Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Greatest Good

Every human being, while alive on this earth, is in pursuit of what he or she deems is the universe's "greatest good". The worldly man esteems power, riches, fame, and pleasure as the rationale of existence, while the man beholden to God has this as the chief of his or her desires: "To be conformed to the likeness of Christ and to share in God's holiness...That is the highest good to which the believer can aspire." (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, ch. 13, p. 238).

This is a black-and-white proposition. There is no fence-straddling and no demilitarized zone. A person is either worldly or godly; he or she is either a child of the devil or a child of God. In both cases, one's desires determine one's ultimate end.

What occupies the "meat" of your daily thoughts?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Live by Grace, Not Performance

"I write these words at the age of fifty-five. During the past ten or twelve years, I have often—and with greater seriousness than ever before—reflected upon the course of my life. Certain patterns of thought and attitude and conduct have come to light, some of them quite disturbing. I look back upon repeated failures in my efforts to subdue inner conflicts and fears, to combat immaturity and self-centeredness, to build genuine and enriching relationships with other people, to conquer besetting sins, and to grow in holiness and communion with God. I now see that every period in my life has been marked by...struggle. But the persistence of the failures, together with a growing understanding of the past, has made the struggles of recent years exceptionally intense and painful."

- J. Knox Chamblin, Paul and the Self, pp. 11-12, as quoted by Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace, ch. 2, p. 42.

"I am this day seventy years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much, for which I ought to be humbled in the dust; my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord's work has been great. I have not promoted his cause, nor sought his glory and honour as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in his Work, and I trust I am received into the divine favour through him."

- William Carey, in a letter to one of his sons

These words describe the voice of the one for whom conformity to Christ is the sweetest, most desirable thing in the universe. However, human experience in this fallen world will ever fall short of the mark of complete Christlikeness, and the Christian may often be left heartbroken and in despair over sins that daily mar his walk and testimony. The danger of relating to God on the basis of performance then becomes quite apparent.

We must constantly be taking to mind and heart the precious truth that God deals with His children always on the foundation of His unmerited grace. He can justifiably do this for us—for those who have trusted in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—by virtue of the fact that Christ has fully satisfied His requirements of having both the penalty of sin paid for and perfect obedience to His law carried out in a sinless righteous life—and these are applied to us as real benefits. Because of our union with Christ, God's grace is assured and we have now, and will have all the days of our earthly lives, all that we need and will ever need to live a life that is pleasing to God, growing in maturity to the attainment of ever-increasing Christlikeness.

But we must desire Christ and continue to desire Him, and the new nature wrought in us by the Holy Spirit does so in a way that is as inevitable as breathing is to the sustenance of physical life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Pipermeister on Calvo

"I think this would be a fitting banner over all of John Calvin’s life and work—zeal to illustrate the glory of God. The essential meaning of John Calvin’s life and preaching is that he recovered and embodied a passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God. That is what I want us to see most clearly. Benjamin Warfield said of Calvin, 'No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he.' There’s the key to Calvin’s life and theology.

Geerhardus Vos, the Princeton New Testament scholar, asked this question in 1891: Why has Reformed theology been able to grasp the fullness of Scripture unlike any other branch of Christendom? He answered, 'Because Reformed theology took hold of the Scriptures in their deepest root idea. . . . This root idea which served as the key to unlock the rich treasuries of the Scriptures was
the preeminence of God’s glory in the consideration of all that has been created.' It is this relentless orientation toward the glory of God that gives coherence to John Calvin’s life and to the Reformed tradition that followed. Vos said that the 'all-embracing slogan of the Reformed faith is this: the work of grace in the sinner is a mirror for the glory of God.' Mirroring the glory of God is the meaning of John Calvin’s life and ministry."

- John Piper, John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God, ch. 2, pp. 16-17 (emphases are in italics in the original)

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