But I Am Not Doing Anything

“The Ten Commandments have no right to condemn that conscience in which Jesus dwells, for Jesus has taken from the Ten Commandments the right and power to curse us. Not as if the conscience is now insensitive to the terrors of the Law, but the Law cannot drive the conscience to despair. ‘There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36).

You will complain: ‘But I am not doing anything.’ That is right. You cannot do a thing to be delivered from the tyranny of the Law. But listen to the glad tidings which the Holy Ghost brings to you in the words of the prophet: ‘Rejoice, thou barren.’ As Christ is greater than the Law, so much more excellent is the righteousness of Christ than the righteousness of the Law.”

(Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians)

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The Practicality of Grace

You don’t have to go to a church, or ever even visit one to know that in church you are probably going to be told to do something. Whether that is to actively do something or refrain from doing something. It seems that “Just do it.” or “Stop it.” are common messages emanating from the stages of churches. We are all about practicality. We need to give practical advice to help people change their lives for the better.

But let’s just say that there are a number of topics in the Bible that don’t seem immediately, or at all, practical. For instance, how do you apply to your life the idea of God being 3-in-1 (the Trinity)? How do apply to your life the idea of God being good? Or just? Or right? Those topics may be great on Sunday morning, but how do you apply them to your life on a mundane Monday morning? As we see right off the bat, there are big topics in the Bible that seem impractical concerning your grinding Monday, or your broken marriage, or your sexual orientation.

And then we come to the idea, the big idea, the idea that stands at the center of the Bible: the death of Jesus Christ on a Roman torture/murder-device, a cross, and His resurrection. How does knowing the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection help you come finals week? How does that reality help you when you’re tempted to have sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend? Or when you’re tempted to look at porn? Or when you’re eating lunch? If the death and resurrection of Jesus is about the grace of God coming after sinners, maybe many of us think it sounds like great news, but we conclude that it seems highly impractical when it comes to fixing our lives.

The impracticality of grace. Sure, we might understand that grace is a (or the) fundamental message of the Bible, but is it the fundamental message I need to hear when someone cuts me off and I would like to have them thrown in prison for life? I mean, on a day to day basis, how does a message of grace in Christ help me? 

Here is a suspicion of mine: the question is not whether grace is helpful on a day to day basis, but rather, the question is whether or not grace is really true at all? I think the question of whether or not grace is helpful may be like asking if water satisfies thirst. Maybe the problem is not that we have tried water and it didn’t work. But maybe we haven’t tried it at all. Maybe we are suspicious of water’s ability to satisfy us because we have never chugged a half-gallon of it to see what would happen to our thirst problem. Maybe we don’t know if grace matters because we have never really “tried it” on Monday; and we haven’t tried it because we doubt whether it is really true. Rather than taking the plunge into the ocean of grace, and letting the grace of God, if He is gracious at all, consume us, we are suspicious. We are hesitant to take the plunge.

Instead of being honest about our real question, we just say we don’t see the practicality of it. Maybe we have “tried it,” but we doubted it so much we just turned away from the notion. If we were honest though, we might ask something different. We may present an entirely new question. Maybe instead of asking, “Is the message of grace practical?”, we should ask, “Is grace really true?”

If you are a college student, join us Dec. 4th at 8pm at Tidwell Bible Building on Baylor campus as we answer, “Is grace really true?”

#faithanddoubt

Where Is Your Confidence?

C. J. Mahaney, calling us to put our confidence before God in the gospel alone, asks, “When we began the meeting [Sunday worship] and we were called to sing, what gave you confidence to sing? What gave you confidence to approach the Father? Did you do a quick assessment of your life, beginning this morning or this past week? And if you did, did your assessment include a recounting of the ways in which you have been consistently obedient…? Or did you find yourself as you conducted your quick assessment immediately aware of your sin this past week and therefore reluctant to approach the Father? It’s always a confidence issue. Where is your confidence rooted?”

Our confidence must be placed in the cross of Christ alone. Not the cross plus our good works, sincerity, willingness, obedience, spiritual disciplines, prayer life, Bible-study life, church involvement, you name it; the cross alone. The cross is sufficient for our forgiveness from and adoption by God.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand. 

Stop Examining Yourself, Christian

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

You and I are hardwired to expect to receive only what we have earned. No one expects an ‘A’ on a test they bombed, no one expects a promotion after a year of poor results in the office, no one expects a healthy marriage if one or both spouses fail the other miserably. You get what you work for, you get what you earn.

