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“To be bursting with thanksgiving is a true witness of the Spirit within us. For the voice of thanksgiving speaks without ceasing of the goodness of God. It claims nothing. It sees no merit in man’s receiving but only in God’s giving. It marvels at his mercy. It is the language of joy because it need look no longer to its own resources.

The Christian rejoicing in this blessing of a thankful heart will have his eyes fixed upon the right person and the right place, Christ at God’s right hand. He cannot be taken up with himself without being immediately reminded that everything he possesses is the gift of God.”

R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon

ht Rosemary

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Thanksgiving for a God who is already good, merciful and radically, super-abundantly giving.  Daddy already looks good, and I'm just grateful!

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“To be bursting with thanksgiving is a true witness of the Spirit within us. For the voice of thanksgiving speaks without ceasing of the goodness of God. It claims nothing. It sees no merit in man’s receiving but only in God’s giving. It marvels at his mercy. It is the language of joy because it need look no longer to its own resources.

The Christian rejoicing in this blessing of a thankful heart will have his eyes fixed upon the right person and the right place, Christ at God’s right hand. He cannot be taken up with himself without being immediately reminded that everything he possesses is the gift of God.”

R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon

ht Rosemary

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Thanksgiving for a God who is already good, merciful and radically, super-abundantly giving.  Daddy already looks good, and I'm just grateful!

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A further thought:

What do you look like when you hold out your arms to obstinate people?  (Rom 10:21)  You look like a jerk.  You look completely foolish.

But God makes this arms-outstretched, suffering love His glory.  In spite, not because of us.

If we're going to oppose synergism (and we should) let's be thorough-going about it.  Just a thought.

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33

From Doug Wilson:

I was talking to a woman one time... and she told me sheepishly about her first reaction to that great grace question hypothetically presented at the pearly gates -- "why should I let you into heaven?" The right answer of course is a variant of "because of the blood of Jesus Christ, plus nothing." She told me that her first instinctive reaction was, "Gee, I hope I remember to say that."

See how faith can so easily be turned into a work?

If you are going to ask and answer this question, I think this is a much better response (from De Regno Christi)

[When I'm asked 'Why should I let you into my heaven?']  I’ll bow and be silent. Then I’ll hear a voice,
“Father, he’s mine.”

Do you see?  It's not your faith that saves.  It's Christ.

Here's Spurgeon (read the whole magnificent devotion here):

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.”

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Without looking at James 2 see if you can remember which way around his body/spirit illustration goes.

Is it:

Body / Spirit = Works / Faith

or is it:

Body / Spirit = Faith / Works

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In other words, does faith enliven our works or do our works enliven our faith?

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Got the difference?  Made your choice?

Ok, now you can check.

Surprised?

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Just an excellent podcast (25 mins)

Tim Rudge talks to Mike Reeves on living by faith on an hour by hour basis - applying the truths of the gospel to our sin and cultivating a healthy and happy walk with Christ.  I've listened to it twice already.  Great stuff.

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From the ridiculous to the sublime.

I've posted quite a few long-winded reflections on faith in the past.  (And how we shouldn't reflect too much on it!)  Here, here, here and here

 But they're all summed up and vastly surpassed by one paragraph of Stott's Romans commentary:

"Further it is vital to affirm that there is nothing meritorious about faith, and that, when we say that salvation is ‘by faith, not by works', we are not substituting one kind of merit (‘faith') for another (‘works').  Nor is salvation a sort of cooperative enterprise between God and us, in which he contributes the cross and we contribute faith.  No, grace is non-contributory, and faith is the opposite of self-regarding.  The value of faith is not to be found in itself, but entirely and exclusively in its object, namely Jesus Christ and him crucified.  To say ‘justification by faith alone' is another way of saying ‘justification by Christ alone'.  Faith is the eye that looks to him, the hand that receives his free gift, the mouth that drinks the living water. ‘Faith... apprehending nothing else but that precious jewel Christ Jesus.' (Luther's Galatians).  As Richard Hooker, the late sixteenth-century Anglican divine, wrote: ‘God justifies the believer - not because of the worthiness of his belief, but because of His worthiness Who is believed.'  (John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p117-118).

 

Isn't that brilliant?

He goes on a bit later...

"...The antithesis between grace and law, mercy and merit, faith and works, God's salvation and self-salvation, is absolute.  No compromising mishmash is possible.  We are obliged to choose.  Emil Brunner illustrated it vividly in terms of the difference between ‘ascent' and ‘descent'.  The really ‘decisive question', he wrote, 'is the direction of movement'.  Non-Christian systems think of ‘the self-movement of man' towards God.  Luther called speculation ‘climbing up to the majesty on high'.  Similarly, mysticism imagines that the human spirit can ‘soar aloft towards God'.  So does moralism.  So does philosophy.  Very similar is the ‘self-confident optimism of all non-Christian religions'.  None of these has seen or felt the gulf which yawns between the holy God and sinful, guilty human beings.  Only when we have glimpsed this do we grasp the necessity of what the gospel proclaims, namely ‘the self movement of God', his free initiative of grace, his ‘descent', his amazing ‘act of condescension'.  To stand on the rim of the abyss, to despair utterly of ever crossing over, this is the indispensible ‘antechamber of faith'."  (John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p118.  Brunner quotes from The Mediator)

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In the debates on justification - don't ever lose those two paragraphs!! 

