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The Legalist’s Spirit (via Sam Storms)

Legalism among Christian disciples is the product of misplaced or misundertood trust that diminishes grace.
From Sam Storms:

Legalists feel good when they can identify another person’s errors. It reinforces their feelings of superiority. They actually think themselves more spiritual, more godly, and more favored and loved by God.
There’s a flip side to the legalistic spirit. In addition to being quick and dogmatic in identifying the small and rare failures of others, the legalist never acknowledges his own faults and failures. To admit and confess to sin or misjudgment is to run the risk of losing power, losing face, or losing prestige.
What drives this spirit? It is the belief that one’s own efforts and achievements merit acceptance with God and approval from men. Instead of resting in Christ’s achievements, confident of what he has done for us, legalists redouble their own works and take pride in what they do in view of what others don’t.
Look again at Mark 2:24: “And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” Or again, Mark 3:2: “they watched him closely” (niv). That’s the legalists’ spirit: always on the lookout for someone else’s sin; always scanning the horizon for someone’s failure to measure up to their rules, rules that aren’t in the Bible; always spying on the behavior and beliefs of the other person to root out the slightest deviation from their traditions. They nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge!

Read the whole post at the Crossway Blog.


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The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This” (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stop whatever you’re doing and read Stephen McAlpine’s post The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This”.
No excerpts, no quotes, the whole thing is a highlight.
Really.
Read it.


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The Disappointment We Must Control (via Ralph Davis)

There is a form of remembering the goodness and grace of God that can kill faith in the present.
Ralph Davis, from a study on Ezra:

The Disappointment We Must Control – Ezra 3:12-13
What a mixed response! From Ezra 3:12b it looks like the memory of the first temple clouded the day for some (see 1 Kings 5-7on Solomon’s temple). The older folks could still recall that magnificence. And they could tell from the foundation of this projected temple that it would have none of the “pizzazz” of Solomon’s. There is no problem here with the candor of their weeping, but there is a danger in it – it could color the whole occasion. But you can understand them, can you not?
In 1953 my father purchased a new car, a 1953 Chevrolet. As usual, he selected the most basic, stripped-down, economical model. He bought the “150” model, which had black rubber instead of chrome trim on the back fender. There was no radio. It had only regular hubcaps, no wheel covers, and a standard transmission, no “Power Glide.” It was nothing like the fine looking “Bel Air” model. This second temple was a “150” model, and a major disappointment to those who had seen Solomon’s Bel Air style.
Sometimes nostalgia like this can kill a church. We can also have problems if a church does not meet our expectations in its ministry or fellowship. In our culture of hyped-expectations, we tend to think that what is low-key, ordinary, plain, simple and quiet must be rather worthless – and this attitude can infect God’s people. Sometimes we can be so caught up in desiring revival (not a series of meetings, but when God’s Spirit is poured out in a striking way) that we may forget that it’s possible to be faithful even when God doesn’t send revival. We can still engage in family worship, sincere public worship, loving intercessory prayer, consistent Christian living in school or workplace. Don’t despise the “day of small things” (Zech 4:10). What matters is not whether the church is grand, but whether she is genuine. The question is not “Is it jazzy here?” but “Is Jesus here?”
Can the people of God live through their gray days? Yes, by running with their fears to worship their Savior; by expecting that though God has dashed their hopes they will yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; and by being content when God prefers to work in plain, ordinary, non-sensational ways.

source


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The Most Trustworthy Element In Our Day (via Scotty Smith)

A prayer for those days when things are a bit blergh.
When you’re somewhere between the two sons of Luke 15.
From Heavenward, by Scotty Smith.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Heavenly Father, I’m not beginning my day in a faraway country derelict, disillusioned, and destitute. Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not sitting here filled with shame for squandering an inheritance. And neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. Yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children. So here I come.
Because the gospel is true, I bring you my busy, easily-distracted, somewhat-blasé heart. I feel like a 3rd Luke 15 son right now—a hybrid of the Father’s two boys Jesus described. I’m not on a hedonistic holiday, and I’m not spewing the toxins of self-righteousness. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing right now. I’m not cold, hot, or lukewarm. I’m just here.
So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that we’ll always find you filled with compassion for us, even when our feelings are not fully engaged with you. As we saunter toward you, you’re always running toward us in Jesus. When we’re not as inclined to lift our arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most trustworthy element in our day.
You don’t just put your hand on our shoulders; you throw your arms around us in the gospel. And though our affection for you wavers, you shower us with multiple kisses all day long, for you love your children with an everlasting, unwavering love.
It’s not my fired-up-ness, but your faithfulness that counts. It’s not my peace with you, but your peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. Because the gospel is true and good, I will seek to live and love to your glory today. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

Source


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J.B. Roane And The Case Of The Belated Apology by Larry Parsley

At Mockingbird Larry Parsley offers a piece of short fiction featuring J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.
Rev. Roane is engaged by a man named Thornton who needs his assistance in conveying a belated apology.
“I’d like to hire you for job. It’s a little out of the ordinary. I should be able to do it myself, but dang it, I just can’t.”
If subsequent offerings remain at this standard I’d look forward to a collection.
Have a read at Mockingbird.


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Nobody Welcomes Grace. At The Same Time Everybody Pants For It (via Paul Zahl)

Grace has to be the total paradigm, mix it with anything else and it can’t exist.
From Paul Zahl.

How can grace end-run its way around standards and yardsticks? It sounds unfair.
It is unfair, but it is completely unfair. It is the other side of the law, which is total grappling, a totally unsuccessful and failed grappling, with judgment. Because the law is completely fair, grace has to be completely “unfair.” The atonement makes grace “fair,” as is apparent in the teaching concerning the cross, But from our point of view, from the standpoint of its recipient, grace is unfair.
The unfair character of grace makes it persona non grata in the cut-and-thrust of the battle of life. Nobody welcomes grace. At the same time everybody pants for it; everybody wants it every second of every hour. Grace is an either-or proposition; it is not both-and.

Grace In Practice, Paul F. M. Zahl, Eerdmans, 2007, pgs 70-71.


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Two Expressions Of A Grace-Filled Church

This morning it occurred to me that in striving to nurture a grace-filled culture in a local church that there are two expressions of grace required.
The first of those is a culture of grace that frees people to be who they are; liberated from carrying the pretences and masks of self-protection that make them appear as people who have it all together.
The second of those is a culture of grace that enables us to love and support each other when we find ourselves with all these imperfect people around.
Otherwise you encourage people to be themselves, only to find yourself frustrated that they won’t get their acts together.
A grace filled church: a place where people can be who they are – instead of who they think people want them to be; a place where people accept each other and love each other for who they are – not what we’d like them to be.