This is our default thinking and posture before God. You want a prayer life in which you see answered prayers continually? You want to see people respond with faith to your gospel presentation? You want to become a pastor or church-planter? Work hard, spiritually. I mean, you really think God is going to respond to the prayers of a consistent screw-up? You think God is going to bless your missional efforts if you can’t kick your known sin? You think you will “rise” to the top of ministry (excuse me while I go throw up) if you can’t show that you have no known sin you are holding on to? (Yes, you must be biblically qualified, I don’t deny that with that last sentence).

If you are unsure whether or not this is your default way of thinking, think back on the last time you went to church and began to worship, or the last time you prayed for someone, or shared the gospel with someone. Did you start thinking, “Have I been decently holy this week? Have I held anything back from Jesus? How did I do this week?”

If before worship, or whatever, you began to examine yourself, to see if you could proceed with confidence, because you find yourself worthy, you are in a works-based, performance-based trap in that moment. You are believing, am believing in that moment, God is pleased with us and accepts us only as much as we can say, “God, thank you that I am not like those unrighteous, uncommitted, always-failing, consistently-screwing-up sinners. Yes, we are all saved by grace, but thank you that I am doing such a great job now that I am in the kingdom. Thank you that because I am doing well, you will listen to me, or accept my worship.”

We expect to receive only what we have worked for and earned. So we examine ourselves. How are we doing? Are we “fully surrendered“? Have we been radical for Jesus? If our answer to those questions is, “I don’t think so” or “I don’t know,” well, then we proceed with great caution in our relationship with God, if we proceed at all. We believe we will only receive what we have earned. And since we don’t think we have earned much, we might just walk away from prayer or worship in that moment. We don’t ask for mercy, because in that moment we barely believe there is any for us. We don’t understand what the dude above understood that led him to say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Let me cut to the chase, this way of thinking is anti-gospel. This is anti-Christianity. You preach to yourself a works-based “gospel” when you search yourself to find something worthy of God’s acceptance and attention. “I’ve read my Bible a lot this week, so I will sing at church with joy, who knows, maybe even raise my hands, because God is happy with me!” That sounds silly, but don’t we do that?

I am not saying that nothing can hinder our prayer life, see 1 Peter 3:7. I am not saying there is no place for self-examination, see 2 Corinthians 13:5. What I am saying is that when it comes to God’s love for you and acceptance of you, it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with anything you have done or could do. It has nothing to do with how “surrendered” or “committed” you are.

God’s love for you has everything to do with Jesus performing perfectly on your behalf, being slaughtered in your place, and rising for your new life, all received through simply trusting in all that He did for you. He doesn’t turn away his face from you, or his smile over you, or his ear from you, because you had a bad week as it concerns holy living. Yet, how often do we think He does just that. Let us not look to ourselves for assurance and confidence before God, but to Christ and Christ alone, joining the guy who asked for mercy and “…went home justified before God.”

Faith and Doubt (Spurgeon Quotes)

Charles Spurgeon is of great help in this sermon on dealing with doubt.

“It seems as if doubt were doomed to be the perpetual companion of faith. As dust attends the chariot wheels so do doubts naturally becloud faith. Some men of little faith are perpetually enshrouded with fears; their faith seems only strong enough to enable them to doubt. If they had no faith at all, then they would not doubt, but having that little, and but so little, they are perpetually involved in distressing surmises, suspicions, and fears. Others, who have attained to great strength and stability of faith, are nevertheless, at times, subjects of doubt. He who has a colossal faith will sometimes find that the clouds of fear float over the brow of his confidence. It is not possible, I suppose, so long as man is in this world, that he should be perfect in anything; and surely it seems to be quite impossible that he should be perfect in faith.”

“To believe without evidence is to be credulous, and to doubt without evidence is to be foolish.”

“In the matters of the soul and of eternity many doubts will arise.”

 

Faith and Doubt (A Worthwhile Quote)

“By his Spirit, Christ’s continuing subjective work in me consists of his constant, daily driving me back to his completed objective work for me. Sanctification feeds on justification, not the other way around. The gospel is the good news announcing Christ’s infallible devotion to us in spite of our lack of devotion to him. The gospel is not a command to hang onto Jesus. Rather, it’s a promise that no matter how weak your faith may be in seasons of spiritual depression, God is always holding on to you.” – Tullian Tchividjian

Faith and Doubt (Quote):

“The strongest faith and the greatest courage have a mixture of fear. Those that can say, Lord, I believe; must say, Lord, help my unbelief. Nothing but perfect love will quite cast out fear. Good men often fail in those graces which they are most eminent for, and which they have then in exercise; to show that they have not yet attained. Peter was very stout at first, but afterwards his heart failed him.” – Matthew Henry

Join us at Tidwell Bible on BU campus at 8pm on Aug. 28th for part 1 of Grace Church’s college series, Faith and Doubt.