Rejoicing in Christ

reevesAs a selection in my list of books of the year in 2014, I chose Michael Reeves’s excellent book, Christ Our Life (Paternoster, UK). That same book was released today in the States under the title Rejoicing in Christ (IVP, US).

I read everything by Reeves, and this book proves again why. It’s loaded with Tweetable statements, pithy, wise, and mature thoughts that will offer you a lifetime of meditation.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ *holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful.

God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives. (86–87)

Where To Find Joy

Douglas Wilson, expounding the amazing Psalm 97 in his new book, Basic Christian Living: A Survey Course on Practical Christianity (Canon Press), pages 10–11:

Holiness is wild. Holiness is three tornadoes in a row. Holiness is a series of black thunderheads coming in off the bay. Holiness is impolite. Holiness is darkness to make a sinful man tremble. Holiness beckons us to that darkness, where we do not meet ghouls and ghosts, but rather the righteousness of God. Holiness is a consuming fire. Holiness melts the world. And when we fear and worship a God like this, what is the result? Gladness of heart.

Worship a god who does nothing but kittens and pussy willows and you will end in despair. Worship the God of the jagged edge, the God whose holiness cannot be made palatable for the middle-class American consumer, and the result is deep gladness.

Do you hear that? Gladness, not pomposity. And, thank God, such gladness does not make us parade about with cheeks puffed slighted out, or speak with lots of rotund vowels, or strut with a sanctimonious air. Gladness, laughter, joy — set these before you. This is deep Christian faith, and not what so many are marketing today in the name of Jesus. The tragedy is that in the name of relevance the current expression of the faith today is superficial all the way down.

Those who love and worship the Lord are called to hate evil. So this is why an ethical application of the vision of the holy is most necessary. If we bypass this vision of who God actually is, the necessary result will be a prissy moralism, and not the robust morality of the Christian faith. The distance between moralism and true morality is vast, and the thing that creates this distance is knowledge of the holy.

Now go re-read Psalm 97.

Working Out What God Works In

Philippians 2:12–13:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans, 1955), pp. 148-149:

God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or coordination of both produced the required result.

God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing…. The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, as quoted in the pre-pub manuscript:

True saints should be psychologically motivated to fulfill God’s precepts because they know that God has given them the power to do so. … This kind of motivation is comparable to my neighbor’s desire to remove snow from his driveway. He has a fine snow-blower and gets his driveway cleaned off quickly. On the other hand, I do not own a snow-blower but have only a rusty snow shovel. When it snows a few inches, I have no desire to go out and shovel the snow. After it keeps on snowing and I still don’t go out to clear it off, my wife gives me a polite implied command by way of questioning, ‘when are you going to shovel the driveway?’ But I have no desire to respond positively to her command. I continue to let the snow build up until after the snow has finished falling, and then I go out rather reluctantly to shovel. I don’t have the motivation to clear off the snow because I don’t have the power to do it effectively. On the other hand, my neighbor has all the desire in the world because he has the power to remove the snow effectively. When one has the power to do something, the motivation for doing it follows.