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 ESV)
A big question that many of us grapple with has to do with assurance, or knowing that we have a relationship with Christ. Here’s how Andrew Fuller gave counsel to his daughter in a letter:
If, you dear, you do really enjoy the presence of God, and so see the greatness of your sin as to abhor it and yourself on account of it, that is certainly an evidence that God has chosen you out of the world. If there be any doubt in the matter, it is whether those feelings which you enjoy be excited by the Lord’s presence, and whether the sense you have of the greatness of your sin does lead you to bewail and hate it. I do not mean to discourage you, or to suggest as if I thought otherwise; but it may be well for you to suspect your own heart, which is deceitful. I may add, that if you think you “see yourself a great sinner,” it may in part be because you at present know but little of yourself. You are a much greater sinner, my dear, than you are aware of; and an interest in the dying love of Christ is of far greater importance that you have ever yet conceived. But let not this discourage you. Though your sins be as scarlet, yet the blood of Christ is sufficient to make you pure as snow. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. Believe his gospel, commit your soul to him as a perishing sinner, and you will be everlastingly saved. See Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:12. Follow on to know the Lord, and you shall know him. Call upon him in the name of Christ, that is, pray him to pardon and accept of you, and grant all your petitions, not for your worthiness’ sake, for you are utterly unworthy; but for the worthiness’ sake of his dear Son, who died for sinners. 
There is so much godly counsel and wisdom in these words. Notice that Fuller isn’t to give even his own daughter assurance apart from Christ. It’s there, and only there, that our confidence and worthiness is found. So, how do you know? Do you know Christ and His sacrifice for sinners?
 Andrew Fuller, “Letter 13: To Mary Fuller,” in The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, ed. Michael Haykin. (Dundas, Ontario: Joshua Press, 2001), 135-136.
Had some time this AM to think about our upcoming small group session which, for my group, will include looking at what has been called “the most important paragraph in the Bible”: Romans 3:21-26.
With Advent on the mind, I read these words:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Also, encouraging, though, were the notes from the Gospel Transformation Bible:
If previous verses might lead to despair, Paul now sets forth grounds for rejoicing. What Abraham set his hope on by faith, so that God granted him a righteous standing (Gen. 15:6), Jesus Christ has accomplished “for all who believe” the gospel promise as Abraham did (Rom. 3:22). Yes, the sinful human condition is universal and terminal (v. 23). But believers “are justified” by God’s “grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 24). The term “redemption” suggests a picture of slaves being purchased and freed. God sent his Son to be a “propitiation”: he satisfied the demands of God’s wrath by his death on the cross in the place of sinners. When he “passed over former sins” (v.25) prior to Jesus’ coming, God did not merely dismiss the charges against the guilty. Rather, God’s righteous demands were met in Jesus’ death. God proved to be “just” in not overlooking sin, and he also freely chose to act as “justifier” for “the one who has faith in Jesus” (v.26).
Our hearts are moved as we marvel at the wisdom of God in providing a righteous way of rescue for guilty sinners that does not in any way compromise his justice and holiness. We marvel, too, at God’s great love in sending his own Son to accomplish this salvation.
Reflecting on the truth that “in the new earth, we will have unhindered access to the fellowship, goodness and glory of our God (presented here in terms of a new and improved Paradise; Revelation 22:1-5), for all that is unclean is now outside the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:27; cf. Revelation 22:3, 15)” Jim Hamilton, study note writer for the Gospel Transformation Study Bible writes:
“All this is because of the Gospel. Jesus was the one clean person to every walk the face of the earth, but he went to a cross. There he became ‘unclean’ so that we unclean sinners can be fully and finally cleansed, all by grace (2 Corinthians 5:21).”
Great thought as we prepare for Sunday’s sermon on Revelation 21:9-27.
This coming Lord’s Day (1/22/12AM), we plan to get into Hebrews 10:11-18 and see the difference that Christ’s finished work has made in our lives. One big theme will be what new covenant promises are applied. Here Ligon Duncan says it so well:
So, what is at the heart of the New Covenant promises? A people whose hearts are hearts for God. They have His will written on them. They are being made holy. They are being sanctified. They are being conformed to the image of God. They are being formed in the image of Christ. This is the one thing that is promised in that prophecy. And the author of Hebrews is saying, “Look, when you look up and see Christ at the right hand of God, you know that promise has come to fruition in the lives of His people…”
Therefore, in light of this truth, let’s come anticipating to revel in these things once again. We have a great God and Savior who has stewarded all the blessings of salvation for us and finished the work. He’s seating waiting for the great and glorious day when He will reign forevermore. Come ready to praise your victorious Savior this coming Lord’s Day.
I love good music. I’m always checking out new music to find songs that can help our church corporately give praise to God. I was hooked by a recent recommendation on this album and have listened to it and agree it is worth your time.
I’ve been one of those Gospel-Centered guys for a few years now, meaning that I see Jesus on every page of the Bible and believe that the Gospel is the message of first importance. I’m preached hard against the cold, lifeless and sometimes dead religious works that many do simply out of duty. When my work on earth is done, I want the greatness of Jesus and not something else to be the motto of all that I was about.
Therefore, I was greatly helped recently by a post on the Biblical Counseling Coalition by Stuart Scott. The post is entitled Gaining A Balanced Picture on God’s Counsel. Trying to summarize an article that is so excellent is very difficult. But, what I would say is, if you’ve ever wondered how being Gospel-centered helps inform your living out the Christian life or if you’ve ever felt a tension in being about the Gospel and “disciplining your life for the purpose of godliness,” then this article is for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough. There’s a MS Word version and a PDF available.
I hope it helps you as much as it did me.
I’ve had a huge appreciation for author Jared Wilson ever since his book Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior came out a few years ago. This, coupled with the tweets and blogposts that drip Gospel gold, meant that when I received his latest book, Gospel Wakefulness I knew I would be in a for a huge treat.
In recent days, certain places in evangelicalism have seen a growth in all things Gospel-centered. Conferences that attract large numbers of pastors center on the basic message of the Gospel. And, while many understand (rightly) that the Gospel is for those who don’t have a relationship with God, the Gospel is so much more. The Gospel is the message the church most desperately needs. In many ways, Gospel Wakefulness tells Wilson’s story: how he went from serving in Bible belt churches to being captured by this central message of Christianity. The result has been a profound effect in both his life and ministry.
As Wilson weaves this book together under the heading of Gospel Wakefulness, he helps you and I realize that OUR greatest need is the Gospel. He opens the book defining what he means by Gospel Wakefulness, then unpacks how this relates to themes like humility, brokenness, worship, spirituality, sanctification and even depression. He applies it both individually and corporately. This truth is meant both for today and for our future.
Time and again in reading this book my heart was crying out, “Yes!” In many ways, Gospel Wakefulness is my story and yours. I heartily commend this. I wish I could get this in the hands of every person I know. What makes this book pack the wallop that it does is not Wilson’s words, make no mistake about it. It’s that his words point to the truth of first importance: the Gospel itself. Read and see if Gospel Wakefulness doesn’t come alive in your life as well.
Have you ever heard anyone talking about the good news of salvation found in Jesus alone, how God has done everything to save us and gotten nervous. Maybe you’re a believer and think, yeah, but I still have to do this or that and it’s all about my life, now right? This objection comes often in circles where grace exists. A few years ago, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones predicted as much:
There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. (from his exposition of Romans 6)
Undoubtedly, we are not to continue in sin that grace may abound. However, this underestimates the power of the Gospel to change. You are not the person you once were. You are a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come. Today, rest in the amazing Gospel of grace. God has chosen to save you apart from anything you do. Faith is merely tapping into that reality.
I stumbled across the 4 Gs this week, again, (truths that set you free)…Here’s a listing of them:
1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
The deal is, we have our eyes on so many other things (than God Himself) that we are discouraged, frustrated, feeling weak and powerless and not very much changed by the Gospel. However, if we can look to God and turn from our way (that whole repentance piece), we can find that the Gospel is, indeed, the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (that’s peeps like you and me). So, today, if you’re not feeling quite changed by these things, lift up your eyes to where your help comes: the Lord who made heaven and earth.