Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Amyraldanism, Atonement, guilt, Satan, shame, sin, Sinclair Ferguson, spiritual warfare, temptation, William Still, work of Christ on April 17, 2012 |
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Since I have benefited greatly from Sinclair Ferguson’s ministry, I decided to read what I can find from his mentor William Still. I was given a copy of The Work of the Pastor and have been working my way through that when I have time. I recently purchased Towards Spiritual Maturity: Overcoming All the Evil in the Christian Life. I had some extra time to read so I did just that. It was worth my investment of time.
It is not a long book, being less than 100 pages. But we cannot judge the significance of a book by its size. What matters is what is found inside. This is a great little book on sanctification.
He starts with a short chapter called He is Our Peace. Sanctification necessarily starts with justification. We are sanctified because we have been justified, not so we can be justified. Still notes that the greatest blessing of the gospel is peace, he calls it the foundation stone, and top stone of our Christian experience. While in justification God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, in sanctification he imparts righteousness to us. He makes us like Jesus.
“The laws tell us what God is like. They also imply that since God is like this, holy and righteous, he desires his creatures to be like this also.”
He begins to explore the three dimensions of the work of Christ in his death upon the cross. The first is the removal of sins. Jesus must deal with our guilt and condemnation. I’ve recently come across people arguing that Jesus died for sin, not sins (trying to justify an Amyraldian view of the atonement). He must deal with both, not just one or the other (as I argued back). If he only deals with our condition, we are still guilty for our actual sins which stand between us and God. We must have peace with God, which was broken by our sins, and Christ re-establishes this in dying for our sins.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Atonement, conscience, doctrine, enjoyment of God, faith, forgiveness, hell, Holiness, John Ensor, love, Matt Chandler, mercy, Prayer, Rob Bell, sovereignty, Tim Keller, work of Christ, wrath on March 20, 2011 |
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A few years ago I came across The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God’s Grace by John Ensor. It intrigued me. John works in establishing pregnancy centers worldwide. He lives in Boston as well. So for years I’ve been meaning to buy and read this book. Something always seemed to be more important at the time. Until recently. I picked up a copy about 2 months ago and decided to read it since I was beginning a series on the atonement for Lent.
I’m sorry I waited, but the book was timely in light of the whole Rob Bell thing. The Christian should treat grace like a scientist treats gravity: not merely accepting its reality, but want to understand its totality. As recipients of grace, we explore grace that our hearts might be more captured by it and more grateful for it. To adapt an old saying, unexamined grace isn’t worth having. This is because to understand grace is to understand Christianity. How can you be a Christian without wanting to understand it?
“The grace of God that forgives us changes us. … The grace of God wounds our pride but then increases our confidence. When God forgives, he exposes the most shameful things only to then cleanse them all from our conscience.”
Let’s stop for a moment. Some personal context to lay my cards on the table. I grew up Catholic. I have a Ph.D. in guilt: true and false. I am a recovering Pharisee who couldn’t keep his own high standards, much less God’s. There are MANY things I don’t want you to know about me. There are things only a privileged (and I use that term loosely) know about me.
But I have no interest in cheap grace, or cheap forgiveness. I’m not trying to ignore God’s standards. Neither is Ensor following the fashion of the day. He structures the book on the topic of the Great Work. When we own up to our guilt, we desire forgiveness and grace. But if we never own up to guilt, then grace seems pretty much irrelevant. In all of the chapters, Ensor examines a variety of biblical texts and addresses numerous misconceptions. In the chapter on desiring grace, for instance, he tackles self-esteem and the reality of the conscience.
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Advent is coming. This year I’ll be preaching out of Matthew. We get to celebrate the incarnation, a much assumed but not well understood doctrine. It is essential to biblical Christianity. So, here are a few options to read up on the Person of Christ.
- Incarnation in the Gospels is part of the Reformed Expository Commentary series. It is geared for pastors and driven by the text more than by systematic theology.
- B.B. Warfield The Person and Work of Christ. One of the best of the Old Princeton theologians working through both His person and His work on our behalf. The incarnation took place for the work to take place. They are essentially connected.
- Donald MacLeod The Person of Christ. From the Contours of Christian Theology series MacLeod follows the development of the church’s understanding of this important doctrine.
