9 Quotes From “Surprised By Paradox”

Jen Pollock Michel has given us a thought-provoking look into her thoughts of some of the and solutions to the either-or challenges many Christians face. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Allowing for paradox does not represent a weakened approach to theological understanding. On the contrary, it allows for a robust theology, one that is filled with the sort of awe that not only regards God as unimaginably wondrous but also awakens in us the same desire Moses had to see Him as He is.” 

“As psychologists have described it, awe is ‘the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it and may even adjust our world to accommodate it.’ Awe is our slack-jawed response to natural phenomena like waterfalls and childbirth. To feel awe is to confirm a beautiful, wild universe, a world we neither made nor control. … For those of us inclined to religious belief, awe nurtures our certainty about God.”

“Modernity gave us more certainty than uncertainty—or at the very least certainty in certainty. We’ve come to an unassailable confidence that mystery, by dint of inquiry and scientific effort, can be wrestled and pinned down and made to cry uncle. We are no longer victims of the unknowable: we are masters of our own understanding. The great modern lie is one of infinite human autonomy and control.” 

“It is an old sin seduced by an old lie that we can be like God, perfectly knowing as He knows.… As soon as we think we have God figured out, we will have ceased to worship Him as He is.” 

“I also get tricked into thinking that the world must quiet around me if I mean to meet God. I forget the paradox of the burning bush: that Moses met God at Horeb on an unspectacular day, that his encounter with God was less planned and more happenstance. God did not speak to Moses as the prophet sat cross-legged and silent, his hands folded in reverent to prayer. God blazed up in the landscape of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. This seems to be how it goes with God: a spiritual life is a material one.” 

“The paradox of God’s story is that He’s chosen to write its timelessness in the ticking heart of His Son and that He’s choosing to write it in our ticking hearts too.” 

“If the kingdom is good news, it surely isn’t safe. Because there is no square inch of our lives Jesus doesn’t intend to rule.” 

“To define grace apart from the Cross would be to say that God is simply given to leniency. It would be to essentially say that there are rules which we break and break badly, but God reassures us kindly that ‘it’s no big deal.’… The Cross speaks a thundering word about the cosmic big deal that is sin.” 

“To receive grace, we need humility. The only prerequisite for grace is empty hands. We have done nothing to make God notice us, and He is not impressed by us.” 

“Ye Shall Be As Gods”

“By two great lies was man led away from God. By the same two lies has the estrangement been kept up. On these two lies the world has been feeding ever since the Fall. Their fruit has been woe and death—‘Ye shall not die’ and ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ …

“The world’s history is the same. Our race has been eating the fruit of lies [Hosea 10:13]; not simply of sin, but of lies. The sorrows, sighs, tears, pains of our race are the fruit of lies—the original lie of Paradise, and a thousand such since then. …

“The two original satanic lies are continually coming up, and along with them myriads of others, all leading us astray. Each day brings forth the lie, the fruit, the eating thereof. satan, or the world, or the flesh, or a friend, or a book, or a scene whispers the lie; it is fair and specious, we believe it; it brings forth fruit, we eat of it, and the end is bitterness and disappointment. We feed on lies. … We persuade ourselves that this world is good, and pleasant, and excellent, so we pursue it in preference to the world to come. …

“Jesus says, ‘Yes, ye shall not surely die, but that deliverance shall not be in the way you think. Death is the wages of sin, yet I bring life to the sinner, everlasting life, life through the belief of the Truth, even as death came through the belief of a lie. Yes, ye shall be as gods, but not in your way. I will make you partakers if the divine nature, not by eating the forbidden tree, but by eating of Me.’” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep The Focus On The Savior

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Keep The Focus On The Savior

     I have heard men tell the story of their conversion, and of their spiritual life, in such a way that my heart has loathed them and their story, too, for they have told of their sins as if they did boast in the greatness of their crime, and they have mentioned the love of God, not with a tear of gratitude, not with the simple thanksgiving of the really humble heart, but as if they as much exalted themselves as they exalted God. Oh! When we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with great sorrow, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things. … 

