60 Reasons Jesus Is Better Than I Think

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This list was originally written by Dane Ortlund on Monday, December 17, 2012.

His forgiveness gets down underneath not just our conscious, willful sins, but everything that is broken within us.

He ate lunch with hookers and crooked businessmen, not the conservative seminary professors.

Discipleship to him does not involve attaining a minimum bar of competency. No resume is needed. Discipleship to him involves humbling ourselves, putting ourselves low, not high, and anyone can do that, if they will simply let Self die and be swallowed up by light and beauty and joy.

Those in union with him are promised that all the haunted brokenness that infects everything—every relationship, every conversation, every family, every email, every wakening to consciousness in the morning, every job, every vacation—everything—will one day be rewound and reversed.

Those in union with him are promised that the more darkness and hell we experience in this life, to that degree we will enjoy resplendence and radiance in the next (Rom. 8:17–18).

He never, ever asks his friends to walk through a trial that he, as the Pioneer-Author-Founder-Trailblazer (archegosHeb 2:1012:2) has not himself, in an even more profound way, gone through himself.

His sinlessness does not encourage him to be aloof from us, holding us at arms length, but a substitute for us.

Unlike the laws of ritual cleanliness in Leviticus, Jesus’ touch of messy humans like me does not contaminate him. It cleanses me. In the OT, clean + unclean = unclean. With Jesus, clean + unclean = clean (Mark 1:41).

His mercy to sinners is not calculating, scale-weighing, careful. It is lavish, outrageous, unfettered.

His atoning death means he is free not to scrutinize. He needs not. All has been wiped clean. Faults remain, not just in our past but in our present. But the whole atmosphere in which we live has been transformed from one of scrutiny, both toward us by God and by us toward others, into one of welcome, both toward us by God and therefore by us toward others.

He no longer calls us servants, but friends, and he is the friend of sinners. Of sinners. Many of us are born again, serving the Lord with faithfulness, and have never really swallowed that.

He is not an idea or a philosophy or a theory or a framework or even a doctrine. He’s a Person. His blazing wrath upon the impenitent is matched by his gentle embrace of the penitent. He has nothing to say to the righteous (Mark 2:17).

He doesn’t resent me, as I do others, though I have given him many reasons to.

In all my stumbling and failing, he has not yet said, ‘Enough is enough. I’m out.’ Where sin abounds, grace hyper-abounds (Rom. 5:20).

He is incapable of disgust over his children, even his sinning children.

He gives rest. He is that of which the sabbath is a shadow; Jesus is the shadow-caster. He doesn’t just forgive our sins; he lets the frenetic RPMs of the heart slow down into calm sanity. And no external circumstance can threaten that rest, as we look to him.

The one place in all four Gospels where he opens up to tell us about his own heart—the only place—he says he is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt 11:29). Burrow down into the very core of what makes the God-Man tick, the one who wove his own whip to drive the enterprising capitalists from the temple, and you find: gentleness.

He is not a tame lion. He is not domesticate-able, predictable, boring. He cannot be caged. Who would want to?

He does not give us grace. He gives us himself. He is grace. He is the life, the vibrancy, the flourishing, the shalom, that we desperately, hauntingly, long for.

His brilliant resplendence will, one day soon, make every Hollywood superhero look small and silly.

He is both a lamb and a lion. He is the tenderness of which all that is tender is an echo, and also the fierceness to which all that is fierce alludes.

His grace is both outside me and inside me. Freely accounted righteousness-grace, through the Son, is credited to me from the outside; freely given godliness-grace, through the Spirit, is worked in me on the inside.

He is not averse to dirty, complex, self-justifying jerks. He is averse to dirty, complex, self-justifying jerks who deny they are dirty, complex, self-justifying jerks.

He found me. I have already been discovered. I do not need to maneuver and manipulate my life to wriggle my way into the spotlight.

His coming into this diseased world means that, as Gandalf told Sam, ‘everything sad is going to come untrue.’

There was nothing physically attractive about him (Isa. 53:2). He would never have appeared on the cover of Men’s Health. He came as a normal man to both comfort and supernaturalize normal people.

