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Life

One Thought on the C.J. Mahaney Issue

For those of you who are not aware, some severe charges have been leveled against C.J. Mahaney. These charges can be summed up in one word: pride. Tim Challies has written a helpful reflection on the situation and how Christians should respond.  Ligon Duncan also pens his reflection and he includes some links that will help you catch up on the story.

My only thought is personal: I am asking the Lord to keep me from any appearance of pride, specifically a resistance in my heart to correction and rebuke. I have been deeply troubled by these sins in my life because they are present and real (as my wife can attest). By grace I am seeking to put them to death.

I cannot do it on my own. Neither can C.J. Great grace is required. Thankfully, in Christ and his gospel, great grace is provided–to me, C.J., and anyone who would believe. Let’s be praying for C.J., Sovereign Grace Ministries, and our own hearts.

Categories
Theology

The Gospel in All of Life

Part 3 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.

It is not just enough to know conceptually that every text is a road to Christ. It’s also not enough to know how to set up a devotional time. After all, intellectual knowledge never saved anyone from hell and creating a good devo plan hasn’t either. The only hope for the world is the gospel–the fact that God entered creation in the person of Jesus Christ and has accomplished redemption for his people through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

It’s not uncommon for Christians to “move past” the gospel after initially accepting it. You come to Jesus by faith, they argue, then you need to white-knuckle it and work hard. Some Christians say that the gospel is the “ABCs” of the Christian life. Tim Keller, on the other hand, has said that the gospel is the “A to Z of the Christian life.” The gospel (Gk. evangelion) means “good news.” Why would you ever want to move past good news? Paul asked just that to the Galatians: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?…Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and work miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (Gal. 3:3, 5).

If the gospel is “good news,” then there must be bad news, right? The bad news is that we cannot have a right relationship with God because we are rotten from the inside out. Even our best deeds are utterly disgusting to God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8). It’s not just an external problem; we do not just do bad things, we are bad (Rom. 3:10-18).

Because of this, the gospel is rooted in God’s self-substitution for sinners. Because we cannot obtain righteousness before God, he must stand in our place as our perfect substitute and obtain “an alien righteousness” for us. God did this through Jesus Christ.

At the center of this self-substitution is the cross. Because our sin is against an infinitely holy God, we deserve infinite, unimaginable condemnation and wrath. Thankfully, Jesus lived the life we should have lived and he died the death we deserve to die. He absorbed the wrath of God for us, and became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). It is on the cross that Jesus exchanged our sin for his righteousness in order that we might be justified (i.e. declared righteous) before God (2 Cor. 5:21).  Those who receive this by faith–not works–are justified (Rom. 3:24-25; see Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Therefore, Jesus is our complete substitute Savior. This is good news.

Unfortunately, this precious doctrine of Christ as our substitute is not held tightly among Christians as it once was. In Don’t Call It a Comeback, Greg Gilbert writes, “I’m convinced that part of the reason many evangelicals have begun to lose their grasp on the cross is that we have lost sight of why we need to be saved. We’ve forgotten, and even in some cases deliberately disregarded, what sin is and how profound is its offense to God” (74).

Up to this point, I’m sure a few of you have wondered what this all has to do with having a devotional time. It has everything to do with a devotional time! Gilbert brings us back to our times in God’s word. The first step to a life void of the gospel is to forget or disregard how awful our sin is. Martin Luther once said that a Christian’s entire life is one of repentance. When the gospel is the lens through which we see life, we keep our hope in Jesus and stay repentant.

In turn, if the gospel is not the lens through which we see all of life, we will not be repentant, and will never have a disciplined, ongoing devotional life. If the gospel is the “ABC’s” of the Christian life, your devotional times will eventually become more and more about you and less and less about God. This will lead to one of two outcomes. First, it may lead to self-righteousness. Every passage will be a avenue for you to ride off on your high horse because you succeed (most of the time) at keeping the rules more often than your family and friends. Second, it may lead to utter despair. Verses and chapters will be horrific constructions of condemnation because you just can’t seem to muster up the motivation or ability to obey.

But if the gospel is your “A to Z”–your only righteousness and plea before God–I contend that your devotional times, though not perfect, will be healthy, vibrant, and full of Christ. Verses, chapters, and books will be avenues to a world greater than yourself because they will point you away from yourself and toward God. What the psalmist prayed will actually happen: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Ps. 119:36). The Scriptures (even the Old Testament!) will show you the depth of your sin and the greatness of your need, yet at the same time the power and sufficiency of your substitute Savior and conquering King.

Jesus and his gospel must be your sole source of righteousness before God. The sin in our lives is a failure to fully believe the gospel. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that God will repay with affliction “those who do not obey the gospel.” To obey the gospel means to believe its truth and efficacy in your life. When I am harsh with my wife, I fail to believe that God has given me grace instead of wrath, though my sin against God is infinitely greater than anything my wife could do to me.  When I exalt myself, I fail to believe that I am perfectly accepted in God’s eyes through Christ and do not need to seek man’s praise. When I lust, get greedy or envious, or comfort myself with food or TV, I fail to believe that Christ is my all-sufficient Treasure and that he alone is worthy of my utmost affections.

If this is your perspective on the Christian life, your devotional times will be marinated with the gospel. You must think this way, and if you don’t (or don’t think you can) you must ask God to be gracious and help you. I don’t always think this way. My life is a continual battle to believe the gospel. Often I feel like the father of the demon possessed boy who cried, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

The only hope for your life–and for your devotions–is the gospel. When you find yourself lost in the deep waters of Scripture during a quiet time in the morning, don’t look for a command to obey or a spiritual nugget to get you through lunch time. Those will do as much good as a paddle without a boat and an arm floatie on an elephant. Climb aboard the unsinkable ship of the gospel of God’s grace, revealed fully in his Son Jesus Christ.

Categories
Life Theology

Passion Week – Monday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Luke 22:24-30:

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

As I read this passage, my own pride rushes to the surface of my heart.  It’s plainly exposed.  And you know what?  It’s ugly.  Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you become as the  youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  Do I do that?  Am I that?  Most days, I am not.  I crave applause and recognition.  I want people to know my name and face. I want people to read my blog and visit my Twitter.  I want people to be impressed with what I know or how I present myself.  I want people to like me. But, it’s not just addiction to acceptance, as psychologists might put it.  Most fundamentally, it’s idolatry.  I idolize myself instead of worship God.

Jesus ends the disciples’ dispute in our passage by saying that the Father has given him a kingdom, and Jesus is giving that kingdom to his disciples so they may “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.”  Jesus is bringing them in, not so that they can be the king, but so that they can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. We, by grace, get to be participants. It’s all about Jesus.  Not me.

Father in Heaven, forgive me.  Help me be humble. Pride is a damning thing, and if I want to be great, I need to be the least. Let me be a servant in your kingdom; help me be like you.

Categories
Theology

Passion Week – Wednesday Meditation

Part 3 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

John 19:12-13:

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”  So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

Jesus was on death row, and Pilate was very close to letting him walk free.  He said a handful of times that he found no guilt in this Galilean pauper.  But when the chips were down, Pilate had no courage.  The Jews pushed a button.  What button did they push?   It was the praise of man button. Everyone has that button, and the Jews knew exactly where Pilate’s was and how hard to push it.

Pilate’s problem was that he considered his kingdom to be more significant than Jesus’ kingdom. His problem was that he loved the praise of the Jews, Caesar, and the hostile crowd more than God’s praise.  Had Pilate released Jesus — whom the Jews were accusing of being a political rebel and spiritual blasphemer — he would have practically forfeited his governorship.  Why?  Jesus called himself a king, and “everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (v. 12). Just the threat of some Jews telling Caesar on him a made Pilate shrink back and say, “Okay, okay. You want your so-called King crucified? You can have it.”

Crucify a carpenter to start the weekend or risk losing your job and face treason charges? It was an easy choice for Pilate.

Hold on, though. What about me? Jesus wasn’t crucified because Pilate loved man’s praise and wanted to build his own kingdom, or because the Jews were blind and stiff-necked, or even because the disciples ran away. No, Jesus was crucified because I love man’s praise.  Jesus was crucified because I love my kingdom. Jesus was crucified because I run away everyday. Of course, Jesus died for other people’s sin, too. But if I’m pointing fingers and shaking my head at Pilate, I’m missing the point.

Almighty Father, help me desire your praise and hate the praise of man. Help me feel how ugly my sin really is. Make me realize what it meant for you to be crucified for me. Help me grieve over my sins, great and small, and point me to that blessed Cross, where all my sins were washed away.

Categories
Life

Passion Week – Monday Mediation

Series Index

  1. Monday
  2. Tuesday
  3. Wednesday
  4. Thursday
  5. Friday
  6. Saturday
  7. Sunday

Part 1 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Luke 22:24-30:

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

This weekend, John Piper announced he is taking an eight month leave of absence starting May 1.  The main reason for this, he said is pride: “I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me.”

That really humbled me.  It convicted me.  I set that alongside this passage from the Gospel of Luke, and my own pride rushed to the surface.  And you know what?  It’s ugly.  Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you become as the  youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  Do I do that?  Am I that?  Most days, I am not.  I crave applause and recognition.  I want people to know my name and face. I want people to read my blog and visit my Twitter.  I want people to be impressed with what I know or how I present myself.  I want people to like me. But, it’s not just addiction to acceptance, as psychologists might put it.  Most fundamentally, it’s idolatry.  I idolize myself instead of worship God.

Jesus ends the disciples’ dispute in our passage by saying that the Father has given him a kingdom, and Jesus is giving that kingdom to his disciples so they may “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.”  Jesus is bringing them in, not so that they can be the king, but so that they can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. We, by grace, get to be participants. It’s all about Jesus.  Not me.

Father in Heaven, forgive me.  Help me be humble. Pride is a damning thing, and if I want to be great, I need to be the least. Let me be a servant in your kingdom; help me be like you.