Life Purpose

Every Christian’s life-purpose must be to glorify God. This is the believer’s official calling. Everything we say and do, all our obedience to God’s commands, all our relationships with others, all the use we make of the gifts, talents, and opportunities that God gives us, all our enduring of adverse situations and human hostility, must be so managed as to give God honor and praise for His goodness to those on whom He sets His love (1 Cor. 10:31; cf. Matt. 5:16; Eph. 3:10; Col. 3:17). Equally important is the truth that every Christian’s full-time employment must be to please God. . . . Pleasing God in everything must be our goal (2 Cor. 5:9; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4; 4:1).

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, 185

The Spirit in Us

Believers call upon God in prayer as ‘Abba! Father!’ because the Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into their hearts (Gal. 4:6).  Believers bear ‘fruit’ because the eschatological age has dawned and the Spirit has been poured out upon them (Isa. 32:15; Gal. 5:22-23).  Even the suffering of believers at the hand of the world signifies that ‘the Spirit of glory and of God rests’ upon them (1 Pet. 4:14).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

Private Worship

Public worship, you see, is impossible except against a background of private worship. And in so many ways, the quality of our worship when we are together will be a reflection of the quality of our worship when we are alone.

And so often the secret of failure in public worship is failure in secret, in our faithful attendance on the private means of grace, because the public ministry of the Word, vital as it is, is never a substitute for the private reading of it. Public waiting upon God to gather us as people, which is the place . . . where God is pleased to manifest Himself, is never a substitute for private waiting upon God in the secret of our own soul.

And if you do not regularly bow before God in private worship and adoration, you will find it a strange thing to do so with other people on the Lord’s day. It is as simple as that. This is why, in the general sense and the broad term, faithful attendance on the private means of grace is of the very essence of preparing ourselves for worship.

—Eric Alexander, sermon #5 on John 4 (https://www.ericalexander.co.uk/sermons/acceptableworship.php)

Luther’s Testimony in Song

(can be sung to the tune of MIT FREUDEN ZART, “Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”):

1 Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God has done,
How His right arm the vict’ry won,
What price our ransom cost Him!

2 Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay;
Death brooded darkly o’er me.
Sin was my torment night and day;
In sin my mother bore me.
But daily deeper still I fell;
My life became a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

3 My own good works all came to naught,
No grace or merit gaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left only death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

4 But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me a father’s heart;
He did not choose the easy part
But gave His dearest treasure.

5 God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.”

6 The Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal pow’r disguised He bore;
A servant’s form, like mine, He wore
To lead the devil captive.

7 To me He said: “Stay close to Me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I Myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours, and you are Mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.

8 “Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict’ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin,
And you are blest forever.

9 “Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heav’nly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

10 “What I on earth have done and taught
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.”

Psalms for Life

We walk through these one hundred and fifty poems, Christ’s own prayer book, in the hope that we will perceive the shape of faithful prayer, faithful witness, faithful living, faithful friendship, and faithful work. We walk this way, ultimately, with Jesus, for whom these psalms are His heart song.

—W. David O. Taylor, Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Kindle Locatiom 2499

 

Worldliness

Worldliness is whatever any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness to be strange.  When we imbibe the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) of worldliness, then we feel strange trying to think Christianly and to act according to the Bible’s mandates.  That is, when we think the world’s thoughts after it and do not think God’s thoughts after Him, we will not be motivated to do the things that God wants us to do, but we will only feel comfortable acting in a manner that fits into the world’s way of doing things.  This is why Christians who cease going to church begin to feel more and more comfortable in the world and less and less comfortable in the church.  For the same reason, this is why regular attendance at church is so important.  At church we worship by hearing God’s Word, praising God, praying, partaking of the Lord’s Supper and fellowshipping, all of which encourages believers and convinces them that they indeed are the ones who are normal and that the world is strange before God’s eyes.  Believers need to encourage one another that, from the biblical perspective, it is normal for God’s people to reflect Christ and his behavior and not the world’s.

—Gregory K. Beale,We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, 300

Your Big Story

Dear Jesus, . . show me where my story fits inside your big Story. Help me to feel your care as the Good Shepherd, your nourishment as the Bread, your comfort as the Light, your welcome as the Door, your guidance as the Way, your sweet sustenance as the Vine, and your hope as the Resurrection and the Life.

—W. David O. Taylor, Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, chapter 5

I-Thou

Christian worship is not awe in the face of an irresistible and unresponsive Power, nor is it the attempt to manipulate by magic or placate by offerings remote deities or the forces of nature. Christian worship is an ‘I-Thou’, not an ‘I-It’ relationship. 

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 161 

Different Roads

We have lived for too long in the world, and tragically even in a church . . . where the wills and affections of human beings are regarded as sacrosanct as they stand, where God is required to command what we already love and to promise what we already desire. The implicit religion of many people today is simply to discover who they really are and then try to live it out – which is, as many have discovered, a recipe for chaotic, disjointed, and dysfunctional humanness. The logic of cross and resurrection, of the new creation which gives shape to all truly Christian living, points in a different direction. And one of the central names for that direction is joy: the joy of relationships healed as well as enhanced, the joy of belonging to the new creation, of finding not what we already had but what God was longing to give us. At the heart of the Christian ethic is humility; at the heart of its parodies, pride. Different roads with different destinations, and the destinations color the character of those who travel by them.

—N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, 233-34

The Hinge

Luther would not say that “good works make a person good,” but that “a good person does good works.” In other words, Christ’s righteousness—an “alien righteousness”—is imputed to us, and on that basis we then live out our Christian lives. John Calvin largely agreed and said that this understanding of justification was that on which the church stands or falls; it is “the hinge on which religion turns,” and all other doctrines are to be reassessed in its light.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 164-65

Captivated by Grace

One Lutheran theologian has defined sanctification as “the art of getting used to justification.” It is our being grasped by the fact that God alone justifies us by this unconditional promise. In other words, sanctification is the justified life, not something added to justification. The term refers to our being captivated more and more by the fullness and unconditionality of God’s grace.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 172

Sanctification through Relationship

“God’s primary purpose for humanity is ‘filial,’ not just ‘judicial,’ where we have been created in the image of God to find our true being-in-communion, in ‘sonship,’ in the mutual personal relations of love.” (James B. Torrance)  In the outworking of sanctification, God’s primary purpose for humanity is not to adhere to external rules and regulations (judicial) but to participate by the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father (filial). As we share by the Spirit in the Son’s filial relationship with the Father, the outworking of sanctification is a natural consequence.

—Alexandra Radcliff, “James B. Torrance and the Doctrine of Sanctification,” in Trinity and Transformation, 89-90

Action in Rest

Christ’s vicarious humanity rightly diminishes any human response that is merit-based and therefore burdensome, and affirms human action in its proper place, that is, as a free and joyful response of sharing by the Spirit in what God has already accomplished in Christ.  We are called to action, but this action comes from a contemporaneous place of rest and satisfaction in what has been definitively accomplished in Christ.

—Alexandra Radcliff, “James B. Torrance and the Doctrine of Sanctification,” in Trinity and Transformation, 90