     My Master, I cannot understand how You stoop Your awful head to such a death as the death of the Cross, how You could take from Your brow the coronet of stars that from old eternity had shone resplendent there. But how You should permit the thorn-crown to gird Your temples astonishes me far more. That You should cast away the mantle of Your glory, the azure of Your everlasting empire, I cannot comprehend. But how You should have become veiled in the ignominious purple for a while and then be mocked by impious men who bowed to You as a pretended king; and how You should be stripped naked to Your shame, without a single covering, and die a felon’s death. This is still more incomprehensible. But the marvel is that You should have suffered all this for me! … 

     I, a lad, found the Lord of glory. I, a slave to sin, found the great Deliverer. I, the child of darkness, found the Light of Life. I, the uttermost of the lost, found my Savior and my God. I, widowed and desolate, found my Friend, my Beloved, my Husband. Oh, how I wondered that I should be pardoned! It was not the pardon that I wondered at so much; the wonder was that it should come to me. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

How sad that many times the story of our salvation focuses more on how bad we were, and gives so little glory to how amazing our Savior’s rescue was. 

Just as the Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners, and stood in amazement that Christ’s love would reconcile him to God, so Spurgeon stood amazed that Jesus would stoop to die for “the uttermost of the lost.” 

It’s fine to tell people what used to be, but please make sure your story focuses more on how amazing it is that God’s love saved you from those sins. Amazing love! How can it be that You, my King, would die for me? 

Let’s keep the focus on the Savior! 

Poetry Saturday—Our Sins The Cause Of Christ’s Death

Infinite grief! amazing woe!
Behold my bleeding Lord!
Hell and the Jews conspired His death,
And us’d the Roman sword.

O the sharp pangs of smarting pain
My dear Redeemer bore,
When knotty whips, and ragged thorns,
His sacred body tore!

But knotty whips, and ragged thorns
In vain do I accuse;
In vain I blame the Roman bands,
And the more spiteful Jews.

‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.

It was you that pulled the vengeance down
Upon His guiltless head;
Break, break, my heart! O burst mine eyes!
And let my sorrows bleed.

Strike, mighty grace, my flinty soul,
Till melting waters flow,
And deep repentance drown mine eyes
In undissembled woe. —Isaac Watts

14 Quotes From “Studies In The Sermon On The Mount”

Oswald Chambers has unlocked the Sermon on the Mount for me like no other Bible commentator has before—deeply and practically. Check out my full book review by clicking here. I have already shared numerous passages from this book in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” series, but here are some other quotes that caught my eye as well. 

“Beware of placing our Lord as a Teacher first instead of Savior. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know him first as Savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. … If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He could do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.” 

“The disadvantage of a saint in the present order of things is that his confession of Jesus Christ is not to be in secret, but glaringly public. It would doubtless be to our advantage from the standpoint of self-realization to keep quiet, and nowadays the tendency to say—‘Be a Christian, live a holy life, but don’t talk about it’—is growing stronger. Our Lord uses in illustration the most conspicuous things known to men—salt, light, and a city set on a hill—and He says, ‘Be like that in your home, in your business, in your church; be conspicuously a Christian for ridicule or respect according to the mood of the people you are with.’” 

“Our Lord goes to the root of the matter every time with no apology. Sordid? Frantically sordid, but sin is frantically sordid, and there is no excuse in false modesty, or in refusing to face the music of the devil’s work in this life. Jesus Christ faced it and He makes us face it too. Our natural idea of purity is that it means according to obedience to certain laws and regulations, but that is apt to be prudery. There is nothing prudish in the Bible. The Bible insists on purity, not prudery.” 

“All our righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’ unless it is the blazing holiness of Jesus in uniting us with Him until we see nothing but Jesus first, Jesus second, and Jesus third. Then when men take knowledge of us, they will not say that we are good men, that we have a wonderful whiteness, but that Jesus Christ has done something wonderful in us.” 

“The Spirit of God comes through the different writers with the one steady insistence to stir up our minds (Philippians 2:5; 2 Peter 1:12-13). … Unless we learn to think in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s teaching, we will drift in our spiritual experience without thinking at all. The confusion arises when we try to think and to reason things out without the Spirit of God.” 

“Jesus does not use the illustration of the birds and the flowers by accident, He uses it purposely in order to show the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious about the means of living. Imagine the sparrows and blackbirds and thrushes worrying about their feathers! Jesus says they do not trouble about themselves at all, the thing that makes them what they are is not their thought for themselves, but the thought of the Father in heaven. A bird is a hard-working little creature, but it does not work for its feathers, it obeys the law of its life and becomes what it is. Jesus Christ’s argument is that if we concentrate on the life He gives us, we will be perfectly free for all other things because our Father is watching the inner life. We have to maintain obedience to the Holy Spirit, Who is the real principle of our life, and God will supply the ‘feathers,’ for are we not ‘much better than they’?” 

“We enthrone common sense as Almighty God and treat Jesus Christ as a spiritual appendage to it.” 

“At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements are those of a fool; but bring them to the bar of faith and the Word of God, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God.” 

“No man is born with character; we make our own character. When the man is born from above a new disposition is given to him, but not a new character; neither naturally nor supernaturally are we born with character. Character is what a man makes out of his disposition as it comes in contact with external things. A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence.” 

“The Holy Spirit does reveal what is wrong in others, but His discernment is never for purposes of criticism, but for purposes of intercession.” 

“Prayer is not only asking, it is an attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural, and Jesus says, ‘everyone who asks receives.’” 

“Fasting is much more than doing without food, that is the least part, it is fasting from everything that manifests itself-indulgence.” 

“When we are saved by God’s grace, God puts into us the possibility of not sinning, and our character from that moment is of value to God. Before we were saved we had not the power to obey, but now He has planted in us on the ground of Redemption the heredity of the Son of God, we have the power to obey, and consequently the power to disobey. The walk of a disciple is gloriously difficult, but gloriously certain. On the ground of the perfect Redemption of Jesus Christ, we find that we can begin now to walk worthily.” 

“Never trust the best man or woman you ever met; trust the Lord Jesus only. … We are never told to follow in all the footsteps of the saints, but only in so far as they have obeyed God.” 

No Polite Conversations Here, Please

“Most of us would never commit murder, but how often have we taken a neighbor into some dark alley of our thoughts and there torn him limb from limb with a desire for revenge over some petty quarrel? 

“Christian, this is imperative for you to realize: When wicked or unclean thoughts first force their way into your mind, you have not yet sinned. This is the work of the devil! But if you so much as offer them a chair and begin polite conversation with them, you have become his accomplice. In only a short time you will give these thoughts sanctuary in your heart.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor 

7 Quotes From “He Chose The Nails”

Max Lucado takes us in for a closer look at the Cross and all that Jesus did there for us. Please check out my full book review and then read this book—you will be glad you did! 

“Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance, have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ (Matthew 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. …

“Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the Cross. Through the prophet He said, ‘I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6). Mingled with His blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.” 

“‘He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 NLT). Between His hands and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. Dangling from the Cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by His hand; those down the list are covered by His blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV). ‘He has forgiven you all your sins: He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).” 

“Seats at God’s table are not available to the sloppy. But who among us is anything but. Unkempt morality. Untidy with truth. Careless with people. Our moral clothing is in disarray. Yes, the standard for sitting at God’s table is high, but the love of God for His children is higher. So He offers a gift.… a seamless robe… a robe worn by His Son, Jesus.” 

“What appeared to be the cruelty of man was actually the sovereignty of God. Matthew tells us: ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom’ (27:50-51). It’s as if the hands of heaven had been gripping the veil, waiting for this moment.” 

“Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the Cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God‘s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.” 

“‘Just look what they did to me!’ we defy and point to our hurts. ‘Just look what I did for you,’ Jesus reminds and points to the Cross. Paul said it this way: ‘If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13). You and I are commanded—not urged, commanded—to keep no list of wrongs.” 

“Knowing His last deeds would be forever pondered, don’t you think Jesus chose them carefully? Deliberately? Of course He did. There were no accidents that day. Jesus’ last moments were not left up to chance. God chose the path; He selected the nails. Our Lord planted the trio of crosses and painted the sign. God was never more sovereign than in the details of the death of His Son. … The message: ‘I did it for you. I did it all for you.’” 

Weeping And Rejoicing

“First, I would bid you stand and see the place where the Lord lay with emotions of deep sorrow. O come, my beloved brother, thy Jesus once lay there. He was a murdered man, my soul, and thou the murderer.

‘Ah, you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were,
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.’
‘Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?’

“I slew Him—this right hand struck the dagger to His heart. My deeds slew Christ. Alas! I slew my best beloved: I killed Him who loved me with an everlasting love. Ye eyes, why do ye refuse to weep when ye see Jesus’ body mangled and torn? Oh! give vent to your sorrow, Christians, for ye have good reason to do so…. My soul was drowning. From heaven’s high portals He saw me sinking in the depths of hell. He plunged in.

‘He SANK beneath His heavy woes,
To raise me to a crown;
There’s ne’er a gift His hand bestows.
But cost His heart a groan.’

“Ah! we may indeed regret our sin, since it slew Jesus.

“Now, Christian, change thy note a moment. ‘Come, see the place where the Lord lay,’ with joy and gladness. He does not lie there now. Weep, when ye see the tomb of Christ, but rejoice because it is empty. Thy sin slew Him, but His divinity raised Him up. Thy guilt hath murdered Him, but His righteousness hath restored Him. Oh! He hath burst the bonds of death; He hath ungirt the cerements of the tomb, and hath come out more than conqueror, crushing death beneath His feet. Rejoice, O Christian, for He is not there—He is risen.” —Charles Spurgeon 

What Christians Often Miss About Zeal

On what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with the crowd shouting, “Hosanna” because they thought Jesus was going to set things right. In this, they were disappointed. Jesus knew that His time for reigning in Jerusalem hadn’t come yet, and Christ’s passionate journey meant He would not cut any corners!

Before Jesus left Jerusalem that Sunday evening, Mark noted that “He looked around at everything.” He didn’t respond right away to what He saw. This is very important to note because we shouldn’t think that His response on Monday was something spontaneous. No, it was planned out in specific detail.  

On Monday morning, Jesus prepared to make the 2-mile trip from Bethany to Jerusalem. The Gospels note quite frequently the amount of time Jesus spent in prayer, including beginning His day in conversation with His Father (see Mark 1:35). On this morning, He must have talked with His Father about everything He had seen in Jerusalem the day before. 

 En route to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters a fig tree that gives every appearance of life and vitality. It looks like it’s ready to serve people, but upon closer inspection, Jesus discovers that there is no fruit on it. He curses the tree for its deceptive outward appearance. This is definite foreshadowing for what’s about to happen! 

Jesus enters the temple and begins to drive out merchants, and moneychangers, and dove sellers. He roars at them, “God says this is to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!” (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; and Luke 19:45-48). 

The phrases house of prayer and den of robbers are direct quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah, respectively (Isaiah 56:3-7; Jeremiah 7:1-11), but what do they mean? 

The temple had specific courts available—

  1. The Court of the Gentiles was open to all people, foreigners included.
  2. The Women’s Court was open to all Jews and, their “uncontaminated” wives.
  3. The Court of Israel was limited to male Jews who were clean and purified.
  4. The fourth court was the Holy Place limited to priests robed in their priestly vestments. 

This buying and selling was undoubtedly happening in the Court of the Gentiles. As the Passover was approaching, people from all over the world were here—some purchasing animals to use as sacrifices, and some exchanging their foreign money for Israelite money for the temple tax. 

There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little worship. This is what angered Jesus. The activity in the temple was like the fig tree He cursed—it looked like it was fruitful, but that was merely outward deception. 

Were the merchants exploiting people? Perhaps. But they were certainly occupying the only space where non-Jews could worship. They were certainly becoming a distraction to any true worship activities. They were clearly becoming the main attraction. 

There are two important lessons in this outburst that Jesus gives to all His disciples:

  1. As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of religious showmanship should increase. 
  2. As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of unrighteousness should increase—both a greater hate for sin and a greater love for sinners! 

“Let the zeal of the house of the Lord ever eat you up. For example: do you see a brother running [toward sin]? Stop him, warn him, be grieved for him, if the zeal of God’s house has now eaten you up. Do you see others running and wanting to drink themselves drunk? Stop whom you can, hold whom you can, frighten whom you can; win in gentleness whom you can: do not in any way sit still and do nothing.” —Augustine 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means He hates anything that keeps us from His Father. 

If you know God’s love, be zealous about those things that keep others from coming in to know God’s love for themselves. Not angry at people, but angry at practices and “religious shows” that hinder people from knowing God’s love like you know God’s love. 

13 Quotes On The Gospel Of Luke

J.C. Ryle has given us a wonderful commentary on the Gospels in his Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. Check out my full book review here, and then enjoy a few quotes from Ryle’s insights on the Gospel of Luke.

“Lay firm hold on Bible promises. It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so. Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat and the water that we should daily drink as we travel through the wilderness of this world.” 

“Christ’s loving kindness to His people never changes and never fails. It is a deep well of which no one ever found the bottom.” 

“There is not enough of a missionary spirit among Christians. It should not satisfy us to be safe ourselves. We ought also to try to do good to others. All cannot go to the heathen, but every believer should strive to be a missionary to his fellow man.” 

“No man shall ever be a loser in the long run by deeds of self-denying charity and patient love. At times he may seem to get nothing by his conduct. He may appear to reap nothing but ridicule, contempt, and injury. His kindness may sometimes tempt men to impose on him. His patience and forbearance may be abused. But at the last he will always be found a gainer.” 

“Have we the word of Christ’s promises? Then let us rest on it and fear nothing. Let us not doubt that every word that Christ has spoken shall be made good. The word of Christ is a sure foundation. He that leans upon it shall never be confounded.” 

“How much we ought to hate sin! Instead of loving it, cleaving to it, dallying with it, excusing it, playing with it, we ought to hate it with a deadly hatred. Sin is the great murderer, and thief, and pestilence, and nuisance of this world. Let us make no peace with it. Let us wage a ceaseless warfare against it.” 

“We must give up the vain idea of trying to please everybody. The thing is impossible and the attempt is mere waste of time. We must be content to walk in Christ’s steps and let the world say what it likes. Do what we will we shall never satisfy it or silence its ill-natured remarks. It first found fault with John the Baptist and then with his blessed Master. And it will go on caviling and finding fault with that Master’s disciples so long as one of them is left up on earth.” 

“Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall. To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge. It often leads to untoward consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ. The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the church and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.” 

“Let us beware of allowing traditions, old preconceived notions, unsound interpretations, or baseless theories in religion to find a root in our hearts. There is but one test of truth: ‘What says the Scripture?’” 

“The kindness of a Christian towards others should not be in word and in tongue only, but in deed and in truth. His love should be a practical love, a love which entails on him self-sacrifice and self-denial, both in money, and time and trouble. His charity should be seen not merely in his talking but his acting—not merely in his profession but in his practice. He should think it no misspent time to work as hard in doing good to those who need help as others work in trying to get money. … Such brotherly love the world may not understand. The returns of gratitude which such love meets with may be few and small. But to show such brotherly love is to walk in the steps of Christ. … What are we doing to help those who are troubled in mind, body, or estate? There are many such in this world. There are always some near our own door. What are we doing for them? Anything, or nothing at all? May God help us to answer these questions! The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.” 

“Never let us forget that to be content with sitting in the congregation and hearing sermons, while we bear no fruit in our lives, is conduct which is most offensive to God.” 

“Let us endeavor to live daily in the sight of a holy God. So living, it will matter little how much we are ‘watched’ by an ill-natured and malicious world. Let us exercise ourselves to have a conscience void of offense toward God and man, and to do nothing which can give occasion to the Lord’s enemies to blaspheme.” 

“An idea appears to prevail in some men’s minds that true religion may be separated from common honesty, and that soundness about matters of doctrine may cover over swindling and cheating in matters of practice! Against this wretched idea our Lord’s words were a plain protest. Against this idea let us watch and be on our guard.” 

You can read Ryle’s quote on The Gospel of Matthew here, and on the Gospel of Mark here. 

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