“The word grace , in the fulness of its meaning, is one of the most precious truths in Scripture.” p.77
“I believe that a correct understanding of God’s grace and a consistent reliance on it is the only sure foundation for progress in spiritual transformation.” p.78
‘Historically, the evangelical definition of grace is “God’s unmerited favor.” This definition is not wrong, but I believe that it is inadequate – that it does not do justice to the concept of grace presented in the Bible.” p.79
“I believe that a biblical definition of grace is “God’s blessings through Christ to people who deserve His curse.” It is because of Christ and His sinless life and sin-bearing death that we do not receive the curse we deserve but instead receive the blessings from God we do not deserve.” p.80
“And it is important to realize that all of God’s blessings to us are expressions of His grace. All of them come to us as a result of the work of Christ for us.Not a single blessing from God comes to us apart from the work of Christ on our behalf. Not even one!” p. 80-81
The truth is, God’s approval does have to be earned. That is what Christ did for us.” p.81
“The question is do we really believe we deserve the curse of God? Do we have such a view of the holiness of God – that is, both His transcendent majesty and infinite moral purity – that we see even our “small” sins (small in our own eyes) as what R.C. Sproul calls “cosmic treason””? p.83
“So why should we obey if our obedience does not earn favor with God? The answer, as we have already seen, is gratitude for what God has done for us. Obedience that flows out of gratitude is the only obedience acceptable to God and is the only obedience that will bring joy to our own hearts.” p.84
Next Week: Chapter 8 – The Transforming Work of the Holy Spirit
Some quotes from this chapter that help to sum up what it is about…
Isaiah had been totally devastated morally and spiritually, by his vision of the infinite holiness of God. Then the seraphim had announced the gospel to him: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Is 6:7)
Soon he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I! Send me” (verse 8). His response is immediate and spontaneous. He said, “Here am I,” not “Here I am.” The latter denotes location, whereas, “Here am I” means “I am available.” He didn’t ask any questions, such as “Go where? or “Do what?” He, in effect, gave God a blank check for his life. He sai, “Here am I. Send me.” Why did he respond in this way? It is because Isaiah was so deeply impacted by the gospel that he responded in heartfelt gratitude to God for what He has done for him. p. 65
It is Isaiah’s vision of the infinite holiness of God that awakens his painful awareness of his sin, leading him to a deep appreciation of the gospel and resulting in a joyful expression of gratitude. p.70
Because we tend to define sin in terms of the flagrant ones in our society, we have little sense of our own personal guilt before an infinitely holy God. Consequently, we have little appreciation for the forgiveness of our sins and so little enthusiasm to earnestly pursue holiness or serve God sacrificially. There is no “guilt, grace, gratitude” sequence in most of our lives. p.71
…the question is whether we are growing more each year in our awareness of our remaining sinfulness and, consequently, of our desperate dependence on the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. p. 71
But the reality of the Christian life is that even as we come more and more to desire to do our duty, we still experience the combat between the flesh and the spirit….How then can we keep motivated in the face of this growing tension? The answer is through the gospel, particularly the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to us…. We must keep our eye on that glorious truth, and we must do it daily as we embrace the present reality of our justification: our righteous standing in Christ. Only then will we be motivated to keep pursuing holiness even in the face of the increased tension. p.75
1. When thinking about the holiness of God, why is it necessary to grasp the meaning of His transcendent majesty before we can understand His moral purity? Transcendent majesty speaks of the infinite power, authority, royalty, dignity, and splendor that is God’s. Transcendent meaning all surpassing, above and beyond anything we can comprehend. He is so “separate” from us that the Hebrews did not have a word to describe it – they had to use repetition to give his holiness the emphasis it deserved. Holy! Holy! Holy! It is only when we can begin to catch a glimpse of his “otherliness” that we can begin to grasp his moral purity.
2. Do you think Christians tend to believe Isaiah’s declaration that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”? Why or why not? Not so much. We are called to “be holy as He is holy”. But we tend to measure ourselves against others rather than against Him. As long as we are doing better than the people around us then we can feel good about ourselves. It is hard for us too believe that even the “righteous” stuff that we do can be so polluted because it looks pretty good to us. We have no idea what the holiness of God looks like.
3. In view of God’s transcendent majesty and infinite moral purity, why is wrath necessary? Because of God’s holy nature He cannot look at sin with indifference. He hates it. His wrath “reflects His holy hatred of all sin and His determination to punish it.” It is His “infinite justice in action – a justice that cannot allow any sin, be it ever so small in our eyes, to go unpunished.”
I really like the illustration that Bridges uses on page 26. It is given to elucidate this quote by George Smeaton: “The guilt of the offense is proportional to the greatness, the moral excellence, and the glory of Him against whom the offense is committed and who made us for loyal obedience to Himself.”
Suppose you want a new rug to cover the wooden floor in your living room. Being of modest means, you go to the local discount store and pay three hundred dollars for a rug. I come into your house with a bottle of black indelible ink and spill that ink on your rug. I have just ruined your three-hundred-dollar rug. But suppose you are a wealthy person and your pay thirty thousand dollars for an expensive Persian rug. If I spill ink on that rug, it is an entirely different matter. Why is that true? It is the same act on my part. In both instances. I have spilled black indelible ink on a rug. The difference, of course, lies in the value of the rug.
This is the way we should view the enormity of our sin. God’s holiness cannot be compared to even the thirty-thousand-dollar rug. It is infinite. It is immeasurable. Furthermore, we do not accidentally “spill” our sin on God’s holiness. For the most part, we rather pour out our sin; that is, we choose to act out our pride and selfishness, our judgmental attitudes, and our unkind words about others. And when we do that, we deliberately pour out sin on the holiness of God. That is why our sin, be it ever so small in our eyes, is always an abomination to God.
The Life of God in the Soul of Man
by Henry Scougal
This book was written in the mid 17th century by a young man who was a Professor of Divinity at Aberdeen University by the age of 19, then pastored a church for several years before dying at the age of 27.
So why did I choose this book to read and review this week as I am intentionally trying to renew my mind? This is what John Piper says of this book: “There are some books whose vision is so deep and clear that truth rings from the page like the toll of a large bell, perfectly obvious, but rare and precious. They unfold the heart of man and God with such forceful illumination that the truth is not just shown to my mind but created in my heart…so it went as I grazed in the green pasture of this remarkable book.”
Personally, I did not find the book very easy to read as Scougal wrote in the language of his day. But as I marched through the pages of this short book (135 pages) I found several nuggets of truth that were worth the time to find and which challenged my heart while engaging my mind. If nothing else, I read the words of a man who was passionate about his desire for God and rigorous in his pursuit to know Him. Here are some of the nuggets I found – I will quote them without comment – as they speak for themselves. You will need to ponder them to fully understand them.
“Humility imports a deep sense of our own meanness, with a hearty and affectionate acknowledgment of our owing all that we are to the Divine bounty; which is always accompanied with a profound submission to the will of God, and great deadness toward the glory of the world, and applause of men.”
“The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.”
“Any person that is engaged in a passionate affection will easily forget his ordinary gratifications, will be little curious about his diet or bodily ease, or to divertisement he was wonted to delight in. No wonder, then, if souls overpowered by divine love despise inferior pleasures, and be almost ready to grudge the body its necessary attendance for the common accommodations of life, judging all these impertinent to their main happiness, and those higher enjoyments they are pursuing.”
“Let us frequently remember the shortness and uncertainty of our lives, and how that after we have taken a few turns more in the world, and conversed a little longer amongst men, we must all go down into the dark and silent grave, and carry nothing along with us but anguish and regret for all our sinful enjoyments; and then think what horror must needs fill our soul, to find itself naked and all alone before the severe and impartial Judge of the world, to render an exact account, not only of its more important and considerable transactions, but of every word that the tongue hath uttered, and the swiftest and most secret thought that ever passed through the mind.”
“The soul of man is a vigorous and active nature, and hath in it a raging and inextinguishable thirst, an immaterial kind of fire, always catching at some object or other, in conjunction wherewith it thinks to be happy; and were it once rent from the world, and all the bewitching enjoyments under the sun, it would quickly search after some higher and more excellent object, to satisfy its ardent and importunate cravings; and being no longer dazzled with glittering vanities, would fix on that supreme and all-sufficient Good, where it would discover such beauty and sweetness as would charm and overpower all its affections.”
Next Weeks Passage: Philippians: 3:7-11
Next Weeks Memory Verse: Philippians 3:7-8a “ But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”
I recently had someone ask me for a list of books that they could read that would help with their spiritual growth. Thought I’d share that list here. Would love for you to add your thoughts about books that have really spurred you on in your walk with the Lord. Each book is hyperlinked to Amazon or CBD if you want to read more about it.
Sitting at Panera with my bride on a Saturday morning blogging away…
I’m reading a book by RC Sproul called The Holiness of God – considered to be a modern day classic. He introduced me to this term that I used for my blog title and I was intrigued by it.
Mysterium tremendum et fascinans (“fearful and fascinating mystery”) is a Latin phrase which Rudolf Otto uses in his book The Idea of the Holy to name the awe-some (fascinating and full of awe) mystery that was the object common to all forms of religious experience. Essentially it is the term he used to describe God’s holiness.
Fearful, fascinating, mysterious! I like that. In talking about Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6, Sproul says this:
“He saw the holiness of God. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.”
I know that I have not encountered the holiness of God as Isaiah did. I know that I need to. I need to be gripped by the fearful, fascinating, mysterious God who reveals Himself as The Holy One! I’m pretty sure that until I am I will never have the kind of walk with God that I want nor the kind of influence in ministry that I desire.
Still another way for you who are reading this to pray for me.