Monthly Archives: January 2010

Its Impossible!

The Christian Life Is Impossible

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Col. 2:6-7

A dear friend used to say, “We all are the failures we were meant to be.” In other words, our attempts at living the Christian life in own power were always meant to fail. God never intended for us to succeed by self-effort, self-motivation, and self-striving. We were never designed to live holy lives without trusting the Christ who died for us. In short, we cannot live the Christian life without Christ. Only by grace through faith is Christian growth achieved (Gal. 3:1-5).

When we attempt to live the Christian life in our power, we find it impossible. We grow frustrated. Our up again, down again experience of momentary victory and devastating failure proves exhausting. The cycles of perpetual self-confidence/pride and shame/guilt leave us wondering if we are really saved. Then, we realize that our sense of desperation and defeat is what God is waiting for; he wants us to come to the end of ourselves.

God is waiting for us to admit our struggle, repent of our self-sufficiency, and pray for divine help (2 Cor. 12:8-10). It sounds a bit cliche, but God desires for us to stop trying and to start trusting. He wants us to give up striving and struggling to allow Christ to do the impossible: give us liberty and victory over our on-going struggles with sin (2 Peter 1:3-4).

The Lord’s purpose and goal is to allow his Son, Jesus Christ, to live his life in and through us (1 John 4:9). The only person who ever successfully lived the Christian life was Christ himself. Therefore, we need to allow Christ to live his life in and through us for victory over sin, power over temptations, and anointing for ministry (Gal. 2:20).

“It is not difficult for man to live the Christian life,” somebody once said, it is a sheer impossibility!”

A sheer impossibility, that is, without CHRIST but for all that He says, you have all that He is, and that is all that it takes!

The Christian life can only be explained in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it!

Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ/The Mystery of Godliness (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988).

The Glorious Fact

The Glorious Fact: Christ as Divine Love Fills Your Soul

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

Eph. 3:15-19 (NLT)

My last few blog posts have focused on the theme of the Indwelling Christ; my favorite subject to teach and preach. The truth of Christ living in you is understood by illumination, grasped by faith, enjoyed by abiding, and experienced by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christ manifesting in and through is intimacy with God, freedom over sin, and joy in tumultuous times. The Holy Spirit makes real in us all that Christ has done for us on the Cross. Thus, we can find strength in weakness, victory over temptations, and grace to respond like Jesus in every life situation. The Indwelling Christ is grace being in us the desire, ability and power to live the life of Christ.

Seek to grasp the glorious fact that you may have Christ as Divine love filling your soul. Just as the alabaster box was in the house, and its presence may not have been known, so Christ has been a long time with many of His disciples, and they have not known Him ; that is, they have been comparatively ignorant of His glorious fulness. But no sooner was the box broken, and the ointment shed abroad, than the odour filled the house (Luke 7:36-50).

So, when the love of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost when the infinite treasures of Divine love stored up in Christ are disclosed, revealed in us, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost their subduing, liberating, and transforming influences begin at once to be seen and felt. Their cleansing and purifying effect on our thoughts and desires are realized. We begin to learn then what our blessed Lord meant when He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt 5:8).

Evan Hopkins, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life (Philadelphia: Sunday School Times, 1952), 60.

What God Really Wants!

What God Really Wants?  He Wants Us to Trust Him

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

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

In our hearts, we are assured that God’s faithfulness will bring God’s Word to pass in our circumstances, intervening in our lives, and meeting our needs. Faith believes that God not only works on behalf of others, but he is ready to meet my needs as well.

All that God wanted man to do was, to believe in Him. What a man believes, moves and rules his whole being, enters into him, and becomes part of his very life. Salvation could only be by faith: God restoring the life man had lost; man in faith yielding himself to God’s work and will.The first great work of God with man was to get him to believe.

This work cost God more care and time and patience than we can easily conceive. All the dealings with individual men, and with the people of Israel, had just this one object, to teach men to trust Him. Where He found faith He could do anything.

Nothing dishonored and grieved Him so much as unbelief. Unbelief was the root of disobedience and every sin; it made it impossible for God to do His work. The one thing God sought to waken in men by promise and threatening, by mercy and judgment, was faith.

Andrew Murray, The Two Covenants (London: Fleming H. Revell, 1898).

The Paradoxical Christian

What is Christian Maturity?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

2 Cor. 12:9

We misunderstand Christian maturity: I will grow and grow and grow and become more adequate, more sufficient, and more spiritually powerful. I will never fail, struggle, or be tempted. I will never have dry times, dark times, or difficult times. I think things will get easier and I will sail above the storm clouds and tumults of this life.

