6 quotes Christians need to let lie fallow

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

We Christians do love our quotes—and there are so many brilliant ones to choose from! But by golly, we sure do seem to be a repetitive bunch. Far too often, we’re using the same quotes, over and over.

And over.

So yesterday, inspired by a friend’s lament of the increased use of the Samwise “everything sad is coming untrue” quote from Lord of the Rings, I took to the Interwebs to get your feedback, asking what you believe are the most over-used quotes from Christian authors.

Here are the top answers:

1. “We are far too easily pleased…” From C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

2. John Piper’s mission statement. From Desiring God (and pretty much everything else he’s ever written and/or preached since):

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

3. “He is no fool…” From The Journals of Jim Elliot:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

4. “More wicked… but more loved.” Tim Keller’s gospel summary, from multiple books and sermons:

“We are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope.”

5. C.S. Lewis’ trilemma. From Mere Christianity:

‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

6. The one which Martin Luther never actually said. But the ideas can definitely be gleaned from his work:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

You can see why they’re quoted so often. They’re conceptually brilliant and (in most cases) captivating in their simplicity. But there are two dangers with quoting these so frequently:

We risk cheapening their meaning. And when that happens, powerful truths become pithy sentiments. 

That’s the first danger. The second is it reveals we may not be diversifying our reading in a healthy fashion. When we all read the same books, by the same people, quoting the same things, we risk creating a homogenous intellectualism. And when this happens, we risk losing our ability to think critically, as well as the joy of discovering ideas that come from outside our normal spheres of influence.

A lovely sound penetrating the soul

candle-lr

Behold here what the Gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon concerning Christ, our Savior. Whoever preaches him rightly, preaches the Gospel of pure joy. How is it possible for man to hear of greater joy than that Christ has given to him as his own? He does not only say Christ is born, but he makes his birth our own by saying, to you a Savior.

Therefore the Gospel does not only teach the history concerning Christ; but it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own … Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own? If the voice gives forth this pleasant sound, even if it be in homely phrase, my heart listens with joy for it is a lovely sound which penetrates the soul.

Martin Luther (as published in Peace by Stephen J. Nichols, pp. 79)

Luther and the Reformation: Free today from Ligonier Ministries

To celebrate Reformation Day, Ligonier Ministries is offering an audio-video download of R.C. Sproul’s 10-part teaching series, Luther and the Reformation, free.

Centuries after his death, Martin Luther is celebrated as an intellectual giant, a brave opponent of corruption, a shaper of culture, indeed, as one of the most significant figures in Western history. Many people, however, are unaware of the events of Luther’s life that led him to make a courageous stand for the gospel in the sixteenth century. In this series, R.C. Sproul provides a thorough introduction to the life and thought of Martin Luther. With an eye to the lessons we can learn today, Dr. Sproul traces the major events of Luther’s life and explores the gospel recovered by Luther and the other Protestant Reformers.

Here’s a look at part one:

(RSS readers: click through to see the video)

This special offers ends tonight at 11:59 EDT, so act quickly.

Christ Is No Tyrant, But The Giver Of Grace

This week’s another sermon prep week for me, and I keep coming back to Galatians 2:15-21, which is one of the most beautiful, clear and powerful statements on the doctrine of justification by grace alone in all of Scripture. I love what Martin Luther wrote about it, particularly commenting on a portion of verse 20, so much so that I wanted to share it with you:

Who is this me ? I, wretched and damnable sinner, dearly beloved of the Son of God. If I could by work or merit love the Son of God and come to Him, why should He have sacrificed Himself for me? . . .  If I, a condemned sinner, could have been purchased and redeemed by any other price, why should the Son of God have given Himself for me? Just because there was no other price in heaven and on earth big and good enough, was it necessary for the Son of God to be delivered for me. This He did out of His great love for me, for the Apostle says, Who loved me.

Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.

Hence, Christ is no Moses, no tyrant, no lawgiver, but the Giver of grace, the Savior, full of mercy. In short, He is no less than infinite mercy and ineffable goodness, bountifully giving Himself for us. Visualize Christ in these His true colors. I do not say that it is easy. Even in the present diffusion of the Gospel light, I have much trouble to see Christ as Paul portrays Him. So deeply has the diseased opinion that Christ is a lawgiver sunk into my bones. You younger men are a good deal better off than we who are old. You have never become infected with the nefarious errors on which I suckled all my youth, until at the mention of the name of Christ I shivered with fear. You, I say, who are young may learn to know Christ in all His sweetness.

For Christ is Joy and Sweetness to a broken heart. Christ is a Lover of poor sinners, and such a Lover that He gave Himself for us. Now if this is true, and it is true, then are we never justified by our own righteousness.

Read the words me and for me with great emphasis. Print this me with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to the number of those who are meant by this me. Christ did not only love Peter and Paul. The same love He felt for them He feels for us. If we cannot deny that we are sinners, we cannot deny that Christ died for our sins.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition)

The Children of the Law and The Children of the Gospel

The children of the Law will always persecute the children of the Gospel. This is our daily experience. Our opponents tell us that everything was at peace before the Gospel was revived by us. Since then the whole world has been upset. People blame us and the Gospel for everything, for the disobedience of subjects to their rulers, for wars, plagues, and famines, for revolutions, and every other evil that can be imagined. No wonder our opponents think they are doing God a favor by hating and persecuting us. Ishmael will persecute Isaac.

We invite our opponents to tell us what good things attended the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. Did not the destruction of Jerusalem follow on the heels of the Gospel? And how about the overthrow of the Roman Empire? Did not the whole world seethe with unrest as the Gospel was preached in the whole world? We do not say that the Gospel instigated these upheavals. The iniquity of man did it.

Our opponents blame our doctrine for the present turmoil. But ours is a doctrine of grace and peace. It does not stir up trouble. Trouble starts when the people, the nations and their rulers of the earth rage and take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed. (Psalm 2.) But all their counsels shall be brought to naught. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2:4.) Let them cry out against us as much as they like. We know that they are the cause of all their own troubles.

As long as we preach Christ and confess Him to be our Savior, we must be content to be called vicious trouble makers. These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, so said the Jews of Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:6, 7.) Of Paul they said: We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The Gentiles uttered similar complaints: These men do exceedingly trouble our city.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 2586)

Let the Law, Sin, and the Devil Cry Out Against Us

The fact that the Spirit of Christ in our hearts cries unto God and makes intercession for us with groanings should reassure us greatly. However, there are many factors that prevent such full reassurance on our part. We are born in sin. To doubt the good will of God is an inborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil, our adversary, goeth about seeking to devour us by roaring: God is angry at you and is going to destroy you forever. In all these difficulties we have only one support, the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick. Christ cannot be perceived with the senses. We cannot see Him. The heart does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil, the agues of death, the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us. The Law scolds us, sin screams at us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: Abba, Father. And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God.

The Spirit cries in us because of our weakness. Because of our infirmity the Holy Ghost is sent forth into our hearts to pray for us according to the will of God and to assure us of the grace of God.

Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry out against us until their outcry fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcries them all. Our feeble groans, Abba, Father, will be heard of God sooner than the combined racket of hell, sin, and the Law.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 2125)

We Do Not Preach For the Praise Of Princes

No man can say that we are seeking the favor and praise of men with our doctrine. We teach that all men are naturally depraved. We condemn man’s free will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness. We say that we obtain grace by the free mercy of God alone for Christ’s sake. This is no preaching to please men. This sort of preaching procures for us the hatred and disfavor of the world, persecutions, excommunications, murders, and curses.

Can’t you see that I seek no man’s favor by my doctrine? asks Paul. If I were anxious for the favor of men I would flatter them. But what do I do? I condemn their works. I teach things only that I have been commanded to teach from above. For that I bring down upon my head the wrath of Jews and Gentiles. My doctrine must be right. It must be divine. Any other doctrine cannot be better than mine. Any other doctrine must be false and wicked.

With Paul we boldly pronounce a curse upon every doctrine that does not agree with ours. We do not preach for the praise of men, or the favor of princes. We preach for the favor of God alone whose grace and mercy we proclaim. Whosoever teaches a gospel contrary to ours, or different from ours, let us be bold to say that he is sent of the devil.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 397)

Dispensing Grace And Peace

That Christ is very God is apparent in that Paul ascribes to Him divine powers equally with the Father, as for instance, the power to dispense grace and peace. This Jesus could not do unless He were God.

To bestow peace and grace lies in the province of God, who alone can create these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostles could only distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In attributing to Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace, peace, everlasting life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion is inevitable that Christ is truly God. Similarly, St. John concludes from the works attributed to the Father and the Son that they are divinely One. Hence, the gifts which we receive from the Father and from the Son are one and the same. Otherwise Paul should have written: Grace from God the Father, and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ. In combining them he ascribes them equally to the Father and the Son. I stress this on account of the many errors emanating from the sects.

The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had two natures, and that He is called very God of very God, they were yet able to deny His divinity. The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect creature, superior even to the angels, because by Him God created heaven and earth. Mohammed also speaks highly of Christ. But all their praise is mere palaver to deceive men. Paul’s language is different. To paraphrase him: You are established in this belief that Christ is very God because He gives grace and peace, gifts which only God can create and bestow.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 171)

The Call Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

The call is not to be taken lightly. For a person to possess knowledge is not enough. He must be sure that he is properly called. Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do [not] edify. Many of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions. On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good deal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world.

This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine office to which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing it must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils one’s best work. When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then realize the importance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because we were taught sophistry instead of certainty, and nobody understood spiritual boasting. We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 87)

A Sickbed Often Teaches More Than A Sermon

Luther said that he could never rightly understand some of the Psalms, till he was in affliction. Affliction teaches what sin is. In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon. We can best see the ugly visage of sin in the glass of affliction. Affliction teaches us to know ourselves. In prosperity we are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction, that we may better know ourselves. We see that corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we would not believe was there. Water in the glass looks clear, but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. In prosperity, a man seems to be humble and thankful, the water looks clear; but set this man a little on the fire of affliction, and the scum boils up — much impatience and unbelief appear. “Oh,” says a Christian, “I never thought I had such a bad heart, as now I see I have; I never thought my corruptions had been so strong, and my graces so weak.

Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial (Kindle Edition, location 220)

Around the Interweb

Easy Virtues and Cruel Mistresses

In light of Rob Bell’s using a quote from a letter of Martin Luther to defend his arguments in Love Wins, Carl Trueman offers some helpful advice on interpreting Luther:

A number of comments seem apposite in regard to this statement. First, there is a basic problem of historical method here: it is illegitimate to take a small quotation from a single letter and use it to extrapolate to a person’s general theology. Now, to accuse someone of taking statements out of context is not in itself a strong criticism. Is not all historical writing an example of things taken out of one context and placed in another? But to build so much on a single, short sentence, without examining what went before or after it leaves the argument at best half-done.

Second, to extrapolate from a letter to a person’s general theology risks distortion, even if the whole letter is taken into account. If someone were ever to express an interest in my opinion on say, classic rock music of the seventies, I hope they would not focus simply on an email or two, or even on a couple of longer essays or papers. I trust they would try to read as much of my material as possible, and set each artifact in relation to others, so as to produce a coherent account of my thought on rock music as a whole. By so doing, they would create a framework for understanding the significance of any individual statement I might have made on the subject.

Thus it is with Luther: one cannot legitimately draw theological conclusions from statements in occasional letters without taking into account the theological treatises and, indeed, the confessional documents to which he appended his name. Even the briefest reading of, say, Luther’s Larger Catechism would indicate that his mature position allows no space for such postmortem second chances. Anyone can express themselves unclearly at points; anyone can make a statement that contradicts a position which he holds consistently elsewhere. Therefore, even if Luther did say exactly what Bell claims, it might prove little more than the fact he was having a bad day.

Read the whole article

Also Worth Reading

Prayer: Learning to Pray… Again

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Interview: Burk Parsons Interviews Mike Anderson

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Love Wins by Rob Bell

Is God’s Victory Over Sin Thwarted?

Reading A Book

Sermon Audio: When God Delivers His People

Honor Your Father by Being in Awe of Him

 

 

Around the Interweb (10/31)

The Reluctant Revolutionary

Today, for those who know a bit of Church history, is Reformation Day—the day upon which the Protestant Reformation unofficially kicked off when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the door at Wittenberg.

A few years back, PBS put together this hour-long documentary on Luther, the “reluctant revolutionary.” (And yes, it is an hour long, but it’s quite good):

HT: Justin Taylor

In Other News

Education: Vote for Mark Lamprecht (who runs HereIBlog.com) to win a $10,000 blogging scholarship. Please take a couple of seconds and vote for him!

Audio Books: Christian Audio is celebrating Reformation Day by offering Martin Luther: In His Own Words free. The sale ends today, so go and get your copy now.

Culture: Kevin DeYoung examines the fluidity of statistics while offering a critique of AOL Health’s recent story announcing that 1 in 10 teens has had a same sex partner

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Fred Sanders’ new book, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything

A God-sized Gospel

Becoming balanced

John Piper on the highest, best, final decisive good

D.A. Carson on the accent of warning in the parables of Jesus

How do we pursue justice without undermining evangelism?

Martin Luther: The Wheat and the Tares

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)

The Savior’s Interpretation

The Savior himself explained this parable in the same chapter upon the request of his disciples and says: He that sows the good seed is the Son of man; and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the children of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy that sowed them is the devil; and the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

These seven points of explanation comprehend and clearly set forth what Christ meant by this parable. But who could have discovered such an interpretation, seeing that in this parable he calls people the seed and the world the field; although in the parable preceding this one he defines the seed to be the Word of God and the field the people or the hearts of the people.

If Christ himself had not here interpreted this parable every one would have imitated his explanation of the preceding parable and considered the seed to be the Word of God, and thus the Savior’s object and understanding of it would have been lost.

Be Sure and Firm

Permit me to make an observation here for the benefit of the wise and learned who study the Scriptures. Imitating or guessing is not to be allowed in the explanation of Scripture; but one should and must be sure and firm.

Just like Joseph in Gen. 40:12f. interpreted the two dreams of the butler and baker so differently, although they resembled each other, and he did not make the one a copy of the other. True, the danger would not have been great if the seed had been interpreted to be the Word of God; still had this been the case the parable would not have been thus understood correctly. [Read more...]

A Decisive Act: The 95 Theses

95-theses

On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian priest, nailed his 95 Theses in opposition to the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This was the decisive act of a man convinced by Scripture that it is God alone who forgives our sins—that all the Christian life is one of repentance. This action proved, ultimately,  to be the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

I am incredibly thankful for Martin Luther—an ill-deserving sinner saved by the grace of God led by the Holy Spirit to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), in light of the truth of Scripture and in spite of enormous opposition.

492 years later, this flawed servant of God’s powerful legacy continues. May we rejoice in the knowledge that “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8).


Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences Commonly Known as The 95 Theses

by Dr. Martin Luther

O-dropcaput of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing. [Read more...]