Quoteworthy: Calvin on Righteousness by Faith


Writing in his commentary on Galatians on Galatians 3:6 , Calvin clearly and succinctly lays out the start to finish of how we as Christians obtain the righteousness of God. Having brought up the question of whether or not faith is the cause of our righteousness, Calvin argues that having faith does not somehow earn or merit righteousness: righteousness is “enjoyed by faith only; and not even as a reward justly due to faith, but because we receive by faith what God freely gives.” Faith is more the mechanism through which we receive the free gift of righteousness than the proper cause of righteousness. Calvin continues:

Christ is our righteousness. The mercy of God is the cause of our righteousness. By the death and resurrection of Christ, righteousness has been procured for us. Righteousness is bestowed on us through the gospel. We obtain righteousness by faith. (emphasis added)

Beautiful.

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7 Quotes Worth Sharing from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis


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“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” —1 Corinthians  11:1 (ESV)

Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ has a strong claim to be the most-read book ever written aside from the Bible. What The Pilgrim’s Progress is to works written in English, The Imitation of Christ is to everything ever written.

So what’s so special about it? Why have countless individuals over the centuries since its publication treasured it and read it again and again?

Here are seven quotes to give you a taste for yourself of Thomas à Kempis’ classic on the Christian life. I highly recommend it—it’s one I enjoyed,was challenged by, and know that I will reread in the future.

1. Learning Must be Accompanied by Grace and Love

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? …I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? (1)

2. Liberty and joy are incomplete without the fear of the Lord.

No liberty is true and no joy is genuine unless it is founded in the fear of the Lord and a good conscience (18).

3.Christ is the Only One who will never fail us.

He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened….Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail (34).

4. Following Christ entails suffering as well as consolation.

Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his cross. he has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him (39).

5. No one (or no thing) is good except God alone.

He who considers anything great except the one, immense, eternal good will long be little and lie groveling on the earth. Whatever is not God is nothing and must be accounted as nothing (79).

6. The Disciple should glory in God alone.

Let Your name, not mine, be praised. Let Your work, not mine, be magnified, Let Your holy name be blessed, but let no human praise be given to me. You are my glory. You are the joy of my heart.

7. It is Grace alone that enables any goodness on our part.

What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?
Let your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Christ Jesus, Your Son.

10 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Preaching” by Tim Keller


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Tim Keller’s Preaching is another home-run. While perhaps not as life-changing or spectacular as Prayer, this volume is filled with insights and wisdom from cover to cover. The chapter on “Preaching and the (Late) Modern Mind” and the bibliography of the best other books on preaching are each worth the price of the book alone! 

And you don’t need to be a preacher to read it. “This book,” says Keller in the introduction, “aims to be a resource for all those who communicate their Christian faith in any way” (p. 4).

Here are ten quotes to give you a taste of Keller’s manifesto on preaching.

1. The Holy Spirit is critical in preaching

…while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher (11).

2. True and effective preaching must center on Christ.

To preach the text truly and the gospel every time, to engage the culture and reach the heart, to cooperate with the Spirit’s mission in the world—we must preach Christ from all of Scripture (23).

3. To leave Christ out of a sermon is to not finish the task of preaching.

Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can (48).

4. You cannot preach the gospel without preaching Christ.

To preach the gospel every time is to preach Christ every time, from every passage (57).

(sensing a theme, here?)

5. Culture shapes us more than we would care to admit.

It is a mistake to think that faithful believers in our time are not profoundly shaped by the narratives of modernity. We certainly are, and so when you unveil these narratives and interact with them in the ordinary course of preaching the Word, you help them see where they themselves may be more influenced by their society than by the Scripture, and you give them important ways of communicating their faith to others (118).

6. We find our true selves in Christ.

The process of sanctification, of growth into the likeness of Christ, is also, then, the process of becoming the true self God created us to be (139).

7. The gospel is “the right side of history.”

Such will always be the case. The philosophies of the world will come and go, rise and fall, but the wisdom we preach—The Word of God—will still be here (156).

8. Preaching must reach and capture the heart.

What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God….People, therefore, change not by merely changing their thinking but by changing what they love most (159-emphasis added).

9. Preaching can do so much more than just convey information.

A sermon that just informs the mind can give people things to do after they go home, but a sermon that moves the heart from loving career or acclaim or one’s own independence to loving God and his Son changes listeners on the spot (165).

10. End every sermon pointing the listeners to worship Christ

Resist ending your sermon with “live like this,” and rather end with some form of “You can’t live like this. Oh, but there’s one who did! And through faith with him you can begin to live like this too.” The change in the room will be palpable as the sermon moves from primarily being about them to being about Jesus. They will have shifted from learning to worship (179).

What Is Love? (Baby Don’t Hurt Me): Christian Love and Cultural Love


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In A Fellowship of Differents, Scot McKnight writes about the differences between love in our culture and Christian love:

Our dictionary definition of love has, to use theological words, no eschatology. That is, it has no final goal other than perhaps the personal happiness of the one loved or the one who loves–as long as that lasts. But Christian love has direction. It aims at one person helping another to become Christlike. [p. 66, emphasis added]

Contrary to what culture tells us, there’s more to love than the other person’s happiness. Love considers the other person’s holiness as well. Christ became sin, who knew no sin, that in him we might become NOT his happiness but his righteousness (see 2 Cor 5:21). To be sure, we become joyful as a result of this process. But our joy is a benefit or product of this love, not its primary goal.

Does your love look more like our culture’s definition of love or Christ’s embodiment of love? I know mine looks much more like the former than the latter most times. May God in his graciousness continue to transform us through his own love into those who live and love as he did.

Book Review: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret


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I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me. -Hudson Taylor

This week I finished reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I’ve been reading more biographies lately, specifically of missionaries and other great men of faith. My interest was piqued when I read Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer but didn’t really become a priority until reading  Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot, which I briefly reviewed on Goodreads. I was deeply impacted by both of these men’s heart to know God, approach to life, and lasting legacy. And so I turned my attention to the life of Hudson Taylor.

I’ll confess right now that I didn’t know much about Hudson Taylor himself or the geopolitical and spiritual history of China in the 19th Century before reading this book. In that sense, the book was hugely educational and informative for me. I feel that I have a much better sense of Hudson Taylor’s life, beliefs, and impact, as well as a more complete knowledge of Chinese history (especially as it relates to Chinese believers).

The book was written by one of Hudson Taylor’s sons and daughter-in-law around 1932 and recounts all of his life, from his upbringing and conversion to his death. This lends a few advantages and disadvantages to the book. In the pros column I would say that the book’s comprehensive scope gives a wonderful picture of just how far God took Taylor and the amazing things he used him for. As the decades passed, Hudson Taylor’s belief in what God was able to accomplish continually grew until he was trusting God for answers to prayers that would frankly seem ridiculous without the innumerable assurance of God’s faithfulness he received. In this way, the book functions as a guide to understanding how Hudson Taylor could believe God and an invitation to the reader to trust in the same way.

The other side of the coin is that the book’s scope is just entirely too large to give a detailed account of everything it mentions. Many times it will sum up a missionary journey, a series of events, or even a few years in a few short sentences. In several instances, I found myself wanting more details, more substance, and more meat on the bones of the narrative.

But the authors’ concern is not so much detailing every single occurrence of Hudson Taylor’s ministry as in revealing the heart of the man himself. What was his spiritual secret that enabled him to accomplish all the amazing things he did? What drove him to push ever-deeper into inland China to reach the unreached?

In his own words, Taylor answers that question with a name: Jesus.

What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul-yearnings–Jesus can meet all, and more than meet.

And that is the book’s greatest aspect: a view into a heart blazing for Christ and burdened to share the gospel with the unreached. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul gives the Corinthian church one of the simplest pictures of discipleship and growth in Christ when he tells them, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Hudson Taylor was a man who loved and imitated Christ well. Tweet this May books like this encourage and embolden us to imitate him and others like him who, in the midst of all their human failings and shortcomings, fell deeply in love with Christ and pursued him with all they had.

 

What’s a biography that you’ve read lately? What’s a story you’ve heard that inspired or helped you in your pursuit of Christ?

 

Calling: As Simple As G+P+V?


A recent article on Time.com titled “What Should You Do In Life?” had a short formula to help answer the article’s titular question. But surely a short little formula can’t answer a question that important! Or can it? I drew out the formula on a napkin like the article suggested you could do:

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What the equation promises is that your calling is the sum of your:

  • (G)ifts
    • These are the things we’re good at doing. Our talents or skills, natural or developed.
  • (P)assions
    • The things you care about-that get you fired up.
  • (V)alues
    • The preferences you have in how you do things and live life.

So just figure out what you’re good at, what you care about, and your preferences in how you do them and you’re set! Done. Pretty easy, right?

Well…

Maybe not.

Maybe what you’re good at isn’t something you’re particularly excited or passionate about. Maybe you can’t come up with much that you’re good at or maybe no one does what you care about in a way that you value and would want to learn or imitate. Maybe you just have THREE more confusing questions instead of one now (“What are my gifts? What am I passionate about? What do I value?”). Maybe x, maybe y, or maybe even z!

That’s a lot of maybes. A lot of uncertainty. And it can be a scary place to be.

No matter what our questions might be, Christ is our certainty. Before all else, Christ calls us to himself.  post-tbird

“Follow me” Jesus says in Matthew 4:19 (ESV, emphasis mine) to a group of fishermen about to go through some major job transition.

“Come to me” Jesus says to “all who are weary and heavy laden” in Matthew 11:28, “and I will give you rest.”

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink,” he says to the crowd at the Feast of Booths in John 7:37.

The questions of career, vocation, etc are important ones, even critical! But the first and most important question has already been answered definitively at the Cross for us. This gives us hope in the rest of the questions.

FREEsources-The Master Plan of Evangelism


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“One living sermon is worth a hundred explanations.” -Robert Coleman

Jesus could have used just about any method to evangelize the world that he wanted. I mean, think about it. He could have just appeared to Caesar, converted him on the spot, and made the official religion of Rome (and thereby, the known world) Christianity right from the start. He could have been born a powerful member of the Sanhedrin, eventually becoming High Priest himself and leading the nation of Israel both in office and life. He even could have opened the mouths of animals or trees to preach for him or something equally and completely ridiculously supernatural…but he didn’t.

Instead, Jesus chose a group of nobodies from nowhere and trained them to be world changers. How did he do it? What was his secret? His “master plan” as it were. Well I’m glad you asked…

Robert Coleman’s classic “The Master Plan of Evangelism” is the resource on the intersection of discipleship and evangelism. He clearly and skillfully explains Jesus’ methods and shows how we can imitate them in our quest to be disciples of Christ. A book like this should be required reading in churches and groups everywhere!

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better resource than this and exponential.org is giving away an e-book of the updated edition of the book away for FREE! This updated edition is a companion piece to the original-Dr. Coleman summarizes each point in the original book and shares personal insights gathered in the 50+ years since he wrote the original.

You can download it here: Revisiting the Master Plan of Evangelism (you have to create an account with them, but it’s free to join).

Have you read “The Master Plan of Evangelism”? What were your thoughts? And what are other great resources on the subject?

My Lighthouse-Rend Collective Experiment


Rend Collective Experiment is another of my favorites recently. I love this song off their most recent album in particular because of the imagery of God as our lighthouse: constant through the storm, always beckoning us towards safe harbor and guiding us through the storms. And also cause it’s just a really fun/catchy song. Enjoy!

