Tag: The Gospel

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.

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.

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 Words That Wreck Me

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

There was a time when I didn’t know that this verse existed. I was probably hiding from it. After all, it’s a bit startling. I can handle the parts of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about hate being the same as murder and lust being the same as adultery (Matt. 5:21-30). Those words are uncomfortable, but they don’t wreck me. What wrecks me is the realization that God requires perfection. It’s non-optional, and I can’t attain it. Nothing I do can earn God’s favor. Nothing I do can make me perfect. That’s humbling. In fact, it’s downright scary.

If I’m left to myself, I am doomed. And the same goes for you, your spouse, your kids, and your neighbors. We’re all doomed if left to ourselves. We can’t be perfect as the Father is perfect.

But, that’s not the end of the story. There is a man who lived a perfect life. There’s a man who wrapped himself in flesh to come and save his people. The Shepherd who suffered the wrath of God in the place of his sheep. The Son who was perfectly obedient to his Father. The High Priest who became the perfect sacrifice. That man is the God-Man—Jesus Christ.

Christ has earned God’s favor on our behalf. He has imputed his righteousness to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). In him we have everything that we can’t hope to have in our own power. Let this be our prayer:

Lord break our pride and all our vain attempts to earn your favor
Help us to rest upon the finished work of Christ

John Calvin on the Gospel-Centered Life

Portrait of John Calvin (1509-64), French theologian and reformer (oil on canvas)It’s easy to forget that we’re not the first generation to see the importance of keeping the gospel central. Almost 500 years ago, John Calvin wrote of how the gospel should motivate us to holiness. Don’t just read these points, meditate on them deeply. Look up the Scripture references, and humbly seek to live as who you are in Christ.

1. Since God has shown himself to be our Father, we are guilty of gross ingratitude if we do not behave as his children (Mal. 1:6; Eph. 5:1; 1 John 3:1).

2. Since Christ has cleansed us by the washing of his blood, and has granted us his cleansing through baptism, we would be wrong to sully ourselves again with filth (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 10:10; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Pet. 1:15, 19).

3. Since he has joined us to himself and grafted us into his body, we must beware of polluting ourselves in any way, seeing that we are his members (1 Cor. 6:15; John 15:3; Eph. 5:23).

4. Since he who is our Head has ascended into heaven, we must free ourselves of all earthly desires, and yearn with all our heart for the life above (Col. 3:1-2).

5. Since the Holy Spirit has consecrated us as God’s temples, we must strive to see God glorified in us, and to keep ourselves from uncleanness (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16).

6. Since our soul and body are destined for immortality in the kingdom of God, and for the incorruptible crown of his glory, we must endeavor to preserve soul and body spotless until the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:23).

These are sound and proper foundations on which we may safely build our lives. Nothing like them will be found in any of the philosophers, who never rise higher than the natural dignity of man whenever their theme is human duty.

(Excerpt from The Institutes of Christian Religion)

Read It: 2/7

Check out these articles from this pastperson-310799_640 week!

Over at Reformation 21, Aaron Denlinger has written an article titled Luther on Divine, Human, and Puppy Love. Here’s a quote from the article: “God does not love that which is lovable; God loves, and in loving, renders the object(s) of his affection lovable.”

“You Must Be Born Again”: Keith Mathison writes,

According to many, we are not spiritually dead but are simply sick. We are on our death beds, and Jesus offers us the cure. All we have to do is reach out and take it. Or we are drowning and Jesus offers us a life buoy, and all we have to do is grab it to save our lives. The picture painted by Jesus and the apostles, however, is much more bleak. In our natural Adamic state, we are not on our sick beds. We are in the grave. We are not flailing about on the surface of the sea. We are lifeless at the bottom of the ocean. We are dead.

Faith and Repentance: In this webcomic, Adam Ford illustrates an excerpt from J. I. Packer’s book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

Intimacy or Familiarity: Is it better to read large chunks of Scripture or delve deep into a few verses? Tim Challies provides an answer.

How to Profit From False Prophets: David Murray writes,

I’m not saying that we should all study what false prophets are teaching – that would be a foolish waste of time for most, and a dangerous path for many. But in today’s hyper-connected world, it’s difficult not to encounter their teaching here and there, and even in some very surprising places. As we do, let’s use their falsehood to help us discern what questions people are asking, to make us study our Bible more thoroughly, to highlight where the church has been too silent, and to encourage ourselves that He who has begun a good work in us is continuing it until the Day of Jesus Christ.