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Feelings and Faith

Kurt Hein posted this on Facebook
Luther

The Five Solas

The Latin word sola means "alone" or "only."

The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and that summarize the Reformers' basic theological convictions on what they believed to be the essentials of the Christian life and practice.

The Five Solas are:

1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): Scripture alone is our highest authority.

2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.

3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.

4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.

5. Soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

What is Inclusivism?

Pastor Joel Osteen Discusses Sin and the Path to God

Pastor Joel Osteen, one of America's most influential spiritual leaders, reveals how he would explain God to a nonbeliever. Plus, find out why he believes there are many paths to God (This is sadly mistaken when checked against Scripture) and invites everyone to be part of his congregation, despite his belief that homosexuality is a sin.


Joel Osteen does not get a pass in this interview with Oprah. His position is what we call inclusivism. This is not the orthodox position within the evangelical church. However it saddens me that we as Christians don’t understand why this kind of belief is NOT consistent with the Bible. And folks think about this, Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in America.

So you might ask, what does it mean to be an inclusivist and why is that a problem for Bible believing Christians. Well, I am glad you asked because here is an article from Trevin Wax that will help clear this matter up.

Understanding Inclusivism
“Jesus is the only way to God.”

“One must place faith in Christ in order to be saved.”

Most evangelicals affirm both of these statements as representative of biblical teaching. However, a number of evangelical leaders teach that Jesus is the only way to God (affirming statement 1), but that hearing and believing the gospel is not always necessary for salvation (denying statement 2). We call this position “inclusivism.” In other words, sincere adherents of other religions may be saved unknowingly through Jesus’ work.

Perhaps some find this view attractive because it softens the exclusive claims of Jesus without completely doing away with them. We can go right on saying “Jesus is the only way” while acknowledging the possibility that people outside the Christian faith may still be saved. Unfortunately, adopting the inclusivist approach does harm to our Christian witness by lessening the urgency of taking the gospel to people who have never heard of Jesus Christ. It also represents a capitulation to Western notions of “fairness,” subjective views of faith, and worldly descriptions of “goodness.” Read More...

Contrast between religion and the gospel

This from the Gospel Coalition website

Justifying the contrast between religion and the gospel, Tim Keller has pointed out that the Greek word for “religion” used in James 1 is used negatively in Colossians 2:18 where it describes false asceticism, fleshly works-righteousness, and also in Acts 26:5 where Paul speaks of his pre-Christian life in strict “religion.” So, according to Keller, the word certainly has enough negative connotations to use as a fair title for the category of works-righteousness. In the Old Testament the prophets are devastating in their criticism of empty ritual and religious observances designed to bribe and appease God rather then serving, trusting, and loving him. The word “religion” isn’t used for this approach, but it’s a good way to describe what the prophets are condemning.

Keller goes on to tease out this distinction with this helpful comparison list:

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted

THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity

THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God

THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him. Read More...

Why I don't teach Christian Living Principles

First of all American Christians for the most part are check list, to do list and get it done type of people. Therefore if a pastor or teacher can provide 5 ways to live the abundant life then that is considered a great book or sermon series. I came across this article and was saying AMEN as I read it. Hope you enjoy!

This blog article is written by Lisa Robinson


Christian living principles, provide a methodology for how to approach spiritual life. It is basically a checklist for compliance for maintaining Christian growth. Here are some principles that I have found common
  • Pray
  • Read your bible
  • Maintain fellowship with other believers
  • Walk in integrity and honesty
  • Get involved with serving
  • Share your faith

While this may seem like a good list to give new Christians, I do not believe that ultimately compliance with principles is what leads to authentic Christian growth. In fact, I think this could actually be a hindrance and can ensnare new Christians as they strive to understand what the Christian life is about. So here are five reasons I do not teach Christian living principles.

1) Christian living principles do not teach the Christian how to grow spiritually. They only provide a standard for compliance.

