The Adequacy of Christ

Christ Changes Lives

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Cor. 5:17

In the ancient world, it was believed that you were born with a certain character qualities (or lack thereof) and those qualities were yours for the rest of your life. The ancient world was fatalistic: the personality and character attributes that you have as a child is the kind of adult you will be. You can never change. Born a thief, always a thief. Born a liar, always a liar. Born with courage, always courageous. However, Christianity breaks forth in the first century and proclaims forgiveness, hope, and real transformation. By the power of Christ, a real change of life and character is offered. Fatalism is rejected.

The apostles proclaimed the power of Cross which saved us from the penalty of sin and is saving us from the power of sin and will save us from the presence of sin. The chains which bind us and bondage of sin which control us are defeated by Christ’s sacrificial death. Christ’s presence, person, power and work is more than adequate to transform us freeing us from our past.

We need not make excuses: the sins that plague us and seem to dominate our lives can be conquered by the blood of the Lamb. We can trust Christ to free us: he is more than adequate.

The adequacy of Jesus Christ to deal with our helplessness is indisputable. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him. This was the purpose of His coming: “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” The adequacy of Christ to deal with our helplessness is something that is basically surely true. If He cannot save you from your temper, what kind of Savior have you to offer to this world? If He cannot save you or me from thoughtlessness or selfishness, from unreliability, from jealously and envy, what kind of a Savior is He? He is no Savior at all. The whole testimony, the whole message of the New Testament Gospel, is that He is able to save. And His adequacy to deal with man’s helplessness is seen here. I hope it is seen in your life and mine.”

George B. Duncan, “Christ’s Adequacy, Authority, and Availability (1965),” Daily Thoughts From Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 335.

How Can Our Hearts Be Changed?


Evangelical Essentials (Part Three)

We are hard. We are selfish. We are blind. We are self-absorbed. What hope do we have for real change in our character, choices, and lives? Can someone or something really change me? Yes, we can change, but not by our own power and ability. God can and will change us from bad people to good. Not only does God desire this change in our lives, he requires that we undergo a complete re-creation of our hearts.

How does God change us? How can God take a bad person like me and change me into good person?  He gives us new hearts (Ezek. 36:24-28, Jer. 31:33-34, 32:40-41). The Cross melts our hearts by his great love, his grace pours out a salvation we do not deserve and his Spirit transforms us by making us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).

Do we really believe that the Cross can change lives? Do we believe that the crucified Christ can meet anyone in their sin, selfishness, and pride and conquer their hearts by his great grace, mercy, and love? The answer must be yes. The Apostle Paul declares,”For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16 NJKV). The Cross can change any heart, transform any life, break any addiction, and heal any pain.

As we look to Christ in faith, how does the Cross deliver us from our selfishness? Evangelicals appeal to the words of Jesus, “You must be born-again” (John 3:7). To be born-again is to receive a heart-change by the power of the Holy Spirit: a motivation transformation from selfishness to Christ-centeredness. This regenerative work is a ministry of the Holy Spirit:

In the new birth, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in a living union. Christ is life. Christ is the vine where life flows. We are the branches (John 15:1–17). What happens in the new birth is the supernatural creation of new spiritual life, and it is created through union with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit brings us into vital connection with Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life.

[John Piper, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2009), 32.]

He has washed us and given us new hearts: ones that hunger to love, serve, and please God. As a result, we are children of God; we are made new creations; cleansed, transformed, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature—a nature that is really you, forgiven and cleansed; and a nature that is really new, being formed in you by the indwelling Spirit of God.

[John Piper, Finally Alive, 37]

Our motivation is changed so that all we want to do is to please him (2 Cor. 5:9, Song 4:9, Zeph. 3:17). We do not want to say or do anything that will break God’s heart or cause his Holy Spirit to be grieved. The Cross has done this work in our hearts: we are now free from sin-consciousness, self-consciousness, and performance-consciousness. Regeneration occurs when we “confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God raised Christ from the dead” then and only then are we “justified” and “saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). This heart change occurs when we repent of our past sins and look to Christ to be our saviour. (Repentance and faith are the conditions of salvation and baptism is a condition of obedience.)

Repentance is is simple, but not easy; a change of mind and heart which affects my attitude and alters my conduct. Repentance is not turning inward, but turning around. It is the recognition that God is right and that I am wrong. I am wrong because I have broken God’s law; as a result, my selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others.

Faith is directed towards a person, Jesus. It is in fact a complete commitment to Jesus Christ involving not only an acceptance of what is offered, salvation and forgiveness, but a humble surrender to what is or may be demanded, his Lordship. The bent knee is as much a part of saving faith as the open hand. Faith is receiving what Christ for us on the Cross in the past and submitting to what Christ will do in our lives in the future.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2:38-39 NKJV

The Evangelical Impulse


Evangelical Essentials (Introduction)

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NKJV)

The Evangelical impulse is a vital, Spirit-motivated, joyful hunger to declare the saving, unmerited grace of Christ by calling all sinners to the bloodied Hill of Calvary for forgiveness and mercy. The Evangelical impulse proclaims this message of Good News to the least, lost, and the lonely while simultaneously working to reform the Church according to the Scriptures. This impulse began with the New Testament, continued in the Patristic period, renewed during the Reformation, and revived during the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.

[Richard Lovelace, “A Call to Historic Roots and Continuity,” in The Orthodox Evangelicals, eds. Robert Webber and Donald Bloesch (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1978), 47.]

The Evangelical impulse is birthed in the Scriptures, empowered by the Holy Spirit, centered in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and compelled by the story of Christ’s saving acts throughout the world.

Church historian, Stephen Nichols elaborates:

Luther spawned more than a singular alternative to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, while there are alternatives, to be sure, at the heart of these various Protestant groups who remain faithful to the gospel there is a common core: a theological center that consists of the authority of Scripture alone and insists that salvation comes by faith alone through God’s grace alone—and that this salvation comes through the work of Christ alone. This is the lasting legacy of the Reformation—not the discovery of truths, but their recovery and their return to the heart and center of the church.

[Stephen Nichols, Pages From Church History: A Guided Tour of Christian Classics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 35. ]

At the heart of the Evangelical impulse is the abiding concern for the salvation of every person and that salvation in grounded in the phrase, “The truth of the gospel is salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” Our deliverance from sin is not based on our performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross—it is all grace. The Evangelical impulse is motivated by God’s very gracious grace:

No one can understand the message of Scripture who does not know the meaning of grace.  The God of the Bible is ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet. 5:10).  Grace is love, but love of a special sort.  It is love, which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving.  Grace is God’s free and unmerited favour, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.

[John Stott, Understanding the Bible, Revised (London: Scripture Union, 1984), 127.]

For the Evangelical, God’s grace draws us saying, “Trust Christ’s finished work on the Cross as your own, know that his death paid your penalty, and that his obedient life is now your righteousness.” The Evangelical experience of conversion is typified by these elements: conviction of sin, power of preached Word, call to faith, focus on Jesus Christ and his saving work on the Cross, and personal heart change.

Scholar, David Bebbington, identifies four key elements of the Evangelical impulse:

1) Life-change: the belief that hearts need conversion.

2) Bible priority: all spiritual truth is found in sacred scripture.

3) Evangelism: all Christ-followers are engaged in spreading the knowledge of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection.

4) Crucicentrism: Christ’s death and resurrection is the central event for our salvation providing reconciliation with God.

[David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 2. ]

The Evangelical impulse focuses on changing lives by changing hearts one-by-one by the power of the Cross. Evangelicals trust the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, he applies Christ’s finished work on the Cross to the lives of individual sinners setting them free from themselves by converting their hearts from self-absorption to love of God and others.

God’s love is his holiness reaching out to sinners; grace is but the price that his love pays to his holiness; the cross is but its victory over sin and death; and faith is but the way in which we bring our worship to him who is holy.

David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 130.

Why I’m Not (Eastern) Orthodox


“Because I Am Committed to Key Distinctives of the Protestant Evangelical Tradition.”

Daniel Clendenin puts into words from his experience my own commitment to Evangelical truth: original sin, penal substitution, imputed righteousness, justification by faith, and sola scriptura, etc.

While Protestant evangelicals have never agreed on the precise meaning or mode of the sacraments, they have historically emphasized two related truths that diverge from the Orthodox understanding of the sacraments. Evangelicals urge the necessity of personal conversion through the faith and repentance of the individual believer, as opposed to the Orthodox idea of regeneration by the sacraments.

Also, while evangelicals wholeheartedly embrace the full-orbed New Testament descriptions of the work of Christ (reconciliation, ransom, redemption, forgiveness, adoption, etc.), since the Reformation, justification by faith and substitutionary atonement have enjoyed pride of place in our understanding of the doctrines of sin and salvation. Luther urged that Christianity would stand or fall with this doctrine; Calvin called it “the hinge upon which all true religion turns.”

In the history and theology of Orthodoxy it is startling to observe the nearly complete absence of any mention of the doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, “theosis” (literally, “deification”), or the progressive transformation of people into full likeness to God, in soul and body, takes center stage. (2 Pet. 1:4). Further, the Orthodox reject the idea of inherited guilt; we are guilty only for our own sins rather than for the inborn consequences of Adam’s fall. Conversely, evangelicals argue that this forensic framework for sin and salvation is not merely a historical and unduly negative carryover from Augustine and Anselm, but rather is the clear teaching of Paul in his Letters to the Romans and Galatians.

Read Daniel Clendenin’s entire essay entitled, “Why I’m Not Orthodox: An Evangelical Explores the Ancient and Alien World of the Eastern Church” originally published in Christianity Today (January 6, 1997): 33.

HT: Journey with Jesus

Converted by Grace

Repentance from Sin and Faith in God

Conversion is a turning way from sin in heart-felt repentance and responding in faith by trusting Christ alone for salvation. My change of heart produces belief in truths of Christianity, a genuine belonging to the community of God, and a commitment to righteous behavior. My conversion is the result of God’s gracious grace. This grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue me from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, he delivers me from sin and transports me into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.

If we ask what caused Saul’s conversion, only one answer is possible. What stands out from the narrative is the sovereign grace of God through Jesus Christ.  Saul did not ‘decide for Christ’, as we might say.  On the contrary, he was persecuting Christ.  It was rather Christ who decided for him and intervened in his life.  The evidence for this is indisputable … But sovereign grace is gradual grace and gentle grace.  Gradually, and without violence, Jesus pricked Saul’s mind and conscience with his goads.  Then he revealed himself to him by the light and the voice, not in order to overwhelm him, but in such a way as to enable him to make a free response.

Divine grace does not trample on human personality.  Rather the reverse, for it enables human beings to be truly human.  It is sin which imprisons; it is grace which liberates.  The grace of God so frees us from the bondage of our pride, prejudice and self-centeredness, as to enable us to repent and believe.  One can but magnify the grace of God that he should have mercy on such a rabid bigot as Saul of Tarsus, and indeed on such proud, rebellious and wayward creatures as ourselves.

[John Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today series (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1990), 168, 173.]