Paul's Passing Thoughts

We Forgive the Way Our Father Forgives Who Doesn’t Want to Condemn Anyone

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 17, 2015

project-2016-logo-4God doesn’t choose His enemies, he seeks to be reconciled to them.”

We have a severe identity crisis among professing Christians. Who are we and what is our specific relationship to the Father? However, there is one thing we do know that explains why we know little: the Protestant waters we swim in culturally have always been about keeping ourselves saved—not living out our true heritage.

This is why Christians live by illogical truisms. If you pay close attention, discussion and sermons will often be little more than adages strung together to make sentences. The problem with that follows: this will not bring about the righteousness that God desires. The purpose of Christ’s assembly is to create a mature body that impacts the world.

The topic of forgiveness is by no means excluded from the institutional church’s incessant pooling of ignorance leading to decadence of every sort. While stating that we should forgive others “the way we have been forgiven,” something totally different is prescribed. Per the usual with other orthodoxy as well, selected Scripture verses make the case with contradictory verses being the elephants in the room. Moreover, contradictions are trumped by the assumed authority of Protestant academics. How dare thee bring up contradictions and thereby touch God’s anointed? Thou should know that your lack of understanding only makes these deep truths appear to be contradictions!

Here is the normally accepted orthodoxy: he who is without sin throw the first stone; so, if one doesn’t forgive others unconditionally, even without repentance, we are judging ourselves sinless and qualified to judge others. Forgiveness in the church must be the norm and without any conditions. When pressed with biblical contradictions, some will make a defense for “vertical and horizontal forgiveness.” The first being a “forgiveness in the heart,” and the second being “practical forgiveness” IF one repents. The latter is nice when it happens, sort of the icing on the cake, but the former is required lest God not forgive us of our own sin. Again, you can add this to a long list of things that Protestants do to keep themselves saved, ie., forgive under all circumstances or God will not forgive you of “present sin.” This is therefore added to the Protestant Means of Grace which is salvation on the installment plan. This is why this ministry receives vitriolic pushback on this subject, we are spearing one of the sacred Means of Grace.

Presumably, this idea of heart forgiveness comes from Matthew 18:35, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” The problem with this view is the context of Matthew 18 which makes this particular heart forgiveness contingent on repentance. If the offender repents, “you have gained a brother,” ONLY then are we obligated to extend forgiveness and forgive “your brother”… “from your heart.”

Additionally, according to orthodoxy, we forgive others unconditionally because if we don’t, our anger towards the person will turn to bitterness and result in self-destruction. Hence, another popular Protestant adage is, “We don’t forgive others for them, we forgive others for ourselves.” But what is the real framework for forgiveness according to the Bible? If we don’t forgive the other person because they refuse to repent, where do we go from there?

Answer A: We forgive the way God forgives, and it’s contingent upon repentance.

Answer B: If they don’t repent, we do what God does; we seek their repentance for their sake…and ours. We seek to “gain a brother.”

This is exactly what God does. Much could be discussed here about one’s view of God, but let it be said that blank check forgiveness comes from a certain view of God, namely, that it is not God’s will or desire that all people be saved. God does good to His enemies because He wants them to know that it is NOT His desire that they perish. His constant show of goodness towards mankind as set against judgment leads them to repentance. When a professing believer sins against another Christian and refuses to repent, they show themselves as unbelievers. They are now your enemy, and God’s enemy as well. Now listen, this is all based on objective facts, not orthodox opinion.

Herein, we are like God: we now seek the repentance of our enemies. We seek their reconciliation: “be reconciled to God.” This is what God does, and we are to be like Him in the world. God doesn’t choose His enemies, he seeks to be reconciled to them.

Let me pause here and make the case. Romans chapter one clarifies God’s pending wrath against all who defy righteousness. However, let’s also clarify the context of Romans chapters one and two. The mystery of the gospel, as defined by the New Testament, is the joining together of Jews and Gentiles into one body. Jewish attitudes and traditions were mucking that up. The Jews, as God’s chosen people, refused to forgive Gentiles, considered them to be their enemies and the enemies of God as well, and therefore promoted revenge against the Gentiles whenever possible. Jewish tradition promoted “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” The Jewish sages interpreted “neighbor” as someone in good standing with the Jewish community (Luke 10: 25-37). This made the Jews little better than violent sects often found in Islam. But, “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11).

As we will see, much of this hinges on God’s desire to see ALL people saved, and we should have this desire as well (see the historical account of Jonah). True biblical forgiveness hinges on the idea that God doesn’t predestine people for condemnation. This also answers the question of unresolved anger. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but the subjects of the kingdom of darkness that hell was prepared for. While we may be angry at those who have sinned against us, do we really want to see them suffer in hell for eternity because of what they did to us? In most cases NO, but in fact, they will if they don’t repent. This is not to say that they would go to hell simply for offenses against us, but a lifestyle of unrepentant sin is in view here. Therefore, it is our goal to “gain a brother.” The energy produced by righteous indignation is to be used in “gaining a brother.” This means we “overcome evil with good.” This is what God does, and this is what leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). God makes it rain and shine upon the just as well as the unjust, and we are to do the same in a manner of speaking. We hold them accountable because unrepentance puts their soul in peril, but we also treat them as we would want to be treated in that situation; we would want to be reminded that we are under judgment by God who does not wish to condemn us. Because God is love, we should be love.

In the final analysis, be angry and don’t sin. Revenge belongs to God, but He desires reconciliation over judgment. All in all, we should only have two kinds of people in our lives: brothers and those we are trying to gain as brothers. Some are our enemies, most aren’t. BUT, we gain them through repentance which comes through showing God’s desire for mercy. Therefore, we do good to them, we pray for them, we bless them, but true fellowship with the Father and the Son that we enjoy only comes through reconciliation and fruits that show repentance accordingly. Those who have truly repented will want to compensate IF possible, and those who have committed crimes against us will be willing to suffer the consequences. I vaguely remember the last words of a condemned criminal before the victim’s family who reportedly became a Christian while on death row. He said he hoped his execution and the fulfilled justice thereof would give the family some relief and closure to what he had done to them. In my book, that is indicative of true repentance.

Putting feet on forgiveness towards those who have repented is fairly simple, and again, the way God forgives. It is a promise to not bring the sin up to former offenders for purposes of condemnation. Likewise, this includes others, and ourselves. Like God, we “will remember their sin no more.” By practicing this, the initial decision to forgive based on repentance/reconciliation is solidified deeply in the heart. This is the true forgiveness in the heart.

Christians have a difficult time understanding true biblical forgiveness because the debate still rages about who God is and what He wants. If man is totally depraved and unable to respond to God’s call to sinners, moral equivalency demands blank check forgiveness. Who are we not to forgive? The only apparent reason that we are forgiven is because God chose us, and also chose His enemies. Who are we not to forgive others whether they repent or not? Whether they repent or not is God’s choice, not ours. After all, it’s God’s choice to have enemies.

But that’s not God. He desires mercy and not sacrifice. Therefore, worship by those who have circumvented reconciliation is a stench before God. In this case, those who chain the temple doors are commended by him.

And this may apply to those who demand forgiveness without reconciliation as well. Remember, by no means can the idea of reconciliation be divorced from repentance, and we dare not offer at the alter without it.

paul

The Power of Christian Living is Found in Family Relationship NOT a “Personal” Relationship

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 19, 2015

Slide 13One of the prevailing pithy truisms of churchianity is that “Christianity” is a “personal relationship” with none other than Jesus Christ. Of course, per the usual, because it sounds spiritual, no one thinks beyond the surface of the truism and questions what that means exactly. Be sure of this: the statement promotes a specific soteriology, worldview, and philosophy of life. If a string of memes replace the meat of Scripture, the latter is effectively replaced, and that is exactly what has happened in our day with the personal relationship with Jesus meme leading the way.

What’s really behind it and why has it sucked the life out of Christianity? First, it denies a biblical definition of the new birth. It replaces a literal family of God reality with ONE pseudo-relationship that is at best ambiguous. Proponents of the truism, when they care to add some sort of substantive mini-treatise to the meme, separate the reasoning of propositional truth expressed in words, even words from Jesus Himself, from this highfalutin “Christianity is a relationship [singular], not a religion.” The supposed antithesis in this case, “religion,” according to the logical conclusion, is propositional truth of some sort expressed in a common understanding of Bible sentences. This is the way it is sometimes expressed: “Jesus is a person, not a precept.” Supposedly, if one attempts to follow Jesus according to a reasonable interpretation of what He said as recorded in Scripture, we miss the point by appealing to reason. Instead, we need to seek a relationship with Jesus that is “more like falling in love” as expressed in two bestselling contemporary works by Jason Gray (a #1 song) and Francis Chan (the book, “Crazy Love.”).

Hence, if salvation is strictly experiential, like being “madly in love” with someone, it’s not works on our part and enables us to live out our “Christian” lives by faith alone, and apart from reason to boot. After all…“we [Christians] live [our Christian lives] by faith [alone] NOT by sight [ie., reason]” as the twisting of 2Corintians 5:7 is often applied. This mystical lovey-dovey Jesus is my boyfriend theology effectively separates professing Christians from a literal true-to-life family of God application via the new birth. It replaces a salvific family relationship with a singular relationship. The differences are ever-so subtle, but catastrophic. Rather than our identity being that of a literal child of God in a family setting, we are “Christ’s bride” whom He has married regardless of our shortcomings. Yes, we are supposedly lowly lovers married to a “friend of sinners” who “bring nothing to the marriage.”1 Yes indeed, the lowly lovers identity versus family children enables the redefinition of the new birth as some sort of ongoing exhilarating experience with our “lover.”2

But what is the new birth from a true biblical perspective? It is “the free gift”3 and “the promise.”4 Salvation is the receiving of the promised Spirit that was even a promise made to Christ Himself.5 Christ made the coming promise of the Spirit possible by dying for our sins and ending the law of sin and death. Prior to the coming of the promised Spirit, Jews and Gentiles were not baptized into one body, but at any rate, this baptism of the Holy Spirit makes a person a literal family member of God. This is a onetime personal event that is irreversible—you cannot unborn someone.

The aversion to biblical new birth finds its roots in Gnosticism which rejects the uniting together of holiness and the material. Even though Christians remain in mortal bodies, they are yet God’s righteous children. 1John ch.3 makes it clear that we are God’s literal offspring and His seed is within us. In contrast, the idea that our relationship is with one person who substitutes everything for us as opposed to a family relationship is the major consideration. Rather than Christ making the onetime baptism of the Spirit possible through His onetime death, He is made to be a salvific avatar that substitutes everything efficacious to salvation through faith in Him alone. This is a denial of the new birth and our true identity as God’s righteous children. Salvation is not a onetime spiritual birth, it is a process through the worship of one person who substitutes a life that we don’t actually possess. Worship is not family life, it is something that we do to keep our salvation by faith alone. Hence, the idea of faith alone actually becomes a work on our part as it evokes the substitutional work of Christ for Christian living. Obviously, therefore, the “Christian’s” true ability to love is circumvented.

When one desires to receive the promise—the free gift, the Holy Spirit falls on them and baptizes them into Christ’s death and resurrection.6 This is the literal new birth. This makes us righteous children of God in the literal sense per Romans ch.6. Why we are literally righteous is explained in Romans ch.7, and our fulfillment of the law to our Father’s pleasure is explained in Romans ch.8.

In other words, the substitution of Christ happened once to make the new birth possible, but the so-called “personal relationship” calls for a continued substitution that negates a literal family relationship which is given mere lip service. Along with the avatar approach, not to mention sub-avatars, is the institutional angle. Institutions go hand in hand with the idea of religious authority and hierarchy. This is where the Christianity brand is found impotent in both reproduction and functionality.

The early church met exclusively in private homes, why? Because they understood that they were a literal family. They also had “all things in common”7 What family builds a separate building and pays to maintain it for the purpose of Thanksgiving dinner and other family get-togethers? How much sense does that make? And how many families organize systems of commerce within the household? If a sibling in a household learns something new about living, does he write a book and sell it to his brothers and sisters? No, he shares it at the dinner table or other like family experiences.

A hierarchical corporate mentality and structure naturally subjugates a literal family system. The two function differently in almost every respect. This is the key to revival—a return to the apostolic assembly of Christ and its literal family construct and function. It is a multifaceted relationship with many, not ONE.

paul

1Paul David Tripp: How People Change, Punch Press 2006

2Francis Chan: Crazy Love

3Romans 5:15,16, 17 “the free gift” stated 5 times.

4Acts 2:39, Ephesians 2:12, Galatians 3; “promises” “the promise,” “by promise” 8 times.

5Galatians 3:16

6Acts 11:15

7Acts 2:44

The Reformed False Gospel of “As If”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 2, 2015

https://paulspassingthoughts.com/Gospel Sanctification is the original false gospel of the Reformation that presently dominates the institutional church. Basically, it is the gospel of New Calvinism. It is often expressed by the truism, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Most people assume this to be a biblical prescription for enhancing our sanctification, or a reminder to be thankful for our original salvation.

In reality, what is it? It is a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us in order to keep ourselves saved. It confines all obedience to repentance via focusing on our sin. This ongoing need for repentance unto salvation is satisfied by returning to the same gospel that saved us because as many proponents state it: “We never stop needing the gospel.” This is because “Christians” are said to have an ongoing need for salvation.

Dr. John Piper, the elder statesman of New Calvinism, states the position in no uncertain terms:

“We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers?… Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it.”  Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers.”

Obviously, if salvation is not a onetime finished work by God alone, and we have to do something to obtain continued salvation – in this case a return to the gospel for re-forgiveness of sins – that is a form of works salvation. It also denies the new birth which makes us new creatures that have “passed (past tense) from death to life.”

One aspect of this gospel is called “double imputation.” Each time we return to the same gospel that saves us, the perfect obedience of Christ is credited to our account. This is the idea that Christ came to die for our sins (Christ’s passive obedience), and also came to live a perfect life so that His obedience can be imputed to our lives each time we return to the gospel (Christ’s active obedience).

When proponents of Gospel Sanctification speak of the “obedience of faith,” what they mean to say is that Christians only EXPERIENCE the obedience of Christ imputed to us, and are not really performing the act directly. This leads many to believe that proponents are advocating direct obedience by the “believer,” but that is not the case at all.

Therefore, according to Gospel Sanctification, the “believer” is able to live a life of FAITH ALONE, or in other words, a like faith alone that saved him/her. This is nothing new. In his epistle to the Jewish Christians, James refuted a “faith without works.” In reality, FAITH WORKS through love (Galatians 5:6).

Of late there is a new truism roaming about that depicts this double imputation aspect of Gospel Sanctification: “On the cross Jesus was treated as if He lived our life so we could be treated as if we lived His life.” Notice that we are treated “as if” we live a godly life, but we really don’t. We are only experiencing the active obedience of Christ. If we are directly responsible for any act of obedience; that’s supposedly works salvation.

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The Potter’s House 6/28/2015: The Gospel of Excuses

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 1, 2015

Calvinism’s Denial of Scripture, the New Birth, and the Trinity

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on March 4, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published April 19, 2013

Part and parcel with being a cultist is the ability to communicate your false doctrine in a truthful sounding way. Martin Luther and John Calvin were perhaps the best there has ever been at that.

Volume one of The Truth About New Calvinism sought to primarily do one thing: document the contemporary history of New Calvinism and address some of its doctrinal quirks. New Calvinists claim to have rediscovered the authentic Reformation gospel; I didn’t address that question in volume one because much additional research was required to answer that question. Volume two answers that question, and the answer is “yes.” New Calvinists have the authentic Reformed doctrine down pat, and if not for them, we probably would have never known what the Reformers really believed. I believe John MacArthur has adopted New Calvinism because he was rightfully convinced by John Piper and others that this is what the Reformers believed. In other words, MacArthur’s enamoration with the Reformation motif has led him astray.

What makes Calvinism, the articulation of Lutheranism, so deceptive is the emphasis on two metaphysical realities and the interpretation of all reality through that dualism: our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Much can be written and agreed upon in regard to these two points. So, Sunday after Sunday we hear sermons based on these two biblical concepts only, and probably without much complaint and in many cases much praise.

But this isn’t the full counsel of God, and the overemphasis on these two points and the exclusion of all else eventually leads to the unenviable results. The apostle Paul equated teaching the fullness of God from house to house, night and day with not having the blood of men on his hands.