2) Christian living principles can get confused for actual spiritual growth. A believer may get the impression that they are becoming a better Christian simply because of compliance. Conversely, they may feel they are not good Christians by lack of compliance. Rather, spiritual growth occurs when the believer is becoming more Christ-like, trusting in the completed work of the cross, yielding to the Holy Spirit and participating in active body life. This can only happen through authentic learning and support of the Christian community. Read More...

Justification and Sanctification

“Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another… Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous…”

“The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own… [it] is imputed to us… The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own… imparted [to us]”

“In justification our own works have no place at all… In sanctification our own works are of vast importance…”

“Justification is a finished and complete work… Sanctification is an imperfect work…”

“Justification admits no growth or increase… Sanctification is eminently a progressive work…”

“Justification… is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification… cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.”

(J. C. Ryle, Holiness, Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001, p.19)

Assurance in Christ

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

We can put it this way: the man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not even look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and rests on that alone. He has ceased to say, “Ah yes, I used to commit terrible sins but I have done this and that.” He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith. Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, “Yes I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin, yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ and God has put that to my account.”

May I have your attention?

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)

I commend scrupulous obedience to all of you, and especially to those young people who have lately made a profession of their faith in Christ.

Do not be as your fathers were, for the generation that is now going off the stage neither reads its Bible nor cares to know the Lord’s will. If people searched the Scriptures, we should find them come together in union; but the least read book in all the world, in proportion to circulation, is the Word of God.


It is distributed everywhere, but it is read scarcely anywhere with care and attention and with a sincere resolve to follow its precepts at all hazards. You come and listen to us, and we give you little bits taken from it here and there, but you do not get a fair notion of it as a whole.

How can you? Ministers make mistakes, and you follow them without inquiry. One elects this leader and another that, to the creation of varieties of opinions and even sects, which ought not to be, and would not be if all stood fast by the standard of inspired truth.

If the Bible were but read and prayed over, many errors would die a speedy death, and others would be sorely crippled. Had that inspired Book been read in the past, many errors would never have arisen. Search you, then, the Book of God, I pray you; and whatever you find there, be sure to attend thereto.

At all costs, keep to the Word of God.

Charles Spurgeon
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Law and Gospel

Highlighted Summary of Law and Gospel has been prepared by Matthew R. Richard

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Both are equally necessary because both have for their final aim... mankind’s salvation.

Law ever since the fall cannot lead us to salvation; it can only prepare us for the Gospel. Furthermore, it is
through the Gospel that we obtain the ability to fulfill the Law to a certain extent.

The Law has nothing to say about forgiveness, about grace. It issues only commands and demands. The
Gospel, on the other hand, only makes offers. It contains nothing but grace and truth!

Wherever in Scripture you come across a threat, you may be assured that that passage belongs in the Law.

The Law is to be preached to people who are secure in their sins. The Gospel is to be preached to those who are alarmed of their sins.

When the law convicts a person, immediately present the Gospel. Read More...

The theological "danger zone"

Here is an excellent article by Michael Patton. I don’t agree with Michael on all aspects of theology but he is right on in my opinion with this article. (Great graph!)

I have come to have a love-hate relationship with theology. I love it because it can deepen one’s faith, helping people to rejoice more because they understand and know God better (Jer. 9:24). There is nothing more exciting than the look on peoples’ faces when they are being theologically transformed. It is the “wow, this is really true” look. I live for that both in myself and in others.

However, there is a dark side to theology. I see it everyday. I pray that this does not infect my students, but inevitably, there are always one or two who take their theological knowledge and create a recipe of sin and shame. These are people I call “theologically dangerous.
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Understanding imputation

In today’s popular Christian culture we have become very good at dumbing down Biblical truth. I am on a crusade to help those in the body of Christ recapture and learn Biblical words like justification, sanctification and propitiation, just to name a few. Here is a short video that features R.C. Sproul discussing the principle of imputation. Do we know what this means? Do we understand why it is so important for us? Let me encourage you to watch as Dr. Sproul provides for us a valuable look at this word and what it means to our salvation.

Do we understand the doctrine of justification?

