“I Couldn’t Worship a God Like That”

Apr 29, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

117048243_7cc6bb0b87“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it.”
– C.S. Lewis, “God in the Dock”

“I could not worship a God like that.”

It is one of God’s eternal blessings that he is a good God, a loving God, a merciful God, a beautiful God. And we ought to worship him for these attributes and more. But we also ought to worship him because he is God, and we are not.

This imperative is no time more crucial than when God reveals himself in ways inscrutable and uncomfortable, when God is being seeker-insensitive.

When God is like that, we are inclined to put him in the hot seat. To say things like “I couldn’t worship a God who allowed this” or “I couldn’t love a God who did that” is in essence to say, “I will worship the God that meets my demands.” But God doesn’t fill out job applications. You can try to, as C.S. Lewis says, put “God in the Dock,” but he neither belongs nor fits there. He does not have to justify himself to us. It is a boon that he reveals himself to us.

God will meet our needs, and while he may answer our cries, he will not answer our demands. Because he is God.

And the LORD said to Job: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” – Job 40:1-2

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Listen for the Gentle Clatter of Hooves

Apr 29, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

tf-ref-022from Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway, 2011):

“Forces are afoot right now, negotiating how to get you fat enough for consumption and how to get you calmly and without struggle to the cosmic slaughterhouse floor. The easiest life for you will be one in which you don’t question these things, a life in which you simply do what seems natural. The ease of it all will seem to be further confirmation that this is the way things ought to be. It might even seem as though everything is happening exactly as you always hoped it would. You might feel as though your life situation is like progressing up a stairway so perfect it’s as though it was designed just for you. And it is.

“In many ways the more tranquil you feel, the more endangered you are. As you find yourself curving around the soft corners of your life, maybe you should question the quietness of it all. Perhaps you should listen, beneath your feet, for the gentle clatter of hooves.” (p.59)

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To Trust Our Striving is to be Ever Striving

Apr 28, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Martin-LutherMartin Luther in his Commentary on Galatians:

“The monks imagined the world was crucified unto them when they entered the monastery. Not the world, but Christ, is crucified in the monasteries.”

How so?

To trust in our religious devotion for justification is to be ever-striving, because we are ever-sinning. This theoretical recycling of salvation assumes Christ’s original work did not justify us “once for all” but must continue to be accessed through our efforts, treating justification like a spiritual game of Whack-a-Mole.

To taste of the heavenly gift and fall away from the gospel of justification by grace through faith is to “crucify once again the Son of God to our own harm” (Heb. 6:6).

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Making Our Church “Miss-able” To Our City

Apr 27, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

closed-churchDarrin Patrick asks a really good question in his book with Matt Carter and Joel Lindsey, For the City:

“If our churches shut their doors tomorrow, would our cities even know we were gone?”

The truth is, though, that churches don’t tend to shut their doors “tomorrow.” Apart from some uncommon catastrophic collapse, churches don’t go from growing/thriving to dead in a day. This doesn’t nullify the question, of course. It helps apply it.

For instance, in New England, churches have been closing down “every day” for a few decades. New England evangelicalism once thrived. But that was a long time ago. The churches shutting down left and right didn’t die in a day. They gave up ground over time. They died an inch at a time, a day at a time.

So. We can’t let up on mission. We can’t lose focus on the gospel. Not for a second. Because one second leads to a minute to an hour to a day to a month to a year to a decade to “tomorrow” you’re shutting the doors. And if we do let up, we’ve got to repent and circle back.

The best way to become miss-able to our cities is be churches that keep repenting and keep returning to the gospel. Every day counts.

When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying. – Thom Rainer

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What the Greatest Preachers Recognize

Apr 25, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

bible-reading-christian-stock-image“Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences or the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s powerful word. Essentially they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, “This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!” Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching.”

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (p. 82).

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Heaven Lies Flat in Thee

Apr 24, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

the_holy_bibleHad to find my copy of George Herbert’s poems today to check a citation in a manuscript, and as often happens when I open up this collection of beauties, I couldn’t put it down without reading beyond my duty. Here’s one of my favorites called “The Holy Scriptures”:


OH Book! infinite sweetnesse! let my heart
Suck ev’ry letter, and a hony gain,
Precious for any grief in any part;
To cleare the breast, to mollifie all pain.

