To be Biblically balanced is to let our theology and preaching be proportioned by the Bible's radically disproportionate focus on God's saving love for sinners seen and accomplished in the crucified and risen Christ.
My failure to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles is the direct result of my refusal to die to my natural proclivity toward attaining my own freedom, meaning, value, worth, and righteousness - not believing that, by virtue of my Spirit - wrought union with Christ, everything I need, I already possess.
The Gospel announces that Jesus came to acquit the guilty. He came to judge and be judged in our place. Christ came to satisfy the deep judgment against us once and for all so that we could be free from the judgement of God, others, and ourselves.
For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God's chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you. And in the end, what we discover is that this really is enough.
Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That's not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it's a witness to God making it down to the worst people.
The Why's of suffering keep us shrouded in a seemingly bottomless void of abstraction where God is reduced to a finite ethical agent, a limited psychological personality, whose purposes measure on the same scale as ours.
When everyone in the world spoke the same language, God came down in judgment, breaking the world apart. But at just the right time, he came down again, this time to reconcile that sinful world to himself.
The world tells us in a thousand different ways that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. The richer, the more beautiful, and the more powerful we grow, the more security, liberty, and happiness we will experience. And yet, the gospel tells us just the opposite, that the smaller we become, the freer we will be.
Hollywood is not known as a culture of grace. Dog-eat-dog is more like it. People love you one day and hate you the next. Personal value is very much attached to box office revenues and the unpredictable and often cruel winds of fashion.
The good news of suffering is that it brings us to the end of ourselves - a purpose it has certainly served in my life. It brings us to the place of honesty, which is the place of desperation, which is the place of faith, which is the place of freedom.
Contrary to what we conclude naturally, the gospel is not too good to be true. It is true! It's the truest truth in the entire universe. No strings attached! No fine print to read. No buts. No conditions. No qualifications. No footnotes. And especially, no need for balance.
Whether this was explicitly taught or implicitly caught, I grew up with the impression that when it comes to the Christian life, justification was step one and sanctification was step two and that once we get to step two there's no reason to revisit step one.
Daily Christian living, in other words, is daily Christian dying: dying to our trivial comforts, soul-shrinking conveniences, arrogant preferences, and self-centered entitlements, and living for something much larger than what makes us comfortable and safe.
When we depend on anything smaller than God to provide us with the security, significance, meaning, and value that we long for, God will love us enough to take it away. Much of our anger and bitterness, therefore, is God prying open our hands and taking away something we've held onto more tightly than him.
When you don't know where you fit inside the home and you're young and you're desperate to fit in somewhere, I'd figured where I would fit outside the home. So I made some obviously bad decisions about who I hung out with and the things that I did.
We make a big mistake when we conclude that the law is the answer to bad behavior. In fact, the law alone stirs up more of such behavior. People get worse, not better, when you lay down the law. To be sure, the Spirit does use both God's law and God's gospel in our sanctification. But the law and the gospel do very different things.
Unfulfilled dreams, ongoing relational tension, the loss of friendships, a hard marriage, rebellious teenagers, the death of loved ones, remaining sinful patterns - whatever it is for you - live long enough, lose enough, suffer enough, and the idealism of youth fades, leaving behind the reality of life in a broken world as a broken person.
I ended up dropping out of high school at 16 and getting kicked out of my home. My parents told me, sadly, that because I was so disruptive to the rest of the household, that I could no longer live under their roof.
Grief, of course, is not something that operates according to a specific time frame, and it seems cold to suggest otherwise. Yet when we do not grasp that God is present in pain, we eventually insist on victory or, worse, blame the sufferer for not "getting over it" fast enough. This is more than a failure to extend compassion; it's an exercise in cruelty.
The Gospel is not ultimately a defense from pain, it is the message of God's rescue through pain. In fact, it allows us to drop our defenses, to escape not from pain but from the prison of "How" and "Why" to the freedom of "Who?"
My job as a pastor and theologian is to tease out the nature and the necessity of the gospel in meticulous ways, in everything I say, in everything I like. I want desperately for the church in America to rediscover the power and the beauty and the nature and the necessity of the gospel.
Whether it's a Christian or a non-Christian, there's nothing like suffering to show us how small, needy, and not in control we are. Suffering has a way of sobering us up to the realization that we can't make it on our own, that we need help, that we're broken.
Contrary to what we conclude naturally, the gospel is not too good to be true. It is true! Its the truest truth in the entire universe. No strings attached! No fine print to read. No buts. No conditions. No qualifications. No footnotes. And especially, no need for balance.
The good news of the gospel [for sufferers] is not an exhortation from above to 'hang on at all costs,' or 'grin and bear it' in the midst of hardship. No, the good news is that God is hanging on to you, and in the end, when all is said and done, the power of God will triumph over every pain and loss.
God's capacity to forgive is greater than our capacity to sin; while our sin reaches far, God's grace reaches farther. It's a message revealing the radical contrast between the sinful heart of mankind and the gracious heart of mankind's Creator.
Justification and sanctification are both God's work, and while they can and must be distinguished, the Bible won't let us separate them. Both are gifts of our union with Christ, and within this double-blessing, justification is the root of sanctification and sanctification is the fruit of justification.
The gospel brings things together. One of the great demonstration of the gospel's power is reconciliation. I've got friends who are surfers, doctors, lawyers, artists and entertainers. Some people are cool and some people are geeky. I look around at my friends and I think, only the gospel has the power to put together a friendship like this.
Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. Thats not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; its a witness to God making it down to the worst people.
The required cheerfulness that characterizes many of our churches produces a suffocating environment of pat, religious answers to the painful, complex questions that riddle the lives of hurting people.
Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It's dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out.