Saturday, January 1, 2011


Just to follow up on the end of the last post, I think love is the greatest antidote to pride. Pride says that it is first and foremost about me. Love says that others matter more than I do.

I am watching this Francis Chan talk tonight. It is powerful and I recommend you take the time to watch it. God is stirring in me a couple of desires that I hope will be integral to my spiritual walk in the year ahead.

A desire to love others better.

A greater urgency for the lost.

Grace Part III

“If God were willing to sell His grace, we would accept it more quickly and gladly than when He offers it for nothing.” -- Martin Luther

"The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God." -- Luther's 62nd thesis (of the 95)

My mom sent me an email today noting that she had heard me use the word "grace" a lot while I was home for Christmas. I'm glad she observed that it is becoming a more common part of my vocabulary. I have written on grace more than anything else over the past year (I think) because God is giving me a better understanding of His grace as well as the grace that I am called to give to others.

I remember listening to a John Piper sermon awhile back as he was preaching through John. This verse has stuck with me ever since. I like the ESV translation the best:

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. - John 1:16

God moved my heart when I heard Piper read "grace upon grace". Undeserved love upon undeserved love. Even as I write this now, I just want to meditate on that truth. It seems so unreal that a God who knows every sinful thought, word and deed of mine would extend such a gift to me. And not a one time gift but a constant, perpetual, never ending gift.

So, I have been thinking about how I seemed to understand God's grace through the gift of Jesus on the cross but ended up making my sanctification about my willpower to grow in holiness. A key reason is that I know I could never do what Jesus did for me through His death and resurrection but I somehow feel like I am capable of conforming to His likeness through my own effort. I came across these two Jerry Bridges' quotes the other day:

"My struggle isn't believing that my good behavior can EARN God's favor; my struggle is believing that my good behavior can KEEP God's favor."

"After throwing our works overboard as a means of salvation, we want to drag them back on board as a means of maintaining favor with God."

If you had ever asked me if I was a sinner saved by grace, I wouldn't have hesitated to say yes and would have meant it sincerely. However, I somehow got the idea that God handed the baton to me upon my justification and that my "working out my salvation with fear and trembling" was first and foremost on my shoulders. When I read Jesus' words, "If you love me, you will obey me", I fell into the moralistic trap of thinking that my attempts at holiness would show Jesus that I really do love Him and would maintain my favor with Him. You can imagine how well that went.

This is why I talk about grace so much now. I don't think I would have recognized what I just wrote a year ago. Grace for me doesn't end in the empty tomb anymore. It is a daily gift that I am more cognizant of and more dependent on then ever before. Now that I am grasping what God's grace truly looks like, I am much more convicted in how I should demonstrate it to others.

Think of it this way...If I believe, to any degree, that my favor with God is impacted by my goodness and treating Him well, then it stands to reason that I am going to use that same prism in my human relationships. Of course, this also gets into the chicken and egg thing here. It's almost a certainty that my moralistic stance toward God was derived from the way people treat me and vice versa. It is just a self-reinforcing cycle between the way I relate to God and other humans.

So, if I think I lose favor with God when I sin then people are going to lose favor with me when they don't act toward me like I think they should. (Every bad driver on the road immediately comes to mind.) Every relationship becomes conditional. What does the Bible call me when I only treat those people well who treat me well? A pagan. I simply layered my human experience onto the Gospel. Matt Chandler says that whenever you put a word in front of the Gospel like "social" or "prosperity", or in this case "moralistic", it ceases being the Gospel. That is effectively what I was doing without even being aware I was doing it.

"God wants us to find our primary joy in our objectively declared justification not in our subjectively perceived sanctification." - Jerry Bridges

So, I have a renewed joy because I am resting more securely in the cross and less on how well I did or didn't live up to God's standards today. Interestingly enough, being more assured of the abounding measure of God's grace has only increased my desire to submit to God's authority instead of rebelling against it so grace can abound all the more. I truly believe that one of Satan's greatest lies is that too much grace is dangerous because it will lead to greater sin and less accountability. There is no question that "cheap grace" is a temptation and we must make sure we never desire to take advantage of God's love but that has not been my experience thus far. Knowing more intimately God's affection for me has only increased my affection for Him.

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~ Jack Dixon

The way I was attempting to drive my sanctification was the same way I would attempt to break habitual sinning - results oriented. I will tell you what you already can't will yourself to holiness. The heart has to change. Your desires must change. Your treasures must change. God is the agent of that change. The results will follow.

I heard saving faith described this way the other day, "When you want to want God more". I do want God more and I want to want Him even more. There are still idols to be removed. I find pride is a recurring issue now that God is showing me all these things. It makes me shake my head. It just shows me once again how hopeless I am apart from God. The good news is that I think understanding grace is one of the best ways to fight pride. It's what I intend to do...not by my might...but by God's power and strength.

(Addendum: This is probably worth a look:

Piper's Back

God promises new troubles (Mat. 6:34), new mercies (Lam 3:23), and new hope (2 Cor 4:16) for every day this year.

Friday, December 31, 2010


As the year ends I am simply thankful. Thankful for a God who doesn't give up on me. Thankful for a family who loves me. Thankful for brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage me. Thankful for a life that according to Ezekiel 18 should no longer exist.

I have battled against sin more fervently this year than ever before. Only this time I battled more in God's strength and promises rather than my own willpower and guilty conscience. God has intervened directly to remove stumbling blocks in my life. He has opened my eyes further to the pervasiveness of His grace and my utter dependence on Him which is a beacon for freedom rather than weakness. God's goodness has been humbling and inspiring.

I have learned to listen more and to talk less. I have learned to be more measured in my words instead of allowing a quick mind lead to a quick tongue. I have learned more deeply what it means to persevere in the midst of struggles. I have learned to rely on God more than myself. I have learned to give grace more freely because I have realized more fully how freely it has been given to me.

The darkness has been ever present. My flesh, the world and the Enemy continue to conspire to neutralize my effectiveness as an ambassador of Christ. The battle is daily...hourly...sometimes minute by minute. I don't prevail in every battle but I am more aware than ever that the battle is raging and I choose to engage rather than check out. When I stumble I rise anew in God's grace and forgiveness rather than attempting to clean myself up before seeking restoration.

The darkness is persistent, pervasive and real. But the light is greater. The light pierces the darkness that surrounds me. It pulls me out of the abyss and back to my Father. It prevails.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:5

To borrow the theme from the Christmas Eve service...2010 has been illuminating.