Archive for June, 2010

Destined for Glory

The Discipline of Grace. What a book! I’ve just finished it, and recommend it to all my blog readers out there (all 3 or 4 of you!). It has challenged me to my core on looking at my pursuit of holiness. What are our motivations for holiness? How do we stay motivated? What happens when I sin? Where does God’s grace come into it all? Is discipline just another word for legalism? (No it isn’t by the way). All these, and many more important questions, are answered thoroughly, biblically and practically by Bridges, as he shows us God’s sovereign plan to conform the believer into the likeness of His Son, the living Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s an extract that has warmed my heart and given me great confidence as I neared the end of the book. The chapter is a great exposition of Hebrews 12:4-11;

‘It is not clear whether the author of Hebrews was writing of the peace that comes with maturity in this life, as Bruce interpreted him, or the rest that comes ultimately to the believer in eternity, as Hughes understood him. The truth is, both are taught in Scripture. Concerning this life, Paul wrote that our sufferings produce perseverance, which in turn produces character (Romans 5:3-4), and James said that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity (James 1:2-5).

Our ultimate hope, though, is not in maturity of character in this life, as valuable as that is, but in the perfection of character in eternity. The apostle John wrote, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The often-painful process of being transformed into His likeness will be over. We shall be completely conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Looking forward to that time, Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). As I think on what Paul said, I visualize in my mind a pair of old-fashioned balance scales. Paul first puts all our sufferings, all our heartaches and disappointments, all our adversities of whatever kind from whatever source onto one side of the balance scales. Of course, the scales bottom out on that side. But then he puts on the other side the glory that will be revealed in us. As we watch, the scales do not balance or even come into some degree of unbalanced equilibrium as we might expect. Instead they now completely bottom out on the side of the glory that will be revealed in us. Paul said our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory we will experience in eternity.

In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote,

‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Here again we see the bottoming out of the scales on the side of our eternal glory that far outweighs our sufferings of this life.

This is not to say that that our present hardships are not painful. We have already seen from Hebrews 12:11 that they are indeed painful, and we all know this to some degree from experience. Nothing I say in this chapter is intended to minimize the pain and perplexity of adversity. But we need to learn to look by faith beyond the present pain to the eternal glory that will be revealed in us. Remember, the God who disciplines us will also glorify us.

So the discipline of adversity is given to us by God as a means of our sanctification. Our role in this discipline is to respond to it, and to acquiesce to whatever God may be doing, even though a particular instance of adversity makes no sense to us. As we do this we will see in due time the fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives.

Buy the Discipline of Grace at 10ofthose.com or amazon.co.uk

Racial Harmony and the Gospel

On Sunday, as I was working in London, I had the pleasure of going to Jubilee Church in Enfield and got to hear John Piper preaching on ‘Racial Harmony and the gospel’. It is the first preach I have heard on the subject. Jubilee is a very multi-cultural church and I was greatly encouraged by my time there. Piper was spot on, relating the ‘5 doctrines of grace’ to the subject matter and showing the impact it has on shaping our views on the subject. You can watch the sermon below, and underneath that are my notes;

Massive changes in the global church compared to a 100 years ago. Just 58% of London is what is called British White, with over 300 languages spoken in the city alone. And that’s probably an understatement. Tope, Pastor @ Jubilee, is burdened to keep Jubilee ethnically diverse, showing the importance of the gospel to all men. There are now more Presbyterians in Ghana than in Scotland. More Anglicans in Kenya, Brazil and the like than in Britain, Canada, the USA etc. Times are changing.

The ‘5 doctrines of grace’ will help us think more about this issue.

(1) We are all sinners and fallen people, totally depraved. (Romans 8:7-8)

The mind that is set on the flesh cannot please God. We were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2). But now as children of the kingdom, we have been raised from the dead à God made us alive with Christ. We didn’t do it, God did it. London is filled with millions of people who are dead (spiritually).

‘No one is righteous’. All human beings are equally dead (before salvation). Hell will be totally diverse, and that’s a phrase lifted straight from the Bible (see Rom 2:9). This has tremendous implications: it should humble us of our own sin, seeing ourselves as God does. We should take our lives off the sin of other people because we were dead. Dead as dead.

(2) God Almighty chose to save you before the foundations of the earth (Acts 13:48)

Faith comes without basis on any spiritual or ethnic quality. God chose before the foundations of the World. This is surely inspiring in our evangelism. This is doctrine is awesome – people are only saved by God based on absolutely nothing of their own accord. We are His – this smashes racial authority.

(3) Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)

Jesus laid down His life for His sheep. John 3:16 The FREE gift of salvation is on offer for everyone because of His sacrificial death. By dying, he bought his Bride, the church.

Rev 5:9 – every tribe and every nation is represented in the body of Christ.

God intends to have a people from every tribe, tongue, nation and people. In the Bible, there is no obvious distinction between these four terms, they are interwoven to emphasise that no type of people will be discounted from the kingdom. Rev 5:10 we (the church) are a kingdom and a priesthood. You cannot have a priesthood who hates each other… therefore racism, even at its most subtle manifestation, cannot be part of the kingdom.

“It is better to marry a Pakistani Christian than a rich white American banker who is nominal”. Better to stay in the family (spiritually speaking, this is not a call to incest!).

It was infinitely costly for God to purchase this people. The blood of Christ is of infinite worth. V9 promoting the gospel to other nations can often be confused with doing ‘social gospel’. It cost Christ everything to pull diversity in the kingdom so we should work hard at reflection his kingdom on earth. God deserves glory à he is more glorified by a multi-diverse worldwide church.

(4) He comes to us and overcomes all our rebellion and saves us (Eph 2:8)

The great things about salvation by faith alone by grace alone is that not only can people of all races be saved, but so can racists! The blood of Christ is not limited to certain sins. Faith is a gift, God grants repentance. Triumphant grace.

(5) God will keep you strong to the end

Rom 8:30 – The doctrine of perseverance/preservation. John 10:28 No-one can snatch them from my hand. There is no slip up between justification and glorification. If you have been justified, you’re as good as glorified. So let us persevere in promoting racial harmony, even amongst criticism, which inevitably comes when trying to find the ‘perfect balance’.

Church is NOT a Restaurant. It’s Family.

Mark Driscoll on Church, this is absolutely fantastic!

Holiness is a team game

Currently reading a chapter called ‘Dependent Discipline’ in Jerry Bridges’ Discipline of Grace and it has struck me that pursuing holiness is not something we can do on our own, neither is it something passive which God can do without our own discipline and effort;

Two extracts from the book that are particularly striking to me;

‘there is not a single instance in New Testament teaching on holiness where we are taught to depend on the Holy Spirit without a corresponding exercise of discipline on our part.’

‘The truth is, we must plant and we must water if we are to make progress in holiness, but only the Holy Spirit can change us more and more into the likeness of Jesus. Our problem is that we tend to depend upon our planting and our watering rather than on the Lord.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Book Review: The Unquenchable Flame

I’ve read this short-ish book (185 pages) in just a few days since coming home from university, and it has been a fantastic read to kick off my summer list. Mike Reeves, UCCF’s Theological Advisor, writes with enthusiasm and admiration of the Reformation heroes of the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.

He begins with a chapter on the background to the Reformation, the state of the world pre-Luther and his colleagues, showing the desperate state of Christianity under the influence of papal Rome, relying on a false justification and without a Bible anyone could understand.

Despite some of the negative voices there are in 21st Century Britain about the Reformation today, Reeves shows that the whole affair was a positive one, about bringing people the true message of the gospel, and not primarily to flee the evils of Rome.

The Unquenchable Flame unpacks the wonderful stories about the works of both mind and body of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and the Puritans in bringing about Protestantism in Europe and further afield.

I have been challenged to see my half-hearted efforts at trying to please God are not enough to warrant salvation, and that is why justification by faith alone is so important. Martin Luther once wrote; ‘sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.’

It is inspiring to see men willing to be burnt at the stake for the sake of sound primary doctrine. To the mistake of some, it was not the work of madmen willing to die for the small print of religious waffle. Those reformation martyrs were willing to die when salvation was at stake.

It reminds me of the God-man, the Lamb of the world, Jesus Christ, who humbled himself to death, even death on a cross to save the sins of the many.

Buy The Unquenchable Flame at 10ofthose.com or on Amazon

Bridges on Justification

I am being stunned by Bridges in the Discipline of Grace on every page. A quick extract on the Christian’s basis of justification;

‘It is not our contrition or sorrow for our sin, it is not our repentance, it is not even the passing of a certain number of hours during which we feel we are on some kind of probation that cleanses us. It is the blood of Christ, shed once for all on Calvary two thousand years ago but appropriated daily or even many times a day, that cleanses our consciences and gives us a renewed sense of peace with God.’

Make War – John Piper