The Highest, Best, Final, Decisive Good…

…is God:

The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals what that splendor is. Paul calls it the “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Two verses later he calls it “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

When I say that God Is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment. The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself. Since we are sinners and have no right and no desire to be enthralled with God, therefore God’s love enacted a plan of redemption to provide that right and that desire. The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our sins and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence forever.

In order for the Christian gospel to be good news it must provide an all-satisfying and eternal gift that undeserving sinners can receive and enjoy. For that to be true, the gift must be three things. First, the gift must be purchased by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our sins must be covered, and the wrath of God against us must be removed, and Christ’s righteousness must be imputed to us. Second, the gift must be free and not earned. There would be no good news if we had to merit the gift of the gospel. Third, the gift must be God himself, above all his other gifts.

It would be a misunderstanding of this book if it were seen as minimizing the battles being fought for a biblical understanding of the ways and means God has used in the accomplishment and application of redemption. The fact that this book is focusing on the infinite value of the ultimate goal of the gospel should increase, rather than decrease, our commitment not to compromise the great gospel means God used to get us there.

The gospel is the good news of our final and full enjoyment of the glory of God in the face of Christ. That this enjoyment had to be purchased for sinners at the cost of Christ’s life makes his glory shine all the more brightly. And that this enjoyment is a free and unmerited gift makes it shine more brightly still. But the price Jesus paid for the gift and the unmerited freedom of the gift are not the gift. The gift is Christ himself as the glorious image of God—seen and savored with everlasting joy.

John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, pp. 13-14

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Message

We’re in the midst of a man crisis. The vast majority of males today are not men at all—they are “bans,” neither boys nor men who don’t know what it actually means to be a man.

And this is as true in the Church as it is in culture at large.

Guys in the church, especially, need godly men to show them the way. Men who are rescued from their sin by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are called and qualified. Men who are skilled and dependent on the Holy Spirit; who are shepherds and determined.

“When these elements combine, the result is a man who is fit to carry the message of Jesus into the world,” writes Darrin Patrick (p. 103).

So what is the message we are to proclaim?

In part two of Church Planter, Patrick describes the message of the Church—the gospel—in all its provocative glory.

It is a historical message. The gospel is rooted in history. It is not the message of a historical figure that has been hijacked by his overzealous followers—it is grounded in fact. And these facts matter. It matters that Jesus was a real man. It matters that He really died on a cross. It matters that He literally, physically rose from death. It is the message of what God has done in history. “[T]he historicity of Christianity and the physicality of Jesus must be defended, because a Christianity not grounded in history is no Christianity at all.” (p. 114).

It is a salvation-accomplishing message. The gospel is the message of what God has done in history—and that is, first and foremost, Jesus coming to atone for the sins of mankind. Because God is so completely and utterly holy and righteous He cannot tolerate any evil. And the good news of the gospel is good news because Christ actually saves sinners. “God’s wrath toward sin is no longer aimed at those who trust Jesus as Lord. Instead all that was required for our salvation from sin has been accomplished by Jesus Christ” (p. 129).

It is a Christ-centered message. The gospel is not just the message about what Jesus has done—Jesus is the gospel. Jesus Himself declared that the whole of the Old Testament was about His life, death and resurrection. “It’s the central truth, the primary thread, the ‘Big E’ on the eye chart when it comes to understanding Scripture” (p. 134). We cannot understand the Bible without Christ being at the center of everything. Any message preached from the Bible without Christ at its center will be moralism, relativism, self-helpism or activism… but it “will not motivate people to love Christ, his people and his world” (p. 141).

It is a sin-exposing message. Today, the only unpardonable sin in our culture is to call anything “sin.” But when the true message of Scripture is proclaimed, sin will be exposed. “If there is no challenging of the sinful heart, there is no gospel preaching,” writes Patrick (p. 151).

It is an idol-shattering message. The sin Scripture’s most repeated and emphatic denunciations are reserved for is the sin of idolatry; indeed, it is the sin underneath most other sins. “All sin flows from valuing something more highly than we value God” (p. 160). But true gospel preaching forces us to confront our idols, to repent and turn away from them and toward Christ. It reveals to us the bad news that we’re even worse sinners than we thought. “However, the good news is better than we thought. Though in repentance we see that we are bigger sinners than we thought, through faith in the gospel we see that Jesus is a bigger Savior than we thought” (p. 168).

Part two of Church Planter, by and large, reminded me of how breathtaking the truth of the gospel is—and how breathtakingly ridiculous the gospel is if it’s not true. If the gospel isn’t historical, doesn’t accomplish anything without my involvement, is centered on anyone or anything but Christ, serves to prop up my sins and doesn’t lead me to turn from my idols and trust in Jesus, it’s of no use to me or anyone else.

But it is all of these things—and more! Reading these chapters once again reminded me of just how much I need this message in every aspect of my life.

One quick example: In my day job, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of what Patrick calls “activist” preaching—letting the cause become more important than Christ. But, in a particularly poignant passage, he writes:

Care for the poor, for example, is very important but it should not be divorced from Jesus Christ and the message of personal salvation that is connected with his life, death, and resurrection. We should work for the good of our cities, serve the poor, and fight injustice and oppression as a sign of the kingdom to come and as a sign we know the King. But Christ-centered preaching doesn’t forsake the personal nature of the gospel in order to simply focus on the corporate aspects of the gospel. Instead it provides the ultimate grounds and larger context for gospel-motivated mercy for the poor and oppressed. (p. 141)

This was both a strong encouragement to continue striving to place Christ at the center of everything that I write and a gentle warning of the temptations that exist for those of us who do work in social justice oriented organizations.

The message of the Church is nothing but salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It’s the message that makes the dead live. And it’s the message that drives the mission of the Church.


Next: The Mission


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Salt, Light and Everything in Between

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

Over the last few weeks I’ve read a number of books that have, in various ways, touched on the issue of being salt & light in our communities and the world, whether it’s overseas missions, supporting NGOs that are assisting the poor, or serving your community in practical ways. This is great stuff to be thinking about.

We, in all honesty, need to be thinking about how we can be a faithful witness for Christ every day—and then finding ways to do it.

Without losing our saltiness in the process.

One of the things that’s been particularly interesting as I’ve been reading books like Outlive Your Life, The Hole in Our Gospel, stuff by Francis Chan and even Radical by David Platt is the real challenge that exists in not turning caring for the poor or overseas missions or having more greater explosive spiritual experiences into a means of justification.

In other words, it’s really, really hard for us to keep straight the gospel and it’s ramifications.

This is, to some degree, what we see when we’re warned about losing our saltiness.

In social justice circles, there’s a lot of work that’s motivated by faith in Christ—but that’s the only place Christ has. Motivation.

His name is not spoken. His greatness is not proclaimed.

Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words” is the rallying cry.

And we are, ultimately, only left having done good deeds.

I know how hard this is.

I write for a Christian charity that partners with the local church in the developing world to meet the practical and spiritual needs of children. And it’s always difficult to keep the message on track—to keep the gospel the focus, rather than making supporters superheroes or turning children into statistics because that might “sell” better than saying, “we do what we do because we want kids to meet Jesus.”

And I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging other folks who are doing tremendous work, but we have to remember: doing good things is not the gospel. And it’s not being a witness to the gospel, either.

We witness to the gospel when we share the good news of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection—and let our good works serve as a response to that.

Then, people may “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

But that’s the goal. If we are to be salt and light, then we have to know the gospel.

We have to embrace the gospel.

We need to be transformed by the gospel.

And we need to proclaim the gospel.

Good works aren’t bad, but they’re not the gospel.

When we get the gospel wrong, everything else goes wrong with it. But if we get the gospel right, it’s a glorious thing indeed.

Around the Interweb (08/22)

Christianity Today Interviews Anne Rice

Christianity today interviewed Anne Rice on following Christ without Christianity (there was a whole hubbub about it on the interwebs a few weeks back). A great quote from the interview:

Are there any other religious authors you read?

