Give Me (Light) Law or I Die!

If you asked me, “Hey, Collin, what would you preach, if it was up to you, to offend the fewest people?” Left to my own thinking, I would answer you by saying that I would just give people really good news, all of the time. Who does not want good news? When you tell someone you have good news and bad news, asking which they want first, the idea is that they only want good news, but must deal with the bad at some point.

I would think that preaching that offers the best news imaginable could not possibly offend people; it could not possibly stir up controversy. In fact, answering the opposite question, if I wanted to offend the most people, I would spend all my time telling people what to do (we don’t naturally like authority), and then, on top of that (which is already offensive), I would tell them they are failures.

This just makes sense to me. Good news = easy ministry. Commands and judgment = offense and controversy.

Yet, in some significant sense, I find the opposite to be true in ministry. The very thing I thought people would just love to hear, often times, rubs them the wrong way. It rubs me the wrong way! The very thing I thought we would not want to hear, well, is not always all that bad to us, or offensive. This is what I mean: as a Bible preacher, part of my job is telling people, including myself even as I preach, what they ought to be doing. We ought to be doing God’s will. Yet, I know that as a Bible preacher part of my job is to tell people, including myself, that we are failing miserably; for we all have sinned (see Rom. 3:23).

This is what I thought as a preacher I would be most nervous to talk to people about. This is the part of my message I thought would be most offensive to people. But I find that I do not get very nervous to talk about this, nor do I think that people are most offended by this.

I find that most people readily accept that they are not perfect; and if God’s Law demands perfection, they logically conclude they have not met His standards. I’m not saying this is always the case, or that most people I meet experience Spirit-wrought conviction leading to repentance. I’m also not saying this bad news is not at all offensive. It is. But what I am saying is that there is a logic here that a lot of people simply “get”.

I think it is the next part that I get most nervous (and most excited) to preach that causes the most offense. It is the next part of my message week in and week out that ruffles feathers and startles hearts, including mine. It is the part of the message in which I turn to tell people that there is nothing we can do about our sinful, guilty state and yet wonder of wonders, God has taken care of it all for us in Jesus, on the cross.

In case that seems weird, listen to Paul in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (emphasis mine). Paul says if he were trying to win the approval of others or people-please in ministry, he would not preach the message of Christ. The message of Christ is that we are “…not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” (Gal. 2:16). Yet, that is what he says is offensive.

How is this stuff offensive? This is good news! This is the best news! This seems so backwards.

I know, I know. It does to me too. But here is why the cross is offensive: we do not like being told there is nothing we can contribute to our salvation. Being told we failed is one thing, but being told we can’t make up for our failures is a whole-nother shebang. The American way is not perfection, but rising from the ashes, picking ourselves up again; that is our glory. We fail, but we always fix it.

But God does not offer us this glory. God’s message is not that we have failed but we can make up for it. God’s message is that we have failed and that He made up for it. The only thing we contribute is the failure. I find that in ministry it is this gospel of free grace for sinners that shakes us. We question, “Is this too good to be true?” This is what I get most nervous to say, wondering how many are going to question the message of Christ.

But screw it. It is all we have. It is the message of Scripture. I live to tell people about the scandalous grace of God, come down to us in the God-man, Jesus Christ, dead on a cross, risen from the grave, for you, and for me. All glory be to God alone.

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More Grace in Christ than Sin in You

Charles Spurgeon’s counsel to those who think their sin is to great to be forgiven; to be covered by grace flowing from the cross. It is in old english, so bear with it.

“Thy sins are as evil as thou sayest they are, and a great deal more so. Depend on it, thou art worse than thou thinkest thyself to be. Thou thinkest thou art bad enough, but thou art not so bad in thine own estimation as thou really art. Thy sins seem to thee to be like roaring billows, but in God’s sight they are like towering mountains without summit. Thou seemest to thyself to be black—black as the tents of Kedar; in God’s eyes thou art blacker still. Set that down, to begin with, that the waves are big, and that the winds are howling, I will not dispute that. I ask thee, what hast thou to do with that? Does not the Word of God command thee to look to Christ. Great as thy sins are, Christ is greater than they all. They are black; but his blood can wash thee whiter than snow. I know thy sins deserve damnation; but Christ’s merits deserve salvation. It is true, the pit of hell is thy lawful portion, but heaven itself is thy gracious portion. What! is Christ less powerful than thy sin? That cannot be! To suppose that were that to make the creature mightier than the Creator. What! is thy guilt more prevalent with God than Christ’s righteousness? Canst thou think so little of Christ as to imagine that thy sins can overwhelm and conquer him? O man, thy sins are like mountains; but Christ’s love is like Noah’s flood; it prevaileth twenty cubits, and the tops of the mountains are covered. It is looking at sin and not looking to the Saviour that has made thee doubt. Thou art looking to the second cause, and not to him who is greater than all.”