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5

This is the last in our series looking at various doctrines through the lens of the David and Goliath story. (The other four stones were: preachinggrace, faith and election)

Here we consider why it is that the concept of reward is not counter to the doctrines of Christ alone, grace alone and faith alone.

So let's ask: Why do people consider the concept of reward to be a potential threat to the doctrines of grace?  Well, often the argument runs something like this:

  • Grace means that everything is a gift
  • If everything's a gift then there's no room for merit (you can't earn gifts)
  • Reward is based on merit (otherwise it's not reward it's just random)
  • Therefore, grace means there's no room for reward.

But is this really the definition of grace with which we want to begin?  The whole burden of this series has been to show that Christ - our David, our anointed Champion - needs to be at the heart of our thinking.  And so we saw that preaching is not simply lifting our eyes to some general divine battle plan but focussing us on the King who wins the battle for us.  Grace is not basically God's empowering of our work but something completely outside ourselves - the victory of our Champion.  Grace is, at heart, Christ's work for us, to which we contribute nothing. Grace alone is effectively just another way of saying 'Christ alone.' It is the affirmation that the victory is secured by Christ without us having lifted a finger to help.

Now with this definition of grace - is there room for reward?  Well yes.  Think of how the Israelites plundered the Philistines

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.  Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp. (1 Sam 17:51-53)

On the basis of David's victory they plunder the Philistines.  Without the victory they would all have died.  In victory none of them could claim credit for securing it.  But in response to it, some will have chased hard, killed many and brought back much plunder.  At the same time it's conceivable (though we're not told and I don't think this happend) that some may simply have gawped in wonder at the victory of David and barely moved an inch.  Both kinds of soldiers win the day.  Some participate in the victory more fully.  That's really the very simple point I want to make with this post.

Again it emphasises that faith is not synonymous with inactivity!  We get these strange ideas about faith since we're used to playing off faith against works all the time.  We say things like 'I'm not saved by my works, I'm saved by my faith' - which is a really unhelpful way of framing things.  It makes it sound like faith is the one meritorious work (an internal mental act) that I summon up to earn salvation.  The message becomes - "Don't do works (external physical acts), do faith (internal, mental acts)!"  And then we get our knickers in a twist worrying that any external, physical acts are necessarily worksy.  But no. 

Think about Numbers 13.  The spies come back from the promised land with grapes like basketballs.  Caleb and Joshua say "We should go up and take possession of the land" and the people stay put.  A distinct lack of physical activity. Perhaps they were worried about earning the promised land!  Was this a rejection of works and an instance of faith?  No it is utter faithlessness through and through.  Not going up is faithless in Numbers 13 and going up is faithless in Numbers 14.  Why?  Because of the LORD's promise.  He promises success in the first instance and failure in the second.  Their response to the promise is what constitutes the faith/works divide.  Inactivity can be utter unbelief.  Tremendous striving can be pure faith. 

Faith is receiving the promise appropriately.  In Anders Nygren's phrase, faith is being conquered by the gospel.  In 1 Samuel 17 terms, faith is looking at the giant fall and understanding who it is who's won - your brother and king.  From faith - which is simply looking away from self to the Victorious King - may flow all kinds of things like cheering (emotions) and plundering (good works).  And if you've really seen the victory it's pretty hard to see why you wouldn't cheer and why you wouldn't plunder.  But cheering and plundering doesn't win the battle - the king does.  "Faith" is just another way of directing our attention away from ourselves (even away from our joyous response to salvation) and fixing it solely on the Saviour.  The fruit of this faith will come forth in all manner of affections and works which are the organic outflow of the work of Christ alone.  In 1 Samuel 17 terms the plunder comes from:

  • the victory of the king alone
  • is empowered by the bread of David (v17ff)
  • and is the natural overflow of praise which necessarily attends seeing the victory aright.

Now Christ expects us to go hard after reward.  Otherwise, why dangle it in front of us??  (e.g. Luke 19:17!!)  But just as we're expected to rejoice, so too with pursuing reward, we simply do not have the resources in ourselves.  Nor is it an abstract providence that grants us divine energies to rejoice and to plunder.  Rather it is a focus again on the Champion, our Brother, that will produce both the shout and the charge into enemy territory.

So having looked again at our triumphant King... Go in war to love and serve the Lord.

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Continuing on the Spurgeon quotes...  Here is today's devotional from morning and evening and it's a doozy!  It's very reminiscent of a recent post on faith as looking outside ourselves to Christ.  But, as ever, Spurgeon says it best.  Drink it in!

"Looking unto Jesus." --Hebrews 12:2

It is ever the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, "Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus." All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that "Christ is all in all." Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee--it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee--it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument--it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by "looking unto Jesus." Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu's blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu's name."
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