Category Archives: Living the Bible

A Love Poem & Longing

I just downloaded Harvard Classics English Poetry volume for free today (8/21/15) because I read almost exclusively non-fiction and know I  need more literature and poetry in my information diet. The first poem I read got me thinking about how the human heart longs for Jesus:

You may train the eagle
To stoop to your fist;
Or you may inveigle
The phoenix of the east;
The lioness, ye may move her
To give o’er her prey;
But you’ll ne’er stop a lover:
He will find out his way.
Anonymous, “Love Will Find out the Way”

Here is a poem that says it’s easier to tame an eagle or convince a lioness to give you her fresh kill than to stop a man from reaching the woman he loves. This resonates because it appeals to the romantic instincts in our hearts.

But, as anyone who has been in any romantic relationship knows, this is an idealized portrait of love. Affections wane over time. Husbands (I’m really guilty here lately) don’t pursue their wives with intensity. The love we see in life just doesn’t add up to what our hearts know love should look like.

It’s as if we know what we give and what we experience is a tarnished copy of the real thing.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

In the end, the only lover who this poem describes is the One who first loved us.

I’m planning more thinking and writing about an apologetic of yearning as well as a hermeneutic of yearning. In the meantime: Where do you see unmet longings in this world that point to Christ?

Killing Redundancy in Prayer

I completely misread the following headline: “The Benefits of Catechetical Preaching.

What I read was: “The Benefits of Catechetical Praying.” I’m so glad I misread that. It sparked a helpful idea in my head.

The Problem

I find that I’m often redundant in prayer. I’ll often revert to the same thoughts, especially in thanksgiving and praise to God. If I constantly thank God for the same three-to-five things my prayer life gets stagnant. It’s not healthy.

What Is a Catechism?

A catechism is a tool for doctrinal instruction that is usually presented in a question-answer format.

How Can a Catechism Help?

A catechism is a very useful reminder of truths about God so that we can broaden our praise and thanksgiving. Here are two examples from the first two questions in Spurgeon’s Catechism (it closely mirrors the Westminster Catechism): Continue reading Killing Redundancy in Prayer

Getting Holiness Right

This is a follow-on to the previous post You’re Doing Holiness Wrong about the debate surrounding Tulian Tchividjian about living a holy life. That post presented the history of the discussion. This is my take on the matter.

Tchividjian’s Critics Are Missing His Point

It seems to me that some of Tchividjian’s critics believe he is teaching that obedience is unnecessary since Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. That’s not the case.

Tchividjian’s point is this: We should obey God. The way we get the strength to obey God is by reflecting on the amazing grace of our justification.

In other words, we are empowered to obey God by the Spirit-induced realization that all our obedience was bought for us at the cross.

What’s Right, What’s Wrong

Tchividjian is correct: He is correct that the glory of the gospel gives amazes us and gives us strength to live holy lives.

Tchividjian is wrong: He is incorrect in saying that this is the only way God has provided for us to live holy lives.

Christians have more inspirations than justification.

There is more to sanctification than simply looking to the cross. Here is a partial list of the glories we look to to inspire our holiness:

  • Gazing on the glory of the cross empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of the empty tomb empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of our future heavenly home empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Jesus himself empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of the mystery of the Trinity empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Christ’s victory over Satan empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Christ’s body, the Church, empowers us.

Christians have more empowerment than inspiration.

But we aren’t empowered only by looking at glorious things and feeling inspired. God has given us other strength in the fight:

  • We have power from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • We have a new nature that is no longer enslaved to sin.
  • We have encouragement from our brothers and sisters in the Church.
  • We have the instruction of the Bible.
  • We have the strength of our own striving. (Yes, it’s okay to work hard at your sanctification, just not your justification.)

In the end, Tchividjian has hit on one facet of one part of our strength for holy living. His answer is correct as far as it goes but it’s simply incomplete. By hanging onto a doctrine of “empowerment by a single inspiration” he has:

  • missed many other inspirations within the same category and…
  • he has missed other categories of empowerment altogether.


I would be remiss to say that Tchividjian’s critics get him completely wrong. Two of DeYoung’s questions address the center of the issue:

2. Is there more than one motivation for holiness? Is preaching our acceptance in Christ and God’s free grace for sinners the only way to produce change in the Christian? Or are there many medicines for our motivation in godliness and many precious remedies against Satan’s devices?

6. Is sanctification by faith alone? We know that work has no place in justification, but what about in sanctification? Should we say that sanctification is monergistic or synergistic, or are these the wrong categories altogether? How are justification and sanctification different?

This is an ongoing conversation so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

So now it’s your turn: What other things has God given us to empower us to live holy lives pleasing to him?

Update: Tchividjian claims to have been kicked off the Gospel Coalition website and is now blogging elsewhere.

The Three Worst Qualities of the Gospel-Centered Movement

There are three major failings the gospel-centered movement is prone to. From time to time I see them in myself and I want to warn you against them.


The gospel-centered movement has the potential to turn us into legalists about the gospel.

Gospel-centeredness is all about grace and how the whole Bible points to it. So how can legalism be a part of that? Unfortunately you can be legalistic about grace.

Gospel-centered Bible study has the potential to turn us into legalists because it is so true. What do I mean by that? When you come to see the beauty of how the Bible points to Jesus you begin to view everything through that lens. Along with the positives, it can breed negative results if we don’t guard ourselves: Continue reading The Three Worst Qualities of the Gospel-Centered Movement

How To Use The Gospel To Pursue Holiness Part 2

This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:

How do we grow in sanctification? By viewing God’s mercy:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Rom 12:1

In view of what mercy?