He came as a sinless man, not a sinless Superman. He woke up with bed-head. He had zits at 14. He went through puberty. He is not Zeus.

He didn’t come mainly to give a pep talk. He came to do what every pep talk is trying to get us impossibly unmotivated people to do.

He lost every earthly friend he had while he lived, so that we can have him whatever earthly friends we lose.

He knew what it was to be thirsty, hungry, hated, rejected, taunted, shamed, abandoned, suffocated, tortured, killed.

I cannot get underneath his mercy. I can dig and dig and dig with my shovel of sin. But no matter how deep I go, I never hit rock bottom on his mercy.

I can never outrun his love. No matter how fast Wily Coyote ran, the Roadrunner just ran faster. My failures never outrun his patience; as fast as they run, his love runs faster.

He never misunderstands me. He never interrupts me. He never misjudges my motives.

He likes me. Not just loves. Likes. Whatever else ‘friend’ means, doesn’t it at leas mean that?

Adam was supposed to multiply physical children throughout the nations and finally to overcome the world (Gen. 1:28). He failed. Jesus came, to multiply spiritual children throughout the nations and overcome the world. He succeeded (Matt 28:19John 16:33). I was born in Adam. By grace I have been placed in Christ.

He was pierced for our transgressions, not I for mine.

He makes me human again. He didn’t come to make me superhuman, a superspiritual being who only ever lives and prays and praises in a disembodied state. He has angels for that. He came to give me back my humanity.

He does not hold over me his deliverance of my helplessness. He delights to deliver. It is who he is.

He does not bring pain into my life to punish but to help. He brings pain to clear away the static in my communion with him. He was punished so that all my pain is not punitive but paternal.

My union with him means that even self-inflicted pain can only ultimately work out my glory and beauty.

When I am prayerless, he is not. He intercedes for me. And because in Gethsemane his prayer was unanswered, every prayer he makes now on my behalf is answered.

He understands and delights in the fact that I am a human being. He is not disappointed that I need sleep, food, and the bathroom. Through him I was made this way (Col. 1:16). He himself experienced all the same things.

I cannot experience a temptation he has not (Heb. 2:18).

Every heart-stabbing poem, every story of redemption, every novel that evokes longings, every reading of Tolkien and Wendell Berry and John Donne and a thousand others who make the tears flow—it all points to and terminates on him. He is the only one in the universe that is not a pointer to something else. Everything else points to him.

His death means my body will one day be restored to me and this time will not run down. Cells will replace cells, I suppose, as God created us—but without resulting in wrinkles and balding and stiffness and aches.

His promised second coming means that I need not secure perfect justice now against those who have wronged me. All will be put right. One day, all resentment will evaporate.

He was born in Bethlehem. Out of the way, backwoods Bethlehem. I am freed to live and serve in an unknown place.

He withdrew to pray and be alone at times. Flawless ministry does not mean being perpetually available to people.

‘And they all left him and fled’ (Mark 14:50). Had he lived today, every last Twitter follower would have un-friended him. So that he could be my ever-present friend. They all left him, so that he could say: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5).

Had he blogged today, no one would have blogged more wisely and no one would have received nastier anonymous blog comments. And he would be as patient with them as he is with me.

He loves weakness. He works with weakness. He is repelled by strength. That qualifies me for his help.

His grace is sufficient. It needs no Dane-generated supplement. All he requires is need. Nothing more, nothing less. Desperation. The bar of divine favor is low, so low that the proud cannot get under it.

David said Yahweh is the Shepherd who makes him lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23). Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd (John 10). Jesus makes me lie down in green pastures. Jesus leads me beside still waters. Jesus restores my soul. My weary, depleted soul.

Jesus gathers up all the various and seemingly disparate threads of promise and hope and rescue and longing that dot the landscape of the Old Testament and snowball down through the centuries. The virtue of every OT saint is filled out in him, and the failure of every OT saint heightens the longing for, and is paid for by, him.

He is the perfect prophet who not only speaks God’s word to the people, but is God’s final Word. He is the perfect Priest, who represents the people to God. He is the perfect King, who represents God to the people.

