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How Grace is Like Grace (and How Grace Isn’t)

Jul 05, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

IMG_6114Today is our Gracie’s 12th birthday. This is a reflection I wrote a few years ago on how she reminds me of her namesake (and how she doesn’t):

One of the most vivid illustrations and daily reminders of God’s grace in my life is my daughter Grace. Actually, both my daughters, and my lovely wife before them, are daily reminders of God’s grace to me. But I’ve been making mental connections between nine year-old Grace and from-from-the-foundation-of-the-world grace since the former’s personality started taking dominion in her presence.

In fact, Grace is a lot like grace. Like grace, Grace is a friend to people of all kinds. I hope she never changes, because Grace is very at ease with kids and adults who look and act different. More than that, Grace thinks everybody’s handsome or beautiful. I’m not kidding. She seems naturally wired to see the best in everybody. Grace’s impartiality reminds me of the unpretentiousness of grace, how grace makes space for Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free, how grace reignites the imago dei in everybody it lays hold of.

Our Grace has the tenderest of hearts. She wouldn’t put it this way, not yet anyway, but she feels real Jesus-like compassion for people. When Grace sees a homeless man in town, she is broken for him. When Grace knows someone is sad, she feels sad for them. When Grace overhears mom and dad discussing a difficult issue, Grace later enters to offer to help in some adorable way. If Grace happens to overhear mom and dad mention a financial constraint, however minor, she offers up her piggy bank. Grace preemptively offers to be helpful. “Dad, can I have a bean bag chair for my room? I’ll pay you back for it.” Grace is always putting others first.

Like grace, Grace is unpredictable. Our little Grace is constantly moving, constantly singing, constantly bursting into song or silly voice or infectious groove. Like grace, Grace is surprising. She will pipe up, pitch in, and play her part at the most sudden of moments. Grace, like grace, keeps us on the edge of our seat and the tips of our toes.

Like grace, Grace has impeccable rhythm and timing, as well as the regularly spontaneous inclination to put them to blessed use. Grace dances like grace, skipping along on bouncy feet, flighty with fairy wings. What I mean is that Grace, like grace, is joyous. “I’m pretty much always happy,” she said the other day, apropos of nothing (nothing, that is, but grace). And Grace is the funniest person I know. She’s always making us laugh. Grace brings cheer wherever she goes, which is a lot like grace.

There are a few other ways that Grace is like grace, but there’s an important way Grace is not like grace. (We are constantly reminded that Grace needs grace for this.) Although our Grace moves at 100 miles per hour, although she’s nearly always running, nearly always in a hurry, when it’s time to go somewhere, she becomes the pokiest child on God’s green earth. If it’s time to leave for school or church, or if it’s time to leave the cousins’ house or the babysitter’s house, she takes her own sweet time. We are always waiting on Grace. Thank God, though, that we are not always waiting on grace. No, grace, unlike Grace, is always on time, always there when you need it, totally predictable in that sense. Because God is not slow in keeping his promises — as some count slowness, anyway — grace is always available at your time of need. Because God’s grace is timeless, it is always timely. So while Grace brings us much joy, we rejoice in her awesomeness best when we rejoice about Grace in grace.

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The Invitation of The Gospel

Jun 01, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

“Dear God, the treasures of thy love
Are everlasting mines,
Deep as our helpless miseries are,
And boundless as our sins.

“The happy gates of gospel grace
Stand open night and day,
Lord, we are come to seek supplies,
And drive our wants away.”

— Isaac Watts, “The Invitation of the Gospel”

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They Believe God Is The Only One Who Wants Them

Jun 01, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Cambodia_CNT_24oct12_rex_bSo Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…
– John 6:67-68

I had the great privilege once of preaching at a conference where one of the other speakers was Sharon Hersh, adjunct professor of counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. A story she told during her talk on “The Gift of Suffering: God’s Compulsion for Our Liberation” was one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard.

Dr. Hersh recalled visiting a village in a region of Cambodia once strong with the Khmer Rouge, which of course gave the Cambodians the evil Pol Pot and were responsible for enough torture and murder to constitute genocide. The people in this village, Hersh said, never venture far from home. Most of them have never been outside the village. It is too dangerous. While the days of the Khmer Rouge appear to be gone, the pain and anger is of course not. To be identified with the Khmer Rouge in any way is to risk one’s life. So these villagers are cast-offs, prisoners in their own land, hated for the presumed sins of their fathers.

Hersh said that a Christian church service in the village might have been one of the most vibrant experiences of worship she’d witnessed. There was so much joy, so much emotion, so much confession, so much exaltation of and desire for God. They were excited, expectant, enthusiastic, enthralled. “Is it always like this?” she asked a local.

“Yes,” came the reply. “They believe that God is the only one that wants them. And so they want him.”

That phrase—They believe God is the only one that wants them—was so heartbreaking and thrilling at the same time. “To be totally known,” Dr. Hersh said later, “and still to be wanted is the way to liberation.” I know that this gospel truth has made all the difference in my own life.

… You who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
—Psalm 69:32-33

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14 Things I’ve Learned in 14 Years of Parenting

May 28, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Our oldest turns 14 today. We are very proud of the sweet, creative, confident, smart, and entrepreneurial young woman Macy has become. In these last 14 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about parenting. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Parenting is hard.
2. Parenting is fun.
3. Parenting is confusing.
4. Parenting is exciting.
5. Parenting is boring.
6. Parenting is easy sometimes (not often).
7. Parenting is frustrating sometimes (more often).
8. Parenting is wonderful.
9. Parenting is sanctifying and the grounds for much worry-turned-prayer.
10. God is good.

Oh, you were expecting parenting advice? My personal rule of thumb is not to take most, if any, parenting advice from people whose kids aren’t fully grown human beings yet, and therefore I tend not to dish much out myself. Sorry about that.

Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, you will learn the tricky contextual nuance of that Proverb.

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Was The Holy Spirit Not On Earth Before Pentecost?

May 24, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Jean_II_Restout_-_PentecôteDid the Spirit not prowl the earth, seeking whom he may save before his coming at Pentecost? Is God’s Spirit not omnipresent? How did people love and obey God before Pentecost if we believe, as Jesus said, he would be sent after the Lord’s ascension?

John Piper explains with a neat illustration:

Now let me suggest an analogy to illustrate the experience of the Spirit before and after Pentecost. Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt’s President Nasser announced the plan for construction in 1953. The dam was completed in 1970 and in 1971 there was a grand dedication ceremony and the 12 turbines with their ten billion kilowatt-hour capacity were unleashed with enough power to light every city in Egypt. During the long period of construction the Nile River wasn’t completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past. The country folk downstream depended on it. They drank it, they washed in it, it watered their crops and turned their mill-wheels. They sailed on it in the moonlight and wrote songs about it. It was their life. But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines a power was unleashed that spread far beyond the few folk down river and brought possibilities they had only dreamed of.

Well, Pentecost is like the dedicatory opening of the Aswan High Dam. Before Pentecost the river of God’s Spirit blessed the people of Israel and was their very life. But after Pentecost the power of the Spirit spread out to light the whole world. None of the benefits enjoyed in the pre-Pentecostal days were taken away. But ten billion kilowatts were added to enable the church to take the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to every tongue and tribe and nation.

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For The Church at SBC

May 19, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

mbts_sbc_ftc_tw
If you are attending the Southern Baptist Convention next month in Columbus, Ohio, I’d like to invite you to join me, Mark Dever, Matt Carter, Jason Allen, Ronnie Floyd, and Paige Patterson for our For The Church conference luncheon on June 16 at 11:45 a.m.

Each of us will be giving a short “TED talk”-like address on a particular topic, and we’ll also be giving away to all attendees Dever’s epic new work with Jonathan Leeman on Baptist foundations.

Just $10 if you register early.
Hope to see you there!

ftc_speaker-topics

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It Is God Who Justifies

May 18, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

5005665898_1cd56f72ee_oIt is God who justifies. — Romans 8:33

“Behold the eternal security of the weakest believer in Jesus. The act of justification, once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies.’ What can I need more? What more can I ask?

“If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, ‘who is he that condemns?’ Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! ‘If GOD is for us, who can be against us?’ Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies?

“How gloriously will this truth shine forth in the great day of judgment! Every accuser will then be dumb. Every tongue will then be silent. Nothing shall be laid to the charge of God’s elect. GOD Himself shall pronounce them fully, and forever justified: ‘And those He justifies, He also glorifies.'”

– Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts (February 1)

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An Open Letter to Tom Brady

May 07, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

FullSizeRenderDear Tom,

Bro. Seriously. I love you, bro. And I take a lot of heat for it. I mean, like, an excessive amount of heat for it. But I don’t care. I am probably the only pastor outside of Boston to have a study full of Brady memorabilia. I love you like Gisele loves nature conservation. You must be protected, because you are an extremely valuable natural resource, the removal of which would upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem of awesomeness in the universe.

