Category : Soteriology

Chuck Colson–Thirty-Five Years in the Light: Reflections on My Conversion

Found there:

A lot of people have asked me what I think about when I remember back to that hot, humid August night in 1973 when Tom Phillips, then the president of the Raytheon Company, witnessed to me in his home. I left his house that night shaken by the words he had read from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity about pride. It felt as if Lewis were writing about me, former Marine captain, Special Counsel to the President of the United States, now in the midst of the Watergate scandal. I had an overwhelming sense that I was unclean.

After talking to Tom, I found that when I got to the automobile to drive away, I couldn’t. I was crying too hard – and I was not one to ever cry. I spent an hour calling out to God. I did not even know the right words. I simply knew that I wanted Him. And I knew for certain that the God who created the universe heard my cry.

From the next morning to this day, I have never looked back. I can honestly say that the worst day of the last 35 years has been better than the best days of the 41 years that preceded it. That’s a pretty bold statement, given my time in prison, three major surgeries, and two kids with cancer at the same time, but it is absolutely true.

That’s because, for the last 35 years – whether in pain, suffering, joy, or jubilation, it makes no difference – I have known there was a purpose. I have known that I belong to Christ and that I am here on earth to advance His Kingdom.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in Church History, Soteriology, Theology

Food for Thought for A Sunday from a man who wrote his own Epitaph

‘Anthony Benezet was a poor creature, and through divine favour was enabled to know it’–from an honest man who wrote an epitaph for his own tombstone, quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Samuel Alberry–Only Messy People Allowed: Toward a Culture of Grace

The problem, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. We think we’re his PR agents: If I look good, then Jesus looks good.

So we hate the thought of not looking good. It’s Christian failure.

If this mindset permeates a whole church family, however, our life together becomes a matter of performance. We put on our best Christian mask, take a deep breath, and head to church. If Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behavior from us.

This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The fact is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show. Our children see it right away. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want to go is church. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the sanctuary.

All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Savior. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient. I don’t increase so he can increase; I decrease so he can increase (John 3:30). That means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ecclesiology, Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Gafcon Chairman’s May 2018 Letter

My dear people of God,

Next month we are expecting almost 2,000 delegates to gather in Jerusalem for our third Global Anglican Future Conference. I know that those working so hard to organise this great undertaking are very much aware that ‘the time is short’, but as the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church, this should always be our perspective. Jerusalem is the place where Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, events which make the promise of his return sure and certain, and we shall gather as those who always live in the expectation of our Lord’s second appearing as King, Judge and Saviour.

To know that ‘the time is short’ helps to keep us from being distracted and to concentrate on what really matters.

Firstly, it means that the gospel is at the heart of all that we do. Our conference theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and we shall celebrate the gospel in all its richness as the demonstration of the love and saving power of God in Jesus Christ. We shall be reminding one another that the gospel is not a message of merely human wisdom but the ‘gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1) which we have received. It is the work of God’s grace from beginning to end, but he has entrusted that task to us and we must press on to fulfil the apostolic mandate of the risen Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

Secondly, knowing that the time is short keeps us focused on the purpose of the Church. Ecclesiastical institutions must serve the gospel. The gospel is not a brand to be adapted to serve institutions. We will therefore continue to endorse new missionary initiatives and jurisdictions where necessary to take forward the work of the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ecclesiology, GAFCON, Soteriology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Theologian Jack Deere Went Through Hell to Come to Faith

Mere paragraphs from the conclusion of his story, Deere is not saying, “This was something I dealt with,” but “This is something I deal with.”

This rawness is rare in the church today. We are often told by leaders that they sin, but Deere’s memoir is refreshingly full of his sin. It is not gratuitous in any form. We never get the sense that he wants to gain our pity or empathy to manipulate us into thinking he’s better or worse than he is. He is simply factual (to our knowledge) and unapologetic to his reader, while increasingly more repentant toward those against whom he has sinned—God foremost among them.

