Category Archives: Grace

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.

Kingdoms and Mysteries

Ruts are funny things. They’re like the gutters in the bowling ally, grabbing hold of the ball and guiding it down the same (wrong) path.

We often get in ruts when we read Scripture. We’ve heard things taught a certain way, and just always assume that certain passages refer to certain things… because that’s how we’ve heard them.

This problem touches one of the goals of our church body — that we would be directly and honestly exposed to the Word of God as it is. That we would, to the best of our ability, avoid tracking down a line of thought just because that’s how we’ve heard it from our favorite human teacher. Because gutterballs really are a problem.

So… I was struck this past week in really thinking about what Jesus is saying in Luke 8. It is a well-known teaching, in all of the Synoptic Gospels, the first of Jesus parables, the one he spends the most time explaining… the parable of the Sower. Maybe you’ve heard it. Sower, tossing out seed, four kinds of soil. Generally speaking, we agonize over what kind of soil we are, what kind of soil our relatives and loved ones are, and how we can respond rightly to the Word, which Jesus himself identifies as the seed scattered out.

But the point of the parable doesn’t really seem to be soil evaluation. Or even mission work, directly. At least, Jesus very definitely speaks of telling the ‘secrets’ of the Kingdom of God to the disciples. And the secrets of the Kingdom aren’t the soils. The mysterious thing is the seed.

The seed. To this day, a mystery. How does a seed hold life? How does life work? A plant from that little, inanimate thing? Wondrous, mysterious.

And then… says Jesus… God takes his wondrous, valuable seed… which is the Word, Jesus Christ himself… and scatters the seed to all the world. That’s absolutely mind-boggling.

Jesus knows. He knows he’s being scattered for the world… and that great swaths of the world will reject him… and still… for the joy of making some plants mature to what they should be… he will be scattered out, wasted at times…. sacrificed. Wow.

This idea of the mystery is in accord with Paul. He relelntlessly points to the mystery as life inside believers, in union with Christ — in an amazingly inclusive way. The Gentiles — pagan idolaters — are included in this kingdom! All it takes is trust in the seed… which is evidence of good soil.

With this emphasis on the seed, the parable of the sower pops out of the gutter… and pushes us to worship. We worship the mystery that is Christ in us, the hope of glory. We stand amazed that he would willingly be poured out, knowing that rejection was ahead… and even using that rejection toward the salvation of those who, knowing their lifelessness, would put their trust in him alone.

Solus Christus. The Word made flesh, who dwelt among us.



Go Ahead, Jump In

“Go Ahead, Jump In.”

I think those are some of the scariest words in the human language. At least it appeared that way to me as a parent, watching one of my girls on the diving board being ‘encouraged’ to leap into the deep end of the pool for the first time.

I could see the fear written on her face… and even a few tears.

That didn’t deter the teacher. They’re prepared for fear, and for tears. Another helper comes up behind the diving board, ready to ‘help’ my daughter take the plunge.

So in she went.

And again. And again. And now… a swimming class isn’t complete without a jump off the diving board. She’s a fish… wanting to try the new leap, the dive, the cannonball… and swim to the side on her own. She can’t be stopped in the freedom that the deep end brings. Her huge smile belies the idea that she was ever afraid.

The deep end of Christianity is the incredible grace of the gospel. We fear that living in acceptance of God’s incredible favor will bring license or failure or harm; instead it brings freedom and joy and peace.

Overcome your fear. Jump in today!

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Grace in Practice

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’re familiar with the themes of the message below, delivered by Tullian Tchividjian at the convocation of Liberty University.

But it is still a great reminder and joy to watch… enjoy!


“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, now and forever. Amen!” (2 Peter 3:18)

Grace’s Impact

Read some excellent, well-written thoughts this week, by Dane Ortlund. Here’s a piece:

I am a sinner. I sin. Not just in the past but in the present. But in Christ I’m not a sinner but cleansed, whole. And as I step out into my day in soul-calm because of that free gift of cleansing, I find that actually, strangely, startlingly—I begin to live out practically what I already am positionally. I delight to love others. It takes effort and requires the sobering of suffering. But love cannot help but be kindled by gospel rest.

Read the whole thing.

Grace in Parenting

Fun to see that one of the very best parenting books available right now is getting recognition. Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter have authored Give Them Grace, and it is wonderfully focused on the good news of Jesus Christ and how that good news impacts our parenting.

Andy Naselli writes a clear, helpful review with his wife in the recent Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

His post is here; the review is here.


Pastorally, my greatest desire is that our church stands on the truth, reality as laid out in Scripture. A great fear is that many seem to miss the true foundation, and rather stand on other things. Though many proclaim that they hold to the Bible, they don’t seem to hear the foundational core: the wondrous Gospel.

 John Lynch, of TrueFaced ministries, does a fantastic job of pulling us back to the functional centrality of the Good News of Jesus.

If you haven’t heard of him, or read The Cure, then set aside 40 minutes or so and think about the implications of the Gospel, here.

More Than ‘Debt Paid’

I know some good news. Good news of the Savior, the Son of God, who came to earth as a man and lived perfectly, dying for our sins. Our sins, the sins of those who believe in Him, wiped out! Wrath averted! Debt paid!

This is indeed good news. But it surely skips over a huge part of the Gospel.

If what we have is Jesus, perfect sacrifice, dying on a cross for sin, then we don’t have enough.

Payment for sin gets you and I back to zero. Paying for bad wipes out bad. Where’s the good?

What about the radical, lifechanging, wondrous news of a resurrected Savior? Offhand, I think that means overwhelming good:
   •   Jesus Christ living in me (Galatians 2:20)
   •   The Holy Spirit poured out and dwelling in me (Romans 8:9)
   •   My Savior interceding for me right now (Hebrews 4:15)
   •   Me, born again (John 3), a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
   •   Resurrection promised of the same power that raised Jesus (Ephesians 1:19, 20)

Regeneration and union and a new heart and life itself… we have such a depth of riches. May our lives not look to our own power, with a dead Savior, but to the Savior who lives, and who is at work in us.

To Him be the glory, now and forever.

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!

Grace in Tolerance?

Tolerance is a bad word in many Christian circles. And rightly so: what it often refers to is an indifferent attitude toward sin.

Sin rightly defined is horrible. We ought never to be indifferent. We ought to help people out of it by pointing them to Jesus Christ. Our tolerance often is driven by fear of man or a desire to not ‘ruffle feathers.’

So how does tolerance reveal grace? Well… when there’s a different subject. Not our tolerance. God’s tolerance.

God’s tolerance isn’t indifference, or driven by fear.
God’s tolerance is more rightly defined as permitting behavior that is at odds with His holiness for a season. Perhaps it could be summarized “delayed judgment.”

Just ran across this in 1 Samuel. Eli’s sons are absolutely positively acting horrifically as representatives of a holy God. Very great sin, the Bible tells us.

No lightning bolt. No fireball. Their actions continued.
And thus we see God’s tolerance of sin. Of besmirching of his name. Of dishonor, for a season. Years, apparently, going by with common people looking on as God’s priests ran amok. Apparently not caring.

I think this is so incredible.

In the case of Eli’s sons, it is a tolerance of a fixed duration… because it fit God’s plans. He’s got plans. He’s willing to suffer external shame for his plans to come to fruition. In the case of Hophni and Phinehas, his patience is revealed as he waits for Samuel to grow… to contrast God’s deliverance through a child, God’s Word through a child… as opposed to man.

God’s plan has always been that in the fullness of time, he would send a child. A messiah. A prophet, priest, and king. And he bore with constant and continual sin… seeming defeats, seeming setbacks… when he was waiting patiently for his plan.


And what drives home the amazingness (is that a word?) for me is one of the reasons for his temporal tolerance. It is found in Hebrews 11:39-40:

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

The author is saying that God allowed his people to suffer and perish and be afflicted and not receive what was promised… because he was waiting for us. We needed to be added in. He loved us so incredibly much… that he tolerated much affliction in his people, and apparent shame and setback for himself.

2 Peter 3:9 has the same thought:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

See… God is tolerant… patient… because he wants to include all that are his.

Jesus was serious when he said that he would not lose any that God had given him. That’s how serious God is about redeeming every single person on whom he has set his love.

And once his… we are a new creation, righteousness given not earned, sin forgiven through the finished work of Jesus… no longer aimed for certain wrath delayed only by temporal tolerance, but rather gloriously redeemed and united and adopted into God’s family forever.

So yes, grace in tolerance. In God bearing apparent shame and apparent loss and apparent setback and apparently doing nothing about evil and sin… because his plan is sure, his love is set, his reason includes you.

Fantastic. May his kindness pull us toward repentance and trust in him alone.