What is Now True Because of Jesus

The Apostle Paul notably quipped:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1.16)

The “gospel” is the message – the “Good News” – about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and of the Kingdom in and over which he reigns.. Paul is saying that the message has power – life-giving and life-transforming power to all who believe the message. Bible scholars will point out that the construct of the Greek word for “believe”, and the context within the sentence, express that the word carries a connotation of “on-going belief”. In other words, the aspect of salvation that we call “justification” occurs the moment one believes; and the on-going effect of salvation, the process of salvation we call “sanctification” occurs by the same power, and by on-going belief in the same message.

Properly speaking, the gospel message is about Jesus; but the fruit of the gospel becomes evident in those who are believing. The gospel is the power to change us. Certain things become true because of the gospel – because of Jesus. Here are a handful of passages describing what is now true because of the gospel:

John 5.24 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

2 Corinthians 5.19 – In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Romans 5.1 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8.1 –  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8.2 –  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Ephesians 1.5 – …he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…

Ephesians 3.16-19 – …that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Colossians 3.1-4 – If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

1 John 4.7-12Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Revelation 12.10-1110 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Jesus Material Measure of Spiritual Maturity

In 2 Corinthians 8.7 the Apostle Paul challenges us to grow in the grace of generosity through giving:

“But as you excel in everything -in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

Within his textbook, Biblical Ethics, Robertson McQuilkin, formerly President and then President Emeritus of Columbia International University, likens personal giving patterns to personal maturation stages, as a metaphorical expression of spiritual maturity.   McQuilken says the Bible teaches us that our giving patterns are “Jesus’ material yardstick for measuring spiritual maturity”.

In sum, here is the “yardstick”:

  • Infancy: Non-giving
  • Kindergarten: Impulse Giving
  • Elementary: Legalistic Giving
  • Secondary: Honest Managership
  • Higher: Love Giving
  • Graduate: Faith Giving

How to Preach the Gospel to Yourself

Preaching Gospel to Self

Paul, in Colossians 2.6, instructs us: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him…”  Simple words, but powerfully practical when unpacked.

How did we “receive” Jesus?  By faith and repentance – or by repentance and faith.  We are not quite sure which comes first, but perhaps that does not matter.  It may be that the order is different with different people. What matters is that genuine conversion involves both of these elements: Repentance of our sin and of all our desire and attempts to save ourselves through our good behavior; Faith in the gospel – the good news – of what Jesus has done on our behalf, and what is offered to us in him.

If these are the two elements by which we received Jesus then, according to the Apostle’s instruction, these are the two elements that should be characteristic of our day-to-day life in Jesus.  The old Puritan Thomas Watson once wisely noted: “Faith and repentance are the two wings by which we fly toward heaven.”  In other words, faith and repentance are not only the instruments by which the journey of salvation is initiated, these are the practices by which we travel.  These are the ingredients of spiritual growth leading to maturity.

The chart above reflects both faith and repentance, and provides a tool to help us be able to “preach the gospel to ourselves”.

It reminds us that when recognize sin in our lives, our response should not be to simply resolve to “stop it”. We need to discern its source.  In other words, the sin we see, the sin which shows itself in our behavior (and in our attitudes), has deeper roots and causes.  So, like an explorer commissioned to trace the a great river to discover its tributaries and its origin, we are called upon to discover what “root sins” are tributaries of our behavior, and ultimately what idols are the original source.  Once discovered – or even while in the process of discovery – “putting sin to death” requires that we confess it and repent of it.  All of it – the sinful behaviors, the attitudes that lead to it, and the idols that source it.  Growth in grace is greater than mere moral reform.  Growth in grace is a work of the Spirit upon the heart which eventually and inevitably leads to a change in behavior.

Yet growth in grace does not come by confession and repentance alone.  Such may lead to behavior change, if we feel guilty enough and desire to change. But that is not growth in grace.  Growth in grace requires that we believe what grace gives; that we ponder what is true, and good, and beautiful: chiefly among such things is the gospel, the good news of what God promises – and does – when we trust  in Jesus.  (Philippians 4.8)   Reminded of the truths of the gospel, our hearts change; they turn toward God, causing us to hunger to grow more like him, and enabling us to rely more on his promise that what he began he will complete.  (Philippians 1.6)

This is the spiritual discipline of preaching the gospel to ourselves.