In a world where, all too often, leaders present themselves as one-dimensional characters (primarily speakers, teachers, pastors, musicians, or writers), Deere shows us we are irreducibly complex beings. Our bodies matter. Our souls matter. Our minds matter. Our emotions matter. Our histories matter. These together form the whole of who we are, and any true ministry we do out of the whole is going to be wholly complex. Otherwise, it will be anemic, one-dimensional, and devoid of power. Deere recognizes this now. But it took hell to get him there. I haven’t even mentioned the half of it in this review.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Children, Christology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Marriage & Family, Soteriology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

Kendall Harmon’s 2018 Maundy Thursday Sermon

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Atonement, Christology, Holy Week, Ministry of the Ordained, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

His Damnation our Liberation, His Defeat our Victory

It so happened that in this man Jesus God himself came into the world, which he had created and against all odds still loved. He took human nature upon himself and became man, like the rest of us, in order to put an end to the world’s fight against him and also against itself, and to replace man’s disorder by God’s design. In Jesus God hallowed his name, made his kingdom come, his will done on earth as it is in heaven, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer. In him he made manifest his glory and, amazingly enough, he made it manifest for our salvation. To accomplish this, he not only bandaged, but healed the wounds of the world he helped mankind not only in part and temporarily but radically and for good in the person of his beloved Son; he delivered us from evil and took us to his heart as his children Thereby we are all permitted to live, and to live eternally.

It happened through this man on the cross that God cancelled out and swept away all our human wickedness, our pride, our anxiety, our greed and our false pretences, whereby we had continually offended him and made life difficult, if not impossible, for ourselves and for others. He crossed out what had made our life fundamentally terrifying, dark and distressing – the life of health and of sickness, of happiness and of unhappiness, of the highborn and of the lowborn, of the rich and of the poor, of the free and of the captive. He did away with it. It is no longer part of us, it is behind us. In Jesus God made the day break after the long night and spring come after the long winter.
All these things happened in that one man. In Jesus, God took upon himself the full load of evil; he made our wickedness his own; he gave himself in his dear Son to be defamed as a criminal, to be accused, condemned, delivered from life unto death, as though he himself, the Holy God, had done all the evil we human beings did and do. In giving himself in Jesus Christ, he reconciled the world unto himself; he saved us and made us free to live in his everlasting kingdom; he removed the burden and took it upon himself He the innocent took the place of us the guilty. He the mighty took the place of us the weak. He the living One took the place of us the dying.

This, my dear friends, is the invisible event that took place in the suffering and death of the man hanging on the middle cross on Golgotha. This is reconciliation: his damnation our liberation, his defeat our victory, his mortal pain the beginning of our joy, his death the birth of our life. We do well to remember that this is what those who put him to death really accomplished. They did not know what they did. These deluded men and women accomplished by their evil will and deed that good which God had willed and done with the world and for the world, including the crowd of Jerusalem.

–Karl Barth (1886-1968) from a sermon in 1957

Posted in Christology, Church History, Holy Week, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology

Fleming Rutledge’s Sermon Monday at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama–The Defense of the Defenseless

You may find the mp3 there. You may read a lot more about Fleming Rutledge here.

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

Fleming Rutledge’s Talk at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama on the problem of Evil

You may find the mp3 there–take the time to listen and ponder it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Can we Learn to understand repetance as a gift of God’s grace (Psalm 51)

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Trevin Wax–The Call to Repentance and the Championing of Grace

“We’re losing the nerve to call people to repentance.”

That’s what a retired pastor recently told me, expressing his concern that while the next generation loves to champion the unconditional love and grace of God, rarely does their message include Christ’s call to repentance. Younger pastors, he said, want to meet people where they are, in whatever mess they’re in, and let the Spirit clean them up later. God will deal with their sins down the road.

But in the Gospels, Jesus seems much more extreme. His good news was the announcement of God’s kingdom, and the first word to follow? “Repent!” No wonder Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler to walk with Him for a while until he stopped coveting. No, He got to the root of an unrepentant heart when He said, “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” In other words, Repent. Turn around.

“I’m cheering for the next generation,” the pastor said, “but I feel like an ogre for stressing repentance all the time….”

Here’s where we so easily take a wrong turn. Wherever did we get the notion that the call to repentance is opposed to the championing of grace? When did truth and grace get separated? Or repentance and faith?

To think that the message of grace and the call of repentance are opposed to one another is to miss the beautiful, grace-filled nature of what repentance actually is. The call to repent is one of greatest expressions of the love of God.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon) [emphasis mine].

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon from Saint Michael’s, Charleston–What is the Gospel (John 3, Ephesians 2)?

