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Jesu, Juva

Posts Tagged ‘obedience

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

J. C. Ryle on denying yourself

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Joshua Harris quotes J. C. Ryle on self-denial:

Are you making any sacrifices? Does your religion cost you anything? I put it to your conscience in all affection and tenderness. Are you, like Moses, preferring God to the world, or not? Are you willing to give up anything which keeps you back from God, or are you clinging to the Egypt of the world, and saying to yourself, “I must have it, I must have it: I cannot tear myself away”? Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? Or is all smooth and rounded off, and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion? Do you know anything of the afflictions of the gospel? Is your faith and practice ever a subject of scorn and reproach? Are you thought a fool by anyone because of your soul? Have you left Pharaoh’s daughter, and heartily joined the people of God? Are you venturing all on Christ? Search and see. —J.C. Ryle, Holiness

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

Piper on justification and sanctification

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“The only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin”:

All the sins of God’s people, past, present and future, are forgiven because of the death of Christ once for all. . . . This justification on the basis of Christ’s death for us is the foundation of sanctification — not the other way around. I put it like this: the only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin. Without a once-for-all justification through Christ, the only thing that our striving for holiness produces is despair or self-righteousness.

But I did not say that the work of God in justification makes the work of God in sanctification optional. I didn’t say (the Bible doesn’t say) that forgiveness makes holiness optional. It doesn’t make it optional, it makes it possible. What we will see today is that the God who justifies also sanctifies. The faith that justifies also satisfies — it satisfies the human heart and frees it from the deceptive satisfactions of sin. Faith is the expulsive power of a new affection (Thomas Chalmers). That is why justification and the process of sanctification always go together. They both come from the same faith. Perfection comes at the end of life when we die or when Christ returns, but the pursuit of holy living begins with the first mustard seed of faith. That’s the nature of saving faith. It finds satisfaction in Christ and so is weaned away from the satisfactions of sin.

— John Piper, God Sanctifies His People

Packer on the incarnation

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How are we to think of the Incarnation? The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. “He, who had always been God by nature,” writes Paul, “did not cling to his privileges as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of every advantage by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born a man. And, plainly seen as a human being, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal” (Phil 2:6-8 Phillips). And all this was for our salvation. . . .

The crucial significance of the cradle at Bethlehem lies in its place in the sequence of steps down that led the Son of God to the cross of Calvary, and we do not understand it till we see it in this context. . . . The taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows us how we should ever view it — not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.

– J. I. Packer, Knowing God, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993; pp. 58-59.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 16, 2006 at 7:44 pm

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