  • We deserve God’s wrath (Rom 1:18, 2:5)
  • But Jesus bore our punishment (Rom 3:21-26)
  • In him we are made righteous (Rom 3:27-4:25)
  • We are reconciled to God (Rom 5:1-2)
  • We are freed from slavery to sin (Rom 6:6)
  • We receive the deposit of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14-17)

Paul sums up how we should react to this mercy in Rom 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God’s mercy should propel us into worship. That worship should propel us into a life pointed in his direction (Rom 12:1). Paul instructs us to be transformed “in view of God’s mercy.” So we need to view God’s mercy.

If you have a sanctification problem don’t focus solely on your actions. Look to your worship first.

How To Use the Gospel To Pursue Holiness

This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:

We just looked at how we can use the gospel to kill sin in our lives. But if we turn away from sin what is it that we turn towards? Today I want to look at a sermon by Peter Vinke titled, “How is Gospel-Grace the Best Motive to Holiness?” Vinke uses this sermon on 2 Timothy 2:19 to explore how Christians can use the gospel to fuel their good works.

How Not To Pursue Holiness

Vinke first discusses how the gospel should not be used to promote holiness. If we look at the gospel and think we need to repay God we are headed in the wrong direction: Continue reading How To Use the Gospel To Pursue Holiness

How To Use the Gospel To Kill Sin

This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:

The gospel isn’t just for non-Christians. It’s not something we move past once we’ve entered the Kingdom. Believing the gospel and living in light of it is how we grow in our faith:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Gal 3:1-6

Notice a few things about Paul’s exhortation:

  1. We are not yet fully mature and need to be “perfected.”
  2. The Holy Spirit is the alternative to “the flesh” as the power for our sanctification.
  3. The Holy Spirit works through our faith – in the gospel.

If 1) we need to be perfected 2) through the work of the Holy Spirit 3) through our faith in the gospel, how does that process work? We can invite and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work in us by asking ourselves five questions and then working hard to fight the sin along side Him:

1. What is the selfish heart condition which seeks to improperly fulfill a natural, God-given desire?

Why do we sin? We sin because we want to fulfill legitimate desires in illegitimate ways. Some examples:

  • Lust: The sins of lust and adultery are corrupted means of fulfilling our God-given desire for sexual satisfaction in God-honoring, God-reflecting marriage.
  • Anger: The sin of anger is a corrupted means of fulfilling our God-given desire for justice.

Before we can fight sin we need to know what the sin actually is. Look beyond the action to the motivation – that’s where the sinful heart produces the sinful action:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

2. How did God fulfill that need for us through the gospel and free us from having to fulfill it for ourselves?

We are not left alone trying to satisfy our God-given desires. We do not need to resort to corruptions. We have a way out:

God has provided for all our needs in the gospel.

  • Lust: God ordained the desire for sexual intimacy to pull us into marriage – a reflection of his love for us. (Eph 5:25) Not only that but the gospel paves the way for reconciliation within marriage so we can flourish in that relationship.
  • Anger: God has poured out his wrath on injustice so that we don’t have to. The anger that boils up in us when we feel personally wronged pales in comparison to the anger that was due us but extinguished on the cross.

The gospel doesn’t just address these needs and desires, it fills them in a more beautiful and satisfying way than we can on our own. The gospel isn’t just a ticket into heaven. It’s the answer to our most pressing problems.

3. How can we remind ourselves of this when tempted to sin?

The only way to stop the cycle of sin is intervening with the gospel. How do we cut into it?

Pray: Remember how we began this discussion recognizing that Paul said that the Holy Spirit is involved in our sanctification? Ask God to make the gospel beautiful to your eyes. When tempted, cry out to him to make the gospel seem beautiful and sufficient so that you do not need the sin to be satisfied.

Reflect: You won’t remember how the gospel preempts and overpowers your sin unless that knowledge is embedded deep inside. This means we must meditate on how the gospel fills our need before temptation comes. Think ahead and anticipate your temptations. When are you most likely to be tempted? What will you be thinking about? Meditate on the beauty of the gospel before that time. This needs to be a habit in your life because our desires to sin are so strong – we need to preemptively attack.

4. How can we learn to hate the sin?

Defeating sin requires that we ultimately hate sin.

If sin is detestable to us we won’t be tempted to indulge in it. In fact, it won’t be indulging anymore because we only indulge in the things we like. The question is, “How do we learn to hate sin?”

We could look at the filth of our sin all day long. Or we could look at Jesus:

If you will see sin’s sinfulness to loathe it, and mourn, do not stand looking upon [your] sin, but look upon Christ first, as suffering and satisfying for it.
– Thomas Wilcox via Of First Importance


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:1-2

We need to cast off the sin that entangles us.


By looking to Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. Find this beautiful and you will not find sin beautiful.

Remember, though, that this is a program for inviting the Holy Spirit to help us crush the desire to sin. This does not mean that we are free from the responsibility to work hard against the sin. In fact, looking again to Hebrews 12 we see that we are responsible to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Never think that you are relieved of your responsibility to work hard against sin.

That’s not all.

Defeating sin is an important part of our sanctification. If we are to look like our Elder Brother we need to be killing sin. But that’s not our only goal in sanctification. We also need to pursue good works.

How can we use the gospel to pursue holiness? That’s what we’ll discuss next.


Further Reading:
The gospel is not just for the unsaved.
Calling God “Fool” – I’m Sanctifying Myself