Tripp: Sin and Mercy

“They really are the two foundation stones of a God-honoring life. They must be held together; neither side can be forsaken. Every day you and I give empirical evidence to the existence of both. Here are these foundation-stone realities: you still have sin living inside you and God is abundant in mercy. You and I must stand on both these stones. Letting go of either casts us into danger. Because I am a sinner, I need mercy, and because God is merciful, I can face the reality of my sin.

The words in Nehemiah 9 describe us all: “They . . . did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules” (v. 29). Maybe it’s a thoughtless word, a selfish act, a prideful thought, a moment of envy, a flash of lust, a willing act of disobedience, an attitude of vengeance, or a minor moment of thievery; maybe it’s wanting your glory more than God’s, failing to give grace where grace is needed, bending the truth, giving in to an addiction, or working to make these kinds of things in your life look not as bad as they actually are. In some way, we all give daily proof to the truth that sin still lives inside us. None of us is yet sin-free. We all continue to fail in word, thought, desire, and action. It is humbling but important to admit, because it’s only when you admit how deep and comprehensive your problem is that you get excited about the rescue that only God’s mercy can supply.

We aren’t just left in our sins. Nehemiah 9 continues, “Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God” (v. 31). You can be courageous in admitting your sin precisely because God is richly abundant in his mercy. He comes to you in mercy not because you are good but because you are a sinner, and he knows that because of this condition, you are unable to help yourself. Since sin means that you are a bigger danger to you than anything else in your life and since it is impossible for you to run from you, there is only one hope for you. It is that someone with power, wisdom, and mercy will invade your life, forgive your sins, and progressively deliver you from the hold that sin has had on you. That mercy comes to you in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his mercy is always fresh, uniquely fashioned for the sin struggles of this new day.

For further study and encouragement: Ephesians 2:1–10″

-Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies, January 16.

Tripp: Modern Evangelical Schizophrenia

“When we ask the present to give us what only eternity can give, we end up driven, frustrated, discouraged, and ultimately hopeless.

It’s a case of modern evangelical schizophrenia. It causes us so much confusion, frustration, and discouragement. It leaves us with unrealistic expectations, naïveté toward temptation, and regular disappointment. It leads us to ask far too much from the people around us and to expect more than we should from the situations and locations in our lives. It makes us search over and over again for what we will not find and spend endless hours wondering why we haven’t found it. It even results in some of us beginning to doubt the goodness of God.

“What is this schizophrenia?” you ask. It is the fact that we declare that we believe in forever, yet we live as if this is all there is. This functional contradiction between our belief system and our daily living cannot work. Here’s why.

First, you cannot make any sense out of the Christian life without eternity. This is the whole argument of 1 Corinthians 15. If the One you’ve given your life to doesn’t ultimately fix all that sin has broken, so that you can live with him forever without its effects, what is your faith worth?

Second, you and I have been hardwired for eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares that God has placed eternity in every person’s heart. That means everyone hungers for paradise. No one is satisfied with things the way they are. So either you try your hardest to turn your life right here, right now into the paradise it will never be and therefore become driven and disappointed, or you live in this broken world with the rest and peace that comes from knowing that a guaranteed place in paradise is in your future.

You’re sad that things are as broken as they are, so you work to be an agent of change in God’s gracious and powerful hands. but you’re not anxious or driven, You know that this world is not stuck and that it hasn’t been abandoned by God. You know that God is working his eternal plan. He is moving things toward their final conclusion. You can’t see it every day, but you know it’s true. In the middle of your sadness there is celebration, because vou’ve read the final chanter and you know how God’s grand story is going to end.

So you get up every morning and give yourself to doing the things that God says are good, because you know that if grace has put eternity in your future there’s nothing that you could ever do in God’s name that is in vain.

For further study and encouragement: 1 Corinthians 15:12-34”

-Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies, January 21

Tripp: Trust

“Don’t be discouraged today. You can leave your ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’ in the hands of the One who loves you and rules all things.”

Even though you’re a person of faith who has acquired some degree of biblical literacy and theological knowledge, there’s one thing you can be sure of—God will confuse you. Your theology will give you only a limited ability to exegete your experiences. The commands, principles, and case studies of Scripture will take you only so far in your quest to figure out your life. There will be moments when you simply don’t understand what is going on. In fact, you will face moments when what the God who has declared himself to be good brings into your life won’t seem good. It may even seem bad, very bad.

Now, if your faith is based on your ability to fully understand your past, present, and future,then your moments of confusion will become moments of weakening faith. But the reality is that you are not left with only two options—understand everything and rest in peace or understand little and be tormented by anxiety. There is a third way. It really is the way of true biblical faith. The Bible tells you that real peace is found in resting in the wisdom of the One who holds all of your ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’ in his loving hands. Isaiah captures this well with these comforting words ‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you’ (Isa. 26:3).

Real, sturdy, lasting peace, peace that doesn’t rise and fall with circumstances, isn’t to be found in picking apart your life until you have understood all of the components. You will never understand it all because God, for your good and his glory, keeps some of it shrouded in mystery. So peace is found only in trust, trust of the One who is in careful control of all the things that tend to rob you of your peace. He knows, he understands, he is in control of what appears to be chaos, he is never surprised, he is never confused, he never worries or loses a night’s sleep, he never walks off the job to take a rest, he never gets so busy with one thing that he neglects another, and he never plays favorites.

You need to remind yourself again and again of his wise and loving control, not because that will immediately make your life make sense, but because it will give you rest and peace in those moments that all of us face at one time or another—when life doesn’t seem to make any sense.

For further study and encouragement: Luke 12:22-34”

-Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies, January 14.

If You Think You’ve Arrived

By Paul Tripp

“I didn’t see it at the time, but I enjoyed the ministry celebrity that I experienced my early days in coal country. I was the center of a little growing church and a rapidly growing Christian school, and I loved it. We were seeing fruit in a place where there hadn’t been much fruit, and people were excited. Thankful people seem to be everywhere, and they expressed their thanks often. But, in ways I didn’t see then, I took a lot of the credit.

I was unaware of how proud I had become until a man asked if he could meet with me. I was sure he has been convicted by one of my glorious sermons and wished to counsel with me. We met over dinner, a meal that neither one of us ended up eating, and it quickly became clear that he didn’t want to talk about himself. He spent a couple hours offering me example after example of my pride. He said that he thought I thought my job was to give “the final opinion on everything.”

I was devastated. I thought he had been inaccurate and unkind. But I couldn’t escape his words, so I called my brother Tedd to ask him what I should do. Tedd gave me the best and hardest advice. He simply said, “Listen.” In the next few weeks I tried my best to stop, listen, and look. What I saw was a proud man who had begun in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to take credit for what only grace could produce. I heard a man speaking who had forgotten who he was. I saw a young pastor who had already begun to act as if he had arrived.

I wish I could say that I am free of all the self-assessment delusions of my ministry youth. There are times when the congratulatory comments of a thankful hearer morphs into self-congratulation. There are times when I am defensive as someone presumes to question or confront me. There are times when I am too self-aware and not nearly as Christ-aware as I should be. I still struggle with latent self-righteousness , and the praise of others tends to confirm the praise for myself I still carry around in my heart. So I still cry out for help. I still need to be rescued from me. I still have but one hope: the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

So what are the lifestyle tendencies of a pastor ministering from a position of arrival? If you think you’ve arrived, you will:

Think you dont need what you preach.

Sinclair Ferguson has said that he determined to be a man who sits under his own preaching. Even your preparation should be an acknowledgement of ongoing need, a cry for divine help and a celebration of ever-present inexhaustible grace. Think Isaiah 6: “I am a man on unclean lips, and I dwell amongst people of unclean lips.”

If you think you have arrived, you prepare material from above for people who sadly still need what you no longer need. Are you desperately hungry for the truths that you regularly prepare to expound to others?

Not be open to the ministry of the body of Christ.

Arrival tends to produce self-sufficiency. If you think you’re wise, you don’t seek out the wisdom of others. If you think you’re mature, you don’t hunger for the protection of others. If you see yourself as a person of mature faith, you don’t seek the courage-giving encouragement of others. If you don’t see your sin, you won’t see the value of confessing it to those who can counsel and warn you. If you think you’re up to whatever temptation will throw at you, you don’t ask for other eyes to watch out for you and other hearts to pray on your behalf.

Arrival, whether conscious or not, will always begin to cut you off from the essential protecting and sanctifying ministry of the body of Christ.

Expect of others the perfection that you think youve achieved.

Arrival is not the soil in which pastoral grace grows. People who think of themselves as righteous tend to expect and require of others the same righteousness they think they have achieved. Rather than being the soil in which grace grows, arrival is the soil in which unrealistic expectation, criticism, impatience, and harsh judgments grow.

I can’t tell you how many staff members have shared with me that their relationship to their senior pastor (and these are my words) is more characterized by law than by grace. If you think you are keeping the law, then you are comfortable with throwing the law at others. But if you are grieved at the reality that you daily fall woefully short of God’s requirement, that your rest is not in your own righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ, then you will naturally minister to others the same grace that you so desperately need and so graciously receive from God’s hand.

Feel qualified for more control. 

If you are impressed by your own wisdom and strength, if you mount up evidence for your own righteousness, then it makes sense that you would be self-assured. You think you’re capable, ready to deal with whatever God puts on your plate. Because you are convinced that you are strong and wise, it is natural for you to assess that you should be in control. You don’t carry around in you the hunger for wisdom or protection from personal weaknesses.

Let’s be honest. There are too many power struggles in the local church. Gospel ministry easily becomes politicized. Pride causes you to hunger for power (even though you may not know it). The hunger for power causes you to collect ministry allies, and the desire for control causes you to locate ministry enemies. Somehow, some way, gospel ministry has become a political battleground for human power.

This is a form of ministry that has lost its center. Jesus has left the building. A king is being put forward, but not the King. A kingdom is being built, but not the kingdom. If as a pastor you are being pastoral, you are doing it for others, but if as a pastor you have gone political, you are doing it for you.”

-Paul Tripp,  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/10/07/if-you-think-youve-arrived/