Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

April 5, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Lordship Attributes

The Lordship Attributes

Last month, I purchased a copy of John Frame’s new Systematic Theology, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Though I’ve only read the first two chapters so far, it is clear to me it is going to become a personal favorite. If you’re hungry for another systematic, then check out Frame’s. It’s very readable.

Chapter 2 is entitled, The Lord. After the author argues for the centrality of divine lordship, corrects opponents to lordship theology, and explains that the central meaning of Lord is “to designate God’s role in a relationship with his creatures,” he writes of the three attributes of God’s lordship: control, authority, and presence. Let me give you a brief summary.

Control

When God speaks to Moses in the burning bush, he identifies himself as Lord. He is the one who comes to deliver his people and announces his name: I Am. “There are various possible interpretations: ‘I am what I am,’ ‘I am who I am,’ ‘I will be what I will be,’ ‘I am because I am,’ and so forth. But all of them stress God’s sovereignty. They indicate that Yahweh is very different from us, One who determines his own nature, or choices, or even being, without any dependence upon us….So Yahweh controls the entire course of nature and history for his own glory and to accomplish his own purposes.”

Authority

“The relation between control and authority is between might and right. Control means that God has the power to direct the whole course of nature and history as he pleases. Authority means that he has the right to do that….Control and authority are not synonyms, but they imply each other.” Why does God have the right (authority) to control all? There are three reasons control implies authority.

He is Creator: “Since God created and governs all things, he is the original interpreter of creation, the One who understands the world in all its depths….God, therefore, has the ultimate viewpoint on the world.”

He is Evaluator: God “has established the purpose of everything, and he therefore knows whether and to what degree each created thing measures up to its purpose. God judges rightly what is good or bad about it, right or wrong.”

He is Owner: The “Lord’s creation and government establish him as the owner of all things….the owner of all, then, sets forth the standards of human conduct.” The conclusion is this: “So God’s ownership of the world, his right to do as he wants with his own (recall the potter-clay analogy), serves as a logical link between God’s control and his authority.”

Presence

The presence of God “may be seen as a consequence of his control and authority. When we speak of God’s presence, we are not, of course, speaking of a physical presence, for God is incorporeal. What we mean, rather, is that he is able to act on and in the creation and to evaluate authoritatively all that is happening in the creation.” More particularly, we need to think on the fact that God is covenantally present. “He is with his creatures to bless and to judge in terms of the standards of his covenant.”

These three attributes are tied together. Frame explains, “Recognizing God’s lordship affects the way we understand the world. If God is in control of the world, then the world is under his control. If God is our supreme authority, then he has the right to tell us what to believe. And if he is present everywhere, our attempts to know the world ought to recognize that presence. The most important fact about anything in the world is its relationships to God’s lordship.”

Grace Books Online currently has this new systematic for an incredible price.

Print this entry

April 4, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 9 Lame Ways to Tell Your Child to Take the Garbage Out

9 Lame Ways to Tell Your Child to Take the Garbage Out

This past weekend, I had the joy of teaching a parenting seminar at our church entitled Engaging the Hearts of Our Kids. One of the resources that I recommended to those in attendance is Everyday Talk by John Younts. There are many strengths to this book, which is subtitled “Talking Freely and Naturally about God with your Children,” but one in particular is the way the author reminds us that, as parents, we must speak in such a way that expects obedience.

One helpful illustration he provides is of a mother asking her son, Joshua, to take out the garbage. Younts correctly reminds us that when we give instructions to our children, God expects them to obey. This makes their obedience, or lack of it, of spiritual significance. It also means that parents must speak in the form of directives, not suggestions. Younts writes:

“Your ultimate goal is not to get the garbage out of the house for your own convenience. Your goal is to have your child know God and happily serve Him. This is why bargaining, cajoling, pleading and similar ploys are so damaging Remember, the basic issue in obedience is willing submission. Unwilling, grudging compliance is not godly obedience. Cooperation based on negotiation and mutual advantage is also not obedience. Biblical obedience is willing submission to authority.”

Consider the following inadequate instructions, and the reason they fall short of biblical communication.

  1. “Joshua, if you want to be helpful, you could take out the garbage sometime when you have some free time.” While this request may sound pleasant and considerate, it contains some serious problems. Children need to be instructed (see Proverbs 1:8-9; Eph.6:1-3). Asking Joshua if he wants to be helpful removes this request from the realm of instruction. What he wants is not the issue.
  2. “Josh, take out the garbage right now!!” A sharp command will stir up anger and not promote understanding or obedience, just a grudging compliance.
  3. “Joshua, I asked you yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Would you please find time to take out the garbage!” This request begs the question of who is responsible. The parent is the one to blame here because she has not seen to it that that she was obeyed the first time. Note again that the parent, not Joshua, is the one who should decide Joshua’s time priorities.
  4. “Joshua, please think of things to do to help out, like maybe take out the garbage. Okay?” This is a formula for producing a whining spirit in your children. This parent is whining to her child. Joshua will likely follow the example and whine himself. This non-directive request allows the child to ignore the garbage without technically disobeying. Giving Joshua clear, precise instructions is the best way to help him think of things to do to help.
  5. “Mommy is sooo tired of taking out the garbage all the time. Josh, wouldn’t you like to help me?” Again, this is Mommy’s problem. This form of manipulation is trying to get Joshua to have sympathy for Mom and take out the garbage for her so she won’t be tired. When Joshua doesn’t take out the garbage, three bad things happen. The garbage piles up. Joshua ignores Mom without consequences. Joshua’s mother feels hurt because she thinks Joshua doesn’t care that she is tired.
  6. “Joshua, take out the garbage right now, or I will take away your TV privileges for three days!” This really amounts to a manipulative threat. Joshua is pretty sure that he won’t lose TV for three hours, let alone three days. This command also illustrates that the parent does not expect her command to be obeyed. If obedience were expected, then “Take out the garbage now,” would be sufficient.
  7. “When I was your age, I always had to take out the garbage, whether I wanted to or not. Now take out the garbage.” Adding extra issues from your childhood will not motivate your child to obey more quickly. This is another example of a parent who is frustrated with a lack of quick, consistent, pleasant obedience from her child.
  8. “Joshua, I am not going to ask you again. Take out the garbage!” Both the parent and Joshua know that she will ask again.
  9. “Joshua, if you do not take out the garbage this instant, you are going to get the biggest spanking of your life—when your father gets home.” This is yet another example of a frustrated mom who knows that her child is not obeying. The extra threat doesn’t really address the main issue of a child who obeys only when he really has to and certainly not at the first request. Joshua knows he probably won’t get the spanking.

None of these directives to Joshua fit the biblical concept of obedience. Yes, some of the instructions were direct, but many were not. Each reflects a parent who does not really expect to be obeyed. All of these attempts at securing obedience from Joshua fall into the category of manipulation and bargaining. You want the garbage taken out. Joshua does not want to take it out. You cajole, order, plead, bargain, in short, do anything you can to get Joshua to take the garbage out. After a while you may even give up and take the garbage out yourself, just to end the unpleasantness and frustration. God does not want your children to obey you simply because you are bigger than they are and can physically control them. Obedience is more than giving in to coaxing or threats. God wants your children to obey you because it pleases Him and blesses them. How can you tell the difference? Here is the request from a parent who expects Joshua to take out the garbage. ‘Joshua, take the garbage out now, please.’ ‘Sure, Mom, no problem.’

Here, Joshua’s mom expects to be obeyed. She doesn’t ask Joshua a question, she gives him clear, pleasant direction. She doesn’t whine or plead or bargain or threaten. She speaks directly but pleasantly. Joshua knows exactly what she wants him to do and when. Joshua has been trained to understand that obeying Mom is doing exactly what he is told, right away, with a good attitude. Joshua’s response is not one that came naturally to him. He is not just a “good kid.” He had to be taught. His parents trained him to respond this way. When he was younger, Josh’s parents taught him that he must obey his parents because the Bible says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). They taught him that obeying his parents was obeying God. Joshua was taught that when he is given a command by his parents, the response that pleases God is a pleasant affirmative.”

There are so many good books on parenting available today, but Everyday Talk is one of the best. I highly recommend it.

Scripture to reflect upon: Proverbs 16:20-24

Listen to the workshop “Engaging the Hearts of Our Kids” here.

Print this entry

March 30, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Did the Atonement of Christ Provide for Physical Healing?

Did the Atonement of Christ Provide for Physical Healing?

First Peter 2:24 says of Jesus, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” This is one of at least five references or allusions the apostle makes in verses 2:22-25 to Isaiah 53, the classic Old Testament chapter predicting the suffering of the Savior. In that chapter, the emphasis of God’s prophet is on the substitutionary atonement of the coming Messiah for sin. Likewise, Peter’s use of Isaiah’s phrase “by whose stripes you were healed” is consistent. The context surrounding 1 Peter 2:24 is the healing for sin that is provided for by the work of the Sin-bearing Savior.