What Are You Giving God?

When I look into myself, I find nothing good. I find nothing worthy of God’s love and care. I find nothing to turn away God’s deserved-wrath for me. I find nothing. I despair of myself.

Yet I have hope. I have hope not in doing better or becoming better, but in the One who does not need to get better, for He is perfect. I have hope in the perfect One who put a cross on his back and bore God’s wrath for my sin. Rising from the dead, Jesus’ grace is beyond enough for me. I bring him nothing and sing,

“I looked inside and found nothing
Just like You said I would
But You created from nothing
So I am waiting
I think You said, “Bring your nothing,
And I’ll give everything

Oh, God of mercy
God who understands me
God who made me thirsty
Then came down and gave me drink

I’ll bring nothing
You bring everything
How could it be?
I’ll bring nothing
You bring everything
How could it be?

I looked inside and found nothing”

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Romans 7:18.

What I Believe About “Calvinism” (2/6)

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Have you ever driven through a tunnel, a tunnel that you couldn’t see the other side of? Did you wonder, “When is this going to end?”

If you are a Christian, you believe and agree with God that all people have sinned (cf. Rom. 3:23). No man or woman is perfect, or sinless, except Jesus. “For we all stumble in many ways…” (James 3:2). And “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

We have all sinned and are guilty, but just how sinful are we? I mean, how deep does the sin go in us? How long is the tunnel? Just how messed up, if you will, are we? Is it just one part of us that doesn’t love God, while the rest, however much it may be, does love him?

Enter the Scriptures, as they describe in detail our sinful state.

Eph. 2:1-3 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Rom. 3:10-18 “…’None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
‘Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’
‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.'”

John 3:19-20 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

Just those three verses explain you, apart from Christ, like this (brace yourself): you are not righteous, you do not understand God, you do not seek for God, you are not good, you do not fear God, you love darkness and hate the light (the light is Jesus in this context), you do wicked things, you are dead in your sins, you follow the prince of the power of the air (that is Satan), you are passionate about sin, and you desire sin in your body and mind.

Now exhale.

If I told you I wanted to explain Hitler to you, and then gave you that paragraph, you would respond with a, “Yeah, that’s Hitler for ya’!” But most of us would not describe our sinfulness that way. But the Bible does, and just did, in only 3 verses.

Remember to breathe.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry sums up our sinfulness well by saying, “We cannot expect too little from man…”. You see, to be sinful does not just mean you are legally guilty before God. It means that you, in your being, do not love God. And it seems clear in Scripture, in just those three alone, that there is not an ounce in you that loves God. You are not someone who really loves God but just makes mistakes. If anything, apart from Christ, if you do anything “right,” it was probably a mistake on your part.

Ephesians 2 says outside of Christ, we are “dead” in our sins. The term “dead” in Ephesians 2 does not mean we are not active. Actually, the “dead” people Paul describes in Eph. 2 are very active! They are actively loving sin, hating God, and following Satan. In our deadness we want nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with all things not-Jesus.

In our deadness, according to Romans 3, we do not seek for God. We are not actively wanting to know God. Actually, according to John 3, we run from God! When someone presents to us the gospel, in our sinful deadness, we want nothing to do with Jesus, because his light exposes our darkness. We want to hide. We do not love him or want him; we love and want our sin.

This all sounds very heavy, and very grave. But oh what joy, Christ has come!

What a glorious gospel we have in and from Jesus, that sinners like that, like you and me, might be forgiven of all that we have thought, done, wanted to do, and planned to do. What an amazing gospel, that by the power of the Spirit, we are changed from the inside out, and given a new heart to believe in, worship, and run to, not from, Jesus.

How does anyone come to be changed like this? To believe in and worship Jesus? How does anyone move from guilty sin-lover to innocent worshipper of God? Because that change does happen. It happened to me! And it is glorious. We will explore it in the next blog (part 3/6).