We Dare Not Trust Ourselves… (Packer)

knowing god j i packer cover image

Here’s an excellent devotional thought for today. It’s from one of my favorites: Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

What is the purpose of grace? Primarily, to restore man’s relationship with God. …Grace is God drawing sinners closer and closer to Himself.

How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to Him more closely.

This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another—it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold Him fast. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak is that God spends so much of his time showing us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find or follow the right road. When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, likely we would impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm brewing and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we would thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on Him. Therefore He takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in Himself — in the classic scriptural phrase for the secret of the godly man’s life — to “wait on the Lord.”

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 227.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Election, Love, and Foreknowledge (Goodwin)

In Romans 8:29 the apostle Paul talks about people whom God “foreknew.” This word is a very important one in a well-known verse: “…Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren…” (NASB). Paul uses the word “foreknew” in the same context as the word “predestined” because the two are very much related. Speaking of God’s foreknowledge and of predestination, Puritan Thomas Goodwin wrote some helpful comments. Note how Goodwin ties it into the grace and love of God:

This their election, that makes them His, and is here signified by foreknowledge — ‘whom he foreknew’ — is a word appropriated to the elect and their election by God; and election is ascribed unto it, as in Rom. 8:29, ‘Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate’ and 1 Peter 1:1, ‘Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ that is, out of that special foreknowledge which God took of those whom He chose; even such a foreknowledge as is common to no other creatures or persons….

…And thus the sense or meaning of this foreknowledge riseth up to this, that those particular persons, whom out of pure grace and love, without any consideration of works of any kind that were to be in them, He casting His love freely upon them, did, from everlasting, and out of that love, choose to be His, and they are alone His people

Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 9 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864), 17.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Great Grace and a Swelling Tone of Joy! (Warfield)

Scripture teaches that the way of salvation begins and ends with God’s grace (John 1:16, Rom. 11:6; 1 Cor. 15:10, etc.). We are justified and saved by grace alone. This truth gives the Christian great joy! I like how B. B. Warfield talked about this. Note how he links together grace and joy:

It belongs to the very essence of the type of Christianity propagated by the Reformation that the believer should feel himself continuously unworthy of the grace by which he lives. At the center of this type of Christianity lies the contrast of sin and grace; and about this center everything else revolves.

This is in large part the meaning of the emphasis put in this type of Christianity on justification by faith. It is its conviction that there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace.

…The spirit of this Christianity is a spirit of [the] penitent indeed, but [also of] overmastering exultation. The attitude of the “miserable sinner” is not only not one of despair; it is not even one of depression; and not even one of hesitation or doubt; hope is too weak a word to apply to it. It is an attitude of exultant joy. Only this joy has its ground not in ourselves but in our Savior. We are sinners and we know ourselves to be sinners, lost and helpless in ourselves. But we are saved sinners; and it is our salvation which gives the tone to our life, a tone of joy which swells in exact proportion to the sense we have of our ill-desert; for it is he to whom much is forgiven who loves much, and who, loving, rejoices much.

 Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Perfectionism, Part One, vol. 7 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 114.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Music Monday: Love, Grace, and Missions

Trinity Psalter Hymnal GCP, Great Commission Publications cover image

The hymn “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” is one of those songs that touch the hearts of many Christians. It covers the great themes of God’s redeeming love, his sovereign grace, and the prayer for others to come and enjoy God’s great feast. Isaac Watts wrote this song in 1707. The tune is St. Columbia C.M., and it’s #425 in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. This song is certainly one of my favorites! Here are the words:

 How sweet and awesome is the place
with Christ within the doors,
while everlasting love displays
the choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
join to admire the feast,
each of us cries, with thankful tongue,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear your voice,
and enter while there’s room,
when thousands make a wretched choice,
and rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
that sweetly drew us in;
else we had still refused to taste,
and perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God,
constrain the earth to come;
send your victorious Word abroad,
and bring the strangers home.

We long to see your churches full,
that all the chosen race
may, with one voice and heart and soul,
sing your redeeming grace.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Rescued From the Shipwreck of the Law (Calvin)

In Galatians 2:19 Paul wrote, “For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God” (NET). Calvin’s comments on these phrase are quite helpful. It’s a good Tuesday meditation! Here’s Calvin:

To die to the law, may either mean that we renounce it, and are delivered from its dominion, so that we have no confidence in it, and, on the other hand, that it does not hold us captives under the yoke of slavery; or it may mean, that, as it allures us all to destruction, we find in it no life. The latter view appears to be preferable. It is not to Christ, he tells us, that it is owing that the law is more hurtful than beneficial; but the law carries within itself the curse which slays us. Hence it follows, that the death which is brought on by the law is truly deadly. With this is contrasted another kind of death, in the life-giving fellowship of the cross of Christ. He says, that he is crucified together with Christ, that he might live unto God. The ordinary punctuation of this passage obscures the true meaning. It is this: “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God.” But the context will read more smoothly thus: “I through the law am dead to the law;” then, in a separate sentence, “That I might live to God, I am crucified with Christ.”

That I might live to God. He shews that the kind of death, on which the false apostles seized as a ground of quarrel, is a proper object of desire; for he declares that we are dead to the law, not by any means that we may live to sin, but that we may live to God. To live to God, sometimes means to regulate our life according to his will, so as to study nothing else in our whole life but to gain his approbation; but here it means to live, if we may be allowed the expression, the life of God. In this way the various points of the contrast are preserved; for in whatever sense we are said to die to sin, in the same sense do we live to God. In short, Paul informs us that this death is not mortal, but is the cause of a better life; because God snatches us from the shipwreck of the law, and by his grace raises us up to another life.

 John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 73.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015