Friday, February 29, 2008

assurance and good works

Here is most of one of Kim Riddlebarger's posts. What excellent spiritual advice and comfort he offers. It's from a series on the Canons of Dort. Read slowly and carefully:

"Contrary to the theology of fear and guilt taught by so many of our contemporaries, the assurance of our salvation is actually the only proper basis for good works. Critics of the Reformed faith often charge that if you tell Christians that they can assuredly know that they will go to heaven when they die, then there is no longer any incentive for doing good works.

The response to this misguided argument is a simple rhetorical question. “Does a dog bark to become a dog, or does a dog bark because it is a dog?” According to Hebrews 11:6, only the Christian who has been given faith as a gift by God, can actually do good works in the first place!

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." - Heb 11:6

Non-Christians can't perform any work that is acceptable to God, because whatever work they perform, is completely tainted and stained by the guilt of sin (Romans 3:12).

“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Let us not forget that good works spontaneously spring forth in the lives of those who have been called by God to faith in Jesus, and who have been justified and united to Christ (cf. Galatians 5:16-26). If the tree has been changed from a bad tree to a good one through regeneration, so too, good fruit will naturally and inevitably follow—though, as Luther wisely counseled, we should not look to this fruit in our own lives for the primary assurance of our own salvation because we are often times the worst judge of our own character! If we are privileged to see good fruit in our own lives, it should only serve to remind us of God’s graciousness to us, since his grace is the only reason why the fruit is there in the first place. But others in the body of Christ may see true fruit in us and be moved to give thanks to God.

Although I am sure they are there, I have yet to meet someone who is a Christian, and who asks, “how many sins can I commit and still be a Christian?” Biblically understood, the assurance of our salvation is not based upon human presumption and vanity, but upon confidence in Jesus Christ, who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and who prays for us, to that our faith will not fail (Luke 22:32; I John 2:1-2). Far from making us lax in our efforts, then, if we are in Christ, what else can we do, but live a life of gratitude, striving to be obedient to the commands of God as revealed in his word (1 John 5:2)?

The Canons also warn us, that those who reject this teaching, and who base assurance on human efforts are, ironically, the ones most apt to fall into sin. “By God's just judgment this does usually happen to those who casually take for granted the grace of election or engage in idle and brazen talk about it but are unwilling to walk in the ways of the chosen.” How many illustrations of this are there? Too many, I am afraid.

Therefore, the assurance of our salvation is based upon the promises of our Savior (John 6:37, 10:28), and once we are in him, the Scriptures declare, good works will inevitably follow (John 15:16). We must be very careful here not to reverse this order, and make the good works that we do to be the basis for our assurance. For this is the religion of fear and doubt, the religion that terrifies the soul. This is the American religion, grounded in a false sense of human goodness, and which places far too much confidence in the flesh."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

living by grace - part 2

On love and bondage, Hordern writes:

"If we accept God's love with a loving trust, inevitably we desire to please God, because it is of the very nature of love that it wishes to please the loved one. And here is true freedom from bondage.

When the law commands us to do certain things under the penalty of punishment for failure to comply, or with the hope of reward if we obey, we are still under bondage.

The fear of punishment and the hope of reward restricts us, so that we cannot do what we truly desire to do. But where we act because of love we can act willingly, gladly and freely." - pg.109

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.We love because he first loved us." - 1 John 4:18,19

Friday, February 22, 2008

the end

in Christ alone

What a great song. "Self-evangelize" with these comforting words of grace:

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

Friday, February 15, 2008

living by grace - part 1

I'm starting a mini-series of posts on the book Living by Grace by William Hordern. The quotes aren't in order. They are quotes from sections that struck me as helpful or profound or both.

Evangelism or Loving One's Neighbor?

"Christians often debate among themselves as to what is the primary task of the Christian. Some argue that the Christian's first task is to spread the gospel, win converts, and to be an evangelist. Others argue that the Christian's first task is to perform acts of love for the neighbor. The debate is ironical in view of Jesus' words about letting our light shine before men.

Acts of evangelism and acts of love do not stand in contrast to each other. Acts of love may be a most effective means of evangelism. When an unbeliever sees a truly selfless concern for others in the life of a Christian he may well be led to seek the source of the power displayed by such a life. On the other hand, of course, if a Christian displays no love in his life, it is rather futile for him to preach about the love of God in Christ." - p.162

One might get the impression Hordern is saying 'actions speak louder than words'. But he's not. In the book he makes a strong case for the gospel being clearly communicated too. *We need to love our neighbors AND share the gospel.

*I do not doubt that God has used street evangelists, tracts, etc... in bringing people to Him. God is sovereign. But I tend to think that's not the norm...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

do you have a thirsty soul?

"Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and wary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." — Psalm 63:1-3

Monday, February 11, 2008

can you have too much grace?

"But do not some abuse the grace of the gospel and turn it into wantonness? Answer: Yes, some do, ever did, and still will do so. But it is only the ill-understood and not believed doctrine of grace that they abuse. The grace itself, no man can abuse, for its power prevents its abuse. Let us see how Paul, that blessed herald of this grace (as he was an eminent instance of it) deals with this objection (Rom. 6:1, etc.). How does he prevent this abuse? Is it by extenuating what he said (Rom. 5:20), that grace abounded much more where sin had abounded? Is it by mincing grace smaller so that men may not choke upon it or have too much of it? Is it by mixing something of the law with it, to make it more wholesome? No, but only by plainly asserting the power and influence of this grace, wherever it really is, as he does at length in that chapter. This grace is all treasured up in Christ Jesus, offered to all men in the gospel, poured forth by our Lord in the working of faith, and drunk in by the elect in the exercise of faith. And it becomes in them a living spring, which will, and must, break out and spring up in all holy conversation."

Robert Traill, Justification Vindicated (Puritan Paperbacks, Banner of Truth, 2002), p. 41.

originally posted on The Upper Register Blog by Lee Irons

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

feeling guilty over prayer part 2

Here's an excellent addendum on the first post about prayer The Upper Register Blog:

"...once we realize that Christ’s righteousness is sufficient to make our weak and distracted prayers acceptable, then we become less constrained in prayer. We won’t be afraid to address our confused anxieties to the Lord, even if we can’t articulate them as we would like (”groanings too deep for words,” Rom 8:26). We won’t be afraid to pray, even if we know we’ll get distracted. We can pray liberally, at any time, at any place, and in any state of mind. Why? Because our weak prayers are made mighty by the intercession of Christ for us. - Lee Irons

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

funny headline

...this goes in the "no DUH!" category.

feeling guilty about your prayer life?

Ever feel guilty that you don't pray enough? Lee Irons has some encouraging grace-filled words:

"The great danger is to turn the duty of prayer into a law that leaves you feeling guilty for your lack of prayer. The paradox of law-based motivations to godliness is that the more guilty you feel, the less you will do what you know you ought to do. And the more you fail, the more guilty you feel. It is the never-ending spiral of law-sin-guilt from which one cannot be extricated apart from the gospel.

So try something new. Follow Dabney’s encouragement and think of prayer as something that you already do without realizing it. Or, perhaps more accurately, as something that your regenerate heart wants to do, if only you would capitalize on those irrepressible promptings from the Spirit and turn them into conscious prayers. Instead of thinking of prayer as something arduous and requiring tremendous amounts of discipline and effort, see it as something easy. As soon as the thought, “I should pray about this,” pops into your heard, do it right then and there. Just talk to the Lord, even if for the briefest moment, even for a second or two (what I call “arrow prayers”).

Even when you have sunk into a pit of spiritual emptiness, where even the thought of trying to crawl out makes you feel exhausted and hopeless, the irrepressible promptings of the Spirit are there, perhaps nothing more than the simple, abject cry, “Lord, help me!” It is not really the case that we are prayerless. It is just that we have such an exalted conception of prayer that we have overlooked the many prayers that we have despised as unworthy of the name of prayer."

- Lee Irons /