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Tim Keller on 7 Ministry Applications of the Gospel

These wonderful excerpts from a sermon on 1 Peter 1:1-12 and 1:22-2:12 were given in “The Spurgeon Fellowship Journal – Spring 2008.” I appreciate the wonderful abilities that Tim Keller has to explain, elucidate, and illuminate on the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is great food for thought here, and wonderful implications for living out the gospel in ministry – enjoy! – Dr. David P. Craig

 Tim Keller on Gospel-Centered Ministry

I am here to talk to you about what ministry shaped by the gospel, profoundly shaped by the gospel, really looks like . . .

In this letter, Peter was not writing to the same type of situation Paul addressed in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul was writing into a situation where there were doctrinal fractions, divisions, and party divisiveness . . . Peter was speaking to a persecuted church – a church which was both passively and actively persecuted . . . they were being beset by a culture around them with very different values that they do not know how to relate to. So, of course, you can never divide the doctrinal from the practical issues. However, I would say that Peter here was less concerned about expounding on the content of the gospel as Paul was in 1 Corinthians 15. I’ll show how the gospel should shape the way in which we live, our ministry, and how the church operates as a community.

When I was looking through 1 Peter 1 and 2, I found seven features that Peter uses to describe the gospel . . . Since everything in these seven points has already been explicated in the previous sermon, I am simply going to draw out the implications for ministry. I am going to read a nice long section: 1 Peter 1:1-12, 1:22-2:12. Chapters one and two are remarkable at giving you all the features of the gospel and helping us to understand the ministry implications:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: may grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith— more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

I hate to do what I am about to do, which is a “fly-over.” I hate to go by some of these verses. These verses are deep wells, as we know. I know at least three or four men of God who would probably base their entire lives on one or two of these verses. I thought of Ed Clowney as I went by verses 2 and 9. Nevertheless, we are here for an overview. And therefore, I would suggest to you that Peter shows us in these two chapters that there are seven features of the gospel that we have to tease out of the ministry. I will say them here so you can write them down.

The gospel is: (1) historical, (2) doxological, (3) Christocentrical, (4) personal, (5) cultural, to quote Don Carson, (6) “massively transformational,” and (7) wonderful. Each one has a ministry implication.

(1) The gospel is historical . . . The word “gospel” shows up twice. Gospel actually means “good news.” You see it spelled out a little bit when it says “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Why do we say that the gospel is good news? Some years ago, I heard a tape series I am sure was never put into print by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. It was an evening sermon series on 1 Corinthians 15. He clarified how the Gospel is based on historical events in how the religion got its start. He said there was a big difference between advice and news. The Gospel, he would say, is good news, but not good advice. Here’s what he said about that: “Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can do something about it. News is a report about something that has happened which you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is to respond to it.”

So he says think this out: here’s a king, and he goes into a battle against an invading army to defend his land. If the king defeats the invading army, he sends back to the capital city messengers, envoys, and very happy envoys. He sends back good newsers. And what they come back with is a report. They come back and they say: It’s been defeated and it’s been all done. Therefore respond with joy and now go about your lives in this peace which has been achieved for you. But if he doesn’t defeat the invading army, and the invading army breaks through, the king sends back military advisers and says . . . “Marksmen over here and the horseman over there, and we will have to fight for our lives.”

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones says that every other religion sends military advisers to people. Every other religion says that if you want to achieve salvation, you will have to fight for your life. Every other religion is sending advice saying, “here are the rites, here are the rituals, here’s the transformation of the consciousness and here are the laws and the regulations. Marksmen over here and horsemen over there and we are going to fight for our lives.” We send heralds; we send messengers and not military advisers. Isn’t that clarifying? It’s just incredibly clarifying. And it’s not like there’s nothing to do about it, my goodness. Both the messenger and the military adviser get an enormous response. One is a response of joy and the other one is a response of fear. All other religions give advice and they drive everything you do with fear . . . as you know, when you hear the gospel, when you hear the message that it’s all been done for you, it’s a historical event that has happened, your salvation is accomplished for you, what do you want to do? You want to obey the Ten Commandments, you want to pray, and you want to please the one that did this for you.

If, on the other hand, military advisers say you have to live a really good life if you want to get into heaven, what do you do? You want to pray and you want to obey the Ten Commandments. It looks the same, doesn’t it? But for two radically different reasons: One is joy and the other one is fear. In the short run, they look alike. But in the long run, over here we have burn out and self-righteousness and guilt and all sorts of problems. And that’s fascinating.

But having said that, what’s the ministry implication? The ministry implication is this: the significance of preaching, of proclamation, of declarative preaching, is irreplaceably central in Gospel ministry. Declarative preaching is irreplaceably central.

Why? If basically we are sending people “how to”, if we are saying here’s the “how to” to live the right way, if that’s the primary message, I am not sure words are necessarily the best thing to send. You want to send a model. If I were to teach an advanced seminar on preaching (and I never have) I would make everybody read CS Lewis’ Studies in Words. It’s amazing because we are wordsmiths and he shows you how important it is to craft your words properly. The last chapter is called “At the Fringe of Language” and he says language can’t do everything. He says that one of the things language cannot do is describe complex operations. On the other hand, when it comes to describing how, to explain to somebody that Joshua Chamberlain, without any ammunition, charged down Little Round Top in an incredible, risky adventure at the height of the Battle of Gettysburg, and as a result changed the course of history. You don’t show people that, you tell them that. It’s something that happened, you describe it. You tell them that. If you are going to give them how-tos, very often what you want is modeling and dialogue, action and reflection and so forth.

Therefore, if you believe the gospel is good news, declarative preaching (verbal proclaiming) will always be irreplaceably central to what we do. However, if you subscribe to the assertion that the gospel is simply good advice on how to live a life that changes people and connects to God . . . dialogue would be alright. Stories and modeling and reflection would be more important. In other words, you would believe what some people would quip: “proclaim the gospel, use words if necessary”. You’ve probably heard that. That shows, I think, that they don’t quite understand what the gospel is all about.