In an article entitled “Does Justification Still Matter?“, Mike Horton writes;

Most people in the pew are simply not acquainted with the doctrine of justification. Often, it is not a part of the diet of preaching and church life, much less a dominant theme in the Christian subculture. With either stern rigor or happy tips for better living, “fundamentalists” and “progressives” alike smother the gospel in moralism, through constant exhortations to personal transformation that keep the sheep looking to themselves rather than looking outside of themselves to Christ…

The average feature article in [Christian magazines] or Christian best-seller’s is concerned with “good works”-trends in spirituality, social activism, church growth, and discipleship. However, it’s pretty clear that justification is simply not on the radar.

Even where it is not outright rejected, it is often ignored. Perhaps the forgiveness of sins and justification are appropriate for “getting saved,” but then comes the real business of Christian living-as if there could be any genuine holiness of life that did not arise out of a perpetual confidence that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

Christ increasing and me decreasing

From the Gospel Coalition Website

The way many of us think about sanctification is, well…not very sanctified. In fact, it’s terribly narcissistic. We spend too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our spiritual failures and brooding over our spiritual successes. Somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian.

I’ve said this before but let me say it again: there is nothing in the gospel or about the gospel that encourages me to focus on me. Nothing! It’s never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ “the author and finisher of our faith” and center our eyes on ourselves. Never! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to “fix our eyes on Christ” (Hebrews 12:2). The truest measure of Christian growth, therefore, is when we stop spiritually rationalizing the reasons why we’re taking our eyes off of Jesus to focus on ourselves.

The biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us outward. Martin Luther picked up on this problem in the Reformation, arguing that sin actually bends or curves us in on ourselves (homo incurvatus in se). Any version of “the gospel”, therefore, that encourages you to think about yourself is detrimental to your faith-whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience.

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Law and Gospel

This is from Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

The following are good distinctives to keep in mind when understanding law and gospel.
  • The law shows us what godliness is, but it cannot make us godly like the gospel can.
  • The law shows us what a sanctified life looks like, but it does not have sanctifying power as the gospel does. So, apart from the gospel, the law crushes.
  • The law shows us what to do. The Gospel announces what God has done.
  • The law directs us, but only the gospel can drive us.

Delighting in God

I had the opportunity to teach at Allen Cleveland’s Bible study a few weeks ago. The lesson was about
How to Connect the Theological to the Practical walk we have we Christ.

Opening statement

A proper study of God leads to a delighting in God.

Because when you are most satisfied in God then God is most glorified in you.

A little background study on the glory of God

  • Ephesians 1:1-14 (glory in verses 6, 12 and 14)

So if the purpose of God in the Bible is His glory then doesn't it make sense to say that the purpose of my life is the glory of God. Conclusion: A study of God should produce Christians that live in a way that glorifies God. A proper study of God must lead one to delighting in God. I want to put legs to that statement for you.

4 points regarding the doctrine of joy from the Bible

  • Joy is a key and necessary ingredient in FAITH.
  • Joy is a gift that is freely giving by the Holy Spirit
  • Joy is spontaneous
  • Joy must be fought for in the Christian life.

Joy is a gift
Turn to Galatians 5:22

Joy is spontaneous
When joy happens it is spontaneous, you don't control it or demand it but rather you receive it.

Illustration: Putting up your index finger and putting it down. You can't do that with joy.

Joy is an essential ingredient in FAITH
2 Corinthians 1:24
Philippians 1:25

Read More...

Essentials vs. Non-essentials

From the blog site of Andy Naselli

Erik Thoennes, Life’s Biggest Questions: What the Bible Says About the Things That Matter Most, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 35–37 (formatting added):
Essential vs. Peripheral Doctrine

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The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

• absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;

• convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;

• opinions are views or personal judgments that generally are not worth dividing over; and

• questions are currently unsettled issues.

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The justifying work of Christ

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin, that consciously they see little need for justification. Below the surface, however, they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure. Many others have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification….drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity…their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.

Few start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.

- Richard Lovelace

The word of God

Is the Bible the Word of God?
Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it—read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!

Is the Bible the Word of God?
Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, “O my soul, you are going to read a message from God!”

Is the Bible the Word of God?
Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible than any commentary that ever was written. You will not understand it unless your heart is right. You will find it a sealed book without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Its contents are often hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to babes.

