I Couldn’t Have Paid Anything

Most of us have no idea of how extensive our sin is. Personally, I can understand it only by realizing that erasing it required nothing less than the innocent blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But I do know that I have absolutely no resources with which to atone for my sin. Any good that I might have done could never outweigh the ways that I have offended the thrice holy God. My debt towards Him is just too formidable.

Thankfully, Jesus is a merciful God Who took my debt upon Himself. He graciously paid the entire price of my sin, leaving me free to worship God with a clear conscience. Throughout eternity, I will praise Him for paying a debt that I never could have paid.

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The Strange Effect Of Praying

As Mom drove across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to the train station, my sister and I expressed our dread of another year-long visit from Granny. It wasn’t so much that we’d have to share a bedroom again (actually, I kind of liked that part). And I looked forward to her lemon cake.

But Granny complained. A lot. About everything. My sister and I spent that car ride telling Mom how much her complaining bothered us.

Mom validated our feelings by responding, “Granny’s not happy unless she has something to complain about.”

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the sin of complaining. I wake up complaining that it’s time to wake up. Throughout the day, I notice myself grumbling internally about various matters ranging from my assorted aches and pains to my frustrations over COVID-19 restrictions. I understand that complaining exposes a lack of trust in the Lord, not to mention an ungrateful attitude.

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For Even Me!

It’s good to face up to the severity of our sin. Sadly, few churches these days teach much about human depravity. Efforts to bolster self-esteem minimize any mention of sin in favor of emphasizing our righteousness in Christ. We nod in agreement that Jesus died for our sins, rarely seriously thinking of ourselves as sinners.

But those of us who actually do understand the depth of our wretchedness run the danger of not speaking enough about God’s grace. This failure is ironic, since our conviction of sin should enable us to have a deeper appreciation of His grace.

What could be more joyful than knowing that the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches even me? How can I resist praising His Name when I think about His grace being broader than the scope of my transgressions, making me God’s dear child? The matchless grace of Jesus fills me with such joy that I want to magnify the precious Name of Jesus!

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Pouring Contempt On All My Pride

Whether we admit it or not, all of us struggle with the sin of pride. As I confess my sins during my daily prayer time, I often see how they all emerge from the root sin of pride. I also see how pride keeps me from fully appreciating the wonderful work Christ did for me on the cross.

Pride tells us lies about ourselves. It tells us that Jesus saw something in us deserving of His love. It tells us that we participate in our salvation, if only by exercising our wills to accept Him. It tells us that our obedience to Him makes us righteous.

The cross, on the other hand, tells us that the Prince of glory died and turned our richest gains into loss. It tells us that even if we possessed the entire realm of nature, it wouldn’t be enough of a present to offer Him. It tells us that the love of God demands everything from us, even though we have absolutely nothing worthy of His love.

Do The Four Spiritual Laws Explain Why Sin Separates Us From God?

Last Tuesday I started writing about the Four Spiritual Laws, a tract that has been used in evangelism for decades. On the whole, the principles in this tract present the Gospel fairly adequately, so I wouldn’t categorize it exactly as false teaching. God may have used it to bring some of you to faith in Jesus Christ, and I don’t want to disparage that blessing. Nevertheless, I would say that this tract does give an inadequate presentation of the Gospel.

Actually, I’d guess that most of us came to Christ though inadequate presentations of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works though His Word even when people mishandle His Word. Isn’t it marvelous that He uses our imperfections to accomplish His perfect work of saving His elect?

Acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s power and grace to work though flawed presentations of the Gospel doesn’t mean that we should use those means once we grow in doctrinal understanding. Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t examine the tools we use in evangelism. For that reason, we have good reason to question the statements we find in the Four Spiritual Laws to determine if they offer the best Gospel presentation. And the second Spiritual Law most assuredly ought to be questioned.

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Flashback Friday: Hope In A Sober Time

I originally posted this article on July 15, 2016. Aside from the particular events mentioned in the first few paragraphs, the thoughts seem all that much more relevant to the situation in 2020. See whether or not you agree.

Shadow Bible

Still struggling to evaluate my thoughts on the black men who were killed in Minnesota and Louisiana, as well as the police officers who were killed in Dallas, I watched last night’s news of the terrorist attack in Nice and felt numb. How do we absorb all these horrific events?

I didn’t want to blog about Minnesota and Louisiana until more facts became clear. Too often, I’ve made comments on past blogs, Facebook and Twitter before I really understood all angles of whatever situation I happened to opine about. I’d therefore resolved to start holding my metaphorical tongue until I actually developed a decent idea of the matter at hand. Yes, I risk being misunderstood as indifferent to the world around me. But being misjudged beats making misjudgments, as I see it.

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Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

Originally posted February 17, 2017:

93a68-wordjudgesheart

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days.  I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that   many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

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It’s Not An Avoidance Tactic To Focus On The Gospel

Monument splattered with blood

If you’re on social media (particularly Reformed social media), you’ve seen the pleas to redirect or focus from the mayhem around us and to preach the Gospel. You’ve heard respected pastors like John MacArthur insist that the Gospel is the only real answer to the various problems that have torn Western society apart in just a few short months.

Perhaps you smirk a little when someone says that the Gospel answers the issues that have crippled our nation. COVID-19, racism, police brutality, LBGTQ issues, abortion and the 2020 election are all extremely important. Regardless of your political beliefs, you may feel the urgency of these matters. So the cries to keep the spotlight on the Gospel may seem flimsy. Some may even consider it as an avoidance tactic.

To such a point, may I respectfully suggest that all these matters actually stem from a neglect — if not a rejection — of the Gospel? If anything, the craziness of 2020 clearly demonstrates our desperate need for the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Add This To Your Wish List

Do you have an Amazon Wish List? Or perhaps a wish list at some other online store? Shortly after Thanksgiving each year, my sister and I email Christmas wish lists to one another, carrying on a tradition our mom started when we were young teenagers.

I have a spiritual wish list too. Actually, it consists of several variations of only one item. I want to please and honor the Lord.

Of course, I fail miserably at mortifying my sin nature. Just when I think I’ve made significant progress in overcoming a persistent sin (usually anger), I explode again. This past week has been especially bad in that respect, I’m grieved to tell you.

Like all Christians, I long for a heart that praises my God both in what I say and how I live. It disturbs me that non-Christians see me behave in ways that bring dishonor to Him. It disturbs me even more that I dishonor Him in the first place.

Do you also struggle with sin that pops up over and over? I’m pretty sure you do. We can praise God that Jesus Christ took the sins of all who believe in Him on Himself and gave us His righteousness in their place. Indeed, that great exchange motivates me to desire a heart that reflects His character. Is such a heart on your wish list?

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A Few Thoughts About Thinking: “Tons Of Wicked Little Thoughts Merrily Appear”

Boston, May 2015

When I was little, John F. Kennedy’s administration popularized Learner and Lowe’s Broadway play, Camelot. My father, always the one to buy fashionable items, purchased the record album, featuring the original cast. Hence I grew up knowing and loving all the songs (rarely understanding their full implications).

Early in the story, Guinevere sings about “the lusty month of May” “when tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear.” In contrast to the sexually charged lyrics, the lighthearted tune creates a feeling of innocence. Those tons of wicked little thoughts can’t really be that wicked, the music assures us.

Tell that to Guinevere years later as her merrily wicked thoughts lead her to adultery so vile that it destroys King Arthur’s kingdom.

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