Christian, Uncategorized

J.I. Packer on Liberty

An Excerpt from J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology:

The New Testament sees salvation in Christ as liberation and the Christian life as one of liberty- Christ has freed us for freedom. Christ’s liberating action is not a matter of socio-politico-economic improvement, as is sometimes suggested today, but relates to the following three points:

First, Christians have been set free from the law as a system of salvation. Being justified by faith in Christ, they are no longer under God’s law, but under his grace. This means that their standing with God rests wholly on the fact that they have been accepted and adopted in Christ. It does not, nor ever will it, depend on what they do; it will never be imperiled by what they fail to do. They live, and as long as they are in this world will live, not by being perfect, but by being forgiven.

All natural religion, then, is negated, for the natural instinct of fallen man, as expressed in every form of religion that the world has ever devised, is to suppose that one gains and keeps a right relationship with ultimate reality (whether conceived as a personal God or in other terms) by disciplines of law observation, right ritual, and asceticism. This is how the world’s faiths prescribe the establishing of one’s own righteousness- the very thing Paul saw unbelieving Jews trying to do. Paul’s experience had taught him that this is a hopeless enterprise. No human performance is ever good enough, for there are always wrong desires in the heart, along with a lack of right ones, regardless of how correct one’s outward motions are, and it is at the heart that God looks first.

All the law can do is arouse, expose, and condemn the sin that permeates our moral makeup, and so make us aware of its reality, depth, and guilt. So the futility of treating the law as a covenant of works, and seeking righteousness by it, becomes plain, as does the misery of not knowing what else to do. This is the bondage to the law from which Christ sets us free.

Second, Christians have been set free from sin’s domination. They have been supernaturally regenerated and made alive to God through union with Christ in his death and risen life, and this means that the deepest desire of their heart now is to serve God by practicing righteousness. Sin’s domination involved not only constant acts of disobedience, but also a constant lack of zeal for law-keeping, rising sometimes to positive resentment and hatred toward the law. Now, however, being changed in heart, motivated by gratitude for acceptance through free grace, and energized by the Holy Spirit, they “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way the same way. Its third fault is lovelessness in that its self-advancing purpose squeezes humble kindness and creative compassion out of the heart.

In the New Testament, we meet both Pharisaic and Judaizing legalism. The Pharisees thought that their status as children of Abraham made God’s pleasure in them possible, and that their formalized daily law-keeping, down to minutest details, would make it actual. The Judaizers viewed Gentile evangelism as a form of proselytizing for Judaism; they believed that the Gentile believer in Christ must go on to become a Jew by circumcision and observance of the festal calendar and ritual law, and that thus he would gain increased favor with God. Jesus attacked the Pharisees; Paul, the Judaizers.

The Pharisees were formalists, focusing entirely on the externals of action, disregarding motives and purposes, and reducing life to mechanical rule-keeping. They thought themselves faithful law-keepers although (a) they majored in minors, neglecting what matters most; (b) their casuistry negated the law’s spirit and aim; (c) they treated traditions of practice as part of God’s authoritative law, thus binding consciences where God had left them free; (d) they were hypocrites at heart, angling for man’s approval all the time. Jesus was very sharp with them on these points.

In Galatians, Paul condemns the Judaizers’ “Christ-plus” message as obscuring and indeed denying the all-sufficiency of the grace revealed in Jesus. In Colossians, he conducts a similar polemic against a similar “Christ-plus” formula for “fullness”. Any “plus” that requires us to take action in order to add to what Christ has given us is a reversion to legalism and, in truth, an insult to Christ.

So far, then, from enriching our relationship with God, as it seeks to do, legalism in all its forms does the opposite. It puts that relationship in jeopardy and, by stopping us focusing on Christ, it starves our souls while feeding our pride. Legalistic religion in all its forms should be avoided like the plague.

A copy of this book can be purchased here:

Advertisements
Standard
Christian, Uncategorized

“Pray About Everything” A Review

The discipline of prayer is often one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines of our time. I often find in my own life I have so much to pray about and yet, I pray so little. As a pastor, this is concerning to me, but what becomes more concerning, is when I realize that the seeds planted in the pulpit are reaped in the pew. Paul Tautges seeks to reverse this trend by setting forth this short work that encourages individuals, specifically pastors, to cultivate a profound sense of God-dependency within their lives and within their congregations.

In “Pray About Everything”, Paul Tautges presents a firm theological foundation for prayer that is both readable and enjoyable. This book is written in two parts with a practical set of appendices that help to wrap everything up. In Part 1, Tautges seeks to define and ground the command to pray within the biblical and historical tradition. Tautges shows that the early church understood prayer to be a lifestyle of God-dependency. He also examines how Paul’s commands to the church at Thessalonica reveals a powerful level of dependence on God in every aspect of life. In Part 2, Tautges presents seven brief meditations for prayer meetings. These meditations are instructional and devotional. They include instructions on what it means to pray in Jesus’ name, praying for unbelievers, praying for government leaders, and various other practical beliefs about prayer.

In these two parts, Tautges presents a wealth of biblical knowledge on prayer that is perfect for beginners and those more advanced in the discipline of prayer. Tautges brings together the profound and the simple in an extremely helpful and attainable manner. In every chapter, Tautges shows his heart for churches to let go of self-dependency and grasp the life-giving God-dependency found in the gospel. As a pastor, I would recommend this book to anyone struggling to cultivate a consistent and meaningful prayer life, and I intend on using it with my own congregation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Shepherd Press in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Standard