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“There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand” by Charles Hodge

“‘I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

This is the great promise of the covenant with Abraham and with all the true Israel. It is one of the most comprehensive and frequently repeated promises of the Scriptures. (Gen. 17:8; Deut. 29:13; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10)

There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand.

The promise that the nations should be blessed in the seed of Abraham, as unfolded in the New Testament, is found to comprehend all the blessings of redemption.

So the promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people,’ contains more than it has ever entered into the heart of man to conceive.

How low are our conceptions of God! Of necessity our conceptions of what it is to have a God, and that God, Jehovah, must be entirely inadequate.

It is not only to have an infinite protector and benefactor, but an infinite portion; an infinite object of love and confidence; an infinite source of knowledge and holiness.

It is for God to be to us what He designed to be when He created us after His image, and filled us with His fulness.

His people, are those whom hHe recognizes as His peculiar property, the objects of His love, and the recipients of His favours.”

–Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1891), 170–171. Hodge is commenting on 2 Corinthians 6:16.

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“You see the ‘therefore'” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ (2 Cor. 7:1)

The drift of the argument is this,– if God dwells in us, let us make the house clean for so pure a God.

What! Indwelling Deity and unclean lusts? Indwelling Godhead, and yet a spirit defiled with evil thoughts? God forbid!

Let us cry aloud unto the Most High, that in this thing we may be cleansed, that the temple may be fit for the habitation of the Master.

What! Does God walk in us, and hold communion with us, and shall we let Belial come in? What concord can we have with Christ?

Shall we give ourselves up to be the servants of Mammon, when God has become our Friend, our Companion? It must not be!

Divine indwelling and divine communion both require from us personal holiness. Has the Lord entered into a covenant with us that we shall be His people?

Then does not this involve a call upon us to live like His people, as becometh godliness?

Favoured and privileged above other men to be a peculiar people, separated unto God’s own self, shall there be nothing peculiar about our lives?

Shall we not be zealous for good works?

Divinely adopted into the family of the Most High, and made heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, what need is there of further argument to constrain us to holiness?

You see the ‘therefore.’

It is just this, because we have attained to such choice and special privileges, ‘therefore’—for this reason, ‘let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.’

I remember hearing a man say that he had lived for six years without having sinned in either thought, or word, or deed.

I apprehend that he committed a sin then, if he never had done so before, in uttering such a proud, boastful speech.

No, no; I cannot believe that the flesh can be perfect, nor, consequently, that a man can be perfect in this flesh.

I cannot believe that we shall ever live to see people walking up and down in this world without sin.

But I can believe that it is our duty to be perfect, that the law of God means perfection, and that the law as it is in Christ—for there it is, you know,—is binding on the Christian.

It is not, as in the hands of Moses, armed with power to justify or to condemn him, for he is not under the law, but under grace; but it is binding upon him as it is in the hands of Christ.

The law, as it is in the hands of Christ, is just as glorious, just as perfect, just as complete, as when it was in the hands of Moses; Christ did not come to destroy the law, or to cast it down, but to establish it.

And therefore, notwithstanding every point where I fall short of perfection as a creature, I am complete in Christ Jesus. That which God requires of me is, that I should be perfect.

That I can understand; and the next thing I should know is, that for such perfection I ought to pray.

I should not like to pray for anything short of that. I should not like, at the prayer-meeting, to hear any of you say, “Lord, bring us half-way toward perfection.”

No, no, no; our prayer must be, “Lord, put away all sin; deliver me from it altogether.” And God would not teach you to pray for what He did not mean to give.

Your perfection is God’s design, for He has chosen you to be conformed to the image of His Son; and what is that? Surely the image of His Son is perfection.

There were no faults in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are to be made like Him; and as this is the work and design of grace, then perfection is the centre of the target at which God’s grace is always aiming.

All that He works in us is with this great ultimate end and aim, that He may sanctify us wholly,—spirit, soul, and body; and that He may release us from sin, and make us perfect even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Oh, when will it be? When will it be? Why, the very thought of it makes me feel as if I could sing, “Oh! happy hour, oh! blest abode, I shall be near and like my God.”

What a joy it will be to be just like Him, to have no more corruption of the flesh, and no more incitements to sin to destroy the soul’s delight and pleasure in her God!

May the Lord hasten on the day! ‘Perfecting holiness.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Our Position and Our Purpose,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 57 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1911), 57: 175–177.

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“The best argument to bring sinners to believe in Jesus is Jesus” by Charles Spurgeon

“I am meek and lowly in heart.” —Matthew 11:29

We have preached upon the whole of this passage several times before, therefore we do not intend to speak upon it in its full teaching, or enter upon its general run and connection, but we select for our meditation this one expression, which has greater deeps in it than we shall be able fully to explore;—“I am meek and lowly in heart.”

I have felt very grateful to God for the mercy of the past week, during which the ministers educated in our College have been gathered together as a devout convocation, and have enjoyed a flood-tide of the divine blessing.

Unusually great and special joy has filled my soul; and, therefore, I have asked myself, “What can I do to glorify the Lord my God who has been so gracious to me, and has so prospered the work committed to me and my brethren?”

The answer which my heart gave was this— “Endeavour to bring sinners to Jesus. Nothing is sweeter to Him than that, for He loves the sons of men.”

Then I said to myself, “But how can I bring sinners to Christ? What means will the Holy Spirit be likely to use for that purpose?”

And the answer came, “If you would preach sinners to Christ you must preach Christ to sinners, for nothing so attracts the hearts of men as Jesus himself.”

The best argument to bring sinners to believe in Jesus is Jesus.

Has he not himself said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me?” Then I said, “But what shall I preach concerning Jesus?”

And my soul replied, “Preach the loving heart of Jesus: go to the centre of the subject, and set forth His very soul, His inmost self, and then it may be that the heart of Jesus will draw the hearts of men.”

Now it is very remarkable that the only passage in the whole New Testament in which the heart of Jesus is distinctly mentioned is the one before us.

Of course there are passages in which his heart is intended, as for instance—when the soldier, with a spear, pierced his side; but this passage is unique as to the actual mentioning of the kardia or heart of Jesus by a distinct word.

There are several passages in the Old Testament which refer to our divine Lord, such as—“Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness;” and that notable one, in the twenty-second Psalm, “my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

But in the New Testament this is the only passage which speaks of the heart of Jesus Christ, and therefore we will weigh it with all the more care.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Heart of Jesus,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 19: 193–194.

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“Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship” by Scott Swain

“Just as the Spirit laid the foundation for the church in the writings of prophets and apostles, so He builds upon that foundation through, among other things, the reading of the saints.

The same Spirit who publishes God’s Word through inspiration and writing creates an understanding of God’s Word through illumination and interpretation (1 Cor. 2:14–16). The reading of Holy Scripture is a creaturely activity that corresponds to, and is also sustained and governed by, the Spirit’s work of regeneration and renewal.

The Christian life begins with regeneration (John 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:5; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23–25). When the Spirit brings the gospel effectually to bear upon the sinner’s heart, He breaks our relation to the Old Man and creates a relation to the New Man (Rom. 6:1–7; Gal. 5:24).

In so doing, He also implants a new principle of life (1 John 3:9). This new principle of life enables a new vision. Apart from this new vision, the gospel of Jesus Christ—and therefore the ultimate meaning of Scripture—remains hidden from us (2 Cor. 3:14–18).

However, being born again, we are enabled to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This new principle of life not only enables new vision, it also issues forth in new desires, new thirsts, and new hungers.

Chief among these is a longing for the word of truth (see 1 Pet. 1:22–2:3). God’s word is “sweeter than honey” to the regenerate taste (Ps. 19:10; 119:103).

The awakening of spiritual organs of perception and taste is essential to a profitable reading of Scripture.

“He who is deaf must first be healed from his deafness in order to be placed in true touch with the world of sounds. When this contact has been restored, the study of music can again be begun by him.” (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 580).

This goes for biblical interpretation as well. The point is not that the “natural man” is unable to understand anything that Scripture says.

The point instead is that a profitable reading of Holy Scripture, one that receives Scripture’s words as the words of God, that ponders Scripture’s words as a way of pondering God, and that reveres Scripture’s words as a way of revering God, this sort of reading is only possible where the Spirit has caused the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened (Eph. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship.

The Christian life begins with regeneration and continues along the path of renewal (Rom. 12:1–2; Eph. 4:21–24; Col. 3:10; 2 Pet. 3:18).

Because the regenerate life begins as the Spirit breaks our natural bond to the Old Man and forms a spiritual bond to the New Man, the growth and renewal of this life unfolds as a battle between the remaining impulses of our fallen human nature and the new reign of Christ through the Spirit.

“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). In this battle, we are summoned to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit’s power and to put on the New Man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:13; Eph. 4:22–24).

In this battle, we are commanded not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed, and this by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

God renews and restores the whole man in sanctification, including the mind (cf. Rom. 12:2). The mind darkened by sin (Eph. 4:17–18) is made alive with Christ (Eph. 4:20–24).

The Spirit who searches the depths of God, and who sheds abroad the knowledge of God, gives us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

By the “unified saving action and presence of Word and Spirit, reason’s vocation is retrieved from the ruins: its sterile attempt at self-destruction is set aside; its dynamism is annexed to God’s self-manifesting presence; it regains its function in the ordered friendship between God and human creatures.” (Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 742–43)

Within the context of this “ordered friendship between God and human creatures,” reason plays what is first and foremost a receptive role. Reason is not the fountain of saving wisdom.

As Benedict Pictet states: “reason cannot and ought not to bring forth any mysteries, as it were, out of its own storehouse; for this is the prerogative of scripture only.” Instead, reason is an organ for receiving saving wisdom.

Reason, regenerated and renewed, understands “the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). However, in this receptive activity, reason is not wholly passive.

God’s word “evokes the works of reason”: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s living Word animates and answers the humble, suppliant work of reason.

Because God’s word unfolds itself in writing, one of the principal ways in which renewed reason fulfills its calling is through reading.”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 96–98.

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“The blood of the Son of God” by Stephen Charnock

“The sin of a creature could never be so filthy as the blood of the Son of God was holy.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse on the Acceptableness of Christ’s Death,” The Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1865/2010), 4: 558.

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“Beautifully good news” by Dustin Benge

“Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Rome makes it quite apparent that the entire epistle’s theme is the good news of “the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1).

Bracketing Romans is the apostle’s reminder to his readers that he was called to be “set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) and a”minister of Christ Jesus… in the priestly service of the gospel of God” (Rom. 15:16).

This good news of the gospel is

  • “the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 16:16),
  • “good news… of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12),
  • “good news of peace” (Acts 10:36),
  • “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24),
  • “the gospel of his Son” (Rom. 1:9),
  • “the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13),
  • “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11).

Surrounded by bad news at every turn, the church has been entrusted with good news, the good news of the gospel, which finds its foundation in God himself.

The gospel is not an earthly message but a heavenly message. Paul says that this is the “gospel of God‘ (Rom. 1:1).

The gospel is about God– His holiness, love, grace, wrath, and righteousness. But Paul’s main emphasis here is that the gospel is from God.

He is the single author and architect of the gospel. The gospel doesn’t originate in the church.

The church doesn’t devise the gospel. The church hasn’t crafted the gospel.

The gospel is a message given to the bride of Christ announcing his mediatorial triumph over sin, death, and the world.

The word translated “gospel” is a compound in Greek, euangelion. The prefix eu means “good.” The primary root word angelion means “messenger” or “message.”

When those two words are placed together, the word gospel simply means “good news.”

The gospel is the good news of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is the message that sinners can be rescued from God’s wrath against sin through the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ upon the cross and his triumphant resurrection from the dead.

This isn’t only good news; it’s beautifully good news. We will never hear anything more surpassingly beautiful than the truth that Jesus Christ is a willing liberator and Savior of sinners.

What specifically is the message of God’s beautiful gospel?

God sent His Son, the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, to rescue sinners.

He was born of a virgin and lived a sinlessly perfect and obedient life under the law.

He was crucified on a cross as a substitute to pay the penalty of God’s wrath against the sins of all those who would ever believe.

In His body, He bore on that tree the punishment due to sinners, and His perfect righteousness was imputed to them, making them acceptable in the sight of God.

He was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day rose from the dead.

He ascended back to the authority and power of the right hand of his Father to intercede for all believers.

Now, everyone who by faith “calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Rom. 10:13).

No church has the freedom to tamper with, tweak, add to, or subtract from the good news of Jesus Christ– we are just to herald it.

For there is nothing more beautiful and lovely in the sight of God than the extricating of sinners from the kingdom of darkness and delivering them to the kingdom of light.”

–Dustin Benge, The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 122-124.

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“The central fact of the entire history of the world” by Herman Bavinck

“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.

Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.

Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.

The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.

The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.

The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.

Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.

The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.

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“Keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds” by C.S. Lewis

“Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.

And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet.

A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light.

Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said.

Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point.

In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed ‘at’ some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance.

The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (‘mere Christianity’ as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.

Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.

If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.

We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it.

Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny.

They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.

We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, ‘But how could they have thought that?’—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books.

Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill.

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.

They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.

Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.

To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.”

–C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” God in the Dock: Essays on God and Ethics, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: Harper, 1970), 201-202.

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“The gospel affects all of life” by Sam Storms

“The gospel influences virtually all our relationships and responsibilities in life and ministry. Let’s slow down a bit and unpack these in more detail.

Our approach to suffering—that is, how to suffer unjustly without growing bitter and resentful—is tied directly to the way Christ suffered for us and did so without reviling those who reviled Him: “when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23; cf. 2:18–25; 3:17–18).

Or take humility as another example. The basis for Paul’s appeal that we “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than” ourselves is the self-sacrifice of God the Son in becoming a human and submitting to death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:1–5 in relation to Phil. 2:6–11). And as husbands, we are to love our wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25, 26–33).

Why should we be generous and sacrificial with our money? Because, says Paul, “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. 9:13).

Likewise, we are to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave” us (Eph. 4:32; cf. Col. 3:13). We are to “walk in love” toward each other, says Paul, “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1–2). We are to serve one another in humility as Christ served his disciples by washing their feet and eventually suffering in their stead (John 13:1–20).

The freedom we have in Christ, says Paul in Romans 14, is to be controlled in its exercise by the recognition that the weaker brother who might be damaged by our behavior is one for whom Christ died. Paul encourages us to pray for all based on the fact that Christ “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:1–7).

If that were not enough, countless passages in the New Testament direct us back to the reality of the gospel and what Christ has done for us through it as the primary way to combat those false beliefs and feelings that hinder our spiritual growth.

So, for example,

When you don’t feel loved by others, meditate on Romans 5:5–11 and 8:35–39.
When you don’t have a sense of any personal value, read Matthew 10:29–31 and 1 John 3:1–3.
When you struggle to find meaning in life, study Ephesians 1:4–14 and Romans 11:33–36.
When you don’t feel useful, consider 1 Corinthians 12:7–27 and 15:58.
When you feel unjustly criticized, rest in the truth of Romans 8:33–34.
When you feel excluded by others, rejoice in Hebrews 13:5–6.
When you feel you have no good works, let Ephesians 2:8–10 have its effect.
When you are constantly asking, “Who am I?” take courage in 1 Peter 2:9–10.
When you live in fear that other people have the power to destroy or undermine who you are, be strengthened by Romans 8:31–34 and Hebrews 13:5–6.
When you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, take comfort from 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:1–16.
When Satan accuses you of being a constant failure, remind him and yourself of 1 Corinthians 1:30–31.
When Satan tells you that you are an embarrassment to the church, quote Ephesians 3:10.
When you find yourself bitter towards the church and indifferent regarding its ministries, reflect on Acts 20:28.
When you find yourself shamed into silence when confronted by non-Christians, be encouraged with 2 Timothy 1:8–12.
When you find yourself experiencing prejudice against those of another race or culture, memorize and act upon the truth of Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14–16; Ephesians 2:11–22; and Revelation 5.
When you struggle with pride and boasting in your own achievements, be humbled by Romans 3:27–28 and 1 Corinthians 1:18–31.
When you feel despair and hopelessness, let Romans 5:1–10 restore your confidence.
When you feel defeated by sin and hopeless ever to change, delight yourself in Romans 7:24–25.
When you feel condemned by God for your multiple, repeated failures, speak aloud the words of Romans 8:1.
When you lack power to resist conforming to the world, consider Romans 12:1–2 and Galatians 6:14.
When you feel weak and powerless, be energized by Romans 16:25.
When you are tempted sexually, never forget 1 Corinthians 6:18–20.

And again, when you find yourself saying,

“I’m not having any impact in life or on others,” be uplifted by 2 Corinthians 12:9–10.
“I feel guilty and filled with shame all the time for my sins,” be reminded of Ephesians 1:7.
“I live in constant fear,” be encouraged by Luke 12:32 and Revelation 2:9–11.
“I struggle with anxiety and worry about everything,” don’t neglect the truth of Matthew 6:25–34; Philippians 4:6–7; and 1 Peter 5:6–7.
“I am defined and controlled by my past,” look to 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“I live in fear that God will abandon me,” consider his promise in Romans 8:35–38.
“I can’t break free of my sins and bad habits,” linger long with Romans 6:6, 14.
“I’m afraid to pray and fear that God will mock my petitions,” take heart from Hebrews 4:14–16.
“I carry grudges against those who’ve wronged me and live in bitterness towards them,” reflect and meditate on Colossians 3:12–13.
“I can’t find strength to serve others, fearing that I’ll be taken advantage of by them,” let Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5–11 have their way in your life.
“I’m a spiritual orphan and belong to no one,” rejoice in Galatians 4:4–7.

Each of these texts refers to the gospel of what God has done for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and each text applies that gospel truth to the particular problem noted.

These, then, are just a handful of the ways that the gospel affects all of life, all of ministry, and everything we seek to be and do and accomplish as Christians and as local churches.”

–Sam Storms, A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 184-188.

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“He has removed your sin as far as the east is from the west” by Sam Storms

“I’m not a scientist. Oh, how I wish I were! I simply don’t have the brain for it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to understand science. The one area of science that has long fascinated me is astronomy.

The sheer magnitude of the universe has always captivated my attention and fueled my imagination. This fixation on the heavens and all they contain was stimulated greatly by the creation of the Hubble Telescope.

What you are about to read is no abstraction that bears no influence on your life. It is far more than mere statistics that account for the size of the universe. I can say that with confidence because of what the psalmist wrote:

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10–12)

As you’ve seen from the subtitle of this book, our focus is on not only the dozen things God has done with our sin, but also three things He never will do. Two of them are mentioned here.

God does not and never will deal with us according to our sins. God does not and never will repay us according to our iniquities. We’ll address both of these wonderful truths later on. But here, I want us to focus on the removal of our transgressions from us as far as the east is the from west.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t say something about the intervening sentence. David rejoices in the fact that God’s steadfast love toward those who fear Him can be measured only by the height of the heavens above the earth. David was not an astronomer. He had no grasp of the unimaginable magnitude of the height to which he refers. But we do today.

A good illustration to help us fathom the unfathomable is the light-year. A light-year is how far light travels in 1 calendar year. If you have a big calculator, you can figure it out for yourself. Multiply 186,000 times 60, and you have a light-minute. Multiply that figure by 60, and you have a light-hour.

Multiply that figure by 24, and you have a light-day, and that by 365, and you have a light-year. So, if light moves at 186,000 miles per second, it can travel 6 trillion miles (6,000,000,000,000) in a 365-day period. That’s the equivalent of about 12,000,000 round trips to the moon.

Let’s assume we are speeding in our jet airplane at 500 miles per hour on a trip to the moon. If we traveled nonstop, 24 hours a day, it would take us just shy of 3 weeks to arrive at our destination. If we wanted to visit our sun, a mere 93 million miles from Earth, it would take us a bit more than 21 years to get there.

And if we wanted to reach Pluto, the (dwarf) planet farthest away in our solar system, our nonstop trip would last slightly longer than 900 years! Of course, we’d all be dead by then, but I trust you get the point.

Now, try to get your mind around this: The Hubble Telescope has given us breathtaking pictures of a galaxy some 13 billion light-years from Earth. Yes, 13 billion light-years! Remember, a light-year is 6,000,000,000,000 (6 trillion) miles. That would put this galaxy at 78,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles from Earth!

In case you were wondering, we count from million, to billion, to trillion, to quadrillion, to quintillion, to sextillion. So, this galaxy is 78 sextillion miles from earth.

I can barely handle driving for more than 3 or 4 hours at 65 miles per hour before I need to stop and do something, either eat at McDonald’s or, well, you know. The thought of traveling at 500 miles per hour nonstop, literally 60 minutes of every hour, 24 hours in every day, 7 days in every week, 52 weeks in every year, with not a moment’s pause or delay, for—are you prepared for this?—20,000,000,000,000,000 years.

That’s 20 quadrillion years! And that would get us just to the farthest point that our best telescopes have yet been able to detect. This would be the mere fringe of what lies beyond.

Pause for a moment and let this sink in.

Are you beginning to get a feel for what it means to know that God’s love for you, that love that took unimaginable steps to remove the guilt of your sin, is greater than the distance between the heavens and the earth? Take as much time as you need.

If there is a clear sky tonight, go outside and gaze into the expanse above. Pick a star, any star. It seems fairly close. Want to visit? Surely it couldn’t take that long to get there. It almost seems you can extend your hand and touch it.

Well, not quite.

The nearest star to us is a system of three called Alpha Centauri. The closest of those is Proxima Centauri, a mere 4.3 light-years from Earth.

If we were bored with Pluto and wanted to extend our journey, speeding along nonstop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, we would land on the closest star to Earth in a mere 6 million years! That’s 500 miles per hour for 6,000,000 years.

Beginning to get the picture? It’s a very small illustration of how high the heavens are above the earth.

Let’s speed up our travel a bit. Suppose our airplane was fast enough to go from Earth to the sun in only 1 hour. That’s traveling at 93 million miles per hour. Imagine what that would do to the radar gun of your local police department!

Traveling nonstop at 93 million miles per hour, it would still take us over 78 years to reach 61 Cygni, a star in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), roughly 10.9 light-years from Earth.

If you aren’t satisfied with visiting a single star, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the next galaxy in our cosmic neighborhood. The Andromeda Galaxy is a giant spiral, almost a twin of our own Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers have determined that there’s probably a black hole at its center 1 million times the mass of our sun.

Although Andromeda is closest to us it’s still a staggering 2.5 million light-years away (a mere 15 quintillion miles, or 15 followed by 18 zeros). On dark nights in the fall, it’s barely visible to the naked eye as a small misty patch of light. Some are frightened to hear that it’s moving toward us at 75 miles per second.

No need to panic or rush to build a bomb shelter. At that pace, given its distance from earth, it might reach our Milky Way in about 6 billion years! Some say it will take only 3 billion years, so perhaps you should begin working on that bomb shelter after all!

In case you’re wondering—on the assumption that your brain is still able to calculate the seemingly incalculable—our trip to Andromeda would last a paltry 4.2 trillion years (that’s 4, 200,000,000,000 years).

Here’s one more for you to ponder: Shrink the earth to the size of a grapefruit. Pause for a moment and let the scale sink in. On this basis, the moon would be a ping-pong ball about 12 feet away. The sun would be a sphere as big as a 4-story building a mile away. Pluto would be an invisible marble 37 miles away.

Now, put our entire solar system into that grapefruit. The nearest star would be over half a mile away. The Milky Way would span 12,000 miles! Now reduce the entire Milky Way to a grapefruit! The nearest galaxy to us, Andromeda, would be at a distance of 10 feet. The Virgo cluster would be a football field away.

Those calculations are the best I can do to explain how high the heavens are from the earth, all in order to illustrate how “great” God’s steadfast love is for you. Incalculable love. Immeasurable love. Indecipherable love.

King David’s point is that the distance between Earth and this distant galaxy, a mere 78 sextillion miles, is a pathetically small comparison to the likelihood that you will ever be dealt with according to your sins or repaid for your iniquities!

If you were ever inclined to pursue your transgressions so that you might place yourself beneath their condemning power, 78,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles is an infinitesimally small fraction of the distance you must travel to find them!

One of the reasons we struggle to enjoy all that God is for us in Jesus is that we live under the influence of a lie. The lie is that our lifetime of sins, which often feels incalculable, is very close at hand, nearer to us than we feared.

But David’s assurance is that God has removed our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west.” By “remove,” he means that God has taken steps to eliminate any possibility that our sins and acts of idolatry and immorality could ever be used against us to justify our condemnation.

And just how far is the east from the west?

Once again, we should remember that David is not speaking as a scientist. He’s not giving us precise mathematical or astronomical calculations.

He’s trying to describe, as best he can, the utter impossibility that the penal consequences of our sins will ever return upon us. I’m quite sure that the way I will now explain David’s language would be challenged by modern astronomers. But bear with me.

If I were to venture due east from my home in Edmond, Oklahoma, unhindered, undeterred, and in an immovable and unbending straight line, I would soon pass through the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean into parts unknown.

If my wife were to do the same going west, we would never again lay eyes on each other. She would travel through northern New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California before passing above the Pacific Ocean. Neither of us would ever reach the end of our journey.

Don’t think of this as two individuals traversing our globe, as if one launched out going east and the other going west, only to encircle the globe and finally bump into each other halfway around the world. David wasn’t thinking in those terms.

His point is that God takes the guilt of our sins and propels them eastward, and takes you and me personally and sends us westward, each on a perfectly straight line.

When and where will the two ever meet up? Never, of course.

And those are the chances, if you will, the odds, that you and I will ever encounter our sins or their power to condemn.

I’ve often wondered why the Spirit of God stirred the hearts of the biblical authors to make use of such extravagant and mind-bending images and illustrations. But I now think I know why.

We—or perhaps I should speak only for myself. I am a hardheaded, slow-witted doofus who lacks the capacity to believe anything so wonderful as this.

Were God to have written in the psalm that He loves us and has taken our sin away, that would, of course, have been enough for some people to fathom. When certain folk hear of the love of God, their response is something along the lines of: “Well, of course He loves me! I’m a lovable person! There’s nothing so surprising about all that.”

But for most of us, knowing ourselves as we do, it takes more than a simple affirmation of divine love for sinners to awaken us to the sheer magnitude of what God has done for us. It takes a comparison of the height of God’s love with the height of the heavens above to drive home the point.

It takes asking me to conceive of the inconceivable distance between east and west to open my eyes to this truth.

I do not easily acknowledge God’s love for me. If I were put in his place, I would never love me!

God knows this, and has thus taken these elaborate verbal steps and the use of seemingly outlandish illustrations to overcome my resistance to the reality of his love.

I hope and pray that it is beginning to sink into your soul as well.”

–Sam Storms, A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 97-103.

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