How to Be Happy in Christ (Matters of the Heart, part 2)

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Michael Reeves helps us taste the goodness of God in the second of four talks from Word Alive 2011.

 

Part 1. How to Enjoy God

Part 3. How to Grow as a Christian

Part 4. How not to be a Hypocrite

 

Transcription

Welcome back. And welcome for the first time, if you’ve not been before, to Matters of the Heart. Our aim is to look at the fundamental desires, the driving longings, of our hearts, to get underneath our behaviours to those deep things. And each day we’ve got a guest theologian to help us. Today is going to be John Calvin. But before I tell you about him, let’s pray.

My Father, I pray that today your gospel would prove to be a great liberation for many. I pray that, as we get to see your absolute generosity and the way you bring us to securely know you, we might know in our security that we can enjoy you and will not be put away. So I pray that we would leave here today with great rejoicing in you. Amen.

Calvin, Lover of Christ

We move from looking at a British theologian, Jonathan Edwards, to looking at a French one, Jehan Cauvin. You know him as “Calvin” because he Latinized his name to Johannes Calvinus; everyone did this in their time. Martin Luther wasn’t really Martin Luther, he was “Luder,” but he changed it to Luther because it was cooler. Philip Melanchthon wasn’t really Melanchthon, but he thought it sounded too German to get French readers, so he thought I’ll change it to Melanchthon; he’s got to be clever with a name like that.

John Calvin was a French theologian. He moved to Geneva—long story, very quickly, he didn’t mean to stay in Geneva. He was basically having an overnight stop on a little trip from Paris to Strausburg, and he was just beginning to be known as a reformer. And the guy who was starting the Reformation in Geneva, the flame-haired, fiery Farel, beat down his door, and cursed his retirement into a library, which is where he was planning to go, and said, “May God curse you if you do not stay here and work on the reformation in Geneva,” and Calvin went, “Ok!” So Calvin stayed in Geneva to work on the Reformation; he got booted out for about three years, then came back and spent the rest of his life in Geneva.

Calvin’s going to help us think about how to be happy in Christ. Which is not the reputation he tends to have: “John Calvin, the happy one.” He tends to have the reputation of being morose and bitter. And alright, true, he didn’t just skip through the streets of Geneva giggling the whole time, that wasn’t him; but, you understand why if you know what he went through, especially later in life, poor guy; he had the most horrendous piles and other things I won’t mention that made it hard for him to skip and giggle. But he did know a thing or two about being happy in Christ. He did, we’ll see it. He used to like referring to himself (and he didn’t refer to himself much) as a “lover of Jesus Christ.” Isn’t that good? “Who are you?” “I’m a lover of Jesus Christ.” And he believed that that was very important. So here’s something. He says,

“We are to love God, for the worth of good works depends not on the actual good work itself, but on something inside, in the heart, the perfect love for God … A work will never be righteous and pure unless it proceeds from a perfect love for God.”

He’s saying that you can do a work that looks externally good, but it’s not actually pleasing to God’s eyes if you don’t actually love the Lord from your heart. That’s what’s important. Do you actually love the Lord from your heart? Not just your performance, but what’s going on with your innermost desires.

Well, if that’s important, that you really love the Lord, and that’s what we saw yesterday—that we need to enjoy him—how do we get that? How do we be drawn to love and enjoy the Lord? He says,

“It is after we have learned that salvation rests with God, then we are attracted to seek him.”

We need the promise of grace because in grace we learn that the Father is merciful, since we can approach him in no other way. Upon grace alone can man rest. How can you be brought to securely, confidently rest yourself in enjoyment in the love of the Lord without knowing his graciousness? If you don’t know him as gracious, you won’t actually enjoy him because you think he’s simply out to judge you. And you can’t enjoy a Being like that. You must know his graciousness. That’s basically 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.”

If we are to love God, we must first know his gracious love to us. And his love for us will win a responsive love from us to him. Let’s see how that works.

We Receive Grace in the Beloved

He starts, really helpfully, by looking at Christ. He’s looking at the Lord’s Supper here, but I want to look at a few of these words in the middle.

“In the Lord’s Supper we see Jesus Christ as the source and substance of all good.”

