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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Misunderstanding... | Main | The Seeker Sensitive Movement »

    Chapter Eleven: My Reward is With Me

    We have now come to the final chapter in this description of just what Christianity is and what it means for all of us, no matter who we are. In this chapter, I would motivate you to be living your life in light of eternity. This life, in which we invest all our time, labors and resources, and in which we make very clear what is of ultimate importance to us, does not end after eighty years (or even a hundred, for that matter). It is just the stepping stone to eternity, and what we do with our time now, how we spend the few years we have on this earth, will determine what we will be doing with our time for all eternity, for good or bad. But there are no shades of gray, no middle ground, in the eternal destinies confronting us in the here and now. There are only two options: for those who have given up everything to follow the Savior, there is eternal joy and reward beyond imagination; but for those to whom the pleasures of this life have been ultimate, whether they professed to be Christians or not, there is only unspeakable, unending darkness and wrath. Christianity is not just some game to be played or some hobby to occupy our time – it is where true, ultimate, eternal reality confronts us, and how we respond will have effects more real and lasting and dramatic than any other decision we will ever make.

    Read the rest of this entry...

    Posted by Nathan on July 20, 2009 11:57 AM

    Comments

    I really enjoyed a lot of these chapters, but in a few of them, especially Chapter 11, it seems you are promoting a grace + our behaviors and attitudes = salvation, message. Could you clarify?

    Michael

    Hi Michael, thanks for the question.

    If you are asking whether I believe that salvation is by grace plus behaviors and attitudes, then the answer is a resounding, "No!". Salvation, from beginning to end, is by God's grace alone. We are justified by faith alone, but even that faith is a gift of grace, and we are caused to persevere in the faith by the same preserving grace.

    But I would say that grace is much greater than to leave the elect in a never-changing state of unrepentant sin or spiritual lifelessness. There is a gospel of "easy-believism" rampant in America today which suggests that, if one says the sinner's prayer, he can then lead whatever sort of sinful lifestyle he wants to, but because of an initial act of faith, which never changed a thing in his life, he'll be saved. That sort of faith is man-produced, it is not the sort of faith which God's grace produces. His grace is much too big, it produces a faith that springs from a regenerated heart that does not want to sin, and that will run the race by the power that God provides. We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone -- that sort of faith is dead. The bible is clear that there is a counterfeit, man-made faith that springs up for a time but withers away, and that will never lay hold of salvation; and likewise, all they to whom God has granted true gospel faith will be known by their fruits of perseverance. Every good tree, made alive by the power of God, will produce good fruit.

    If you're wondering, then, where to look when you lack assurance of your justification, whether you should look to your "behaviors and attitudes," I would suggest that, although there is an element of examining yourself to see if you really are in the faith, ultimately, the only place to go is the cross. Salvation is by God's grace alone, and whatever doubt you have, you have no final recourse but to run to the cross. That is the message I tried to convey in chapter 11. Let me quote a little of it, to show that what I am saying here and what I said there are one and the same thing:

    "In a very blessed gospel irony, the only perfect place to assure ourselves of our eternal reward, if we have fled to Christ for refuge from the wrath to come, is the same place by which the wicked, who persist in their sins, may convince themselves of their terrible doom – and that is, the cross of Christ. Just as the cross shows God's unspeakable wrath against all those who are still in their sins, it also shows the complete satisfaction of wrath for all who are in Christ. Tell me, what wrath could God possibly have, that he did not pour out there? He poured out all his wrath, to the very last drop, on him in whom we have been crucified1, and with whom we have died to the demands of the Law2. God's wrath has been utterly exhausted in Christ; and if we are in him, there is not a pittance of it left that we still must endure.

    When the waters of God's wrath destroyed all the earth, Noah and his family went through it all, the rains came upon them and the floods crashed against them. But the difference was this, the ark in which God had placed them bored the brunt of the fury, and they were safe within it. They could feel the horror of the breaking waves against the sides of their vessel, but not a drop of the angry spray could touch them. They passed through the judgment unscathed, and inherited a new earth. So today, if God has placed us in Christ, we will pass through his judgment unscathed. Every person who ever lived will go through this fearful judgment; but the question is, will you go through it alone, as the rest of the world; or in Christ, as Noah3?

    So then, when we look to the cross, we may convince ourselves of complete escape from God's overwhelming punishment. But that is not all we see. We see not just absolution, but reward. Not just escape, but an overwhelming supply of every good thing. Just consider: if God did not even spare his own Son, the most precious thing in all the universe that he could have given for our salvation, then what good thing will he spare4? Would I give my child a million dollar inheritance, but begrudge him a little crust of bread when he is hungry? Well then, neither would God give up his own Son for our salvation, and yet begrudge us any good thing, for all eternity. In Christ we have not just salvation from the wrath to come, but every spiritual blessing5. And not just every spiritual blessing, but every physical necessity6. And not just every physical necessity, but all things: “Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come – all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's”7.

    Not only does the cross of Christ guarantee us every delight in heaven and earth, every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, every good inheritance in the world of righteousness to come, it also guarantees us every necessary suffering and chastisement here below to cause our faith in him to grow and persevere. This is a very great blessing, and Christians would do well not to despise it. If we had no trials in this life, if we were assured of earthly prosperity and success, how soon would we turn aside from our love of Christ, in the weakness of our still sinful hearts, and so walk into eternal destruction with the rest of the world. So it is that God, in his immeasurable love, promises us persecution, affliction, chastisement, and pain. He tells us that we must enter the Kingdom through much affliction8, and that all who would live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted9. But in and through these sobering promises, he assures us that he will never leave nor forsake us10, that he is thereby dealing with us as sons, not bastards11, and that nothing, no matter how painful or severe, can ever separate us from the love of Christ12, but all of these things are rather working for our eternal good13.

    We must look to Christ for the confirmation of this truth: he suffered for a time and was deeply humiliated, but he pressed on without faltering for the joy that was set before him, and now that his time of suffering is over, he has won eternal and unspeakable reward14. So too, any believer that would account himself Christ's must follow the same path. He must take up his cross, he must fellowship in the sufferings of the Savior; but if the path is the same, we may assure ourselves that the final destination is the same too. “If we die together, we will also live together; if we endure patiently, we will also reign together”15.

    In fact, we are told in many places that we are co-heirs with the Son of God16. In other words, all that he won as a reward for his sufferings, we will share in too. Did he win the right to reign over all the world? Well then, we will reign with him forever17. Did he win the right to judge the earth? Well then, we will judge even angels18. Did he win heaven itself, was he exalted and glorified? Well then, we will be glorified with him19, and take our own places in his eternal, heavenly kingdom – but only if we take our places with him here on earth, too, and his place here is despised and lowly20.

    I hope this helps!

    In Christ,
    Nathan

    Thanks, Nathan for the clarification. I enjoyed your writings very much. Peace.

    Michael

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