Every man desires to be considered a “good man”. If God has given a man 75 years of life and he looks back at it, nothing would give him more joy than to know that it wasn’t in vain. Further, the church is in desperate need of good men. The reason of course is that good men honor God and multiply themselves. Good men make more good men.
But, what do they look like?
The grace of God is sufficient.
I know this but sometimes it is hard to believe it. I operate under the false assumption that I have to augment God’s wisdom, power, and presence with my own (wisdom, power and ability). Every now and then God does the spiritual equivalent of a quick crossover over dribble and a two-handed dunk in the lane. He surprises me and reminds me that he is awesome. He is awesome in power, wisdom and love. I just stand up and cheer as I watch the false idol (that I created) writhing in pain from the broken ankles (it’s March Madness, you have to expect basketball illustrations).
God did this recently. I talked with a brother who has endured an astoundingly heavy trial. As I talked to him he boasted in the God of the Word and the Word of God. The best part was, I know it wasn’t fake. I had talked to him awhile ago and he was laid low by the affliction. Now he was truly encouraged.
Very helpful quote here from Mike Cosper in his new and helpful book Rhythms of Grace:
To our imaginations, it’s probably strange (at the least) or gross (at the worst) to envision anyone perpetually exalting himself. We live in a world full of bluster and bragging, where Nicki Minaj boasts “I’m the best,” LeBron James tattoos “Chosen 1″ across his shoulders, and everyone from pastors to porn stars are self-celebrating on Twitter and Facebook. The idea that God would be associated with anything like that behavior is disconcerting.
But God’s own self-adoration is nothing like ours. Unlike our own self-congratulatory spirit, God’s view of himself is unmistaken and unexaggerated.
As hymn writer Fredrick Lehman said:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky. God’s glory and perfection are inexhaustible. We can’t say enough about how glorious he truly is. The greatest gift he can give us is a revelation of himself. Exalting anything else would be cruel.
God calls Christians to love one another. Half of Jesus’ summary of the law was to love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22.39). While we know this truth like the back of our hand we also know the difficulty of doing it.
Why is it so hard? It is hard because sin complicates things. My sin makes me unloving and unlovely and others’ sin makes them unloving and unlovely.
So what do we do?
The book is small enough to read over your lunch hour but will need to be digested over a lifetime. Keller walks uses 1 Corinthians as lenses to understanding how the gospel had gripped and transformed the Apostle Paul. The result: gospel humility. Or, in other words: self-forgetfulness.
The book is more like a sermon that gets after you. With probing application that pulls the gospel-train into town, Keller helps show pride and chase it away with gospel.
Two of the most heart-grabbing events in our human experience are death and birth. When a friend or loved one dies we attend the funeral, coming alongside of the family to grieve with them. When someone close to us has a baby we likewise come to rejoice with them. In both events the arrow that is shot through our hearts is life. Life intersects differently with our minds and emotions depending upon if it is birth or death; but it is life or the absence of it that brings the reaction.
The Bible uses both of these concepts to describe the Christian experience. Prior to conversion we were dead spiritually (Eph. 2.1). This spiritual death was characterized by separation from God and expressed in terms of evil deeds (Col. 1.21; Titus 3.3). Once converted, we are brought to life (Rom. 6.4, 13; Eph. 2.4-10). This life is characterized by communion with God and expressed in terms of obedience to God’s Word and loving loyalty to him (1 Jn. 3.1-10).
Christians typically bounce off of two extremes:
Undervaluing the work of Christ by clinging to our own merit
Undervaluing the work of Christ by wallowing in our guilt
This is as dangerous as it is insane (and unbelieving).
Sometimes I find myself bouncing off of these opposing and perilous walls within the same day.
I’m reading a bit of Herman Bavinck this morning in preparation for a class with some men in our church. I have been particularly encouraged by his section on God’s goodness. Below is an adaptation of some of his thoughts on the grace of God as an expression of the goodness of God.
The Grace of God is..
God’s goodness is much more glorious when it is shown to those who only deserve evil.
The etymology of the word indicates a bowing and inclination towards another. In other words, the favor that one receives or gives to another.
Used with reference to God, however, its object is never creatures in general, nor the Gentiles, but only his people.
The voluntary, unrestrained, and unmerited favor that he shows to sinners and that, instead of the verdict of death, brings them righteousness and life.
As such it is a virtue and attribute of God (Rom. 5.15; 1 Pet. 5.10), demonstrated in the sending his Son, who is full of grace (John 1.14; 1 Pet. 1.13), and additionally in the bestowal of all sorts of spiritual and material benefits, all of which are the gifts of grace and are themselves called “grace” (Rom. 5.20; 6.1; Eph. 1.7; 2.5,8; Phil. 1.2; Col. 1.2; Titus 3.7; etc), thus radically excluding all merit on the part of humans (Jn. 1.17; Rom. 4.4, 16; 6.14, 23; 11.5ff; Eph. 2.8; Gal. 5.3-4).”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1 p. 214
My monthly article at Christianity.com is up. In it I deal with the foolishness of clinging to our own performance before God and the necessity of clinging to Christ’s for us.
Here is a sample:
I have found that it is customary for legalists to keep these types of lists nearby. Some do so on paper, others on their phone, and still others in their minds. At any rate, the list is easy to find and often times the front line defense in the battle against a guilty conscience or questions from without. After all, who can argue with such a resume?
But the Christian on the other hand does not carry about lists of our good deeds. We don’t because we can’t. We are sinners. I could make a list of my good deeds, but it would amount to a post-it note on the backside of the tractor-trailer of my depravity. And the post-it note would read “all of grace.” I am a sinner.
You can read the rest here.
So encouraging to know the neither the problem nor the solution has changed in the last 350 years:
The reason our affections are so chilled and cold in religion—is that we do not warm them with thoughts of God. Hold a magnifying glass to the sun, and the glass burns that which is near to it. So when our thoughts are lifted up to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, our affections are set on fire. No sooner had the spouse been thinking upon her Savior’s beauty—but she fell into love-sickness. (Song of Sol. 5:8).
O saints, do but let your thoughts dwell upon the love of Christ, who passed by angels and thought of you; who was wounded that, out of his wounds, the balm of Gilead might come to heal you; who leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath, to save you from drowning in the lake of fire! Think of this unparalleled love, which sets the angels wondering—and see if it will not affect your hearts and cause tears to flow forth! — Thomas Watson (The Great Gain of Godliness), p. 87