How does He do this? How does Christ deliver us from the wrath to come? We of course must speak of the cross. Christ delivers by the cross, by his own death. He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. He bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age. We preach Christ and Him crucified, to some an offense, to others foolishness, but to the called the power and wisdom of God. It was on the cross that Jesus died. And for every believer, His wrath was satisfied. “For every sin on Him was laid. Here in the death of Christ I live.”
But it doesn’t end there. If that was it, if that was everything Christ does to deliver us it would be amazing. That would be no small or inconsequential thing. But that, I’m convinced, is only the start of it all. Christ delivers us not only by dying for us on the cross, but living in us by His Spirit. Paul’s gospel was a gospel that demanded him to say things like: “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” and “…because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts…” and “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Don’t let Pentecostal distortions rob you of the joy this brings. Don’t let western categories of thought push you into thinking this must be balanced by some other doctrine. Listen to me: If it’s true, it doesn’t need to be balanced. Christ indwells believers by His Spirit, and there He produces and causes our deliverance from sin and sins. How else is a church marked by the work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope? How else is it possible to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord? Christ delivers us not only by dying for us on the cross, but living in us by His Spirit. It’s Christ! It’s all of Christ! Christ delivers. He will do it. He will bring it to pass. He will cause us to walk as we ought to walk, if we walk by Him, by His Spirit. Does this mean the Christian has no need for exhortation and instruction? Does this mean the Christian does not exercise his will at all? Of course not. But these things must be seen in their proper context. We must put the cart in its proper place in relation to the horse – the bigger, and driving, if not generating and governing reality.
–The Blackie Pulpit
“No doubt there are many truths which [the] unconverted man does know. He may know the truths of mathematics and arithmetic – he may know many of the common every-day truths; but still it cannot be said that [the] unconverted man knows the truth, for Christ is the truth. Christ may be called the keystone of the arch of truth. Take away the keystone of an arch, and the whole becomes a heap of rubbish. The very same stones may be there, but they are all fallen, smothered, and confused, – without order, without end. Just so take Christ away, and the whole arch of truth becomes a heap of rubbish. The very same truths may be there; but they are all fallen – without coherence, without order, without end. Christ may be called the sun of the system of truth. Take away the sun out of our system, and every planet would rush into confusion. The very same planets would be there; but their conflicting forces would draw them hither and thither, orb dashing against orb in endless perplexity. Just so take Christ away, and the whole system of truth rushes into confusion. The same truths may be in the mind, but all conflicting and jarring in inextricable mazes; for ‘the path of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.’ But let Christ be revealed to an unconverted soul – let it not be merely a man speaking about Christ unto him, but let the Spirit of God reveal Him – and there is revealed, not a truth, but the truth. You put the keystone into his arch of truth; you restore the sun to the center of the system” (Robert Murray M’Cheyne, on John 14:6).
When Christ said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” he meant that his death guaranteed not only forgiveness, but His own indwelling presence. The new covenant guarantees that God is not simply way up there [though he is], but resides also in the very core of everyone who trusts in Christ. What Paul said of himself is true for every believer – “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
~Excerpt, The Blackie Pulpit, 2012
The difference between the Old Covenant saint & the New Covenant saint is not regeneration, but in having the Law written on the heart (Jer. 31). This Law is not the shadow of the Decalogue but the substance who is Christ. The ten commandments, as the Old Covenant now made obsolete (Exodus 34.28; Deut. 4.13; Hebrews 8.13) is but a type of Christ, expressing but a dim outline of the fullness of that Law who was to come, revealing the perfect and complete righteousness of God.
I’m just going to say it: pastoral ministry is tough. Don Carson drove it home when, waxing eloquent on 1st Timothy 3, he warned that if one wished to do something easy he should avoid the pastorate and become an astronaut instead. After pastoring two churches over a 15-year span, I appreciate Carson’s vivid exhortation.
Since preaching my final sermon over 16 months ago, I continue to reflect on my now ended pastoral life. As I do so, I confess it is difficult to not arrive at some downright depressing conclusions. One of them is simple. To the questions ‘What was it all for?’ & ‘What did I achieve for Christ?’, I’m hard-pressed to say anything but ‘not much if anything at all.’ Yes. I fight feelings of failure and fruitlessness. Even as I strive to press on in ministry with Action International Ministries, I confess to temptations of quitting. After all, my 15 years could never be considered successful.
So, why press on? Why spend the little strength I have on such a seemingly inconsequential task? Can you relate, Pastor? How about you, believer? Why press on in ministry, especially when weighed down by feelings of failure? Do not dismiss the question. It’s valid, real, and needful. But it’s an occasion for growth in grace, character, and perseverance.
As I sat down before my computer today, preparing myself to work, I came across a delightful blog post. Written by John Piper, it was refreshment to my soul, a glass of cool water on a hot summer’s day. I commend it to you in hopes that it will strengthen you to keep on keeping on, even as it did me. Here’s the link:
Even if You ‘Labor for Nought’
For you because of Him,
To help pastoral candidates determine if a church is the right fit for them, I offer these fourteen questions. Of course, questions of church polity and theology take priority and should be addressed first. But once these foundational matters have been addressed satisfactorily, and if agreement found, these questions may be of considerable help. It’s vitally important to always bear in mind, especially when young and eager to begin pastoral ministry, that our zeal for such a noble task may blind us to the possibility the church now before us may not be best served by us. Brothers, pride is an occupational hazard! So, keep your heads. Watch yourselves. Proceed humbly. Much is at stake.
For you because of Him & His Church,
- What does this church expect from its next pastor?
- Humanly speaking, to whom is your next pastor directly accountable?
- What, if any, authority does the pastoral office hold?
- What is the present situation of the elders’ board? Are there deacons? What is your next pastor’s responsibility to the elders? What is the elders’ responsibility to the pastor?
- What committees (if any) are in place?
- What has been the most significant event in the life of this congregation?
- What has been the most upsetting event in the life of this church?
- What are the present needs of this church?
- Beyond calling a pastor, what is the highest congregational priority for the next year?
- How financially stable is the church? Is there any debt?
- What are the expectations of the church concerning the role played by the pastor’s wife? What areas/ministries do you see the pastor’s wife involved in based on the needs of the congregation?
- Tell me about the Sunday school and midweek programs.
- How is the pastor’s salary/package determined? Does it include car allowance, housing allowance, book allowance, etc.?
- Why am I of particular interest to you?
“You will have heard many say they are not religious, though they have a relationship with God or Christ. I think I know what they mean by that. At least I have a sense of it, I think. And I think their intention is good in that they desire to capture and express the need that one must own Christ and His Work to be counted righteous. I share with them concern that Christ is a person with whom we must commune. But I am also convinced that such a stance overemphasizes the internal and subjective over and against the external and objective. And I also worry ‘relationship’ diminishes, if not denies altogether, the need for righteous living. So, a word of caution here: the phrase “relationship with Christ” is inadequate at best and vague at least. Even Legion had a relationship with Christ, though short lived. But Judas had a much more significant relationship. As it turned out, both relationships counted for nothing unto salvation” (The SGBC Pulpit Archives).