(2) The gospel is Doxological. The purpose of the gospel is not merely forgiveness of individuals, but to bring people to full flourishing through glorious worship. Now where do you see that?

Karen Jobs, in her commentary of 1 Peter, points out what all commentators point out, but I like the way she titled it. Chapter 1 verse 3 to verse 12 is all one sentence in Greek. Therefore, there is a main clause. All that follows are subordinate clauses to the main clause. Here is the main clause: “Praise be to the God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ”. She entitled the whole section, (and that’s what I like about it), “Doxology and Basis for the Christian Life,” because everything in there, even the new birth, is to the praise of the glory of God. Now why is this so important?

One of the most life-changing and especially ministry-changing things in my life was reading Martin Luther’s “Larger Catechism” a few years ago. In “Larger Catechism,” he lays out his understanding of the Ten Commandments. Luther says that the first commandment is first because (he thinks) all the other commandments are based on it. In other words, when you break any of the commandments two through ten, you have already broken or are in the process of breaking commandment one. So, Martin Luther says you don’t lie unless you have already made something else more than God your functional savior; something else is your greatest joy. Why do you lie? You lie either because the approval of other people is more important than God’s or because money is more than the security you have in God. So you wouldn’t lie unless you already have first made something else more important than God in your life . . . something more fundamental to your meaningless in life or happiness or joy. And then Luther went one step further and said underneath every sin is idolatry in general. And underneath every idolatry in general is always some form of work-righteousness in general, in particular some kind of self-salvation project . . . whenever you make something more important than God, that thing is essentially a savior of your making.

Martin Luther says of the first commandment, you have to believe the Gospel. You can’t look to anything else for your justification . . . you have to believe in the Gospel and you can’t look to anything else for your justification . . . If he were here today, he would say that underneath everything from eating disorders to racism is a self-salvation project, a failure to believe in the Gospel, and is some form of idolatry. You have either made an idol of thinness . . . or of your race and your blood . . . your heart’s imagination is captured. Your heart is essentially adoring and dotting on something other than God . . .

Some years ago . . . I was talking to a young woman, a fifteen year-old girl in my church in Virginia . . . she was really struggling and said this: “I really understand this, I am a Christian. I have clothed myself in the righteousness of Christ, I have a guaranteed place in heaven, and I am the delight of the Father. But what good is that when the boys in high school won’t even look at me?” She was absolutely honest. You might say: is she even a Christian? Of course she was a Christian, as far as I can tell. If I look back on it and she looks back on it, there have been changes. Here’s the point: boys were on video, and God was on audio . . . if you have an audio and video happening at the same time, you know which one wins. Right?

Jonathan Edwards would say that the ultimate purpose of preaching is not just to make the truth clear, but also to make it real. Of course for it to be real, it’s got to be clear. If it’s confused . . . sorry, no worship happens. But you can’t stop there. We are, I think, afraid of the spirit of the age, of subjectivism, because we believe in objective truth. As a result, our expository messages are too cognitive. Jonathan Edwards did not tell stories, he was incredibly rational. But he was also unbelievably vivid. He was incredibly logical, and precise, and clear because he knew that unless the truth is clear, it will never be real. It’s got to be crystal clear, amazingly clear. But it also has to be vivid.

I don’t think this is going to be very easy. I see the narrative preaching approach which works superficially on people’s emotions. And you have a kind of an expository preaching that tends to be like a Bible commentary that works more on the head. But the heart is not exclusively the emotions, and certainly not just the intellect . . . Therefore, the preaching has to be gripping . . .

What I love about Edwards is how incredibly rational he is, how logical and persuasive he is and yet at the same time, so vivid. You go into his messages and there’s the sun, the moon, and the stars. There are mountains and dandelions . . . it’s just astounding . . . he understood that telling stories to tweak the emotions, is like putting dynamite on the face of the rock, blowing it up and shearing off the face but not really changing the life.

One the other hand, if you bore down into it with the truth, and put dynamite in there, if you are able to preach Christ vividly, and you are able to preach the truth practically and you are able to preach it out of a changed life and heart in yourself (which obviously isn’t the easiest thing by any means) then when there is an explosion, it really changes people’s lives. I don’t think we have the right end of the stick in general, either in the movement of the people who are working towards telling stories because they want to get people emotionally or working towards giving people the truth because they want to be sure that people are doctrinally sound.

The Doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, was not a touchy-feely type . . . based on his understanding of Edwards, he asserts that the first and primary object of preaching is not to give information. It is, as Jonathan Edwards said, to produce an impression. This is the Doctor, now. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently. Edwards, in my opinion, understood the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information . . . while you write your notes, you may be missing something that will impact your spirit.

As preachers, we must not forget this. We should tell our people to read books at home and to take notes at home; the business of preaching is to make such knowledge live. Now, by the way, I don’t mind if people are taking notes in my sermons, in the first part of the sermon. But if you are still taking notes at the end of the sermon, I don’t think that I have made it home . . .

Thomas Chalmers puts it like this:

“It is seldom that any of our bad habits or flaws disappear by a mere nature process of natural extinction. At least it is very seldom it is done by the instrumentality of reasoning or by the force of mental determination. What cannot be destroyed however may be dispossessed. One case may be made to give away to another and to lose its power entirely has the reigning affect of the mind. Here’s an example: A youth may cease to idolize sensual pleasure but it is because of the idol of wealth. The desire to make money has gotten ascendancy, so he becomes disciplined. But the love of money might have ceased to be in his heart if he was draw to ideology and politics. Now he is lorded over by the love of power and moral superiority instead of wealth. But there is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. The human heart’s desire for one particular object is conquered. But its desire to have some object of adoration is unconquerable. The only way to dispossess the heart of all its affection is by the explosive power of a new one. Thus is it not enough to hold out to the world the mirror of its own imperfections, it is not enough to come forth with the demonstration . . . of the character of their enjoyment, it is not enough to just simply speak the conscience, to speak its follies. Rather, you must seek, as a preacher, every legitimate method of finding access to the heart for the love of Him who is greater than the world.”

