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Posts Tagged ‘the gospel’

This week: panoramas from Hiroshima, what not to say to a depressed person, real men, killing moralism, and ebooks vs books.

After the Bomb – Hiroshima Panoramas (Google Maps Mania): I lived in Japan about a 45 minute train ride away from Hiroshima from 7th-9th grade. We visited Peace Park many times where the dome you see above still remains as the centerpiece of the park, the only building really left standing after the bomb.

Ten Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person (by purplepersuasion)

Over a person’s life-time, their risk of experiencing clinical depression is 10-20% in women and girls, and slightly less in males.  Yet despite the fact that depression is so widespread, it is apparently still a very misunderstood illness.  That’s the only conclusion I can draw from some of the insensitive, crass and sometimes downright bizarre things people have said to me about my depression over the years.

Killing Moralism (by Joe Thorn, The Resurgence)

We must always remind our people (and first, ourselves) that God commands us to act—not that we might become good, but that we might know and show him to be good. God does not reveal his will so that we can build our confidence in our ability to keep it, but so that we can exalt and exult in the God we know by grace.

Real Men Repent (by Carlos Montoya, The Resurgence)

I’ll never forget the day my dad came to me and confessed his sins against our family and me. He admitted he was wrong in so many areas of his life, and that by God’s grace he would be a better example of what a man truly is. He didn’t only do this with me, but also with so many people he had wronged throughout his life. It was in that moment I learned one of the most important things about being a man.

What are the deeper implications of the shift to ebooks – for us (Kindle Review)

eBooks are making reading a lot more accessible. People who couldn’t read can read now –  Larger text and Text to Speech is opening up reading to a lot more people. Additionally, People can read now in places and at times when they couldn’t read earlier. You can read on your phone, on your PC, or on your eReader. As Jerry Lee Lewis would put it – Whole lotta reading going on.

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This past week I read 1 Corinthians over the course of about 3 days and God showed me one discussion I’d never seen there before: hard work versus grace. It was encouraging and helpful for me as I’ve been wrestling with my own personal habits and disciplines that I need to be renewed in and step up in. I found 5 lessons in how grace and hard work go together.

#1: Hard work is not a means of status or standing (Ch. 1-4, 12-14).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 ESV)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV)

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)

#2: We work hard but, by His grace, God gives the fruit (Ch. 3)

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 ESV)

#3: Hard work is not the primary source of fighting sin and resisting temptation, grace is (Ch. 10)

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:9-13 ESV)

#4: Love is what we should strive to work hardest at (Ch. 13)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

#5: We work hard in light of eternity (our future grace!) (Ch. 15)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
    “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”
    The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV)

#6: Christ’s work, not ours, is of first importance (Ch. 15)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)

1 Corinthians is a very helpful book of the Bible that I think I’ve neglected in the past. The Corinthians were struggling with status symbols, striving for a standing with each other, worried about who was following who, boasting in themselves and their leaders, working hard at their reputation and establishing their own justification. Paul very gently reproves this heart and encourages them in striving to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. He never tells them to stop striving or to stop working – but to work hard in the right motivation (in light of His grace) and right direction (loving and building up others).

Personally, I need to step it up in certain disciplines (like exercise and prayer) not so I will look good and feel more justified but to know God better and increase in my capacity to love and bless others. I want to be freed from my own selfishness and I need to work hard. But God will bring the growth as I persevere and trust Him. He has good plans and it may be that I need to wrestle with my sin for awhile in order to draw closer to Him and grow in humility. What I fear is either justifying myself through discipline or not persevering. God in 1 Corinthians reveals the antidote to both: the grace of God.

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This week: Lots of encouraging words from TGC – not on purpose, it just turned out that way – on the gospel, manliness, and winning with our kids.

The Subjective Power Of An Objective Gospel (by David Zahl & Jacob Smith)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:3-4) is good news, however, and good news for people with real problems. And it does tangibly address the subjective realities of suffering people – thank God – which is where most of us actually live. But it is helpful because it is true, not the other way around. One comes before the other. The Gospel is an objective word that has subjective power.

Play the Man (by Kevin DeYoung)

Driscoll’s mistake was not in taking the problem of effeminate men too seriously, but in making a flippant comment about something he knows to be a serious problem. In a day when certain men—from pirates to figure skaters to stand up comedians—wear eyeliner, and the typical sitcom dad is a henpecked oaf, we are overdue for some hard conversations about what manhood is supposed to look like.

Christ Died for the Sins of Christians Too (by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt)

The preaching was not, as it should have been, a proclamation of God’s grace to them because of the finished and atoning death of Christ-God’s grace for them as Christians. That emphasis is desperately needed. But the only way we can recover this message is by ceasing to read the Scriptures as a recipe book for Christian living, and instead find within the Scriptures Christ who died for us and who is the answer to our unchristian living. We must have that kind of renewal (a renewal, which not surprisingly, was important to the reformers, as well), and it can only come if we realize that the gospel is for Christians, too.

Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up (by Jon Nielson)

The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

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This is the gospel, from Mark Driscoll:

God

God exists. He is the triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is infinite and sovereign and has always been. He is the very definition of good. He is the Creator who made this world and us. He made us for relationship with Him, that we would revel in His grace by enjoying Him and the creation He put us in.

Man

Man chose to reject God and choose our own way. Each of us have turned our backs on the one true God and chosen sin, chosen to seek our joy in the creation and in what defames God’s name. So we are diseased by sin. We are dead in our sin. We are lost and away from God. We now hide from him. We have no taste for His goodness. Our trajectory is a place called hell – cut off, dark, alone, in painful fire, separated from Him just like we wanted. We have no hope in ourselves.

Jesus

Jesus, the Son, is sent to rescue us. He was not ashamed to call himself our brother. He willing came as a human, in flesh. He walked in our shoes not as a rich king but a poor carpenter, born in a stinky manger. He taught and showed us the very character of the Father in 3 key years among us. He ultimately demonstrated who God is by dying a gruesome and horrible death, being crucified on a cross, as a payment and atonement for all of our sin. He took our baggage and rejection of God on Himself. He took our deserving of hell on himself. He showed us God still wants us. He showed us that there is now a way back to God. He played the ultimate trump card that God truly loves us and wants to restore our joy in Him.

Response

So now the choice is before us. Jesus’s death on the cross calls us to a response. Will we reject His death on the cross for us? Or will we confess our desperate need for him, for his offered forgiveness and relinquish our fight to rule our own lives (to our own demise). Will we choose the life offered in Jesus, or the death offered by our own way, our own rule? Will we let him be Dad? There is no middle ground. Jesus’ call is not on our terms but his. The Father offers us everything through his Son: the family we were made for, forgiveness of every hideous act or thought we ever had, life, and an inheritance and heaven waiting for us, but, most of all, He offers us the best thing in the world, Himself. Our hunger, thirst, loneliness, our nostalgia & ache, and our desire for eternity all point to His offer. He alone can satisfy. So He calls us, holds our HIs hands to us, knocks on the door of our hearts, and whispers to us, ultimately through His Word, The Bible. But He is our King, Savior, and treasure, or He is not.

Have you heard his voice? Will you respond to Him? Will you live with Him and in Him instead of hiding and running to your own death and destruction? Will you take his hand? Will you accept Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin and call him your brother?

By God’s grace, I made this choice almost 16 years ago and haven’t looked back. He spoke to me and broke into my life. I felt his pursuit and couldn’t help but respond. It hasn’t been easy and there have been times of fog and darkness and being overwhelmed by my own sin and the evil within, but He is good and the best thing that ever happened to me. As much as I struggle as a parent with my own selfishness getting in the way, there is ultimately only one thing I want for them: to know and respond to Jesus’ offer and to walk in life enjoying Him. There is nothing else that matters apart from that. For all of us.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

Also check out What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

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Most people in the pew are simply not acquainted with the doctrine of justification. Often, it is not a part of the diet of preaching and church life, much less a dominant theme in the Christian subculture. With either stern rigor or happy tips for better living, “fundamentalists” and “progressives” alike smother the gospel in moralism, through constant exhortations to personal transformation that keep the sheep looking to themselves rather than looking outside of themselves to Christ… – Michael Horton, “Does Justification Still Matter?”

“First Things First” by Tullian Tchividjian is an immensely helpful article when it comes to the significance of our understanding of our justification. The article springs out of a friendly discussion between Tchividjian and Kevin DeYoung about the importance of justification in relation to making an effort to grow in godliness. DeYoung argues that justification is critical but that we still need to “make every effort” and work hard to grow spiritually. Tchividjian agrees that hard work is necessary but argues that understanding our justification is a key “effort” that needs to happen if we want to grow:

What is indisputable is the fact that unbelief is the force that gives birth to all of our bad behavior and every moral failure. It is the root. “The sin underneath all sins”, said Martin Luther, “is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands.” Therefore, since justification is where the guillotine for unbelief and self-salvation is located–declaring that we are already righteous for Christ’s sake–we dare not assume it, brush over it, or move past it. It must never become the backdrop. It must remain front and center–getting the most attention.

Justification: We Don’t Get It

Justification is much too often assumed and not enjoyed. I’ve seen this in my own life. I think I have always understood my forgiveness (though certainly not the depth of it!) in Christ but justification not half as well. I think I really started thinking about it more after I sat through a message by Tim Keller 2 years ago. Most of the time I think we act like convicted felons recently released from prison. Our slate has been wiped clean but now we better find a job and make a new life. We may have been exonerated but there’s always that mark on us. We better earn our way from this point forward.

Justification: We’d Rather Earn It

We may never say that out loud but we live that way. Our flesh, especially in a “Meritocracy” like America, is prone to be works and guilt driven rather than walking in grace and in our justification. We have more control that way. It’s more focused on us. It’s less messy. It feels safer. I’d much rather say, “Look at all that I’m doing for God! I am a beast in the kingdom!” than, “I am nothing but for the grace of God and I have everything through that grace, completely undeserved.” We accepted the gospel and turned to Christ but now we want rules and simple obedience. However, it doesn’t work.

The greatest danger facing the church is not that we take the commands of God lightly. To be sure, that is a bonafide danger but it’s a surface danger. The deep, under the surface danger (which produces the surface danger) is that we take the announcement of God in the gospel too lightly. The only people who take the commands of God lightly are those who take the gospel lightly–who don’t revel in and rejoice over what J. Gresham Machen called the “triumphant indicative.” Beholding necessarily leads to becoming. Or to put it another way, this wonderful and neglected view of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone that I am championing does not deny the impulse toward holiness. Rather it produces it!

Justification: The Power to Rest is the Power to Grow

Later, Tchividjian goes on about the law versus the gospel…

The law now serves us by showing us how to love God and others and when we fail to keep it, the gospel brings comfort by reminding us that God’s infinite approval doesn’t depend on our keeping of the law but on Christ’s keeping of the law on our behalf. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less! As Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So again, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

Don’t read those thoughts lightly. Motivation by works and by rules is motivation by fear and guilt. As a parent, I think about the limits of that motivation. Fear and guilt only go so far and I’d rather not have it that way. I’m convicted by how much I default to threats and the use of discipline but I don’t want it that way. I want my kids to be motivated to obey my wife and I out of a trust and love for us (and for God), understanding how much we care for them. I want my kids to believe that we have good for them and will provide it at the best time possible.

Fear gets us only to do just enough not to face wrath. Love empowers us to creativity and the second mile. This is what God desires in us. If God desired us to be primarily stirred up by fear of his wrath, Jesus would not have come to us as a humble, poor carpenter who consistently called attention not to his miracles but to his coming death and ransom for sin. He certainly would not be the one who told us that he plans to show us the extent of his kindness towards us for all of eternity.

When we start establishing our own justification, instead of trusting in our already completed justification in Christ, we dissolve into fear and away from love and grace. We also make it about ourselves and not God. At that point, what exactly are we growing in and why? Is life about our own perfection or knowing Jesus?

It’s very important to remember that the focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. When the Christian faith becomes defined by who we are and what we do and not by who Christ is and what he did for us, we miss the gospel–and we, ironically, become more disobedient.

As Tim Keller has said, “The Bible is not fundamentally about us. It’s fundamentally about Jesus. The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to consistently and constantly show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome.”

Read the whole discussion:

Make Every Effort (by Kevin DeYoung)

Work Hard! But in Which Direction? (by Tullian Tchividjian)

Gospel-Driven Effort (by Kevin DeYoung)

First Things First (by Tullian Tchividjian)

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This week: Jonathan Edwards’ first resolution, the grace-loving antinomian, redemptive embarrassment, and some thoughts on family worship.

Jonathan Edwards’ First Resolution (by Matt Perman/What’s Best Next)

First, he sees no ultimate conflict between his good and God’s glory. God’s glory is most important, but his good is found in pursuing God’s glory. There is no ultimate conflict between his joy and the magnification of God’s excellence.

An Open Letter To Mr. Grace-Loving Antinomian (by Tullian Tchividjian)

There seems to be a fear out there that the preaching of radical grace produces serial killers. Or, to put it in more theological terms, too much emphasis on the indicatives of the gospel leads to antinomianism (a lawless version of Christianity that believes the directives and commands of God don’t matter). My problem with this fear is that I’ve never actually met anyone who has been truly gripped by God’s amazing grace in the gospel who then doesn’t care about obeying him

Redemptive/Historical Embarrassment (by Doug Wilson/Blog & Mablog)

They know further that the only reason they are keeping quiet is that they would be ashamed to be identified with a position that has had so much opprobrium heaped on it. And believe me, the lordship of Jesus over everything will always have opprobrium heaped on it. Who wants to be a nutter? Keep it respectable, champ. Keep your head down. Read those books, certainly. Enjoy them in your study, friend. No harm in that,  but don’t go to extremes. Keep your head down.

How I Lead My Children in Personal Devotions (by Tim Challies)

I find that the kids are quite eager to do devotions, but also very quick to lose the habit if I do not help them maintain it. It was not until I stepped up my leadership that they began to do it with regularity.

