Monday, June 29, 2009

The Humble Tenacity of Looking to Christ

Indeed, if gameness and heart are character traits that are valued highly in the prizefighter, so are they in the Christian.

"Jonathan Edwards just laid me bare in 1971 and '72 when I was reading his book Religious Affections. I can remember several nights where, in his chapter on evangelical humiliation, he began to peel back the onion layers of my soul. He would say, 'So you think you're humble? What if you're boasting in your humility?' And you admit, 'Yes, I probably am boasting in my humility.' And he would ask, 'Well, what if your confession that you are boasting in your humility is really a pose, and you're still boasting in your humility?'

He gave question after question that made you realize, 'There's no center to this onion.' You peel and peel and peel, and the last peel just disappears, because you can always ask yourself, 'How do you know?' You can always doubt yourself. There's no way, by mere self-analysis, to come to a point where you're looking at something that you can say, 'Definitely authentic!' Because the capacity of the human brain to doubt is always there.

So where in the world does assurance come from? The answer is that, even though introspection is commended and wise up to a point, the bottom line of assurance comes when you stop analyzing and you look to Christ and you look and you look and you look until Christ himself in his glory and his sufficiency by reflex, as it were, awakens a self-forgetful 'Yes!' to him.

Your best moments of assurance are not the moments when you're thinking about your assurance. Because the very moment that you're thinking about your assurance, you have the capacity at that moment to doubt your assurance. This little voice, whether it's your conscience or the devil, is saying, 'You think you have assurance, but...'

And so the answer comes, 'Look to the cross! Look to Christ!' And if you're able to look to the cross, if you're able to see him as sufficient and satisfying and powerfully able to carry all your sins, and you find yourself drawn out of yourself to say 'Yes' to him, that's what you want. You are assured. He is your assurance at that moment.

- John Piper, How can I know if my repentance is genuine?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Loneliness of Holiness

What a breath of fresh air it is when one's life experience is validated in the lives and words of the saints of old, who themselves know the different nuances of what it means to walk upon the narrow path of devotion and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Savior glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglcted. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces (see Psalm 45:8), and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. 'Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me' (Psalm 27:10). His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd—that Christ is All in all, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life's summum bonum.

- A.W. Tozer, The Radical Cross, ch. 6, p. 37

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Schaeffer on Brotherly Love

"All men are our neighbors, and we are to love them as ourselves. We are to do this on the basis of creation, even if they are not redeemed, for all men have value because they are made in the image of God. Therefore they are to be loved even at great cost.

This is, of course, the whole point of Jesus' story of the good Samaritan: Because a man is a man, he is to be loved at all cost.

So, when Jesus gives the special command to love our Christian brothers, it does not negate the other command. The two are not antithetical. We are not to choose between loving all men as ourselves and loving the Christian in a special way. The two commands reinforce each other.

If Jesus has commanded so strongly that we love all men as our neighbors, then how important it is especially to love our fellow Christians. If we are told to love all men as our neighbors—as ourselves—then surely, when it comes to those with whom we have the special bonds as fellow Christians—having one Father through one Jesus Christ and being indwelt by one Spirit—we can understand how overwhelmingly important it is that all men be able to see an observable love for those with whom we have these special ties. Paul makes the double obligation clear in Galatians 6:10: 'As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' He does not negate the command to do good to all men. But it is still not meaningless to add, 'especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' This dual goal should be our Christian mentality, the set of our minds; we should be consciously thinking about it and what it means in our one-moment-at-a-time lives. It should be the attitude that governs our outward observable actions.

- Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, 157-58

Friday, June 19, 2009


I have a mental picture of the kind of man I want to be. A stable man, walking in integrity, and in constant obedience to the Lord. But then there's the real me.

Hope does not exist in anything, anywhere, at any time except in the prospect of conformity to the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, secured for me by His life and death and applied by the Holy Spirit, and in His promise to really carry this out and not leave me as I am. "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom 7:24,25)

Whenever despair over my self grips me, to You I cling, O, Lord. Leave me not as I am.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

D.A. Carson's Dad

"Dad had a view of work that sprang in part from the Great Depression: anything less than working all the time was letting down the people and the Lord. There is no hint in his journals or letters of the proper place of rest, of pacing himself, of Jesus’ words, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31, niv). In Dad this was married to a bit of a perfectionist streak. That, I suspect, played a big part in his failure to finish his thesis: the work was never good enough, so it was never complete. And the sense of failure from not completing it added to the pattern of failure, which in turn engendered more defeat.

I do not wish to make excuses for Dad. Certainly I am not in a position to judge him. But there are gospel ways of tackling this problem more hopefully. So many aspects of ministry demand excellence, and there are not enough hours in the day to be excellent in all of them. When I was a young man, I heard D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comment that he would not go across the street to hear himself preach. Now that I am close to the age he was when I heard him, I am beginning to understand. It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight, and so forth. But I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather, it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the gospel of grace, and God accepts us because of his Son. I must learn to accept myself not because of my putative successes but because of the merits of God’s Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christians must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the gospel of grace. Dad’s diaries show he understood this truth in theory, and sometimes he exulted in it (as when he was reading Machen’s What Is Faith?), but quite frankly, his sense of failure sometimes blinded him to the glory of gospel freedom.
" (emphasis mine)

The foregoing is a snippet from D.A. Carson's "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson)", a book about Don's father. I have never come across a piece by Don from which I was not blessed in soul. This book is no exception. The humility of Don and his father come leaping forth forcefully from the pages and one cannot help but be encouraged by the grace that permeated the Carson family.

This book will aid you in the furtherance of your sanctification. Get it here: Download

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What is the Nature of Your Treasure?

Living in a world besmirched by the aftermath of sin, it must then be that pain, suffering, and disappointment are inevitable. To be human is to have trouble as a constant companion (Job 5:7). However, one's soul is adversely intruded upon by trouble only when the object of one's affection, or one's treasure, is assailed or threatened. Therefore, the key to soul stability in times of suffering rests solely not on desiring that which is affected by the fallenness of the current order of creation, thus changeable, but on desiring that which transcends the world, thus unchangeable. To be at peace in whatever circumstance is to have the Unchanging One as one's Chief Desire and Only Treasure.

The nature of what one pursues as the "apple of one's eye" determines the state of one's joy. Anxiety, fear and worry must necessarily rest upon those who have purposed to find joy in the volatile; but these soul torments have no intelligent and logical basis for those whose soul-satisfaction owes itself to the One who does not change (Malachi 3:6).

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

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