An Inside Job

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How about kicking off your week by praising God for doing an inside job on you?

“A true saint is altered in the inward frame of his soul. There is planted a spring of better thoughts, desires, and aims than in other men. He labours more for the inward frame of heart than for his outward carriage. What he is ashamed to do, he is also ashamed to think. Whatever he desires, he desires to do it with love in his heart. He labours that all good maybe truly found in the inward man. A hypocrite never cares for this. His care is for the outward parts only. If his outward behavior is acceptable to others, he has his desire.” — Richard Sibbes

Believers desire to serve God from the heart. We aren’t content to worship him outwardly while our hearts are far from him. We do our work wholeheartedly as to the Lord rather than to men. We don’t pray to be seen by others; we pray to him who sees in secret. We’re happy when we get the opportunity to serve or give for God’s eyes only.

We want to love others fervently, sincerely, from the heart.

We’re not happy to go through the motions of godliness. We desire that our only motive be God’s glory. We want to be cheerful givers. We desire to serve the Lord with gladness.  We don’t want human recognition but are content to wait to hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

What joy it brings us when our hearts are squeezed by circumstances and out of our hearts and lips flow praise and thanks to God.

And when we do things to be noticed by men, which happens often, we come running back to the King of our hearts and ask him to cleanse us anew with his blood.

The Flavor of Sovereign Grace

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(I’ll tell you how to win a copy of this book at the end of the post)

Every book has a flavor.

Some books leave you grateful to God for His mercy, or in awe of His majesty. Other books stir your heart to pursue holiness or share the gospel. Some books leave you burdened under a great weight of guilt.

Tullian Tchividjian’s new book, Surprised By Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Sovereign Grace, is richly flavored with God’s sovereign grace.

The book stares long and hard at the book of Jonah, and traces the lines of God’s sovereign grace that run through Jonah’s life.

Jonah was a great prophet, Ninevah was a wicked Assyrian city. God commanded Jonah to call Ninevah to repentance. Jonah wasn’t too excited about preaching to a pagan sin city, and decided to make a break for it.

God should have crushed Jonah for his blatant disobedience. God should have crushed Ninevah for its incredible wickedness. But God is full of surprising, sovereign grace, and he extended that grace to Jonah. It was God’s grace that caused a vicious storm to hunt down Jonah. It was God’s grace that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. It was God’s grace that Jonah cried out for mercy.  It was God’s grace that gave Jonah a second opportunity for obedience, and it was God’s grace that Ninevah, an evil, Gentile city, was given the opportunity to repent.

Grace is for self-righteous sinners like Jonah, and for foul cities like Ninevah. The book of Jonah is thoroughly flavored with grace.

This grace is a picture of the grace every sinner receives in the gospel of Christ.

Jesus is really God’s “great wind”, his “mighty tempest” in response to human running and rebellion. Jesus is the storm. Jesus is God’s gracious intervention for those who are enslaved to themselves. (pg. 52)

Grace is not an opportunity to try harder. It’s an opportunity to marvel at God’s greatness and our weakness.

When we realize that he’s God and we’re not – that he’s massive and we’re minute – that’s all it takes for us to become a part of great and powerful God-things. (pg. 101)

The great strength of this book is that it looks at grace from a fresh perspective. In our Christian ghettos, grace is a word that gets tossed around rather casually. I recommend Surprised by Grace to all those who feel that they’ve become overly familiar with grace. To those who need to be freshly surprised by grace.

You can purchase it on Amazon.

To win this book, leave a comment saying something along the lines of, “I would gladly sell all my possessions if I could own a copy of this book.” I’ll randomly pick a winner.

Look Past The Surface

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If God works all things together for our good, then we must learn to look past the surface to see the hand of God working behind the scenes. It’s called faith.

We will either believe our eyes and our own interpretation of events, or we will believe what God’s Word says about what is happening in our lives.

If we only believe what we see on the surface of our lives, we will conclude God is either cruel or unkind, like someone who sees a doctor cutting into a patient, and concludes that the doctor is cruel. In reality, the doctor is doing a c-section to deliver the woman’s baby – an occasion of incredible joy. So though on the surface it appears the doctor is being cruel, he is actually being kind to the patient.  In fact, if he didn’t do the surgery, he would be cruel to both mother and baby.

Our hearts are continually interpreting life as it happens to us. Mature believers bring biblical interpretations to the surface events of their lives, as Joseph did in Genesis. On the surface, he was a victim of his brothers’ evil intentions. But looking below the surface, he knew that he was the beneficiary of God’s good intentions.

“One property of a humble soul is this; it will quietly bear burdens, and patiently take blows and knocks, and make no noise. A humble soul sees God through all the actions of men. He looks through the secondary causes, and sees the hand of God. He looks through to the supreme cause.” — Thomas Brooks

This is the “good fight of faith” — to daily look past the surface of the events of our lives and interpret them according to Scripture. Even if we don’t understand why certain things are happening to us, with the eyes of faith we can see God’s hand behind them working all things for our good.

This is where Israel failed in the desert. In Deuteronomy 8 God tells Israel that he took them through the desert to humble them, to teach them to rely on his Word, and to teach them that God provides for and disciplines his children. Yet most of the time, Israel interpreted the surface events as “God brought us out here to kill us.” If only they could have looked past the surface with the eyes of faith.

What’s happening on the surface of your life? How will you interpret it? Through the lens of the natural mind? Or through the lens of faith?

photo by sadimfadhley

Spirituality vs. Jesus

Spirituality invites you to explore your inner self. Jesus invites you to explore his glory and forget yourself.

Spirituality invites you to find yourself. Jesus invites you to lose yourself.

Spirituality is a journey that ultimately results in you “saving” yourself. Following Jesus is a journey that begins when you stop trying to save yourself.

Spirituality leads to self-expression which results in self-fulfillment. Jesus calls you to die to yourself and find your fulfillment in him.

Spirituality begins when you resolve to “try harder”. Following Jesus begins when you give up.

Spirituality says you’re worth it. Jesus says that he’s worth it.

Spirituality allows you to take charge of your life. Jesus commands you to acknowledge him as King of your life.

Spiritual gurus dispense “wisdom”.

Jesus saves sinners.

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