After what I see now as a Divine interruption, we are back to the Reformers and the Puritans. A few weeks ago, I asked:
Do you believe, with all your heart, that when God looks at you in Christ Jesus, He sees you as altogether lovely?
I so appreciated the transparency from several of you, revealing how easily we move into works righteousness thinking. Our own Mary was down on herself for eating too much. My heart went out to her, for I have so been there! Rebecca made me smile when she said she had to listen to Michael Reeves 5 or 6 times, so that she could start seeing others the way Christ sees her. Laura said: It seems impossible that He would see the whole of me as beautiful. I can be SO ugly at times.
I get it! The default mode of our hearts is works righteousness, and at the time before the Reformation, it was the way everyone was thinking. But when the Bible got into the common language, it awakened men like Luther and Calvin, and today, we need to revisit them, for works righteousness has seeped into our hearts the way a rising polluted river seeps into a town, bringing death and destruction. How to stop it?
Calvin, Goodwin, and Sibbes all emphasized our union with Christ. We are part of His body. Remember how Paul tells husbands to cherish their wives as they do parts of their own bodies? Remember how “the heart of Jacob was bound up with the heart of his child?” Union with Christ makes all the difference in how He sees us:
Thomas Goodwin: Because we are part of Christ’s body, “our very sins move him more to pity than to anger.”
Richard Sibbes: “God looks on us, lovely in Him, and delights in us as we are members of Him.”
John Calvin: Christ turns the Father’s eyes to His own righteousness and away from our sin.
And as a corollary, Calvin says:
Michael Reeves says that when we place our confidence in our own righteousness, we are either unbearably sad when we fail or unbearably proud when we succeed.
The secret is not to see ourselves as separated from Christ, endeavoring to gain His favor, but in union with Him, the way a husband and a wife are one, the way a branch is united to a vine so that the lifeblood of the vine seeps into the branch.
You are going to be so richly blessed by Michael Reeves who helps us see our hearts through the gospel by especially looking through the lens of Calvin, Sibbes, and Goodwin. You will listen carefully to him on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe, like Rebecca, you’ll need to listen several times to knock that works righteousness thinking out of your head!
Week 5 document
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday/Tuesday: Michael Reeves: Part I.
2. Listen to the first ten and a half minutes of Mike Reeves and answer:
A. How does Reeves describe the heart of the Bible?
B. How did Bernard of Clairvaux see “union with Christ?”
C. Is union with Christ a fluid state? What is the difference, according to the Reformers, between communion with
Christ and union with Christ?
D. Richard Sibbes said union with Christ is the foundation of our relationship with Christ. John Calvin said no one is loved by Christ apart from Christ. Thoughts?
E. How did Calvin use the imagery of the vine to explain his position?
F. What does Romans 5:2 say and how does this apply to the impossibility of making ourselves right with God?
G. Meditate on Galatians 2:20. What do you learn?
H. What else stood out to you from the first half of Reeves’ message?
3. Do you believe that when God looks at you in Christ Jesus, He sees you as altogether lovely? Why or why not?
Wednesday/Thursday: Michael Reeves Part II.
4. Listen to the rest of Reeves’ talk and answer:
A. How was the premise of the gospel attacked by the Roman Catholic theologians when you use the metaphor of a law court?
B. How did Calvin rebut this?
C. How does the marriage analogy help?
D. Reeves calls this a true “Copernican Revolution.” Why does he use that phrase?
Reeves said that instead of asking “How righteous am I, we should ask, how righteous is Christ?”
E. How did Calvin rebut the objection that our motivation for being holy is removed if we think we are already righteous in Christ?
F. Calvin described himself as a lover of Jesus Christ. What do you think about that?
G. How does Romans 6:4 rebut the argument that we will not endeavor to be holy if we think we are already righteous in Christ?
H. What happens to us as we behold Christ according to 2 Corin 3:18?
I. Have you sensed a new heart, a new Spirit within you? If so, share some specific examples.
J. What happens when we forget our identity in Christ?
K. What happens when we remember our identity in Christ?
L. What else stands out to you from this message?
Friday: Gentle and Lowly
In Gentle and Lowly, Ortlund quotes one of my favorite passages to show how closely God identifies with us, like a father with his child. I know I love it in part because Ephraim is my little village, given that name by the believers who settled here centuries ago. But oh! How it shows the tender heart of God toward us, His children, how it breaks His heart to see us suffering, or to discipline us, for we are part of Him. When my daughter was in an abusive marriage, I could not sleep at night. When my son was a prodigal, my pillow was wet with tears. And that is how God feels about me, even in the midst of my sin.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms…
How can I give you up, Ephraim?
(Hosea 11:3 and 8)
5. If you have Gentle and Lowly, read chapters 7-8 and share anything that stands out to you.
6. In chapter 8 of Gentle and Lowly, Ortland spends time on Hebrews 7:25. What does this verse say that Jesus lives to do?
John Calvin says that in a moment by moment way, for each believer, Christ “turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness to avert his gaze from our sins.” Ortland likens this to the peace you would feel if you heard Jesus praying for you in the next room.
7. What’s your take-a-way this week and why?