(3) The gospel is Christocentrical. The gospel, as Don [D.A. Carson] pointed out, in a certain sense, the gospel is just Jesus. What is the gospel? It is who Jesus is and what He did for us. The Gospel is Jesus. Of course, you see this in 1 Peter 1:10 where it says, “About which salvation the prophets sought out and searched out, prophesying concerning the grace for you; searching for what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ made clear within them, testifying beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.”

What’s intriguing to me is this: reading in Luke and Acts how Jesus got His disciples together during the forty days before He ascended after He was resurrected. What was He doing? I am sure He was doing more than what we are told. But if you look in Luke 24, it looks like He was giving them a New Testament hermeneutical seminar. This should give professors a lot of hope . . . even Jesus thought running a seminar on hermeneutics was a good idea! If he was running them in those forty days, maybe it is a good idea to run them now. Basically, He was saying that everything in the Old Testament points to Him . . .

He told Cleopas and the other disciples on the road to Emmaus and in the upper room that everything in the Prophets and the Psalms and the Law points to Him. It’s intriguing, we see that in Luke and now here in 1 Peter we have an echo of it. Peter was in on that seminar . . . now he is explaining that concerning this salvation, the salvation of the gospel of Christ, the Prophets had the Holy Spirit in them pointing them towards Jesus . . . Peter is saying what Jesus was saying . . . that everything pointed towards Jesus. Every text in the Old Testament was pointing toward Jesus.

Now my ministry implication is this: The basic subject of every sermon ought to be Jesus, regardless of what passage is at hand. It doesn’t matter whether it is Old or New Testament; it’s got to be about Jesus. By the way, you might say this is only about Old Testament hermeneutics; no, you need to know that my friend Sinclair Ferguson says most evangelical ministers don’t preach Christ. Not only do they not preach Christ in the Old Testament . . . they don’t preach Christ in the New Testament. I will get back to this in a second.

I know this is somewhat of an internal debate here and I’ve got to be careful. I don’t want to be a party guy and say, “I follow Chapell, or I follow Goldsworthy.” And you know there are people who say that you preach everything in the Bible pointing to Jesus and there are other good men that just don’t think that’s right. You shouldn’t preach Christ from Jacob wrestling with God . . . you should preach about wrestling with God in prayer or suffering or something like that. Honestly, I believe those good and sincere men are wrong on the basis of reading the Bible and the understanding of hermeneutics and so on.

But part of this goes back, I remember, some years ago, to when I sat down with my wife. You know what that’s like – on the way home – after the sermon. First you are hoping she will say: “Great sermon, honey.” But if she doesn’t say anything, you fear the worst. I remember one day we really got into it. I said, “Let me ask you, how often do you think it was a great sermon? How many weeks out of the month?” And she said “no more than one in every four or five weeks.” So, we sat down and here’s what she said: “For a good part of your sermon, your sermons are great. They are rational and biblical, and they are exegetical. They show me how I should live, and what I should believe. But every so often – suddenly at the end – Jesus shows up. And when Jesus shows up, it suddenly becomes not a lecture but a sermon for me, because when you say this is what you ought to do, I think to myself, ‘I know, I know, okay. Now I am a little clearer about it and I am a little more guilty about it. Fine.’ But sometimes you get to the place where you say, ‘This is what you ought to do, though you really probably can’t do it; but there is one who did. And because He did it on our behalf, and because He did it in our place, we believe in Him. We will begin to be able to do it.’” This is true only to the degree that we understand what He did for us. And she says: “That’s different. One time out of four or five, your lecture becomes a sermon when Jesus shows up and I want to do that. I have hope. And I begin to see how I can do it.”

I really didn’t understand . . . but basically, now I do. Here’s the thing. Your preaching will never be doxological and it won’t be central unless it is Christocentric. Here’s why: if you tell people they need to be generous, and ask why they aren’t being more generous . . . I happen to know about people being generous. Sometimes you don’t know about the lust in someone’s heart week to week, but you know if people are being generous week to week.

Why aren’t people being more generous? Are they just being sinners? Let’s go back to Martin Luther. Let’s go back to the catechism. If you are not being generous, then there is something going on there, is there not? You are saying your status or your security, which is based on money, is very important to you. You need to be able to buy certain cloths and live in certain circles and go to certain places. Human approval, security, there’s idols underneath the lack of generosity. The money is more than just money. It’s security, it’s significance, it’s status. You’ve got to make more money, and then you will give it away.

How do you do that? You have to show that Jesus Christ is their true wealth. You have to show them what their idols are. You have to get to Jesus. As a result, if you don’t get there, you are going to find that you are wailing on people’s wills. You are beating on wills. Sinclair Ferguson wrote a book . . . called Preaching Christ in the Old Testament. And this is what he says: Not only do most ministers not preach Christ in the Old Testament; they don’t preach Christ from the New Testament. The preacher has looked into the text, even in the New Testament, to find himself and the congregation . . . not to find Christ. You can do this even in the New Testament, in the Gospels. The sermon, therefore, is consequently about the people in the Gospels and not the Christ in that Gospel. The more fundamental issue is this question: What is the Bible really about? Is the Bible basically about me and what I must do or is it about Jesus and what He has done? Is the Bible about the objective and indicative?