However, the Christian life is a paradox: the more I grow the less adequate I feel. I become more aware of my weaknesses, failures, and temptations. I feel a greater need for Jesus and his all-sufficient grace. I cry out for more of his Holy Spirit power. I yearn for his sufficiency in the midst of my inadequacy. I am more dependent on the Holy Spirit to live his life in and through me. I am only victorious because of Jesus’ moment-by-moment presence. My victory is only found in throwing myself at Jesus’ feet and looking to the Cross to my help and hope.

He [i.e., the Christian] is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strong. Though poor he has the power to make others rich, but when he becomes rich his ability to enrich others vanishes. He has most after he has given most away and has least when he possesses most. He may be and often is highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he is most conscious of sin. He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge. He sometimes does most by doing nothing and goes furthest when standing still. In heaviness he manages to rejoice and keeps his heart glad even in sorrow.

A. W. Tozer,  That Incredible Christian (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1964), 12.

The Eucharist: The Heart of Christian Worship

The Sacramental Question

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

I Corinthians 10:16

John Williamson Nevin makes a most remarkable yet true statement–our view of the Eucharist (i.e., Lord’s Supper) shapes and forms our understanding of Christ, church, theology, and church history.

In other words, a low view of the Eucharist lessens my understanding of the incarnation as Christ present in a material world. A low view of the Eucharist lessens the value of the church for we fail to see the continuous, sacramental, historic nature of the Church Catholic. A low view of the Eucharist makes theological reflection purely intellectual separate from the prayer life of the church. A low view of the Eucharist disconnects table fellowship from the communion of the saints both present and past.

On the other hand, a high view of the Eucharist recognizes that Christ is present in the Body and Blood. A high view of the Eucharist leads believers into heavenly worship joining with all saints and angels in praising God. A high view of the Eucharist joins worship, prayer, and theological reflection into one united whole. A high view of the Eucharist values the historic church by building on its strengths and learning from its weaknesses.

As St. Irenaeus wrote:

Again, moreover, how do they [heretics] say the flesh will end in corruption and not receive life, that flesh which is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord? Therefore let them either change their opinion or cease to assert such things. Our opinion is in conformity with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist confirms our opinion . . . Just as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but rather the Eucharist consisting of two things, the earthly and the heavenly, so our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection to eternal life.

Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book IV

As the Eucharist forms the very heart of the whole Christian worship, so it is clear that the entire question of the church, which all are compelled to acknowledge–the great life problem of the age–centers ultimately in the sacramental question as its inmost heart and core.

Our view of the Lord’s Supper must ever condition and rule in the end our view of Christ’s person and the conception we form of the church. It must influence, at the same time, very materially, our whole system of theology, as well as all our ideas of ecclesiastical history.

John Williamson Nevin, The Mystical Presence, preface.

The Eucharist: Humility Before the Lord’s Table

The Lord’s Supper Reminds Us How Sinful Sin Must Be

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

1 Cor. 11:27-29

Holy Eucharist is the act of giving thanks through the partaking of the Lord’s Supper; commemorating the death of Christ by participating in Christ through the elements of bread and wine.

Right reception of the Lord’s Supper has a ‘humbling’ effect on the soul. The sight of the bread and wine as emblems of Christ’s body and blood, reminds us how sinful sin must be, if nothing less than the death of God’s own Son could make satisfaction for it, or redeem us from its guilt. Never should we be so ‘clothed with humility,’ as when we receive the Lord’s Supper.

J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, “Going to the Table”, 152.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

The Sacraments: A Promise Only God Can Make

“If You Partake of the Bread and Wine in Evangelical Faith, then You Meet Christ.”

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:16

The sacraments of baptism and Eucharist are signs/symbols ordained by Christ for the strengthening, encouragement, and uplifting of the people of God into the presence of God. Scripture proclaims that the Holy Spirit takes material objects; water, bread, and wine, infuses them with grace, so that by the partaking of them, we are made holy. By the power of the Holy Spirit, these outward physical signs/symbols lead us into the experience of inward spiritual truths of the Christian life. These signs/symbols do not represent something that are absent, but convey the truth they represent: forgiveness, union with Christ, covenant, etc. A sacrament actually communicates what it symbolizes. The only condition for receiving this sacramental blessing is faith in Christ and repentance toward God.

Every sacrament, by definition, contains and manifests a promise of salvation. That is what a sacrament is. The sacrament of baptism contains a promise of salvation at its inception, and the Supper contains a promise of salvation related to perseverance. What God began God will complete. These promises are apprehended with the heart, whenever someone receives them in faith.

