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Grace’s Humbling Necessity

In his new book Grace Transforming, Phil Ryken writes:

“We begin at the beginning, with our desperate need for grace. From the moment we came into the world as helpless babies, right up until this exact second, we are utterly and completely dependent on the grace of God for everything we have, including life itself. What is more, if we have any hope of life after death—eternal life—it is only because of God’s free and undeserved grace for us in Jesus Christ.

Until we understand this, it is impossible for us to have the relationship with God that we truly need. But when we do understand this—when we understand our absolute need for Jesus—then his grace changes everything.

Past Experience, Present Need

Our need for grace may seem obvious at the beginning of the Christian life, when we first put our trust in Jesus. Then we know that if there is anything we contribute to our salvation, it is only the sin that necessitates a Savior. According to the good news of our salvation, Jesus died and rose again so that in him we would receive forgiveness for our sins and enter into everlasting fellowship with the true and living God. We are not saved by anything that we have done, therefore, but only by what Jesus has done. It is all by his grace, not by our works.

Yet grace is not something we leave behind once we decide to follow Jesus. Grace is our present need as well as our past experience. The gospel is not just the way into the Christian life; it is also the way on in the Christian life. We continually need to remember that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:9).

In my first chapel address as president of Wheaton College I said something that took some people by surprise, maybe because it’s something that many Christians forget. I said that I don’t know of a college anywhere in the world that needs the gospel more than Wheaton does.

In saying this, I did not mean to imply that there aren’t a lot of Christians at Wheaton. In fact, every student, every professor, and every staff member on campus makes a personal profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to find unbelievers on campus: in most Christian communities there are at least some people who do not yet have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is not what I meant, however, when I said that Wheaton College needs the gospel. I meant that the gospel is for Christians every bit as much as it is for non-Christians. We never outgrow our need for God’s life-changing grace—the gospel of the cross and the empty tomb.”


What others are saying about this book:

“Hebrews 13:9 says, ‘It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.’ As a church planter, I needed the truths in this book to strengthen my weary, performance driven, approval hungry, externally oriented, and self-righteous heart. My pharisaical heart was exposed, and I found myself praying, ‘God, be mercy-seated to me, the sinner.’”
-David Choi, Lead Planter, Church of the Beloved, Chicago, Illinois; International Speaker

“To grasp the fullness of God’s grace is to come humbly to Christ in empty-handed spiritual poverty. That alone may be the greatest challenge for any Christian! And it’s why I so appreciate Dr. Philip Ryken’s extraordinary insights in his new book, Grace Transforming. He points us to Jesus Christ in all his saving power, reminding us that without the Savior we are nothing and have nothing. If you are seeking a fresh look at your Lord and your own desperate need of him, this is the book for you!”
-Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center


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October 30, 2012 | Posted in: Faith,Pride and Humility,Sanctification/Growth | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »

Do Not be Paralyzed by Your Weaknesses

In honor of Reformation Day this week, here’s a practical post about “gutsy guilt” in Martin Luther.

By John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy

Oh, how many times we are tempted to lick our wounded pride and shrink from some good work because of the wounds of criticism—especially when the criticism is true! A sense of being weak and flawed can paralyze the will and take away all passion for a worthy cause. Comparison with others can be a crippling occupation. When it comes to heroes, there is an easy downward slip from the desire for imitation to the discouragement of intimidation to the deadness of resignation. But the mark of humility and faith and maturity is to stand against the paralyzing effect of famous saints. The triumphs they achieved over their own flagrant sins and flaws should teach us not to be daunted by our own.

God never yet used a flawless man, save one. Nor will he ever, until Jesus comes again.

In the case of our weaknesses, we must learn with the apostle, and the swans who sang his Song after him, that the grace of Christ is sufficient, and that his strength is made perfect in weakness. We must learn from the Scripture and from the history of weak victors to say, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The suffering of weak saints can make them sink with defeat or make them strong. From Paul, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, we can learn to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, KJV).

In the case of our flaws and our sins, we must learn gutsy guilt. This is what we see, especially in Luther. The doctrine of justification by faith alone did not make him indifferent to practical godliness, but it did make him bold in grace when he stumbled. And well it should, as Micah 7:8-9 declares: “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness.”

Even when we have “sinned against him”—even when we “bear the indignation of the LORD”—we say to the accusing and gloating adversary, “Do not rejoice over me. . . . Though I fall I will rise.” The Lord himself, who frowns in chastisement, will be my irresistible advocate and he will triumph in court for me. He will plead my case. He will be my light. The cloud will pass. And I will stand in righteousness, not my own, and do the work he has given me to do. Oh, let us learn the secret of gutsy guilt from the steadfastness of sinful saints who were not paralyzed by their imperfections. God has a great work for everyone to do. Do it with all your might—yes, and even with all your flaws and all your sins. And in the obedience of this faith, magnify the glory of his grace, and do not grow weary in doing good.

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Video: Four Ordinary Means of Grace

Kevin DeYoung explains that there are four very ordinary means to pursuing holiness. Long-time Christians may be tempted to roll their eyes at how elementary this seems, but surely we never mature beyond the need to pursue these means of grace. Be sure to tune into the rest of this seven-part interview series linked below or learn more about DeYoung’s new book, The Hole in Our Holiness.

The seven-part series:



How to Pray for Your Pastor

October is pastor appreciation month. Don’t forget to send your pastor an encouraging note (or a book or even an iPad)!

But what’s more important and perhaps more difficult is to pray for your pastor fervently and consistently. Pastor and Crossway author Joe Thorn recently offered the following great suggestions on his blog (original post).

We challenge you to take 5 or 10 minutes today to pull away to pray fervently for your pastor along these lines:

For The Word To Be At Work In His Heart

Before he preaches the word to others your pastor needs to experience the word himself. Pray that he would search the Scripture to know God and his truth personally, and then bring that to the people. Ask God to impress on him the practical implications of the doctrines revealed in the text, to convict him of his own sin, and work grace in his heart. Ask God to make his message the offspring of Bible and belief, bearing the distinguishing marks of truth and passion.

For Jesus To Be Exalted In His Message

The goal of his preaching should be to make much of Jesus, bringing him before the people with clarity and conviction. So, pray that whether he is in the Old or New Testaments, hitting a passage heavy on law or gospel, that he would be led to point his hearers to the gospel hope of pardon and peace in Jesus Christ.

For The Spirit to Empower His Preaching

As gifted as your pastor may be, he remains a weak and sinful man in himself. The only hope he has for his preaching to carry power is the Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction, conversion, and counsel. Pray for The Holy Spirit to do what only he can do–empower the preaching of a mere man who holds out the words of life with trembling hands.

For His Satisfaction to be Found in Jesus

Preachers often struggle with feelings of failure after they step away from the pulpit. Mondays can be times of doubt and frustration for many ministers. Pray that your pastor would be so satisfied with what he has in Christ that even if he lost his way while preaching he would remain confident that Christ has neither lost him nor his word. Ask God to give your pastor such confidence in the Spirit’s power and the Scripture’s sufficiency that should his last sermon fail to live up to his standards, his hope remains steadfast for God can use any man’s preaching, no matter how deficient, as long as he gives the people the word. Pray that your pastor would have the mindset that “success” is simply faithfulness to God, and fruitfulness determined by God.

JOE THORN is the founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in Saint Charles, Illinois. He is an active blogger at JoeThorn.net and author of Note to Self.
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October 10, 2012 | Posted in: Church and Ministry,Prayer | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 7:00 am | (2) Comments »

EVENT: Free 2 Day Seminar in Minneapolis on “A Hunger for God”

On November 2-3 at Bethlehem Baptist Church’s North Campus in Minneapolis, Pastor John Piper will be giving a free, two-day seminar on the theme of A Hunger for God. The event is free, but seats are limited.

Register online today (learn more).

October 2, 2012 | Posted in: Fasting,Spiritual Growth | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »