R. C. Sproul’s Favorite Word

Apparently my favorite words in 2014 were “maximize” and “minimize.” How do I know? A member in my congregation playfully told me. Until then I had no idea that I was using these words so much.

As I’ve been reading through a number of R. C. Sproul books recently, there’s one word that reappears again and again. For example, it appears 58 times in in The Holiness of God, and 78 times in Dr. Sproul’s commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. See why I call it his favorite word? And what is it?

“Righteousness.”

Unlike me, however, I believe Dr. Sproul is fully aware of the frequency with which he uses this word. He uses it consciously and deliberately. It’s a calculated decision, I believe, taken partly because of the historical importance of the word in Reformed Theology, but mainly because it is in danger of being forgotten by some and distorted by others. Why is this word so important?

1. “Righteousness” helps us understand the character of God

In The Holiness of God, Dr. Sproul distinguishes between two kinds of divine righteousness: God’s internal righteousness and His external righteousness.

“God’s internal righteousness is the moral excellence of His character. It is rooted in His absolute purity…As a holy God, He is utterly incapable of an unholy act.”

God’s external righteousness is His outward behavior. As what God does is always consistent with who God is, in all eternity God has never done a crooked thing. We never see injustice in God or done by God.

2. “Righteousness” helps us measure sin

God’s internal and external righteousness is the standard we must reach and any shortfall, externally or internally, is sin.

Dr. Sproul challenges us to re-think the deeper implications of the slightest sin. When we sin “we are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, ‘God, Your law is not good. My judgment is better than Yours.’”

3. “Righteousness” helps us understand mercy

When God saves a sinner, He never does it because of the righteousness of the sinner. In Deuteronomy 9:4-6, God reminds the Israelites three times that it wasn’t because of their righteousness that He would defeat the Canaanites.

But neither does He save a sinner at the expense of His righteousness, by setting His righteousness aside. That would be injustice. Dr. Sproul says:

“Mercy is not justice, but it also is not injustice. Injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace and does no violence to righteousness. We may see nonjustice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God.”

4. “Righteousness” helps us understand justification

If  we are not saved by our own righteousness nor by God setting aside His righteousness, how then are we saved?

By Christ’s own perfect righteousness being imputed to us. Only by possessing divine righteousness can we feel at peace in the presence of the God of all righteousness.

“When we put our personal trust for salvation in Christ and in Him alone, then God transfers to our account all of the righteousness of Jesus.”

In His commentary on 1 & 2 Peter, Dr. Sproul is at pains to point out that this is a legal transaction where although no real property is exchanged, the property title is transferred.

“We should never despise that transfer, that imputation of righteousness, that was given to us freely by God when we put our trust in Christ. Because of that, the Father sees His Son, without spot or blemish, when he looks at us.”

 If “righteousness” is Dr. Sproul’s favorite word, “imputation of righteousness” is his favorite phrase.

“There is no doctrine more precious than that of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer, because the only righteousness by which we will ever be saved before God is the righteousness of Christ.” 

5. “Righteousness” helps us oppose Roman Catholicism

If there’s one thing that motivates Dr. Sproul’s love of the Reformation and his lifelong opposition to Romanism, it’s the difference between Roman Catholic and Reformed views of justification:

“The great debate of the 16th century came down to two words – infusion and imputation. Rome held that one cannot be declared just by God until or unless justice or righteousness inheres in that person’s soul, whereas the Reformers declared that, according to Scripture, we are justified the moment the righteousness of Christ is transferred to us by faith.”

Because the righteousness of Christ is perfect and never diminishes, there can never be any increase or decrease of a believer’s righteousness.

6. “Righteousness” helps us understand the Christian life

Dr. Sproul concedes that “Justification by faith may be viewed as a license to sin. If we have the righteousness of Christ, why should we worry about changing our sinful ways? Since our good works can’t get us into heaven why should we be concerned about them at all?”

He rightly retorts: “Such questions never ought to pass over the lips of a truly justified person.” He goes on:

“The goal of Christian growth is the achievement of righteousness…In the Christian world today, such a statement may sound radical. Christians hardly ever talk about righteousness. The word has almost become a swear word.”