Second Thoughts on Family Worship (by Jerry Owen/Credenda Agenda)

We simply are not required to have a set, formal, liturgical time of worship as families. I’m glad some people do this and benefit from it, and as far as they do, I’m for it, but no one should feel it is something they ought to do. This is not the same thing as saying parents shouldn’t read the Bible, pray and talk about God with their children. Of course they should. And it’s helpful if this is regular, methodical, and often. But some of the healthiest Christian families I know never had “family worship” formally conducted.

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I have seen Tree of Life (from Terrence Malick) called “a prayer,” “a symphony,” and  “a magnum opus.” It is all of those and it is a meditation. It is a journey through memories and heartache, through the questions of life, and the question of who I am. The Tree of Life is a movie experience that I’ve never had before, a film that plays out like a painting or maybe even a devotional. I’ve never seen a movie that presents the questions and truths that Malick does, and actually give you the space and time to contemplate and think about it. This movie is a contemplation as crazy as that sounds. Critics have raved while filmgoers have been mixed. When my wife and I saw it in downtown Reno last night, there were at least 3 people that walked out right in the middle of the film. It’s not linear, it’s not a simple story and plot, and the creation sequence can seem bizarre if you’re not looking for it. This is a movie that should be read about and thought about before even seen, I don’t think I can actually spoil it for you no matter how much I share. It would be as if I was describing a song or painting – you ultimately just have to see it and experience it.

Malick gives you a lot to think about and wrestle with in his masterpiece. In this post, I want to touch on the film experience and style, the creation sequence, and the big questions. In another post, I want to discuss the aspects of sin and family that Malick so brilliantly gives us. My desire is that this discussion will help you not only digest the film but be prepared to view it as well.

The Film Experience & Style

This is no simple story or plot. You find out about the death of a character before you even meet him. You hear voice overs of characters intermixed with other characters through sequences of the big bang and the ocean. This film was genius. I realized at the end as my wife and I discussed it that it truly is a walking through of the memories of the older brother. Malick goes beyond that to give you meditations and memories of the parents and the vision of creation, but it is mostly through the eyes of the oldest brother and thereby has some of the limitations of his knowledge and vision. There is still significant progression through the middle part of the film from the birth of the older brother to the significant moment that starts to bring the movie to a close, but even that progression jumps and melds together like a collection of memories and thoughts.

The acting was powerful. There are so little words that the film depends upon the unspoken interactions of the characters, the facial expressions at the dinner table, the look of their own wrestling with life, the way these characters express physical affection and how that is affected by their struggles and sin. Pitt is amazing, Jessica Chastain is brilliant, Penn is perfect, and Hunter McCracken as the oldest son is really good. This film is made or broken by how well you empathize & understand these individuals and I was sold. But what will turn off and turn away most of you is the creation sequence that seems to come out of nowhere early in the movie.

The Creation Sequence

The parents are introduced, as well as the older brother, and a reason for grief. Then, the creation sequence hits you. This is where one couple simply got up and walked out. It’s not a simple 2-3 minute part but it felt at least 15-20 minutes long. Malick takes you from the big bang to the dinosaurs all with the overarching questions of “Where is God?” and “Why?” You know this is creation though presented more with the slant of millions of years. It was very jarring to my wife. She even leaned over to me, saying, “This is weird!” So why is this story here? A dinosaur interaction sequence, really? Couldn’t the film have been fine without it?

I think the creation sequence is crucial to the film, as strange and jarring as it can feel. Malick presents a world where God is real and where God created, where we look for him and listen for him. This creation is part of who God is to Malick, who God is to these characters, it’s the main way Malick presents God and introduces us to him. This part of the film, along with the beginning scenes leading up to it, made me think of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. If you’ve read Wilson’s book, I think it helps you appreciate Malick’s focus on creation, nature, and the wonder of the world we live in. However, the problem with the world of the Tree of Life is what my wife quickly discerned: God is creator but distant, impersonal, and seemingly absent.

The Big Questions

Who is God? Why is their pain and suffering? Who am I? Malick presents a world where God exists, where he creates, but a world that I would question where the hope is. In Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, Wilson ponders creation and suffering but brings his thoughts to single point on which it all relies in order to know God is good and that he is personal and loves us: the Cross. Without the cross, without God coming to us in the form of a man in Jesus, we are lacking. Tree of Life presents the weight of sin with no atonement, God with no face, and us with no grounded identity. Think about Jack in the future: nostalgic, pondering, praying, and… very alone. God apart from Jesus Christ is distant, impersonal, and simply who we make him. This is the fatal flaw in the powerful vision presented by Malick. Don’t get me wrong though. Tree of Life is a tremendous movie and an experience that worth the ride. I appreciated the creation sequence, it was very gutsy and amazing. I appreciated the prayers of these characters. I appreciated that God was even invited to this experience of a film. The film simply evoked a desire for more than just nostalgia and meditation. I wanted God himself.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:9-11 ESV)

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