Thou art all health, health thriving till it make
A full eternitie: thou art a masse
Of strange delights, where we may wish & take.
Ladies, look here; this is the thankfull glasse,

That mends the lookers eyes: this is the well
That washes what it shows. Who can indeare
Thy praise too much? thou art heav’ns Lidger here,
Working against the states of death and hell.

Thou art joyes handsell: heav’n lies flat in thee,
Subject to ev’ry mounters bended knee.

I I.

OH that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glorie!
Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the storie.

This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:
Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,
These three make up some Christians destinie:

Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good,
And comments on thee: for in ev’ry thing
Thy words do finde me out, & parallels bring,
And in another make me understood.

Starres are poore books, & oftentimes do misse:
This book of starres lights to eternall blisse.

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“Heaven is Taking Over. Yield.”

Apr 24, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

colorful-dusk-sky-above-the-field-14974“We are not just ordinary. Nothing is just ordinary. ‘The whole earth is full of his glory.’ We keep trying to fill it with monuments to our own glory — kingdoms, businesses, hit songs, athletic victories, and other mechanisms of self-salvation. But the truth is better than all that. Created reality is a continuous explosion of the glory of God. And history is the drama of his grace awakening in us dead sinners eyes to see and taste to enjoy and courage to obey.

“Do you realize that it is God’s will to make this earth into an extension of his throne room in Heaven? Do you realize that it is God’s will for his kingdom of glory to come into your life and for his will to be done in you as it is done in Heaven? Heaven is expanding, spreading in your direction.

“That is the meaning of existence, if you will accept it and enter in.

“Heaven is taking over. Yield.”

– Ray Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word Commentary: Crossway, 2005).

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The Christian Life is Going to God

Apr 23, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Pilgrims-Progress“The Christian life is going to God. In going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop in the same stores, read the same newspapers, are citizens under the same governments, pay the same prices for groceries and gasoline, fear the same dangers, are subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, are buried in the same ground.

“The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from evil, he will keep our life. We know the truth of Luther’s hymn: ‘And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for Lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.’ We Christians believe that life is created and shaped by God and that the life of faith is a daily exploration of the constant and countless ways in which God’s grace and love are experienced.”

– Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (IVP, 1980), 40-41.

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How Do You Know You’re Repentant?

Apr 23, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

tears-of-repentanceHow do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance:

“A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.” (p. 72)

These are good indicators, and I believe we can add a few more.

Here are 12 signs we have a genuinely repentant heart:

1. We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it, and further, we demonstrate “godly sorrow,” which is to say, a grief chiefly about the sin itself, not just a grief about being caught or having to deal with the consequences of sin.

2. We actually confessed before we were caught or the circumstantial consequences of our sin caught up with us.

3. If found out, we confess immediately or very soon after and “come clean,” rather than having to have the full truth coaxed out of us. Real repentance is typically accompanied by transparency.

4. We have a willingness and eagerness to make amends. We will do whatever it takes to make things right and to demonstrate we have changed.

5. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized, spending as much time as is required listening to them without jumping to defend ourselves.

6. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized as they process their hurt, and we don’t pressure them or “guilt” them into forgiving us.

7. We are willing to confess our sin even in the face of serious consequences (including undergoing church discipline, having to go to jail, or having a spouse leave us).

8. We may grieve the consequences of our sin but we do not bristle under them or resent them. We understand that sometimes our sin causes great damage to others that is not healed in the short term (or perhaps ever this side of heaven).

9. If our sin involves addiction or a pattern of behavior, we do not neglect to seek help with a counselor, a solid twelve-step program, or even a rehabilitation center.

10. We don’t resent gracious accountability, pastoral rebuke, or church discipline.

11. We seek our comfort in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, not simply in being free of the consequences of our sin.

12. We are humble and teachable.

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

– 2 Corinthians 7:9-11

(I have put my signs in the first person plural not because it is always inappropriate to seek to gauge someone’s repentance, but because we should always be gauging our own first, and because the truly forgiving heart is interested in an offender’s repentance but isn’t inordinately set on holding up measuring sticks but holding out grace.)

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Introducing For The Church

Apr 22, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.35.38 AMIt’s my great pleasure to introduce to you For The Church (, a new gospel-centered resource site from Midwestern Seminary. I have had the privilege of seeing months of collaboration from our team at Midwestern and our contributors from all over the country (and the world) culminate in this promising venture. We know that today you have quite a few good options for good news in the Christian blogosphere, but since we don’t think anyone can have too much gospel, we hope FTC will become a nice complement to your daily blog reading.

FTC Website Intro from Midwestern Seminary on Vimeo.

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