Dr. Sproul’s special word is a swear word to many Christians. That’s desperately sad. And deadly serious.


Ingredients Of A Happy Home (1): Joyous Worship

“A really happy Christian home is the nearest approach to heaven on earth.” C Ryle

One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort in a number of areas, starting with joyous family worship. Family worship is usually comprised of three simple elements:

Read the rest at HappyChristian.net


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The Most Important Yet Most Neglected Organ In Our Bodies

The brain is the most important organ in our body, and yet we hardly ever give much thought about how to care for its health.

We go to the gym to work out our arms, legs, back, core, etc. We jog to exercise and strengthen our heart and lungs. We moderate and balance our diet to improve our digestive abilities, and so on.

But we rarely take conscious steps to care for and exercise our brains. Yet, as neuroscientist Dr. Norman Doidge points out in a Wall Street Journal Essay, “Our brains are far more likely to waste away from underuse than to wear down from overuse.” In a summary of recent brain research he points to findings which indicate:

- Exercising the brain becomes more important as we get older.

- Although the rule for a machine is, “Use it and lose it,” a more accurate rule for our brains is, “Use it or lose it.”

- Exercise, both mental and physical, can lower the risk of experiencing dementia in general and Alzheimers in particular.

But here’s the really good news: when you’re working out at the gym to strengthen your body, you’re also working out your brain and strengthening your mental faculties. Research findings include:

1. Men can strengthen their brains and reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by 60% by following five simple steps:

  • Eating a healthy diet (at least three to four servings of fruits and vegetables a day)
  • Maintaining a normal weight, with a body-mass index from 18 to under 25
  • Limiting alcohol to about a glass of wine a day
  • Not smoking
  • Exercising

As Dr. Doidge says: “Imagine if there were a drug that could reduce the risk of dementia by 60%. It would be the most talked-about drug in history, but this astonishing finding has been fairly quietly received.”

2. The activity with the biggest impact on reducing risk was walking at least 2 miles a day or engaging in some other regular, vigorous physical exercise.

3. Exercise triggers the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. It also triggers the release of “neurotrophic growth factors”—a kind of brain fertilizer, helping the brain to grow, maintain new connections and stay healthy.

4. Recent studies have also found that exercise can reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s with one scientist concluding that “exercise deserved a central place in the treatment of Parkinson’s.”

In the same article, there are also some amazing reports about the advances in audio and electrical treatments which are reducing symptoms of autism, MS, and brain injuries.

And just in case you’re thinking this is only for those with brain problems, Dr. Doidge warns everyone:

The basic neuroplastic principle of “use it or lose it” and the benefit of forming new brain connections through intensive learning also apply to people without brain problems. Physical exercise produces some new cells in the memory system, but mental exercise preserves and strengthens existing connections in the brain, giving a person a “cognitive reserve” to fend off future losses and to perfect skills.

Read the whole article here.


Three Strange Christian Pleasures

In a sermon entitled “The Pleasantness of Religion,” Jonathan Edwards draws the following doctrine from Proverbs 24:13-14:

“It would be worth the while to be religious if it were only for the pleasantness of it.”

Although we might expect him to go straight to spiritual joys to prove his point, he starts out by proving that Christianity increases joy through the bodily senses – not just joys of the soul, but the joys of the body; not just spiritual joys but sensual joys (meaning “the five bodily senses” not “carnal” or “fleshly”).

He takes a further surprising turn by using three Christian experiences, normally thought of as painful, to argue for the pleasantness of Christianity: repentance, self-denial, and persecution.

Read more about these three strange pleasures at The Christward Collective.


75+ Online Resources on Disability & Special Needs

Here are a number of articles on disability and special needs I’ve collected over the last several years.

Let’s start our focus on disability with a couple of series from parents with special needs children. Then there are some articles grouped under Autism and Down Syndrome, before moving on to more general articles. Videos are marked with an *. [Catalog of other online resources here]

KARA DEDERT SERIES

We See You, Calvin | En Route

Little Lamb | En Route

Little Chick | En Route

Real Talk with Kids | En Route

Place of Regret | En Route

Disability and the Gospel (1) | En Route

Disability and The Gospel (2) | En Route

GREG LUCAS SERIES

Wrestling with an Angel: Great Grace In The Small Things of Life

Wrestling with an Angel: There is Hope!

