Here We Have No Lasting City

I can say for sure, I am no fan of our President. I have not heard one policy of his that I can support or get behind. I find him to be reactionary, divorced from reality, and pompous. I find him to say one thing, walk it back, and then double down on the original statement. I believe he has emboldened white supremacists to come to the forefront. I believe many Christians have “baptized” him and his decisions so that, as he said, he could “shoot someone on 5th Ave and wouldn’t lose supporters.” And it is hard.

It is hard because the same brothers and sisters who said that we should “Give him a chance?” will not say “he’s wrong”. Those dear friends who sit opposite me on this issue were furious about President Obama’s golfing habit, but have ignored President Trump’s. They decried executive orders as tyranny, but give President Trump a pass. They accused for years that President Obama was a Muslim, though Trump has not attended a worship service in some time and has even said he doesn’t need forgiveness. The inconsistency is hard. It’s hard because it looks like they’ve traded promise for power, justice for Justices, and sanity for soup.

Its hard because I have to remind myself that my dear, blood bought brothers and sisters are made in the image of God. Like our President.

It is hard to remind myself that no one rises to power and authority outside of God’s sovereign hand, though I know it to be true. It is hard because I cannot understand how someone who rises to power on falsehoods and vitriol is God’s decision. I struggle because I think, “Surely, there is a better way isn’t there? What is going on?” And I’ve come to one conclusion.

I don’t know.

I know, dear reader that this isn’t helpful. To share in my confusion doesn’t help at all. It won’t move the ball downfield.

But let us not act as if we are a people without our hope. Because that is the place that I’ve been. I have, this week, been in a place where I wanted to throw my hands up and say “I quit”. But quitting doesn’t love our neighbor. Being silent ensures that the only voices are those who use the ends to justify means.

I have found for myself two truths that steel my soul. Three firm foundations that  are a comfort for me.

1. God is Sovereign

i. God from all eternity did, by the most wise (Rom. 11:33) and holy counsel of His own will, freely (Rom. 9:15, 18), and unchangeably (Heb. 6:17) ordain whatsoever comes to pass (Eph. 1:11): yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin (James 1:13, 17; 1 John 1:5), nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures (Matt. 17:12; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28); nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (John 19:11; Prov. 16:33).

God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (WCF 3:1&5:1)

This is difficult because the implication is hard. Why God has caused or allowed this to happen is something I neither like nor understand. But we are not called to understand, though we are called to trust Him. Because His faithfulness to His Church has never waned, never faded, we do not have to doubt but joyfully cling to Him. Because we affirm the hymn “Whatere My God Ordains Is Right”, we can hope in Him. Because all Presidents and kings are God’s and are under His authority, we don’t have to fear. Because whatever they do, good or wicked, occurs with God accomplishing His decrees, we can trust Him.

2. America is not the Kingdom.

This is a great relief, because as Preston Sprinkle writes in his book Fight “America could burn tomorrow and the Kingdom never be threatened” Throughout all of time, Kingdoms have risen and fallen. They have grown to the heights and been brought down in the lows. And the Church remains.

Christ has declared that this kingdom is “not of this world” and in this Kingdom everything is upside down. In this Kingdom victory is won by death. In this Kingdom, the heroes are those who’ve walked humbly. In this Kingdom, everything that is sad is becoming untrue and we will beat our swords into pruning hooks. This is the better Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom. we are seeking a better country, for here we have no lasting city. Our citizenship is not America, we are not Americans first. We are Kingdom citizens above all else. Here we are only sojourners.

Throughout Scripture, God promises to care for the oppressed, the widow and the fatherless. He will not forsake us, His people, His Church

The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD! – Psalm 146:9-10

So as Kingdom citizens, we live quiet lives. We obey the laws, we speak with grace to all people, so that may see our Kingdom. We care for the oppressed and marginalized. We have balanced scales and call sin sin. We reject power, position, and prestige for something far more better: a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and that will trump all Trumps.

Yes for many of us, it is the dark night of the soul, but dawn will come. The sun will come back. After darkness, light.

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Don Quixotes and Theological Windmills

Don quixote

“If you’re not teaching you’re(sic) people about the dangers of charismaticism then you have no qualifications to be a pastor” the brash, overzealous, pompous Student of THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary told me.

Understand this was at the outset of the MacArthur Strange Fire phase and so it was popular to rant and rave on the subject because it was the most important thing facing everybody’s church.

Except the people I worshipped with weren’t dealing with the charismatic question. They were dealing with the loss of jobs, of family members, of life. They were just trying to live their lives in light of God’s covenant promises. I have a great mentor who taught me a great lesson “Don’t go introducing heresy by attacking it.” It’s so simple.

I will say clearly I am a strong cessationist. I think Reformed Charismatic is right up there with Jumbo Shrimp and Pretty Ugly. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Just because you take monergistic soteriology and slap it onto Charismatic ideology doesn’t make it Reformed. Now, I have brothers and sisters who I love who hold to a different view. But that’s ok. And here’s why this tiny, open handed doctrine really isn’t worth fighting about.

It’s not the Gospel.

But alas, I can find folks on both sides of the issue blasting away at each other, tilting at windmills, and spilling digital ink because THIS is the line. THIS is where we should swing it out.

Trust me, not everything needs a blog post written by a seminarian. Yes, we as Christians should firmly know what we believe and why we believe it. This is not a statement of me throwing my hands up and saying “uh I don’t know anything about spiritual gifts but what the Westminster says”.

But we do our people a massive disservice to think that every little theological fight needs to have civilians in it. That only makes more casualties. This is why (and Mercy help us) public social media isn’t the place for theological pugalism. When my Anglican friends do something that’s profoundly Anglican on social media, the Reformed come out and swing. It’s fight time.

But it’s really not. They’re shocked that an Anglican would act like (and brace yourself, cause this might be confusing) an Anglican. He’s not bothering anybody. He’s not forcing anyone to worship his way (like a Covenanter). But the dogpile commences because young Reformed men don’t have a real fight. And instead of just being quiet we have to go tilt at windmills and look like fools.

My point: maybe we just all need a little grace. Maybe we should expect people to act within their nature. And maybe the mountains that the Theological Windmills are placed on, are really just molehills that we shouldn’t tilt at.

 

The Chief End of Joy

whenidontdesiregod[A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 2 – What is the Difference Between Desire and Delight?]

We come to the second chapter in what I referred to in the last post as John Piper’s “tome of Christ-centered joy.” In this chapter, Piper defines for us desire and delight. He goes on to tell us what is the difference between the two and how the end of both of those things is Christ Himself, not the experience of desire or delight.

We see more imperative without indicative, more admonition to fight for joy without any real application, but the book is still early, and I’m still hopeful. There’s 10 chapters left to go so we’ll see what’s left.

Words, Wordy Words, The Kind of Words That Are… Wordy

Words and their definitions are important so he starts off by telling us that he’ll be interchangeably using words like happiness, delight, pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, desire, longing, thirsting, passion,etc. At first, I was worried because I really like distinctions, but then Piper reminded the reader that the Bible also uses these terms without distinctions.

“I am aware that all of these words carry different connotations for different readers. Some people think of happiness as superficial and joy as deep. Some think of pleasure as physical and delight as aesthetic. Some think of passion as sexual and longing as personal. So I signal from the outset that the Bible does not divide its emotional language that way. The same words (desire, pleasure, happiness, joy, etc.) can be positive sometimes and negative sometimes, physical sometimes and spiritual sometimes. That is the approach I take. Any of these words can be a godly experience of the heart, and any of them can be a worldly experience of the heart. I will try to make plain what way the words should be taken in any given context.”

In layman’s terms “Pay attention, and you shouldn’t get lost.” I’m fine with this.

A Barrage of Scripture and Some Working Definitions

Piper briefly reminds us to desire God and to take delight in God, and then he hits us with about two pages worth of Scriptures that support both ideas. Using Scripture to build your case is never a bad idea, but I think, in this case, a list would’ve been more helpful instead of just a wall. It’s almost as if he was looking for some filler.

After the wall of Scripture we get to where Piper is tells us the difference between delight and desire.

“The first thought that comes to most of our minds (I tried this on my eight-year-old daughter) is that delight (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is present, not just future. But desire (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is not present but, we hope, coming to us in the future.”

He goes on to say

“Desire is awakened by tastes of pleasure. The taste may be ever so small. But if there is no taste at all of the desirability of something, then there will be no desire for it. In other words, desire is a form of the very pleasure that is anticipated with the arrival of the thing desired. It is, you might say, the pleasure itself experienced in the form of anticipation.”

Again, this is a place where I think doing something different would’ve been more helpful. I think it probably would’ve been better to define our terms and then work from Scripture, but that’s just me. But to Piper’s credit, I think he accurately lays out what the difference desire and delight is and gives us some good working definition. Also to his credit, he admit that there are some scenarios where these definitions may fail because, in some cases, the desire is the delight. But, if you’re one of those people that takes notes when they read a book, then this is where you’ll want to pause write down these definitions so you can keep them in the back of your mind as you trek through the rest of the book.

Desire and Delight Are Not the End Goals

For me, the climax of this chapter is on page 29 under the subheading, “Neither Desire nor Delight Is Finally What We Want.” This is where I perk my ears up. I’ve heard critics of Piper’s idea of Christian Hedonism complain that what Piper is teaching is that joy is the end instead of Jesus, but if you really paid attention to anything that Piper has said or taught over the course of his ministry then you would know that that’s simply not true. John Piper explicitly wants us to see that our desire points us to Jesus as the ultimate source of our delight.

Piper warns us that pursuing joy in and of itself is a ditch that can find ourselves in if we’re not careful.

“Jonathan Edwards warned against [this] by observing that “there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the understanding. And when it is thus, it is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high.” Our goal is not high affections per se. Our goal is to see and savor “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The affections that arise from that light are spiritual. By this Christ-revealing light, we avoid the mistake of simply pursuing joy, not Christ.”

Another Reminder to Fight for Joy

He closes the chapter by reminding us yet again to fight for joy, but this time he’s giving us three reasons we should do so (this is my condensed version):

  1. God has commanded us to do so. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
  2. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. (A famous Piper quote)
  3. In his own words: “The third reason we should make much of joy and the pursuit of joy in God is that people do not awaken to how desperate their condition is until they measure their hearts by Christian Hedonism…” (I’m still not sure what this one means.)

Again, if you take notes while you read, write these down.

In conclusion, I think was beneficial and it really did enlighten my understanding of desire and delight. On the rating scale, I give this chapter another 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

Piper’s Hyphenated Words, Christian Hedonism, and the Constant Reminders of Missions and Martyrdom

whenidontdesiregod [A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 1 – Why I Wrote the Book]

My cohort and partner in crime on the Late Night Theology podcast, Tom, has accused John Piper many times of simply telling us to desire God without giving us real applicable steps to do so. Let me just say that I love John Piper and that his ministry has been a real influence on my ministry for the last 7 years, but (and this is a big ‘but’ *gigglesnort*) if I’m being honest, I feel that those accusations are a little more than justified. So, for the new few weeks (months, maybe? A year if I get lazy or busy), I’ll be reading a chapter at a time of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper and I hope to either confirm these accusations against Piper or deny them.

This is my review of Chapter 1.

This chapter is mostly information about the concept of Christian Hedonism and why it’s important. Like the beginning of most books, Piper is just giving us some introductory information to work with and keep in the back of our minds as we trek through the rest of this tome of Christ-centered joy.

There are two things I really appreciated in this chapter and I want to take the time to address each of them individually. First, I think, and I could be wrong, but I think John Piper acknowledges that there are Christians who do not desire God, and secondly he supports that the doctrine of Christian Hedonism is not something that he just came up with out of thin air, but rather is something that has been taught all through Church History.

The Christians That Don’t Desire God

Here’s a lengthy quote from the top of page 15 under a section titled, ‘The Most Common Question I’ve Received.’

“This is why the most common and desperate question I have received over the last three decades is: What can I do? How can I become the kind of person the Bible is calling me to be? … Many are persuaded. They see that the truth and beauty and worth of God shine best from the lives of saints who are so satisfied in God they can suffer in the cause of love without murmuring. But then they say, “That’s not who I am. I don’t have that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God. I desire comfort and security more than God.” Many say it with tears and trembling.”

Even though Piper does not come right out and say that these people are Christians, I believe that he’s under the impression that those who say that they don’t desire with tears in their eyes that they don’t have “that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God.” I believe the whole reason those people have tears in their eyes is because they are believers it hurts them that they don’t desire God more. The unregenerate man doesn’t either believes that he desires God adequately or doesn’t care that he doesn’t desire God on this level. I don’t believe any regenerate person looks at how their living out their religion and says, “what I’m doing is good enough.”

Piper will go on to imply that the answer is conversion as stated under a heading in the chapter that he has titled, “Conversion is the Creation of New Desires.” In this theologian’s opinion, conversion might be needed, but not in every situation. What is most definitely needed is a revival of the soul. If we reach this place where we don’t desire God as we once did, then we need a baptism of joy. We need to cry out with the Psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12a, NKJV)

A Historical Legacy of Christian Hedonism

One of things that I really appreciate about this chapter is that Piper isn’t just pulling this Christian Hedonism thing out of the air. He feels that this is something that Puritans, Reformers and Patristics all taught and goes out of his way to prove that by giving us quotes from Saint Augustine, John Calvin, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and others.

Concluding Remarks

In the final paragraphs of the chapter, Piper tells us that the fight for joy is not easy, but if we stay in the fight Christ will be glorified. Now, to tell us how Christ will be glorified he brings up missions and martyrdom… because it’s not a John Piper book if he doesn’t bring up missions and martyrdom… Don’t misunderstand me, I think missions and martyrdoms can and should be talked about, but as someone who has read many a John Piper book and livestreamed many a CROSS conference, I can tell you that a lot of these Reformed guys use missions and martyrdoms as a battering ram on the conscience, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

Missions are important; martyrdoms are bad, but I don’t have to be reminded about it every five minutes to have a healthy relationship with God. As long as Piper keeps these references to minimum, I think the rest of the book will be okay.

On the rating scale, I’ll give this chapter a 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

The Proper Distinction Between Law & Gospel by C.F.W. Walther

Law&Gospel

Thesis I.
The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other, viz., the Law and the Gospel.

Thesis II.
Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.

Thesis III.
Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.

Thesis IV.
The true knowledge of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is not only a glorious light, affording the correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, but without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book.

Thesis V.
The first manner of confounding Law and Gospel is the one most easily recognized — and the grossest. It is adopted, for instance, by Papists, Socinians, and Rationalists, and consists in this, that Christ is represented as a new Moses, or Lawgiver, and the Gospel turned into a doctrine of meritorious works, while at the same time those who teach that the Gospel is the message of the free grace of God in Christ are condemned and anathematized, as is done by the papists.

Thesis VI.
In the second place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is not preached in its full sternness and the Gospel not in its full sweetness, when, on the contrary, Gospel elements are mingled with the Law and Law elements with the Gospel.

Thesis VII.
In the third place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is preached first and then the Law; sanctification first and then justification; faith first and then repentance; good works first and then grace.

Thesis VIII.
In the fourth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror on account of their sins, or the Gospel to those who live securely in their sins.

Thesis IX.
In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when thy are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.

Thesis X.
In the sixth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher describes faith in a manner as if the mere inert acceptance of truths, even while a person is living in mortal sins, renders that person righteous in the sight of God and saves him; or as if faith makes a person righteous and saves him for the reason that it produces in him love and reformation of his mode of living.

Thesis XI.
In the seventh place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when there is a disposition to offer the comfort of the Gospel only to those who have been made contrite by the Law, not from fear of the wrath and punishment of God, but from love of God.

Thesis XII.
In the eighth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher represents contrition alongside of faith as a cause of the forgiveness of sin.

Thesis XIII.
In the ninth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when one makes an appeal to believe in a manner as if a person could make himself believe or at least help towards that end, instead of preaching faith into a person’s heart by laying the Gospel promises before him.

Thesis XIV.
In the tenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when faith is required as a condition of justification and salvation, as if a person were righteous in the sight of God and saved, not only by faith, but also on account of his faith, for the sake of his faith, and in view of his faith.

Thesis XV.
In the eleventh place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is turned into a preaching of repentance.

Thesis XVI.
In twelfth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher tries to make people believe that they are truly converted as soon as they have become rid of certain vices and engage in certain works of piety and virtuous practices.

Thesis XVII.
In the thirteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a description is given of faith, both as regards its strength and the consciousness and productiveness of it, that does not fit all believers at all times.

Thesis XVIII.
In the fourteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the universal corruption of mankind is described in such a manner as to create the impression that even true believers are still under the spell of ruling sins and are sinning purposely.

Thesis XIX.
In the fifteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher speaks of certain sins as if there were not of a damnable, but of a venial nature.

Thesis XX.
In the sixteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a person’s salvation is made to depend on his association with the visible orthodox Church and when salvation is denied to every person who errs in any article of faith.

Thesis XXI.
In the seventeenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when men are taught that the Sacraments produce salutary effects ex opere operato, that is, by the mere outward performance of a sacramental act.

Thesis XXII.
In the eighteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a false distinction is made between a person’s being awakened and his being converted; moreover, when a person’s inability to believe is mistaken for his not being permitted to believe.

Thesis XXIII.
In the nineteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when an attempt is made by means of the demands or the threats or the promises of the Law to induce the unregenerate to put away their sins and engage in good works and thus become godly; on the other hand, when an endeavor is made, by means of the commands of the Law rather than by the admonitions of the Gospel, to urge the regenerate to do good.

Thesis XXIV.
In the twentieth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the unforgiven sin against the Holy Ghost is described in a manner as if it could not be forgiven because of its magnitude.

Thesis XXV.
In the twenty-first place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the person teaching it does not allow the Gospel to have a general predominance in his teaching.

You may read each of C.F.W. Walther’s lectures on these theses at this link.

A Mental Buffet // 5 Aug 2017

Mental Buffet

 

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes articles from Martin Luther (no he’s not back from the dead for a blog post), Garry Vanderveen, Jason K. Allen, and Octavius Winslow.

Luther’s Last Word on Predestination – Martin Luther

“God did not come down from heaven to make you uncertain about predestination, to teach you to despise the sacraments, absolution, and the rest of the divine ordinances. Indeed, He instituted them to make you completely certain and to remove the disease of doubt from your heart, in order that you might not only believe with the heart but also see with your physical eyes and touch with your hands. Why, then, do you reject these and complain that you do not know whether you have been predestined? You have the Gospel; you have been baptized; you have absolution; you are a Christian.”

 

The Lamb’s High Feast: Good Reasons for Weekly Communion – Garry Vanderveen

“The visible centre of the Church’s worship must not be left as a blank space for long periods of the year. Calvin, accordingly, declares himself in favour of weekly communion. “All this mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a week.” “It was not instituted to be received once a year and that perfunctorily (as is now commonly the custom).” He, indeed, goes the length of saying that “we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the Word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms”; and he calls the custom of communication once a year “an invention of the devil”. “The practice of all well ordered Churches should be to celebrate the Supper frequently, so far as the capacity of the people will admit.”

 

Eight Tips for Veteran Preachers – Jason K. Allen

“One of the benefits of expository preaching is that it anchors the sermon in the text of Scripture, not current events. The Word of God is perennial, never needing to be updated or improved upon. At the same time, faithful preaching brings the Word of God to bear, actually pressing it upon the lives of the hearers.”

 

The Glory of the Redeemer in His People – Octavius Winslow

“He is glorified in the progressive holiness of His people. “The kingdom of God is within you,” says Christ. The increase of this kingdom is just the measure and extent of the believer’s advance in sanctification. This is that internal righteousness, the work of God the Holy Spirit, which consists in the subjugation of the mind, the will, the affections, the desires, yes, the whole soul, to the government and supremacy of Jesus, “bringing into captivity,” says the apostle, “every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Oh, you who are “striving against sin,” longing to be “conformed to the image of God’s Son,” panting to be more “pure in heart,” “hungering and thirsting for righteousness,” think that in every step which you take in the path of holiness, in every corruption subdued, in every besetting sin laid aside, in every holy desire begotten, Christ is glorified in you! But you perhaps reply, “the more I strive for the mastery, the more I seem to be conquered. The more strongly I oppose my sins, the stronger my sins seem to be.” But what does this prove? it proves that “God is working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” -that the kingdom of God is invading the kingdom of Satan- that the Spirit dwelling in the heart is warring with the flesh. It is truly remarked by Owen, that “if a believer lets his sins alone, his sins will let him alone.” But let him search them as with candles, let him bring them to the light, oppose, mortify, and crucify them, they will to the last, struggle for the victory. And this inward warfare, so graphically and touchingly described in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, undeniably marks the inhabitation of God the Holy Spirit in the soul.”

Till He Returns,

Logan

When I Don’t Feel Saved

The last two months have been a trying time for our family. Two months ago, we left a city, a church, our home and friends behind to move to Northwest Arkansas for my job. My wife has been so strong in all of this- she has never moved before. And so uprooting our lives for a place we’ve never been has been hard. We have found a new living places, a new church, and are finding new friends. But the pain is there. And she has been so patient with me not reacting or acting graciously toward her. So loving when I’m tired and I’m not pouring into her. She is, and has always been a great fountain of grace and helpfulness. My helpmeet, my ezer kenegdo.

If nothing else, these changes have made me more aware of my own sin and faults. I am constantly battling impatientce and pride, arrogance, and even doubt. The stress has caused me to sin, not in major disqualifying ways. But small ways. The ways that creep up on you. For the last few nights I have laid awake, tormented by my shortcomings, my faults, my failures. And though try as I might to preach the Gospel to myself through the Word, and to savor Christ in His sacraments each week, if I’m honest there are nights that the question taunts me:

“Does God really love me? Am I really saved?”

It’s a daunting feeling, one of hopelessness and grief. To have your sins all borne in front of you, condemning you to your face. And at the end of the day, I have no defense. I am a sinner. I am angry. I am cutoff and impatient. I am greedy and covetous. I am a guilty man. I have no where to turn but to Christ, and when I turn there I feel at times as though I have been rejected. My heart condemns me, and I don’t feel saved.

But God’s faithfulness to me isn’t based on my feelings; but rather on Christ.

“for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:20

I know that I am a sinner, and in that I’m comforted because Christ died for sinnners. That means Christ died for me! That he has ransomed and redeemed me. That in my doubt my only comfort is that I am not my own. But have a faithful Savior who has fully satisfied for all my sins. And that faithful Savior doesn’t abandon me, but rather is, now in my tossing and turning, interceding on my behalf.

And beause I not my own, I have no need to fear that Christ will abandon me. Not because of my work, those feeble attempts of appeasement. But because of a His work. Because Christ has stood in my guilty place I can, by faith, stand in His righteous place. That’s the greatness of the Great Exchange. Christ takes our sins, yes and amen. But we also get His ridghteousness. So that when God sees me, the doubting sinner, he rather sees Christ. I’m counted as a son.

And if Christ will not abandon me, then I can run to Him again. I can flee with my doubts and my sins and say “You’re it! You’re my only comfort, my only hope. I have no where else to turn.” And he promises that those who come will not be cast out (John 6:37). He promised to raise those who believe in Him up on the Last Day (John 6:40). And because He has been raised, I can look to Him by faith, and latch on again to find rest for my doubts.

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