This brings us to the Emphasis hermeneutic. This is THE Reformation epistemology. This is their key to putting the Bible into use. Luther laid the framework in his Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustine Order and Calvin articulated it in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the first sentence of chapter one, Calvin introduces Luther’s dualism, and the rest of the Institutes flow from this concept. All of the Institutes build on the very first sentence that states wisdom is known by knowing us and knowing God more and more. For all practical purposes, the knowledge of good and evil. This is Luther’s Theology of the Cross in his disputation which was written six months after the 95 Theses. The latter was the moral protest; the former is the foundation of Reformation theology. Almost everything that the New Calvinists teach can be found in Luther’s Disputation including John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.

Luther believed that all reality was to be interpreted through the cross story. And by the way, as an aside, this is the first tenet of New Covenant Theology. Luther’s construct was strictly dualist: God’s story, or our story—the cross story or the glory story. A matter of emphasis. Certainly, Luther concurred that many things other than the cross story are TRUE, and to some extent VALUABLE for lesser concerns apart from the Christian faith, but in Luther’s view, any religious matter that distracted from the cross work of Christ diminished God’s glory and in most cases emphasized us instead; i.e., the glory story—our glory, not God’s.

The Emphasis hermeneutic is a Gnostic concept. This shouldn’t surprise us as Augustine’s penchant for Gnosticism is well known and Luther/Calvin were his mentorees. Calvin cites Augustine, on average, every 2.5 pages in the Institutes. Earthly things are a shadow of reality and the “true and the good.” Through education and knowledge one can obtain understanding of the true and the good. In Luther’s construct, Christ was the full representation of the true and the good. Christ is the true and the good; as New Calvinists state it, He is “THE gospel.” The gospel is the true and the good. He is the SUN (Son). The sun/shadows interpretive illustration is key to understanding this Gnostic/Platonist concept.

This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished. Let me repeat that, because it is the crux:

This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished.

The diminishing of sanctification: to the extent that we focus on anything else but Christ and the reason for the cross—our wickedness. The focus must be Christ’s crosswork. EVERYTHING points to Christ and interprets Christ. Anything that is true but doesn’t lead to more understanding of Christ casts a SHADOW on reality and wisdom. It is focusing on the shadow caused by whatever is blocking the Sun/Son. Anything that is not seen in a Chrsitocentric reality “ECLIPSES THE SON/SUN.”

Hence, seeing biblical commands in the Scripture as something we should see and do is the what? The glory story. It’s about “what we do, not what Christ has done”, a favorite New Calvinist truism. Therefore, biblical imperatives are to be seen in their “gospel context” as a standard that Christ kept for us and imputed to our sanctification. The cross story is then lifted up because it shows Christ’s holiness as set against our inability to uphold the law in sanctification.

To do otherwise is to “eclipse the Son.” Once you know how to look for this, you can see it everywhere in the American church. John MacArthur wrote the Forward to the Rick Holland book, “Uneclipsing the Son” in which this Gnostic paradigm is the very theses. In the Forward, MacArthur states in no uncertain terms that to emphasize “ANYTHING” or “ANYONE” other than Christ is to diminish sanctification. “Pastor”  Steve Lawson, in an address at the 2012 Resolved Conference implored young pastors to “come out from the shadows.” Pseudo biblical counselor Michael Emlet framed it as “CrossTalk” in his book that bears that same title. It is a cute play on words that frames any talk other than Christ’s crosswork as crosstalk, a technical communications term that refers to interference from multiple telephone lines transmitting over each other resulting in many jumbled conversations being heard.  In this case, shadows and confusion are the same.

Also, another way that this is framed is in regard to our fruits, or good works. By emphasizing anything we do, we are “making a good thing the best thing” or “making the fruit the root.” In other words, to emphasize fruit obscures the root that gives the tree life: Christ. We should focus on Christ only which results in “transformation.” But “transformation” isn’t personal transformation. If we are transformed, that is the what? Right, the glory story. Here, the Calvinistic lingo is very subtle; instead of us changing via the new creaturehood of the new birth, we are transformed “into the image of Christ.” We don’t change, we experience MANIFESTATIONS.

In the recent 2013 Shepherds’ Conference, MacArthur used John 3:3 to make a case that our good works are like “the wind blowing.” We feel its effects, we see its effects, but of course, we have no control over the wind. Like Luther, and according to authentic Reformed doctrine, MacArthur believes that these experiences of the wind are rebirths experienced by joy. That’s the Reformed definition of the new birth: a joyful experience of the wind accompanied by joy. This is why MacArthur made the absurd statement in the book “Slave” that obedience is never bittersweet, but always sweet. Right, apparently, Abraham was singing praises while on the way to drive a knife through his son.

This doctrine utterly dismisses any and all work, even by Christ, occurring inside the believer. “Faith” is in us, but according to Reformation doctrine, is not a work. Therefore, anything spoken of as being IN US, is actually, BY FAITH. Which is not a work. FAITH is therefore the conduit that makes ALL works taking place outside of us  possible. This is why the doctrine is referred to as “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Anything inside of us is subjective,  or shadowy, because it involves the glory story.

Moreover, the work that we see outside of us is also subjective because it deals with wind-like occurrences. And because we are a “reflector” of the image, it will be difficult to know whether the occurrences are through our “own efforts” or the wind. This is why Luther stated in his Disputation that Christians should not be concerned with works or their manifestations. Even when it is the wind and not us, we “see through a glass dimly” and the wind is using a “dull instrument.” New Calvinists call this, “the subjective power of an objective gospel.” We focus on the objective through gospel contemplationism, and leave the manifestations to Christ. This is why John MacArthur has stated that it is his job to explain the biblical text, and then leave the results to the Spirit.

But even in regard to the Holy Spirit and God the Father, they are seen as members of the Trinity that better define Christ. To do otherwise would be to “eclipse the Son.” Remember, MacArthur said, “anything” or “ANYBODY.” It means just that, and is indicative of a large body of Reformed thought.

This undermines and denies the full counsel of God, the new birth, and the Trinity.

paul

NOTES

Forward to Uneclipsing  the Son by John MacArthur:

As Christians we have one message to declare: “Jesus Christ, and Him  crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). “For we do not preach ourselves but  Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).

Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.

Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper  object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2). No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms: “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.

The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (emphasis added). We don’t “see” Christ literally and physically, of course (1 Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.

As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification  takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.

After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching. It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (1 John 3:2).

Our prayer is that of Paul: “that I may know Him!” (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to 1 Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich, sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure. Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the “full knowledge of the glory of God” provided by a fervent concentration “on the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Christian life is Christ—knowing Him in the height and breadth of His revelation, loving Him for the greatness of His grace, obeying Him for the blessing of His promises, worshipping Him for the majesty of His glory, and preaching Him for the honor of His Name: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

No greater subject exists than Jesus Christ—no greater gift can be given than uplifting His glory for another soul to see it and be changed by it. This book will be a wonderful help to anyone who senses the need to orient one’s life and message properly with a Christ-centered focus. It is full of fresh, practical, and memorable spiritual insight that will show you how to remove whatever obstacle is blocking your vision of the Son and allow His light to blind you with joy.

—John MacArthur

Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

April, 2011

John Piper: Don’t Waste Your Life (pp. 58-59).

The sunbeams of blessing in our lives are bright in and of themselves.  They also give light to the ground where we walk.  But there is a higher purpose for these blessings.  God means for us to do more than stand outside them and admire them for what they are.  Even more, he means for us to walk into them and see the sun from which they come.  If the beams are beautiful, the sun is even more beautiful. God’s aim is not that we merely admire his gifts, but, even more, his glory.

Now the point is that the glory of Christ, manifest especially in his death and resurrection, is the glory above and behind every blessing we enjoy.  He purchased everything that is good for us. His glory is where the quest of our affections must end.  Everything else is a pointer – a parable of this beauty.  When our hearts run back up along the beam of blessing to the source in the blazing glory of the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.

This is no different than the goal of magnifying the glory of God that we saw in Chapter 2. Christ is the glory of God.  His blood-soaked cross is the blazing center of that glory.  By it he bought for us every blessing – temporal an eternal.  And we don’t deserve any.  He bought them all.  Because of Christ’s cross, the wrath of God is taken away.  Because of his cross all guilt is removed, and sins are forgiven, and perfect righteousness is imputed to us, and the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ – the burning center of the glory of God.  And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life – the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.

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