Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marvelous Relief

"Give up your success-and-failure patterns. Seek grace in Christ, humbly and honestly. Understand that a conviction of sin does not make you neurotic, but rather it spells the beginning of the end for neurosis. After all, what is a neurotic? Simply a hurting person who is closed off to criticism in any form and yet engages in the most intense, destructive self criticism that produces neither hope nor help.

What a marvelous relief God’s grace in Christ offers. I had been totally criticized, and at the same time I was completely forgiven. As I rested in the work of another, my heart was at peace with God; and for the first time, I felt at peace with myself. "

— Rose Marie Miller, From Fear to Freedom (Colorado Springs, Co.: WaterBrook Press, 1994), pages 72-73

Monday, September 29, 2014


Incurvatus In Se

Great article by Alex Dean on what Luther called "Incurvatus in se" - Our "curved in upon ourselves" nature because of sin.
Augustine may have introduced it. Luther certainly formed it. But the Apostle Paul wrestled openly with it as he penned lines he most certainly knew would be authoritative for the Church of Jesus Christ. When you read Romans 7, you most certainly identify with Paul’s struggle. If you are honest, no matter how long you’ve been following Jesus, you must admit that, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).
Most people would agree that the battle with the flesh rages throughout the life of a believer. But the question is: Why would Paul so openly confess this here? Surely toward the end of his life, he came to understand that his writings were being circulated. He knew that the letters he wrote were authoritative (1 Thess. 2:13). Paul, this great church-planting pastor, the leader of a movement, the greatest missionary in Christian history. Paul, who endured countless beatings, imprisonments, and persecutions for the sake of Christ. Paul, who would give his own life under the persecution of Nero. Why in the world would he openly admit this struggle?
Incurvatus in se is a Latin phrase, coined by Luther and rooted in Augustine’s thought, which simply describes the primordial evil in the world—humanity curved inward on itself. And it is precisely this idea that Paul wrestles with in Romans 7. How do I know? Turn the page.
In Romans 7:24, after Paul has written himself to the point of frustration over his own struggle with sin, he is completely undone. He writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In other words, “I look within myself and I find absolutely nothing that is not wretched, depraved, and totally self-absorbed. I need deliverance from someone other than me!”
What happens next is stunning. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). And he doesn’t stop there. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1).
Don’t you see what Paul is doing here? Are you catching the whole scope of what is going on? Paul struggles, he wrestles, as he acknowledges his inward curvature. As he looks within, he is given over to despair because of his total depravity. But . . . do you see where Paul’s gaze turns? Upward! To Christ! To the gospel! Romans 8 is one of the richest expositions of the gospel in all of Scripture, and we so often forget that it comes on the heels of Romans 7.
Why does Paul do this? Is he just given over to his own emotions, carried along by whim as he is writing? Certainly not. Paul is giving his readers a picture of exactly what the gospel does. It redirects our gaze. It restructures our natural curvature. We move from inward to upward. When we look within, we find nothing but condemnation and despair. But when we look to Jesus, we find a banner which reads, “It is finished. No condemnation.” And perhaps the most gloriously counterintuitive part of this message is this—it has absolutely nothing to do with us.
So how does a man go from being a self-absorbed Pharisee (Paul’s former life), to being a selfless missionary who leverages everything he has for the cause of Christ? The gospel redirects his gaze. He meets Jesus, and his eyes are fixated on the cross.
Incurvatus in se (being curved inward on oneself) is the main enemy of making, maturing, and multiplying disciples. More than Satan’s plans to thwart our evangelistic efforts. More than the apologetic arguments of the leading atheists. More than the newest scientific discovery. Men and women curved inward will never desire to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.
This is why so many theologians have remarked about the power of the gospel especially for Christians. We need to have our gaze redirected every day. The gospel reminds us, over and over, that nothing good resides in our members, and yet, there is no condemnation because of the finished work of Christ. We are drawn to look on Jesus. We are moved to consider him. Something like worship begins to stir up in our hearts. And do you know what the automatic outflow of worship is? Making Disciples.
Christian, you are the chief enemy of the make, mature, and multiply mentality. You are not exempt from the natural curvature of all humanity. This is why being gospel-centered is absolutely necessary. It is not a catch phrase. It is not a buzz-word. It is the power of God for salvation.
When your heart is set on yourself, you will never look outside of yourself. You’ll get home from work and retreat inside your home, where you’ll neglect your wife and children, owing it to the need to decompress after a long day. You’ll never engage in small-group discipleship because it’s all about giving of yourself, not getting for yourself. You’ll hardly care about the lost and dying around you because you are probably too busy checking who has commented on your most recent self-glorifying status update.
If the gospel captures your gaze, day after day, you’ll be reminded of the glorious reality of no condemnation. You’ll spend your time looking up and out. You’ll be free to serve everyone because you need nothing from anyone. You will live a gloriously counterintuitive kind of life in which you won’t care about your own power, position, prominence, or praise. You’re only concern will be the glory of Jesus and the praise of his glorious grace.
Christians, let us come before the glory of the gospel each day, that our gaze may be lifted upward and outward. Let us remind each other of the glorious reality of no condemnation with ferocious vigilance. Let us seek to make, mature, and multiply because our gaze is fixed on the One who told us “There is no condemnation.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Comfort Without Words

The quote below is an excerpt from a article by Trillia Newbell at the Gospel Coalition entitled "Mourning Without Words." The specific context of the piece is comforting someone mourning the death of a loved one. However, the advice about keeping silent and wordless comfort, and the lesson form the Book of Job, applies to  other contexts of emotional trauma. When a loved one is suffering from loss, betrayal, abuse, PTSD, or other forms of severe emotional trauma, sometimes the best way to help is to be silent and just hold them and weep with them.
...There’s a temptation to treat our mourning friends like leaky faucets that need to be fixed. And the expert we call on is ourselves. We try recalling all the memorized Scriptures in our heads, or we run to the concordance and look up search terms: “mourning,” “sorrow,” “pain,” “Job.” Then we spill this wisdom onto our friend, hoping to fix the leak. The effort is well meaning, and there's certainly a time and place for it. But too often we search for the perfect knowledge that will bring comfort and joy when all we really need to say is nothing at all.
When your friend is weeping it’s hard to say, "I don't know, I don't understand." We want to know. We want to bring comfort, but in our attempt to "fix it" we can forget that there's a real person in deep sorrow. Your friend, coworker, or relative is not a faucet to be fixed—they are flesh and blood to be loved. Those moments when you're anxiously trying to find the perfect words are often the best moments to humbly embrace your weakness and lack of knowledge.
To be clear, waiting doesn’t mean never sharing perceived wisdom. Waiting might actually involve acknowledging you do understand. You understand your friend's sorrow enough to be willing to bridle your tongue, to speak carefully and thoughtfully, to pray and wait.
Silence Is a Virtue
In a world where our minds are constantly invaded by noise, it’s no wonder the discipline of silence can feel so difficult. Job’s friends should have kept silent and simply wept with him instead of rattling off unhelpful advice. Have you ever spent any time in the book of Job and cheered on Job’s friends? I know I have. I’ve struggled to understand why their advice is wrong. At face value most of it sounds pretty wise. But they weren't comforting Job; they were accusing him. In Job 16he lays out exactly why these brothers were not helpful, calling them “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). One even asked a rhetorical question in an attempt to discount Job’s wisdom (Job 15:2).
But did Job’s friends set out to be miserable comforters? Absolutely not. Each had a genuine desire “to show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). So what went wrong?
They spoke.

They spoke without waiting and without thinking. And we often do the same. The next time a friend needs comfort and you have no idea what to say, perhaps you shouldn't say anything. It may be an opportunity to cry together. Maybe you could, with a compassion-filled heart, pray together. But wait on the advice and weigh your words.
Our Lord is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. He comforts us so we may comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3–5). We must trust him, for he will bring comfort to our hurting friend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pictured Creed

I kind of like this, with the exception of the capital "C" Catholic and picture of St. Peter's Basilica. Obviously done by a Roman Catholic, but the Apostles Creed is common to all Christians. We can all say "I Believe!"

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grateful Happiness

Minimizing Forgiveness

"Do you ever think that your sins are too bad, and that forgiveness for those sins requires you to get your act together first? If so, you don’t fear God. You are minimizing his forgiveness. You are acting as though his forgiveness is ordinary, just like that of any person or make-believe god. In contrast, the fear of the Lord leads us to believe that when God makes promises too good to be true, they are indeed true."
— Ed Welch, Running Scared (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), page 195

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gospel Centered?

"Gospel-centered preaching." "Gospel-centered parenting." "Gospel-centered discipleship." The back of my business card says "gospel-centered publishing." This descriptive mantra is tagged on to just about anything and everything in the Christian world these days.
What's it all about?
Before articulating what it might mean to be gospel-centered, we better be on the same page as to the actual message of the gospel.
I don't mean Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
What I mean by "gospel" in this article is the outrageous news of what has been done for us by God in Jesus. The gospel is the front page of the newspaper, not the back-page advice column; news of what has happened, not advice on how to live.
Specifically, the gospel is the startling news that what God demands from us, he provides for us. How? In his own Son. The gospel is the message that Jesus Christ delights to switch places with guilty rebels. The one person who walked this earth who deserved heaven endured the wrath of hell so that those who deserve the wrath of hell can have heaven.
And the gospel is not only personal, but cosmic. Christ's death and resurrection doesn't only provide forgiveness for me. It also means that in the middle of history, God has begun to undo death, ruin, decay, and darkness. The universe itself is going to be washed clean and made new. Eden will be restored.
But to be part of this movement, we too must die. Grace requires death. We must die to our bookkeeping existence that builds our identity on anything other than Jesus. We must relinquish, give up on ourselves, throw in the towel. And out of this death—letting God love us in, not after getting over, our messiness—resurrection life quietly blossoms.
Gospel-Centered Worldview
What does it mean, then, to be "gospel-centered"?
As far as I can tell the phrase is used in two basic ways. One way is to view all of life in light of the gospel. We'll call this a gospel-centered worldview. The other is to view Christian progress as dependent on the gospel. We'll call this gospel-centered growth. The first looks out; the second looks in. Take gospel-centered worldview first.
Think about what we mean when we call people "self-centered." We don't mean that all they think about directly is themselves. They also think about what to eat, what to wear, how to conclude an email, and a thousand other things each day. But self informs all these other decisions. A self-centered person passes all he does and thinks through the filter of self. Self trumps everything else and orders all other loves accordingly.In a similar way, to be gospel-centered does not mean that social action, marital and sexual matters, ethical issues, political agendas, our jobs, our diet, and all the rest of daily life are irrelevant. Rather, it means all of life is viewed in light of the gospel. Everything passes through the filter of the gospel. What Jesus has done and is doing to restore the universe trumps everything else and orders all other loves accordingly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Remind Yourself Who You Are

What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself? Read this passage from Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins:
Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.
I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.
What Scriptures do I use to preach the gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.
Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the onlybasis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins
I found this quote in a post by Tim Challies entitled  Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel to Yourself. Challies goes on to say:
That has been his daily practice for many years. Why don’t you make it part of your practice, and see the difference it makes to begin each day reminding yourself of who you were, and who you now are in Christ.
Well, Why not?