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Posts Tagged ‘goodness-of-God

Ends and beginnings and faith

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 Peter Leithart writes about faith:

Ruth begins with death – the death of the land in famine, the death of exile, the death of Elimelech, the death of Naomi’s sons, the death of Naomi’s future. Naomi goes out full, and comes back empty. Ruth 1 is a perfect tragic story, a story of endings and emptyings.

But it is chapter 1, and the author wants us to realize that this series of deaths is not an end. The end of chapter 1 is a beginning, as Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem “at the beginning of the barley harvest” (v. 22). The author makes his point with a touch so light as to be nearly imperceptible, but the import of that “beginning” is as weighty as anything in Scripture.

“In the beginning” and “once upon a time” make rational sense as the beginning of a story. But recognizing a beginning on the other side of an end is an act of faith.

Mark Dever makes a similar point in his treatment of Ruth. To human eyes, all is despair at the beginning of this book. But the writer of Ruth gives us a glimpse of what a sovereign and good God is planning and working behind the scenes. You can listen to Dever preach on the whole book of Ruth, and also on Ruth chapter 1 specifically.

See also William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 7, 2008 at 10:01 am

Fear the LORD

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Fear the Lord, for:

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
  who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
  you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
  within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
  around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
  who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion!
  May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
  all the days of your life!
May you see your children's children!
  Peace be upon Israel!

  -- Psalm 128

Living by faith alone

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Man now had to learn to live by faith: our sin and the misery in the world had made it appear that man could expect no favor from God. To be sure, man had also lived by faith in Paradise, but then his belief made perfect sense. After the fall, man had to live by faith alone. God drove man out of Paradise and appointed an angel to guard the way to the tree of life. At that point the trials of life by faith alone began. All the same, man still enjoyed the privilege of faith in God’s continued favor.

— S. G. de Graaf

Sin blinds our eyes to the Lordship and goodness of our Savior. Consequently, faith is not a natural way to think, and while it is a precious gift from God, we must also battle to see with eyes of faith.

HT: wedgewords

Written by Scott Moonen

April 8, 2007 at 8:32 pm

Conviction and the cure

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My pastors have been preaching through Exodus, and just finished ten weeks in the ten commandments. They have done an incredible job of helping us to feel the weight and glory of God’s holiness; but without letting us forget that the law sits on the bedrock foundation of the gospel (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you . . . out of the house of slavery”), and that our reading of the law absolutely must be infused with gospel hope.

Yet it is still so tempting for me to hear such a message and nurse my conviction, without really going any farther. Perhaps I resolve to change some things, but in reality my ears are tuning out the very gospel hope and power that are the only way I can possibly move beyond conviction. Mark Lauterbach critiques his sermons on this point, but we should also critique our listening — are our ears tuned in to savor conviction, or savor the gospel:

Is conviction of sin the measure of a sermon? … I used to notice that people would give me the most response to a sermon that was the most demanding. “Oh Pastor, that was such a wonderful sermon, I was so very convicted.” Should I have found this encouraging?

[But] while conviction is a gift to us, it is always conviction to lead people to the cross. I know the arguments about people needing to be slain by the law — and agree that awareness of need of forgiveness is crucial. But if I leave them there, I have not been faithful to the Savior. Conviction should drive people to the cross — and they should leave with hope toward the Savior.

We want to welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent, but we shouldn’t get off the bus there. Our conviction should drive us to look upward to our Savior rather than inward on our sin; the gospel is our only hope and power for forgiveness and for real change.

How do we make that something more than a mantra? How can we practically seize this gospel power to change? Here are some regular practices that can strengthen our faith and empower our obedience; please comment to add more:

  1. Regularly recount the gospel to ourselves, thanking God that our sins are completely forgiven and that we approach him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  2. Regularly acknowledge that whatever success we have in obedience is a gift from God.
  3. Regularly pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to change, knowing that this grace and help will surely be given to us because of the cross.
  4. Remind ourselves of the reasons that we should obey. Regularly feed our souls with these truths as a way of provoking joyful, grateful, faith-filled obedience:
    1. God is my creator, and he is good; he knows what is best for me.
    2. True and lasting joy are only found in God and in pleasing him; these idols that I cling to cannot compare to God’s glory and beauty and goodness and joy.
    3. God has saved me from condemnation and wrath, and my gratitude at this precious gift should overflow in obedience.
    4. God is my loving father and I should reflect his character.
    5. Christ has purchased my very life with his blood and I should reflect his character.
    6. The Holy Spirit indwells me and empowers me to reflect Christ’s character.
  5. Read books that fuel our appreciation for the gospel and our love for God, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life, C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life, and John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God (download, purchase).

Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch

Christ is Lord of our time

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John Newton was a busy pastor. He wrote of having “seldom one-hour free from interruption. Letters, that must be answered, visitants that must be received, business that must be attended to.” Yet he had this perspective of God’s claim on his time:

When I hear a knock at my study door,
I hear a message from God.
It may be a lesson of instruction;
perhaps a lesson of patience:
but, since it is his message,
it must be interesting.

By our frequent reaction to the circumstances God brings our way, one would believe that we thought ourselves sovereign lords of our schedule. But the reality is that Christ is lord of our time. He gives us regular responsibilities to carry out for his sake. He brings us unexpected situations where we must patiently and humbly set aside our expectations and represent and serve him. And he gives us recreation and sleep as gifts. In fact, every circumstance that he brings about, and every way that he apportions our time, is in some fashion a good gift from him.

Let’s pray that we will better understand his lordship over our time, better see his goodness in that, and thus better trust in him.

Quotes from John Piper
Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch

Written by Scott Moonen

January 29, 2007 at 6:00 am

Lauterbach on censoriousness

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Mark Lauterbach has just finished an excellent series on censoriousness, which he defines (from Jonathan Edwards) as “a disposition to think evil of others.” Lauterbach shares thoughts from Edwards and himself on this sinful tendency.

Isn’t God holy? Yes, but then I reflect on how my Lord critiques me
and I think of Ps 130 — if the Lord numbered our sins, who could stand?
But he does not — he is patient and selective and gentle with us.

This series has six posts:

  1. Censorious thoughts, 1, introduction;
  2. Censorious thoughts, 2, on pride;
  3. Censorious thoughts, 3, also on pride;
  4. Censorious thoughts, 4, on receiving criticism;
  5. Censorious thoughts, 5, on love; and
  6. Censorious thoughts, final, on encouraging and supporting the work of the Spirit.

Bavinck on Christian warfare

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We may not be a sect. We may not want to be one, and we cannot be one, except by a denial of the absolute character of the truth. Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is not of this world. But it does demand that everything in this world serve it. It is exclusive and jealous, and it will indulge no independent or neutral kingdom of the world alongside of itself. Naturally, it would be much easier to leave this age to its own ways, and to seek our strength in a quiet withdrawal. No such rest, however, is permitted to us here. Because every creature is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, since all things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, therefore the rejection of any creature were ingratitude to God, a misjudgment or under-evaluation of His goodness and His gifts. Our warfare may be conducted against sin alone. No matter how complicated the relationships may be, therefore, in which the confessors of Christ are placed in this time, no matter how serious, difficult, and virtually insurmountable the social, political, and especially the scientific problems may be, it were faithlessness and weakness in us proudly to withdraw from the struggle, perhaps even under the guise of Christian motivation, and to reject the culture of the age as demonic.

— Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 10.

HT: Nathan