Category Archives: Quotes

Law to Gospel, or Gospel to Law?

“If one wants to have the gospel as a source of power that makes it possible for one to successfully fulfill the law, then one ruins both. The law still remains unfulfilled and the gospel does not remain the gospel. The gospel means a completely new way to God, not through our own successful fulfillment but through that which Jesus has done for us.”


Bo Giertz, Commentary on Luke

Too Good To Be True

How fun is this: getting up when it is dark to go eat really healthy muffins, drink a hot beverage, and talk about our Savior with other men? I’m always sharpened by what gets said, and the incredible experiences God’s given each of us.

We’re just finishing John Leonard’s Get Real, which has been a very thought-provoking and interesting book on sharing your faith.

One of his enduring points to me is that the good news of Jesus really is awesomely, incredibly, unfathomably deep. So much so that we who are Christians often don’t grasp it.

Here’s one of his summary paragraphs:

“Could it be that people reject the gospel because it is too good to be true? This is not just a problem that non-Christians have; even Christians have difficulty believing the gospel. Our biggest struggle as Christians is not the indwelling sin that keeps popping up in our lives, filling us with guilt and fear. It is our unwillingness to believe the gospel because it is just too good to be true. We need again to see our Savior and what he has done for us, and to understand the dimensions and depth of the gospel and live out of its resources.”

The gospel is not only that Jesus wiped out our sin but also that he gives us his righteousness. Which means that something that really is too good to be true… is true.

Fantastic!  May that spill out of us… and change how we look at everything.

Hope in Improvement or Resurrection?


From Robert Farrar Capon, in a discussion on the scandal of the Gospel:

One of the most iniquitous ways of expounding the Gospel is to say that while we will no doubt have to put up with physical or financial failure for Jesus’ sake, we are nonetheless entitled to expect moral and spiritual success. But that is itself a snare and a skandalon. Is says that we are only half fallen — that even though the ratty old cocoon of our physical being may fail us, there is hidden within a spiritual butterfly of a soul that is capable of beauty, competence, and success.

It is not that we aren’t promised incredible spiritual potential in Christ. The interesting thing to think on in this quote is that the Gospel also holds before us realization of our physical potential — we are, after all, going to be bodily resurrected! So if we are promised a perfect, sinless body in resurrection, and yet experience decay on this earth, so that our faith and hope remain in Christ’s promise… why do we not also maintain that faith and hope about spiritual things?

Capon’s focus on death-then-life is a refreshing reminder that all we have, everything, is grounded in and through the reality of our union with Jesus Christ, and our trust in what he has done and will do.

Can’t wait!

Theology and Christmas

As we enjoy lights and presents and hot beverages… and even as we talk of mangers and stars and babies… I’m struck again that Jesus Christ isn’t an important part of our theology… he is our theology. What we know of God is from our Savior, the one we celebrate this season.

Or so says Paul Zahl, in A Short Systematic Theology:

“For Christians, the prism through which all light concerning God is reflected is Jesus Christ. This means that Christology is the beginning and the end, better, the starting point and summary, of all Christian thought… Christology is the subject of theology. More precisely put, Jesus Christ is the subject of theology.”

Merry Christmas! May we continue to be floored by the wondrous news of our Savior!

Pastoral Authority

As a pastor, therefore, my real authority — my true authenticity, whether in the pulpit, or the office, or in the confessional, or at the end of a piano at a cocktail party — lies in my fidelity to the Gospel, not in my assorted competences (real or imagined) in other fields.

(From Robert Farrar Capon, in The Mystery of Christ)

I really like this quote… even though I’ve never been at the end of a piano at a cocktail party… as it points to the continuing center of our only hope and our only wisdom.

Rainy Day Quote II

Here’s the second quote, for thinking on in a rainy day.

It is popular in our practical, ‘fix-me’ society to hammer at only one aspect of sanctification — generally called ‘progressive.’ However it is not clear that the categories of sanctification are cut and dried… or that sanctification should primarily be thought of differently than the rest of salvation (i.e., monergistically). Though best-sellers emphasize a ‘get to work’ ethic of ‘personal holiness,’ it is good to reflect that our righteousness is given to us, and true holiness for the believer is not in our always-imperfect efforts but in the actual work of the Spirit, the one whose name includes ‘holy,’ or, as Rev. Scaer notes, ‘Spiritus sanctus.’

This is from David Scaer, a Lutheran pastor (in Sanctification: By Grace Alone):

At times, the New Testament uses the words sanctify and sanctification of God’s entire activity of God in bringing about man’s salvation. More specifically it refers to the work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to salvation, to keep them in the true faith and finally to raise them from the dead and give them eternal life (Small Catechism). All these works are also performed by the Father and the Son. Since God is not morally neutral and does not choose to be holy, but He is holy, all His works necessarily share in His holiness. The connection between the Holy Spirit and sanctification is seen in the Latin for the Third Person of the Trinity, Spiritus Sanctus. The Spirit who is holy in Himself makes believers holy, sanctifies them, by working faith in Christ in them and He becomes the source of all their good works.

