“How Long Will it Last?” by Sinclair Ferguson

“How Long Will it Last?”

by Sinclair Ferguson

“He’s going through a religious phase.” How often did you overhear that being said about you in your early days as an openly professing follower of Jesus Christ? Admittedly the sheer force of conversion on an untaught mind can lead to us drawing confused notions of exactly what has happened to us. Looking back on my own conversion I feel sure my parents must have thought I was going through a decidedly unbalanced “religious phase” as the golf clubs to which I had long been devoted (even at the tender age of fourteen!) were relegated to the cupboard for months on end. An unenthusiastically completed entry form and an ignominious second-round defeat in the national junior golf championships followed. What had happened to their relatively normal golf-adoring son? I am thankful for their love and patience with a young teenager who took a little time to realize that conversion called him to an ongoing life in and engagement with this world — not to monasticism!

Yet, when you are only three weeks old as a baby Christian, finding your feet in an intoxicatingly new world, whispers such as, “It won’t last!” can really hurt, and they can readily sow seeds of doubt that grow into the trees of mistrust and the forests of confusion.

Yet, whatever pressures we feel as contemporary Christians in the West, they pale by comparison with the obstacles that confronted the new converts to whom Hebrews was written. If indeed they were Jewish converts, each one became persona non grata in both family and community — big-time non grata — disinherited, ostracized, and alienated from the tight network that provided personal, educational, emotional, and financial support. They had joined the notorious “third race of men” that followed a claimant Messiah who had been roundly rejected, humiliated, crucified, and accursed. Now they too experienced reproach and the loss of family, property, and security (Heb. 10:32-4; 13:13). From now on they had to camp outside.

Would they last? Will I last? Where should I look (or point others to look)? The answer to this question, as indeed to virtually every question in Hebrews, is this: “LOOK TO JESUS.” For “he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him” (Heb. 7:25).

The phrase “to the uttermost” expresses the multi-dimensional saving ability of Christ. His adequacy is not limited by the breadth of my frailty, the depth of my sinfulness, or the ongoing nature of my need. In each of these dimensions Christ is “fitting for us” (v. 26). That is to say, Jesus is exactly the kind of Savior we need. That is why the words “he is able” are woven into the very warp and woof of His eternal high priestly garments. He intercedes for us “in the power of an indestructible life” (7:16). No wonder the refrain of the author is: “Look to Jesus” (3:1; 12:2)!

So what implications follow from the unique and everlasting priesthood of our Lord Jesus? Many, but for the moment notice these two implications: First, my security as a Christian does not reside in the strength of my faith but in the indestructibility of my Savior. How much I need to learn again and again the basic principle that I must walk in Christ in the same way I received Christ (Col. 2:6), not depending on anything that resides in me but on everything that is mine in Him. The reformed fathers and masters of spiritual counsel used to say wisely that the weakest faith gets the same strong Christ as does the strongest faith.

The second implication is that my perseverance as a Christian does not depend on the degree of my stoicism in the face of trials but on the perfection of the work of Christ and His perseverance with me.

Hebrews is an exhortation to persevere. We are engaged in an endurance test (10:36), running a marathon race (12:1). We feel the heat; we encounter periodic pain barriers, and at times the summit seems hidden in the clouds — the finishing tape miles away. This is why the perseverance of Jesus is an even more important biblical truth than the perseverance of the saints! He is with me now and will greet me there at the finishing tape and on the summit. He is in every conceivable way perfectly suited to my present needs. Recognize this and our hard daily work turns into a great journey of adventure shared with God’s people in every age (11:4–12:2).

So, “consider Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). The verb “consider” (katanoeo) is an intensive form of the verb “to understand,” and implies giving detailed attention to something (see its use in Matt. 7:3!). The author of Hebrews realized that Christians in his day (as in ours) are capable of giving detailed attention to almost everything (a football game, new clothes, our appearance, school studies) — often, sadly, with one exception: the Lord Jesus. Hebrews teaches that we must reverse that trend. More than that, it engages in reversing the trend by showing us how captivating our Lord really is. Let’s be captivated by Him — for He lasts forever as Savior (7:3; 8:16, 23, 25)!

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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.
www.ligonier.org
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“God’s Dupes?” by Ravi Zacharias

Is the Christian faith intellectual nonsense? Are Christians deluded?

“If God exists and takes an interest in the affairs of human beings, his will is not inscrutable,” writes Sam Harris about the 2004 tsunami in Letter to a Christian Nation. “The only thing inscrutable here is that so many otherwise rational men and women can deny the unmitigated horror of these events and think this is the height of moral wisdom” (p. 48). In his article “God’s Dupes,” Harris argues, “Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music” (The Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2007). Ironically, Harris’ first book is entitled The End of Faith, but it should really be called “The End of Reason,” as it demonstrates again that the mind that is alienated from God in the name of reason can become totally irrational.

Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins suggests that the idea of God is a virus, and we need to find software to eradicate it. Somehow, if we can expunge the virus that led us to think this way, we will be purified and rid of this bedeviling notion of God, good, and evil (“Viruses of the Mind,” 1992). Along with Christopher Hitchens and a few others, these atheists are calling for the banishment of all religious belief. “Away with this nonsense!” is their battle cry. In return, they promise a world of new hope and unlimited horizons once we have shed this delusion of God.

I have news for them — news to the contrary. The reality is that the emptiness that results from the loss of the transcendent is stark and devastating, philosophically and existentially. Indeed, the denial of an objective moral law, based on the compulsion to deny the existence of God, results ultimately in the denial of evil itself. Furthermore, one would like to ask Dawkins, are we morally bound to remove that virus? Somehow he himself is, of course, free from the virus and can therefore input our moral data.

In an attempt to escape what they call the contradiction between a good God and a world of evil, atheists try to dance around the reality of a moral law (and hence, a moral lawgiver) by introducing terms like “evolutionary ethics.” The one who raises the question against God in effect plays God while denying He exists. Now, one may wonder: Why do you actually need a moral lawgiver if you have a moral law? The answer is because the questioner and the issue he or she questions always involve the essential value of a person. You can never talk of morality in abstraction. Persons are implicit to the question and the object of the question. In a nutshell, positing a moral law without a moral lawgiver would be equivalent to raising the question of evil without a questioner. So you cannot have a moral law unless the moral law itself is intrinsically woven into personhood. This means that an intrinsically worthy person must exist if the moral law itself is to be valued. And that person can only be God.

Our inability to alter what is actual frustrates our grandiose delusions of being sovereign over everything. Yet the truth is that we cannot escape the existential rub by running from a moral law. Objective moral values exist only if God exists. Is it all right, for example, to mutilate babies for entertainment? Every reasonable person will say “no.” We know that objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God must exist. Examining those premises and their validity presents a very strong argument.

The prophet Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”(Jer. 17:9). Similarly, the apostle James said, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22–25).

The world does not understand what the absoluteness of the moral law is all about. Some get caught, some don’t get caught. Yet who of us would like our heart exposed on the front page of the newspaper today? Have there not been days and hours when, like Paul, you’ve struggled within yourself and said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:15, 24). Each of us knows this tension and conflict within if we are honest with ourselves.

Therefore, as Christians, we ought to take time to reflect seriously upon the question: “Has God truly wrought a miracle in my life? Is my own heart proof of the supernatural intervention of God?” In the West we go through these seasons of new-fangled theologies. The whole question of “lordship” plagued our debates for some time as we asked if there was such a thing as a minimalist view of conversion? “We said the prayer and that’s it.” Yet how can there be a minimalist view of conversion when conversion itself is a maximal work of God’s grace? “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

If you were proposing marriage to someone, what would the one receiving the proposal say if you said, “I want you to know this proposal changes nothing about my allegiances, my behavior, and my daily life; however, I do want you to know that should you accept my proposal, we shall theoretically be considered married. There will be no other changes in me on your behalf.” In a strange way we have minimized every sacred commitment and made it the lowest common denominator. What does my new birth mean to me? That is a question we seldom ask. Who was I before God’s work in me, and who am I now?

The immediate results of coming to know Jesus Christ are the new hungers and new pursuits that are planted within the human will. I well recall that dramatic change in my own way of thinking. There were new longings, new hopes, new dreams, new fulfillments, but most noticeably, there was a new will to do what was God’s will. Thomas Chalmers characterized this change that Christ brings as “the expulsive power of a new affection.” This new affection of heart — the love of God wrought in us through the Holy Spirit — expels all other old seductions and attractions. The one who knows Christ begins to see that his or her own misguided heart is impoverished and in need of constant submission to the will of the Lord — spiritual surrender. Yes, we are all gifted with different personalities, but humility of spirit and the hallmark of conversion is to see one’s own spiritual poverty. Arrogance and conceit ought to be inimical to the life of the believer. A deep awareness of one’s own new hungers and longings is a convincing witness to God’s grace within.
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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. www.ligonier.org
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John MacArthur: On The Key To Spiritual Growth In A Christian’s Life

Link to audio —> What is spiritual growth and how do you make it happen in your life?.

R.C. Sproul: On Prideful Humility…..And True Humility

“Relying on God’s Grace”

R.C. Sproul

The irony of the theology of meritorious suffering is that it tends to produce the very opposite effect from its original intention. What began as a call to humble willingness to suffer became an insidious tool for self-righteousness. Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people—for beggars. We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there.

All the suffering I could possibly endure could not earn me a place in heaven. Nor can I merit the merit of Christ through suffering. I am altogether an unprofitable servant who must rely on someone else’s merit to be saved.

With Paul we can rejoice in our sufferings if they enhance the glory of Christ. We can rejoice in our persecutions and look forward to the promised blessing of Christ. But the blessing Christ promised, the blessing of great reward, is a reward of grace. The blessing is promised even though it is not earned.

Augustine said it this way: “Our rewards in heaven are a result of God’s crowning His own gifts. Sola gratia.”

Coram Deo: Give thanks to God for your heavenly rewards, which are the result of God’s crowning His own gifts.

Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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“Standing In Grace” – John MacArthur – Morning Devotion

Link to devotion —> Grace to You.