24 July 2017

On the Dangers of Distorting God's Grace

The unrighteousness of men cannot nullify the grace of God.

This is a paraphrase from a sermon I recently heard, and I was struck by the importance of this simple truth. And yet, even in its simplicity, it is a truth far too often ignored in some Christian circles. It seems that, in our sweeping attempts to avoid the dangerous error of a "seeker-sensitive" mindset, we find ourselves swinging the proverbial pendulum too far in the other direction. As a consequence, we find ourselves stressing holiness and righteousness—and rightly so—but we find these being stressed at the expense of God's grace.

The Apostle Paul, in discussing this topic, posed the typical argument that one might hear when preaching the gospel of grace:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? (Romans 5:18-6:1)
And we, with Paul, heartily exclaim, "May it never be!" (Romans 6:2). Still, it behooves us to remember that the gospel is indeed a gospel of grace, and without that glorious, divine grace, no man would be saved.

21 July 2017

This 'n' That

I bought a power washer.

That thing is amazing.

My concrete has never looked so clean, and I have never enjoyed cleaning concrete or siding more.

The only question is—why did I wait so long to purchase one of these fantastic contraptions?

All of that cleaning makes me think of a terrifying passage of Scripture, though.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
There's more to this passage, but I suspect you are familiar with it and, even if you are not, you get the idea. It's a pretty intense condemnation spoken by Jesus about those who are religious hypocrites.

We might clean up really nice on the outside, but have we taken a 2000 psi power washer to the inside?

Only Christ can perform such a powerful cleansing on us. Have we been cleansed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit? If so, then we are new creations in Him.

Still, in this world, and in our fallen flesh, we will inevitably find ourselves dirtied daily. But Christ offers cleansing even then.
Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” (John 13:5-10)
This is grace. Amazing grace. He saves us. He cleanses us. He graciously forgives us of our sin (1 John 1:9).

In response, we desire to serve Him. We desire to have our hearts and minds aligned with His and with His will. We pursue righteousness. We will all have our hypocritical moments, but may we, with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, seek to mortify those with a mighty blow. May God forgive us for our unfaithfulness when He is so steadfastly faithful.

Well, it is Friday (hooray!), so please enjoy your week in review (kind of):

15 July 2017

Equipping Eve: The Discipline of Grace (Part 2)


In this episode, we continue our discussion of God’s disciplining by grace, and examining the distinction between law and gospel. The Law is good, but salvation is by grace.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.
Click here to listen to Part 1.

Additional Resources
Equipping Eve: Have We Left Our First Love?
When We Forget the Meaning of Grace
"It Is Finished"

14 July 2017

This 'n' That

Sometimes I use talk-to-text to compose these introductions during my Thursday evening commute. What follows are my observations from last night.

Why is this person riding his brake? There's no reason to and yet there he is braking all the way down the street. Why is he driving in the middle of the road? Doesn't he know that there are two lanes? How did I end up behind this person? More importantly, how can I get around him?

Oh look, the Catholic Church wants me to call them if I have questions about the Catholic faith. I bet their phones are ringing off the hook.

Looks like the Methodist church is hosting this year's Global Leadership Summit… Again. Sigh. That is profoundly unsurprising.

Why is the stoplight lasting so long, especially when there's no one coming from the other direction?

Ooh, Wendy's has 50¢ Frosties! I can't have dairy, but those of you who can should take advantage of that deal!

Well, there you have it, a little insight into my life. I apologize that there's no spiritual application today, but I'd have to do some pretty intense stretching to make that happen. There is this, though: God, in His sovereign providence, knew that I'd be lacking for material this week, and so, just to test my readers' loyalty, He (thankfully) allowed me to have an uneventful commute so that I could share these unremarkable and un-motivating observations. Yes, God is sovereign even over the mundane!

