more than “just as if I never sinned”

On Sunday morning at Capitol City, we unpacked the wonderful doctrine of justification by faith alone. Justification by faith is the very heart of the Christian gospel – yet it is often widely misunderstood.

Much of that misunderstanding owes to an old play on words, often repeated, that suggests that justification means that God treats me “just as if I never sinned.” While justification does amount to our complete legal pardon before the judgment of God, while it does mean that God treats us (legally) as if we never sinned, that is only half of justification. (more…)

what if the elephant talks?

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…)

the broken heart

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…)

love those who hate you…or at least act like you do

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.

resurrection day

From The Valley of Vision, on this Easter Day:

Adorable Redeemer,
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.

calvary’s anthem

From The Valley of Vision, on this Good Friday:

Heavenly Father,
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.