However, some mistakenly interpret this to refer to a promise for physical healing. Concerning the erroneous teaching that the blood of Christ guarantees the healing of illness, Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest writes the following in his Word Studies:

The Greek word translated “stripes” refers to a bloody wale trickling with blood that arises under a blow. The word is singular, not plural. Peter remembered the body of our Lord after the scourging, the flesh so dreadfully mangled that the disfigured form appeared in his eyes as one single bruise.

Thus we have the portrait of the suffering Servant of Jehovah, His blessed face so pummeled by the hard fists of the mob that it did not look like a human face anymore, His back lacerated by the Roman scourge so that it was one mass of open, raw, quivering flesh trickling with blood, His heart torn with anguish because of the bitter, caustic, malevolent words hurled at Him. On that bleeding, lacerated back was laid the Cross. Unsaved reader, this was all for you, just as if you were the only lost person in the universe. The Lord Jesus died for you, in your stead, took your place on the Cross, paid your penalty, so that God could offer a salvation from sin based upon a justice satisfied. Will you not right now appropriate the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior, trust Him to save you? And saint, does not all this make you love the Lord Jesus more, soften and make more tender your heart? Does not all this make you say, “I can see the blood drops, red ‘neath His thorny crown, from the cruel nail wounds, now they are falling down; Lord, when I would wander from thy love away, let me see those blood drops shed for me that day?” the blood of Christ heals our sin in that He by one offering put away sin forever. There is no room here for the healing of illness through the blood of Jesus. The Cross was a purely judicial matter. One goes to a hospital when one is ill, and to a law court to take care of legal matters. In the great law court of the universe, the Judge offers mercy on the basis of justice satisfied at the Cross. The matter of bodily illness is not mentioned in the context. Furthermore, the Greek word used here is not confined in its meaning to physical healing. In Luke 4:18 it refers to the alleviation of heartaches, and in Hebrews 12:13, to the rectifying of one’s conduct. In Matthew 13:15, it means, “to bring about (one’s) salvation.” This passage cannot therefore be made to teach the erroneous doctrine that healing of the body is to be found in the atonement as salvation from sin is found at the Cross. The context in which the word is found clearly decides the meaning of the word here, not that of the healing of the body, but that of the salvation of the soul.

Does God heal our physical diseases? Yes, when He chooses to do so, and sometimes miraculously. Other times; however, He employs illness for greater purposes (E.g. Paul’s thorn in the flesh). But is physical healing guaranteed by Christ’s atonement? No, that is never taught in the Scriptures. Instead, what is taught is that the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross was sufficient payment for our sins—spiritual healing which meets a need that is far more serious than relief from physical illness. Our Great Savior endured the wrath of God against sin in His body on the cross. Our hope for complete physical healing is not found in the Cross, but in the future bodily resurrection that awaits those who believe the gospel.

Print this entry

March 29, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 4 Qualities of Our Resurrection Body

4 Qualities of Our Resurrection Body

The resurrection of Jesus was the “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:20), that is, His was the first of more to come—ours. Meditating on this future promise strengthens us to face the physical maladies of this life with hope. When facing the reality of ongoing physical suffering, whether by disease or crippling disability, one of the distinct wellsprings of hope that believers in Jesus Christ have is the future resurrection of our bodies unto new life. Certainly this is part of “the glory that is to be revealed to us” that makes “the sufferings of this present time” not worthy of comparison (Romans 8:17-18). Perhaps being the father of children who have physical disabilities stirs me up to think more often about this truth, but it is really important for all of us to remember.

Believers can joyfully embrace bodily suffering since we have a completely different mindset than the unregenerate person who is void of the Spirit of God and, therefore, is without the inner resources necessary to respond in a God-centered manner. A Christian is an heir of God and fellow heir of Christ and, though he suffers with Jesus, his soul is confident of the day in which he will “also be glorified with Him.” This immovable, unquenchable hope fuels a response to suffering that dethrones self by exalting Christ and all the promises of God that, in Him, are “Amen” to us (2 Cor 1:20).

One very specific promise yet to be realized is the new physical body that will be given to each of us when we are glorified with Christ. The Apostle Paul describes this body in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Here we learn of four characteristics of our resurrection body, which will one day replace the body of death that our spirit now calls home.

