Monthly Archives: April 2011

Justification: An Ever-running Fountain

Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, regularly writes blog-posts for the Gospel Coalition. At the recent 2011 national conference, he gave a powerful message on the difference between justification and self-justification. It also addresses how gospel doctrine should produce gospel culture in the life of the church and the life of the believer. Our confessional belief (justification by faith) should be functional in our lives despite our propensity toward lifestyles of self-justification.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

“The Puritan William Fenner taught us to see justification by faith alone as a constant resource: ‘As we sin daily, so [Christ] justifies daily, and we must daily go to him for it. Justification is an ever-running fountain, and therefore we cannot look to have all the water at once.’” 

You can read the rest of Ortlund’s message here.

(Related posts: “Harlots at Heart”  and “Justification vs. Sanctification” and “A Lifestyle of Repentance” and “The Heart of the Gospel”)

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The Heart of the Gospel

The Heart of the Gospel is the Cross of Christ and the Great Exchange that His Death and Resurrection Secured… His Righteousness for My Sin!

In speaking to Corinthian believers, the Apostle Paul spoke of their status of being accepted by God. As a first step in their experience of being “re-created” in Christ, God exchanged their sin for Christ’s righteousness. This exchange, often called imputation, is the heart of the gospel:

…For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The same truth is conveyed to those in Galatia (Gal. 2:20; 3:13-14). Our sin is accounted to Him and His right standing with the Father is accounted to us: the death we deserved exchanged for the life He possessed.

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According to the gospel, this truth remains an unchanging reality: Whether on my best day or my worst day, I am accepted by God only because of Christ’s righteousness.

  • On my worst day when I am at the pit of selfishness and the filth of my sin, God loves, forgives, and receives me because of what His Son accomplished—Christ became sin so that I might become righteous. God sees us as sons and daughters, rather than rebels, because Christ’s blood has paid our debt and His righteousness has covered our lives. His righteousness produces life in us, by virtue of the Holy Spirit renewing us to resemble Christ.
  • On my “best days” when I feel that I’m on the top of the world and self-sufficient, or even when I’m living in obedience and remain mindful of God, my acceptance with God has nothing to do with anything I am or anything I’ve done. It has everything to do with who Christ is and what He has done. My best deeds are like filthy rags. Yet, in Christ, I have become a new creation and have been empowered to accomplish good works that glorify Him… but even these good works are the outworking–the evidence–rather than the basis for my justification before God.

The only thing that really matters is whether or not Christ has been my Substitute and exchanged His righteousness for my sin. That happens by faith. If not, then my debt remains unpaid and I stand condemned in my sin (Rom. 8:1). When I trust in Christ for salvation, I forsake my sin and all other substitutes of self-justification. I stop trying to earn God’s favor and I stop seeking my own glory. I bow my heart and life to His lordship by faith and repentance, as I turn to Him and forsake my sin. Such faith and repentance is ongoing. While “the great exchange” (His righteousness for my sin) was accomplished once-for-all at the Cross, my faith and repentance are perpetual. His substitutionary death secured my life so that I might be able to embrace a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

As a result of this “great exchange,” we can rest securely in the fact that Christ alone is the basis for our acceptance with God. No more striving. Simply resting by grace through faith. Worshiping God while enjoying His pleasure rather than working endlessly to earn His favor. On our worst day, we find refuge in the cross—for that is where we experience God’s love and forgiveness through Christ. On our best day, we find that we are still inadequate and in need of God’s grace—once again, we find this in the person of Christ as His Spirit lives in us and intercedes for us. May we revel in the fact that God accepts us as we are, because of who He is… and He has graciously purposed all things to make us more like Himself (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 3:18).

[Previous Posts: “Harlots at Heart” and “Justification vs. Sanctification”]

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Podcast: What is the Gospel? (Part 1)

At Christ’s Covenant Church in Winona Lake, Indiana, we’re pursuing a Grow Initiative that includes reading and discussing books geared toward understanding and applying the gospel. As a preview to our discussion night, we’ve done a series of podcasts. Here is the first one…

As you’ll notice, I was not entirely comfortable on camera, but I trust that will come with time, much like preaching.

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Seeing Christ in the Old Testament

  • Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (An interview with Sidney Greidanus)

The best advice I have for preachers who want to preach the gospel from the OT comes from Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, which I read while on sabbatical in England. Spurgeon said:

Don’t you know, young man, that from every town and every village and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? So from every text of Scripture there is a road to Christ. And my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, now, what is the road to Christ? I have never found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if ever I do find one, I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it.

Not only is there a road to London from every village in England, there are usually several roads one can take. So it is with the ways in which preachers can move from the periphery of the Bible to its center, Jesus Christ. (Click here to read the rest of the article for some helpful principles in preaching Christ from the Old Testament.)

  • “Getting Out”: Seeing the Gospel in Exodus 14 (A sermon by Tim Keller, the Gospel Coalition 2011)

If you would like to see a superb handling of an Old Testament text and how you might preach the gospel from it, then take the time to listen to Keller’s sermon here. Keep in mind that Keller has been doing this for a number of years and has been greatly gifted by God. We should not seek to imitate his preaching style as much as his method of getting to Christ from the Old Testament.

  • A Year-Long Guide for Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament

Nancy Guthrie has written a helpful devotional that guides the reader through a one-page devotional of seeing Christ in the OT each and everyday. It’s easy-to-read and understand, and covers the four major genres of the Old Testament. You can find the book here for under $10.

  • Getting the Most Out of the Text

You will also find the following guide helpful in asking questions of every text, that will unearth the gospel in it. The guide is written by Dr. Matthew S. Harmon of Grace Theological Seminary. You can find other valuable resources here as well.

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Reviving Previous Posts: Edwards on Preaching & Prayer

In light of a full-week, I have decided to repost a couple of things I posted last year concerning Jonathan Edwards on preaching and prayer. They were written in my attempt to digest the things I was learning from reading what other men have written on Edwards’ ministry. For the sake of convenience, I have combined those posts into two pdfs, one on preaching and the other on prayer. Enjoy…

  • Edwards on Preaching: This is my summary of John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching where he draws forth 10 principles of preaching as demonstrated by the ministry of Jonathan Edwards.
  • Edwards on Prayer: This is my summary of ideas taken from Edwards’ sermon on Psalm 65 regarding prayer, along with Glenn Kreider’s analysis of that sermon.

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Carson on Proper Exegesis

R.C. Sproul interviews D.A. Carson, leading evangelical scholar, on proper biblical exegesis. While you may not be an “academic” the interview will be helpful in considering how we understand Scripture in its proper levels of context.

Thanks, Matt Harmon for posting the video on Biblical Theology.

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A Smattering of Thoughts…

Lately, I’ve been reading a number of interesting things, most of which I have not the time to share. However, a couple of the articles seemed compelling enough to re-post with brief comments. Enjoy…


Parenting for the Glory of God

In the following article, Robert Plummer provides an engaging view of parenting from the biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. He highlights the eternal ramifications of faithful parenting and the need of God’s grace to fulfill this charge. In essence, parenting is a stewardship of young souls who need the realities of the gospel to flood their hearts and transform their lives. Parenting is proclaiming and modeling these realities as a display of Christ’s delegated authority–how children respond to parents will often reflect their response to Christ’s lordship. Therefore, parents should embody the gospel message through a loving relationship built on commitment, instruction, grace, and discipline for the good of their children and the glory of God: “Bring Them Up In the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord”.


Pastoral Singleness for the Glory of God

Steve DeWitt, pastor of Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana offers insight into the beauty and difficulty of being single while loving and leading the church. As an unmarried man serving in a pastoral role myself, I found the article particularly beneficial. While DeWitt has long-desired and hopes to be married at some point, there is something sweet and mysterious about having “the bride of Christ” as your only bride in this world. Obviously, that is not said to minimize the profound difficulty of such providence, but to say that God purposes for some to be set aside for that difficult blessing. And, as we know, He always redeems hardships for His glory and our (the church’s) good. That may be hard to stomach for those with unfulfilled relational desires, but we find in both Paul and Jesus a reminder that God’s provision of grace empowers us to joyfully and effectively fulfill whatever He has called us to enjoy and endure. In fact, we are called to a glorious joy and Spirit-given satisfaction in God–even in the midst of singleness–that is riveting, sanctifying, and altogether gracious as a gift from God. As I have been wrestling with fleeting measures of both contentment and unfulfilled desire, I have found great joy in praying for Pastor DeWitt and God’s provision of a wife for him. I have also found great joy in thanking God for my singleness and embracing it until God changes my circumstances or the Great Bridegroom returns. Lately, more than ever, I’ve been longing for the second.

As far as my own circumstance, I have honestly found it intriguing to consider how I should respond were God to bless me with DeWitt’s circumstance–even though such blessing would not seem ideal. In many ways, I’ve thought that being single for as long as DeWitt has been would mean that you grew to desire singleness and understood yourself to be called to that circumstance. That’s not really true in every circumstance–just as those who suffer do not necessarily feel called to suffer except that God’s providence ordains it and they joyfully embrace it, even while hoping for relief. Every good and perfect gift, even those wrapped in disappointment, are more gracious than we deserve and have been perfectly ordained by a loving and gracious God. So, while I currently desire marriage, my greater desire is to embrace the Lord’s will in whatever circumstance He provides. There’s an unusual, Spirit-given excitement that comes simply at the thought of serving Him. The context hardly matters–whether in a lifetime of singleness or a lifetime of marriage, it seems my relationship status grows less and less important all the time. Obviously, my desires have not changed, and yet the importance of them most assuredly has. Obviously, the challenges of singleness can be wearying, and yet the blessings can be rather life-giving. Both circumstances have their unique advantages and disadvantages–and require God’s grace to be faithful in them. As for me, the Lord has been gracious to renew my heart as I entrust it to Him, today, as well as each and every other day. No matter what each one holds, I know that I have been blessed with another opportunity to experience my need of grace and to increasingly reflect the One who gave Himself for me. After all, Christ lives in us and is our Hope of Glory.

You can read Pastor DeWitt’s article here at the Gospel Coalition blog, for a glimpse of his experience as a single man in love with the bride of Christ.


The Spirit of Christ Saving the Nations

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