The whole Bible is his, and about him (Luke 24:2744John 5:3946). The Bible is not a manual for life, not a guidebook, not a rulebook, not sage suggestions, not even a doctrinal repository. Not mainly. At its heart, and cover to cover, the Bible is the Word of God about the grace of God in the Son of God for the people of God to the glory of God. When I open the Book, I get him.

If he is the firstfruits, then when I look at his raised invincible body eating fish and able to appear in locked rooms, I am looking at my future. I am a part of the one single harvest of resurrected embodied invincibility of which he is the firstfruits, the first ingathering (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The resurrection of the dead has already begun. The first instance is already among us.

When he walked out of the grave, Eden 2.0 dawned. Against OT expectation, the old age continued steamrolling right alongside the dawning new age. This is why this world can feel like heaven one day and hell the next. But the overlap of the two ages also means there is still time, still a chance, for any who recognizes he has been born into the old, hellish age to lays down his arms and be swept up into the dawning sunrise of the new age.

And one day, even the horrors of the old age will die away. We will pass through the wardrobe into Narnia. Middle-earth will be cleansed and the Ring destroyed. We will be home at last. ‘I will bring them home,’ God said (Zech. 10:10). We will weep with relief. We will see him face to face (Rev 22:4).

All because he refused the glory he rightly deserved to enter the hell and mud of our world to grab us and drag us, kicking and screaming if need be, into the new order, the new world of shalom and floruishing and light and wine and non-frivolous laughs. All of sheer grace. All to be simply received. Available to anyone who refuses to pay for it.

A Prayer for the New Year (Spurgeon)

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“We will be glad and rejoice in thee.”
Song of Solomon 1:4

We will be glad and rejoice in thee. We will not open the gates of the year to the dolorous notes of the sackbut, but to the sweet strains of the harp of joy, and the high sounding cymbals of gladness. “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation.” We, the called and faithful and chosen, we will drive away our griefs, and set up our banners of confidence in the name of God. Let others lament over their troubles, we who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah’s bitter pool, with joy will magnify the Lord. Eternal Spirit, our effectual Comforter, we who are the temples in which thou dwellest, will never cease from adoring and blessing the name of Jesus. We will, we are resolved about it, Jesus must have the crown of our heart’s delight; we will not dishonour our Bridegroom by mourning in his presence. We are ordained to be the minstrels of the skies, let us rehearse our everlasting anthem before we sing it in the halls of the New Jerusalem. We will be glad and rejoice: two words with one sense, double joy, blessedness upon blessedness. Need there be any limit to our rejoicing in the Lord even now? Do not men of grace find their Lord to be camphire and spikenard, calamus and cinnamon even now, and what better fragrance have they in heaven itself? We will be glad and rejoice in Thee. That last word is the meat in the dish, the kernel of the nut, the soul of the text. What heavens are laid up in Jesus! What rivers of infinite bliss have their source, aye, and every drop of their fulness in him! Since, O sweet Lord Jesus, thou art the present portion of thy people, favour us this year with such a sense of thy preciousness, that from its first to its last day we may be glad and rejoice in thee. Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close with gladness in Jesus.

(From Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon)

The Greatest Enemy of Our Hunger for God

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Was reminded of this quote from A Hunger for God by John Piper a few days ago. Beautiful reminder of the utter satisfaction that is found in Christ and Christ alone.

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful”(Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

-John Piper (A Hunger for God, Crossway, 1997)

Fatherhood

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On July 4th at 1:48 am, my wife gave birth to our first child, Cora Genevieve Spillar. There was nothing in the 9 months of preparation, prayers and discussions that would prepare me for what I experienced that morning. In the few days following, Shelby and I have agreed that we have never experienced love like this, we have never experienced joy on this deep. By God’s providence, I am scheduled to preach at Portico on the Fatherhood of God on July 21st, just 17 days after we welcomed Cora into the world. There have been few books, commentaries or quotes that have helped me understand the gift of grace that is God’s fatherhood to His children like holding Cora in my arms; singing over her, telling her how much I love her, praCoraying for her soul, her future husband and the life that is ahead of her. The truth that God’s love, which is, even now being poured into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) is a bit overwhelming.