Here’s an example. Hermeneutics is important. You can’t just find Jesus in every little twig. And there needs to be a way where you are following the trajectory of the text no matter what that text is to Jesus. You have to show how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that particular trajectory of the text. You’ve got to be responsible. And yet, like Sinclair said, it’s more like an instinct. It’s not so much just the right hermeneutical principles; it’s an instinct. Do you believe the Bible is basically about you or basically about Him? Is David and Goliath basically about you and how you can be like David and Goliath or about Him, the One that took on the only giants in life who can kill us? You see. And His victory is imputed on us. Who is this all about? That’s the fundamental question.

And when that happens, you start to read the bible anew. Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden. His garden is a much tougher garden and his obedience is imputed on us. Jesus is the true and better Abel, who though innocently slain has blood that cries out: not for our condemnation but for our acquittal. Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answers the call of God, who leaves all the familiar comforts of the world into the void, not knowing where He went. Jesus is the true and better Isaac who is not only offered by his father on the mount but who was truly sacrificed for us all. While God said to Abraham: “Now I know you truly love me, because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.” Now we, at the foot of the cross, can say to God: “Now we know you love us because you did not withhold your Son, your only Son, whom you love, from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob, who wrestled and took the blows of justice that we deserved so we like Jacob only receive the wounds of grace that wake us up and disciple us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who is at the right hand of the king, and forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the LORD and mediates the new covenant. Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who struck with the rod of God’s justice now gives us water in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Job, He is the truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for and saves His stupid friends. Is that a type? That’s not typology. That’s an instinct.

Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes the people’s victory even though they didn’t lift a stone to accomplish it themselves. Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost ultimately the heavenly one, who didn’t just risk His life but gave His life, who didn’t say if I perish I perish but when I perish, I perish for them . . . to save my people. Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so we can be brought in. He’s the real Passover Lamb; He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true life, the true bread. The Bible is not about you. And that’s an instinct.

Until that shows up in your sermons, it will be lectures and not sermons. It won’t be doxological, it won’t be central.

(4) The gospel is personal and individual. Don [D.A. Carson] already said this. In 1 Peter 1 and 2, we see a lot of references to the new birth. What does the new birth mean – think about the metaphor of the birth – you can’t make yourself a Christian? You can make yourself a Buddhist. You can make yourself a Muslim. You can make yourself an Atheist. But you can’t make yourself a Christian. To become a Christian, you have to be converted . . . notice that’s a passive. You don’t convert yourself, something happens to you. Through faith you’re born again. You are confronted with you sin in front of a holy and jealous God. And you see the provision. Now, that’s individual conversion. This is very important, at this moment, in all our lives as Christians, especially in North America, but I am sure in other places as well. There is an erosion in the confidence of the thing that I just said. It is the idea that we have sinned against a holy and jealous God, the wrath of God has to be satisfied, Jesus Christ stood in our place, substitutionary atonement is provided, and when we believe in this, both in His suffering and obedience is imputed to us . . .

J.I. Packer, in his little chapter on grace in Knowing God, said there are two things you have to know in order to understand the concept of grace. Grace isn’t the opposite of Law. First of all, you have to understand how lost you are, how bad you are, how dire your condition is, and how big the debt is. You have to understand that . . .

Now if somebody says, “I believe Jesus died for me, He shed His blood for me and I have given my life to Christ. I accepted Him; I walked forward and invited Him into my life,” but you don’t see any change in that person’s life, you don’t see identify shifting, behavior transformation and joy, what’s the problem? It’s clear that this person doesn’t understand the size of the debt, and therefore the size of the payment . . . Jim Packer used to say to understand grace, and for grace to be transforming, first you have to understand the debt.

The second thing you have to understand, besides the size of the debt, is the magnitude of the provision. There are people who do understand that they are pretty bad. They do understand how flawed they are. They do understand how far short they fall. But they aren’t convinced of the magnitude, sufficiency, freeness, and fullness of the provision. They may only believe that Jesus died the death that we should have died. And maybe they also don’t believe Jesus lived the life that we should have lived . . . And you also see Pharisees – people who are really under the burden of guilt. As a result, they are withdrawn and hostile and moralistic and legalistic. And we look at these two groups of people and the evangelical world is filled with them. Easy-Believeism is really deadly. The Cost of Discipleship book by Bonhoeffer explains why Easy-Believeism was the reason Nazism could come into power. That’s pretty dangerous. Why Easy-Believesim? Why the Moralism? Because they don’t understand the gospel; the old gospel, the historic gospel. The gospel of salvation by grace through faith and the work of Jesus Christ alone, and substitutionary atonement . . . they don’t get it.

So what’s the solution to all the Easy-Believeism? Why is it that we don’t have people living the life they ought to live? Why do we see people culturally withdraw, being really negative and narrow? Because people think the solution is “let’s change the gospel” . . . I can’t imagine that anybody is going to write a hymn that goes like this: “my chains fell off and my heart was free, I rose forth and followed thee.” It’s just not going to happen . . .

(5) The gospel is cultural. What do I mean by cultural? The gospel creates a culture called The Church. It’s not just an aggregation of saved individuals. It’s a culture. The gospel is so different in what it says about God, you, and your standing with God. It’s so identity transforming; every other religion or system motivates you through fear and pride to do the right thing. Only the gospel motivates you through joy . . . the fear and trembling joy . . . the fear of God joy. That doesn’t mean that now we are a bunch of saved individuals with wonderful internal fulfillment. It means that when we get together we want to do things differently. We will do everything differently. The gospel is massively transformational and it creates a counter culture but it also makes us as people relate to the culture around us. And this comes out especially in 1 Peter 2. I will be brief on this but it’s crucial.

Those of us who believe in that individual gospel often miss the communal aspects of the gospel. And in 1 Peter 2:12, he says “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Right before this, he says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers.” In 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world.” There’s been a lot of discussion about this. There’s pretty much a consensus. The word “strangers” there means not a tourist who’s just passing through the world briefly, but not a citizen of the world either. Somebody who’s going to be there a long time whose true citizenship and value belongs somewhere else.

Peter makes an amazingly balanced statement and we have to understand this. The gospel, I believe, is radical. The nature of the gospel, on the one hand, does say “you need to engage” to the legalists who are afraid to be polluted by the culture and have the tendency to bolster their fragile sense of righteousness by feeling superior to the sinners around them. On the other hand, the gospel also confronts the secular, irreligious, liberal Christian, who asserts that we really can’t believe in sin or the holiness of God and hell because it offends people.

The gospel says that there are dangers on both sides: cultural accommodation, culture withdrawal. Most of us as Christians today think that most of the dangers today are on one side. We tend to get together with a group of people and say: the main danger, the main danger today is cultural accommodation. On the other side, there are Christians who think the main danger is cultural isolation and irrelevance. No one will see the good deeds of those who withdraw from the world and just hate the world. They don’t glorify God. They are not involved with caring for the poor; they are not engaged. On the other hand, people who accommodate the culture are never persecuted. How do we know that the radical gospel is turning us into a counter-culture for the common good? This counter-culture should be distinct, very different from the side we have inside of us, but a side that shows that we love the world and care about the world. We love our enemies because we are saved by a man who died loving His enemies.

Therefore, this balance is awfully hard to maintain. In Jeremiah 29, the exiles, wanted to stay outside of Babylon and remain pure. The Babylonians wanted to come in to Babylon, and lose their cultural identity. God told them through Jeremiah to do the hardest thing possible. In a sense, He said, “I don’t want you to stay out and be different. I don’t want you to go in and become like them. I want you to go deeply in and stay very different.” And that’s exactly what 1 Peter is talking about. Peter calls them exiles. He knows that the relationship with the culture around them has to be the same relationship as the Jewish exiles had with the Babylonians. We need to seek the welfares of the city. We need to care about that. We need to follow in the footsteps of the one who serves His enemies and forgave His enemies and died for His enemies.

At the same time, we have to be telling people that they are going to hell. Now, generally speaking, by and large, the people who want to be prophetic don’t want to be priestly. The people that want to talk about going to hell do not just sacrificially pour out themselves and say we are going to love you and we are going to serve you, whether you really like what we do or not. And the people who are serving like that are afraid of talking about things like hell or wrath. I don’t know whether we can become a movement of people who understand what 1 Peter is saying: that the gospel creates a counter culture, but a culture that engages the community around us at the expense of persecution . . .

New Yorkers love what the Bible says about forgiveness and reconciliation and caring about the poor. They hate what it says about sex and gender and family. Go on to the Middle East and find people who love what the Bible says about sex and gender and family, but abhor the idea of forgiving people, 70 times 7. I think what 1 Peter 2:12 is trying to say is in every single culture, if you actually live distinctively in an engaged way, you will get persecution AND you will get approval. It will always be different depending on the culture. You will attract people, you will influence people. You will be salt and light and at the same time you will get punched in the mouth.

If you are only getting punched in the mouth, or if you are only getting praise, you are not living the gospel life. Either you are falling into legalism and withdrawal or you are falling into accommodation.

(6) The gospel is massively transformational. When I say the gospel is massively transformational, I am just saying the gospel creates a worldview, a basis of worldview that actually touches every area of life; the way you do business, the way you do art, the way you conduct your family life. What do I mean when I say the gospel is wonderful? 1 Peter 1:12, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

Angels love to look into the gospel. They never get tired of it. So what does that mean? It means gospel ministry is endlessly creative. It means you can preach the gospel and never have to be afraid of boring people . . .

(7) The gospel is wonderful. Isn’t that amazing? The gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity, it’s A to Z. It’s not just the elementary and introductory truths. The gospel is what drives everything that we do. The gospel is pretty much the solution to every problem. The gospel is what every theological category should be expounding when we do our systematic theology. It should be very much a part of everything.

Even angels long to look into it. And you should. Let’s pray.

About Dr. Tim Keller: He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of a study of Mark entitled King’s Cross; The Prodigal God based on Luke 15; The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness; Generous Justice; Counterfeit Gods; Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho RoadThe Meaning of Marriage; a wonderful small group study entitled Gospel In Life; and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God; & the forthcoming Center Church (August 2012). Tim has a passion for Jesus Christ, making the Gospel clear, church planting, and reaching cities for Christ. If you really want to understand the gospel, and how grace applies to all of life I urge you to devour his books and sermons!

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Are You Ready to Meet Your Maker? By Augustus Toplady

A Classic Sermon on Applications of the Suffering, Death, & Resurrection of Jesus

*Augustus Toplady is perhaps best remembered for his Hymn “Rock of Ages” – and as you will see in reading this sermon – he was theologically deep, and astute at applying the gospel to all of life.

 “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God.” 1 Sam. 5:20.

And before this holy Lord God, every soul must one day stand. “We will all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,” says the apostle, “that every one may receive according to the things he has done in the body.” In some sense, we may be said to stand before Him now: “for He is not far from everyone of us;” yes, “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” The consequence of this is, that there is no creature which is not manifest to His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes “of Him with whom we have to give an accounting.” With regard therefore to His own Omniscience and Omnipresence, we already stand before this holy Lord God. He is about our bed, and about our paths, and is acquainted with all our ways; nor is there a word in our tongues, or a thought in our hearts, but He knows it altogether. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”

I will not detain the reader with considering on what occasion the men of Bethshemesh spoke the words of the text: but only observe, that the miraculous judgment inflicted on them for looking into the ark, was that which gave rise to the above question, and made them cry out, with trembling and astonishment, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” But in whatever sense these words were meant by the speakers, they certainly contain a most momentous inquiry; — an inquiry in which every soul of man is deeply concerned.