The link is there and you can listen live or download the audio depending on your preference.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

Roman Catholicism’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith releases Placuit Deo, a Letter To the Bishops On Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation

1. “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf. Eph 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4). The deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation”.[1] The teaching on salvation in Christ must always be deepened. Holding fast to the gaze of the Lord Jesus, the Church turns toward all persons with a maternal love, to announce to them the plan of the Covenant of the Father, mediated by the Holy Spirit, “to sum up all things in Christ, the one head” (Eph 1:10). The present Letter is intended, in light of the greater tradition of the faith and with particular reference to the teachings of Pope Francis, to demonstrate certain aspects of Christian salvation that can be difficult to understand today because of recent cultural changes.

II. The effect of current cultural changes on the meaning of Christian salvation

2. The contemporary world perceives not without difficulty the confession of the Christian faith, which proclaims Jesus as the only Savior of the whole human person and of all humanity (cf. Acts 4:12; Rom 3:23-24; 1 Tm 2:4-5; Tit 2:11-15).[2] On one hand, individualism centered on the autonomous subject tends to see the human person as a being whose sole fulfilment depends only on his or her own strength.[3] In this vision, the figure of Christ appears as a model that inspires generous actions with his words and his gestures, rather than as He who transforms the human condition by incorporating us into a new existence, reconciling us with the Father and dwelling among us in the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 2:18). On the other hand, a merely interior vision of salvation is becoming common, a vision which, marked by a strong personal conviction or feeling of being united to God, does not take into account the need to accept, heal and renew our relationships with others and with the created world. In this perspective, it becomes difficult to understand the meaning of the Incarnation of the Word, by which He was made a member of the human family, assuming our flesh and our history, for us and for our salvation.

3. Pope Francis, in his ordinary magisterium, often has made reference to the two tendencies described above, that resemble certain aspects of two ancient heresies, Pelagianism and Gnosticism.[4] A new form of Pelagianism is spreading in our days, one in which the individual, understood to be radically autonomous, presumes to save oneself, without recognizing that, at the deepest level of being, he or she derives from God and from others. According to this way of thinking, salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures, which are incapable of welcoming the newness of the Spirit of God.[5] On the other hand, a new form of Gnosticism puts forward a model of salvation that is merely interior, closed off in its own subjectivism.[6] In this model, salvation consists of improving oneself, of being “intellectually capable of rising above the flesh of Jesus towards the mysteries of the unknown divinity.”[7] It presumes to liberate the human person from the body and from the material universe, in which traces of the provident hand of the Creator are no longer found, but only a reality deprived of meaning, foreign to the fundamental identity of the person, and easily manipulated by the interests of man.[8] Clearly, the comparison with the Pelagian and Gnostic heresies intends only to recall general common features, without entering into judgments on the exact nature of the ancient errors. There is a great difference between modern, secularized society and the social context of early Christianity, in which these two heresies were born.[9] However, insofar as Gnosticism and Pelagianism represent perennial dangers for misunderstanding Biblical faith, it is possible to find similarities between the ancient heresies and the modern tendencies just described.

Read it all (emphasis [except for he heading] is mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Roman Catholic, Soteriology, Theology

Albert Mohler–Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is)

We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God.

The Church must never evade, accommodate, revise, or hide the law of God. Indeed, it is the Law that shows us our sin and makes clear our inadequacy and our total lack of righteousness. The Law cannot impart life but, as Paul insists, it “has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” [Gal. 3:24]

The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Hell will be highly populated with those who were “raised right.” The citizens of heaven will be those who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, are there solely because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Moralism is not the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) A Billy Graham Sermon–The Sin of Tolerance

One of the pet words of this age is “tolerance.” It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it too often where it does not belong. The word “tolerant” means “liberal,” “broad-minded,” “willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one’s convictions,” and “the allowance of something not wholly approved.”

Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one’s convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over-tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of conviction.

We have become tolerant about divorce; we have become tolerant about the use of alcohol; we have become tolerant about delinquency; we have become tolerant about wickedness in high places; we have become tolerant about immorality; we have become tolerant about crime and we have become tolerant about godlessness. We have become tolerant of unbelief.

In a book recently published on what prominent people believe, 60 out of 100 did not even mention God, and only 11 out of 100 mentioned Jesus. There was a manifest tolerance toward soft character and a broadmindedness about morals, characteristic of our day. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Evangelicals, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture