Are You an Advanced Christian?

It’s so easy to think, “I’m past the basic stuff.” And, surely, we are encouraged in the Scriptures to grow after our salvation, not merely to live a stagnant, lifeless Christian life that subsists of calling ourselves Christians and little else. Yet, intellectual types who become Christians can often find themselves, like I sometimes do, falling into a way of thinking that assumes the basics of the Christian faith–our catechisms and creeds–are merely beginner’s material. Logically, this doesn’t make sense–we know that the centerpoint of all of cosmic and human history is Christ’s love for us on a cross. The cross is the beginning of our lives as believers, but it is also the essential whole of it. Its significance is bottomless.

Awhile ago I was perusing Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church; this book of essays by really smart guys definitely intimidated me. But, in a bit of wisdom, Carl Trueman in his introduction shares a quotation from Martin Luther (talk about a gifted intellectual) that exemplifies what I’m getting at. I’ve shared it below–enjoy:

As for myself, let me say that I, too, am a doctor and a preacher–yes, and as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly. These dainty, fastidious fellows would like quickly, with one reading, to become doctors above all doctors, to know all there is to be known. Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the people’s souls, yes, even God and his Word. They need not fear a fall, for they have already fallen all too horribly. What they need is to become children and begin learning their ABC’s, which they think they have outgrown long ago. Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake, to get it into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think. I implore them not to imagine that they have learned these parts of the Catechism perfectly, or at least sufficiently, even though they think they know them ever so well. Even if their knowledge of Catechism were perfect (though that is impossible in this life), yet it is highly profitable and fruitful daily to read it and make it the subject of meditation and conversation. In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy
Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly. This is according to Christ’s promise in Matt. 18:30: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

–Martin Luther (Tappert, Theodore G.: The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church)

May we be as children in our lives at home and at work. Amen.


Martin Luther on the Cross

The news that brings joy–the Gospel–is out of this world, because, the more you explore it, the more you are simultaneously taken in two directions:

1. Into the knowledge of how loved you are by God.

2. Into the knowledge of how terrible you are.

I want you to know that both of those things are equally important in the Gospel. However, since our culture tends to major on how loved we are and minor on how bad we are, I thought these words from Martin Luther might be helpful:

You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that he spared not his only begotten Son…. Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when the thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts.

–Martin Luther

(I came across this quote in Tim Chester’s book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free, which I would highly recommend to everyone and anyone as the best book I’ve yet read on the topic)

Martin Luther on the book of Romans

The other night in a Bible Survey class, our professor was overviewing the book of Romans, and he shared this quotation from Martin Luther’s preface to Romans:

“This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture” (Complete preface located here.)

Martin Luther on Faith and Work

Piper shares this quote from Luther, in which the reformer refutes the idea (prevalent then and prevalent today) that a “church vocation” is superior and more spiritual than a “secular vocation”:

It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests and monks are to be called the “spiritual estate”; princes, lords, artisans and farmers the “temporal estate.” That is indeed a fine bit of lying and hypocrisy…. All Christians are truly of the “spiritual estate,” and there is among them no difference at all but that of office…. To make it still clearer. If a little group of pious Christian laymen were taken captive and set down in a wilderness, and had among them no priest consecrated by a bishop, and if there in the wilderness they were to agree in choosing one of themselves, married or unmarried, and were to charge him with the office of baptizing, saying mass, absolving and preaching, such a man would be as truly a priest as though all bishops and popes had consecrated him…. There is really no difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, “spirituals” and “temporals,” as they call them, except that of office and work…. A cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and everyone by means of his own work or office must benefit and serve every other, that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all the members of the body serve one another.

–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 133, emphasis mine

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: In Christ Jesus How the Spirit Transforms Us — Sermon #1: Perfect Freedom

Sermon preached on November 19, 2006.

Teaching is based on Romans 6:1-7; 11-18.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Intro: If salvation is sheerly by grace, why would you change the way you live?

We’ll be looking at 3 principles to profound life change

I) recognize the shape of your spiritual slavery

Anger: If someone blocks you getting a good thing, you get angry; but if something blocks you getting an ultimate good thing, you get epi-angry

–if you’re having trouble forgiving somebody, at the root of it is a spiritual master

Fear: If someone good in your life is threatened, you’re worried; but if something ultimate in your life is threatened, you’re paralyzed

Sadness: If you lose something good, you grieve; if you lose something that’s ultimate, you want to throw yourself off a bridge, because there’s no meaning in life

Martin Luther: you don’t do anything else wrong in your life if you don’t first break the first commandment; idols motivate all wrong that we do

II) realize the scope of your cosmic unity with Jesus

United with Christ’s past

Died with Christ? Seated at the right hand of God in Christ? What does that mean?

  • Ex: A rich man gets rich himself, but when he gets married, all that wealth becomes the wife’s, too—how come? Legal union; grace.

Christ has accomplished so much in his life, and the text says that everything Jesus Christ has done is now legally attached to you. God sees you as free from condemnation from the guilt of your sins as if you had died yourself

Risen with Christ?

You are connected to Christ’s future.

  • Palingenesia: complete cosmic renewal, and the power of that future, where all sadness will be purged and everything will dance

CS Lewis: Imagine yourself as a house… God comes in to fix it; at first you understand what he’s doing… You thought he was making a decent little cottage, but He’s making a palace, in which He intends to live.

III) Live daily out of your new identity

Get rid of your low goals; get rid of your your goals

Anticipate that you will not be able to anticipate the magnitude of the changes that when they come you’ll be so thankful for, but they’ll be way beyond anything you could ever ask or think; there’s no way you’re smart enough to recognize what it is that you need.

v. 6: We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin will be done away with… Who you once were is gone. You have a new identity.

v. 11: Though the identity is the secret, it’s not right away. You’ve got to treat yourself like you’re a new identity. You’ve got to remind yourself. If you’re not changing, you don’t lack the resources if you’re a Christian—they just need to be deployed. If you ever fail to change, you’re not remembering who you really are, you’re not conscious of who you are.

(This is where my notes on this sermon end, although it does not seem at all like this is where Keller would have ended. The sermon in its entirety can be found at Redeemer’s sermon store.)

Bible study notes – lead by Trent – Book of John “Search the Scriptures” study – 4/29/08

Bible study notes – lead by Trent – Book of John “Search the Scriptures” study – 4/29/08

  • Kevin shared his story. I am drawn to Kevin after hearing it. He prayed in the bathtub at 3.5 years old! He’s excited thinking about church right now with his new wife. I wonder if he’s considering planting a church?
  • Johnathon reads John 6 as a juxtaposition of supernatural and natural concepts, Jesus positing or doing supernatural things and the people interpreting them on natural terms.
  • Martin Luther was once asked, “Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? How could God do that?” Luther’s response: “I have no idea why He loved Jacob, either.”

How does the doctrine of predestination change our everyday life?

Spectrum of responses to the doctrine of election: On one end, what we say and do matters to the utmost, with everything pivoting on our words and deeds as witnesses; this paralyzes us. On the other end, what we say and do doesn’t matter at all, God’s going to do what He’s going to do with or without us; this tranquilizes us.

The gospel: Not in the middle, but beyond both extremes! His absolute sovereignty combined with His use of us makes our actions more important than ever–we reach our potential in His purposes–yet our mishaps and mistakes fall within that absolute sovereignty, His will being ever unchanged and the circumstances of any given moment being the best possible situation possible out of all possible situations in God’s grand scheme.

  • “Preach like Wesley, believe like Calvin.”

Dingle’s Einstein quote: Perfection of means and confusion of goals has plagued our age. (We lose the point in the means.)

Kevin: Anything we’re sovereign of we have complete control of. We have no idea what it’s like to be sovereign of something that also has free will.

Dingle: There’s theoretical theology and plied theology. There’s a balance, a tension between them.

Kevin: Predestination is a very important and practical doctrine, because if I know that no one comes to the Father unless drawn, I’m going to need to pray before and after witnessing to people, because I know it’s the Holy Spirit that does it, not my words.

The gospel is the breadth and width and height of Christ’s love. It’s impossible to grasp, and yet a child’s mind can fathom it.