Monday, 11 September 2017

Jesus welcomes sinners because...?

The good news of Jesus is that Jesus welcomes sinners. Sinners like you and me. But when you ask why or how Jesus welcomes sinners, distortions abound. Here are three.

Theological liberalism: Jesus welcomes sinners because no one is really a sinner.
Antinomianism: Jesus welcomes sinners because sin doesn’t really matter.
Legalism: Jesus welcomes sinners because they stopped committing big sins.

But the gospel says: Jesus welcomes sinners despite their sins to make them sin no longer.

Common to all three distortions is to downplay sin. (Yes, legalism above included.) It’s tempting to do so, because we don’t want to deal with the problem we cannot handle. But by downplaying sin, we make Jesus irrelevant and unnecessary. Or do we? Can we? By downplaying funnel web-spider bite, can I make the anti-venom irrelevant and unnecessary? By downplaying poverty, can I make social services and charity organisations irrelevant and unnecessary? Actually, I could, only to the detriment of the spider bite victim (in the case of funnel-web spider bite) and to the detriment of the whole society (in the case of poverty). We are not overplaying the funnel-web spider bite when we urgently apply the anti-venom to someone who’s bitten. We are not overplaying the poverty when we make social services and charity organisations available for those in need. It is simply a loving thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.

Likewise, we must not and dare not downplay sin. When we do so, it is to the detriment of human lives by making Jesus look irrelevant and unnecessary. But Jesus came to rescue us from sin. We all sin. And sin is too big a problem for all of us. We have a real problem, and we need a real solution. Or, rather, a real saviour. And his name is Jesus.

Against theological liberalism, the gospel says, Jesus welcomes sinners, and they are really sinners.
Against antinomianism, the gospel says, Jesus welcomes sinners to make them sin no longer.
Against legalism, the gospel says, Jesus welcomes sinners despite their sins, big or small.

Gospel: Jesus welcomes sinners despite their sins to make them sin no longer. 

(Photo credit: Australian Geographic)

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

How great a mercy this is

Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls. [[…]] As you take yourselves for the lights of the churches, you may expect that men’s eyes will be upon you. If other men may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults; and thus have greater helps than others, at least for restraining you from sin. Though they may do it with a malicious mind, yet you have the advantage of it. God forbid that we should prove so impudent as to do evil in the public view of all, and to sin wilfully while the world is gazing on us! [[…]] Take heed therefore to yourselves, and do your work as those that remember that the world looks on them, and that with the quick-sighted eye of malice, ready to make the worst of all, to find the smallest fault where it is, to aggravate it where they find it, to divulge it and to take advantage of it to their own designs, and to make faults where they cannot find them. How cautiously, then, should we walk before so many ill-minded observers!
    Richard Baxter, TheReformed Pastor, p75–76 (emphasis mine)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Who are these people?

    Think of some of the greatest biblical figures who ever lived: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, King David, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul. Or what about the great figures of church history: Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon? Or consider the great political and military heroes of world history: Alexander the Great, Constantine the Great, Napoleon, and Winston Churchill. Who are these people, even the greatest saints, compared with Jesus Christ? They are like grain of sand compared with Mount Everest.
    What is Samson's strength compared with that of Jesus, who was raised in power? What is Solomon's wisdom compared with that of the one in whom all the treasures of wisdom are contained? What is Methuselah's age compared with the age of the one who inhabits the places of eternity? What are Paul's visions of heaven compared with the sight of the Lord of heaven? What are Elisha's miracles compared with the incarnation and resurrection of the God-man?
  -- Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, xiii

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Having the peace of God is not enough

Question: "Suppose you have the peace of God. Will not that quiet you?"
Answer: "No, I must have the God of peace; as the peace of God, so the God of peace; that is, I must enjoy that God that gives me the peace; I must have the Cause as well as the effect; I must see from whence my peace comes and enjoy the Fountain of my peace, as well as the streams of my peace."
  -- Jeremiah Burroughs as quoted in Fred Sanders, The Triune God, p33–34

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The problem of antinomianism: separation of God's law from God's person

    At one level the problem is indeed rejection of God's law. But underneath lies a failure to understand grace and ultimately to understand God. True, his love for me is not based on my qualification or my preparation. But it is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather he accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ's sake. Nor does he mean to leave us the way he found us, but to transform us into the likeness of his Son. Without that transformation and new conformity of life we do not have any evidence that we were ever his in the first place.
    At root then antinomianism separates God's law from God's person, and grace from the union with Christ in which the law is written in the heart. In doing so it jeopardizes not simply the Decalogue; it dismantles the truth of the gospel.
        -- Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, p154 (italics original)

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

right doctrine but wrong spirit

'One of my own saddest recollections in pastoral ministry is of being told that during a new members' welcome that included a young husband with "a past," two "pillars of the church," esteemed for the model way in which they fulfilled all church membership responsibilities, were overheard to say, "What's he doing joining the church?" How easy it is to fall into a spirit of conditional grace toward prodigals even when the right doctrinal notes are struck!' - Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, p73fn35

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Loving the church, loving Jesus

"Don't kid yourself that you love the church, or even that you love Jesus, if you're not prepared to love the particular people he has put you in fellowship with." - p147, Covenant Made Simple by Jonty Rhodes

Thursday, 19 January 2017

that they may dare boldly to do all things by God's Word

Here, then, is the sovereign power with which the pastors of the church, by whatever name they be called, ought to be endowed. That is that they may dare boldly to do all things by God’s Word; may compel all worldly power, glory, wisdom, and exaltation to yield to and obey his majesty; supported by his power, may command all from the highest even to the last; may build up Christ’s household and cast down Satan’s; may feed the sheep and drive away the wolves; my instruct and exhort the teachable; may accuse, rebuke, and subdue the rebellious and stubborn; may bind and loose; finally, if need be, may launch thunderbolts and lightnings; but do all things in God’s Word. – Calvin, Institutes IV.Viii.9.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Public Worship for Christians

"... believers have no greater help than public worship, for by it God raises his own folk upward step by step."  - Calvin, Institutes IV.i.5

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

When you are worried about church

John Flavel, writing for those who are worried and distressed by the state of the church and how true Christians are persecuted:

Ponder this heart-supporting truth: how many troubles soever are upon [church], yet her King is in her. What! Hath the Lord forsaken his churches? […] ‘The Lord is with us, fear them not.’ A historian tells us, that when Antigonus overheard his soldiers reckoning how many their enemies were, and so discouraging one another, he suddenly stepped in among them with this question, ‘And how many do you reckon me for?’ Discouraged souls, how many do you reckon the Lord for? Is he not an overmatch for all his enemies? Is not one Almighty more than many mighties? ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ - p61, Keeping the Heart (italics original)