  1. It will be imperishable. Our present body “is sown…perishable,” that is, continually subject to corruption and decay. But our resurrection body will be “an imperishable” one, no longer subject to disease, aging, or death. Of this, Wayne Grudem writes in his systematic theology: “The fact that our bodies will be ‘imperishable’ means that they will never grow old or ever be subject to any kind of sickness or disease.” They will be completely healthy and strong forever. Moreover, since the gradual process of aging is part of the process by which our bodies now are subject to ‘corruption,’ it is appropriate to think that our resurrection bodies will have no sign of aging, but will have the characteristics of youthful but mature manhood or womanhood forever…Our resurrection bodies will show the fulfillment of God’s perfect wisdom in creating us as human beings who are the pinnacle of his creation and the appropriate bearers of his likeness and image. In these resurrection bodies we will clearly see humanity as God intended it to be.” At the final resurrection the effects of sin will finally be no more. As sin naturally leads to death, and death results in decay, so the resurrection will instantly reverse this process forever.
  2. It will be glorious. Our present body “is sown in dishonor.” This is another way of saying it is common. But our future body will be “raised in glory.” It will be glorious. This seems to indicate that there will be a brightness of splendor about our resurrected bodies. In Daniel’s vision of the final resurrection, believers “shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). When speaking of believers after the final judgment, Jesus said, “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:43). When the disciples witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2). There will be something gloriously beautiful about our resurrection body.
  3. It will be powerful. Our present body “is sown in weakness;” it is without strength. It easily succumbs to suffering. In 2 Corinthians 13:4, the same word is used to refer to the physical sufferings of Jesus. But our future body will be “raised in power.” It will be filled with ability and might from God. Twice, Jesus visited the disciples at their particular gathering place, first on the evening of that first resurrection day and then again eight days later. On both occasions, without explaining how Jesus physically got into the room (For example, it does not say something like “He walked through the wall”), John makes it clear that He stood in their midst, while on both occasions “the doors were shut” (John 20:19, 26). No matter how He did this it seems His resurrected body no longer had the limitations of physical weakness.
  4. It will be spiritual. Our present body “is sown a natural body.” It is under the control of the flesh. But our future body will be “spiritual.” This is not spiritual in contrast with physical, for Jesus’s resurrected body was indeed physical. His wounds were visible and touchable (Luke 24:39). He walked, talked, and ate breakfast with His disciples (Luke 24:43). Likewise, our resurrected bodies will be physical, but instead of being under the influence of sinful flesh, they will be completely under the control of the Holy Spirit. In our resurrected bodies the command be controlled by the Holy Spirit will be a constant reality.

As we live in a fallen world, let us who truly know Christ keep a laser-beamed focus on the future hope of our resurrection, which was secured by Christ’s. This is one of the profound blessings that—in the regenerate and God-centered heart—grows from living with long-term disease and physical disability. Physical suffering is unique in its ability to pry our eyes off of the here-and-now and redirect them to the hereafter. And this is good.

Print this entry

March 26, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 4 Implications of being Risen with Christ

4 Implications of being Risen with Christ

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the well from which the fountain of new life springs. Those who are united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection possess this new living water in their innermost being (Jn 7:38). This is the reason believers have an internal longing, a craving, a powerful, and unquenchable desire to know God and pursue God.

If, however, you are not united to Christ in His resurrection then you do not possess this supernatural life within, but instead yours is a powerless substitute, a counterfeit “life,” which is really just glorified death. This is the reason you do not possess an internal drive for God, but must instead be nudged, dragged, or constantly motivated by others who want you to be follow Christ more than you want Him for yourself.

Such is the frustrated life of the man, or woman, who is trying so hard to live like a Christian without being a Christian. Such is the powerlessness of the one who is trying to live for Christ without possessing new life in Christ, who is “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim 3:5).

According to a report published in 2009, 77% of Americans believe Jesus rose from the dead. And yet the moral state of our nation and the church fails to coincide with this so-called belief. Instead, this survey result illustrates a frightening reality. People may believe the historical facts of the gospel without being saved by the gospel. A person may make a profession of faith in Christ, but in reality not possess Christ. A person may be “spiritual” without being spiritually alive.

Therefore, we need to think about what it really means to be saved—to be alive in Christ—which is a fruit of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In order to do so, let’s think about four implications of the resurrection.

  1. New life is only found in Jesus Christ. Like the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well (Jn 4), we must each individually meet Jesus there—at the well of living water—at the fountain of spiritual life. In short, we must be born again, which is only possible through the resurrection of Christ. Study 1 Peter 1:3-5.
  2. This new life is birthed by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Just as no person conceives himself, or herself, so he or she must be born from above—by God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit through the instrument of gospel preaching (Rom 10:17; James 1:18). But how does the Holy Spirit do this supernatural work within a person? Study John 3:1-21.
  3. Those who are born again are supernaturally empowered within to live in newness of life. The result of the Holy Spirit causing a sinner to be born again includes the implantation of Himself as the power for living the Christian life. This is not a power imposed from outside, but a never-ending supply of living water within the heart and soul. This internal power replaces the sinner’s outward pressures to conform to others and need to be motivated by others ultimately. Study Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:20-24. Can you say with the apostle, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20)?
  4. The final consummation of this newness of life is eternal life. Eternal life in Jesus Christ is not merely the gift that God grants to sinners after a lifetime of trying their hardest to please Him but falling short. It is the natural outcome of the sanctifying power of the new life planted within at the moment of true conversion. Study Romans 6:20-23.

Jesus Christ is risen! Are you risen? I do not ask if you have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Why? Because a profession of faith is not the most critical issue. But I will ask this: Do you possess Jesus Christ? And does He possess you? Is your version of “the Christian life” empowered from within, supernaturally? Or is your spirituality motivated externally by the rigorous disciplines of religion? Are you merely driven by personal performance, or pressure from others? Do you possess new life? Is there an unquenchable desire within you—separate from anyone else—to know God, to love God, to pursue God? Have you experienced a new beginning, a new birth, the inner transformation that supernaturally changes your “I wants” and your “I wills”?

Jesus Christ rose from the grave to give you new life. Do you possess this new life? If so, are you walking in it? If not, trust Him today. He will make all things new.

Print this entry

March 24, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Seven Words from the Cross

Seven Words from the Cross

While Jesus hung upon the cross of Calvary, He spoke seven times. Each time He spoke, He revealed an aspect of His divine/human character.

Words of Mercy (Luke 23:34) – The first words Jesus spoke from the cross were to His Father. He prayed for the forgiveness of His murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At the height of His agony, Jesus still thought first of others. He had mercy toward sinners. J.C. Ryle writes of how these words were probably spoken while our Lord was being nailed to the cross. He writes, “His own racking agony of body did not make Him forget others. The first of His seven sayings on the cross was a prayer for the souls of his murderers. His prophetical office He had just exhibited by a remarkable prediction. His kingly office He was about to exhibit soon by opening the door of paradise to the penitent thief. His priestly office He now exhibited by interceding for those who crucified Him.” Jesus did not threaten His enemies. He did not condemn them. He did not pronounce doom. But He prayed for them. He lived out His own teaching: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

Words of Grace (Luke 23:43) – “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” These words of grace were spoken to a hardened criminal. According to the Gospel of Matthew this man also joined the others in taunting the Savior (27:44). This repentant thief did not deserve God’s grace, but neither do you and I. Romans 5:6-8 makes this clear, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Words of Compassion (John 19:26-27) – Even in His time of greatest need, Jesus looked to the needs of others. In this case, it was the needs of His earthly mother. “Dear woman,” He said, as He commissioned the beloved disciple, John, to be her caregiver. Mary had a hard life as the mother of the Messiah. She endured the insults that He received, such as the time when the Pharisees called Him an illegitimate son (John 8:41). If they had called Jesus an illegitimate child, what had they called her? What was it like for her to watch her own son be murdered? Jesus knew her agony and, therefore, spoke words of compassion.

Words of Anguish (Matthew 27:45-46) – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, Jesus sacrificed His intimate fellowship with the Father, the fellowship He had previously enjoyed for all eternity. Martin Luther asked, “God forsaken by God. Who can comprehend it?” The abandonment Jesus experienced for those three hours of darkness reveal that the essence of hell is separation from God…for all eternity. Jesus experienced this separation so that those who come to Him by faith do not have to remain in a state of enmity, but can be reconciled to the Father (2 Cor. 5:17-21).

Words of Need (John 19:28-29) – The full humanity of Christ is demonstrated in His admission, “I am thirsty.” This had been prophesied in Psalm 22:14-15, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.” These words remind us that Jesus is the God-man, fully God and fully man. That is the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus could have fled from His suffering, but He did not. He faced it and He endured it. Because Jesus is fully man and has endured the ultimate suffering, Hebrews 4:15 says that we may now come to the throne of grace with boldness in our time of need.

Words of Victory (John 19:30) – “It is finished” was a shout of triumph! “Paid in full” is the literal translation of the word used here. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was the ransom payment for sinners, the full payment of our sin debt. This finished work of Christ concerning our sin is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Colossians: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (2:13-14).

Words of Trust (Luke 23:44-46) – “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit” were our Savior’s final words. Only hours before this, Jesus had pleaded with the Father for an alternate way to fulfill the plan of redemption, but there was none. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). The lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). The Son of God surrendered to the Father’s will. Why? Because of His great love for sinners like you and like me. When we are united with Christ by faith, His trust in the Father becomes our trust. And we commit ourselves into the Father’s hands.

Have you done this? Have you looked away from yourself to the Savior? Have you come to God with empty-handed faith, bringing only a sinner’s need for redemption? If not, today is the day to come to God through the gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood for you.

Print this entry

March 19, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Freedom from the Performance Treadmill

Freedom from the Performance Treadmill

In 1994, I was given Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. Immediately, I read the first few chapters and set it aside for no memorable reason (Providence had another plan to use it later). There it sat until 2006 when I sensed a particular working of the Spirit in my life bringing me to a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

I had been finding myself constantly frustrated and, at times, depressed. I thought of myself only as a constant failure who could never measure up to my perfectionist expectations and, therefore, did not feel fully accepted by God. Oh, I knew I was born again. There was no question in my mind about that. But I found it almost impossible to simply rest in my acceptance with God. So, He sent Jerry Bridges to me as a faithful counselor to help me see the cause of my frustration: I had shifted the basis of my acceptance with God from His grace alone to His grace plus my daily performance for Him. Jerry exposed my wrong thinking:

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance. (p. 1l, 12)

Can you relate? Even though you know in your head that your salvation was accomplished solely by the grace of God apart from your own works, do you sometimes wonder if God really accepts you? If you do not always “feel” accepted, it may be you have exchanged the security of your standing in Christ with the uncertainty of what Bridges calls “the performance treadmill” and, therefore, are not truly living by grace. Here’s how he describes it:

Living by grace instead of by works means you are free from the performance treadmill. It means God has already given you an “A” when you deserved an “F.” He has already given you a full day’s pay even though you may have worked for only one hour. It means you don’t have to perform certain spiritual disciplines to earn God’s approval. Jesus Christ has already done that for you. You are loved and accepted by God through the merit of Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus. (p. 73)

At the same time, through a Sunday School lesson, God directed me to meditate on Ephesians 1:6. The apostle’s point in the passage is that salvation is totally, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” The teacher then said, “God does not bless me according to my performance. Instead, I am already blessed in Christ.” I knew that! I’d probably even said something at least remotely like it at one time or another, but I needed to hear it said in exactly that way for it to sink in—another affirmation of the Spirit of God renewing my mind. Bridges said it this way:

To live by grace is to live solely by the merit of Jesus Christ. To live by grace is to base my entire relationship with God, including my acceptance and standing with Him, on my union with Christ. It is to recognize that in myself I bring nothing of worth to my relationship with God, because even my righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). Even my best works are stained with motives and imperfect performance. I never truly love God with all my heart, and I never truly love my neighbor with the degree or consistency with which I love myself. (p. 101)

Therefore, if we base our favor with God on our performance, we will never truly think we are accepted, because all our past and present performances are flawed by our sin and the stubbornness of our depravity, and there will always be another performance ahead—a performance we might just fail. Instead, we must meditate on key passages of Scripture that assure us of our standing in grace:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1, 2)

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6–8).

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:15, 16)

As we meditate on truths like these, our minds are renewed and freed from enslavement to performance. Focusing on the truth that our acceptance with God is purely because of His grace toward us in Christ will keep us humble and dependent on the Spirit of God. Bridges ends his chapter on, “The Performance Treadmill,” with an illustration of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9), in which he likens the lame man’s ever-helpless physical condition to our spiritual need of grace and makes this application: “Mephibosheth never got over his crippled condition. He never got to the place where he could leave the king’s table and make it on his own. And neither do we” (p. 24).

