for $17.59 from the New Growth Press webstore: Available Here.

Piper on Calvin: After Darkness, Light

Yesterday was Reformation Day, and Desiring God made available a video of John Piper discussing the impact of John Calvin’s ministry on the city of Geneva.  Check out the video below…

_____________________________________

(Introduction from desiringGod.org, posted 10/31/12)

Today is Reformation Day. Martin Luther posted his explosive 95 theses October 31, 1517. In the wake of Luther’s life, an army of Reformers soon emerged. Foremost among them was John Calvin. Together they recovered for the church the supreme authority and clarity of the Scriptures. Grace-erasing tradition had buried the glory of the gospel. But now light was breaking out. So the Reformers took up a Latin phrase to describe the wonder: “Post Tenebras Lux”—“After Darkness… Light.”

In honor of Calvin’s ministry and, even more, in celebration of the God who restored the gospel to his church, we are making this video available today. My prayer is that it would stir in your heart a fresh passion for the majesty of the word of God.  (Continue reading…)

GOOD NEWS: Having nothing. Possessing everything.

“Known—yet regarded as unknown; dying—and yet we live on; beaten—and yet not killed; sorrowful—yet always rejoicing; poor—yet making many rich; having nothing—and yet possessing everything.” 

2 Corinthians 6:9-10 
 


The Christian is a paradox. Because he has Christ, he
has the unsearchable riches of Christ. Believers . . .

have full and free forgiveness of all their sins;

are fully accepted in the Beloved;

are clothed in Christ’s spotless righteousness;

are adopted into the family of God;

have a perfect title to heaven through Christ;

have God for their Father,

have Christ for their Savior,

have the Holy Spirit for their Comforter,

have heaven for their home;

shall be like Christ and with Christ forever;

shall inherit all things;

are sure of ultimate victory over . . .

sins,

the world,

the flesh,

the devil,

all sorrow,

death,

hell.

-William S. Plumer (1802-1880)

 

*For more gospel-soaked goodness from Plumer, consider The Grace of Christ: Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness (eBook).  ON SALE at MonergismBooks.com for only $1.75!

(HT: Grace Gems)

Dangerous Calling: Tripp on Pastoral Ministry

Every time I read or listen to Paul Tripp, one liberating message consistently resounds in my head and heart:

As desperate sinners we can be ruthlessly honest about our need for grace, because the very grace we so desperately need is available to us–right now–in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I was recently encouraged, as I opened my email inbox, to find some exciting news from Crossway in the form of an advanced-copy PDF.   In his forthcoming book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Tripp recounts some of the most trying experiences within his own life and ministry in order to provide a “diagnostic” that will help pastors honestly face and wisely navigate the challenges, temptations, and potential pitfalls frequently facing those in pastoral ministry.  I’ve only begun to flip through the pages, but it is clear that Tripp powerfully demonstrates how the liberating message of grace is needed as much by the pastor as it is by the parishioner.

Divided into 3 parts, Tripp begins by “Examining Pastoral Culture”.  In this section, Tripp uncovers the common dangers that pastors face when they lack community and personal accountability, refuse to listen to those around them, face relational difficulties within their own marriage and family, allow their identity to be defined by their ministry, only approach the Scriptures with an academic bent (or as only applying to the lives of others), form misconceptions about ministry “success”, and fail to consistently preach the truth of the gospel to themselves.

Tripp moves forward to examine the ramifications of forgetting who God is.  In a section entitled “The Danger of Losing Your Awe (Forgetting Who God Is)”, Tripp examines how, as Warfield stated, “constant contact with divine things” can result in complacent theological familiarity and a loss of awe for the power, presence, and person of God.  Forgetting who God is results in sinful fear, secrecy, complacency and frustration.

Part 3, “The Danger of Arrival: Forgetting Who You Are”, takes aim at the dangers of forming a magnified view of ourselves that is selfish, sinful, and altogether unbiblical.  Tripp notes that when we choose to become the objects of our worship we prideful, defensive, disconnected, overtly self-confident, and always desiring to make ourselves known in an unhealthy way.  Tripp notes how choosing to worship God personally and privately, will allow us to encounter the glory of God in such a way that it will then allow us to see ourselves for who we truly are, stripping us of our self-focus, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and more…in turn allowing us to truly experience life.

In each section, Tripp never leaves you guessing as to how God’s grace reaches into each situation with its healing power.  The strength of Tripp’s writing lies in his ability to surgically, and thus often uncomfortably, address the infections and wounds of sin within the life of the believer, and in this particular case, the pastor.  He then wisely notes how our sinful hearts often try to cover over these wounds, or out rightly ignore them, which leads to increased damage to our hearts and destruction in the lives of those around us.  Again, he never leaves the person with a sense of despair, no matter how deeply the sin has permeated one’s own heart and life.  God has given Paul Tripp the ability to speak the Good News of the gospel of God’s grace toward us in Christ with such clarity and effective soul application that even the most desperate person, who chooses to believe, will rejoice in the light of the availability and liberating power of God’s grace.

As a young minister who has served in various pastoral capacities over the last 5 years, even in my quick reading of this book, Tripp has already uncovered many of the sinful tendencies I see and struggle with in my own life.  Thus, I can confidently say, for the young pastor or the seasoned one, this book is a must read!  Pick up a copy, be personally and ministerially honest, and glorify God by applying and reveling in the now-available grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dangerous Calling is expected for publication on October 31, 2012.  Until then, you can pre-order a hardback copy at Amazon for $11.86 (48% off the cover price of $22.99).  You can also check out the info page at Crossway for endorsements and additional details.

NOTE: I was provided with a complimentary advanced-copy PDF of this title from the publisher for the purpose of review, and was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

All That He Is Becomes Mine…

It is astonishing that I should so be one
with Christ, that all that He is becomes
mine; and all that I am becomes His!

His glory mine; my humiliation His!

His righteousness mine; my guilt His!

His joy mine; my sorrow His!

His riches mine; my poverty His!

His life mine; my death His!

His heaven mine; my hell His!

The daily walk of faith is a continuous
development of the wonders of this
wondrous truth. That in traveling to Him
empty; I should return from Him full.
That in going to Him weak; I should come
away from Him strong. That in bending
my steps to Him in all darkness, perplexity,
and grief; I should retrace them all light,
and joy, and gladness.

-Octavius Winslow (emphasis mine)

If you’re interested in reading more of Winslow’s work, consider Soul Depths and Soul Heights: Sermons on Psalm 130 and No Condemnation in Christ Jesus.

(HT: Grace Gems)

GOOD NEWS: Calvin on Justification

“Justified by faith is he who, excluded from the righteousness of works, grasps the righteousness of Christ through faith, and clothed in it, appears in God’s sight not as a sinner but as a righteous man. Therefore, we explain justification simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.”

-John Calvin, John T. McNeil, ed., Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960) III.xi.2, p. 726-7.

(HT: Brian Hedges)

GOOD NEWS: Warfield on the Full Satisfaction of Christ’s Atoning Work

“God as a truthful, righteous judge cannot look upon a sinner as anything but a sinner. He cannot pretend that the sinner is not guilty. Nor can he accept a sinner into his fellowship. Nor can he forego punishment. Nor can the punishment be less than what is demanded by the offense. Thus to save sinners, God offered his Son as their substitute, imputing their sins to him and making expiation by his death. Christ did not pay fifty cents on the dollar but, suffering in our place, made full payment for our sins. God forgives, therefore, not out of hand but on the ground of justice, in keeping with a law whose demand has been fully satisfied by Christ the substitute, who out of infinite love provided himself as the substitute.”

Zaspel, Fred G. (2010-09-02). The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (p. 297). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

The Fittest Tools for Fighting Sin

While we’re on the topic of killing sin in the life of the believer (see last post), I thought I’d pass along a deeply encouraging passage from one of the greatest sermons ever written on the expulsion of sin from the Christian’s heart.

“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” by Scottish Presbyterian minister, Thomas Chalmers, is one of the most significant pieces ever written on the sanctifying power of the gospel.  Noting the futility of our efforts to kill sin simply by a moralistic, “try-harder” attempt to rid the heart of impurity, Chalmers offers a better way.

To summarize his message, he writes that in order to successfully put away a sinful affection, we must replace that affection with a new affection so great and glorious, it forces the sinful affection to be subordinated and obliterated.  Because the heart cannot move from a sinful affection to no affection at all, it will, by its very nature, move on to another.  We must choose then, by the power of the Spirit, to replace our old affections with the beauty and glory of the love of God demonstrated in the person and work of Christ.

Near the end of his sermon, Chalmers writes:

The object of the Gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience, and to purify his heart; and it is of importance to observe, that what mars the one of these objects, mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again. On the tenure of “Do this and live,” a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence from the intercourse between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator, is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness, instead of God’s glory; and with all the conformities which he labours to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy ever can be. It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance—or, that he can repose in Him, as one friend reposes in another—or, that any liberal and generous understanding can be established betwixt them—the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good—the other finding that the truest gladness of his heart lies in the impulse of a gratitude, by which it is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace—salvation by free grace—salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God—salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness.Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity, which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness. To do any work in the best manner, we should make use of the fittest tools for it. (emphasis mine)

If you’re interested in reading more of Chalmers’ work, check out the Letters of Thomas Chalmers.

“while we were STILL sinners…”

GRAPHIC CREDIT: THE RESURGENCE

My beautiful wife, Susan, took advantage of a Ligonier $5 Friday sale around Christmastime last year and picked up a copy of After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology, Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul (P&R Publishing, 2003) for me.  One morning, I decided to read O. Palmer Robinson’s essay on definite atonement, and was struck by the glorious gospel truth that for those in Christ, temporally speaking, because of Christ’s substitutionary work, God was reconciled to the sinner before the sinner was reconciled to him.

Robinson writes:

“In the death of Jesus Christ, it is not in the first place the sinner’s enmity against God that comes to an end.  Instead, it is God’s enmity against sinners that is removed.  Paul makes this point plain in his letter to the Romans.  ”While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  Even while the sinner remains at war against God, the death of Christ effects a reconciliation (Rom. 5:10).  God demonstrates his own love for us in this way: while our enmity still continued, God was reconciled to us by the death of his Son.

But who more precisely are the “we” with whom God has been reconciled?  Has Christ actually removed God’s wrath toward all people by his death?  Has the whole of humanity been reconciled to God?  Scripture makes it plain that all sinners have not been reconciled to God.  Many will appear at the Last Day at God’s left hand, and will depart into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41-46).

But God, through the death of Christ, has been reconciled to a great multitude from every tribe, kindred, nation, and people.  If you in your own spirit have been reconciled to him, it is because he was first reconciled to you.  If you love him, it is because he first loved you (1 John 4:19).  If you have died to your hostility against God and his ways, it is because God was first reconciled to you by the death of his Son.”

Taken from O. Palmer Robinson, “Definite Atonement” in After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology, Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul, ed. by R.C. Sproul, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 104.

CLICK HERE to download theResurgence desktop wallpaper featured at the top of this post.