Category Archives: Meditations

The Gospel Centered Life

Yesterday, I briefly posted a quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which said “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”  Calvin wrote this after reflecting upon the godly men in scriptures:  “Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.”  Let us look at a few passages that show the response of men when they are duly confronted with the presence of the Almighty:

  • Isaiah was likely the most holy man of his day, and he was reduced to speechlessness when he was in the presence of the Lord:  ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…

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The Gospel Centered Life

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:5–6 ESV)

Just six chapters prior to this section, we see Adam and Eve enjoying a peaceful existence in the perfect paradise of the garden of Eden.  They walked in the presence of the Almighty and enjoyed His favor and provision; life was not fraught with hardship, difficulty and discord.  Life functioned harmoniously and in rhythm, like that of a spectacular symphony.  But that is no more.  The consequences of sin are catastrophic:  death (Genesis 2:17), difficulty in child-rearing (Genesis 3:16), distorted roles in marriages (Genesis 3:16), creation opposing man’s efforts to cultivate it (Genesis 3:17-20) and the creation itself is broken…

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Old Gospel or New Gospel

Which Gospel do you believe?

Proclaims a God who saves A God who enables man to save himself
Salvation dependent upon the work of God Salvation dependent upon the work of man
Faith is part of God’s gift of salvation Faith is man’s contribution to salvation
All the glory of salvation is given to God Divides the glory between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.
Spotlight is shined on God Spotlight is shined on us
Showcases what God has done for us Makes us slaves by showcasing what we must do
God centered Man centered

Concepts taken from J.I. Packer’s introductory Essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (here) (PDF)

Shrinking the Cross

“Notice that the top line of the chart is labeled “Growing Awareness of God’s Holiness. ”As we stated last time, this does not mean that God’s holiness itself is increasing, for God is unchangeable in his character. He has always been infinitely holy. Rather, this line shows that when the gospel is functioning correctly in our lives, our awareness of God’s holy character is constantly growing. We realize in fuller and deeper ways the weight of God’s glorious perfections.

Likewise, the bottom line shows that when the gospel is functioning correctly in our lives, our awareness of our own sinfulness is consistently growing. This does not mean that we are becoming more sinful. (In fact, if we’re growing in Christ, we’ll be starting to see victory over sin.) But we are realizing more and more “how deep the rabbit hole goes” in our character and behavior. We are seeing that we are more profoundly sinful than we first imagined.

“As these two lines diverge, the cross becomes larger in our experience, producing a deeper love for Jesus and a fuller understanding of his goodness. At least that’s the ideal. But, in reality, because of indwelling sin, we are prone to forget the gospel—to drift away from it like a boat loosed from its moorings. That’s why the Bible urges us not to be “moved [away] from the hope held out in the gospel” (Col. 1:23) and to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly” (Col. 3:16). When we are not anchored in the truth of the gospel, our love for Jesus and our experience of his goodness become very small. We end up “shrinking the cross” by either pretending or performing.

Look again at the bottom line of the chart. Growing in our awareness of our sinfulness is not fun! It means admitting—to ourselves and others—that we are not as good as we think we are. It means confronting what Richard Lovelace called the complex web of “compulsive attitudes, beliefs, and behavior”* that sin has created in us. If we are not resting in Jesus’ righteousness, this growing awareness of our sin becomes a crushing weight. We buckle under its load and compensate by pretending that we’re better than we really are. Pretending can take many forms: dishonesty (“I’m not that bad”), comparison (“I’m not as bad as those people”), excuse making (“I’m not really that way”), and false righteousness (“Here are all the good things I’ve done”). Because we don’t want to admit how sinful we really are, we spin the truth in our favor.

Growing in our awareness of God’s holiness is also challenging. It means coming face to face with God’s righteous commands and the glorious perfections of his character. It means realizing how dramatically we fall short of his standards. It means reflecting on his holy displeasure toward sin. If we are not rooted in God’s acceptance of us through Jesus, we compensate by trying to earn God’s approval through our performance. We live life on a treadmill, trying to gain God’s favor by living up to his expectations (or our mistaken view of them).

The Gospel Centered Life by Bob Thune & Will Walker (Page 24-25)

God is never absent, incapable or tardy in acting.

God is never absent, incapable or tardy in acting.  He is unchallenged, always present and sovereign in nature – you can bank on that truth, even when your heart is not feeling it!  “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;” (Isaiah 59:1 ESV)
SIn separates us from God (59:2), but The Ultimate Redeemer will satisfy justice and secure true salvation for His children; He will give us His Spirit and put His words in our mouths and sustain us (59:19-21).  The people of Israel wanted  justice & salvation, but they don’t want the God of that salvation (11-13).  Do we want God or do we just want His blessings?

Our identity, faith & obedience; God’s credentials, goals & sovereignty (Isaiah 48)

Their identity came from being called by God.  They professed faith in God.  However, their practice was nominal, lukewarm, marginalized.“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.” (Isaiah 48:1 ESV)

God’s ultimate goal is the zealous pursuit of His own glory – above a beyond ours.  He did not punish His children as they should have been in order to protect His glory – not because of them, but because of Him!  Let us not be glory thieves, for it is frightening to be at cross purposes with the Creator.  “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11 ESV)

God’s credentials:  I made you and everything else; I am unequaled and unchallenged.  “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.” (Isaiah 48:12–13 ESV)

God has determined to use Cyrus to deliver His people.  God has spoken and called him as a tool of His deliverance.  God will bring him forth and prosper him in order to accomplish His purposes – This is an idol worshiping pagan.  God is in absolute control – even of godless kings!  “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:14–16 ESV)

Things would have gone differently had the people listened to and obeyed God.  He would have protected them and prospered them, but they couldn’t obey.  We don’t do much better, do we?  “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.”” (Isaiah 48:17–19 ESV)

Community of Grace or Community of Performance

Try these diagnostic tests: Communities of Performance

  • The leaders appear to have it all figured out
  • The community appears respectable
  • Meetings must be a polished performance
  • Failure is devastating, because identity is found in ministry
  • Actions are driven by duty
  • Conflict is suppressed or ignored
  • The focus is on orthodox behavior (letting people think they have it all figured out)

Communities of Grace

  • The leaders are vulnerable
  • The community is messy
  • Meetings are just one part of community life
  • Failure is disappointing but not devastating, because identity is found in Christ
  • Actions are driven by joy
  • Conflict is addressed in the open
  • The focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)

In performance-oriented churches, people pretend to be okay because their standing within the church depends on it. But this is the opposite of grace. Grace acknowledges that we’re all sinners, all messed up, all struggling. And grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome.

Read more here

A Liberating Truth

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”” (John 8:47 ESV)

“but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” (John 10:26 ESV)

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”” (John 18:37 ESV)

“We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6 ESV)

These passages highlight a liberating truth. That truth is that God is the One that works in the hearts of men so that they can hear His words. The pressure to convert or convince is not ours to carry; carrying this pressure serves as poor motivation to labor faithfully, joyfully & dependently.  We should work tirelessly, study faithfully and prepare diligently, but only those who are of God hear God’s words. What a relief! It doesn’t depend “on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16 ESV). Now, let’s go labor with all of our might because God just might allow us to play a part in His cosmic plan – not because He needs us, but because it glorifies Him to use such an incapable people as us and brings us profound joy in the process!