Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
“O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let my foot be moved;
he who keeps me will not slumber.
The LORD is my keeper;
the LORD is my shade on my right hand.
The sun shall not strike me by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep me from all evil;
he will keep my life.
The LORD will keep
my going out and my coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:31-35, 37-39)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
And now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
No news is bad news for those who are in Christ. God, in His wisdom, perfectly guides our lives on the path He ordained for us to walk before the foundation of the world. He did this so that we might be conformed to the image of His Son and that His Son would be the firstborn of many brothers—receiving the highest honor in all creation. Nothing can stop this. Nothing can get in the way. Nothing is an accident, and no pain is apart from God’s explicit will. His grace is limitless. His love is beyond compare. In Him we have sure hope and unwavering love. The sand may crumble around us, but He is our solid ground when all else fails. And nothing can separate us from the love we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. No news is bad news for us.
I’m reading this pretty incredible book by a theologian named Robert Reymond. Right now I’m reading a chapter called The Eternal Decree of God. This chapter is dealing with the issues surrounding God’s absolute control and sovereignty over everything that has ever happened. To quote the Westminster Confession:
God, from all eternity, did by most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither God is the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions (WCF III:i-ii)
That’s basically a wordy (thorough?) way of saying that God ordained everything that was ever going to happen in such away that He is not the author of sin, nor is the freedom of His creatures destroyed, nor is the contingency (ie. freedom within the midst of difference circumstances) of secondary influences taken away—rather, God’s decree positively orders all things in such away that everything that comes to pass, including the acts of men in response to the ordering of God, are the will of God.
And now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure if my explanation actually made that more understandable. These are fairly difficult things to explain.
The chapter culminates with a discussion of the authors understanding of a biblical theodicy (the vindication of Divine goodness and providence with reference to the reality of sin, suffering, and evil). It’s here that I wanted to quote at length from the chapter because I thought it was remarkable:
I would suggest the following as the only possible direction in which to look for a biblical and thus defensible theodicy: [God regarded the ultimate end which he decreed to come to pass as] great enough and glorious enough that it justified to himself both the divine plan itself and the ordained incidental evil arising along the foreordained path to his plan’s great and glorious end. But is there, indeed, can there be, such an end? Yes, indeed there is such an end. Paul can declare: “I consider that our present sufferings [which are ordained of God; the reader is referred to 2 Cor. 11:23-33 and 12:7-10 for a sampling of Paul's sufferings] are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”; and again: “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; 1 Cor. 2:7). And what is that anticipated and destined end for us? It is this: Someday the elect will be conformed to the image of Christ—our highest good according to Romans 8:28-29. But out conformity to Christ’s likeness is not the “be all and end all” of God’s eternal purpose. We have not penetrated God’s purpose sufficiently if we conclude that we are the center of God’s purpose or that his purpose terminates finally upon us by accomplishing our glorification. Rather, our glorification is only the means to a higher, indeed, the highest end conceivable—”that God’s Son (N.B.: not Adam) might be the Firstborn [that is, might occupy the place of highest honor] among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29), and all to the praise of God’s glorious grace (Eph. 1:6, 10, 12, 14; 2:7).
The point of mentioning Adam in the above sentence is this: from the comparison which Paul draws between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-19 as representative of two covenant arrangements, it is necessary to insist that had Adam successfully passed his probation in the garden, he would have been confirmed in holiness, passing from the state of being able to sin (posse peccare) to a state of not being able to sin (non posse peccare), and all his descendants would have received by legal imputation [Adam's] righteousness. But then his descendants—you and I—learning of the outcome of his test, would have needed gratefully to look to Adam, still living among us, as our “Savior” from sin and death and as “our righteousness.” God would then have been required to eternally share his glory with the creature, and his own beloved Son would have been denied the mediatorial role which led to his messianic lordship over men and to his Father’s glory which followed (see Phil. 2:6-11). Accordingly, God decreed to “permit [the fall], having purposes to order it to his own glory” (WCF, VI:i).
And the quote continues. What I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to is something that hadn’t really dawned on me as clearly as it did when I read this: If Adam never fell, Jesus would be utterly unnecessary for us to innocently stand before God. If sin and suffering were not allowed (ordained) by God to come to pass, we would not need to look to God for any true need because we, on account of Adam’s performance, would not be in need of anything regarding our position before God. We would be righteous in and of ourselves, having received righteousness from the works of our human father rather than from God Himself. To a degree, God would occupy a much less important place in our minds, and Christ would never be needed as our Savior.
But, by ordaining the fall and subsequently working all things for the good of those God intended to save, God is glorified in both our salvation and in the judgment of sinners who reject Him. His immeasurable grace is made clear by the saving work of Christ on the cross, and we must look to Him for mercy because we are incapable of saving ourselves. We must truly rely upon God for all things, for in Him we live and move and have our being. We are not sufficient in ourselves, but must constantly look to the sustaining grace of a holy and beautiful Creator God who condescends to us, initiating relationship in spite of our own undeserving state.
