Category Archives: Redemption

A Heart of Sackcloth & Ashes

My heart is fickle and often festering with sin. It reminds me of my perpetual need of grace. Thankfully, God has provided His grace through the New Covenant promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Without the Spirit of God softening my calloused heart, I would remain unchanged. Without the grace of God placing His Spirit within me, I would remain stubborn and unaffected–despising Him and His ways. Yet, He has given the very thing I opposed–Himself–in order to help me obey the very word that I formerly ignored. He has done that for all of His people, by producing in them the faith to know and be known by Him. How sweet the grace of God that comes through faith and repentance… and how reassuring that His love, as found in Christ, can never be lost again (Rom. 8:31-39).

(Image Source)

Yet, even in our sin, the love of Christ compels us toward faith and repentance–that we may become the new creatures that He regenerated us to be. John Murray describes repentance in this way:

“Repentance consists essentially in change of heart and mind and will. The change of heart and mind and will principally respects four things: it is a change of mind respecting God, respecting ourselves, respecting sin, and respecting righteousness. Apart from regeneration our thought of God, of ourselves, of sin, and of righteousness is radically perverted. Regeneration changes our hearts and minds; it radically renews them. Hence there is a radical change in our thinking and feeling. Old things have passed away and all things have become new.”[1]

Repentance is in accord with our new nature. It is a willful turning from sin and turning to Christ. It is an acknowledgement of who God is, who we are, who Christ is, and what God has done in and through Him–for us and for Himself!! It requires embracing Him rather than our sin. In fact, we find in the Old Testament that people often put on sackcloth and ashes to symbolize their repentance. Sackcloth was rough and rubbed against the flesh–something that the Spirit-empowered heart will do as it makes war with the sinful flesh (Gal. 5). The ashes symbolized an understanding of mankind’s humble state of being nothing but “dust” before a holy God. Yet, it was from the dust that God made and exalted man to be His image-bearer, and it is through Christ’s death and resurrection that God has enacted a new creation in which we shall once again be raised from the dust of death and become image-bearers of His beautiful Son. This is all by the power of His Spirit (2Cor. 3:18).

The Spirit that was active in Christ, is now active within us. Throughout the Gospels, we see the Spirit’s ministry of glorifying the Father through Christ’s obedience; as well as the exaltation of Christ who carried out the Father’s plan by the power of His Spirit. Thus, the Spirit of Christ in us compels us to turn and experience life-giving faith as we are not only born-again (John 3), but perpetually renewed by His life-giving, sustaining power. Thus, a lifestyle of faith and repentance is how we apply the gospel power of the Holy Spirit to our lives. He transforms us in order that we might display an increasingly pure and beautiful reflection of Jesus Christ. This is God’s work in us and for us, for our good and His glory!!

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[1] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 114.

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The Love of God

A.W. Tozer:

“From God’s other known attributes we may learn much about his love.  We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, his love had no beginning; because he is eternal, his love can have no end; because he is infinite, it has no limit; because he is holy, it is the quintessence of all spotless purity; because he is immense, his love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea before which we kneel in joyful silence and from which the loftiest eloquence retreats confused and abashed.”

C.S. Lewis:

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for him.  Nobody can always have devout feelings; and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.  Christian love, either toward God or toward man, is an affair of the will.  But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, his love for us does not.”

Jonathan Edwards:

“But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean. The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom. The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment.”

Here are some thoughts that I wrote to a friend last Fall as I was reflecting on the richness of Christ’s love.  May you be blessed by the things He laid upon my heart…

“The Love of Christ”:

The breadth of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His desire to cover a multitude of sins. His blood has sufficiently removed our sin from us as far as the East is from the West. His love is a pardoning, yet perfect love. The length of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His decision to love us before the foundation of the world. His love is an everlasting love that has neither beginning nor end. His love is a predetermined, yet personal love. The depth of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His descent from the glories of heaven in order to bear the humility of the Cross. His death for us was the greatest act of unchanging, sacrificial love. His love is a patient, yet passionate love. The height of Christ’s love is demonstrated in His determination to lead us to glory that we might enjoy it with Him. His love compels Him to prepare an exalted place for His pure and perfect Bride; that she may ever be at His side. His love is a purifying, and altogether persevering and perfect love.  While such faithful love is beyond our understanding, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. By His death He pursued us and by His life He will preserve us. By leaping into the sea of God’s wrath, He rescued us so that we may forever love our Faithful One who first loved us.

See also Octavius Winslow’s “The Infinite Ocean of Christ’s Love”

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The Beauty of Redemption

Salvation is a past, present, and future work of God, grounded in the person of Christ.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”  (Titus 2:11-14)

The grace of God is an incredibly amazing thing.  No one actually deserves it, and yet most of us who have experienced it find it difficult express the profound beauty of it.  God’s grace transforms us at the very depths of our being.  It changes our affections and enables us to pursue Christ-likeness in a way that has never before been possible.  While not every person will be saved, God will save all types of persons from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:9) in order that His glory might be reflected through the diversity of His people.  The culmination of our salvation is our worship of our Redeemer around His throne for the rest of eternity.  As we live in this world, we are called to be living sacrifices (Rom. 12:2) who exhibit a lifestyle of worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We do this by the way that we respond to the truths of the gospel.

The Christian life is one of living in the present while remembering the past and anticipating the future. Our present lifestyle of faith and repentance is made possible through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our future hope is rooted in Christ’s return and eternal rule as the Sovereign King of Creation.

John Phillips writes, “The great inspiration to godly living is the second coming of Christ (Titus 2:13) and the tremendous cost of Calvary (Titus 2:14).”

We must remember the cost of our redemption while we wait expectantly for the return of our King who will one day set all things right.  Our future with Him is as certain as the redemption that was accomplished through Him at the Cross.  When Christ arose from the dead, He secured forever the redemption of the sons of God in all of their glory.  He not only sees what we are, but more importantly, what we will become as those waiting to be fully conformed to His image.  Let us therefore, remember the work of Christ as we rely on the power of the gospel to transform us while we await the final fulfillment of our salvation.  Wait for the return of the King as you reflect on the redemption accomplished at the Cross… this is how we are to live in light of the gospel.

Titus 3:4-7 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Our salvation is a work accomplished by the entire Godhead–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. According to the mercy of our Father, He saved us through the precious blood of Christ.  We are made righteous, because the Son of God did what we could never do.  He exchanged His righteousness for our sin so that we might be restored to the Father.  As a result, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us so that we might be born again (regeneration) and given new hearts that love and obey the things of God (renewal).  We experience this transformation so that we might enjoy the blessings of being the children of God according to the hope of eternal communion with Him.  Salvation is God’s work of restoring us to what we were intended to be so that we might forever enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.

Few things are sweeter than meditating on the good news of our redemption… May it cause you to marvel at God’s mercy toward you.

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