5 Gospel Perspectives That Shape Lives


Tim Lane & Paul Tripp, in their helpful book How People Change, suggest that there are 5 Gospel Perspectives that shape lives.  In other words when we understand these principles, and regularly consider our own lives in relation to them, we see change.  These principles, considered collectively,  cultivate the best conditions to see fruitful sanctification.

  1. The need to recognize that God calls for ongoing and continual growth and change in all of us.
  2. The need to understand the extent and gravity of our sin.
  3. The need to understand that the heart is central; that behavior and attitude is a reflection of the heart.
  4. The need to understand the present benefits of Christ.
  5. The need to live a Lifestyle of Repentance & Faith

If you are curious, you might want to check out an interview with Lane & Tripp, where they describe their motivation for writing the book, and explain how to apply the gospel to real life to bring about real change: Interview

Portrait of a Recovering Pharisee

by Nancy Scott     

When Sally first heard the gospel at age eleven, she understood immediately that God’s grace is what saves us. She already knew her heart was full of evil and that she had nothing to bring to God. It made perfect sense that God would have to do the saving, if any saving was to be done. The solution of Jesus’ death on the cross was perfect, and she understood that He had died in her place.

The Bible church where Sally began her pilgrimage strongly taught the concept of grace. She learned that grace meant “undeserved favor.” Grace was getting something you didn’t deserve, whereas mercy was NOT getting what you did deserve. The gospel addressed both of these areas of life in the provision of Jesus’ death on the cross. So she fully understood that she came to Christ because God was reaching deep into her soul to regenerate her and to bring her to an awareness of her need and of His provision for her salvation. She entered the path to the kingdom on her knees, got up, and took off running.

By the time Sally was seventeen, life was not as clear-cut as it had been at the tender age of eleven. She had understood what it meant to be saved by grace; now she began wondering what it meant to live there. She began to struggle with the difficult choices of life and a tension in her desires to do the right thing. When she went to her Bible teachers for advice, they told her that God had given her all the resources she needed to live a victorious Christian life, and she only needed to avail herself of the Spirit of God who now lived inside her. If she tapped into His power, He would grant her the ability–and the desire she lacked–to do the right thing. The Bible teachers asked Sally if she did her daily devotions, and they recommended some helpful Bible studies. These things, they said, would help unleash the Spirit’s power to work in her life.

Sally took off running again. She dove into her daily devotions with renewed vigor, and even though she wasn’t a morning person, she began to get up an hour earlier. Sally was so grateful that God had given her this extra measure of grace to be so dedicated to him at such a young age. Things seemed to improve for a while.

Then something slowly changed. The excitement began to wear off, and Sally suspected that her non-Christian friends were having more fun than she. She indulged with them every now and then, only to feel tremendously guilty and to make a renewed commitment to God with each failure. The longer this pattern went on, the more confused Sally became. Why wasn’t God unleashing His Spirit inside her for victory anymore, even when she carried out all her spiritual practices and dedication? Why was the evil around her becoming more attractive instead of less attractive? Was it normal for her to find herself rededicating her life to God so routinely? Was this what it meant to live by grace?

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Benefitting in the Benefactor

Sinclair Ferguson offers this wise insight about the gospel-centered life:

“…we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual … but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirtuality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about ourself and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Slow Like Oak

Great Oak

In a culture conditioned to instant everything, perhaps we would do well to pause and consider these words from John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace:

“A Christian is not of hasty growth, like a mushroom, but rather like the oak, the progress of which is hardly perceptible, but in time becomes a great deep-rooted tree.”

-from The Letters of John Newton

Grace of Repentance


Today is Ash Wednesday. That does not mean much to many in my theological circles.  But for many other Christians it is a day that launches the Season leading to Easter – the Season of Lent.  This day is designated Ash Wednesday because of an ancient practice of marking believers with ashes as a symbol of repentance. 

Hopefully it is more than symblolic, but is also a reminder that, as Martin Luther said, “When Christ said ‘Repent’ he called for the entire lives of Believers to be lived out in repentance.” 

