Archive for the Quote Category

Mar 22

How Much of the Gospel Do You Want?

2013 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Quote

The good news of the gospel is that, in Christ, we are no longer condemned for our sin (Romans 8:1). It is also good news that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17). Here’s a good word on the gospel’s life transforming purposes in our lives:

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please.

Not too much—just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted.

I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust.

I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture.

I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation.

I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races—especially if they smell.

I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged.

I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please. (pp. 12-13)

—D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Baker, 1996)

HT: Justin Taylor

Jul 13

Killing Sin by Letting Go and Letting God?

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Quote

In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul exhorts Christians to grow in godliness, and gives them confidence that they can do so on the basis of God’s work in them:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We see the same pairing of our labor and God’s work in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

God surely is at work in us. And that’s why it is possible for us to work out our own salvation. In other words, the sovereignty of God at work in our lives does not preclude our laboring to grow in Christlikeness.

This truth brings us to the popular saying, “let go and let God.” It sounds good. It sounds dependent. It sounds humble. But it misunderstands the Bible’s teaching on how we grow. Ironically, the result is a cycle of self-dependence in the struggle to “let go and let God.”

Recently, Justin Taylor posted part of J.I. Packer’s forward to John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. To introduce Owen’s work, Packer rehearses the influence of what is called, Keswick theology, on the early years of his Christian walk.

I was converted—that is, I came to the Lord Jesus Christ in a decisive commitment, needing and seeking God’s pardon and acceptance, conscious of Christ’s redeeming love for me and his personal call to me —in my first university term, a little more than half a century ago. The group nurturing me was heavily pietistic in style, and left me in no doubt that the most important thing for me as a Christian was the quality of my walk with God: in which, of course, they were entirely right.

. . . Whether what I thought I heard was what was really being said may be left an open question, but it seemed to me that what I was being told was this. There are two sorts of Christians, first-class and second-class, ‘spiritual’ and ‘carnal’ (a distinction drawn from the King James rendering of 1 Cor. 3:1-3). The former know sustained peace and joy, constant inner confidence, and regular victory over temptation and sin, in a way that the latter do not. Those who hope to be of use to God must become ‘spiritual’ in the stated sense. As a lonely, nervy, adolescent introvert whose new-found assurance had not changed his temperament overnight, I had to conclude that I was not ‘spiritual’ yet. But I wanted to be useful to God. So what was I to do?

‘Let go, and let God’
There is a secret, I was told, of rising from carnality to spirituality, a secret mirrored in the maxim: Let go, and let God. . . . The secret had to do with being Spirit-filled. The Spirit-filled person, it was said, is taken out of the second half of Romans 7, understood (misunderstood, I would now maintain) as an analysis of constant moral defeat through self-reliance, into Romans 8, where he walks confidently in the Spirit and is not so defeated. The way to be Spirit-filled, so I gathered, was as follows.

First, one must deny self. Did not Jesus require self-denial from his disciples (Luke 9:23)? Yes, but clearly what he meant was the negating of carnal self — that is to say self-will, self-assertion, self-centredness and self-worship, the Adamic syndrome in human nature, the egocentric behaviour pattern, rooted in anti-God aspirations and attitudes, for which the common name is original sin. What I seemed to be hearing, however, was a call to deny personal self, so that I could be taken over by Jesus Christ in such a way that my present experience of thinking and willing would become something different, an experience of Christ himself living in me, animating me, and doing the thinking and willing for me. Put like that, it sounds more like the formula of demon-possession than the ministry of the indwelling Christ according to the New Testament. But in those days I knew nothing about demon-possession, and what I have just put into words seemed to be the plain meaning of ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2:20, KJV).

. . . The rest of the secret was bound up in the double-barrelled phrase consecration and faith. Consecration meant total self-surrender, laying one’s all on the altar, handing over every part of one’s life to the lordship of Jesus. Through consecration one would be emptied of self, and the empty vessel would then automatically be filled with the Spirit so that Christ’s power within one would be ready for use. With consecration was to go faith, which was explained as looking to the indwelling Christ moment by moment, not only to do one’s thinking and choosing in and for one, but also to do one’s fighting and resisting of temptation. Rather then meet temptation directly (which would be fighting in one’s own strength), one should hand it over to Christ to deal with, and look to him to banish it. Such was the consecration-and-faith technique as I understood it—heap powerful magic, as I took it to be, the precious secret of what was called victorious living.

But what happened? I scraped my inside, figuratively speaking, to ensure that my consecration was complete, and laboured to ‘let go and let God’ when temptation made its presence felt. . . . The technique was not working. Why not? Well, since the teaching declared that everything depends on consecration being total, the fault had to lie in me. So I must scrape my inside again to find whatever maggots of unconsecrated selfhood still lurked there. I became fairly frantic.

And then (thank God) the group was given an old clergyman’s library, and in it was an uncut set of Owen, and I cut the pages of volume VI more or less at random, and read Owen on mortification—and God used what the old Puritan had written three centuries before to sort me out.

John Owen helped Packer to grasp the Bible’s teaching on how Christians can fight temptation and grow in maturity. You can read John Owen’s, The Mortification of Sin, in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a collection of three of Owen’s works on the subject of the Christian’s fight against sin.

For a summary and history of Keswick theology, read Kevin DeYoung’s interview with Andy Naselli, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject. For an unpacking of the Bible’s teaching on how Christians grow, listen to Ryan’s seminar, The Gospel for Christians.

Feb 8

What is Sin?

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Quote

In Jeremiah 2:13, God describes the sin of His people this way: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Sin is not only that we do wrong, but that we are wrong at the deepest levels of our existence. We are not just imperfect, but morally and spiritually insane. Ultimately, our problem with sin is a problem with with God.

Here’s a helpful definition of sin by pastor, John Piper:

What is sin?
It is the glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin.
—John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 206

As we grow in our Christian life we grow in our understanding of how great a problem the problem of sin really is. A right understanding of sin, of course, helps us better understand what it is that Jesus Christ did for us: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jan 11

Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s sermon, “No Fear / Know God,” Ryan preached from Psalm 27, addressing at length the subject of fear and worry.

The Psalmist preaches to himself about the goodness of God and the greatness of His salvation, even in, as Ryan put it, life’s “worst-case scenarios.” Though unlikely, God’s salvation is great if even an army were raised up against us. What could be worse than that?

In the course of his sermon, Ryan cited a helpful book on the subject of fear and worry by Ed Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and The God of Rest. About Psalm 27, Welch writes,

Worry scans the universe looking for more worries to accumulate; it needs to be directed to what is most important.…Beauty is just what worry needs. Worry’s magnetic attraction can only be broken by a stronger attraction, and David is saying we can only find that attraction in God himself. (pp. 152, 154)

Welch warns against the danger of worry and shows how we are transformed from worriers to trusters:

Worry is dangerous. It is not to be trifled with. When you find worries, anxieties, and fears, pay attention. . .

At this point, we know that worry and fear are more about us than about the things outside us. They reveal what is valuable to us, and what is valuable to us in turn reveals our kingdom allegiances. We also know that God is patient and compassionate with us, and he gives grace upon grace. Though alert to our divided allegiances, he persists in calling us away from fear and worry, persuades us of the beauty of the kingdom, and gives more than we can imagine.

With this in mind, his words should sound attractive, and we should be more and more inclined to listen. We should still like to abolish anxieties quickly, but we are learning that God values strong foundations and gradual growth, and such foundations are established as we feed on him and his words. As we meditate on Scripture and make it our own, we should anticipate slow but steady change. Worriers should be experts in a handful of passages. (pp. 95, 147)

To be sure, God is more valuable than anything we could lose in this life, and He works through our troubles to strengthen us in that conviction.

Sep 29

Bible Reading and Gospel Music

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Quote

How can we read the Bible so that the Bible transforms us? In short, we are transformed when the Spirit grants us to see and to know Christ better in the Word. This is because seeing and knowing Christ is the way we are transformed into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:18; 1 John 3:2). Our goal is to be like Christ, and the means is our vision of Christ.

Ok. Got it.

But how does that work? What is the relationship between our spiritual apprehension of Christ and our becoming like Christ? How does reading the Word work on us?

Sometimes an illustration helps. In his article on how to read the Bible, “Christ-Centered Bible Study,” Keith Johnson begins by illustrating the relationship between hearing the Bible’s message and living its demands:

Imagine yourself in a large house in which those who are deaf and those who can hear are living together. In one of the rooms, you see a guy sitting in a chair, listening to music on his iPod. Rhythmically, he’s tapping his foot, drumming his thighs, jutting out his chin, and swaying to the beat. His entire body moves in response to what his ears are hearing. It’s obvious that he’s enjoying himself and listening to a pretty good song.

A few minutes later, one of the deaf persons enters the room. Seeing the guy listening to the music and rocking out, he thinks, that looks like fun! I think I’ll try that. So he sits down next to him and begins to imitate him. Awkwardly at first, he tries drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out, and swaying to the music just like the guy with the iPod. With a little practice, he begins to catch onto it. By watching and trying, he begins to mirror the others guys actions pretty closely. But although he eventually gets better at keeping time, he concludes that it’s not as much fun or as easy as it initially seemed (especially the chin jut–very difficult to do when you’re not actually hearing the music).

After a while, a third person enters the room and watches this scene. What does he see? Two people apparently doing the same thing, apparently listening to the same thing. Is there a difference? Absolutely, the first guy hears the music and his actions are a natural response to the music’s rhythm and melody. The second guy is merely imitating the outward actions. Being deaf, he’s not listening to anything.

There’s an important spiritual parallel here. The dance (outward actions) represents the Christian life, while the music represents the grace of the gospel.

That’s a helpful image. After all, Jesus used the senses of both seeing and hearing to communicate what it means for us to apprehend his identity and his message (Matthew 13:13).

The whole article is worth reading.

HT: Dane Ortlund