Luther’s Prayer Written on the Eve of the Diet of Worms

Jul 28, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

In The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul calls this “Luther’s own private Gethsemane.”

O God, Almighty God everlasting! how dreadful is the world! behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in Thee! . . . Oh! the weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength of this world – all is over . . . The knell is struck . . . Sentence is gone forth . . . O God! O God! O thou, my God! help me against the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beseech thee; thou shouldst do this . . . by thy own mighty power . . . The work is not mine, but Thine. I have no business here . . . I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Thine . . . And it is righteous and everlasting! O Lord! help me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It were vain! Whatever is of man is tottering, whatever proceeds from him must fail. My God! my God! dost thou not hear? My God! art thou no longer living? Nay, thou canst not die. Thou dost but hide Thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it! . . . Therefore, O God, accomplish thine own will! Forsake me not, for the sake of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defence, my buckler, and my stronghold.

Lord – where art thou? . . . My God, where art thou? . . . Come! I pray thee, I am ready . . . Behold me prepared to lay down my life for thy truth . . . suffering like a lamb. For the cause is holy. It is thine own! . . . I will not let thee go! no, nor yet for all eternity! And though the world should be thronged with devils – and this body, which is the work of thine hands, should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces, . . . consumed to ashes, my soul is thine. Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it. My soul belongs to thee, and will abide with thee forever! Amen! O God send help! . . . Amen!

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Things Jesus Will Never Say to You

Jun 30, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

To those who trust in him for salvation, Jesus will never say:

“Go play somewhere; I’m busy.”

“Fake it til you make it.”

“I just don’t think it’s gonna work out between us.”

“I knew you were a screw-up, but this one really surprised me.”

“It’s too late.”

“I don’t care.”

“My assistant will get back to you on that.”

“We’re through.”

“I need some ‘me time’ right now.”

“I just ‘can’t’ right now.”

“I feel like I’m doing all the giving; what have you done for me lately?”

“Yeah, good job on ___________, but what about ____________?”

“I’ll be glad to help if you’ll ‘let’ me.”

“I can’t bless you until you release my power with positive words.”

“Who are you, again?”

“Beat it.”

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Happy 18th to Us

Jun 29, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

180125_10150418647990451_6236334_nHow beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine . . .
– Song of Solomon 4:10

Becky and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage today. We got married on our three-year dating anniversary, so we’ve been a hot ticket now for 21 years. We have had our ups and downs — plenty of downs, actually, mainly because I’m a first-class, grade-A, off-the-charts moron — but here we are, still standing in Christ, still sleeping in each other’s arms, still holding hands in the car. Ours is a hard-fought love. We know what grace is.

Over the years, I’ve learned a million things about marriage, but I suppose I still have a million things left to learn. I have to re-learn half of those things every day, it seems. When you put two sinners in close proximity and say, “Don’t either of you leave,” you’re gonna get a mess at some point or another, but I’d say the biggest thing we’ve both learned is that the gospel is made for messes. Grace is for messy people. Becky especially knows this, because she has had to tap a deeper well than I because of the mess that is me.

When I wonder sometimes how the Spirit’s love gets fleshed out in real space and time, I can look at the church or the examples of self-sacrifice in other spheres, but I really don’t need to look any further than my wife:

Becky serves so many with her whole self without much recognition, toiling behind the scenes, diligently storing up treasures in heaven.
Becky pours out her life for our daughters, every day “spending and being spent” with self-abandon that they might grow in grace and godliness.
Becky suffers the slings and arrows of ministry life, of being the minister’s wife, counseling me and comforting me and challenging me, while going forth in humor and dignity even in ministry’s rough seasons.
Becky loves me with great affection, with laughter and resolve, with flirty eyes and mushy talk that embarrasses our kids (in a good way).

“An excellent wife, who can find?” Me. I did. Right here. And as we embark on another year, nearing the day of embarking on another decade, Becky is my brightest, clearest, greatest daily reminder that a great and loving Savior, the wonderful and faithful forgiver and friend, is real and present. She reminds me that he is right here, which is really the best thing you could want in a marriage.

Thanks for gospeling me, babe.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.

