Jerry Bridges on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

What role, then, does the resurrection of Jesus play in the overall story of redemption? There are at least four major truths about the resurrection that teach us about its absolute necessity.

First, it proved that Jesus was indeed the divine Son of God. Paul wrote that “[He] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Actually it was impossible for Jesus’ body to remain in the grave. Just as it was impossible for the divine nature of Jesus to die because God cannot die, so it was impossible for the human nature of Jesus to remain dead because of its union with His divine nature. Peter said on the day of Pentecost: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). So it was not possible for Jesus’ body to remain in the grave. And in raising Him from the grave, God declared beyond all shadow of doubt that this Jesus whom lawless men crucified was indeed the divine Son of God.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus assures us of our justification. Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17). If Christ were still in the tomb it would mean God’s wrath was not satisfied, and we would still stand guilty before God. But as Paul also wrote in Romans 4:25: “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” It is not that the resurrection accomplished our justification — Jesus’ sinless life and sin-bearing death did that — but rather it assures us of our justification. It was God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11), and by that act God declared that Christ’s atoning sacrifice had been accepted. The penalty for our sins was paid in full. The resurrection was God’s declaration that He had cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands (Col. 2:14).

Third, the resurrection assures us that we serve a living Savior who even now is interceding for us. The writer of Hebrews wrote that He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). Paul was even more emphatic when he wrote, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). The One who died for us now lives to intercede for us. When you are going through struggles of any kind, be it adversity that you face, or sin you are struggling with, remember that Jesus is interceding for you.

Fourth, the resurrection of Christ guarantees our future resurrection. In his extensive treatment of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12–58, Paul wrote, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vv. 20–23).

So … not only can we say, “He is risen indeed,” but we can also say with Paul: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command. …And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive…will be caught up together with them…and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16–17). Maranatha! “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22).

(Jerry Bridges, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ“)

Thomas Watson on the Humility of Christ

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“Christ had all sin laid upon Him, but no sin lived in Him. ‘He was numbered among transgressors,’ (Isa. 53:12). He who was numbered with the persons of the Trinity, He is said ‘to bear the sins of many,’ (Heb. 9:28).

Now, this was the lowest degree of Christ’s humiliation. For Christ to be reputed as a sinner, never such a pattern of humility! That Christ, who would not endure sin in the angels, should Himself endure to have sin imputed to Him, it is the most amazing humility that ever was!”

(Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, 197)

J.I. Packer on Salvation and Repentence

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These are some of the best words J.I Packer ever wrote:

To the question; ‘what must I do to be saved?‘,

the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the further question; ‘what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’,

its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.

And to the further question still, ‘how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things?’,

 it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on his mercy; ask him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write his law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from him. Turn to him and trust him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to him; watch, pray, and read and hear God’s word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step . . . So do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on him till his light rises in your soul, as scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobeying the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. ‘l believe – help thou mine unbelief’: this must become their cry.

(J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness)

Recommended Devotionals

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Voices From the Past

Scholar Richard Rushing spent 10 years compiling these devotional bits from the the great Puritan thinkers (Baxter, Bunyan, Charnock, Edwards, Owen, Rutherford, Sibbes, etc).  I walked through it day-by-day a few years ago and always found fresh, deep, provocative reflections. This is one of my favorite devotionals available right now. I have a copy on my desk at work and another on my desk at home. It’s that good!

Morning by Morning (C.H. Spurgeon)

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Spurgeon was a master at balancing his sophisticated intellect and pastoral heart.  His daily offerings from various verses throughout the Scriptures are always practical and gospel-saturated.   Few share his ability to go so deep so quickly, never wasting a word.  This new ESV edition, edited by Alistair Begg is my personal favorite.

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford was one of the Scottish divines who lived in the 17th century. A significant part of his ministry included writing letters to those under his care. In them, Rutherford encourages his people by pointing them to take comfort in Christ. Rutherford was uniquely qualified to comfort the afflicted as he lost his beloved wife only two years into their marriage. Spurgeon wrote of these letters, “When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.”

Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister in the 19th century. He ministered faithfully for eight years and then died of typhus at age 29. His memoirs were published by his close friend and college companion, Andrew Bonar. Spurgeon said of this volume “This is one of the best and most profitable volumes ever published. The memoir of such a man ought surely to be in the hands of every Christian, and certainly every preacher of the Gospel.”

Letters of John Newton

I discovered the letters of John Newton when Tim Keller put them on his 2008 Summer Reading List. As Keller put it, “These letters are classics of spirituality and devotion.”  This famous slave trader once converted, became a minister of the gospel and wrote of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” These letters are worth reading and rereading.

The Valley of Vision

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This collection of Puritan prayers is excellent.   Capturing the tenacity with which the Puritan pastors and thinkers pursued their personal faith, they stir the heart with their depth of passion.  Much like the Psalms, these prayers will add vocabulary to your prayer life.  If growing in prayer is your aim, then The Valley of Vision must become part of your repertoire.

Fifty Reasons Christ Came to Die

Each year during Easter week, I try to intentionally carve out space for extra reading, thinking, meditating and praying about what Jesus accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. While I try to think well during these times, my primary goal is to stir up stronger feelings and affections. Even as the Scriptures instructs us to:

In a sense, I want to be wrecked again by the high price Christ paid to atone for my sins and to overflow with love for and faith in our Savior.

50ReasonJesusCameToDieThis year, I’ve been reading through John Piper’s short book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Piper offers 50 biblical reasons why Jesus died for us. Even a cursory read of the chapter titles can be very inspiring, but the book – which is available as a free PDF – offers two-page explanations of all 50 statements. This Easter, take time to meditate on all Christ accomplished for you through His death and resurrection. May a deeper knowledge, faith and love be yours in Christ Jesus.

Christ Suffered and Died…

  1. To Absorb the Wrath of God
  2. To Please His Heavenly Father
  3. To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected
  4. To Achieve His Own Resurrection From the Dead
  5. To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
  6. To Show His Own Love for Us
  7. To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
  8. To Become a Ransom for Many
  9. For the Forgiveness of Our Sins
  10. To Provide the Basis for Our Justification
  11. To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness
  12. To Take Away Our Condemnation
  13. To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation
  14. To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful
  15. To Make Us Holy, Blameless and Perfect
  16. To Give Us a Clear Conscience
  17. To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us
  18. To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness
  19. To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him
  20. To Deliver Us From the Present Evil Age
  21. To Reconcile Us to God
  22. To Bring Us to God
  23. So That We Might Belong to Him
  24. To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place
  25. To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God
  26. To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End
  27. To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful Priest
  28. To Free Us From the Futility of Our Ancestry
  29. To Free Us From the Slavery of Sin
  30. That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness
  31. So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God
  32. To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves
  33. To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting
  34. To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him
  35. To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning
  36. To Create a People Passionate for Good Works
  37. To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness
  38. To Create a Band of Crucified Followers
  39. To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death
  40. So That We Would Be With Him Immediately After Death
  41. To Secure Our Resurrection From the Dead
  42. To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities
  43. To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel
  44. To Destroy the Hostility Between Races
  45. To Ransom People From Every Tribe and Language
  46. To Gather All His Sheep From Around the World
  47. To Rescue Us From Final Judgment
  48. To Gain His Joy and Ours
  49. So That He Would Be Crowned With Glory and Honor
  50. To Show That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good

Taken from: 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

J.I. Packer: The Cross and the Destiny of Those Who Reject God

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“Think … of the destiny of those who reject God.

Universalists suppose that the class of people mentioned in this heading will ultimately have no members, but the Bible indicates otherwise. Decisions made in this life will have eternal consequences. “Do not be deceived” (as you would be if you listened to the universalists), “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7). Those who in this life reject God will forever be rejected by God. Universalism is the doctrine that, among others, Judas will be saved, but Jesus did not think he would. “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21) How could Jesus have spoken those last words if he had expected Judas finally to be saved?

Some, then face an eternity of rejectedness. How can we understand what they will bring on themselves? We cannot, of course, form an adequate notion of hell, any more than we can of heaven, and no doubt it is good for us that this is so; but perhaps the clearest notion we can form is that derived from contemplating the cross.

On the cross, God judged our sins in the person of his Son, and Jesus endured the retributive comeback of our wrongdoing. Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what form God’s judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What form is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that he had before: all sense of his Father’s presence and love, all sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from him, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness.

The physical pain, though great (for crucifixion remains the cruelest form of judicial execution that the world has ever known), was yet only a small part of the story; Jesus’ chief sufferings were mental and spiritual, and what was packed into less than four hundred minutes was an eternity of agony – agony such that each minute was an eternity in itself, as mental sufferers know that individual minutes can be.

So, too, those who reject God face the prospect of losing all good, and the best way to form an idea of eternal death is to dwell on this thought. In ordinary life, we never notice how much good we enjoy through God’s common grace till it is taken from us. We never value health, or steady circumstances, or friendship and respect from others, as we should till we have lost them. Calvary shows that under the final judgment of God nothing that one has valued, or could value, nothing that one can call good, remains to one. It is a terrible thought, but the reality, we may be sure, is more terrible yet. “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” God help us learn this lesson, which the spectacle of propitiation through penal substitution on the cross teaches so clearly; and may each of us be found in Christ, our sins covered by his blood, at the last.”

(J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 194-195)

Two Ways to Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ

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The following excerpt is taken from A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. In Chapter 49, “Thomas Manton on the Judgment according to Works,” the authors summarize Manton’s excellent comparison of the two states people will be in at the final judgment.

As judge, Christ will be a TERROR to those who have…

(1) despised God’s kingdom (Luke 19:27)

(2) refused God’s grace (Psalm 81:11)

(3) despised God’s benefits (Heb. 2:3)

(4) abused His grace and turned to lasciviousness (Jude 4)

(5) broken His commandments (John 15:10)

(6) questioned the truth of God’s promises (2 Peter 3-4)

(7) perverted God’s ordinances (Matthew 24:48-51)

Christ as judge will be a COMFORT to those who have:

(1) believed Christ’s doctrine (John 11:25)

(2) loved Christ (Ephesians 6:24; 1 Corinthians 16:22)

(3) warred against Christ’s enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh (Revelation 3:21)

(4) obeyed His commandments (1 John 2:28)

Believers will be comforted because the judge is their friend, their brother, their high priest, and the one who died for their sins.

Mohler’s Recommendations for Pastors

Preaching magazine recently released Al Mohler’s (President of Southern Seminary) annual list of recommended books for pastors. A great list for all those who lead others.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Christian Apologetics: Past and Present, Vol. 2 by William Edgar & K. Scott Oliphant

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton

Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg R. Allison

Lost in Translation: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith, Kari Christofferson, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by G.K. Beale

The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a Changing World by George Friedman

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

Reading Scripture with the Reformers by Timothy George

The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion by Rodney Stark

A Lifelong Habit

thanksgiving(1)Perhaps one of my least favorite stories in all the Scriptures is found in Luke 17. It’s the story of Jesus cleansing the 10 lepers. Jesus, on His way to Jerusalem, entered a village with His disciples and was met by 10 lepers. Seeing Jesus, they cried out to Him for mercy. Jesus compassionately instructed them to go show themselves to the priests. While on their way, they were cleansed of their leprosy. The story continues:

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:15-18, ESV).

I don’t know why this story bugs me so much. Maybe it’s the fact I was raised to always be thankful and write thank you notes from a very young age (thanks, Mom!). Or maybe it’s the troubling image of spoiled, ungrateful children at Christmas, tearing open gifts and never thanking their parents. Whatever it is, I never want to identify with these nine lepers. I want to be like the one who returned to worship and thank Jesus.