That is the key! We must never lose sight of our helpless condition and desperate need of grace. As we make progress in the Christian life, we must guard against the pride that too often grows from valuing our performance above His grace. True acceptance is based solely on God’s gracious work in Jesus. When we learn to rest in this truth, feelings of acceptance by God will follow.

Previous Jerry Bridges related posts

Print this entry

March 18, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Attitude Is Everything

Attitude Is Everything

What is godliness? Is it measured by conformity to a list of man-made rules and regulations? Does it consist primarily of prohibitions? These are questions that Jerry Bridges answered for me many years ago in his book The Practice of Godliness, the sequel to The Pursuit of Holiness. In his first book, the emphasis is on our responsibility to put off the sinful deeds of the flesh in the power of God. In the second book, the emphasis is upon the righteous character traits we are commanded to put on in place of what has been put off.

But it’s more than that; it is godly attitude in action. Commenting on Enoch’s epitaph, “He walked with God,” Bridges writes,

“Enoch walked with God; he enjoyed a relationship with God; and he pleased God. We could accurately say he was devoted to God. This is the meaning of godliness. The New Testament word for godliness, in its original meaning, conveys the idea of a personal attitude toward God that results in actions that are pleasing to God. This personal attitude toward God is what we call devotion to God. But it is always devotion in action. It is not just a warm, emotional feeling about God, the kind of feeling we may get while singing some grand old hymn of praise or some modern-day chorus of worship. Neither is devotion to God merely a time of private Bible reading and prayer, a practice we sometimes call ‘devotions.’ Although this practice is vitally important to a godly person, we must not think of it as defining devotion for us….Devotion is not an activity; it is an attitude toward God. This attitude is composed of three essential elements: the fear of God, the love of God, and the desire for God.”

It is the attitude of one’s heart toward God that ultimately determines whether he or she will live out practical righteousness. Practical righteousness is not the basis of a godly person’s relationship to God, but the overflow of it. In a nutshell, I like to say it this way: Practical righteousness is the Spirit-empower outworking of the positional righteousness that is ours by virtue of imputation and union with Christ. It is only when we are connected to the Vine—in union with Christ—that any of us can bear fruit that is pleasing to Him (John 15:1-4).

Therefore, as we seek to make progress in our pursuit of holiness, and the practice of godliness, let us always keep in mind that attitude is everything. Maintaining a humble attitude of submission to God will keep the pursuit of practical holiness from becoming “oppressive and legalistic.” Jerry Bridges’ book, The Practice of Godliness, has been instrumental in helping me understand this.

Print this entry

March 15, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Holiness Is Like Farming

Holiness Is Like Farming

Last week, when I posted a brief tribute to an unseen mentor, I mentioned that I would be posting more thoughts about how the writings of Jerry Bridges have impacted my thinking about the Christian life and practical theology. One major theme of Jerry’s ministry was holiness, hence the title of his first book The Pursuit of Holiness. But within the theme of holiness was also clear teaching concerning the cooperative relationship of the believer and the Spirit in this pursuit. This quote from the Pursuit of Holiness makes that clear:

A farmer plows his field, sows his seed, and fertilizes and cultivates—all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For the successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.

Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his responsibilities.

Farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer. The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.

We can say just as accurately that the pursuit of holiness is a joint venture between God and the Christian. No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life, but just as surely no one will attain it without effort on his own part. God has made it possible for us to walk in holiness. But He has given to us the responsibility of doing the walking; He does not do that for us.

Pursuing holiness is like farming; it is a joint venture, a cooperative effort, of the believer and the Holy Spirit. The focus on Jerry’s first book was mainly on our pursuit, while he developed the latter emphasis, divine empowerment, in two of his later books: Transforming Grace and Discipline of Grace.

Print this entry

March 12, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow

I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow

It was such a joy for five elders from our church to attend the Shepherds’ Conference this week in Sun Valley, California. We thank the Lord for John MacArthur and the other faithful ministers of the gospel who fed our souls from God’s Word. We also were blessed to sing praises to the Lord as a congregation of 3,000 men. One song that several of us commented on was originally written by John Newton and first published in 1779. We sang it to the tune O Waly, Waly.

If you know what it means to experience affliction of the soul then you will be ministered to by these lyrics, which remind us that the sovereign God who afflicts us is also the only One who ultimately can bring to us the comfort that promotes our spiritual growth. Meditate on these words, and sing it here).

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

This hymn is included in the new hymnal, Hymns of Grace.

Print this entry