Just chew on that for a moment. Jesus Christ is the source and substance of all good. In other words, he is good! He is not a dark lord. He is good. And he is the source of all good. So often I think, I need to manufacture good within myself—I can’t! I’m actually empty! But he is the source of all good. And so I must receive goodness from him. He is overflowingly good. That’s what we need to see.

But how, then, does Christ share his goodness with us? Well he says,

“It is indisputable; no-one is loved by God apart from Christ.”

This is what we were seeing at the end yesterday. The Father pours out all his love and blessing on his Son. Calvin says,

“This is the beloved son, in whom dwells and rests the Father’s love. And from him, it then pours itself upon us, just as Paul teaches, ‘We receive grace in the beloved.’”

So the Father pours out all his love on his Son, and it’s only in the Son, as the Son shares what is his, that we enjoy the Father’s love. Being in the Son is the secret of enjoying the love of God. Knowing our union, our one-ness, with Christ.

Baptized into Christ

This union with Christ is absolutely crucial for Calvin, and for the reformation in his day. I’ll show you very quickly what I’m talking about. According to Romans 6, here’s how the Christian life starts:

“Don’t you know, all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may receive new life. If we’ve been united with Christ like this in his death, we will also certainly be united with him in his resurrection.”

Ok, I’m now going to show you one slide from Calvin, which I give you permission to skip over because it’s a little bit complicated. He says,

“We must now see how we get the blessings which God has given his only begotten son. The first thing to be noticed is: As long as we’re without Christ, we’re outside Christ, we’re separated from Christ, nothing which he did for the salvation of the human race is to the least benefit for us. To communicate to us, to share with us, the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours, and dwell in us, so he is called our head, the firstborn among many brethren, and we are said to be ingrafted into him, clothed with him, and so all which he possesses is, as I’ve said, nothing to us until we become one with him.”

Now I’m going to tell you what he just said, and unpack it a little bit. What is this oneness with Christ mean? This is how we understand the love of God to us, through this oneness with Christ.

In Adam, In Christ

To do that, I’m going to look at the previous chapter, Romans 5. Now what you get in Romans 5 is something deeply, deeply weird. Paul paints a picture of humanity in which he doesn’t see us all as this vast crowd of self-determining individuals. He’s seeing, nobody actually determines his own destiny, no man is an island. No, in fact, everyone is born into some union.

Let’s have a look from verse 12: “Just as sin came into the world through one man”—he’s talking about Adam, of course—“and death came through sin, so sin came to all men because all sinned.”

Now “because all sinned” is in the past tense, we’ll see in the rest of chapter 5, he’s not saying, death spread to all because we all individually sinned, it’s because we all sinned in Adam, past tense. Let’s go onto verse 15 to see it.

“The free gift that Christ brings is not like the trespass. If many died, through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift of the grace of Jesus Christ, that one man, abounded for many. If because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life, through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all man, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Just as in one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

What Paul’s saying is, it’s not like we all determine our own destinies; it’s ultimately because of the sin of Adam that anyone sins and dies. It’s because of the righteousness of Christ that anyone comes to reign in life.

So ultimately, I don’t die because of my own sin. I don’t live because of my own righteousness. It’s quite weird, so far. Let’s think, what if that were wrong? What if we are really self-determining individuals? And boy, is that promoted in culture today. In Hollywood, you determine your own destiny. You’re the hero. What if that’s true? What if we’re all islands? Well, if the buck stops with me, how does salvation work? If I’m a self-determining island, well, I’m responsible for my own salvation, right? I’ve got to achieve my own salvation. What about me? If I’ve got to win my salvation. The buck stops with me, and I simply suffer the consequences of my own sin, if I’m sort of a self-contained unit—well, what do you make of the kid born with HIV, the child born handicapped—what do you do with such a case? Because if the buck stops with the individual, and disease and death are the result of sin, you’ve got to say, that kid is handicapped because of his own sin, it’s his own fault. But we are never islands, according to the Bible. It’s not like that. It is Adam who brings about the problem of sin and death; it is Christ who brings salvation.

Two Seeds and Their Fruit

Now, if this all seems a bit weird, it’s going to become clearer from now, I hope. Flick with me to 1 Corinthians 15, this is going to pop it open. Reading Romans 5, it does seem a bit weird, doesn’t it? 1 Corinthians 15 starting at verse 20; let’s start seeing that this is very, very good news.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, for as by a man came death, by a man has also come the resurrection of the dead, for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own order, Christ the first-fruits, and then it is coming those who belong to him.”

Now, to get Paul’s argument here, I think it really helps to realize he’s got an Old Testament passage on his mind, that pops open 1 Corinthians 15. Now, he’s hinted at what that is in verse 4, when he said, “Christ was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures.” Now here’s the question, which Scriptures? Let’s have a crack at it. Any offerings? Jonah—great. Of course. As Jonah’s in the belly of the whale, three days, three nights, so the son of man shall be in the earth—yup. Hosea—sneaky one—on the third day he will raise us up. Sneaky little one. Any other third days? Isaac, Genesis 22, yeah. Very sneaky one.

I think it’s the third day he’s got on his mind, Genesis 1. Think of the third day of creation. I think this really opens up Paul’s logic. Just listen for the absurd amount of repetition here—a point is trying to be made. Genesis 1:11:

“God said, let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit, in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth, and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed…”

I think there’s a point here. See, these third day plants, they are the first-fruits of creation on the third day. But what is really banged in here?  They reproduce, each according to its kind. Now, how do they reproduce according to their kind? What’s the thing that’s really repetitious? Seed! They have fruit in which is their seed. The seed, which is the next generation, is contained within them. And where the fruit grows, the seed grows. And so it is, Paul says, with Adam and Christ. They are the first-fruits of two very different crops. Adam is the fruit of death, and all his seed in him die. Christ is the fruit of life and all his seed in him shall be made alive. That is the Bible’s understanding of what it is to be human, is that mankind is not in fact a vast throng of separate individuals, but is instead made up of just two men. Two fruits: Adam and Christ. And each one of us is just a seed in one of those fruits. Dependent for our fate on the fruit on which we are in, the head of the body which we are in.

It’s a bit like Adam is the acorn of the human race. You do something to the acorn, and you affect the whole future tree. So when Adam is declared guilty and punishable by death, all of mankind is declared guilty and punishable by death. Because we’re just chips off the old block. Here’s how Calvin puts it:

“We know there are, so to speak, two fountainheads of mankind. Adam, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Now with regard to our first birth, when we are naturally born, we all came out of the fountain of Adam, we all descended from him, and we were corrupted by his sinfulness, so there is nothing but perverseness and cursedness in our souls.”

Let me pause and explain that, because that sounds very harsh. “There is nothing but perverseness and cursedness in our souls.” Calvin is not saying that everyone is really nasty all the time and no one can ever be nice, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying, even if you can have this formal, external niceness, the problem is you don’t naturally love the Lord. So, there is a fundamental crookedness within you that’ll affect all your relations; there will be a crookedness to them. He’s not saying you are always nasty all the time, but that every part of you is crooked in that you don’t love the Lord, so that you are in every way affected by the fall. It is necessary for us, then, to be renewed in Jesus Christ. That’s our only hope. We can’t un-crook ourselves. We need to be made new creatures.

Grafted into Christ

Another passage for us to turn to. Let’s flick to Hebrews 7. It’s referring to Genesis 14, which is a time where Abraham goes into battle with some uber-baddies. They really are serious baddies. And he beats them in battle. Then he takes plunder from the battlefield, and he meets this glorious king, Melchizedek. And he gives to Melchizedek a tenth of that plunder, that he got from the battle, that’s the background that you need to know. Hebrews 7:9 is really interested in Abraham’s great-great-grandson, Levi:

“One might even say Levi [Levi’s the priestly tribes, they receive tithes, a sort of tax from Israel] Levi receives tithes, paid through Abraham, because he was still in the loins of his ancestor which Melchizedek met him.”

Levi wasn’t born yet in Genesis 14. Levi was going to pop out in Genesis 38 or so. So he’s still considered to be “in Abraham.” He hasn’t actually come out yet. He’s Abraham’s descendent, so he’s still in the old fruit. And so what Abraham does, Levi does, because he’s Abraham’s seed. And so it is with Adam, the father of humanity. When he sinned and was declared guilty, we sinned and were declared guilty. So our only hope is, as we are born in Adam, is to be born again in Christ. To be taken out of Adam, and grafted into Christ.

What happens is this: on the cross, Jesus bears the death penalty of sin for us. In him, we bear it. He bears it as our substitute, on our behalf, but we also bear it in him, so we’re crucified in him. But it’s not like he was actually guilty. He bore it on our behalf. The Father declares that his son who bore that punishment for us is actually righteous, and the righteous deserve life. The Father on the third day declares his son to be righteous, and so gives him life. Now that declaration of the son’s righteousness, it comes up at a place like 1 Timothy 3:16: “The son is justified”—or vindicated, declared righteous—“by the Spirit.” Romans 4:25: “He was delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification.” He’s declared to be righteous, in him we’re declared to be righteous, when we’re seed in him as the fruit. And so he becomes our righteousness. For the Christian, when we’re in him, we find our righteousness is entirely in Christ. It’s Christ’s righteousness, but we get to be in it.

How Justification Works

Let me make a test for you here. Just discuss with your neighbor for about 30 seconds this popular definition of justification. “Justification is: it’s as if I’ve never sinned.” Is that a good definition?

It’s not entirely wrong to say, “justification is just as if I’ve never sinned,” but if you say that—You have forgiveness, your slate’s wiped clean at the moment of conversion—well, that’s great, but I’ve sinned an awful lot since then. What do I do about those sins after that? I think that’s how a lot of Christians actually function. They say, “Look at this great forgiveness I was given when I was converted, but at that point, if you had shot me when I was converted, I’d have walked straight into heaven, the Father was pleased with me; in fact you probably should have done that, because what’s happened after that is I sort of yo-yo in and out of God’s grace. I help an old granny cross the road—whoa, look at that. That topped up the work of the cross! Oh, I had a quiet time—he really loves me! Whoops, sin, he loves me not. I’ve fallen out of grace.” And that’s so easily what how we operate, isn’t it? It was just as if I’d never sinned, but now it’s “he loves me, he loves me not.” What a lovely gospel—that’s not the gospel! It is that Christ is our righteousness. It is not simply that my sin has been dealt with, but I get Christ’s own righteousness covering me, so I have his glorious status. To take it out of righteousness language, you could use adoption language, all these blessings of salvation we’re given in Christ. Christ is the beloved Son, in him we are children of God. As the Father looks in delight on his beloved Son, so he looks in delight upon me in the Son.

Martin Luther, the Reformer who we’ll meet on Thursday, said,

“Christians are at the same time righteous and sinners.”

I’m a sinner in myself, and I’m very, very wayward and fickle, but I have a status that is independent of my performance. I’ve been given a new identity, I’m a new creation, I’ve been taken out of Adam and the fruit of death, and have been grafted into Christ and the fruit of life. So like seed in the fruit, Christians are hidden in Christ. His destiny and status is ours by a gift; we’ve been grafted into him. So while we are still spotted with sin, in no way worthy of salvation in and of myself by my own performance, we are surrounded, clothed by Christ, a seed in him, the fruit.

Clothed with Christ

Let me give you Calvin’s very superior final illustration. When he sums up his teaching on justification in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin says this: “It’s like the time when Jacob approached his Father Issac.” Do you remember that story? Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau. Remember the difference between them? Now Esau, remember, is the firstborn, and he comes out, and he’s red and hairy. He’s called “Edom,” which means red. And he’s so hairy, remember when Jacob is going to dress up as him, he puts goat-skins on his hands. He’s basically got this thick shaggy red pelt all over him, even when he’s born. So Isaac goes, “that’s my boy!” and the thing is, Esau, not only is he red and hairy, he likes going out and killing animals. He likes going out shooting things. So Isaac thinks, “now that’s a man. He smells like dead animals of the field.” And Isaac goes, “mmm.” Whereas Jacob is this kind of mommy’s boy, smooth-skinned and hangs out in the kitchens. Jacob, brilliantly, wants the blessing of his firstborn brother. So here’s how he does it. This is Calvin, now:

“As Jacob did not in himself deserve the right of the firstborn, concealed in his brother’s clothing, wearing his brother’s coat, which gave out an agreeable odour, he ingratiated himself with his father, so that to his own benefit he received a blessing while impersonating another. And we in like manner hide under the precious purity of our firstborn brother, Christ, so that we may be attested righteous in God’s sight, and this is indeed the truth, for in order that we may appear before God’s face under salvation, we may smell sweetly with Christ’s odor, and our vices must be covered and buried by his perfection.”

