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Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

Yesterday I posted the following as a guest post on Life Together. I’ve been so helped myself as I’ve thought about these things that I wanted to post it on my blog as well. For my Muslim friends, this is a good example of how the gospel (Jesus Christ being sent by God to die on the cross for sin and rise again in triumph over sin) produces change in our lives.

Sin – Confrontation – Heart – Idol – Gospel

The heart is the key to behavior and if we want to help one another or be helped we must get to the heart. When we confront we move beyond the behavior and help our brother or sister see how sin is at work. For example, you see a friend speak in anger to his wife. You can ignore it, but that isn’t loving to your friend, to his wife, to his children, or to the others who see Christ dishonored through this man’s sinful speech. You can simply confront him with a bold proclamation against his sin, but that isn’t loving either. We need to gently point out sin and then seek to help him.

You can very gently say something like, “I noticed when we were together earlier that you said ______ to your wife. It seemed as though there was anger in your voice. What was going on?” If your friend is wise he will receive these questions with gladness. If he is like me he might be defensive. Either way, we trust that the same Holy Spirit prompting me to confront is also at work in his heart to conform him to the image of Jesus. He will likely pass the blame for his anger by telling you what his wife did to make him angry. Of course, she may very well have first sinned against her husband, but we know that no one makes us respond in sin. We do that ourselves. So our goal is to help him own his own sin.

He doesn’t need, primarily, better communication tips. He doesn’t merely need a list of do’s and don’t’s in communicating his frustrations to his wife. He needs to see his heart in the midst of his anger. In some way he was living for his own kingdom and his wife had gotten in the way of his goals. Perhaps he had elevated peace of mind as an idol in his heart. His wife then did something that caused stress and he responded in anger because she became a barrier to the peace of mind he wanted. Perhaps he had elevated some activity as an idol in his heart. His wife then did or said something that put the enjoyment of that activity in question so he responded with anger because she became a barrier to that enjoyment. Perhaps having a submissive wife has been elevated to an idol in his heart. He wants the community to know that his wife submits to him so when she did something that calls this into question he got angry at her because she had become a barrier to the status he wanted.

The point is this: Behind his anger is some kind of idol. He had ceased living for the kingdom of God and was living for his own kingdom. His wife did not play by the rules of his kingdom and so he responded with anger. This is the problem of marriage. You bring together two people with two different kingdoms and expect them to live in harmony. You soon learn that the other is not playing by your rules and conflict comes. This is why it isn’t enough to merely give better communication tips. If someone is still living for his own kingdom he will simply use those communication skills to continue living for his kingdom. There needs to be a change of heart. And this is what we want to do when we are confronting friends.

If we are going to help a friend experience heart change we must never forget that there is one means by which a heart is truly changed—the gospel. We cannot love our neighbor without the gospel. The gospel hits at every point of need. This husband needs to change. He needs to love his wife like Christ loved the church. It isn’t enough to merely quote from Ephesians 5 about what a husband is to do. We must help our friend place his story—his life—into the larger context of God’s story. We read the command, “Husbands, love your wife like Christ loved the church.” But we can’t actually understand what that means without understanding the whole story. We need to understand how sin has separated us from God so that God sent his beloved Son as a man in order to die for the sins of his people. And by this death and his subsequent resurrection God has created a new people to whom he promises to use his omnipotent power to work all things for their good.

The gospel makes a claim on our lives. It calls us to change. It calls us to holiness and obedience. So we need to preach the gospel to one another and call each other to greater holiness and obedience. But we will never be able to heed the call of the gospel if we don’t also have the comfort of the gospel. We need to understand that in Christ our sins are forgiven. I can’t live the life God wants me to live if by living it I think God will love me more. I first need to know that God loves me and he couldn’t possibly love me more because his love is already endless. It is the knowledge and experience of that love that enables me to strive for greater holiness. We obey not in order for God to love us, but because he already does.

 

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What an incredible story of forgiveness and grace. A thief in Springfield, FL stole thousands of dollars of equipment from the church. After the pastor went looking for the stuff it was all returned. Apparently he was convicted by what he did, gave it all back and then even came to church on Sunday. The church forgave him and he joined!

Read the whole story.

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When an armed robber came to rob the shop, she said to him, “I’m just going to talk to you about Jesus.” The conversation was caught on the security camera. She reached out to him with compassion in the name of Jesus. He changed his mind.

Read the BBC article and watch the video.

HT: Ali Elhajj

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From Desiring God:

The Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, LA, is the largest and historically one of the bloodiest maximum-security prisons in the USA. In 2009, Desiring God and John Piper were invited to Angola to learn about prison life, hear from men who have been radically changed by the gospel, and minister to many of the 5,000 inmates.

Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence confronts you with the realities of inmates who, though their lives appear to have been wasted, often have a greater grasp on eternity than those on the outside.

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Elyse Fitzpatrick does a great job of helping us see how the gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything, including when anger rises in our heart while we impatiently wait at the grocery check out lane:

Briefly, here’s how the whole gospel message might impact me when I’m struggling with my own unbelief, idolatry and sin: Let’s say that I’ve got company coming over for dinner and I realize that I’m running low on table salt. I calculate the time I need to get to the store, get the salt and get home so that I can be a gracious, organized hostess (idols everywhere here). I jump in my car, race up to the store, grab the salt and run to the Quick Check Out line only to find myself stuck behind another woman who obviously didn’t read the “10 Items or Less” sign. Instantly I’m angry and then, because I know that my anger is sinful, I feel guilty and then, because I remember all the times I’ve failed like this, I despair. Now, what are my options?

Option #1: If I’m a Happy Moralist, I’ll assure myself that my anger is “righteous” because the person in front of me is not obeying the rules like I am. I’ll remain angry but feel better about it.

Option #2: If I’m a Sad Moralist, I’ll recognize that my anger isn’t righteous because I’m not loving my neighbor and I’m angry because of my idolatry. I’ll feel both guilty and angry but now I’ll despair because it seems as though I’ll never change.

Option #3: If I’ve been thinking about the cross without considering the rest of the gospel, I’ll despair even more because I’ll know that Jesus suffered for this sin and I’ll be sad, guilty and despairing thinking about how much pain He endured on my account. In this case the gospel doesn’t elevate my soul, it crushes me.

Option #4: If I’m seeking to live in the light of the whole gospel, my heart will be transformed in these ways:

  • Because of the incarnation, Jesus Christ knows exactly what it is to live in a sin-cursed world with people who break the rules…like me. I am a rule-breaker but He’s loved me and he’s experienced every trial I face. He’s with me. He sympathizes with my weakness (Hebrews 4:15).This understanding of His love in the face of my sin drains my anger at my rule-breaking neighbor. I can love her because I’ve been loved and I am just like her.
  • Because of His sinless life, I now have a perfect record of loving my neighbor. He perfectly loved rule-breakers. This record of perfect love for my rule-breaking neighbor is mine now; knowing this relieves my guilt. Even though I continue to fail to love, His record is mine.
  • Because of His substitutionary death, I am completely forgiven for my sin…even the sins that I seem to fall into at the slightest provocation. God has no wrath left for me because He poured it all out on His Son. He’s not disappointed or irritated. He welcomes me as a beloved daughter.
  • Because of His resurrection (and the justification it brings), I know that the power of sin in my life has been broken. Yes, I’ve failed again, but I can have the courage to continue to fight sin because I’m no longer a slave to it. This replaces despair with faith to wage war against my selfishness and pride.
  • Because of His ascension and reign, I know that this situation isn’t a mere chance happening. He’s orchestrated it so that I will remember Him and be blessed by the gospel again. He’s ruling over my life and interceding for me right now. I’m not a slave to chaos or chance. He’s my Sovereign King and I can rest in His loving plan today and rejoice in Him.
  • And, because of His promised return, I know that all the doubt, injustice and struggle will one day come to an end. This line in this grocery store and my plans for dinner isn’t all there is. There’s the great good news of the gospel. I can go home now and share with my family and guests how Jesus met me at the grocery store and we can rejoice together in His work on our behalf.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Justin Taylor

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Disability Is Grace?

When I look at little Paul Knight in this video I feel like I see a glimpse of God himself. If he was your son would you say he is grace – an undeserved gift from God? His father does. I agree.

Check out The Works of God where his dad John blogs about God’s power to use disability for his glory and our good.

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