If the Lord God, before whom each individual will shortly stand, is a holy God, a God of truth, and without sin, and of purer eyes than to behold sin with impunity; we may well ask, “Who is able to stand before Him? — Who can abide the day of His coming, or stand when He appears?” Appear He certainly will; and stand before Him we inevitably must. God only knows who will first be summoned to do this; but, first or last, the citation will be sent to all. Health is a tender, precarious flower; life is a brittle, slender thread; how soon the one may wither, and the other break, He alone can tell who lent us both. This only we know, from Scripture and from daily observation, that all below is of uncertain tenure; that we are no more than tenants at will, removable at the pleasure of God, the great Proprietor of all.

Some are dismissed from life in the dawn of infancy; some in the morning of childhood; others in the noon of youth. The sands of some are continued longer; and a very few are permitted to see the night of what we generally term old age. Not a day, nor an hour; no, not a minute passes, wherein multitudes of all ages are not called away to stand before the holy Lord God. Death, that promiscuous reaper, pays no regard to years or station. The infant of a day, and the man of a century, are alike to him; he mows the shooting blade and the mature stem: the growing and the grown unite to swell his harvest and augment his spoils. But is that which we term Death, the offspring of chance, or the result of accident? Surely, no. Death is a scythe! But if I may so speak, it is a scythe in the hand of God. Affliction, sickness, and dissolution, are messengers of His; which come not but at His command.

As King William used to say, with regard to those that died in battle, that “every bullet has its billet”, or is directed by special Providence; so it may truly be said, that every event has its commission from God, and is the effect of at least His permissive will. And therefore, though with regard to the act of dying itself, “all things come alike to all, and there is, in this respect, one event to the righteous and the wicked, and as the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath;” — though good and bad must die, the grave being the house appointed for all living; yet we must beware of thinking, because the holy and the wicked, the useful and the useless, seem to be taken away promiscuously, and without distinction, that therefore death is the effect of that unmeaning thing called chance; for both holy scripture and sound reason join in supporting the assertion of the celebrated Mr. POPE: —

“All nature is but art unknown to thee;


All chance, direction, which thou canst not see.”

So far is anything from being fortuitous or accidental, with regard to God, (however contingent and unexpected some things may be to us) that not a sparrow falls to the ground, but in consequence of His will; and the very hairs of our head are everyone numbered. Nor does the absolute and necessary dependence of all things on God, the first cause, at all interfere with, much less does it supercede, the liberty of second, or subordinary causes. Difficulties, indeed, may attend the reconciliation of human freedom, with the purposes and prescience of God from eternity, and with the efficacious influence of actual Providence in time: but yet it is plain, from experience, that man is free, that is, that he acts without any inward force or violent compulsion. What he does in a moral way, he does with the concurrence of his will. If unregenerate, his will inclines him to the works of darkness, and these accordingly he commits: if renewed by the Spirit of God, his will, from the new bias which grace has given, naturally and spontaneously inclines him to what is good, and he acts agreeably to this renewed will. So that in every view, man is free in what he does; though totally dependent on God, from moment to moment, he yet is free as to the actings of his will: which, according to its bias, naturally excites him to this or that. If therefore man himself may be, and is, subject to the efficacy and energy of divine influence, without any prejudice to his natural freedom: much more may other creatures be so.

Hence we see how prodigiously wide of the mark their reasoning is, who, under pretence of guarding natural liberty, exclude the Providence of God from having any influence on the creatures He made, and represent the Deity as no more than an idle spectator, and scarce that, of what is done below. As if it was either beneath the dignity of Him to superintend and direct the world, who did not think it beneath Him to make it; or as if, having made it, He would suffer the affairs of it to take their chance, and go on at random, without His taking any care or notice. Into such blasphemies and absurdities do those run, who forsake the Scriptures.

How much more exalted views, worthy of God, and comfortable to man, do the treasures of inspiration give us, respecting the Deity and His ever-acting Providence? There we are told, that He worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will; that whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven and in earth, and in the sea, and in all deep places; and that His effectual agency begun in creation, is carried on by Providence. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” said He who is in the form of God.

Hence it follows, that if the Almighty is thus operative, that declaration of the apostle is true, which tells us, that “God hath determined the times before appointed;” and that He even “fixes the bounds of our habitation.”  — “To everything,” says another inspired writer, “there is a season; and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die.” — ”Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth,” says Job; “Are not his days also like the days of a hireling,” which consist of just so many hours and no more. And elsewhere, speaking of man, he says, “His days are determined; the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” Conformably to which, he adds, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”

It remains then, that God is the sovereign Disposer, as of all things else, so of life and death; and consequently, that the awful period is fixed, wherein we must each stand before this holy Lord God. But are we not sinners? And is not sin that which this holy Lord God hateth? All this is true. God abhors sin; we are sinful, and we must stand before Him. How then shall we be able to do this? What will be the result of standing at such a bar, and before such a judge? To be tried by the holy law of God, which we have broken; to be witnessed against by our conscience, and by angels who invisibly throng our most retired concealments; above all, to be heard by Him who is the searcher of hearts, and whose sentence is decisive either for heaven or hell. If the Holy Spirit should alarm the conscience by this consideration, it will stir up the individual to pray, that he may be found of Him in peace, and be enabled to stand with joy before this Holy God? But what can qualify us thus to stand? Is our own goodness sufficient to cover our guilty souls, and ward off the blow of justice? Alas! It is insufficient; as the prophet says, “Our gold is dim, and our wine is mixed with water.” Our purest obedience is sinful, and how can that which is sinful, save a sinner? Can a smaller sin atone for a greater; nay, do not both stand in need of an atonement from some other quarter? “All our righteousness,” says the church, in Isaiah, “ are as filthy rags.”

Now, should a man attempt to go to court, clothed in filthy rags, and endeavor to gain admission to the royal presence in such raiment as that, would not he be refused entrance, and driven with indignation from the palace gate? — Certainly he would; and can we expect to stand in the hour of death and Day of Judgment, undaunted before the holy Lord God, arrayed in no better robe, and defended with no better armor than that imperfect righteousness of ours, which the Scripture calls filthy rags? We must appear in a better dress, if we mean to appear at God’s right hand; a dress superior even to that which angels wear; a dress which God was manifest in the flesh on purpose to supply us with; and which, through grace, is to all, and upon all them that believe in Him. I need not say, that I mean the merits of Jesus Christ, consisting of His active righteousness and His atoning death; of all He did, and of all He endured, in obedience and submission to the law. This is that righteousness, that garment of salvation, in which St. Paul desired to be found; and in which we too must be interested and arrayed, would we reign in life through Him, and stand, at the latter day, in the congregation of the righteous.

The important doctrine of justification by the transfer of Christ’s merit to us, which doctrine is founded on the perfection of His obedience, as our representative, and the reality of His substitution to death in our stead; I say, this supplies us with a satisfactory answer to the question offered, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” Who? — The soul unto whom Christ is made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: wisdom, to discover its native guilt and inability; righteousness, to cover its moral deformity, and render the whole man legally acceptable in the sight of the infinitely holy God; sanctification, to master and subdue the body of sin, to give the will and affections a divine tendency, to fire the heart with holy love, and adorn the outward conversation with all the beauties of practical godliness; and lastly, to whom Christ is made redemption, by the efficacy of His atonement, blotting out our sins and the handwriting that was against us, giving us to see that both one and the other were nailed to His cross, and that therefore there now remains no condemnation to them that are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Now, if wisdom must be given to us to see our absolute need of an interest in Christ; if His righteousness must be imputed to us for our justification; if we must be sanctified by His grace; weaned from sin and devoted to God; and if the merits of His redemption likewise must be made over to us, in order to our obtaining the forgiveness of our evil works, and the acceptance of our good ones; I say, if these things are necessary for our salvation, and without them, we shall never be able so to stand before the holy Lord God, as to enjoy His favor, and be admitted to His kingdom; then, it behooves us to lay our hand upon our heart, and solemnly to ask ourselves, whether we have a hope that Christ is thus made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to us. — Soon we shall be called to stand, where self-examination will do us no service; when we appear before God, He will be the examiner alone. Judge therefore yourself, my Christian brother, now, that ye be not then judged of the Lord. Remember, that the night of death is coming on, and the shadows of the evening are stretching out; and as sure as natural night is succeeded by day, so sure will death be followed by the immediate scrutiny of that holy Lord God, who will bring all things to light; and upon your leaving the body will soon put it beyond all doubt, whether you belong to Christ or not.

Death, as I observed, respects not persons, neither taketh reward. Old and young, rich and poor, the serious and gay, the learned and the illiterate, the holy and the profane, one with another, must appear before the judge of quick and dead. When the call is issued forth, when the warrant is made out, it will neither admit of denial or delay. “O that men were wise, that they understood this, and would consider their latter end! “ Look not on what I say as words of course, but know, that if they are unheeded now, a dying bed will convince you of their importance.

Ask yourself, what am I building on, so as to be able to stand before this holy Lord God? If you are ignorant of this, I pray the blessed Spirit to convince you, that there is no “other foundation for any man to lay, but that laid, which is Christ Jesus.” May He give you faith and repentance, so as you may be led to have a total reliance on the righteousness, blood, and intercession of Christ for the pardon of sins, which will give a conformity to His image, and to the mind which was in Christ Jesus. These are the fruits of real grace, the evidences of an interest in Him, and the marks by which His sheep are distinguished from those who belong not to His fold. And for an encouragement to wait upon Him in prayer for the communication of these graces, let us bear this in mind, that the holy Lord God before whom you and I are to stand in judgment, is, at the same time that He sustains this exalted title, that person of the Trinity who assumed our nature, and in it wrought out the salvation of His church and people. The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son. May He be your Advocate as well as Judge!

There is yet another sense wherein men will stand before this holy Lord God; and a blessed standing it will be, a standing peculiar to the just. They shall stand —Where? In the New Jerusalem, the heaven of heavens, before the throne and before the Lamb. They shall stand How? Clothed in white robes, the robes of justifying merit and sanctifying grace. They shall stand — With whom? With angels and archangels, and all the powers of heaven. They shall stand — Doing what? Singing the song forever new, the praises of the great Three-one, Father, Son, and Spirit. They shall stand — How long? As long as eternity itself; wrapped in the vision of God forever and ever.

Do you ask, Who is worthy to stand thus before this “Holy Lord God?” — Who, indeed, abstracted from the merits of Christ? Without that, we should not only be unworthy, but absolutely incapable of this exceeding great reward. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. “Understand, therefore,” said Moses to the Israelites, “that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it, for thy righteousness.” And if even the earthly Canaan was not the reward of human merit, much less the heavenly. And yet Christ says of the saints at Sardis, and by consequence of all saints whatever, (for a saint is a saint, let him live in what age or country he will) “These shall walk with me in white,” that is, they shall be my companions in glory, “for they are worthy.” — How! void of merit, and yet worthy? And worthy too of walking with Christ in white? Yes, unworthy, totally so, in themselves; but worthy, completely so, of an eternity of bliss, through the blood of sprinkling and the imputation of Christ’s obedience, styled in Scripture, the righteousness of God, and elsewhere, the righteousness of the saints.

The righteousness of God, because wrought out by Christ, who, from the time of His incarnation, was God and man in one Person; and the righteousness of the saints, because freely imputed to them, and graciously made theirs, to all the purposes of justification and happiness. “Therefore are they before the throne, and serve God day and night;” that is, without end or intermission, “in His temple,” the region of glory. Hence it is, that they shall be able to stand before the holy Lord God; shall stand with joy in His presence, after death; stand at His right hand in the day of universal judgment; and stand before Him in His kingdom to all eternity. Just men made perfect in glory, are elsewhere in Scripture represented as sitting with Christ. Both phrases are evidently metaphorical. Their standing, therefore, may denote their bliss and alacrity; for standing is a posture of gladness and cheerfulness; and when they are described as sitting in heavenly places, the expression may signify the unspeakable freedom and intimacy with the Trinity, to which they will then be admitted.

