The Thankful Calvinist

Calvinists of all people have reason to be thankful. Here are several reasons why:

1. The Calvinist knows that God is sovereign over all things, working all things together for his glory and the good of his people (Rom. 8:28-30). Knowing this, he can rejoice and be thankful in any and every circumstance (Phil. 4:4-7; 1 Thess. 5:16-18), finding joy amidst the worst of trials (James 1:2-4).

2. The Calvinist is fully aware that he never would have chosen God (Rom. 3:9-12). He knows that if God had left him to himself he would have gone on hating him for all eternity. But God chose and saved him apart from anything he would ever do (Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:3-14; 2:8-10). The reality of his election is a never ending source of thanksgiving.

3. The Calvinist knows that his salvation is in the work of Christ alone. He knows that Christ has perfectly and particularly atoned for the sins of his sheep (John 10:11, 15; Heb. 10:10-14). His salvation was accomplished on the cross, where Jesus bore his sins and suffered the wrath of God in his place (John 19:30; Rom. 5:6-11). It was there that God in Christ reconciled him to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-21).

4. He also knows that his salvation is secure. The Calvinist clings to the promises of God, knowing that his covenant-keeping love will never fail (Ps. 136). His Father will never leave him or break the promises he has made (Heb. 6:13-20; 13:5). He rejoices that his salvation is secure in the hands of his Triune God (John 10:28-30).

5. The Calvinist is daily reminded of how he is blessed far beyond what he deserves. He deserved God’s wrath, but in Christ God has adopted him as his son, an heir of the promises (Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; 2:11-13ff). He was dead in his sins and a slave to his flesh, but God has made him dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom. 6:1-14). He once sought after idols, but God has awakened his heart to mortify them and seek him first above everything else.

So, if you are struggling with thankfulness, remember the gospel. Remember who you were, remember the cross, and remember that your salvation is a work of God alone.

Growing in Humility and Killing Pride

In his excellent book Humility, C. J. Mahaney offers a list of suggestions for growing in humility and killing pride.

Always:

1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.

As Each Day Begins:

2. Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God.
3. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.
4. Practice the spiritual disciplines—prayer, study of God’s Word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at the day’s outset, if possible.
5. Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture.
6. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

As Each Day Ends:

7. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God.
8. Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep.

For Special Focus:

9. Study the attributes of God.
10. Study the doctrines of grace.
11. Study the doctrine of sin.
12. Play golf as much as possible.
13. Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.

Throughout Your Days and Weeks:

14. Identify evidences of grace in others.
15. Encourage and serve others each and every day.
16. Invite and pursue correction.
17. Respond humbly to trials.

The Most Just and the Most Gracious Act in History

In his classic, The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul writes:

The Cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath. It was the most just and the most gracious act in history. God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken on Himself the sins of the world. Once Christ had done that, once He volunteered to be the Lamb of God, laden with our sin, then He became the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. With the concentrated load of sin He carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father. God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing. God made Christ accursed for the sin He bore. Herein was God’s holy justice perfectly manifest. Yet it was done for us. He took what justice demanded from us. This “for us” aspect of the Cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy. It is too astonishing to fathom.

Demonstrating Love and Unity in the Local Church

In his book Marks of the Messenger, Mack Stiles provides 16 ways in which we can show love and unity in our churches and so become healthier evangelists.

1. Attend a church that takes the gospel seriously (Hebrews 10:25).

2. Become an actual member of a church.

3. Read C. J. Mahaney’s book Humility once a year.

4. Turn down jobs that might take you away from church even if they pay more.

5. Arrange family vacations around your church’s schedule.

6. If your church doesn’t have a church covenant, think about developing one that expresses your love for each other.

7. Move to a house closer to the church and use your house as a place of hospitality (Romans 12:13).

8. Practice church discipline.

9. Respect, even revere, the authority in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

10. Turn heads—really practice the biblical teachings of giving and receiving forgiveness.

11. Take care of people who are in need physically in your congregation (Romans 12:13).

12. Pray for each other (Ephesians 6:18).

13. Sympathize with other believers (Romans 12:15).

14. Focus on caring for one another spiritually by discipling one another (Galatians 6:1-2).

15. Share your faith together (Philippians 1:27).

16. Read Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church.

Read It: 3/28

Check out these articles from this past week!person-310799_640

Piper on Emotional Blackmail in the Church: This is a short but powerful article.

Adam4d has published some comic gold this week. Check out How to Get Endorsed By Oprah as a Christian Writer or Speaker and What Jesus Looked Like.

Tattoos for the Soul: Joe Thorn explains why we need confessions of faith. Here’s an excerpt:

Because I love God, I love his word. And because I love God and his word, I love theology. And because I love theology, I love confessions of faith. To know God is to believe who he has revealed himself to be in Christ, to rest in his grace, and to obey him in faith. In all of this, we are dependent on the Holy Scripture, and are compelled to affirm and articulate the truths revealed therein. This is where confessions of faith play a vital role in the spiritual health of the Christian and the local church.

How Important Is the Cross?

We all recognize that the cross is important. After all, it’s the only reason we’re where we are today. Christianity wouldn’t exist apart from it. Without the cross all hope of salvation disappears. All of mankind would be condemned. But friends, Jesus did die. He was betrayed, rejected, and nailed to a tree. The death of Jesus Christ is the solid foundation of our faith and the only hope for fallen humanity.

But many of us treat it like Christianity 101. It’s the intro course we forget five seconds after we pray the sinners prayer. The cross gets us in, but there are much better things to consume our thoughts with. We move away from the cross, divorcing the pursuit of holiness and the entirety of Christian life from that which sustains it. This mind set has polluted a startling number of churches. Preaching the cross is reserved for the altar call. After all, isn’t that all it’s good for? Paul strongly objects:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Throughout the New Testament we see the centrality of the cross. No message but Christ and him crucified is lasting good news for mankind. To exclude the cross from our preaching and evangelism is to proclaim a false gospel, leading those around us into a void of despair. So, why must we proclaim the cross? John Stott in The Cross of Christ provides four theological affirmations from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that demonstrate how crucial the cross is.

“First, the cross is the ground of our justification” (Gal. 1:4; 3:13)

A gospel presentation without the cross is a sham. In his rebuke to the Galatians, Paul writes, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7). If the gospel we proclaim lacks the cross of Christ, let’s stop calling it the gospel. We can call it “self-help” or “how to be a better you”, but not good news. Such a message doesn’t provide any means of reconciliation with God. Biblical preaching and evangelism will proclaim that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3b). It is in the work of Christ alone that there is perfect atonement for sins and salvation. We are justified by grace through faith, not by anything we bring to the table.

“Second, the cross is the means of our sanctification” (Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14)

All too often we separate the cross from our sanctification. Remember, it’s because of the cross work of Christ that we have been set free from sin in the first place. No progress in sanctification could be made apart from it. We have been united to Christ, and now we are dead to sin and alive in the Spirit. Though we still must actively and diligently make war against the flesh, we share in our Savior’s victory over sin that he secured on the cross. As the war wages on, we can find courage and joy knowing that we are on the winning side. With all of this in mind it becomes apparent that believers need to hear the message of the cross as much as unbelievers. It is the work of Christ and who we are in him that motivates us and pushes us onward to seek God above everything else.

“Third, the cross is the subject of our witness” (Gal. 3:1; 5:11; 6:12).

The cross is to be at the heart of our preaching and evangelism. You’re personal testimony isn’t the gospel. It’s beautiful to hear conversion stories, but they’re not the gospel either. We are to bear witness to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s the only message that is good news for all mankind.

“Fourth, the cross is the object of our boasting” (Gal. 6:14).

The cross strips us of all grounds of boasting. At the foot of the cross we realize how undeserving of the grace of God we are. We see that we deserved his wrath but Christ endured it in our place. It is here that God cultivates in his people humility and thankfulness. Let us continually preach the gospel to ourselves, daily boasting in the cross of Christ alone.

The One Another Commands: “Welcome One Another” (Rom. 15:7)

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom. 15:7)


This verse is be understood in light of Paul’s exhortation at the very beginning of this chapter:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Rom. 15:1)

A few verses later he writes,

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 15: 5-6)

Unity, peace, bearing with one another—these are themes throughout this entire passage. Verse 7 isn’t an abrupt change of thought. In one sense, it’s the climax of this passage:

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom. 15:7)

But what exactly does Paul have in mind when he says that we’re to welcome one another?

The meaning of this command is easily missed and obscured in our culture. We welcome people all the time. It’s a staple in our seemingly infinite list of social norms. We welcome friends and family into our homes. Every Monday I welcome my students to class. But Paul’s command goes beyond mere manners.

Notice how we are to welcome one another:

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

And how has Christ welcomed us? He has welcomed us as his sheep, his chosen, beloved people, and his Bride. He welcomed us into communion with himself though we didn’t deserve it. The work of Christ—his selfless love—fuels our love for one another. In light of what Christ has done for us, how can we not welcome one another whole heartedly? As Matthew Henry writes,

Let there be a mutual embracing among Christians. Those that have received Christ by faith must receive all Christians by brotherly love; though poor in the world, though persecuted and despised, though it may be matter of reproach and danger to you to receive them, though in the less weighty matters of the law they are of different apprehensions, though there may have been occasion for private piques, yet, laying aside these and the like considerations, receive you one another.

All of this we do by grace alone to the glory of our great King!