Faith alone, sola fide, is not only alone with regard to works. We are justified by faith alone, but never by a faith that is alone. This is the issue of faith alone related to works, which is an important issue. But there is another sense in which faith is never alone. Faith is never self-originating. Faith is something that is always responsive to something outside of itself that God offers to us. And God offers salvation in two principle places—the first is in the preaching of the Word, and the second is in the presentation of the sacraments. And so baptism and the Supper cannot justify you any more than hearing a sermon can. If you hear the sermon in faith, then you meet Christ. If you partake of the bread and wine in evangelical faith, then you meet Christ.

Because a sacrament must contain a promise of salvation, it follows from this that only God can institute a sacrament . . . because He is the only one who can promise salvation. This is why there are only two sacraments—if we could promise salvation by ritual means, we could generate as many sacraments as we wanted. But we have no authority to issue promises of salvation. We must be content with the authority we were given, which is the authority to believe promises of salvation.

Doug Wilson, Blog and Mablog website, Pastor, Moscow, Idaho.

The Normal Christian

Joy in the Constant, Conscious Presence of Our Lord

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

1 Peter 1:8

Sanctifying grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in me to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is my desire for he works in me a hunger for holiness. Jesus is my ability for he enables me to make godly decisions and choices. Jesus is my power for he strengthens me to overcome the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Grace is the person, Jesus, living his life in and through me empowering me to live a righteous and holy life (2 Co. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14). Jesus living his life in me is the normal Christian life (1 Jn. 4:9).

The normal Christian is characterized by loving responses to ingratitude and indifference, even hostility, and is filled with joy in the midst of unhappy circumstances and with peace when everything goes wrong. The normal Christian overcomes in the battle with temptation, consistently obeys the laws of God, and grows in self-control, contentment, humility, and courage. Thought processes are so under the control of the Holy Spirit and instructed by Scripture that the normal Christian authentically reflects the attitudes and behavior of Jesus Christ. God has first place in life, and the welfare of others takes precedence over personal desires. The normal Christian has power not only for godly living but for effective service in the church. Above all, he or she has the joy of constant companionship with the Lord.

Robertson McQuilkin, comp., Free and Fulfilled: Victorious Living in the 21st Century (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), xi.

The apostle Paul gives us his own definition of the [normal] Christian life in Galatians 2:20. It is ” no longer I, but Christ.” Here he is not stating something special or peculiar-a high level of Christianity. He is, we believe, presenting God’s normal for a Christian, which can be summarized in the words: I live no longer, but Christ lives His life in me.

God makes it quite clear in His Word that He has only one answer to every human need- His Son, Jesus Christ. In all His dealings with us He works by taking us out of the way and substituting Christ in our place. The Son of God died instead of us for our forgiveness: He lives instead of us for our deliverance. So we can speak of two substitutions-a Substitute on the Cross who secures our forgiveness and a Substitute within who secures our victory. It will help us greatly, and save us from much confusion, if we keep constantly before us this fact, that God will answer all our questions in one way only, namely, by showing us more of His Son.

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1985), 12.

Two Human Beings

Two Patients, Not One

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14

Walked in the annual Birmingham March for Life today. Always encouraging to see old friends, folks from all manner of denominations and communions, and people of deep conviction for the pro-life cause. The abortion issue to me is quite simple: if the fetus is not human then have it–allow the fetus to be born. If the fetus is not human, then you have nothing to fear–the child, or whatever, will not be human. The fetus born will not be a baby.

But, the fetus is human–a child made in the image of God–a person who deserves the opportunity to live. The child should not be penalized for the choices of the parents.

Since the life of the human fetus is a human life, with the potential of becoming a mature human being, we have to learn to think of mother and unborn child as two human beings at different stages of development. Doctors and nurses have to consider that they have two patients, not one, and must seek the well-being of both. Lawyers and politicians need to think similarly. . . . Christians would wish to add ‘extra care before birth’. For the Bible has much to say about God’s concern for the defenceless, and the most defenceless of all people are unborn children. They are speechless to plead their own cause and helpless to protect their own life. So it is our responsibility to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today (London: Collins/Marshall Pickering, 1990), 327.

The Mark of the Christian

Pleasing God

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves (emphasis mine) but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2 Cor. 5:14-15

Pleasing God is capturing the heart of God by believing and obeying his Word not because you ought to but because you want to. Living with an eye toward making God’s heart glad is a heart that pleases God ( 1 J0hn 3:22).

Isn’t it true that the vast majority of Christians in our churches are simply living on this principle. They are pleasing themselves. They please themselves whether they go to church once or twice on Sunday. They please themselves whether they go to prayer meetings or not. They please themselves whether they read their Bible or not. They please themselves concerning the stewardship of their money. They are exactly like Esau (Heb. 12:16). He did exactly what he wanted; and we are doing the same. You remember how different our Lord was in his attitude. ‘My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me. (John 4:34 KJV).’

George B. Duncan, “So Much Lost For So Little,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 344.