Is the Bible the Word of God?
Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, and walk in its light.

~ J.C. Ryle

Do people in the church today understand justification?

Most people in the pew are simply not acquainted with the doctrine of justification. Often, it is not a part of the diet of preaching and church life, much less a dominant theme in the Christian subculture. With either stern rigor or happy tips for better living, “fundamentalists” and “progressives” alike smother the gospel in moralism, through constant exhortations to personal transformation that keep the sheep looking to themselves rather than looking outside of themselves to Christ…

The average feature article in [Christian magazines] or Christian best-seller’s is concerned with “good works”-trends in spirituality, social activism, church growth, and discipleship.

However, it’s pretty clear that justification is simply not on the radar. Even where it is not outright rejected, it is often ignored. Perhaps the forgiveness of sins and justification are appropriate for “getting saved,” but then comes the real business of Christian living-as if there could be any genuine holiness of life that did not arise out of a perpetual confidence that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). - Michael Horton

Evidences of Salvation

This blog article from Am I Really a Christian? by Mike McKinley

How do you know if you’re really a Christian? This can be a dangerous question if taken the wrong way, so you have to check your intentions (not asking as a means to judge others or to beat yourself up for an area in which you think you fall short).
At the same time there’s a concerning trend:

There are far too many people who think that they are Christians, but aren’t actually in Christ.

We have a genuine love and concern for those in the church who may assume salvation is by association. Are we depending on church attendance, family background, and good intentions?

Genuine faith shows evidence of regeneration. Scripture gives us five criteria by which you can evaluate faith. If these things are present in your life, they are indications that you are truly being transformed by a vibrant and real faith.
  • Belief in true doctrine. You aren’t a Christian if you simply like Jesus. Lots of people like Jesus. Gandhi wrote fondly of Jesus’ gentleness, the Dalai Lama applauded him as “enlightened,” and most people enjoy seeing his face around Christmastime sprinkled somewhere in the commercial jungle. To be a genuine Christian, you must have sincere faith in Christ and his atoning work on the cross. That must be the central drive of your life.

  • Hatred of sin in your life. All Christians struggle with sin. But if you have real faith, you will not enjoy your sins, but work to stamp them out. We all sin, Christians and non-Christians alike. The difference lies in the the effort and desire to improve ourselves and sin less vs. allowing sinful practices to be the enjoyable, ongoing trajectory of our lives.

  • Perseverance over time. You’re not a Christian if you don’t persevere in your faith and endure through the spiritually dark times. God is certainly there to sustain you, but you are also responsible for making the conscious, and sometimes painful, effort to endure in the faith.

  • Love for other people. Genuine Christians have care and concern for other people. This includes brothers and sisters in the faith, the poor and downtrodden, and, hard as it is, your enemies.

  • Freedom from love of the world. You aren’t a Christian if the things of this world are more valuable to you than your faith in God. Prosperity is not inherently bad, and it can be evidence of obedience and wisdom. But it is tremendously easy for those with wealth to rely on money more than God. Money has an uncanny power of numbing peoples’ need for the Lord. Only God can meet your greatest needs.

Behind the Scenes

There are lots of illustrations that I like to use when teaching Bible Doctrine. Over the course of 3 years I would normally run an illustration by Nancy to see how it would hit her. If she responded with favor I used it on Sunday but if she didn’t get it or thought it was off then I would give it the nix. As some of you remember I really wanted to get across the picture of unconditional grace. I said this is the type of grace that is counter-intuitive and messes up your hair. So I came upon what I thought would be a great illustration.
However this one never made it off the cutting room floor so to speak. When Nancy saw this she simply said No, that is not how you want to illustrate radical unconditional grace. So here is a behind the scenes look at one illustration that was nixed.

False Doctrine

Let us be on our guard against false doctrine. Unsound faith will never be the mother of really sound practice, and in these latter days, departures from the faith abound.

See then that your loins be girded about with truth, and be very jealous of receiving anything which cannot be proved by the Bible. Do not think for a moment that false doctrine will meet you face to face, saying, “I am false doctrine, and I want to come into your heart.” Satan does not go to work in that way. He dresses up false doctrine like Jezebel — he paints her face and attires her hair, and tries to make her like truth.

Do not think that those who preach error will never preach anything that is true. Error would do little harm if that was the case. No! Error will come before you mingled with much that is sound and scriptural .~ J.C. Ryle

Accountability Groups...Does this work?

In the last 6 weeks of the “Learning and Living the God-centered Life” I focused on the Doctrine of Salvation. In the final two weeks I concentrated on the study of unconditional grace. I said it then and I will say it again, this kind of grace is disruptive, counter-intuitive, and it messes up your hair. It is not taught nor understood in many evangelical churches. Over the years how many times have you heard and been encouraged to become part of an accountability group? But what if I told you that all that tends to do is put people under more law and not grace. Many of you would respond “what, have you lost your Biblical mind?” Of course we need accountability, because if we don’t have it we are going to just sin like crazy and live without constraints. When is the last time you read Romans 6? Is that the strategy of the apostle Paul when he leaves Romans 5? He is talking about grace is such crazy terms that apparently his objectors thought “Paul if your idea of grace is right, then we should sin more and more so the grace of God will show up and be revealed.” So you start to read Romans 6 thinking maybe Paul is going to get a little balance in his teaching and go back to the law. But instead he in the first 5 verses goes further and further into the grace of the gospel. Do you see how counter-intuitive that is to our logical minds?

The following article from the Resurgence Website and very thought provoking as we think through the gospel of grace.

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Remembrance vs Spiritual Surveillance

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in “accountability groups” where there has been little to no attention given to the gospel whatsoever. There’s no reminder of what Christ has done for our sin–"cleansing us from its guilt and power"–and the resources that are already ours by virtue of our union with him. These groups produce a “do more, try harder” moralism that robs us of the joy and freedom Jesus paid dearly to secure for us.

When the goal becomes conquering our sin instead of soaking in the conquest of our Savior, we actually begin to shrink spiritually. Sinclair Ferguson rightly points this out:

Those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality, that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only when our piety forgets about us and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety be nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.


Sin: An Identity Crisis

The Puritans used to say that far too many Christians live beneath the level of their privileges. Therefore, I need to be told by those around me that every time I sin I’m momentarily suffering from an identity crisis: forgetting who I actually belong to, what I really want at my remade core, and all that is already mine in Christ. The only way to deal with remaining sin long-term is to develop a distaste for it in light of the glorious riches we already possess in Christ. I need my real friends to remind me of this–every day. Please tell me again and again that God doesn’t love me more when I obey or less when I disobey. Knowing this actually enlarges my heart for God and therefore shrinks my hunger for sin. So, don’t let me forget it. My life depends on it!

The only way to deal with remaining sin long-term is to develop a distaste for it in light of the glorious riches we already possess in Christ.



Believing Deeper, Not Behaving Better

Christian growth, in other words, does not happen first by behaving better, but believing better–believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners. I need my family and friends to remind me of this all the time.

The bottom line is this, Christian: because of Christ’s work on your behalf, God does not dwell on your sin the way you do. So, relax and rejoice…and you’ll actually start to get better. The irony, of course, is that it’s only when we stop obsessing over our own need to be holy and focus instead on the beauty of Christ’s holiness, that we actually become more holy! Not to mention, we start to become a lot easier to live with!

Will someone please keep reminding me of this?

Are we suppose to make a decision for Jesus?

Basic Bible Doctrine

Here is a basic chart that might help just from a visual perspective.

Justification (something that has happened in the past)
Sanctification (something that is happening in the present)
Glorification (something that will happen in the future)

Differences between justification and sanctification

Justification refers to my status (righteousness)
Sanctification refers to my state (becoming what I already am)

Justification is about God's attitude toward me changing
Sanctification is about God changing me

Justification is about how God looks on me
Sanctification is about what He does in me

Justification is about Christ dying for my sins on the cross;
Sanctification is about Christ at work in me by the Holy Spirit transforming my life

Now specifically for justification

  • Justification takes place in the courtroom of God where He pronounces me right in the sight of His law or we could say declares me righteous.

  • Justification a declaration on the part of a righteous judge. When God says that your sins have been paid for they really have been paid for! The sins committed the most vile and wicked thoughts, words and acts that you have ever done are not floating in space that actually came down on and were absorbed by the Lord Jesus Christ and paid in full. Therefore when God looks in the book and sees paid in full that is actual and real.

  • Justification takes care of my condemnation in the eyes of the law.

To Do List Christianity

things-to-do-list
Americans are the greatest self-doers in all the world. We live by the catch phrase “if it’s to be its up to me.” One key thing we all need to understand is that from the moment of birth we are hard wired to be legalists. You start to grow up and learn very early that how you feel about yourself is proportionate to how you perform in your roles. If you make an “A” in math then when you get home mom and dad give you an approval stoke and you feel good about yourself. Of course this principle of hard wiring works in the opposite direction when you fail to perform.

Therefore when I am approved of, liked and applauded for achieving to the level in which the bar has been set, I am free to feel good about me. But if I don’t meet expectations then I feel bad about myself. And we see that in all of our roles, whether it be in the role of a student, athlete, parent, teacher, father, daughter, mom, neighbor and the role list goes on and on. From the moment of birth till we die we acquire our various roles in life. We are told our performance requirements and as we set out to achieve to that level for approval from others, and to be happy with self. By the time we reach age 12 we are hardwired for a legalistic life. Now just step back from this information a minute and think about what you have just read.

Go back into childhood, high school, college, beginning years on the job or last week. Think about the time you failed at performing and how bad you felt about yourself, or when you succeeded how good you felt about yourself. It happens all the time because we are hardwired from birth to feel good about self when we do good. It translates into the following statement - What you do is who you are.

Now enter the gospel into the life of the legalistic described above which is both me and you. It is totally counter-intuitive to our legalistic hardwiring. We try to obey Jesus to get His approval instead of knowing we have His approval which motivates us to obey. The church sets before the people hundreds and hundreds of activities to get involved with and to do in the calendar year. And the person in the pew feels that when they are involved and doing a lot of stuff, then they are approved by others (especially leadership) and can feel good about themselves. But if they aren’t engaged in activities that are visible to the corporate body, then they feel less than or discounted in their Christian walk. When people fail they become very despairing, which is one side of legalism and when people succeed, they become proud which is the other side. We many times in the mega church are defined by the things we are doing; community involvement, yard sales, feeding the homeless, and visiting the elderly rather than what Jesus has done by his death and resurrection. I hear much talk about various churches, pastors and projects but little to no talk about Christ crucified. We are fascinated by the doing but are unimpressed by what has been done on our behalf.

I read a survey years ago that was produced by Willow Creek Community. Most volunteers after 25 plus years of church service were either tired, frustrated or felt manipulated. Why do you suppose they were tired? It is because they went to work for Jesus and instead of taking on His yoke of grace they put on the yoke of the law. You can’t earn, merit or work for grace the only thing you can do in regard to grace is receive it. But the American church speaks more of the horizontal what you need to do, than the vertical what has already been done. Because American church goers love to do lists and they have a need to be told what to do. Hold on just one minute! Your salvation is by GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, in CHRIST ALONE. The gospel is nothing about what you can do for Christ but rather what Christ has done for you. The life you now live is placed directly under the banner “IT IS FINISHED!”

Maybe we should advocate that for a period of 3 months all activities of doing cease in the church. And for those 3 months we will learn from our pastors, elders and teachers how to rest in Christ through prayer and His word. In those 3 months we will readjust our categories from how much we need to do and think about what has already been done. We have a season in our church of teaching Christians how to receive grace. This is how the Bible speaks but unfortunately this it is not how most people within the church live.

In our men’s Bible study we are studying through the book of James. And I told the men on Tuesday night that we can dishonor God in our obedience. Didn’t Jesus say to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8 “You honor Me with your lips but your heart is far from Me.” We can obey with a head that is intent on duty instead of a heart that is filled with delight. Have you read the verse “God loves a (what kind) of giver.” God loves a cheerful giver. And the very thing that makes that giver cheerful is what has been done for them by Christ at the cross.

