Tullian Tchividjian vs. Thomas Scott on the Gospel

The new self Paul speaks of will emerge more and more as we allow the gospel to remove idolatry’s shackles. Suddenly, stepping out into the gospel’s freedom, we can see ourselves as we really are and not be panic-stricken. We’re released from the pressure of having to do and be everything in order to meet our vast unmet inner needs. We finally sense how Jesus is the everything who meets those needs.

The gospel liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We know we’re not – though we try very hard to convince other people we are. But the gospel tells us, “Relax, it is finished.”

Because of the gospel, we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. The gospel frees us from trying to impress people, to prove ourselves to people, to make people think we’re something that we’re not. The gospel frees us from what one writer calls “the law of capability” – the law, he says, “that judges us wanting if we are not capable, if we cannot handle it all, if we are not competent to balance our diverse commitments without a slip.” The gospel grants us the strength to admit we’re weak and needy and restless – knowing that Christ’s finished work has proven to be all the strength and fulfillment and peace we could ever want, and more.

– Tullian Tchividjian, 2011

Leave out the holy character of God, the holy excellence of his law, the holy condemnation to which transgressors are doomed, the holy loveliness of the Saviour’s character, the holy nature of redemption, the holy tendency of Christ’s doctrine, and the holy tempers and conduct of all true believers: then dress up a scheme of religion of the unholy sort: represent mankind in a pitiable condition, rather through misfortune than crime: speak much of Christ’s bleeding love to them, of his agonies in the garden and on the cross; without showing the need of the nature of satisfaction for sin; of the freeness with which he dispenses pardons; of the privileges which believers enjoy here, and of the happiness and glory reserved for them hereafter: clog this with nothing about regeneration and sanctification, or represent holiness as somewhat else than conformity to the holy character and law of God: and you make up a plausible gospel, calculated to humour the pride, soothe the consciences, engage the hearts, and raise the affections of natural men, who love nobody but themselves.

– Thomas Scott, 1824

A Tale of Two Baseball Cards

Surviving cancer can make people do strange or different things. Some people decide to travel. Some quit their old jobs and get new ones. Some take up new hobbies.

I can’t afford to travel much. I like my job. But instead of taking up new hobbies, I found myself attracted again to some old hobbies to which I haven’t paid much attention over the past 30 years – collecting coins and baseball cards.

mlb_e_jacksoncard_gb1_200When I was growing up in the 1970’s, I was the baseball card king at school. Fellow students would sometimes give me their baseball cards when their moms would force them to get rid of them. I got several very nice cards this way, with a 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson rookie card being one that I remember.

I didn’t do much collecting after high school and eventually ended up selling some of my best cards to pay some hospital bills. Sometime after that I lost track of my baseball card collection, only remembering that I left it at my parents’ house.

For some reason, I found myself interested in the cards again. Perhaps it was nostalgia or perhaps it was because of job pressures, but whatever the reason I found that it was something that I enjoyed again. So I set out to try to find my collection and then to rebuild it. So far, I’ve only been partially successful.

Finding my collection has proven to be somewhat difficult. My father got involved with baseball cards back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and his basement is filled with boxes upon boxes of these cards from the “junk wax” era. My parents also like to visit yard sales and bring things back to store in the same basement. So when I visit, I’ll spend some time looking around to see if I can find something. Every time I go, I find a different box of my cards, but, so far, haven’t found them all. I don’t even necessarily remember what I had, but I know it when I see it. But I do know there’s some 1969 deckle-edge cards, 1962 Fleers, two sets of Yankees Burger King cards from 1977 and 1978, and a 1955 Jackie Robinson that I said I would never sell.

nolan-ryanRebuilding my collection is just as hard because some of the cards that I sold for good money in 1988 are worth even more money in 2014. A Nolan Ryan rookie card (or two!), a few Mickey Mantles, Hank Aarons, Willie Mays, and lots of great cards from the 1960’s and 1970’s are proving to be somewhat expensive to reclaim. So I have to be judicious in what I spend and when I spend it.

That leads me to the two cards that are mentioned in the title, both from 1973 – Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente.

73Topps050Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on the last day of 1972. Later that year, probably when I was in the 4th Grade, I ordered a biography about him from the school book order (and I still have the book). I was fascinated to read about how he died attempting to take supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. This was the first time that I remember thinking about the finality of death and how Roberto Clemente wasn’t here any more. I also remember thinking that if he had just stayed home, he’d probably still be alive – deep thoughts for a ten-year-old! The 1973 card was his last and I was able to buy it again and it brought back all those memories.

maysThat year was also the same year I acquired Willie Mays’s last regular baseball card. And I can remember exactly how I got it. I was with my grandfather who drove a car he called “the Pot-pot.” He also knew the guy who drove one of the snack trucks and I can remember him stopping the snack truck one day and buying me a Suzy-Q. Well, this day when we went to the store he told me to get something, so I got a pack of baseball cards. Then he told me something wonderful – don’t just get one, get some more! So I got five packs and was delighted to find Willie Mays in there. I was able to re-obtain the Willie Mays card at the same time as the Roberto Clemente, which I thought was very fitting.

Ultimately, I know it’s just cardboard, which isn’t really worth very much. But the memories attached to those pieces of cardboard are priceless.

Gurnall on sacrificing Isaac

Soul, take thy lust, thy only lust, which is the child of thy dearest love, thy Isaac, the sin which has caused the most joy and laughter, from which thou hast promised thyself the greatest return of pleasure or profit; as ever thou lookest to see my face with comfort, lay hands on it and offer it up: pour out the blood of it before me; run the sacrificing knife of mortification into the very heart of it; and this freely, joyfully, for it is no pleasing sacrifice that is offered with a countenance cast down – and all this now, before thou hast one embrace more from it.

– William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

A weak hand may receive a rich jewel

bruisedA weak hand may receive a rich jewel. A few grapes will show that the plant is a vine, and not a thorn. It is one thing to be deficient in grace, and another thing to lack grace altogether. God knows we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives: `If she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle doves’ (Lev. 12:8). What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ’s obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy.

– Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

The Spirit of the Day

jc-ryle2I feel it a duty to bear my solemn testimony against the spirit of the day we live in; to warn men against its infection. It is not Atheism I fear so much, in the present times, as Pantheism. It is not the system which says nothing is true, so much as the system which says everything is true. It is not the system which says there is no Saviour, so much as the system which says there are many saviours, and many ways to peace!–It is the system which is so liberal, that it dares not say anything is false. It is the system which is so charitable, that it will allow everything to be true. It is the system which seems ready to honour others as well as our Lord Jesus Christ, to class them all together, and to think well of all. Confucius and Zoroaster, Socrates and Mahomet, the Indian Brahmins and the African devil-worshippers, Arius and Pelagius, Ignatius Loyola and Socinus,–all are to be treated respectfully: none are to be condemned. It is the system which bids us smile complacently on all creeds and systems of religion. The Bible and the Koran, the Hindoo Vedas and the Persian Zendavesta, the old wives’ fables of Rabbinical writers and the rubbish of Patristic traditions, the Racovian Catechism and the Thirty-nine Articles, the revelations of Emanuel Swedenborg and the book of Mormon of Joseph Smith,–all, all are to be listened to: none are to be denounced as lies. It is the system which is so scrupulous about the feelings of others, that we are never to say they are wrong. It is the system which is so liberal that it calls a man a bigot if he dares to say, “I know my views are right.” This is the system, this is the tone of feeling which I fear in this day, and this is the system which I desire emphatically to testify against and denounce.

– J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied