So to start . . .
I'm reading J.I. Packer's Concise Theology. Packer is always excellent reading. In his section on Satan, he gives a comforting reminder about the power of Satan. Sometimes, we feel defeated, but he points out that he is the one defeated:
He [Satan] should be taken seriously, for malice and cunning make him fearsome; yet not so seriously as to provoke abject terror of him, for he is a beaten enemy. Satan is stronger than we are, but Christ has triumphed over Satan (Matt. 12:29), and Christians will triumph over him too if they resist him with the resources that Christ supplies (Eph. 6:10-13; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9-10). . . Satan is a creature, superhuman but not divine; he has much knowledge and power, but he is neither omniscient nor omnipotent; he can move around in ways that humans cannot, but he is not omnipresent; and he is an already defeated rebel, having no more power than God allows him. (p. 70)
When it comes to holiness and sanctification in the Christian life, I spent much of my life wondering if I would measure up to God's perfect standard. Thus assurance was always elusive, and even now, I need to be assured of my assurance. Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, Michael Horton, ed. has been very helpful so far.
As Christ is the answer to our guilt and condemnation (through justification), so he is the answer to our bondage and corruption (sanctification). He takes away not only the verdict, but also the slavery. To justify us in the heavenly court without giving us the gifts that, by virtue of that heavenly verdict, belong to us would be cruel and unjust on God's part. No, he does not simply put money into our bank account and then leave us stranded along the side of the road, beaten and bruised, Holiness is not an option for the Christ. But hold on - I can hear the hearts racing: "Holiness, the impossible dream?" To be sure, "but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). Holiness is not an option; it is a requirement, But this is not a threat. It's a promise. What God began he will finish (Phil. 1:6). In Christ, we already are holy, righteous, sanctified, reconciled (1 Cor. 1:30). Now we are called to live what we are, not to become what we are not yet. (pg. 56)
In my church, we frequently use the last two verses of Jude for a benediction. You've heard them, I'm sure:
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.(Jude 24-25 NIV)When we hear or repeat bits of scripture regularly, there's a danger the words will become so familiar to us that we stop really hearing them.
I've been using Douglas Moo's NIV Application Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude for a bible study I'm participating in. Moo ends each section of this commentary with a few paragraphs on the contemporary significance of the verses he has just explained. In other words, he writes a bit about how to apply the truths of 2 Peter and Jude to the issues we may face in our lives right now. Of Jude 24, he writes:
Think of the marvelous security promised to us . . . . God is able to preserve us so that we can stand before him on the last day spotless, forgiven, assured of an eternal "home in the heavens." Doubt and anxiety are constant companions on our earthly pilgrimage. We worry about our health, about money, about our children, about our jobs. In sober moments we perhaps become anxious about death. God does not promise to take away these worries, but he does take away from us our greatest worry: where we will spend eternity.Next time these beautiful words of doxology are recited at the end of a service, I want to really hear this promise.
And I want them to make a difference in the way I live. Moo ends his paragraph of application for this verse with these questions to ponder:
Do we reflect this confidence [that we will spend eternity with God] in the way we live? Do we truly value heaven enough so that our earthly worries, while sometimes pressing, fade in importance in light of our eternal destiny?
Being immersed in some heady studies this Summer, I've been encouraged regularly by several Puritan devotions. Authors such as Gurnall, Owen, and Baxter have become regulars throughout the week. Recently, I revisited this one by Winslow for encouragement from Grace Gems :
Christ’s heart is a human heart, a sinless heart, a tender heart; a heart once the home of sorrow, once stricken with grief; once an aching, bleeding, mournful heart. Thus disciplined and trained, Jesus knows how to pity and to support those who are sorrowful and solitary. He loves to chase grief from the spirit, to bind up the broken heart, to staunch the bleeding wound, and to dry the weeping eye, to ‘comfort all that mourn.’ It is His delight to visit you in the dark night-season of your sorrow, and to come to you walking upon the tempestuous billows of your grief, breathing music and diffusing calmness over your scene of sadness and gloom. - Octavius Winslow, Evening Thoughts, Jan. 10.