Yearly Archives: 2011

 

Dec

31

2011

Ray Ortlund|3:29 PM CT

The primary goal of every Christian for 2012

“It ought to be the primary goal of every Christian to put aside confidence in works and grow stronger in the belief that we are saved by faith alone.  Through this faith the Christian should increase in knowledge not of works but of Christ Jesus and the benefits of his death and resurrection.”

Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (Minneapolis, 2008), page 55.

 
 

Dec

30

2011

Ray Ortlund|5:01 AM CT

Drawing near in 2012

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

How can we draw near to God in 2012?  Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel.  They are not heroic.  They only require faith and honesty.

One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it.  Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15).  And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence.  It is his way.  God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342).  Let’s open up.  If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us.  But the truth is, he draws near to broken sinners who own up.  What if we saw, in our very sins, the nearness of God awaiting us with greater mercy than we have ever known before?

Two, let’s confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.  No one grows in isolation.  We grow in safe community.  Sadly, such an experience is rare in our churches.  It should be common among us gospel people.  It should be our lifestyle.  We should be obvious, even scandalous, as friends of sinners.  But so often, someone must break the ice.  I see no revival in our future without a new culture of confession.  Personally, I have found a good way to measure my own honesty is the level of my embarrassment.  If I’m not embarrassed by my confession, I’m still holding out.  But it is freeing to come clean with a brother or sister and receive the ministry of prayer (James 5:16).  What if in 2012 we were, to one another, unshockable friends, down on our knees together, not judging one another but praying for one another?  Surely God’s nearness would be there.

 
 

Dec

29

2011

 
 

Dec

28

2011

 
 

Dec

26

2011

 
 

Dec

23

2011

Ray Ortlund|9:03 AM CT

No one else would suffice

“A Saviour not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end, Bishop Handley Moule once wrote; while a Saviour – and an Exemplar – not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end, as F. F. Bruce has remarked.  How Jesus could be both truly man and truly God is the mystery of the Incarnation; but nothing and no one else would suffice.”

Norman Anderson, The Mystery of the Incarnation (Downers Grove, 1978), page 154.  Italics original.

 
 

Dec

22

2011

Ray Ortlund|3:36 PM CT

The more staggering it gets

“The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us . . . lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation.  The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man – that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one ­- the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.  It is here, the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie.  ’The Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.  And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality.  The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.”

J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, 1973), pages 45-46.

 
 

Dec

22

2011

Ray Ortlund|10:39 AM CT

My favorite carol

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed
Mary was that mother mild
Jesus Christ her little child

He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all
And His shelter was a stable
And His cradle was a stall
With the poor and mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Savior holy

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey
Love and watch the lowly mother
In whose gentle arms He lay
Christian children all should be
Mild, obedient, good as He

For He is our childhood’s pattern
Day by day like us He grew
He was little, weak, and helpless
Tears and smiles like us He knew
And He feeleth for our sadness
And He shareth in our gladness

And our eyes at last shall see Him
Through His own redeeming love
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone

Not in that poor lowly stable
With the oxen standing by
We shall see Him, but in heaven
Set at God’s right hand on high
When like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around

 
 

Dec

21

2011

Ray Ortlund|11:31 AM CT

Christmas in a nutshell

 
 

Dec

20

2011

Ray Ortlund|9:37 AM CT

Thank you, Kevin

I am grateful for Kevin DeYoung’s update on the Young, Restless and Reformed crowd/network/resurgence/movement/whatever and for his influence generally.  I am grateful for this entire phenomenon we are witnessing, which I believe is a wonderful work of God in our time.  It is certainly not a natural state of affairs, to be expected and taken for granted.  It is a precious stewardship from the hand of the Lord.  Our responsibility is to parlay it into more, for the blessing of the next generation.  Thank you, Kevin, for serving us to that end.

I only wish to add a thought to the third of Kevin’s three “challenges ahead.”  I will also propose two other challenges not listed there.  I am not implying that Kevin doesn’t respect these matters.  But no one post can say everything.

Kevin asks searching questions about our understanding of sanctification.  Let me add: For those churches who affirm the third use of the law, how can that theology be pursued without inadvertently counteracting the freedom of the gospel?  In the practical reality of a church culture, how can that theology avoid feeling like constant church discipline?  In what ways can a church who embraces the third use of the law be an experience of freedom that feels like freedom?  A question that is never far from my mind, in view of Romans 8:2 and Galatians 5:1, is this: Do our churches look like people who have been freed from anything?  How does God want us today to “remove every obstruction from my people’s way” (Isaiah 57:14)?  How can our authoritative pursuit of true holiness tend toward a generation of people so unleashed from everything damning that they become like “calves leaping from their stalls” (Malachi 4:2)?  Unless our holiness is also an experience of freedom, we cannot expect to see the flood of converts we long for and pray for.

And let me propose two further “challenges ahead.”

One, how will we hold together for the long haul?  The more we work together and the better we get to know one another, the more we will disappoint each other.  Given human weakness, this is inevitable.  What will hold us together when we see something alienating in another, five years from now, ten years from now?  I am not talking about erosion of theological convictions.  I am not talking about blatant sins.  I am talking about the pervasive impact of sin upon us all, which we experience in the personal annoyances which so often complicate otherwise fruitful disagreements — for example, church growth strategies, ways of translating the Bible, and other valid questions.  How can we safeguard our relationships and partnerships so that we don’t fragment into aloofness?  Obviously, it is essential that we stay low before the Lord, preserve a sense of theological proportion, and strive for humble self-awareness.  But can we talk about this together?  Can we agree on general strategies for pressing through pain into even deeper unity, for the Lord’s sake?  Do we have relationships that need gentle repair right now?

Two, how will we avoid the disaster of success by the power of the flesh?  If it is possible – and I believe it is – for us to “succeed” in the Lord’s work not by his wisdom and strength but by our own brains and abilities, then we must guard against ourselves, not just our sins but also our strengths.  If the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way, what is our plan for prayer together, beyond perfunctory prayer?  Are we agitating with one another, and with the Lord himself (Isaiah 62:6-7), for the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus in ways that go far beyond our own capacity for impact?  Reformed people should, by the force of their own principles, be the weakest, the humblest, the most prayerful — and the most optimistic.  Even if we could succeed on our own, we wouldn’t want to.  What makes us happy is being caught up in what only God can do.  That is indeed what we are witnessing in this phenomenon we call Young Restless and Reformed.  Let’s follow that vector together.  I cannot believe we would ever regret costly investments in this way.