Repentance is a lost art.  Repentance is also a neglected practice.  I suspect that many assume repentance is someting to be avoided; that repentance is what we must do if we have sinned; but if we can avoid sin we have no need of repentance. 

Seems logical. Except it mischaracterizes the nature of sin.  Sin is not what we do, sin is the condition we have, whether we are aware of it or not.  I find helpful the old saying: “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.”  Thus, as Luther suggested, the necessity of life lived out in repentance. 

Perhaps a better way of putting it might be that our lives should include repentance.  I say that because repentance never stands alone. Repentance should always accompany Faith; and Faith should always accompany Repentance.  They are two sides of the same coin of Gospel Christianity.

I like the way the old Puritan Thomas Watson says it:

“Faith and Repentance are the two wings by which we fly toward heaven.” 

I love the imagery. It shows us that our salvation involves not only our conversions (which, by the way, requires both Faith & Repentance), but is a sanctifying journey which requires us to grow in our awarenss of both our ungodliness and the greatness of the Gospel.  To have one wing longer than the other; or worse, to have only one wing, would be disastrous.  Try it for yourself.  Try flying one of those balsa wood planes, with one wing longer than the other and see how it flies.  But this is life without both Faith & Repentance.

Three books I have found helpful in shaping my understanding and appreciation of the need of ongoing repentance:

Repentance & 21st Century Man by C. John Miller

The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson

Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel by Richard Owen Roberts

Dynamics of the Spiritual Life


Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons – much less secure than non-Christians, because they have too much light to rest easily under the constant bulletins they receive from their Christian environment about the holiness of God and the righteousness they are supposed to have.  Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce defensive assertion of their own righteousness and defensive criticism of others… They cling desperately to legal, pharisaical righteousness, but envy, jealousy and other branches on the tree of sin grow out of their fundamental insecurity…
[I]t is often necessary to convince sinners (even sinful Christians) of the grace and love of God toward them, before we can get them to look at their problems.  Then the vision of grace and the sense of God’s forgiving acceptance may actually cure most of the problems.
This may account for Paul’s frequent fusing of justification and sanctification.  
– Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life

Signs of Living to Please God


Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” – Galatians 1:10.   

 At this time of the year most of us see the opportunity for a new start. Whether you are one who makes New Years Resolutions or not, there seems to be the sense of “Do Over” that comes almost as soon as that ball drops in Times Square, and the Bowl season begins to make way for the roundball & puck.   

The question cited at the top of this post was posed by the Apostle Paul.  His question raises another, more fundamental question: Who are we to live to please?  I hope that question will be given consideration for this new year (and every year).  

It would not be appropriate to suppose Paul suggests that affirmation from the people around you is a bad thing. On many occasions he expresses his thankfulness for having been well received, for the friendships with many among whom he lived and ministered.  Yet, his question should remind us, as the Westminster Catechism says, “The primary purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God”. 

While earning esteem at work, in your neighborhood, or among family members is often a good thing, Paul reminds us that when this is our driving motivation we are often out of accord with the very purpose for which we are created, and for which we are redeemed.   

So how do we know when we are falling into this? (Yes, when, not if.)   

The great English Puritan, Richard Baxter, provides us with some thoughts, and exhorts us: “See therefore that you live for God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and as that will suffice you.”

You may discover yourself by these signs: 

1. You will be careful to understand the Scripture, to know what pleases and displeases God

2. You will be more careful in the doing of every task, to fit it to the pleasure of God rather than men.

3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your goals, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.

4. You will look to secret duties as well as public, and to that which men do not see as well as those which they see.

5. You will revere your conscience, paying close attention to it, and not slighting it; when it tells you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when it tells you of His approval, it will comfort you.

6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious (holy) in order to please God, not proud and ambitious for your honor among men, nor impious against the pleasing of God.

7. Whether men are pleased or displeased, how they judge you or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interests, in comparison to God’s judgment. You don’t live for them. You can bear their displeasure, and comments, if God is pleased. 

These will be your evidences.     

A Humble Christian Welcomes…


More insights from Weak Dave: 

A humble Christian welcomes criticism, rebuke, and has a healthy indifference to success or humiliation; has zero self-contempt when making stupid, costly mistakes; is not self-conscious, competitive, critical, judgmental, defensive; is gracious to competitors and enemies, but quick to draw boundaries of self-protection; is no doormat; is not shy, fears no one, but is loving and gentle toward those with opposite values/opinions, and does not openly or secretly rejoice in the failure of opponents or others.   

It’s hard to be irritated with a humble Christian; they are so easy to love. 

– Weak Dave, who is not a humble Christian, but his flesh loves for him to think he is – especially more humble than other Christians, and superior in some sort of way, to all men. So he obviously needs the prayers of God’s people, if he hopes to be fruitful with non-Christians

 This message was sent by: GospelFriendships 

10 Questions: Are You Thinking More of Heaven and of Being With the Lord Jesus?

The Apostle Paul wrote to a church needing his help, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Phil. 1:23-24 ). The more he became like Christ, the more he wanted “to depart and be with Christ”— that is, to be in heaven, for he knew that “is better by far.”

Do you think like that very often?

Reading Christian biography has taught me that godly men and women think often of heaven and of being with Jesus. If you read one of the world’s all-time bestsellers, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, you’ll read the writing of a man obsessed with the Celestial City.

One of the signs of becoming more like Jesus is increasingly wanting to be where He is.

It’s a matter of direction.

– This post is 10 of 10 excerpted from 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney

10 Questions: Are you More and More Aware of Your Sin?

In one of the last things he wrote, when he was about as mature as a Christian gets, the Apostle Paul described himself as the worst sinner in the world (1 Tim. 1:15 ). How could he say that, since he was probably more like Jesus than anyone we’ve ever met? It’s because the closer you get to Jesus, the more aware you become of your sin and how unlike Him you are.

One of the first spiritual struggles of a new Christian occurs as he becomes aware of sin that never bothered him before. It’s not uncommon for a new believer to feel more guilty at times than he ever did before becoming a Christian. That’s because he’s alive to the Holy Spirit for the first time in his life, and thus he’s more aware of sin.

The more you grow as a Christian, the less you will sin. But it often will seem as though you sin more because your sensitivity to sin will be so much greater.

– This post is 8 of 10 excerpted from 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney.

Why Do You Long to be More Christ-like?

s-adl-aa-aw105.jpgWeak Dave writes:  

Why do you long to be more Christ-like? More selfless, loving, obedient, faithful?

Is there a dark side to your desire to be more holy? Could it be that you hate feeling like a failure, and love feeling good about yourself? Could it be that the righteousness/ holiness/performance of Jesus is unsatisfying to you, and you want something more: some righteousness/holiness/performance of your own?

When the Christian life is all about avoiding sin, instead of being forgiven, you will fail, and that’s when I momentarily lose the benefit of Christ: a joy and peace that is not circumstance-dependent. And when your prayers consist of begging God to change you and make you more holy, instead of confessing your sin, and thanking Him for His salvation of you, you risk nurturing your performance addiction.

Having a healthy indifference to your level of sanctification is a fruit of resting in the righteousness of Jesus alone. The Christian life is just not all about you and your performance, but about Him, and His performance. Jesus came to give us LIFE, right now, today, and to give it to us more abundantly.

When we are given grace to die to our own righteousness/ performance/holiness, we are momentarily free from that old performance addiction, and it’s once again FUN to be a Christian, and we have the aroma of Christ – His love and humility – to those around us, especially the lost.


-WeakDave [describes himself as] a prayer-needy man who frequently gets sucked back into performance addiction.

10 Questions: Are You More Thirsty for God Than Ever Before?

The writer of Ps. 42:1said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Have you been thirsting for God like that? Is He your passion? If so, your soul-thirst is a sign of soul-growth.

Do you yearn to know Jesus Christ more and more intimately? In spite of all of his maturity in Christ, in spite of all he had seen and experienced, the Apostle Paul declared late in life, “I want to know Christ” (Phil. 3:10 ). What was he talking about? Didn’t he already know Jesus better than most of us ever will? Of course he did. But the more he knew Jesus, the more he wanted to know Him. The more Paul progressed in spiritual strength, the more thirsty for God he became.

Is your soul thirsty for the Lord? Do you long to see Him face to face? Like a deer thirsting for water are you thirsting to be filled and saturated with God? That’s a sign of someone who’s growing as a Christian.

-This post is 1of 10 excerpted from 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney