“Forgiving myself” is common practice among Christians today, almost taken for granted as right, necessary, and biblical. The idea runs roughly like this: when I sin, I must confess my wrongdoing to God, accept his pardon, and then forgive myself. Poignantly reflecting the heavily psychologized world in which the Church walks, to witness how vigorously this historically-recent practice is advocated (and defended) bears testimony to just how much water the Old Ship of Zion is taking on.
Christians confess the sufficiency of Scripture for doctrine and practice (2 Pet 1:3; 2 Tim 3:16-17) – that is, the Bible contains all that is necessary for me to know who God is, what he requires of me, and how to do it. But forgiving myself draws from culture, not Canon; since Scripture is silent about this construct, it “goes beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6). The Bible tells us “a broken heart and a contrite spirit he will not despise” (Ps 51:17). “Return to me and I will return to you” (Ps 34:8). “…the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:7,9). Scripture highlights the all-sufficiency of God’s pardon by Christ’s work, calling me to rest in it – and nowhere else. My sin and guilt must be laid at the foot of the Cross alone.
The danger is subtle, but strikingly real. Consider what I’m telling myself in practicing self-forgiveness: I softly say that God’s absolution in Christ is insufficient for peace with him, that having my heart sprinkled to cleanse a guilty conscience (Heb 10:22) isn’t enough. I confess in it that his poured-out wrath on his only Son might pass muster for heaven’s judgment, but not for mine. To “forgive myself” is fundamentally an argument that the suffering and death of Jesus served for “peace with God” (Rom 5:1) – just not for peace within me. Jesus said “it is finished,” yet since I must forgive myself, his grace truly isn’t sufficient for me (2 Cor 12:9). Instead, I supplement the grace of the Cross, completing his pardon by adding my work to it.
Precisely here is the quiet shift from well-intentioned error to genuine heresy. To forgive myself is to substitute God’s standard with mine, to append my judgment and assessment of Christ’s work to Scripture’s, to exchange the Father’s mercy and approval for what I think is best. It’s a gentle replacement which “makes the Cross of none effect” (1 Cor 1:17; Mk 7:13), ultimately relying on “what is right in my own eyes” (Jdg 21:25), on my terms. It makes my sin out to be so great the Jesus couldn’t handle it, or so insignificant that Jesus couldn’t be bothered with it; but either way, I deify myself. In the name of faith in Christ, I put faith in me. At its core, forgiving myself is self-pardon, self-absolution, self-salvation.
I must learn rather to “set my heart at rest in his presence” (1 Jn 3:19-24) when conscience condemns me, by full confession and repentance before the only One who can forgive sins (Mk 2:5-11). I must “still and quiet my soul” by the mercy and merits of Jesus alone (Ps 131:2), for he “is faithful and just to forgive.” By the Spirit’s gracious help, I must learn to look solely to Christ, stricken for sinners like me, to know peace with God (Isa 53:4-6).
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By Sarah Ascol — 1 year ago
More than a decade ago I stood in a square in old Boston listening to a very passionate guide talk about July 18, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old State House there for the first time. One of my historical heroes, First Lady to be Abigail Adams, stood in the crowd that had gathered to hear the declaration read that day. She, an intelligent and thoughtful patriot, understood as much or more than anyone else in the square the significance of the moment.
As I listened to our guide and felt the momentary shadow of the importance of that moment years ago I briefly wondered what it would be like to experience such a day myself. To feel the weight of joy at the hand of God acting through the work of men for the good of a nation and to know the sober reality of the task now ahead. I did not really think I would see such a day in my lifetime.
But then yesterday, June 24, 2022, arrived and I sat awash with emotions at the news of the Supreme Court’s overthrow of Roe v Wade, declaring that the wicked decision which granted national legality to the murder of unborn children nearly 50 years ago was, in fact, not Constitutional after all.
The joy is weighty, overwhelming, deep. It erupted yesterday in happy tears in the middle of shopping and singing psalms at the top of my lungs while running errands. It exploded in thrown together plans for ice cream sundae celebrations with friends last night and the kind of bellylaughing that overflows from an abundance of joy. It was a good day. A feast day. A day that I will happily still be talking about when my hair is grey and my hearing is going. June 24 is a day that deserves the celebration and remembrance of generations to come.
This is a time for praise and thanksgiving to God who has used the work of men to bring about good for a nation who does not deserve His favor and grace. He has given us mercy once again and acted to stay the hand of those who wickedly participated in legalized murder, often gleefully. Mere hours after the decision abortion mills in Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Wisconsin had halted their activities and closed their doors. There are children who were scheduled for death yesterday who are still alive today. Praise the Lord! Praise, oh servants of the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord!
This is a time for praise and thanksgiving to God who has used the work of men to bring about good for a nation who does not deserve His favor and grace.
It is also a time for solemnity. For repentance for the national sin of abortion that has been allowed to stain our land for so long. For mourning over the 60+ million lives that have been snuffed out in the womb, little image bearers whose slaughter should take our breath away and drive us to our knees. For recognition that the work of complete abolition is ongoing and that the struggle will be fierce and, likely, bloody before it is done. But this is a good work, a work that honors God, and a work from which His children must not flinch. Our God is a God of life and calls us to courage in the face of all adversity. The words of Proverbs are instructive to us as we look to the days ahead.
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:10-12)
And it is a good time to remember that we are not the first to have stood in the weight of joy and solemnity, in the day of great matters and in the face of hardships in the struggle to come. John Adams wrote to Abigail on July 3rd, after the Continental Congress had finalized the draft of the Declaration, with this same mix of joy and resolve that all who love the cause of life should feel today.
“I am apt to believe that it [the date of the adoption of the Declaration] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
Our God is a God of life and calls us to courage in the face of all adversity.
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
May God give us this same spirit of rejoicing as we celebrate the overthrow of Roe now and in coming generations, and equal courage and conviction to give our toil, blood, and treasure in a cause that is more than worth all the means, the rescue of those being taken away to death and the full abolition of abortion in every State in this Nation of ours.
By Tom Nettles — 1 week ago
This article is part 2 in a series by Tom Nettles on Remembering Jesus Christ. You can read part 1 here.
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen out of death, arising from the seed of David, according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).
In supplying the name of the one that we are to remember, he also supplies the reasons that forgetfulness in this matter is fatal. Paul supplies the name of the person who embodies the full range of truth and saving grace that counters the falsehoods, errors, and aggressive evil of fallen humanity. As he reminded the Corinthians, “As in Adam all die; even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In the context of this letter to Timothy, Paul uses the combination “Christ Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” fourteen times. Two of these also employ the word “Lord” with the name “Jesus” and the office, “Christ.” Also, there are fifteen other uses of the word “Lord” to refer to Jesus Christ. The book is saturated with Jesus Christ, his lordship, his mercy, his purpose, his truthful word, his conquering of death, his promise of life, his salvation, his status as judge, and his personal presence with the believer. Paul aimed to make it impossible to forget either the person or the work of Jesus Christ. To forget is to deny; to deny is to give surety of an absence of grace.
Particularly Paul does not want us to forget the significance of the name and the title given to him. His name is Jesus. The angel told Joseph, calling him “son of David,” that the child with whom Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit was to be called “Jesus” (Matthew 1:20, 21). The significance of this designated name was related to the child’s office as Savior—“for he shall save his people from their sins.” The name means, “Jehovah is salvation.”
For Joshua (the same name), his name was a testimony to the promise of Jehovah in giving to Israel the land of Abraham. It signified that Jehovah was strong, mighty, faithful, the only God, and would accomplish all his promises, both of blessing and of cursing. He would work through Joshua to fulfill these promises and establish the context where the people would respond to this miraculous deliverance and strikingly clear revelation. Some of the promises were unconditional and unilateral. No alterations among the Israelites could change the ability and determination of God to carry through. Others were conditional and were, in one sense, dependent on the faithfulness of the people (2 Kings 23:26, 27).
The task of Joshua was typological; the task for Jesus was the substance and absolute. Joshua set the stage for the powerful display of divine purpose; Jesus embodied the mystery of godliness. Joshua testified of the power of God to save and called the people to follow him in serving the Lord (Joshua 24); Jesus did not merely testify to the power of God to save, but he possessed and executed his saving power by own righteous acts and perfect obedience. Not only like Joshua did he testify to the power of God to save, but he constituted the saving purpose of God. Though “Jesus” is his human name, it also is a testimony to his divine nature–”Jehovah is salvation.”
As “Christ,” the God-man Jesus is the anointed one. Every office and type established by anointing, the Christ culminated in himself. Did God give prophets to reveal and speak and write his word to his people? Jesus is the prophet promised through Moses, the “Word made flesh,” the Son through whom God “has spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2). Is he not the true Elisha, the God of supplication, anointed by Elijah (1 Kings 19: 16; Luke 1:17; 3:21, 22; Luke 23:34; John 1:29-34). Does the Lord not set forth the prophet as a special representative of his anointing? (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15). “Do not touch my anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm.” Does not Jesus claim that he is the fulfillment of the anointed prophet sent to preach good tidings to the poor, and proclaim liberty to the captives? (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18).
He is Priest. As the priest was anointed to offer sacrifice (Leviticus 4:4, 5) and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice. Christ, therefore, offered himself once-for-all putting an end to all of the typological sacrifices. Though not of the tribe of Levi, he received a special commission for this purpose (Hebrews 7:20; 8:6; 9:12, 24-26). So, Jesus Christ, having served as the anointed prophet, then completed his anointed work of priesthood, altar, and sacrifice. Nothing in the sacrificial system was left unfulfilled by him.
David was anointed king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13). In consequence of the Christ’s completed prophetic work and the perfection of his priesthood, he was given his seat at the right hand “of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3), fulfilling the promise to David of the forever king established by God. “And I will establish him in my house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:14). Jesus Christ alone, in all three of these offices can say, “I have been anointed with fresh oil” (Psalm 92:10).
Nothing else would matter if the next phrase were not vital to the way we are called upon to “Remember Jesus Christ.” Both the soteriological power and the apologetic coherence of the gospel would fall to the ground, no more to rise, without it. “Risen from the dead” denotes the conquering of the scheme of Satan to oppose the purpose of God in lifting up non-angelic creatures to a position higher than the angels—in fact, to share in some way with the glory of his Son. Jesus did not give aid to angels but was “made like his brethren,” made propitiation “for the sins of the people,” and “having purged our sins,” destroyed him that has the “power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14-17; 1:3). The wages of sin, the penalty of death for disobedience, unpropitiated through the ages, held as a threat by the Devil and verified by divine justice, lost its sting when Jesus “bore our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ, who bore those death-dealing sins, was “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4). This means that all the holy, righteous, and just attributes of God, the entire weightiness of God, were honored completely by Christ’s death and thus called for the granting of life to the successful sin-bearer. Death, therefore, no longer has any hold on Christ or his people and Satan’s tool of intimidation has been removed. The work of Christ and the verdict of the Father are communicated in power to the redeemed by the Spirit. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). God, therefore, instead of being against us is for us. Why? Because he “spared not His own Son but delivered him up for us all.” Having given us Him, he freely gives us all that Christ has gained. None can now condemn for “it is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God.” On top of that he “makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:32-34).
Under the name of Christ, we already have looked briefly at the significance of the phrase, “out of a seed of David.” The anarthrous use of spermatos has the force of isolating the word to a specific person, Mary. Jesus was born, was conceived in and then came out of Mary, a seed of David. Luke 1:27 has the phrase, “out of the house of David,” a phrase to be applied both to Mary and Joseph. The seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) was also the seed of David. He descended from David in his human nature and has a right to the throne. “He will be great,” the angel told Mary, “and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Luke 1:32). How low the House had fallen that a teenage virgin was to bear the seed of David to the Messiah and his legal father would be a mere carpenter. Luke 2:4 again emphasizes that Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” because the enrollment must take place legally according to the male of the household. When the angel addressed Joseph to inform him of the source of Mary’s impregnation, he said “Joseph, son of David” (Matthew 1:20). Jeremiah 30:9 predicts, “They shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king.” In Ezekiel we read, “And my servant David shall be king over them” (34:24; 37:24). Hosea predicts that after a time of devastation, Israel will “seek the Lord their God and David their king” (Hosea 3:5). This descent from David confirms the prophetic material concerning the Messiah, seals the reality of his humanity, and shows that the true “Man after God’s own heart” saves us, rules over us with lovingkindness until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
Paul has given a thick distillation of biblical doctrine on the person of Christ in his paternal admonition to Timothy. For his preaching, his instruction of elders, and for his personal joy and assurance Paul instructed Timothy, and so instructs us, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of a seed of David.”
This article is part 2 in a series by Tom Nettles on Remembering Jesus Christ.
Join us at the 2024 National Founders Conference on January 18-20 as we consider what it means to “Remember Jesus Christ” under the teaching of Tom Ascol, Joel Beeke, Paul Washer, Phil Johnson, Conrad Mbewe and Travis Allen.
By Alex Kocman — 2 years ago
In The Devil’s Dictionary, the satirist Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) defined dishonesty as “an important element of commercial success” (p. 85).
While this definition is cynical, it’s not wrong. One can only wonder what Bierce would say if he witnessed the state of today’s church.
You don’t have to look far to see dishonesty in the church. In the US, concert music and TED-style talks take the place of reverent worship and faithful biblical exposition. Across the globe, roaming “apostles” skip from one downtrodden, developing nation to another, lining their pockets with each staged signs-and-wonders crusade.
But the problem isn’t only external—it’s not just the bad guys and heretics out there. The problem lurks in our own hearts.
It’s the small-town pastor who, rubbing shoulders with bigshots at a conference, puffs his chest and rounds up when asked about his church’s weekly attendance. It’s the nonprofit that parrots the world’s marketing lingo of inclusiveness and “justice” to hit that Gen Z target audience. It’s the overseas worker tempted to cook the books on the “decisions for Christ” column in the annual report—after all, who would know?
Few of us are above these temptations. We must diagnose the problem. But we must also take great care to not misdiagnose it.
One common diagnosis is pragmatism.
We are too utilitarian—we do what we think works. We tweak our language to avoid gospel offense. We offer entertainment because it seems to grow the church, reasoning that more bodies in pews means more changed lives. We focus on results more than faithfulness.
Worldly, pragmatic methods in ministry are simply rotten fruit on a sickly vine.
But a missionary friend of mine recently challenged this diagnosis. “Pragmatism isn’t the problem,” he told me. He has seen similar problems firsthand in the Islamic world, where pioneering missionaries in risky countries, backed by enthusiastic supporters, face daily temptation to exaggerate the fruit of their efforts.
I asked him what he thinks the real problem is. “Fear of man,” he replied.
He pinpointed the root issue as the desire to be well-regarded. Like the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, those in ministry who justify dishonesty and compromise the Lord’s work love “the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43). Worldly, pragmatic methods in ministry are simply rotten fruit on a sickly vine.
If my missionary friend is right, then our ailment goes far deeper than our North American obsession with results. Idolatry of human approval affects all of us to some extent—even we, who oppose using shrewd, worldly marketing tactics to grow our ministries. At times, we all prefer an “atta boy” or “atta girl” to “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23). We covet favor with the guild or with teammates above the unpopularity produced by fidelity to Scripture.
Let’s assume my friend is right. What do we do?
In C.S. Lewis’ lecture “The Inner Ring,” addressed to a group of young, up-and-comers, he expounds the danger of our lust to belong to an elite in-group:
“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.”
It is one thing for us to reject worldly pragmatism in ministry. But we should not commend ourselves unless we also wage war against our own lust to belong to the in-group—whether to the pragmatic mainstreamorto its ranks of critics.
For the missionary, pastor, or church planter, faithfulness in ministry may mean displeasing a colleague, a mentor, or a training group that embraces more pragmatic methods. If our solitary aim is to please him who enlisted us (2 Tim. 2:4), we will do well.
Faithfulness is its own reward.
May we fear God more than men.
This article was originally published here