The Fall was good for us, as horrible as it has been. The Fall brings greater good than the alternatives. We find ourselves truly in love with a God who saved us because He loves unconditionally and wants to show us grace and mercy. He is glorified by a people who turn from sin in response to His grace and glorify Him in everything we are. He receives the glory and we receive Him, all because of grace.
we were pressed on every side
full of fear and troubled thoughts
for good reason we carried heavy hearts
it is good to come together
in our friendship to remember
all the reasons hope is in our hearts
Christ our joy and strength
Christ our joy and strength
now with patience in our suffering
perseverance in our prayers
with good reason this hope is in our hearts
Christ our joy and strength
Christ our joy and strength
oh we saw the face of Angels
many good things well secured
for good reason this joy is in our hearts
Christ our joy and strength
Christ our joy and strength
Christ our joy and strength
Christ our joy and strength
for good reason joy is in our hearts
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering…
he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
It has taken me a long to come back to this topic because of the busyness of this last school year and work, but I finally have some time to sit down and write the next part in this little series (for part 1 click here; and for part 2 click here). In this post I want to discuss the next essential part of Christ’s work in atoning for His people: His passive obedience.
As I have previously discussed, Christ’s active obedience is His perfect fulfillment of God’s Law while He was on the earth, accomplishing what we are all completely incapable of. It is on the basis of Christ’s perfect obedience as our substitute that God imputes His righteousness to us. The obedience is active in the sense that He was “doing” all the things required by the Law and resisting temptation to deviate from God’s perfect standard.
The passive obedience of Christ is what Christ allowed to be done to Himself on our behalf–taking the curse and punishment for our disobedience upon Himself in our place. While His active obedience fulfilled the living requirements of the Law, His passive obedience satisfies the wrath of God that would rightly be applied to us. In order for justification of sinners to be possible, there must be true righteousness given to us (Christ’s active obedience), but that would not be enough. We cannot simply receive righteousness, we must also have the penalty of our sin removed. Atonement necessitates a spotless sacrifice and a complete transfer of the penalties of sin from the rightful recipient to the sacrifice. Click HERE to read on…
I just looked down at my phone and saw that it was June 10th. On June 10, 2004, at about 2:00pm, my brother and I pulled his little green truck over on the side of the highway in Sonora, CA, and I gave my life to Christ (click here to see exactly where we were). 8 years later, I can say that the Lord has kept me in Him from that day, and He has formed me into an entirely different person than I was then.
8 years down and hopefully 60+ more to go.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
An amazing sermon by John Piper on God’s power in our salvation. This is a powerful truth. Check out the other sermons from the T4G conference this last year.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. -Jude 1:24-25
I was talking to my mom a few minutes ago, and I was telling her about some experiences I had today that really affected my heart. I have the awesome opportunity as an intern for Campus Ministry to lead a Bible study once a week, and I have really grown to love the people who attend. Everyone has so many questions, and we’re all just trying to figure this whole thing out.
We were discussing Ephesians 2 today, and how it talks about us being dead in our sins and trespasses, but that God makes us alive in Christ by faith through grace—having nothing to do with works, so that no one may boast (and no, I’m not saying that good deeds don’t accompany faith—faith without works is dead—but that good works don’t actually give us any spiritual merit before God). This is a really hard concept to grasp and feel and understand and believe—no one is good before God; good deeds don’t save us; everyone, including us, is or was at some point utterly and completely dead in their sin; only by faith given to us through God’s grace can save; that grace is only given because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection; apart from God saving us through Christ and giving us a true and living faith in Him, no one can be saved… all are dead in their transgressions and lost.
I don’t say these things with even the least bit arrogance. I know that I am only saved because God has chosen to give me grace—a grace that is completely undeserved—and has made me alive by His power. I deserved none of it, I can’t repay any of it, and I can only be immeasurably thankful to God in Christ for what He has done for me. There is no room for arrogance in a message that proclaims grace.
But these things aren’t easy. They rub against our intuitive belief that people are good and that good deeds are meritorious. Because we tend to treat others based on how they perform, particularly at work and in school, we are aghast at the suggestion that to God our deeds don’t earn us anything. To God, our righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6); we have become morally unclean due to sin. We need atonement, not “good deeds” to cover up our sin. We need to be washed clean and made new. We can’t achieve that ourselves!
I understand why so many people struggle with this idea—I struggle with it regularly. I feel myself slipping into the old paradigm of good deeds = favor from God, but the Spirit continually draws me back to the pure and beautiful and suicidal message of the Gospel: you must die to yourself, your self-confidence, your personally ability, and trust in what He did for you on the Cross. We are loved because we are found in Christ. And because we are in Christ, God is showing “the immeasurable richness of His grace in kindness towards us…” (Eph.2:7).
The conversation continued and we were discussing the hard reality that most people in the world will not be saved. Jesus makes it clear that the path that leads to destruction is wide, but the path that leads to life is narrow and few will find it (Matt 7:14). Understandably, this view was immediately challenged, and challenged passionately.
Appeals were made to logic and human reasoning, God’s love and mercy, feelings that such a thing would be unfair, etc. After all, how can someone look at their friends who are Jews, agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and so on, and say that the won’t go to heaven? Obviously God’s love is too great for that. Obviously our grasp on the truth is too limited to be sure. Clearly these are good people who have not rejected Christ; after all, their good deeds show that they are in Christ, whether they believe in Him or not. Besides, the Church has changed. We aren’t as rigid as we once were. Liberal theologians have clearly explained that God’s love is infinite and that it isn’t about a set of beliefs one maintains or the faith that they have that saves us, but the good heart one has and the good deeds they do. God would not dare to do anything that would go against what our hearts tell us about the salvation of those around us… right? Click HERE to continue reading…