Sanctification means that the Spirit permeates everything the Christian thinks, says and does. The Christian’s personal holiness is as much a monergistic activity of the Holy Spirit as is his justification and conversion. The Spirit who alone creates faith is no less active after conversion than He was before.

Rainy Day Quote I

‘Rainy day’ may sound sad… but rain is wonderful… as are these two quotes. The first is from J.C. Ryle. One of my favorites of his is The Christian Leaders of the Last Century. This excerpt is from volume 2, pp. 304-305. It’s worth reading through, and is the tale of an interaction that opened the eyes of one of Ryle’s important English preachers (James Hervey of Weston Favell) to the reality of righteousness in Christ alone:

The unsatisfactory character of Hervey’s theology at the beginning of his ministry is well illustrated by the following anecdote.

In one of the Northhamptonshire parishes where he preached before 1741, there lived a ploughman who usually attended the ministry of Dr. Doddridge, and was well-informed in the doctrines of grace. Hervey being ordered by his physicians, for the benefit of his health, to follow the plough, in order to smell the fresh earth, frequently accompanied this ploughman when he was working.

Knowing that he was a serious man, he said to him one morning, “What do you think is the hardest thing in religion?”

The ploughman replied; “Sir, I am a poor man, and you are a minister; I beg leave to return the question.”

Then said Mr. Hervey: “I think the hardest thing is to deny sinful self’; grounding his opinion on our Lord’s admonition, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.”

“I argued,” said Mr. Hervey, “upon the import and extent of the duty, showing that merely to forbear sinful actions is little, and that we must deny admittance and entertainment to evil imaginations and quench irregular desires. In this way I shot my random bolt.”

The ploughman quietly replied: “Sir, there is another instance of self-denial to which the injunction of Christ equally extends, which is the hardest thing in religion, and that is to deny righteous self.

“You know I do not come to hear you preach, but go every Sunday with my family to hear Dr. Doddridge at Northampton. We rise early in the morning, and have prayer before we set out, in which I find pleasure. Walking there and back I find pleasure. Under the sermon I find pleasure. When at the Lord’s table I find pleasure. We return, read a portion of Scripture, and go to prayer in the evening, and I find pleasure. But yet, to this moment, I find it the hardest thing to deny righteous self, I mean to renounce my own strength and righteousness, and not to lean on that for holiness or rely on this for justification.”

In repeating this story to a friend, Mr. Hervey observed, “I then hated the righteousness of Christ. I looked at the man with astonishment and disdain, and though him an old fool, and wondered at what I fancied the motley mixture of piety and oddity in his notions.

 “I have since seen clearly who was the fool; not the wise old ploughman, but the proud James Hervey. I now discern sense, solidity, and truth in his observations.”

Stories that Whisper His Name

How eye-opening to be a parent! Not the least because of the fun books one gets to read. One of the very best bears the subtitle “Every story whispers his name.” It’s the Jesus Storybook Bible, and it is so good that I wish every adult as well as every child had read its wonderful presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ.Here’s an excerpt, from Acts 6-9, of Saul’s conversion:

“Of all the people who kept the rules, Saul was the best. ‘I’m good at being good!” he’d tell you. He was very proud. And very good. But he wasn’t very nice. Saul hated anyone who loved Jesus… he wanted everyone to forget all about Jesus. He didn’t believe Jesus was the Rescuer.

You see, Saul had never met Jesus. So one day, Jesus met Saul.”

The book then relates Saul’s Damascus Road experience… his name change to Paul, and has fun insights on Ananias. And then look at how they convey the message:

“‘It’s not about keeping rules!” Paul told people. ‘You don’t have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting. It’s not about rules, it’s about Grace: God’s free gift-that cost him everything.’

What had happened to Paul? He met Jesus.”

O how I pray you’ve met Jesus!

Rainy Day Quote

Windy, cold, and rainy today. Great day to sip hot tea or cocoa… and think about the incredible truth of our righteousness in Christ captured so well by Horatius Bonar, a prominent minister in 1800’s Scotland (quoted from The Everlasting Righteousness):

At the cross this “righteousness” was found; human, yet divine: provided for man and presented to him by God for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word, “It is finished,” as on a heavenly resting place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed.

The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace.

Belief in that finished work brought the sinner into favor with God, and it did not leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God’s way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty.

It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man’s behalf; and so extraordinary was this perfection that it might be used by man in his transactions with God as if it were his own.

May we praise our Savior forever for what He has done!