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There now, with that you have David’s rules. If you study hard in accord with his example, then you will also sing and boast with him in the Psalm, ‘The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces’ (Ps. 119:72). Also, ‘Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts’ (Ps. 119:98-100). And it will be your experience that the books of the fathers will taste stale and putrid to you in comparison. You will not only despise the books written by adversaries, but the longer you write and teach the less you will be pleased with yourself. When you have reached this point, then do not be afraid to hope that you have begun to become a real theologian, who can teach not only the young and imperfect Christians, but also the maturing and perfect ones. For indeed, Christ’s church has all kinds of Christians in it who are young, old, weak, healthy, strong, energetic, lazy, simple, wise, etc.
 
If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it– if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, ‘See, see! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.’ That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels. To sum up: Let us be proud and seek honor in the places where we can. But in this Book the honor is God’s alone, as it is said, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (1 Pet. 5:5); to whom be glory, world without end, Amen.
 
~Martin Luther, ‘Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings’, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, Ed. Timothy Lull. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), pp. 67-68.
I’m ever skeptical when people go on and on and off the cliff about how God is only after our obedience, and here’s why…
 
God’s after our hearts over everything else. 
 
Tim Chester writes in his book, Captured By A Better Vision, “The call to holiness in the New Testament is not a call to duty, drudgery, repression and boredom, but always a call to joy, meaning, satisfaction and fulfillment.” 
                
God’s not looking for obedience for obedience’s sake, duty based obligation isn’t what he is after. God’s looking for what pastor and blogger Brent Thomas calls “joyful obedience”. You can be as obedient as a well trained show dog but your heart can be a million and one miles away. On the other hand, joyful obedience is running through a mine field with half-a-smile on your face, if that’s where following Jesus takes you.
          
Rob Bell, who I’m not the biggest fan of but can still appreciate,  re-counts the following in Sunday, from his hit series, Nooma.  Bell tells of a husband who orders some flowers for his wife.  The wife, appreciating the gesture, phones her husband to say, “You didn’t have to do that”… to which Bell reasons that the husband can then reply…I know, they were on sale”, or, “It was the right thing to do”, or even, “You are my wife”.
 
That’s not the idea. This guy obviously doesn’t love his wife, he’s just going through the motions. Any true blue woman will tell you she doesn’t want to be loved by a man because he has to, she wants a man who wants to love her.
         
So, what possesses us to think God is any different? 
   I want you to show love,
      not offer sacrifices.
   I want you to know me
      more than I want burnt offerings.  ~Hosea 6:6, NLT  
Like any caring father, we can be sure as the sun rose this morning that our heavenly Father desires our obedience, but when our obedience comes from anything other than a heart that says “Thank you for loving me and I love you too”… it’s nothing more than paying God lip service.   
        
God’s looking for more than just our obedience.
Author and pastor Mark Buchanan re-counts the following in his book, Your God is Too Safe:

There is a story about Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. He was inspecting the Berlin prison. As he walked through the hordes of shackled men, they fell pleading at his feet, protesting their innocence. They claimed to be falsely accused, models of virtuous living, completely innocent of all crime. Only one man didn’t do this. Frederick called to him, ‘Prisoner, why are you here?’

‘I robbed a man, Your Majesty.’

‘And are you guilty?’

‘Yes, Your Majesty.’

Frederick called the guard over. Pointing to the man who confessed, he said, ‘Release this man immediately.  I will not have this scoundrel thief kept here where he might corrupt all these fine, virtuous, and innocent men.’

Buchanan continues, “That’s the lovely irony of confession: The one who actually confesses gets out of prison…” 

The issue isn’t whether we are guilty of high treason against the Creator, criminals by the masses swear their innocence when they are guilty as sin. One of two thieves who hung beside Jesus on a hill called Calvary confessed his guilt and recognized Jesus as the Son of God while the other was too busy giving Jesus guff and curing the day of his birth.  One thief saw his plight in light of the Savior while the other couldn’t see past the end of his own nose–surprisingly blinded by his own pride.  One thief was greeted by joy everlasting that day and the other met eternal gnashing of teeth.    

Have you confessed your transgressions and seen the Messiah’s innocence?  

God grants pardon only to those willing to admit their offenses, it’s only the guilty who confess and look to the cross who go free.

Philip Yancey writes, From childhood we are taught how to succeed in the world of ‘ungrace’. ‘You get what you pay for.’ ‘The early bird gets the worm.’ ‘No pain, no gain.’ I know these rules well because I live by them. I work for what I earn; I like to win; I insist on my rights. I want people to get what they deserve. 

But Jesus’ parables about grace teach a radically different concept. In Matthew 18, no one could accumulate a debt as huge as the servant did (vv. 23-24). This underscores the point. The debt is unforgivable. Nevertheless, the master let the servant off scot-free.

The more I reflect on Jesus’ parables proclaiming grace, the more tempted I am to apply the word atrocious to describe the mathematics of the gospel. I believe Jesus gave us these stories to call us to step completely outside our tit-for-tat world of ungrace and enter into God’s realm of infinite grace.

If I care to listen, I hear a loud whisper from the gospel that I did not get what I deserved. I deserved punishment and got forgiveness. I deserved wrath and got love. I deserved debtor’s prison and got instead a clean credit history. I deserved stern lectures and crawl-on-your knees repentance. Instead, I got a banquet spread for me.

How’s your math looking these days?

Two criminals were crucified with Christ. One was saved; do not despair. One was not; do not presume. ~Augustine
 
You can find just about anything on the Internet you’re looking for anymore. Every day the information available with a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse only widens. And with the increase of information, every once in while you’re bound to stumble upon something you weren’t looking for.
  
Yesterday, I was looking up Augustine’s words quoted above and what I found caught me by surprise and puzzled me at the same time. A religious website, which has all of a sudden disappeared, states, “As St. Augustine put it: ‘Don’t despair, the good thief was saved. Don’t presume, the bad thief was not.'”
   
That is not offensive.  It’s gospel-less. And that’s not quite how Augustine put it. Actually, the website has it all backwards. Continue Reading »

Is your discovery that God made you in his image and that he has undertaken great lengths at the price of his own Son to rescue you for himself, is that finally and fully satisfying?—or is God finally and fully satisfying? ~John Piper   

In other words, are you more pre-occupied with yourself and the good fortune God has freely given you than you are content with God himself?

Michael Spencer, you will be with me the rest of my life. You will surely be missed but never forgotten. I’ve cried for an hour now. Can’t wait to catch up with you again. 

Michael Spencer, 1956-2010