Alan Redpath one of the great preachers in the 20th Century was quoted as saying “beware of the barrenness of a busy life.” So may I exhort you in the following statement; Be careful that you not fall into the dangerous roles of “to do list” Christianity.

Death to Life

From the Resurgence Website

We Christians have a remarkable tendency to focus almost exclusively on the fruit of the problem.

We do this as parents with our children, pastors with our parishioners, husbands with wives, and wives with husbands. We do this with ourselves. The gospel, on the other hand, always addresses the root of the problem. And the root of the problem is not bad behavior. Bad behavior is the fruit of something deeper.


Your Death Is the Problem
Harold Senkbeil rightly identifies our real enemy: death. Sins are the fruit of a much deeper problem, a problem that only God can solve. Death is the root of the problem.

To focus on how I’m doing more than on what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.



All sinful behavior, even in Christians, can be traced back to the death that happened in Eden. To address behavior without addressing death is to perpetuate death. The Pharisees were masters of this and Jesus called them “white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones” (Mt 23:27). Many of us are guilty of making this same mistake. We tend to think of the gospel as God’s program to make bad people good, not dead people alive. The fact is, Jesus came first to effect a mortal resurrection, not a moral reformation – as his own death and resurrection demonstrate.


To Die with Jesus Is to Live
The following excerpt is from Senkbeil’s excellent article in Justified: Modern Reformation Essays on the Doctrine of Justification:

Most people think that the human dilemma is that our lives are out of adjustment; we don’t meet God’s expectations. Salvation then becomes a matter of rearranging our priorities and adjusting our life-style to correspond with God’s will. In its crassest form, this error leads people to think they earn their own salvation. More often in today’s evangelical world, the error has a more subtle disguise: armed with forgiveness through Jesus, people are urged to practice the techniques and principles Christ gave to bring their life-style back into line.

It is certainly true that sinful lives are out of adjustment. We are all in need of the Spirit’s sanctifying power. But that comes only after our real problem is solved. Sins are just the symptom; our real dilemma is death.

God warned Adam and Eve that the knowledge of evil came with a high price tag: “. . . when you eat of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Our first parents wanted to be like God and were willing to pay the price. And we are still paying the price: “the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23); “. . . in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22); “. . . You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1).

The real problem we all face is death. Physical death, to be sure. But ultimately and most horribly, spiritual death–being cut off from God forever. And everyone must die. You can either die alone or die in Jesus.

In his death, Jesus Christ swallowed up our death and rose again triumphantly to take all of the teeth out of the grave. In the promise of the resurrection, death loses its power. When we die with Jesus, we really live!


Daily Resurrection
Sanctification consists of the daily realization that in Christ we have died and in Christ we have been raised. Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life. Daily reformation is the fruit of daily resurrection. To get it the other way around (which we always do by default) is to miss the power and point of the gospel. In his book, God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis makes the obvious point that “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” Behavior (good or bad) is a second thing.


It's About What Christ Has Done, Not What We Are Doing
Preachers these days are expected to major in “Christian moral renovation.” They are expected to provide a practical “to-do” list, rather than announce, “It is finished.” They are expected to do something other than placarding before their congregations' eyes Christ’s finished work, preaching a full absolution solely on the basis of the complete righteousness of another. The irony is when preachers cave in to this pressure, moral renovation does not happen. To focus on how I’m doing more than on what Christ has done is Christian narcissism – the poison of self-absorption which undermines the power of the gospel in our lives. Martin Luther noted that “the sin underneath all our sins is the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and that we must take matters into our own hands.”

In the promise of the resurrection, death loses its power.



Moral renovation, in other words, is to refocus our eyes away from ourselves to that man’s obedience, to that man’s cross, to that man’s blood–to that man’s death and resurrection!

“In my place condemned he stood, and sealed my pardon with his blood–hallelujah, what a Savior!”
Learning daily to love this glorious exchange, to lean on its finishedness, and to live under its banner is what it means to be morally reformed!