- G.C. Berkouwer The Person of Christ. This is part of his Studies in Dogmatics, which is a rather lengthy series. R.C. Sproul spent time studying under Berkouwer. It is fairly academic.
What is interesting to me is that I have read none of these books. In seminary we used David Wells’ The Person of Christ. I might still own the Berkouwer volume. The commentary is a relatively new volume I am interested in purchasing and using. This shows us how little there is out there focusing on this subject.
Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? touches on the incarnation as a basis for the atonement. This I have read, but he is not really wrestling with texts. It is written as a dialogue between 2 people.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Adoption, discipline, God's wrath, gospel pardon, Naked Gospel book, repentance unto life, satisfaction, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, Thomas Boston, Westminster Confession of Faith, work of Christ on August 19, 2010 |
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As I read The Marrow of Modern Divinity a few things have become clearer to my mind. One of those is the difference between Repentance unto Life (as the Westminster Confession of Faith calls it) at conversion and the on-going repentance of a Christian. This distinction is what The Naked Gospel by Farley doesn’t recognize.
There is a difference between repentance during conversion in which one moves from the covenant of works into the covenant of grace and after conversion respecting the law of Christ. Fisher touches on some of the realities at play here:
“… when believers in the Old Testament did transgress God’s commandments, God’s temporal wrath went out against them, and was manifest in temporal calamities that befell them as well as others. Only here was the difference, the believers’ temporal calamities had no eternal calamities included in them, nor following of them; and the unbelievers’ temporal blessings had no eternal blessings included in them, and their temporal calamities had eternal calamities included in them, and following of them.”
So, for believers earthly blessings are a foretaste of eternal blessings. Both are earned by Christ and his merits, not ours. Because of Christ’s merit and satisfaction, we are not condemned for our sin. But because God loves us He disciplines us when we break the law of Christ (Hebrews 12). It is restorative and not punitive, designed to produce a harvest of righteous character in us. We repent, not because we’ve lost our salvation but because we have disobeyed our Father.
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Posted in Christian Living, Prayer, Theology, Worship, tagged faith, Justification, means of grace, obedience, promises, providence, sanctification, suffering, trust, work of Christ, Worship on September 17, 2008 |
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All that work to go nowhere!
Nothing excites me more than to hear a friend say that they want to be more like Jesus. Too often they end up frustrated and dismayed. Unfortunately we think that by following certain steps, rules or principles that we will magically become like Him. The question nags at us each day as the sweat of our brow profits naught. Try as I might, I fail.
Paul reminds us that if works cannot save, neither can they change us (Gal. 3:1-5). This pilgrimage which begins with faith is not maintained by human efforts and schemes. Rather, the same regenerate heart that produces justifying faith also produces sanctifying faith. Such a faith believes that obedience prompted by love is more satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of sin (Heb. 11). This is a faith that relies upon God’s promise to change us through the mundane events of everyday life (Rom. 8:28, 29) instead of spectacular experiences or ceremonies. The focus is on God’s promises to us, not our promises to God. It is a faith that expresses itself through love, fulfilling the very law that we are unable to keep by nature (Gal. 5:16).
This is not to say that we are inactive. We are responsible to make use of the means of grace. Faith is sustained through reading the Bible, prayer, public worship and evangelism. Here we learn of God’s promises and His faithfulness. As we fulfill these duties, trusting that what He says is true, our faith in Him is nurtured. Performing these duties without faith only hardens our hearts.
The difficult part is how God makes our faith in Him grow. Adversity and temptation stretch, deepen and purify our faith (1 Pet. 1:6, 7). we slowly learn to love nothing more than Christ. What obedience to the moral and ceremonial laws could not do, the Spirit produces through the providential events of life. God slowly transforms our character in ways we cannot perceive through the blessings and hardships of life. Our recognized need for Jesus and all that He has done grows. We are responsible to avail ourselves of the means God has ordained for our growth, but He alone can make us grow.
This path is unique for each of His children. It is not a novel program, but a call to trust that all that God commands you to do and brings into your life is designed to make you share in His holiness (Heb. 12:1-12). Through faith we receive sanctifying grace. He asks you to trust Him to bring you home safely. The heart that truly believes will also be busy acting upon His sure Word.
(This was originally published in the May 1996 issue of Tabletalk Magazine [p. 43], published by Ligonier Ministries.)
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