Come connect with me on Medium

Just dropping a quick post here to say that I’ve moved my blogging and writing complete over to Medium, where I write for The Gospel Economist. I will soon be taking these posts down and reposting some of them on Medium.

 

I’d love to connect with you on Medium. If you follow me there, I will follow you back. Click the picture of me below to navigate to my Medium profile, where you can follow my current writing.

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Monday Must-Read: Gerhard Forde on Sanctification

“Sanctification, if it is to spoken of as something other than justification, is perhaps best defined as the art of getting used to the unconditional justification wrought by the grace of God for Jesus’ sake. It is what happens when we are grasped by the fact that God alone justifies. Is is being made holy, and as such, it is not our work. It is the work of the Spirit who is called Holy. The fact that it is not our work puts the old Adam/Eve (our old self) to death and calls forth a new being in Christ. It is being saved from the sickness unto death and being called to new life…

Sanctification is thus simply the art of getting used to justification. It is not something added to justification. It is not the final defense against a justification too liberally granted. It is the justified life. It is what happens when the old being comes up against the end of its self-justifying and self-gratifying ways, however pious. It is life lived in anticipation of the resurrection.

Talk about sanctification is dangerous. It is too seductive for the old being. What seems to have happened in the tradition is that sanctification has been sharply distinguished from justification, and thus separated out as the part of the “salvationing” we are to do. God alone does the justifying simply by declaring the ungodly to be so, for Jesus’ sake. Most everyone is willing to concede that, at least in some fashion. But, of course, then comes the question: what happens next? Must not the justified live properly? Must not justification be safeguarded so it will not be abused? So sanctification enters the picture supposedly to rescue the good ship Salvation from the shipwreck on the rocks of Grace Alone. Sanctification, it seems, is our part of the bargain… The result of this kind of thinking is generally disastrous.

On the level of human understanding, the problem is we attempt to combine the unconditional grace of God with our notions of continuously existing and acting under the law. In other words, the old being does not come up against its death, but goes on pursuing its projects, perhaps a little more morally or piously, but still on its own. There is no death of the old and thus no hope for a resurrection of the new. The unconditional grace of God is combined with wrong theological anthropology. That is disaster… Justification by faith alone demands that we think in terms of the death of the old subject and the resurrection of a new one, not the continuous existence of the old. Unconditional grace calls forth a new being in Christ. But the old being sees such unconditional grace as dangerous and so protects its continuity by “adding sanctification.” It seeks to stave off the death involved by becoming “moral.” Sanctification thus becomes merely another part of its self-defense against grace.”

(From Forde’s essay on sanctification in “Five Views of Sanctification”)

Law and Grace Between the Hedges

The Georgia Bulldogs came into yesterday’s game with something to prove. After suffering a humiliating loss to Alabama two weeks ago, and losing Heisman candidate running back Nick Chubb to a gruesome knee injury in last week’s loss to Tennessee, Georgia faced a home matchup with the Missouri Tigers, who have won the SEC East two years straight and entered yesterday’s game with the top passing and scoring defense in the conference. Georgia’s hopes of catching up to current SEC East leader Florida rode on the Dawgs’ ability to come away from yesterday’s game with a W.

The game was low-scoring and tight, with both teams failing to reach the endzone. With 5:40 remaining in the game, it fell to Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan to put the Dawgs ahead by making a routine 24-yard field goal.

He sent it wide left.

Four minutes later, with the score tied 6-6, Marshall was given another opportunity to put Georgia ahead, this time with less than two minutes to play.

Before the play, Coach Mark Richt could be seen on the sideline, his arms around Morgan’s helmet, looking him in the eye, speaking intently into his facemask. In his post-game press conference, Coach Richt recounted what he said to his kicker with the game on the line:

Richt:Morgan

“I looked him in the eye and said ‘Look son, I want you to know I love you no matter what happens.’ … I just think student athletes – and maybe people in general – sometimes feel like, ‘When I produce, I’m lovable – I can be loved. But if I don’t produce, I don’t deserve love.”

Marshall Morgan went out and kicked a 34-yard game-winning field goal. Georgia snapped a two-game losing streak. And the Bulldogs got their first win without a touchdown in twenty years.

There’s something I’ve found to be true about people – when confronted with the pressure to meet a standard of perfection, we don’t. We simply can’t. We can’t possibly meet every deadline, check every box, or produce at a high level at all times, and we all live with the constant awareness that we can’t do everything right. It affects every aspect of our lives, from our jobs to our relationships, and the exhortation from bosses, spouses, parents, and pastors to “shape up, try harder, act right, be better” is of no comfort to anybody. In fact, it’s more like a cruel joke.

This is because The Standard of Perfection can’t produce in us what it’s asking of us. As long as there’s scorekeeping involved we will fail, and even well-meaning people who encourage us to work hard to improve plant seeds in our hearts that grow into forests of condemnation. There’s only one solution to our dilemma: we have to unplug the scoreboard. The only way to win is to refuse to play the game.

That’s what grace makes possible. Where The Standard says, “If you produce I will love you, but if you don’t produce we’re not going to get along,” Grace says, “I love you no matter what.” And, as it so happens, the environment of Grace is a greenhouse where growth can actually occur.

If you’re a leader, a boss, a parent, or a pastor, you have to understand this. How you react when your employees, followers, or children fail to meet The Standard is of critical importance. You have to choose now to turn off the scoreboard. You have to choose now to say to your people, “I love you no matter what,” and mean it.

“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20)

(Picture courtesy of @Dawgs247 on Twitter)

The Cure: Lifting the Veil of Shame

Recently I’ve found myself revisiting my highlights and notes on John Lynch’s magnificent book, The Cure – a book I read last year that profoundly transformed my relationship with Christ.

One section has been especially moving to me this week. In a series of bulleted questions, Lynch offers a diagnostic for sorting out whether our relationship with God is one of shame, or one of grace. I hope you find these as helpful, and as encouraging, as I have.

How do I know if my relationship is with the God I see through my shame, or with the God who really is:

Do I measure my closeness with God by how little I’m sinning, or by my trust that, to the exact extent that the Father loves Jesus, the Father loves me?

Do I see myself primarily as a “saved sinner,” or a “saint who still sins”?

When I talk to God, do I spend more time rehearsing my failures or enjoying His presence?

Am I drawn to severe authors and preachers who challenge me to “get serious about sin” or those who encourage me to trust this new identity in me?

Am I drawn to messages telling me I haven’t done enough or those that remind me who I am so that I’m free to live out this life God’s given me?

Do I believe that one day I may achieve being pleasing to God or am I convinced I’m already fully changed and fully pleasing?

Is my hard effort spent preoccupied with sin or in expressing and receiving love from others?

Do I trust [spiritual] disciplines to make me strong or grace to strengthen me?

Do I believe that God is not interested in changing me, because He already has?

Do I read the Bible as “You ought, You should, When will you?” or as “You can, This is who you now are”?

God has shown all of His cards, revealing breathtaking protection. He says, in essence, “What if I tell them who they now are? What if I take away any element of fear? What if I tell them I will always love them? That I love them right now, as much as I love my only Son?

‘What if I tell them there are no logs of past offenses, of how little they pray, or how often they’ve let me down? What if I tell them they are actually righteous right now? What if I tell them I’m crazy about them? What if I tell them that, if I’m their Savior, they’re going to heaven no matter what – it’s a done deal? What if I tell them I actually live in them now, my love, power, and nature at their disposal? What if I tell them they don’t have to put on masks? that they don’t need to pretend we’re close?

‘What if they knew that, when they mess up, I’ll never retaliate? What if they were convinced bad circumstances aren’t my way of evening the score? What if they knew the basis of our friendship isn’t how little they sin, but how much they allow me to love them? What if I tell them they can hurt my heart, but I’ll never hurt theirs? What if I tell them they can open their eyes when they pray and still go to heaven? What if I tell them there is no secret agenda, no trap door? What if I tell them it isn’t about their self-effort, but about allowing me to live my life through them?”

My (Belated) New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been one to hate on New Year’s resolutions. I realize that they carry the stigma of being unrealistic or inconsequential. But I believe in the power of a purposeful resolution. You can find them in the Bible, too: Ezra “set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Daniel “made up his mind that he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). The book of 2 Chronicles even shows us that failure to make these sorts of resolutions can have negative consequences. “Rehoboam…did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD” (2 Chronicles 12:13-14).

Resolutions are the first step toward real change. Without them to serve as guides, we’re left to drift, with little more than weak hope we will ever become the kind of person we want to be. We need concrete goals, things that we can set our heart on, to strive for and grow toward.

So here are my belated New Year’s Resolutions for 2015.

1.) Rain on fewer parades. I’m wired to recognize cons before I acknowledge pros, so if I’m not intentional about identifying the positives in a situation I’ll lean toward skepticism, even cynicism. This is something I want to take more steps to correct this year.

2.) Take every opportunity to celebrate the success of others. This one has a lot to do with the first one. I have all sorts of reasons why I fail to do this. Sometimes it’s because I’m too busy thinking about to myself to recognize and praise the work of others. Other times I’ll recognize the great things that other people are doing and I’ll compliment them behind their back to others and neglect to actually give them the direct props they deserve.

3.) Memorize an entire book of scripture. I was going to do this last year with Philippians and fell off the wagon after the first chapter. Picking it back up again this year.

3b.) Memorize another significant piece of literature or rhetoric. I was sitting in a seat at the Cru Winter Conference earlier this month when Regional Director Tim Norman got up to do a mic check and proceeded to recite from memory the first few sentences of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis. If he hadn’t been cut off I’m sure he could’ve kept going. Immediately, I thought “I’m going to learn to do that.”

4.) Learn to be comfortable with spending time alone. People who know me personally are always shocked when they find out I’m a high extrovert (over 80% on the MBTI). I’m drained by huge groups of people, but I’m energized by spending time with a select few. Since leaving Austin six months ago, I’ve had a lot more time to myself, and I’m still trying to adjust.

