Avoiding a False Theology of Suffering
Martin Luther’s tenure in the monastery was a time of spiritual desperation. He was tormented by unrelieved guilt coupled with a gripping fear of the wrath of God. Why would an educated man retreat to a barren cell and abuse himself with self-inflicted physical punishment? Why would a believer go out of his way to find personal suffering?
The answer may be found partially, though not totally, in a concept that emerged in church history that equated suffering with merit. Monks fled to the desert to seek rigorous forms of asceticism and self-denial, not only as a form of spiritual discipline to maintain a healthy dependence on the grace of God, but also in quest of sanctifying merit.

A biblical text that was often cited as scriptural warrant for such activity is Colossians 1:24. Paul writes, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” The key words of this verse are “fill up … what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”

A false theology of suffering emerged that was built on the hypothesis that the meritorious suffering of Jesus, though necessary for the redemption of God’s people, is not complete—there is additional merit that can be added to it by the suffering of the saints.

Coram Deo

Reflect on this truth: The suffering of Christ cannot be augmented by your merit. It is complete.

Passages for Further Study

Colossians 1:24

1 Peter 2:21

1 Peter 3:18

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. 

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Exercising Your Power of Choice
Does man have a free will? This question is one of the most frequently asked questions of theology. At times, it is not voiced as a question but as an objection to the whole idea of a sovereign God.  
At the heart of the problem is the definition of free will. What are we saying when we assert that man has a free will? Stated briefly, free will simply means that man has the ability to choose what he wants. Such ability requires the presence of a mind, a will, and a desire. If these faculties are present and functioning in a man, that man has a free will. 

Free will does not mean that man can choose to do anything he pleases and necessarily succeed. We may choose to fly without the aid of mechanical devices. We can fall through the air by ourselves, but we cannot fly through it. We lack the necessary natural equipment (in this case, wings) to fly. This does not mean, however, that we are not free. It does mean that our “freedom” is limited by our natural physical limitations. My will may be outvoted by the will of a majority or by some higher power. Such conflicting power does not eliminate my freedom but may surely impose limits on it.

One of the most important limits on my freedom is myself. If we examine the workings of the will closely we run into a point of irony that is often overlooked in discussions about free will. The point is this: Not only may I choose what I want, I must choose what I want if my choice is really to be free. Choice is made according to desire. Without desire there could be no free choice—certainly no moral choice. 

Coram Deo

God gave you a free will to choose. You choose according to your desires. Will your present desires lead to wise choices for the future?

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 30:19

Joshua 24:15

Psalm 25:12

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Rediscovering the Law
Israel’s reformation came via a rediscovery of the law, which created a brief awakening to the bankruptcy of a corrupt nation. As a young man, King Josiah began the process of reformation with a spiritual purge, a cleansing of pagan elements from the religious life of the nation. 
A few years later, Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given by Moses. A scribe brought the book to King Josiah and read it to him. The result was dramatic: “Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11). 

Josiah was awakened to the greatness of the wrath of God. He realized that God had been pouring out that wrath on the nation of Israel. He further understood that this divine judgment on the nation was a direct result of sin.

The most apparent immediate change in the national reform of Israel was seen in the restoration of true worship, a worship purged of idolatry and rooted in a sound understanding of the character of God and of His law.

We need a new discovery of the law of God and the Word of God in our land. Yes, it needs to be rediscovered in the public square—but even more importantly it must be rediscovered in the house of God. 

Coram Deo

Renew your personal commitment to the Word of God. Start today!

Passages for Further Study

2 Chronicles 35:3

2 Chronicles 34:3 

Psalm 119:92

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Entering into Mystical Union
The Christian life is lived in the context of mystical union with Christ. This union finds its initial origin in eternity. Our salvation is from the foundation of the world, resting in the grace of God’s sovereign election. Paul indicates this in Ephesians 1:3–6. 
It is in the Beloved that our redemption is found. From eternity, God considers the elect to be in Christ. Before our mystical union is effected with us in time, it is already a present reality in the mind of God.  

Just as Christ invaded time from eternity two thousand years ago, so our eternal union intrudes in time through the work of the Spirit. What has always existed in the mind of God in eternity becomes a time-bound reality in the heart of the regenerate. The result is that, in Christ, through the Spirit, we will behold the Father at our death and from there to eternity. We are sons and daughters of the Father, as it was in the beginning.

Our salvation is by Christ and in Christ. By His righteousness we are made just. By His atonement our sins are forgiven. 

Coram Deo

Thank God for your salvation, His righteousness, and His atonement for your sins.

Passages for Further Study

Ephesians 1:3–6

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. 

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Climbing out of the Mire
Our souls cannot climb out of the mire of sin because they are dead. Salvation comes not to those who cry out, “Show me the way to heaven,” but to those who cry, “Take me there for I cannot.” 
Lest we see the sinner’s prayer as mere technique, we must remember that Christ raises the dead that they might walk. We do not mumble the magic words and then wait to die. Christianity is about spiritual growth as well. It is about work, the hard work of sanctification. Regeneration is monergistic, God’s work alone. Sanctification, the process by which we are made holy, is synergistic, God’s work with us. 

God’s part is easy for Him. He needs no shortcuts because He never tires. We, though, must ever fight the temptation to seek the shortcut. No technique will make us holy. No technique of the Devil’s, though, can stop the process of Christ making us into His image. Those whom He calls He sanctifies.

Our sanctification requires the Spirit of God and, because He has so ordered His world, sanctification requires the disciplined and repeated use of the means of grace. Five minutes a day of Bible study smells like technique. Arid, it is sure to fail. We must immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Then, as Jesus promised, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. Then we will be His disciples (John 8:31–32). 

Coram Deo

Remember, God is at work in you. He never tires. Give thanks for the process that is underway.

Passages for Further Study

John 8:31–32

John 8:36

Psalm 40:2

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. 

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Becoming Part of the Bride
When Christ purchased His bride, He bought a bride who was “damaged merchandise.” His bride was sullied by manifest impurities. She was covered by spots and marred by wrinkles. Yet what He purchased He also sanctifies:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herto make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:25–27, NIV)

Christ prepares His bride for His wedding feast envisioned in Revelation:  

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (19:9, NIV)

Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate not only the redeeming purchase price paid by the Bridegroom but symbolically the marriage feast of the Lamb to which every believer is called.

Coram Deo

Celebrate the Lord’s Supper in your private devotions. Give thanks for the purchase price paid by your Bridegroom.

Passages for Further Study

Ephesians 5:25–27

1 Corinthians 11:23–25

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. 

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Bearing Spiritual Fruit
By grace, God offers the righteousness of Christ to all who put their trust in Him. For all who believe, all who have faith in Him, the merit of Christ is reckoned to their account.
Does this exclude good works in the life of the believer? By no means. Our justification is always unto good works. Though no merit ever proceeds from our works, either those done before our conversion or those done afterward, good works are a necessary fruit of true faith. 

“Necessary fruit?” Yes, necessary. Good works are not necessary for us to earn our justification. They are never the ground of our justification. They are necessary in a more restricted sense. They are necessary corollaries to true faith. If a person claims to have faith yet brings forth no fruit of obedience whatsoever, it is proof positive that the claim to faith is a false claim. True faith inevitably and necessarily bears fruit. The absence of fruit indicates the absence of faith.

We are not justified by the fruit of our faith. We are justified by the fruit of Christ’s merit. We receive His merit only by faith, but it is only by true faith that we receive His merit. And all true faith yields true fruit. 

Coram Deo

Prayerfully examine your faith and spiritual fruit.

Passages for Further Study

Galatians 5:22–25

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. 

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