Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tim Chester on humility and the cross

The pardon of the cross creates a humble confidence in those who believe. Humble confidence might sound like a contradiction. Like warm ice. Or a desert that blooms. But our humility and our confidence are looking in different directions.
Our confidence comes when we look to God in the light of the cross. We see in the cross God's great declaration of his love to us and the legal status of that love. We discover that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And that gives us confidence in the face of sin, suffering and death. Indeed it's this confidence that enables us to be humble because we don't need to assert ourselves.
Meanwhile, humility comes when we look at ourselves in the light of the cross. There we discover that we're rebels against God. When we get the chance, we murder our Creator. That's what we are like. We discover our desperate need for grace. We're humbled. So when we see a messed-up, struggling person we don't see someone inferior. We see ourselves. We see a sinner like us in desperate need of God's grace.
Tim Chester, The Ordinary Hero: living the cross and resurrection (IVP 2009, pp.32-33)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

John Owen on grace

Grace is a word which has various meanings. But chiefly it means three things:

(1) Grace can mean grace of personal presence and beauty. So we say, 'He or she is a graceful and beautiful person'. The Song of Solomon deals mainly with the grace and beauty of Christ's person. See also Psalm 45.2

(2) Grace can mean grace of free favour and acceptance. 'By grace you are saved'. That is, we are saved by the free favour and merciful acceptance of God in Christ. So the expression 'If I have found grace in your sight' is often used. The person using this expression hopes that he will be freely and favourably accepted. So God 'gives grace', that is, favour, to the humble. (James 4.6; Gen. 39.21; 41.37; Acts 7.10; 1 Sam 2.26; 2 Kings 25.27)

(3) Grace can mean the fruit of the Spirit sanctifying and renewing our natures, enabling us to do those good things which God has purposed and planned for us to do, and holding us back from evil. 'My grace is sufficient for you,' says the Lord Christ. That is, the help which God gave was sufficient for Paul (2 Cor. 12.9; 8.6, 7; Col 3.16; Heb 12.28)

The last two meanings of the word grace, as relating to Christ, I call 'purchased grace', being purchased by him for us. And our communion with Jesus in this purchased grace is called 'a fellowship in his sufferings, and the power of his resurrection.' (Phil. 3.10)

John Owen, Communion with God (Banner of Truth, 1991), pp.46-47

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Living the Cross and Resurrection

One of the phrases the New Testament often uses to describe Christians is 'in Christ' or 'united to Christ'. You and I are in Christ. This means his death is our death and his life is our life. It means his cross is our model and his resurrection is our hope.

Perhaps rather surprisingly, when the New Testament writers tell us how we should live, they don't often point back to the life of Jesus. Instead they take us again and again to the cross and resurrection. Whether they're talking about marriage or conflict or community or money or opposition or leadership or temptation or work or suffering, they look to the cross and resurrection. So if you want to know how to live as a Christian, you need to understand how the cross and resurrection shape our lives. The pattern of the cross and resurrection needs to become our reflex, our habit, our instinct. We need to live the cross and resurrection.

Tim Chester, The Ordinary Hero: living the cross and resurrection (IVP, 2009); from the introduction, p.11