From John Stott, on the self-substitution of God on the cross.1 (The emphasis and formatting are mine.) (more…)
From Taking God at His Word, Kevin DeYoung’s fantastic little book on the doctrine of Scripture:
At the heart of the postmodern skepticism about knowing God is an inferior conception of what God is like. The question is not whether we are haughty enough to think we have peered into the recesses of eternity and understand God omnisciently. The question is whether God is the sort of God who is willing to communicate with his creatures and able to do so effectively. Can God speak?
In other words, our culture’s well-celebrated assertion that absolute truth cannot be known absolutely assumes that God is either mute or gagged. But what if he is not? What if he has communicated with his people? (more…)
One final thought on preaching the gospel to yourself…for now, at least. Over the years, many of the prayers in The Valley of Vision, a collection or Puritan prayers and devotions, have helped me routinely drink deeply from the truth of the gospel. The language is a bit archaic, meaning you must tolerate a few “thee’s” and “thou’s” here and there. But the truths robed in such archaic speech help me to focus my mind and heart on the blessed hope of the gospel.
Here’s one example, from a prayer called “The Broken Heart”: (more…)
On Sunday morning at Capitol City, we sat under Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5:43-48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Like all of Jesus’ teaching in this great sermon, these are challenging words. We aren’t just to love those who love us back, those who earn or deserve our love. We are to love even our enemies, those who are most likely to reject and despise our love. Why? Because God loved us when we were his enemies, when we were against him in our sin: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In the gospel, God loved us when we opposed him by our sin; therefore, we are to love others who oppose us.
But how? How do I begin to love those who have hurt me deeply, those who have insulted me and persecuted me? How do I love those who seem so unlovable? The answer is the gospel. When the degree to which we are loved in Christ truly sinks in (and this sinking in is ongoing, it needs to happen every hour of every day), we will be free to love those who don’t return our love. Christ’s love for us fills us so that his love in us overflows into our love for others, whether they love us or persecute us in response.
But then we’re still left with the step of loving those who persecute us. We still have to do it. On that note, I have always found C. S. Lewis’ words on the topic helpful. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis writes:
“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less…
“The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or ‘likings’ and the Christian has only ‘charity’. The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.”
Basically, he says try loving those who hate you…and eventually you actually will love them. I’ve found this to be true, many times, in my own life. I hope you do, as well.
From The Valley of Vision, on this Easter Day:
thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
are ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as Man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
are now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive thine enemies behind thee.
What more could be done than thou hast done!
Thy death is my life,
thy resurrection my peace,
thy ascension my hope,
thy prayers my comfort.
From The Valley of Vision, on this Good Friday:
Thou hast led me singing to the cross
where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,
where my mountains of guilt are leveled to a plain,
where my sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist,
and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;
For there is power in the blood of Calvary
to destroy sins more than can be counted
even by one from the choir of heaven.
Thou has given me a hill-side spring that washes clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters,
bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.
At the cross there is free forgiveness for poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last forever;
The blood of the Lamb is like a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness
as thirsty ones without number drink of it.
Recently a friend gave me a copy of Crazy Busy: A Mercifully (Short) Book About a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. Now, I have a lot of books, and I rarely have time to read any of them. But because that very issue was sort of the issue addressed by this book, I thought it would be worth my time. DeYoung has a lot to offer, and his book is mercifully short. So if, like me, you struggle to find room in your day to breathe or eat or accomplish anything worthwhile, I commend it to you.
One of my takeaways from the book was the realization that much of my overwhelming sense of busyness comes from an expectation of personal perfection. I don’t expect anyone else in my life to be perfect – not my church, not my wife, not my kids. But I do usually expect myself to be perfect. These unrealistic expectations fuel a frenzy of activity that I struggle to control. This is true in many areas of my life, but it is especially true in my parenting. DeYoung illustrates why this is the case for many:
Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.
It’s all so involved. There are so many rules and expectations. Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism. Not just in the church, but in our culture. We live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids’ hot lunches. I keep hearing that kids aren’t supposed to eat sugar anymore. What a world! What a world! My parents were solid as a rock, but we still had a cupboard populated by cereal royalty like Captain Crunch and Count Chocula. In our house the pebbles were fruity and the charms were lucky. The breakfast bowl was a place for marshmallows, not dried camping fruit. Our milk was 2%. And sometimes, if we needed to take the edge off a rough morning, we’d tempt fate and chug a little vitamin D.
As parents, why are we so paranoid? Why are we so perfectionistic? I think, at the end of the day, we live in fear that we will screw our kids up for life if we don’t do everything right. We think that molding our kids’ hearts, minds, and futures boils down to every little decision we make, day in and day out. And so we’re crazy busy – because we have our lives and futures and those of our kids riding on each and every day. DeYoung continues:
We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children. Leslie Leyland Fields is right: “One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.”
For our own sake, for our kids’ sake, and for the sake of everyone we love, let us let go of the notion that we have to be perfect. Only God is, and ultimately he is the one who will shape and direct the course of our children’s futures. In parenting, and in all avenues of life, let us do our best and then trust the Lord to do what he has sovereignly determined to do. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He paid a staggering price to redeem us from the kingdom of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of his son (Colossians 1:13-14). The riches of his wisdom and knowledge are beyond our comprehension (Romans 11:33). Our kids are far better in his hands than ours.
Parenting doesn’t create the child; the Creator does. Let us trust him and praise him for that.