Taking Back Christianese #3: “God is Always Pleased with You”

Imagine this scenario. Your friend at church (who is a believer) comes to you and confesses an ugly sin they committed.  And they feel terrible about it.  What do you say?

No doubt this scenario is played out countless times a week in evangelical churches all over the country–particularly given the church’s fascination with authenticity and vulnerability (see my post on that issue here).  And it is not always easy to know how to respond.

But here’s one response that gets used a lot:  “Don’t feel bad about this sin.  If you are a believer, then God is always pleased with you.  He can never be more pleased …

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A Serious Challenge to the New Perspective on Paul

As most readers know, there has been a long scholarly debate over what is known as the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP). This approach argues that “justification” in Paul does not mean what many Christians (especially Reformed folks) have always believed.

In short, NPP advocates (e.g., N.T. Wright, James D.G. Dunn) argue that (a) first-century Judaism was not a works-oriented religion, and (b) “justification by faith” is not referring to the acquisition of a righteous status before God, but instead refers to the fact that membership in the covenant community can be obtained without the standard Jewish boundary markers laid out in the law of Moses (inset is a picture …

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The Most Important Passage in the Whole of Scripture

As I mentioned in a prior post here, I have been teaching a weekly Bible study on the book of Romans to women in the Charlotte community.  For the last several months, we have been plodding our way through the first three chapters as Paul has laid out his case that all mankind–Jew and Gentile–are sinful and rightly under the judgment of God.  Paul finishes this section of his letter with this monumental statement: “For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20).

You can almost hear the gavel fall with a boom.

Thankfully, Paul does not end his letter here. …

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A Word of Encouragment to Those in Ministry: God Does Not View Your Labors as “Filthy Rags”

When it comes to our justification–our legal standing before God–our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.”  Indeed, that is the very thing that makes the gospel good news.  We are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done.  We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.

But what does God think of our good works after we are saved?  Here is where, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages.  Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace …

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Justification and Sanctification at T4G

Last week I was privileged to participate in a panel discussion at T4G with my fellow RTS professors Chad Van Dixhoorn, Derek Thomas, and Scott Swain.  The panel was chaired by RTS’s chancellor, Ligon Duncan.

The topic was the relationship between justification and sanctification and how that relationship is played out (in good and bad ways) in the modern reformed and evangelical church.  In particular, the focus was on how many churches (and pastors) today offer what could be called a “justification only” model of ministry.  In an effort to protect and preserve the gospel of grace (a worthy goal), some churches significantly limit (if not cease entirely) any discussion …

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