There are some, it is to be feared, who think little about standing before the holy Lord God. Death and judgment, with what will follow, are seldom or never the subjects of their meditation. Indeed, dissipation and banishment of thought, seems to be one of our national vices at present, and is in great measure, the root of all the rest. Hence, concern for salvation is too generally ridiculed as superstition; and seriousness exploded as fanaticism. This is a melancholy but faithful representation of the state of religion, in this our day, nor will matters ever wear a brighter aspect, while gaiety and amusement, in ten thousand different shapes, and succeeding in endless rotation, are permitted to engross our time, and occupy the place of thought.

“A serious mind,” says Dr. Young, “is the native soil of every virtue.” And, if I mistake not, the same writer, elsewhere, makes this just observation: — that excessive attachment to fashionable pleasures begets levity; levity begets loose morals; loose morals beget infidelity; and infidelity begets death. And I verily believe, for my own part, that if we trace Deism and Libertinism to their fountainhead, we shall find, in most cases, the inordinate pursuit of pleasure to have been the source of both. Recreations are needful at times; but take care of these two things, that your recreations be innocent in themselves, and that you be moderate in your use of them.

If the time is hastening wherein all must, without any exception, stand before the holy Lord God, let the unbeliever tremble. “What!” says a Deist, with a smile, “tremble at that which I do not believe!” Yes, I repeat it again, tremble, lest conscience should be in the right, and what you now profess to disbelieve, should prove true at last. Many a deistical hero has been dismally frightened when death stared him in the face; and some of them much sooner; for I could mention instances of Deists, who, unable to bear the intolerable hauntings of conscience, and their pride disdaining to fly to religion for relief, have, in the madness of despair put an end to their own lives; have plunged into eternity as a horse rushes into the battle, and gone, with all their sins about them to stand before the holy Lord God. “A proof this,” say you, “that they really disbelieved a future state.” O! no; a proof rather, that a conscience gashed with sin, and uncured by the remedy of the gospel, flashes horror on the soul too great for it to hear; and therefore the miserable creature, wishing that there may be no hereafter, chooses rather, in the fury of his pain, to try the dreadful experiment, and run the risk of accumulated misery in the next world, to get rid of his tortures in this.

But I willingly dismiss this dismal part of the subject, on a supposition that the reader of these lines is no professed infidel. I will suppose that you admit the Scriptures to be, as indeed they are, the Word of God; and that you believe every article of the Christian faith. Nay, I will go farther, and put the case, that the historical belief, and assent of your understanding, has some influence on your eternal conversation. I would take for granted, that you are neither profane nor immoral, but stand in awe of that great and terrible name, the Lord thy God; that the temple of your body, is in purity and sanctification, not walking in any lust of uncleanness, like them that know not God; and to add no more, that you are morally honest in your dealings with all men, and are punctual to the worship of God, in your closets, in your families, and in the temple. All this is excellent; all this is needful; but remember, this is not your justifying righteousness. We are not pardoned and entitled to heaven on account of our holiness and good works; but are made holy, and abound in good works, in CONSEQUENCE OF OUR ACCEPTANCE in the Beloved, of our pardon and justification through the propitiation and perfect obedience of Jesus Christ the righteous; do you know any thing of this? In all matters, but especially in spiritual affairs, experience is the life of knowledge.

Did the Spirit of God ever convince you of sin? Do you see yourself liable to the curse of the law, and the just vengeance of God, for the innate depravity of your nature, and the transgressions of your life? Do you come to Christ humbled and self-condemned; sensible that unless you are clothed with the merits of Him our Elder Brother, you are ruined and undone, and can never stand with joy or safety before the holy Lord God? If so, lift up thy head; redemption is thine; thou art in a state of grace; thou art translated from death to life; thou art an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. But, if you never felt, nor desire to feel, this work of the Holy Ghost upon thy heart, this conviction of sin, this penitential faith, all the supposed righteousness of thine own, wherein thou trusted, is but a broken reed; a painted sepulcher; and the trappings of a Pharisee.

Let believers rejoice. The holy Lord God, to whom they must give account, is their Father, their Savior, and their Friend. What is death to such, but the accomplishment of their warfare, and the commencement of an endless triumph? I admire an illustration of the death of the righteous, which I lately met with in a discourse on that subject, by an eminent writer:

“As a man,” says he, “that takes a walk in his garden, and spying a beautiful full-blown flower, he crops it, and puts it into his bosom, so the Lord takes His walks in His gardens, the churches, and gathers His lilies, souls fully ripe for glory, and with delight takes them to Himself.”

If it is in the merits of Christ alone that we can stand with safety before God, let us renounce self-dependence in every view, and rely for justification and everlasting life on Him, making mention of Him and of His righteousness only, in whom all the seed of Israel are justified, and shall glory.

Lastly; Is the Lord God we must appear before infinitely holy? Then let us aim at holiness likewise. There is no true Christianity; that is, there is no dignity nor happiness, without it. He is not a Father, in a spiritual, saving sense, to any on whose souls the Holy Spirit has not impressed His image, and on whose hearts He has not inscribed His law.

*Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778), was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Dublin, he was converted through a Methodist lay preacher, took Anglican orders in 1762, and later became vicar of Broadhembury, Devon. In 1775 he assumed the pastorate of the French Calvinist chapel in London. He was a powerful preacher and a vigorous Calvinist, bitterly opposed to John Wesley. He wrote the Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England (2 vols., 1774) and The Church of England Vindicated from the Charge of Arminianism (1769). His fame rests, however, on his hymns, e.g., “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”; “A Sovereign Protector I Have”; “From Wence this Fear and Unbelief?”; and especially “Rock of Ages”.

 

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