Life never lacks for improvement—in ourselves, in our relationships, in just about everything. But all our brave stabs at getting better, if they ever change anything, are incomplete at best, complete failures at worst. Sometimes much worse.
Unless . . .
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the great “unless” of life—both for those who already believe (but can’t believe the messes they’re still capable of making), as well as those who don’t yet believe but just know their way isn’t working.
Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson:
[We] have slowly lost our awe for Jesus and His finished work. Intellectually, of course, we still hold firmly to the gospel. [We] could easily share a snapshot of its truths without thinking hard— a brief, biblical presentation of Jesus and His gracious gift of salvation. Yet we’ve learned to rely on other things to form the center of our daily work, to motivate the life and activity of our churches. Our drift has not been one of overt rebellion but of an inner twisting of the heart, a loss of appreciation for the gospel and all its ramifications. We could articulate the gospel well, but we don’t view the essence of the gospel as the foundation for all of ministry.
And that’s a huge difference— the difference between knowing the gospel and being consumed by the gospel, being defined by the gospel, being driven by the gospel. It’s one thing to see the gospel as an important facet of one’s ministry. It’s quite another to hold firmly to it as the centerpiece for all a church is and does, to completely orbit around it. Continue reading Being Consumed by the Gospel
Few days ago, I finished reading Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger’s book The Final Days of Jesus. In between loads of laundry, I turned to the book and was gripped again and again with the events of the final week of Jesus.
I’ve probably read the gospels a few dozen times since I became a Christian and have studied some parts of it in detail but nothing prepared me for the sense of clarity that I got by reading the story again in chronological order. That, I think, is the biggest strength of this book. I have always tried to ignore the “inconsistencies” of the gospel accounts of the final week of Jesus because I could not figure out how to reconcile them. For example, Jesus’ triumphal entry in Matthew 21 concluded with him overturning the tables of money-changers in the temple. In Mark, however, he simply looked around and went home to Bethany. Which one is correct? Or take the resurrection story as another example. How many women went to the tomb? And how many angels were there? Matthew and Mark mentioned only one angel while Luke said there were two. The authors showed that these details are not inconsistencies but marks of authenticity of the accounts. Even in modern investigations, no two witnesses say the same exact things.
Nabeel Qureshi’s gut-wrenching prayer as he was on the verge of accepting the truthfulness of the Christian message:
“Who is my Lord? Who are You, Lord? Are You Allah, the God of my father and forefathers? Are You the God I have always worshiped? The God my family has always worshiped? Surely You are the one who sent Muhammad as the final messenger for mankind and the Quran as our guide? You are Allah, the God of Islam, aren’t You? Or are You…” I hesitated, fighting the blasphemy I was about to propose. But what if the blasphemy was the truth?
“Or are You Jesus?”
From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of this inner sanctum by the Spirit of God. At the far-in hidden center of man’s being is a bush fitted to be the dwelling place of the Triune God. There God planned to rest and glow with moral and spiritual fire. Man by his sin forfeited this indescribably wonderful privilege and must now dwell there alone. For so intimately private is the place that no creature can intrude; no one can enter but Christ; and He will enter only by the invitation of faith.
Get them while they’re free for a limited time:
Robert H. Gundry’s Commentary on James; Warren Wiersbe’s 10 People Every Christian Should Know; and Burk Parson’s John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology.
Tony Reinke, in his book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, penned this words about the importance of reading, especially for Christians:
One of the most important events in the history of publishing took place in the book of Exodus when God put pen to paper — or finger to stone — and wrote and published the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18). That day on Sinai, God published, he became an author, and literacy was forever changed.
What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. Desiring to be rich makes us like the world, not different. At the very point where we should taste different, we have the same bland covetousness that the world has. In that case, we don’t offer the world anything different from what it already believes in.
The great tragedy of prosperity preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if they are “converted” to this, they have not been truly converted but only put a new name on an old life.
Excerpted from John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad
I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes — that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens — that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence — the fall of…leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.
Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well [that the] maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ… and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and training.
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
“If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, ‘It’s unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?’ You are so amazed by grace, you’re not picking a fight with anyone, you’re just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when he doesn’t have to save anybody.”