– Proverbs 31:11photo

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1 Corinthians 13 Reversed Reveals Much

Jun 24, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

What if we looked at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from the reverse angle? I think it helps us put so much of our pettiness and self-interest in stark perspective and shows love as that much more beautiful.

Impatience and unkindness is hatred.
Hate is envious and ego-centric.
Hate is arrogant and rude.
Hatred is insisting on one’s own way;
hatred is irritable or resentful;
it celebrates sin, and it mocks what is true.
Hate is whiny and thin-skinned,
thoroughly skeptical,
always pessimistic,
a born quitter.

But hatred ends . . .

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What a Boundless, Fathomless Ocean!

Jun 24, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Eternal love moved the heart of Jesus to relinquish . . .
heaven for earth;
a diadem for a cross;
the robe of divine majesty for the garment of our nature;
by taking upon Himself the leprosy of our sin.
Oh, the infinite love of Christ!
What a boundless, fathomless ocean!

Ask the ransomed of the Lord, whose chains He has dissolved, whose dungeon He has opened, whose liberty He has conferred — if there ever was love like His!

What shall we say of the ransom price? It was the richest, the costliest, that Heaven could give! He gave Himself for us! What more could He do? He gave Himself; body, soul and spirit. He gave His time, His labor, His blood, His life, His ALL — as the price for our ransom, the cost of our redemption. He carried the wood and reared the altar. Then, bearing His bosom to the stroke of the uplifted and descending arm of the Father — He paid the price of our salvation in the warm lifeblood of His heart!

What a boundless, fathomless ocean! How is it that we feel the force and exemplify the practical influence of this amazing, all commanding truth so faintly? Oh, the desperate depravity of our nature! Oh, the deep iniquity of our iniquitous hearts! Will not the blood-drops of Jesus move us? Will not the agonies of the cross influence us? Will not His dying love constrain us to a more heavenly life?

– Octavius Winslow

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Saved to the Uttermost

Jun 19, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

(35) Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (36) But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
– John 6:35-39

Salvation by Christ’s work is a gift of grace received through faith. This salvation is total (Romans 8:30) and we see its totality in John 6. In Christ, we are:

1. Satisfied (vv.35-36)
No more hunger. No more thirst. When we are full of Christ, we are truly full. He is the end of our fruitless searching for satisfaction, our appetites for idols.

2. Secured (v.37,39)
Never cast out, never lost. His securing hand (John 10:28), like his securing love (Romans 8:35-39), is omnipotent. If a Christian is united to Christ, he is as secure as Christ is.

3. Supernaturalized (v.39)
Heaven has come down to invade earth in Christ, and by God’s grace, heaven invades the very souls of his children (John 14:17, Romans 8:9) and sets up shop (Ephesians 2:22). Indwelt by the Spirit who seals (Ephesians 1:13), guarantees (2 Corinthians 1:22), instructs (John 16:13), and empowers (Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:16), we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18) and bearing capital-S Spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), consecrated for the day we will receive our inheritance — glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

By and in Christ, we are utterly saved.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God . . .
– Hebrews 7:25

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The Everythingness of Grace

Jun 18, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Come on, Eileen
Oh I swear
In this moment, you mean everything.

– Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Okay, so it’s not a Bible verse, but it kinda sums up the momentary religion of the flesh, doesn’t it? At any given moment, we are singing subconscious praises to whatever we are desiring — “In this moment, you mean everything.” We are pretty pathetic, when you think about it. One moment we are echoing Dexy’s midnight ode to a person we’re attracted to and in the next to a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger. (Any stress eaters out there? I see that hand.) There are so many things offering so many things. Can you blame us?

The Lord can. He sees our fickle, feeble hearts yearning after every tantalizing morsel put before our eyes. He hears the praise he deserves that we instead sing to work, sex, food, entertainment, family, children, church. “In this moment, you mean everything.” But only he can bear that weight. And when we put the meaning of everything on anything besides him, we abuse it. Then the weight comes back to us, deflating and crushing and condemning.

But the loving God does an amazing thing. He turns around and takes the crushing too. He puts it on his son. In that moment, his son means everything, and in every moment forever after, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Pretty much covers everything there.

And in his grace, the Lord shares his glory in exciting, satisfying ways. John tells us that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). So our Savior who is everything, who means everything, who owns everything, takes our nothing into himself in order to actually grant us the everythingness from himself in place of the vacuous everythingness we’ve been seeking in everything else. We don’t deserve it. But we get it. And in this way, the grace of God in Jesus Christ meets all of our needs and satisfies our deepest desires.

Here’s a Bible verse:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
– Romans 8:32

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Sometimes Leaders Need to be Carried

Jun 18, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

440px-VictoryOLordBut Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
– Exodus 17:12

Yesterday I sat with Natalie and read to her from 2 Corinthians (at her request). This was our second time through the letter together. She is resonating a lot with Paul’s talk of afflictions and “jars of clay” and thorns and weakness. But I began last night to think something else is at play here, and she might not even be conscious of it. See, Natalie is a leader. I don’t say was, despite her frail state. She still is, though she has withdrawn from the fray of church service and entered a fray of a different kind. And when I read Paul saying “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15), I think this describes Natalie to a “T.”

Last night I talked to another one of our deaconesses on the phone and she mentioned John Piper’s little catchphrase “Don’t waste your life,” saying Natalie is a perfect example. She has poured out immeasurably over the years for her family, her friends, her church, and her community. She seemed a tireless servant, sacrificing constantly to live simply and therefore generously. She is our church’s “queen” of benevolence. And she has been a tireless evangelist, maintaining several long-term relationships with unbelievers very dear to her, whose salvation she has labored for over decades. (She has high hopes and prayers her illness and perhaps her death will serve as a turning point for their receiving the gospel.) Given all of the hard work she has engaged in for so long, it has bothered her somewhat to be in this vulnerable position. She has always been the one who helps, the one who takes charge. But sometimes leaders need to be carried too.

Paul assumes so. Continuing in 2 Cor. 12:15, he writes, “If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” Elsewhere: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open . . . In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also” (2 Cor. 6:11,13). As he opens in greeting, almost immediately discussing his great affliction and need for comfort, he asks for help: “You also must help us by prayer” (2 Cor. 1:11).

The truth is, our leaders need to be carried sometimes. At all times, they need to be carried to the Lord in prayer. This is the single best thing you can do for those who are responsible for your spiritual upbringing. They need your prayers more than than they need your praise, and they certainly need your prayers more than your advice. And while they do need your advice, they moreso need your encouragement, your consideration, your benefit of the doubt. They need you to not rehearse accusations in your mind against them, but advocate for them in your imagination.

Leadership of all kinds is lonely and costly. It is tiring. For every person with a problem, he or she is essentially all that exists. Affliction has its way of self-centering. But all the problems that exist are the leader’s. And for spiritual shepherds who take it all seriously, there is “the daily pressure on them of their anxiety for the whole church” (2 Cor. 11:28, par).

I remember the period of time right after I’d moved to Vermont to pastor Middletown Church. Becky stayed behind in Nashville, keeping her job because we needed her income to cover our mortgage there because our house had not sold. (It didn’t sell for four years, but that’s another story for another time.) I had our daughters with me. For nine months we did this, and while it may not seem like a lot for families accustomed to such separation, it was extremely difficult for all of us. Becky and I both suffered from deep discouragement. The loneliness and “left behind”-ness was crushing her. Trying to pastor and parent in a new place all by myself was crushing me. I began to question our decision, question my calling. I struggled to find any joy in our new home. I was breaking down in the pulpit. I was losing my temper with the girls. I was wandering about, numb and defeated. I was trying to tend to the care of a church full of new friends, and suddenly had to face the need for my own care. I have been through a period of depression before, to the point of entertaining very dark thoughts about myself, and I could feel the murky edges of this darkness closing in on me again.

The Lord came through, and he came through through the grace of our church, carrying me, carrying us in an extraordinary way. (I tell the remarkable story that began with a divinely-timed phone call from Elder Dale in my book on pastoral ministry.) It was in that time that I re-read Exodus 17, by happenstance, and the image of Aaron and Hur pulling up a stone for Moses to sit on and holding up his arms overwhelmed me. That simple, stirring image of the man’s being carried by his brother and his friend made me sob. It’s a beautiful thing to not just read Scripture but to feel it.

Good leaders carry their people when they’ve gotten lost, when they’ve gotten hurt, when they’ve gotten too tired to follow. At the very least, a good leader will sit with them while they gather their strength. Or when their strength is giving way to death. It is part of the calling. But sometimes leaders need to be carried too. Do you carry yours?

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:2

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Good News for the Weakest Ministers

Jun 17, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

Like the apostle Paul, it is every minister’s business to glory in his infirmities. The world says, “Pshaw! upon your oratory; it is rough, and rude, and eccentric.” Yet, ’tis even so, but we are content, for God blesses it. Then so much the better that it has infirmities in it; for now shall it be plainly seen that it is not of man or by man, but the work of God, and of God alone.

It is said that once upon a time a man exceedingly curious desired to see the sword with which a mighty hero had fought some desperate battles; casting his eye along the blade, he said, “Well, I don’t see much in this sword.” “Nay,” said the hero, “but you have not examined the arm that wields it.”

And so when men come to hear a successful minister, they are apt to say, “I do not see any thing in him.” No, but you have not examined the eternal arm that reaps its harvest with this sword of the Spirit. If ye had looked at the jaw-bone of the ass in Samson’s hand, you would have said, “What! heaps on heaps with this!” No; bring out some polished blade; bring forth the Damascus steel! NO; but God would have all the glory, and, therefore, not with the polished steel, but with the jaw-bone must Samson get the victory. So with ministers; God has usually blessed the weakest to do the most good.

– Charles Spurgeon, “The Necessity of the Spirit’s Work,” Revival Year Sermons Preached in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall 1859 (Banner of Truth, 2002), 55.

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When the Pursuit of Justice Isn’t

Jun 17, 2014 | Jared C. Wilson

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.
- Genesis 18:19

We keep hearing from confessing Christians the appeal to biblical justice in the question of marriage equality and the like. I think beneath the fundamental redefinition of marriage to something both foreign to and against the Scriptures is the fundamental redefinition of justice, as well.

Justice in the Bible is not some nebulous fairness or sense of altruistic equality. It is the spreading dominion of the righteousness of God. (Note how often justice is paired with righteousness in the Bible.) When God calls us to “do justice,” he is calling us to reflect the life-giving, culture-flourishing, gracious abundance that is in keeping with his glory. Justice includes care for the poor and hungry and sick, for instance, because it is a reflection of God’s righteousness to address the effects of the fall on individuals and systems with gracious provision. In a sense, justice is taking the prelapsarian mandate (Gen. 1:28) into the postlapsarian world. Justice is grounded in the harmonic Eden and aims at the shalom of the new Jerusalem (2 Chron. 9:8, Isaiah 33:5). Justice is sourced in the righteousness of God (Job 37:23), the holiness of God (Deut. 32:4). Therefore, biblical justice is only superficially fairness but more deeply the express manifestation of the righteousness of God.

In that sense, it is not justice for the state to sanction same-sex marriage. It is in fact injustice, because it sanctions as “righteous” what God has called unrighteous. The Bible calls the failure to do justice a “perversion of justice.” Even in seeking to do justice, then, when Christians disconnect biblical justice from the concept of the kingdom of God, they are perverting justice. We are told multiple times in the Scriptures who will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is a rejection of the righteousness of God, therefore, to say those very same excluded will be included.

Christian culture has adopted the imbecile habit of thinking conceptually as the world does. Thus love becomes primarily a romantic feeling disconnected from the holy God who is love and the “definition” we see in 1 Corinthians 13. Peace becomes merely the absence of conflict or judgment or disapproval, functionally disconnected from the holy Lord who is himself peace (Eph. 2:14). Joy is not found in the Lord but instead following your bliss, doing what fulfills you, finding what makes you happy, etc. And justice? Well, justice becomes giving people what they want, because, after all, it’s only fair.

But the Scriptures do not lend us these virtues as merely ideas, amorphous concepts to be shaped by the prevailing cultural Jello mold. No, all of the biblical virtues are embodied in Christ. They have the shape of the risen Lord, are defined by his righteousness. So it is not “keeping the way of the Lord” to call evil good (Mal. 2:17), nor is it just.

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