I’m writing this not as a BradyHater™, but as a full-on fanboy. You are my favorite sportsman ever — in any game, from any era. And I’ll tell you why. Your exceptional talent on the field is only matched by your exceptional work ethic. I love the way you command your teammates’ respect. And one thing I’ve always respected about you, up until now, is the leadership you’ve shown at the podiums and in front of the press. Unlike a lot of athletes of your stature, when things haven’t gone well on the field, you take responsibility. You don’t shift the blame to anybody else. And when you succeed, as you often do, you share the credit. This kind of leadership maturity is as rare as your talent.

So here’s the deal: I think you ought to do the right thing here and own up to wanting those footballs under-inflated, pressuring your equipment guys to handle that for you, and now insisting that you don’t know what anybody’s talking about. I think what you lose by doing that is much less than what you lose by not. And in any event, whatever is gained or lost, it’s just the right thing to do.

You and I both know that won’t win you any new fans. Your loyal opposition will always oppose you. But your fans will forgive you. Heck, I already do. I promise you — I already do forgive you. But I couldn’t root for you the same way, couldn’t talk you up to my grandkids like I planned to, couldn’t celebrate your championships as I have before, if you don’t do what real men do, which is take responsibility.

Tom, your reputation among many probably cannot be repaired, no matter what you do. I hate that for you. That’s just life, I guess. But I don’t believe “Deflategate” will tarnish your legacy in the eyes of fans like me if you’ll be brave enough to just get transparent with us. Confession of this kind won’t be the worst thing that happens to you in life, even though I’m sure it might feel that way at the moment.

But all the protection, all the spin, all the image management — it’s just making the situation worse. I know that once those footballs were restored to acceptable psi, your torching of the Colts only intensified. I know you beat the Seahawks in the big game fair and square. I know the pressure of those pigskins cannot account for the amazing things you’ve accomplished on the field over your long career, and perhaps have left to accomplish. But the longer you let this go on without owning up, the worse it’s going to get. It won’t go away. It will always haunt you.

So come into the light. We won’t hold it against you. And once you’re out here in the honest clear, I think you’ll find that huge weight off your shoulders, and I think you may see that trying to protect something you can’t keep anyway is a losing game.

I’m a big fat stinking sinner, so I can’t throw stones at you. I’ve done much worse than game the system to gain an advantage. But when I realized trying to protect my image was an ultimately devastating strategy, I embraced the forgiveness I’ve found in God, who through Jesus Christ forgave all my sin (1 John 1:9) and — get this — doesn’t even remember it any more (Isaiah 43:25). There’s real freedom in that light.

So anyways, just some thoughts. Love ya, bro.

Signed: Your biggest fan,

IMG_0754

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This Is My Manifesto

May 05, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo from Crossway on Vimeo.

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo is my newest book and the culmination of my thoughts on and practice of ministry over the last twenty years. It is also my most vulnerable book, and the only place where I tell my story of gospel wakefulness in fullest detail.

There are lots of rants out there against the so-called “attractional church.” I know I have engaged in my fair share. But I think the stakes are too high to simply preach to the Amen corner in the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement. My hope for this book is that it may challenge the status quo outside my own tribe, or at the very least, help men and women in the kinds of churches addressed in the book think through and even articulate some of their internal concerns and questions.

We have a great God who loves his church dearly. We have nothing to fear — any of us — in questioning our own assumptions about ministry and holding them up to the light of Scripture. But I also feature in the book research on the last three decades of the modern church movement’s effectiveness.

In The Prodigal Church, I simply want to thoughtfully and gently help brothers and sisters evaluate the way they do church. Because you don’t have to be a legalistic, traditionalist church to be stuck in the mindset of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

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The One Source of Total Salvation

May 05, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Natural_springs1From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
— John 1:16

There is no end to the cascading blessings of grace flowing from our Savior Jesus Christ.

The finished work of Christ is that beautiful spring from which flows our forgiveness from sins, our justification before God, our receipt of Christ’s righteousness, our adoption as sons, our reconciliation with the Father, our reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, our sure sanctification, our grounds for the Spirit’s fruit, our position as a royal priesthood, our serving as Christ’s ambassadors in the advancing kingdom of God, our resurrection from the dead, our eternal reward, our enjoyment of the new heavens and the new earth, and our participatory witnesses of God’s restoration of all things.

The gospel of first importance produces a myriad of blessings I suppose that were every one of them to be written the world itself could not contain the books. Grand thing, then, that God is remaking the world to broadcast them best.

The large tree of salvation, with branches enough for bird of every kind and from every place, grows from the mighty mustard seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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