Now that you've seen how utterly un-interesting my real life is, why not take some time to immerse yourself in something a bit more intriguing as you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

07 July 2017

This 'n' That

During the warmer months, I like to go for a walk in the evening. Nothing strenuous, just a peaceful walk around the neighborhood after being cooped up in an office all day. Last night, though, required a bit of maneuvering. It had rained most of the day and was still sprinkling when I stepped outside. With the sky still bright, however, and the sun striving to peek through, it was only a few minutes before the sprinkles ceased and the evening's walk could commence.

The humidity was a bit unpleasant (I always get "Texas hair" in the humidity [no offense intended toward my Texas friends]), but still, there are few things more enjoyable than enjoying the fresh air an evening stroll affords you...except when that stroll is interrupted by bugs. Lots of bugs. Not mosquitos necessarily (I've surrendered to all mosquitos; avoiding or repelling them is hopeless. My flesh is yours to dine upon), these were simply ambiguous flying bugs. Too large to be called gnats, they nevertheless swarmed and dive-bombed, essentially eliminating any sort of relaxation or pleasure one could gain from the evening. And so it was a brief walk last night. A brief, buggy walk.

To be clear, I'm not actually complaining, but am simply describing the circumstances. Seeing all those insects, though, and being attacked by them, caused me to think of can instance that involved a great deal more swarming flies:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.’” They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 
Now the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they dwell. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur.'” Then the LORD did so. And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 8:16-24) 
Can you even imagine? Then, consider a future time, when far larger creatures will do more than simply swarm when the fifth trumpet is sounded during the period of the Tribulation, as described in Revelation 9:1-12.

Do you see now why I wasn't actually complaining about last night's bugs? I think I'll take my rainy day flies to these plagues rendered upon mankind as judgment from a holy, just, and omnipotent God! It is so magnificent to consider and ponder, though, that this same God is also a merciful and gracious God. He is long-suffering toward us ,who are great sinners, and His mercies are new each morning. Yes, He judges and does so rightly and righteously, but for those who call upon the name of Christ, He freely grants forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life. He indeed is worthy of our praise!

Okay, swat that fly off of your iPad, because it is time for your week in review (kind of):

06 July 2017

Relieved by the Thought of Jesus


If we compare our best performances with the demands of the law, the majesty of God, and the unspeakable obligations we are under; if we consider our innumerable sins of omission, and that the little we can do is polluted and defiled by the mixture of evil thoughts and the working of selfish principles, aims, and motives, which, though we disapprove, we are unable to suppress; we have great reason to confess: "To us belong shame and confusion of face."

But we are relieved by the thought that Jesus, the High Priest, bears the iniquity of our holy things, perfumes our prayers with the incense of his mediation, and washes our tears in his own blood. This inspires a confidence, that though we are unworthy of the least of his mercies, we may humbly hope for a share in the greatest blessings he bestowed, because we are heard and accepted, not on the account of our own prayers and services, but in the beloved Son of God, who maketh intercession for us. Thus the wisdom and love of God have provided a wonderful expedient, which, so far as it is rightly understood, and cordially embraced, while it lays the sinner low as the dust in point of humiliation and self-abasement, fills him at the same time with a hope full of glory, which, with respect to its object, can be satisfied with nothing less than all the fullness of God.

There are favored seasons in which the believer, having a lively impression of the authority and love of the Intercessor, can address the great Jehovah as his Father, with no less confidence than if he was holy and spotless as the angels before the throne, at the very moment that he has abundant cause to say, "Behold, I am vile! I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!"

– John Newton

Further Reading 
When We Forget the Meaning of Grace
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption
Consequences of the Cross: Reconciliation

05 July 2017

Equipping Eve: The Discipline of Grace (Part 1)


In his book, "The Discipline of Grace," author Jerry Bridges has noted that God disciplines by grace, not law. Yet, is this how we perceive our Christian walk? Might we be trapped unknowingly in a subtle cycle of dangerous legalism? How does it help us to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday?”

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Additional Resources
Equipping Eve: Have We Left Our First Love?
When We Forget the Meaning of Grace
"It Is Finished"