Book Review: “Who Am I?” by Jerry Bridges


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“The vast majority of believers do not understand what it means to be ‘in Christ’ and to find their basic identity in him.” p. 95

“Who am I?” is one of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves, not just as believers but in general as humans. How we answer this question reveals how we view ourselves, the world, and our place in that world. While we ask this question (both explicitly and implicitly) all our lives, it’s an especially relevant question for college students and other young people who are making decisions that have the potential to affect the rest of their lives based on their answer to this question.

In this short book from Cruciform Press, Jerry Bridges gives an eight part answer to this question, answering from the perspective of what it means to our identity that we as Christians are “in Christ.” You could think of this book as “Identity in Christ 101”-what are the practical effects of identifying with God? What does that say about me and my place in the world that God made me, loves me, and purchased me with his blood to be adopted into his family?

Jerry distinguishes the eight facets of our identity in eight chapters:

  1. I am a Creature
  2. I am in Christ
  3. I am Justified
  4. I am an Adopted Son of God
  5. I am a New Creation
  6. I am a Saint
  7. I am a Servant of Christ
  8. I am Not Yet Perfect

While the whole book is excellent, of special note is his treatment of what it means to be justified. I can’t think of anyone who can more clearly explain both the realities and the practical ramifications of justification like Jerry Bridges can.

There are two plays on the word justified that may help us see this more clearly. You can think of it as meaning “just as if I had never sinned”…you can also think of justified as meaning “just as if I had always obeyed.” p. 36

My one issue with the book is his discussion of “calling” in chapter seven. Bridges (admirably) tries to combat the notion that those called to full-time vocational ministry have some sort of “higher” or “better” calling than those believers who are not called to such positions. However, immediately after saying that those not in active vocational ministry are just as called to their positions in the marketplace, he says that calling to a non-ministry vocation “typically…is mostly a matter of wise judgement” (p. 81). He distinguishes this situational judgement from the method of a minister’s calling, in which there “is often present to a more marked degree a subjective element involving the person’s perception of God’s will” (Ibid.). Perhaps he is simply observing rather than giving an imperative statement and perhaps it’s more the current view of calling that many seem to hold that I’m really at odds with. Either way, this is a relatively small quibble overall.

 

In summary, if you’ve never read any of Jerry Bridges’ books before, this is an excellent distillation of and introduction to his writings. And if you’ve already read some or most of them, you’ll recognize and appreciate his distinctive, simple, and deep communicative style.

This is a book that is an invaluable resource whether you’re reading these truths for the very first time or you need to be reminded in a fresh way what these truths really mean. Highly recommended.

What do you think of Bridges’ eight-part answer to the question “Who am I?” What would you add, what would you change/modify, and what would you take out?

FREEsources-The Kneeling Christian


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Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray. For we can accomplish far more by our prayers than by our work. Prayer is omnipotent; it can do anything that God can do! When we pray God works. -The Kneeling Christian

Do you believe that we can do more for and with God through prayer than through anything else that we can do? I know that I’ve heard many speakers and mentors share that thought and that I’ve nodded along in agreement each time.

But the reality is that my actions don’t mirror what I say I believe. Instead, they reveal what I actually believe: that I can do more by working, striving, trying, and attempting on my own.

It’s often far easier to agree to something intellectually than to live it out in our day-to-day lives. But I don’t want to live like that-saying I believe one thing and living a completely different way.

When man works, man works. But when man prays, God works.
-Don Allen

A few weeks ago Paul Worcester  spoke at a Navigator meeting at UC Davis on the subject of prayer. He shared that a book that had majorly influenced him on prayer was a short anonymous booklet called “The Kneeling Christian.” Since then it’s been on my list to read and I finally got around to finding it online.

I’m planning on starting it this weekend and (since it’s a FREE resource online!) want to invite you to read it with me! If you’re even the slightest bit interested in learning more about prayer, being challenged, and seeing if God has anything to teach you on the subject, go ahead and join me! The link below will let you download the same version of the book that I found online:

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 What has been the most influential resource or idea about prayer for you personally?