5.) Take a long road trip. Because who doesn’t love one?

That’s them. I tend to try and limit my resolutions lists to five. It’s a good manageable number. I can remember them all. I also like to mix personal development goals with big things that I want to do. I find it’s more fun that way.

What are your resolutions? Feel free to share in the comments below.

mt

The Five Best Books I Read in 2014

reign-of-the-servant-kings-a-study-of-eternal-security-and-the-final-significance-of-man

The Reign of the Servant Kings, Joseph Dillow

Halfway through the first chapter of The Reign of the Servant Kings I felt the way I imagined David Bazan felt as he wrote the first lyrics of what would eventually become Curse Your Branches, his musical “breakup letter to God.” It wasn’t God I was breaking up with – it was reformed theology. I used to be reformed theology’s biggest advocate. I’d figured out a way to ignore all the questions I’d never found answers to. Questions about anthropology, and eternal rewards, and the relationship between grace and works. Reading The Reign of the Servant Kings I found answers to some of those questions. I also found more questions. One thing was for sure: I could no longer accept five-point Calvinism as a satisfying summation of the Christian experience. The Reign of the Servant Kings is out of print, but it’s been expanded and re-published as Final Destiny. It’s well worth the months it will take you to read it.

Quote: “Here is the key to our modern dilemma. The Reformers feared free grace and, as a result, did not take the Reformation far enough. That is, their doctrine of the saints’ perseverance in holiness compromised the free grace of God. Because the doctrine of justification by faith alone was potentially vulnerable to the charge of promoting license, the Reformers simply could not let go of the notion that works played a necessary part in our final arrival in heaven. Unable to accept that a regenerate man could live a life of sin and still be saved, they included works on the back end of the gospel as the means (result?) of salvation.”

artisan

The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus

I’ve always liked Erwin McManus, but I’ve always felt like I never quite understood him – that is, until I read this book. I read the Artisan Soul in one sitting, feeling in over my head and totally depressed after moving from Austin to Dallas, knowing no one, and starting seminary. And for what seemed like the first time in a long time, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Quote: “It takes courage to not only accept our limitations, but to embrace our potential.”

Between noon and three

Between Noon and Three, Robert Farrar Capon

Capon uses the story of an extramarital affair as source material for a meditation on grace. And it’s staggering. In a whirlwind of thought that defies explanation, I fell in love with Jesus all over again, reminded that grace that isn’t scandalous isn’t grace at all.

Quote: “The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not. If that doesn’t seem like much to you, you’re right: it isn’t. And, as a matter of fact, the life of grace is even less than that. It’s not even our life at all, but the life of that Someone Else rising like a tide in the ruins of our death.”

free grace

Free Grace Soteriology, David R. Anderson

Free Grace Soteriology was the first book I read after reading The Reign of the Servant Kings. So many questions answered. So many troubling passages addressed. A systematic dismantling of “Lordship Salvation” – the cruel slavemaster of a belief system that backloads the gospel with works. I found freedom in these pages.

Quote: “For both the Arminians and the Calvinists, one must persevere faithfully until the end of his life or he does not go to heaven. The Arminians claim that the one who does not remain faithful loses his salvation, while the Calvinists claim that one who does not remain faithful never had salvation. In either case, faithfulness until the end of one’s life is the ultimate litmus test for one to spend eternity with God. When a faithful life is made a requirement for salvation, teachers of free grace claim that works have been appended to faith, turning God’s so great salvation into more of a bribe than a gift. It turns the Christian life into a ‘have to’ life rather than a ‘thank you’ life, which is often the difference between a job and a joy.”

Antifragile

Antifragile, Nassim Taleb

I really enjoyed Taleb’s earlier book The Black Swan, despite understanding maybe a fifth of it. Antifragile is better in every way. I applied some of the concepts from this book to fantasy football and made it to the playoffs as the number four seed in a twelve-team dynasty league. For whatever that’s worth.

Quote: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”

What were your favorite reads this year? Feel free to comment below.

FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2011

FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2011

 

A VIOLENT FLAME (COURRIER)

ALL THE BRIGHT LIGHTS (ATBL)

ASHES AND FIRE (RYAN ADAMS)

BARTON HOLLOW (THE CIVIL WARS)

BON IVER, BON IVER (BON IVER)

CAMP (CHILDISH GAMBINO)

ECONOMY (JOHN MARK MCMILLAN)

EL CAMINO (THE BLACK KEYS)

GOLD IN THE SHADOW (WILLIAM FITZSIMMONS)

HELPLESSNESS BLUES (FLEET FOXES)

HURRY UP, WE’RE DREAMING (M83)

KISS EACH OTHER CLEAN (IRON & WINE)

MYLO XYLOTO (COLDPLAY)

THE KING IS DEAD (DECEMBERISTS)

WATCH THE THRONE (KANYE WEST and JAY-Z)

 

ITALICS INDICATE TOP 5.