Wrestling with an Angel: “Family” is Intentional; Not Always Conventional

Wrestling with an Angel: “I Will Not Let You Go”

Wrestling with an Angel: Indispensable

DOWN SYNDROME

A Real Happily-Ever-After for Babies With Down Syndrome | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

News Flash: Not Everyone With Down Syndrome Is Suffering | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

A Generational Shift in Understanding Life With Down Syndrome – Theo Malekin – The Atlantic

How a child with Down’s syndrome can teach you about life

The Tragic Tie Between Abortion and Down Syndrome

DEAR FUTURE MOM | March 21 – World Down Syndrome Day *

Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the Politics of Down Syndrome | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

Dear mom with a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis

A Real Happily-Ever-After for Babies With Down Syndrome | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

AUTISM

Five Things I’ve Learned from Kids with Autism | Desiring God

The Autistic Brain – Temple Grandin | Alex Chediak

A View From The Sycamore Tree: Communicating With Carly About Autism, God, and the Struggle to Touch the Intangible 

How My Son with Autism Transformed my Business | Amy Julia Becker

Six Ways You Can Help Families Facing Autism | True Woman

Woodstock Chimes Presents – Chimes for Autism: Tyler’s Story – YouTube *

Tapping the Potential – YouTube *

Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C | Shanell Mouland

Growing Up With an Autistic Brother in the 1990s – Matthew Moore – The Atlantic

The gospel and autism | The Briefing

What Asperger’s Is Like | The American Conservative *

Thinking about Autism from a Christian Perspective – Justin Taylor *

GENERAL

“I made them.” Some thoughts on God’s word and children with disabilities | The Works of God

12 Pillars of Faith for Parents of Special Needs’ Kids | Counseling One Another

Let No Special Need Hinder the Spread of the Gospel | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Finding Hope for an Often-Fatal Genetic Disorder | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

The Disabilities Dilemma | Challies Dot Com

Some Lessons From the Life of Johnny Farese by Jeffery Smith « Burning and Shining Light

Why it matters when we rub our bellies and say “so long as it’s healthy”. | Life Rearranged

True Woman | “God Only Gives Special Needs Children to Special People” (Or Does He?)

Disabilities and the Gospel: An Interview with Michael Beates by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog

A blind man talks about what attracts him to a woman – 22 Words *

Amy Julia Becker: Missing Out on Beautiful

A Church without the Disabled Is a Disabled Church | Counseling One Another

The Struggles and Hopes of a Disabled Dad – Desiring God

Jack’s ALS Journey

Disability and Dads — Where Desperation Meets Delight – Desiring God

When Disability Hits Home by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog *

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Shannon – R.C. Sproul Jr. *

Just Keep Pedaling – The Gospel Coalition Blog

God Is Up to Something – Desiring God

Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God (Free eBook) – Desiring God

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace – Justin Taylor

When Disability Hits Home | Joni and Friends *

I’m trying out something new. What do you think? « The Works of God

The unfortunate things people say (repeat) « The Works of God

Who is this God who creates some to live with disabilities (Exodus 4:11)? « The Works of God

What John Piper Has to Say About Disability – Desiring God

Her.meneutics: Disability Is Beautiful: How the Gospel Changes the Way We See

Battling the Bitterness of Parenting a Disabled Child – Desiring God

Invisible Needs | Leadership Journal

When the Anchor Holds: Or, Why I No Longer Say “God Didn’t Cause This Birth Defect in My Child” – Justin Taylor *

The Glory of God in the Valley of Disability – YouTube *

To Cade and the Eight Percent by Gabe Lyons

To my friends who face Christmas with an acute mingling of joy and sorrow « The Works of God

“That happens to be my place of healing.” « The Works of God

Grace | Permanent Things *

Let’s talk like this 8-year-old boy! « The Works of God

John Piper Interviews John Knight on Disability – Desiring God *

Is God Sovereign Over Human Disability? :: Desiring God

8 Ways to Help the Children Love Different People – Justin Taylor

You can browse my catalog of other online resources here. Scroll down that page to find resources like Top 500+ Online Resources on Preaching, or 150+ Online Resources about Seminary.