I recently came across an article in The Wall Street Journal suggesting that there are psychological, emotional and physical benefits to maintaining a thankful heart. Gotta love it when secular researchers find the Bible has had it right all along. No kidding!

Researchers have found that those who feel grateful have “more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not” and “they’re less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.” Man, if there were a drug that did all that, just imagine what people would pay.

I don’t pass along this research as your new motivation to live a thankful life, but I do find it interesting researchers are discovering just how beneficial gratitude can be.

One of the challenges of cultivating thankfulness is that it often can get shuffled to the back shelves of our prayer lives. If you’re like me, you tend to pray about those fires you need God to put out first and then about the things you need and want. If there happens to be time left, you might turn to what you’re thankful for. This is not what the Bible prescribes. I wonder, Have you ever made a list of things you’re thankful for? Have you ever literally counted your blessings?

I was blessed to have a mentor years ago who encouraged me to develop a lifelong habit of gratitude. He taught me to keep a thankfulness journal, a record designated solely for listing things I’m thankful for. I’m not really a “journaler” per se, but for years I’ve been writing down my blessings. Now, years later, it still stirs my faith to read back through and see the faithfulness of God throughout the past decade. I read and remember lessons God has taught me, challenges He’s walked me through and the ways that He’s met my needs.

I read and recall the time a friend helped fix my car, the summer God provided a job working at camp, tests and projects I never thought I’d finish, and the time a family invited me to live with them rent-free while I finished seminary. I read and can’t believe I ever dare complain about anything. God’s provision is most obvious when we stop and look for it. And nothing helps me stop and look like my thankfulness journal.

I believe that keeping this chronicle is slowly convincing my heart that I depend on God every single moment, that every gift and opportunity has come from His hand. Remembering my blessings is growing me into the type of person who doesn’t have to conjure up gratitude, but who, alongside the grateful leper of Luke 17, is prone to praise God with a loud voice, face to the ground. It’s a habit that has become precious to me, one I now commend to you. Perhaps the Puritan preacher John Boys put it best: “As the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, so likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

When Hard Times Come

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The Christian is not immune from difficulties in this life. But we are not without help both from God and the community of believers who come around us in times of trouble.

One place I turn for help is The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford. I cannot recommend him enough. He brings the perspective of one who has been through his own storms and is a better man for having endured them.

Here are a few excerpts:

“You may not know what the Lord is doing in a particular circumstance, but you will know hereafter. Let Christ know of your heavy cares. Let him bear all. Dear brother, do not become weary of your Master’s chains. We are closer to Christ when we suffer. Keep close by Christ, and let the wind blow. Rejoice in his cross. Your deliverance does not sleep and his promise is not slack. Wait for God’s appointed time of deliverance. You shall lose nothing in the furnace but dross. Not one ounce too much is laid on you. The devil is just a whetstone to sharpen the faith and patience of the saints. The Lord is cutting and polishing stones for the New Jerusalem. Be content to wade through the waters holding his hand, for he knows all the fords. You may be dunked, yet you cannot drown. Those who went before you went through blood, suffering, and many afflictions. Christ has borne the whole cross, and his saints bear only chips.”

“There is no sweeter fellowship with Christ than to bring our wounds and our sores to him.”

“The floods may swell and roar, but our ark shall swim above the waters; it cannot sink, because a Saviour is in it.”

“Christ and his cross together are sweet company, and a blessed couple. My poison is my palace, my losses are rich losses, my pain easy pain, my heavy days are holy and happy days. I may tell a new tale of Christ to my friends.”

“His cross is the sweetest burden that ever I bare: it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbour.”

“When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.”

“As we look back to our pains and sufferings, we shall see that suffering is not worthy to be compared to our first night’s welcome home in heaven.”

“Our fair morning is at hand, the day star is near the rising, and we are not many miles from home; what does it matter if we are ill-treated in the smoky inns of this miserable life?”

I don’t know how much I’ll be called to suffer during the rest of my days, but I’m going to definitely stay close to Christ and keep guys like Rutherford around too. I look forward to meeting and befriending him in glory.