Clothed with Christ. Isn’t that a great picture of salvation? Clothed with Christ. And so in him, I can boldly approach the throne of heavenly grace, and call the Lord who sits on it “Abba, Abba” with that boldness and closeness.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 61:10:

“My soul exults in the Lord, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has arrayed me with a robe of righteousness.”

That is how I appear before the Father. What that shows us is, all our hope, all our confidence, every day, however we feel, is found outside ourselves, independent of how we’re feeling, independent of how we’re performing, in Christ. If you think that you have or you have lost spiritual security because of how you’re feeling or how you’re doing, that’s because you’ve lapsed back into thinking of yourself as an island, a self-determining individual, but there is no such thing. You are either in Adam or in Christ. And your destiny and your status is found in one of them. You either have a terrible destiny and status in Adam, or, securely, freely, as Jacob in Esau’s clothing, as seed in a fruit, you have Christ’s clothing status.

We can talk about “salvation by grace.” And we can talk about it strongly. But I think we’re going to remain prisoners of spiritual insecurity if we keep thinking of ourselves as islands. If we think, “I’m an island, and so God gives me this thing called grace to help me along”—that’s just not how it is. If I think of myself as an island, I’ll think it’s my performance that determines my destiny. But instead, all of the blessings of salvation are to be found in Christ alone, and there’s no hint of salvation to be found anywhere else but in him. He is the vine of God’s blessing. And the only way to be grafted in is in him. Check out Ephesians 1 for an avalanche of verse to prove that: “The Lord, the Father, blesses us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.”

Calvin said,

“Christ received all these good things from the Father for us, that he might share them with us, but in him.”

All spiritual blessings to be found in Christ alone. And so in the Bible, salvation is not so much about each individual being given some stuff called grace; it’s more about being snipped out of one plant, Adam, and being grafted into another, Christ. Taken out of one humanity and brought into another, purely by God’s grace. Do you see the absolute security that gives? Like seed in a fruit, like Levi in Abraham, Christians are in Christ, and all his is theirs.

Imputed Righteousness

With that in mind, I want you to assess something. I want to show you something written by Tom Wright, who was until recently Bishop of Durham. He takes the common courtroom scene of justification—God’s the judge, we’re standing in the dark, we’re declared righteous, how is that—and Tom writes this,

“It makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys, or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plantiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas, which can be passed across the courtroom.”

Isn’t that a good argument? You go—oh? How possibly could I have the righteousness of Christ? That’s a ridiculous idea, righteousness is not a gas like that that could be transferred from one to another. See the power of the argument? I think it’s a very compelling argument. Here’s how Calvin pre-empts it. Calvin says,

“We do not contemplate Christ outside ourselves from afar, in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us, but because we put on Christ, and are ingrafted into his body, in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.”

Do you see? It’s not that God has to pass this gas-like righteousness across the courtroom. He makes us one with Christ and declares Christ righteous, and in Christ, we share what is his.

The Marriage Between Christ and His Church

Knowing this union with Christ gives us wonderful security. But there’s something else as well. Because this union with Christ language is marriage language. We haven’t really been looking at that yet, but it’s marriage language. The husband becomes one with his wife, so Christ becomes one with his church. And Christianity is a love story between Christ the bridegroom and his church who he’s come to win. And this was something absolutely critical in Calvin’s day and the Reformation: understanding that the relationship between Christ and his people is a marriage relationship. And if you’ve not got this yet, I think you’ll find this transforming in your understanding of the gospel. The relationship between Christ and his church is a marriage.

In medieval Roman Catholicism, Christ had been this very distant figure who doles out his grace from afar, and you can only approach Christ through various mediators. Christ is so far off in heaven that I can’t speak to him because he’s too glorious, I’ll speak to his mom and she’ll put in a good word. And what happens is his mum starts to become too glorious to approach, so people start to approach Mary’s mom, Anne, and that’s how the cult of St. Anne developed. I’ll pray to St. Anne, Anne will pray to Mary, and then Mary will pray to Jesus, Jesus will pray to the Father. Do you see? You’ve got an incredibly distant relationship from Christ with all these mediators in the way. But, if Christ is the church’s loving bridegroom, how sick would it be to have mediators between the two? I would not be happy with that in my marriage. So Calvin says,

“This is the folly of popedom in conceiving all these mediators between us and God. The papists imagine themselves to be separated from Our Lord Jesus Christ, not knowing he’s become our brother, in order that we might have intimate access to him.”

Isn’t that extraordinary? Christ our brother. That’s Hebrews 2 language. In fact, one of the most extraordinary names in the Bible, you come across it a few times, 1 Kings 14, for instance, is “The Lord is my brother.” An extraordinary name: the Lord is my brother.

Now, given that closeness, if you don’t have lots of mediators between a distant Christ and his church, if Christ is the bridegroom and the church his bride, then what now does the church want from Christ with this model? Instead of using this distant model, if the church is the bride of Christ, what does the church want from him? Not something, even call it “grace”—what do I want in a marriage? What do you want in a marriage, what do you want from your spouse? You don’t want just gifts, do you? “I’m really in it for the roses.” No, you’re in it for them, you want them, your beloved! And that’s what the church wants. Not something from the beloved, but the bridegroom himself freely offered. And so what this model of being united to Christ, this marriage relationship means, is that Christianity is about being united to a person, possessing Christ first and foremost. The main benefit to being a Christian is not some abstract thing, but him, himself.

Calvin says,

“We cannot possess the good things of our Lord Jesus Christ to take any profit from them, unless we first enjoy him. And that is the very reason why he gives himself to us.”

Do you see, it’s not quite that we get grace, we get salvation—we get Christ. And if that doesn’t seem glorious to you, press in to know Christ better. Know him to be so gracious, as he proved himself to be on the cross—so kind, so loving, and we get to know him. We get a security in our marriage relationship with him.

When the reformation started, Martin Luther tried to explain the gospel. His first real attempt to explain at a mass level his understanding of justification by faith alone was a marriage relationship between Christ and the church. He said it’s like the relationship between a king and a prostitute. The prostitute can’t make herself the wife of the kind by being a bit less “prostitutey.” She only becomes his when he says, “I take you to be mine.” And then what happens in the wedding service is, he says, “All that I am, I give to you, and all that I have, I share with you.” All his blessing, life, goodness, he gives to her. And she says to him, “All that I am, I give to you, all that I have—all my death, sin, judgment, I give to you.” Now there is the great marriage swap of union with Christ.

Look to Christ

What I want to do now, I just want to hand over the last words here to the great nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon, because I think he kicks home some of the application of what Calvin has argued really well. Here is how to be happy in Christ. He said,

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus. But Satan’s work is just the opposite of this. Satan’s constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. We shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self. He tells us we are nothing, but Christ is all in all. Therefore remember, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you, it is Christ. It is not your joy in Christ that saves you, it is Christ. It is not even faith in Christ, as if that’s the thing you’re doing. It is Christ’s blood and merit. Therefore look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, look to Christ. Look not so much to your hope, but to Jesus the source of your hope. Look not so much to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings. It is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we were to once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by looking unto Jesus.”

Yes, my friends, look to Christ, for he is our status. He is our refreshment. He is our brother. He is our bridegroom. And when we see that we’ve been united to him, when you see we have security in him, the joy of knowing him intimately, then you have an altogether different and joy-filled gospel. Let’s pray.

My father. That I could call you that says it all. For you have brought me before you in your son. We praise you now for Jesus. He perfectly reveals you to be no distant God, but a delightful fountain of love, so kind. And I pray now for my brothers and sisters here, that as they press into the Bible, they may hold Christ before their eyes. Christ as their security, Christ as their fixed status, Christ as their clothing before you. And I pray then may they know and overflow with love and joy. In Jesus’ glorious name, Amen.


©2011 Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF)
This talk is reproduced from UCCF’s Theology Network www.theologynetwork.org and is used with permission.

Picture of Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves is the President of Union School of Theology, where he teaches in the areas of systematic and historical theology and also on preaching and spiritual formation. He is author of several books, including Rejoicing in Christ, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, and Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord.
Picture of Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves is the President of Union School of Theology, where he teaches in the areas of systematic and historical theology and also on preaching and spiritual formation. He is author of several books, including Rejoicing in Christ, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, and Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord.