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Archive for December, 2010

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Imagine redemptive history as a river flowing toward the ocean (the kingdom of God). The closer one comes to the mouth of the river the more one senses the ocean pressing up into the river with its salt water, a mingling of fresh water and salt water.

With Jesus’ arrival, the kingdom of God has pressed its way back up into the river of time a short way. It has surprised the travellers and taken them off guard. They can smell the salt water. They can taste the salt water. The sea gulls circle the deck. The end has come upon them.

With the coming of Jesus, the ocean of the age to come has reached backward up the stream of history to welcome us, to wake us up to what is coming, to lure us on into the deep.

Source: Adapted from John Piper http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByOccasion/2/326_Christmas_as_the_End_of_History/

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Grace is in no sense contingent upon or dependent upon what man does.

Source: D. M. Lloyd Jones

No repentance, obedience, self-denial, prayers, tears, reformation or ordinances, without the new creation, avail any thing to the salvation of thy soul.

Source: John Flavel

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The opening of your hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ is not a work done by any power of your own, but the arm of the Lord is revealed therein.

Source: John Flavel, The Method Of Grace

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The Spirit and the flesh

… even though the term “flesh” originated as an anthropological term, in Paul these two phrases have become primarily and essentially eschatological. They describe two kinds of existence: one that belongs to and is conditioned by the present age that is passing away; the other describing our new eschatological existence set in motion by Christ and the Spirit.

Basic to Paul’s view of things is that, as with Torah observance, the time of the flesh is over. Living according to the flesh belongs to our existence before and outside of Christ; it is totally incompatible with life "according to the Spirit."

… Through the work of Christ and the Spirit, God has ushered in the coming, messianic age. Since for Paul the main evidence of that reality is the gift of the eschatological Spirit, it was easy for him to describe present eschatological existence as "in keeping with/according to the Spirit." The natural contrast to this way of describing present existence was to refer to life in the old age as "in keeping with the flesh." But “flesh” now denotes not simply humanity in its creatureliness vis-à-vis God, but humanity in its fallen creatureliness as utterly hostile to God in every imaginable way. Thus, what began as a purely anthropological term in the physical sense, evolved into an anthropological term in a more theological sense (“creatureliness,” thus human frailty), and finally into Paul’s unique usage in a thoroughly eschatological sense. For this reason also, the translation “sinful nature” fails to convey Paul’s meaning, since that tends to make it an anthropological term without adequately recognizing that for Paul it functions principally in an eschatological way. …

Our interest lies strictly with this latter sense (i.e. morally pejorative), which has completely lost its relationship to the physical and has become strictly eschatological—and pejorative—describing existence from the perspective of those who do not know Christ, who thus live as God’s enemies. …

… As far as the believer is concerned, Christ’s death and resurrection have pronounced a death sentence on the “flesh.” As with the “old age” to which it belongs, the “flesh” is on its way out; it has been rendered ineffective through death, which is the meaning of Rom 7:4-6. Through the death of Christ and the gift of the Spirit, “the flesh has been decisively crippled—”killed,” in Paul’s language. … Thus believers live “between the times.” The already crippled flesh will be finally brought to ruin at the coming of Christ. The Spirit, already a present possession, will be fully realized at the same coming. To the degree that the old aeon has not yet passed away, we still must learn ‘to walk by the Spirit,” to behave “in keeping with the Spirit,” and to “sow to the Spirit.” But we do so precisely because the Spirit is sufficient, not because we live simultaneously “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit.” In Paul’s view, we live “in the flesh,” meaning in the body and subject to the realities of the present age; but we do not walk “according to the flesh.” Such a way of life belongs to the past, and those who so live “shall not inherit the [final, eschatological kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).

Source: Gordon D. Fee, ‘The Spirit against the Flesh’ God’s Empowering Presence The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. (Baker Academic, 2009), 816-822. 

https://andrewgroves.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/the-flesh/

https://andrewgroves.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/not-in-the-flesh-but-in-the-spirit/

https://andrewgroves.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/romans-7commentators/

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Temptation and Joy

Temptation gets its power is by persuading me to believe that I will be happier if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier. …

… when Paul says. "Kill sin by the Spirit." I take that to mean, Depend on the Spirit, especially his sword.

What is the sword of the Spirit? It’s the Word of God … The Word of God cuts through the fog of Satan’s lies and shows me where true and lasting happiness is to be found. And so the Word helps me stop trusting in the potential of sin to make me happy.

The fight of faith against lusts is the fight to stay satisfied with God. … Faith is not content with "fleeting pleasures." It is ravenous for joy. …

Piper highlights how the Word of God gives us a true understanding of the conflict and encourages us to see that maximum joy and pleasure are to be found in the promises of God. In doing so our hearts are weaned away from the deceptive tastes of lusts.

Source: John Piper, Future Grace pp. 334-337.

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God’s Empowering Presence

Fee argues that to understand ‘the Spirit’ in Paul one must appreciate the now/not yet eschatological framework. For Paul the Spirit is both certain evidence that the new age had dawned and the absolute guarantee of its final consummation.

Paul uses three metaphors to describe this:

down payment

first fruits

seal

Pauline soteriological metaphors describing the transformation brought about by the Spirit:

Adoption

Washing/rebirth/life-giving

Sanctification

Propitiation responds to our being under God’s wrath; redemption to our being enslaved to sin; justification to our guilt before God’s law; reconciliation to our being God’s enemies; sanctification to our being unholy; washing to our being unclean.

Source: Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. (Baker Academic, 2009). 

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How to Grow in Grace

Would you be freed from the bondage to corruption? Would you grow in grace in general and grow in grace in particular? If you would, your way is plain.

Ask of God more faith. Beg of him morning, and noon and night, while you walk by the way, while you sit in the house, when you lie down and when you rise up; beg of him simply to impress divine things more deeply on your heart, to give you more and more of the substance of things hoped for and of the evidence of things not seen.

Source: The Necessity of Prayer, E. M. Bounds quotes this advice, giving credit only to "an eminent old divine"

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Words of love …

It’s a good picture ! Words are amazing things. Words are just made up of letters and letters are just strokes on a piece of paper. We can use words in powerful ways in the lives of others. But of more significance is the way that God employs words to reveal his love toward us and described to us great mysteries in the Scriptures.

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“As the blood of Christ is the fountain of all merit, so the Spirit of Christ is the fountain of all spiritual life; and until he quicken us and infuse the principle of the divine life into our souls, we can put forth no hand, or vital act of faith, to lay hold upon Jesus Christ.”

Source: John Flavel (1627–1691), a Puritan pastor.

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[A major problem is our] failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.

[Waiting upon God leads at times to] a sudden sweet explosion, an up rushing of the water that has been increasing its pressure within until we can no longer contain it.

God expects of us only what He Himself first supplied. … He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. We please him most by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that he understands everything and loves us still.

[Jesus is] the very Christ of God. [We ought not imagine] the grotesque situation of the Lord of glory coming to the aid of an unreconstructed Adam – on Adam’s terms.

[A person who is self-deluded in their sins is as] a kind of movable tomb to house a soul already dead.

The average man has become a parasite in the world, drawing life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.

The great need of the hour among persons spiritually hungry is twofold: First, to know the Scriptures, apart from which no saving truth will be vouchsafed by our Lord; the second, to be enlightened by the Spirit, apart from whom the Scriptures will not be understood.

All the natural fear in the world cannot make a sheep out of a goat. … Whence then does the true fear of God arise? From the knowledge of our own sinfulness and a sense of the presence of God.

The promise of pardon and cleansing is always associated in the Scriptures with the command to repent. The widely-used text in Isaiah, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as Snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," is organically united to the verses that precede it: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings …

What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.

One of the big milk companies makes capital of the fact that their cows are all satisfied with their lot in life. Their clever ads have made the term "contented cows" familiar to everyone. But what is a virtue in a cow may be a vice in a man. And contentment, when it touches spiritual things, is surely a vice.

Every Christian will become at last what his desires have made him. We are all the sum total of our hungers.

Do not underrate anything God may have done for you heretofore. Thank God for everything up to this point, but do not stop here.

The message of Christ lays hold upon a man with the intention to alter him, to mold him again after another image and make of him something altogether different from what he had been before.

So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.

Man was made to dwell in a garden," says Dr. Harold C. Mason, "but through sin he has been forced to dwell in a field, a field which he has wrested from his enemies by sweat and tears, and which he preserves only at the price of constant watchfulness and endless toil. Let him but relax his efforts for a few years and the wilderness will claim his field again."

The death of Christ was for the whole person, not for the soul only and His invitation is to the entire man, the entire woman.

To be tempted and yet to glorify God in the midst of it is to honour Him where it counts. This is more pleasing to God than any amount of sheltered and untempted piety could ever be. To fight and to win in the name of Christ is always better than to have known no conflict.

Thanksgiving has great curative power.

The doctrine of suffering should certainly receive careful and reverent attention from the sons of the new creation.

Praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace. … The nail forgets that both it and the hammer are servants of the same workman. … The carpenter decides whose head shall be beaten next and what hammer shall be used in the beating. That is his sovereign right. … How could Rutherford find it in his heart to praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace? The answer is simply that he loved the Master of the hammer, he adored the Workman who wielded the file, he worshiped the Lord who heated the furnace. … It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

[Silence as] the unutterable element in Christian experience. … speechless silence in the awesome presence of God … a breathless encounter with Omniscience … when prostrate and wordless the soul receives …

We are waiting for a trumpet note that will call us away from the hurly-burly and set in motion a series of events that will result at last in a new heaven and a new earth.

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