By the grace of God, we will never read scripture the same, we will never pray the same again,  we will never worship the same way again, we will never approach the God of the universe who we, through Christ call “Abba Father” the same. Our adoption through Christ, by grace changes everything. Referring to God as “Father” slips to easily off our tongues. We need to take time to really press into what this means, and the life changing implications it brings.

In my preparation for my sermon, I came across these quotes by J.I. Packer that sums this up a heck of a lot better than I ever could.

“You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.  In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.  If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.  If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means he does not understand Christianity very well at all.  For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.  ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.”

“Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification….That justification‐by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with his acceptance for the future‐is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. We all stand by nature under God’s judgment; his law condemns us; guilt gnaws at us, making us restless, miserable and in our lucid moments afraid; we have no peace in ourselves because we have no peace with our Maker. So we need the forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God, more than we need anything else in the world; and this the gospel offers before it offers us anything else…But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the gospel.  Adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves….Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship‐he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”

 

God the Source of All Good (Valley of Vision)

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O Lord God, who inhabits eternity,

The heavens declare your glory, the earth your riches, the universe is Your temple, Your presence fills immensity, Yet You have of Your pleasure created life, and communicated happiness;

You have made me what I am, and given me what I have; In You I live and move and have my being; Your providence has set the bounds of my habitation, and wisely administers all my affairs.

I thank You for Your riches to me in Jesus, for the unclouded revelation of Him in Your Word, where I behold His Person, character, grace, glory, humiliation, sufferings, death, and resurrection;

Give me to feel a need of His continual saviorhood, and cry with Job, “I am vile,” with Peter, “ I perish,” with the publican, “Be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Subdue in me the love of sin, let me know the need of renovation as well as of forgiveness, in order to serve and enjoy You forever.

I come to You in the all-prevailing name of Jesus, with nothing of my own to plead, no works, no worthiness, no promises.

I am often straying, often knowlingly opposing You authority, often abusing Your goodness;

Much of my guilt arises from my religious privileges, my low estimation of them, my failure to use them to my advantage, but I am not careless of Your favour or regardless of Your glory;

Impress me deeply with a sense of Your omnipresence, that You are about my path, my ways, my lying down, my end.

(Leather Bound Valley of Vision, pg 6,7)

The Smell of Propitiation in the Morning

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What is propitiation, and what does it smell like you ask? Simply put, propitiation is one of the many beautiful things that Christ accomplished on the cross. It was the complete and utter appeasement of God’s wrath. What does it smell like? It smells like freedom from condemnation, love, mercy, grace, and acceptance all provided and sustained by Christ.

ROMANS 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

HEBREWS 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 JOHN 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 JOHN 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The quotes below are taken from Brian Hedges book, Christ Formed in You. As I stated a few days ago on twitter, it is only 3.99 for Kindle right now but, I would have paid 100 dollars for it.

The beauty of propitiation is that our just and holy God is more satisfied with the obedience and death of Christ than he is grieved and angered by our God belittling sins.

Brian Hedges, Christ Formed in You, Kindle page 46

“At the cross, in holy love, God, through Christ, paid the full penalty of our disobedience Himself. He bore the judgment we deserve in order to bring us the forgiveness we do not deserve. On the cross divine mercy and justice were equally expressed and eternally reconciled. God’s holy love was ‘satisfied’ … Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.”
John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 89, 159

“Christ by his obedience, by that obedience which he undertook for our sakes, has honored God abundantly more than the sins of any of us have dishonored him, how many soever, how great soever…. God hates our sins, but not more than he delights in Christ’s obedience which he performed on our account. This is a sweet savor to him, a savor of rest. God is abundantly compensated, he desires no more; Christ’s righteousness is of infinite worthiness and merit.”

Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jontahan Edwards, vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974 reprint) 930

The implication of this is not Romans 6:1, “shall we continue sinning because grace abounds” nor does it imply that He is not angered at sin. What this DOES imply is that our acceptance drives our obedience and not the other way around. As Luther put it, “Our works do not generate righteousness, rather our righteousness in Christ generates works.” The only reason sin has power in our lives is because you love it. The gospel provides love that surpasses that love for sin. Propitiation is a picture of that love, the complete absorption of God’s wrath on our behalf. This is based on nothing WE can offer, only what HE offers.