I read theology and biblical scholarship all the time. I love the biblical scholarship of D.A. Carson. I very much love Craig S. Keener. His books on Matthew and John are right here on my desk all the time. I go to Craig Keener for answers because his commentary on Scripture is so thorough. I still read N.T. Wright. I love the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. I love his writing on Jesus Christ. It’s very beautiful to me, and I study a little bit of it every day. Of course, I love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

You mentioned D.A. Carson, Craig Keener, and N.T. Wright. They are fairly conservative Protestants.

Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it’s been interpreted. I don’t go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It’s the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I’ve read over the years, it’s their work that I keep on my desk. They’re all non-Catholics, but they’re believers, they document their books well, they write well, they’re scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don’t have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, so there’s no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.

Read the rest of the interview here. (HT: Trevin Wax)

In Other News

Giving Back: August 21st was my 31st birthday; help me celebrate by donating $31 so 31 families can have clean water to drink.

The following video explains what charity: water is doing in the Central African Republic:

Tributes: Justin Taylor offers this thoughtful tribute to Clark Pinnock, who died on August 15th, 2010, at the age of 73.

Christian Culture: My co-worker Amber opens a can on sketchy applications of Jeremiah 29:11. (For a double shot of Jer. 29:11 commentary, here’s a post I wrote on it a while back.)

Housekeeping: This past week I enjoyed a great week off on Lake Nipissing. Many thanks to Nate Bingham and Will Adair for helping me out with some great content.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Gospel is Unbelievable by Nathan W. Bingham

Will Adair looks at the Lord’s Prayer and the part of the gospel he struggles with.

D. A. Carson offers insights into how we can know God exists and how He can be loving yet send people to hell.

Mark Driscoll describes the average evangelical… pagan.

The Gospel Is Unbelievable by Nathan W. Bingham

Today’s guest blogger is Nathan W. Bingham. Nathan is a Christian, husband, dad, and self-described geek living in Melbourne, Australia as well as a part-time blogger, social media experimenter, and theological student. You can find Nathan on Twitter here, Facebook here and read his blog here.


The objective and historical news that Jesus Christ lived, suffered, died, and rose again to secure salvation for sinful men and women, is shockingly and totally unbelievable.

Not unbelievable in that it cannot be believed — for God in His grace gives us the gift of faith to be able to believe — but unbelievable in that it is so amazing and so simple in its essence, that the why is hard to answer and the how so easy to confuse.

Why would God save wretched sinners?

No other reason than for His glory alone can begin to answer the question of why a holy God would set His love upon and determine to save wretched, rebellious, sinful creatures, like you and me.

God is self-sufficient. He doesnʼt need you and me. He has never been lonely. Nothing compelled Him to save us…yet He did.

Read the graphic description of your state in Ephesians 2:1-3, and then allow yourself to be reminded afresh of the shockingly and totally unbelievable words in verse 4, “But God…”.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God… – Ephesians 2:1-4a

You mean I donʼt have to pay for this gift?

The most generous and undeserved gift ever given was just that; a gift! You cannot pay for it. You cannot earn it. You are unworthy and always will be; yet you can have it eternally.

Jesus didnʼt call sinners to earn salvation. Jesus simply preached, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Paul, only several verses after the incredible “But God…” passage in Ephesians reminds us that you have been saved “by grace…through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Despite the simplicity of the gospel — a free gift for undeserving sinners — we can so easily confuse it and set our affection upon something other than Christ alone. Sanctification doesnʼt justify a sinner before God. Church attendance doesnʼt justify a sinner before God. Actively sharing your faith with others doesnʼt justify a sinner before God. All good things in and of themselves, but theyʼre not to be confused with justification. It is only the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that leaves a person declared righteous before God.

John Calvin is noted for describing the human heart as “a perpetual factory of idols”. This idol factory can so easily lead you away from Christ alone toward a theology of Christ ʻplusʼ. Remember, when it comes to the gospel Christ plus anything equals nothing.

Unbelievable?

A holy God freely reconciling sinners to Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Unbelievable? Shockingly and totally so, but believe it any way…Christ commands you to!

This is the Gospel (and the part that I struggle with) by Will Adair

Today’s guest blogger is Will Adair. Will describes himself as a pastor in transition, learning what it means to be content in Christ. He regularly blogs at Sojourns with Jesus and can be found on Twitter here.


My name is Will Adair and you are reading this because Aaron is on vacation and has graciously opened his blog to me. I wanted to write something universally applicable instead of rambling on about some fun but obscure doctrine like modalism or why the Avett Brothers are a band you should have continually on your play track next to Derek Webb (go Google them). Instead, I am writing on the Lord’s prayer. Let me be clear and candid. I have struggled with every line in this prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

The concept of God as Father once seemed ludicrous. If God was up there he certainly could not also be my father down here. God is remarkably patient as a Father. When I finally embraced him, with little decorum he ran to me when I wandered home as the prodigal younger son. He gently rebuked me when I was the unloving elder son. I joyfully embrace his Fatherhood because as a father I need him to model to me how to love my kids.

“Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Most of us have little problem with God as Savior but God as a real Lord tends to be problematic. No one has a problem with a Sovereign that is merely a figurehead like say Queen Elizabeth. The Father though unlike the Queen of England desires and has the authority to be involved in every aspect of his subjects lives. God as a King offends our modern & post-modern pride. Where there are kings there are servants. None of us likes the idea of servitude. Oscar Wilde lived his life as an atheist in his attempt to flee God and be his own lord. This though is the great illusion of our world. Wilde in De Profundis summarizes well the human condition. “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” All humans either knowingly or unknowingly are as Wilde said “other people.” All of us already follow either a life given over to God or one given over to sin. Even our sin is not truly our own, it is at best someone else’s remixed. [Read more...]

"What the Children Need Most is…"

The other day, we were shown the project offices at the church we visited. After seeing the meticulous records and going through a whole list of questions, I asked a project worker, “If there was one thing you’d like us to tell Canadians [and Americans, too] back home, what would it be?”

She thought for a moment and said:

Pray.

“What the children need most is your prayers. They have a lot of issues and need a lot of help. They have medical problems and some have mental problems… but what they need is your prayers.”

This was not what I was expecting as an answer, but it’s so obvious.

More than anything else—even more than the financial support that sponsors provide—the children need our prayers.

One of the challenges I’ve come up to here (besides the language barrier) is that I’m being confronted with how lazy I am spiritually.

What I mean is that I too often take prayer for granted, or see it as the last resort after I’ve tried to white-knuckle my way through a situation.

But that completely misses the point.

It misses the point of the gospel, which pointedly shows us that no amount of white-knuckling can to what only Christ could. And because of His death for our sins, the Father hears our prayers.

So why not take advantage of this gift?

These kids need our prayers. We need our prayers.

And God is good and faithful to answer for His glory and our joy.

Around the Interweb (04/25)

Salvation from a life of “goodness”

From the Mars Hill blog:

I asked Jesus into my heart before I can even remember. In the years since, however, I have lived a life motivated by nothing more than an aching desire to be perfect, beautiful, and righteous. I armed myself with knowledge and convictions and lived a very moral, introspective, and ultimately fear driven life. I read the Bible daily, but did not hear that Jesus’ goodness replaced the need for mine; what I read and heard was conviction, the need for it, and the power of it to safeguard and cultivate a life that pleased God. I paid lip service to things like Love and Faith, but actually lacked any relationship to real trust and heart.

Read the rest here.

In other news

TGCReviews Editor John Starke interviews Mark Driscoll about his latest book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe

Dr. Moore is asked, “Should I tell my child he was conceived in rape?”

The new issue of Themelios is now available

Jared Wilson: “The Message of the Gospel is NOT “Behave!”

James at Hills Bible Church asks a great question: What should a Christian’s response be to pop culture?

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

“I know what the Bible says, but it’s just cultural…”

You can ignore a great ethicist, but you can’t ignore God

A review of Thabiti Anyabwile’s latest, The Gospel for Muslims

Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel - Al Mohler at Together for the Gospel 2010

"Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism?" – John Piper at Together for the Gospel

The aim of my title is not to criticize the gospel of evangelicalism but to assume that it is biblical and true, and then to ask whether Jesus preached it. If I had it to do over again, I would use the title “Did Jesus Preach Paul’s Gospel?”—the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ’s blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone.

This week at Together for the Gospel, John Piper shared a message that many considered the highlight of the conference: 

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.5376204&w=425&h=350&fv=]
more about “Video from Together for the Gospel ::…“, posted with vodpod

The full manuscript is available at Desiring God, but here are a couple of highlights: 

Did Paul Get Jesus Right?

So the problem I am wrestling with is not whether evangelicalism gets Paul’s gospel right, but whether Paul got Jesus’ gospel right. Because I have a sense that among the reasons that some are losing a grip on the gospel today is not only the suspicion that we are forcing it into traditional doctrinal categories rather than biblical ones, but also that in our default to Pauline categories we are selling Jesus short. In other words, for some—perhaps many—there is the suspicion (or even conviction) that justification by faith alone is part of Paul’s gospel, but not part of Jesus’ gospel. And in feeling that way, our commitment to the doctrine is weakened, and we are thus less passionate to preach it and defend it as essential to the gospel. And we may even think that Jesus’ call to sacrificial kingdom obedience is more radical and more transforming than the gospel of justification by faith alone. 

Only One Thing Missing

[W]hen it comes to justification, it doesn’t matter whether the rich ruler is right when he says, “All these I have kept from my youth.” What matters is what he is depending on. What he is trusting in. So Jesus says to him in Luke 18:22, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” [. . .] [Read more...]

J.I. Packer: Without the Resurrection, the Bottom Drops Out of Christianity

The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas' betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

Suppose that Jesus, having died on the cross, had stayed dead. Suppose that, like Socrates or Confucius, he was now no more than a beautiful memory. Would it matter? We should still have his example and teaching; wouldn’t that be enough?

Enough for what?

Not for Christianity.

Had Jesus not risen, but stayed dead, the bottom would drop out of Christianity, for four things would then be true.

First, to quote Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:17: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Second, there is then no hope for our rising either; we must expect to stay dead too.

Third, if Jesus Christ is not risen, then he is not reigning and will not return and every single item in the [Apostles'] Creed after “suffered and was buried” will have to be struck out.

Fourth, Christianity cannot be what the first Christians thought it was—fellowship with a living Lord who is identical with the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus of the Gospels can still be your hero, but he cannot be your Savior. . . .

[Jesus' resurrection] marked Jesus out as Son of God (Romans 1:4); it vindicated his righteousness (John 16:10); it demonstrated victory over death (Acts 2:24); it guaranteed the believer’s forgiveness and justification (1 Corinthians 15:17; Romans 4:25), and it brings him into the reality of resurrection life now (Romans 6:4).

Marvelous!

You could speak of Jesus’ rising as the most hopeful—hope-full—thing that has ever happened—and you would be right!

J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ, pp 59, 61 (paragraph breaks and emphasis mine)

Around the Interweb (03/28)

A Roommate is a Roommate? I Wonder What Her Dad Thinks

Kayla, left, and Lindon say sharing a dorm room hasn't been awkward. The mixing of genders is a generational issue, Lindon says, and "Over the years, this division between men and women, which was so big, is slowly closing." (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / March 9, 2010)

The other day, Albert Mohler posted some commentary in response to a recent LA Times article on Harvey Mudd College’s move to mix-gender housing for students:

The rise of co-ed dorms is the inevitable result of a breakdown in all rationality about sex, gender, and sexuality. . . . All of this adds up to a perfect jumble of moral confusion. Consider all that is mixed-up here. First, we have schools collapsing under the logic of gender rebellion. Instead of respecting boundaries, they remove them. . . . Second, we have students insisting that there is nothing remotely odd or sexualized about two heterosexual students of opposite genders living in the same small space. That is both unbelievable and deeply sad. Third, we have activists and administrators lecturing parents that they have no right to resist all this. When Jeffrey Chang insists that college students are adults who “have every single right to choose the person they feel most comfortable living with,” he assumes, probably rightly, that many parents will just accept that argument at face value.

This is nuts. If these students are adults with such rights, let them pay the steep bills at Harvey Mudd and Pitzer colleges. What self-respecting parent would cave to this logic, or to the lectures from college administrators that they have no right to intervene?

Read Dr. Mohler’s article, as well as the LA Times article. It’ll be well worth your time.

In other news

Stephen Altrogge reminds us: “You’re not the point of the gospels.”

The Canadian Association of University Teachers thinks statements of faith are incompatible with academic freedom. Christian post-secondary institutes beware.

Michael Spencer (The Internet Monk) has discontinued cancer treatment and is receiving assistance from the local hospice. He and his wife are asking that we all pray for minimal pain and a peaceful passing.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

This week, I released a free e-book based on Jude’s epistle, Contending: A Study & Discussion Guide. It’s ideal for personal and small group use. Download it and share as you like.

A review of John Piper’s latest, A Sweet & Bitter Providence

Whatever makes you feel good about you,” what I’m learning from Christian Smith’s research on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Some encouragement from John Calvin

Zac Smith shares his battle with cancer

Robert Murray M'Cheyne: A Letter To One Not Seen

Photo by: Kriss Szkurlatowski

My dear friend,—I do not even know your name, but I think I know something of the state of your soul. Your friend has been with me, and told me a little of your mind; and I write a few lines just to bid you to look to Jesus and live. Look at Num. 21:9, and you will see your disease and your remedy.

You have been bitten by the great serpent. The poison of sin is through and through your whole heart, but Christ has been lifted up on the cross that you may look and live.

Now, do not look so long and so harassingly at your own heart and feelings. What will you find there but the bit of the serpent? You were shapen in iniquity, and the whole of your natural life has been spent in sin. The more God opens your eyes, the more you will feel that you are lost in yourself.

This is your disease. Now for the remedy.

Look to Christ; for the glorious Son of God so loved lost souls, that He took on Him a body and died for us—bore our curse, and obeyed the law in our place. Look to Him and live. You need no preparation, you need no endeavours, you need no duties, you need no strivings, you only need to look and live.

Look at John 17:3. The way to be saved is to know God’s heart and the heart of Jesus. To be awakened, you need to know your own heart. Look in at your own heart, if you wish to know your lost condition. See the pollution that is there—forgetfulness of God, deadness, insensibility to his love. If you are judged as you are in yourself, you will be lost. To be saved, you need to know the heart of God and of Christ. The four Gospels are a narrative of the heart of Christ. They show his compassion to sinners, and his glorious work in their stead.

If you only knew that heart as it is, you would lay your weary head with John on his bosom. Do not take up your time so much with studying your own heart as with studying Christ’s heart. “For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ!” [Read more...]

John Calvin: Without the Gospel Everything is Useless and Vain

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.

John Calvin, from his preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament in 1534

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

Book Review: A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper

Title: A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Crossway Books

With it’s themes of sex, romance, culture and the unseen hand of God, the Old Testament book of Ruth is perhaps one of the most gripping short stories ever written—one with a great deal to teach us.

That’s why I was so glad to read A Sweet & Bitter Providence by John Piper as he illustrates how the story of Naomi, Ruth & Boaz teaches us to suffer well for the glory of God, recognizing that all things occur according to His sovereign rule.

God Reigns—But Do We See It?

Piper begins with the “bitter” providence of God in Naomi’s life. Seeking to find respite from the famine that has struck Israel, Her husband, Elimelech, moves Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon & Chilion, to Moab. There, instead of finding relief, the family finds only despair. Elimelech dies, her sons marry two Moabite women and die as well, childless. Naomi sees that “the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Of this, Piper writes,

I would take Naomi’s theology any day over the sentimental views of God that permeate so many churches today. Endless excuses are made for God’s sovereignty. Naomi is unshaken and sure about three things: God exists, God is sovereign, and God has afflicted her. (pp. 37-38)

Piper wants readers to catch a larger vision of God, one that the Bible itself displays. A God who is much bigger than He appears based on what we hear in many sermons and read in a lot of books. He is real. He is sovereign and, yes, He has afflicted her. But all of these things happen not because He is capricious and mean, but because He is using them to further His plans for the salvation of the world. [Read more...]