Hearing the Music

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in Rest

Held Fast

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One of the gifts during the Thanksgiving holiday was a focused time to reflect on how thankful I am for those that are persevering in the face of particular difficulties of life.  I know that in one sense this describes all of us on our “pilgrim” journey, but many in the body of Christ, both at Christ Church and more broadly, are either bearing particular difficulties right now, or are walking with those in the throes of the fight.  

I am grateful for sustained faith.  I realize that sometimes it may seem weak to those in the midst of the trial and all faith is always hard fought. But it is a true testimony to the power of the Gospel and an encouragement to those observing from the outside. 

St. Augustine said many years ago commenting on the faith of the martyrs in a sermon entitled, On Reprimand and Grace

In fact, greater freedom is necessary against so many great temptations that did not exist in Paradise --  a freedom defended and fortified by the gift of perseverance, so that this world, with all its loves and terrors and errors, may be overcome. The martyrdom of the saints has taught us this. In the end, using free choice with no terrors and moreover against the command of the terrifying God, Adam did not stand fast in his great happiness, in his ready ability not to sin. The martyred saints, though, have stood fast in their faith, even though the world ... savagely attacked them -- in order that they not stand fast … where does this come from, if not by God's gift? 

We are no longer in paradise, and we know the “savage attacks” of this world … but praise God, His grace is sufficient. What a gift! And it truly is a gift. All of us walking through the fire, being acutely aware of our frailty, will readily attest to the giftedness of faith. But what a testimony to see God’s children held fast, even if by a thread, proving the Gospel is real.  So let me say thank you to all walking through the deep waters while keeping their eyes on Jesus.

Weak at Prayer

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According to the Scriptures, prayer makes the short list of difficult things to do for the Christian. Paul says in Rom 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Here Paul puts prayer in the category of weakness. While we know we should probably pray more often, my guess is that most of us don’t ordinarily think of prayer as something that is intrinsically hard. Often when it comes to prayer we put the blame on ourselves, I can’t focus, or I can’t find the right words. Surely these things are true, but they are not at the heart of what Paul says our problem is. 

What Paul makes clear is the reason prayer is so hard is that we don’t even know what to pray for! And this is so true. I look at my kids and I want to pray “good” things into their lives. But I don’t know what “good” is. Maybe in God’s economy they need to experience hardship. I pray for my single friends to find spouses, but is that the “good” God has in store? Does anyone know what to pray for our world, our president? I don’t know?

But the good news here is that though we do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Our Counselor takes the heart of what we desire for our kids, our friends, our world and translates our hearts to the heart of our Father. This is yet another plank that Paul is laying in this chapter that proclaims we are “more than conquerors through him who loves us.”

So cheer up! We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit does!


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

in Rest

A Reflection on Gospel Rest

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 "The Gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing which Christ himself has accomplished and always maintains for me. I never have to do a moments labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God. Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness and ministering God's amazing grace to others."  

- Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer, p. 20

From time to time, as part of my own personal worship, I turn to The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent. It contains a series of reflections on the beauties of the Gospel and its applications that are really life giving. For instance, the quote above contains a vista that is truly breathtaking. It is hard to comprehend that, redeemed by Christ, we never have to do a moment’s labor to gain or to maintain our justified status before God. By faith in Christ, each of us is fully justified right now. When Christ comes in all his glory we will not be more justified than we are today. If we turn our minds to all the saints that have lived throughout the ages, we realize that we are as fully justified in Christ as they ever were. Paul or Priscilla, David or Abigail, Peter or Phoebe: none of them were more justified than we are right now. We cannot add one iota to our justification, nor can we take away from it. Amazing!

And Vincent’s application is right on. Enjoy God. Pursue Holiness. Reflect the amazing, breathtaking grace of God to others. We do these things because of who we are in Christ. As I think about what this means for me, I pray that this reflection would start in my family. That my wife and kids would know the peace and joy of a man who knows he is justified. As I think about what this means for Christ Church as a whole, my hope is that others could see an easy freedom in each of us that comes from being secure in the Gospel. 


Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash