“Man of Sorrows” by Bob Kellemen

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isa. 53:3)

The Gospel and Grief

Grief. It comes in all forms and fashions, because loss comes in all shapes and sizes. When we think of grief, our souls tend to focus especially on the devastating grief that accompanies death. Yet life is filled with daily mini-caskets—losses great and small. A critical word. A critical accident. Betrayal, rejection, a stab in the back. The terminal diagnosis. Separation and divorce. A church split. A prodigal child. Job termination. The list, sadly, goes on and on.

The gospel. We know it has everything to say about grace for sin. But does the gospel have anything to say about grace for grief? We know that Jesus came to save sinners, but does he understand and care about our suffering? He understands. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Jesus intimately and intensely experienced grief, sorrow, loss, and pain.

He cares. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4). The intensity of his sympathy made him feel your grief as his own—and then do something about it. He came to crush sin, Satan, and death so that one day there will never again be separation, suffering, sorrow, crying, grief, or pain (see Rev. 21:4).

The author of Hebrews, who was steeped in Old Testament passages like Isaiah 53, adds his assurance of Jesus’s compassion, care, and comfort and of the gospel’s help, hope, and healing. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16). Jesus is not only a man of sorrows; he cares about your sorrow. Jesus is not only acquainted with his own grief; he is acquainted with your grief.

A Grief Journey with Jesus

And not only is Jesus acquainted with your grief, he is always with you in your grief—he walks with you in the cool of the day, and he journeys with you in the ups and downs of your grief (see John 14:1–6; 16:33). Grief is not a series of stages that you complete in some stereotypical consecutive order. Grief is a very individual process—a personal journey that we take with our personal suffering Savior.

What Isaiah predicts and the author of Hebrews declares, the Gospels describe. From birth into a broken world, to death at the hands of a sinful world, and everywhere in between, the Gospels guide us on a grief journey with Jesus. The sorrows of Jesus appear on every page of the Gospels. Jesus lived, breathed, walked, and ministered in the midst of scenes of sorrow.

And the Jesus of the Gospels is not only the caring Shepherd—which brings us amazing comfort. He is also the sovereign King—which instills us with amazing confidence. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14). We entrust ourselves to him because he sovereignly shepherds us—guiding us to the green pastures of mercy, grace, and help as we walk through our valley of the shadow of death.

When life is knocking us down, how do we hold fast? We hold fast by holding on to Jesus, who is holding us close to his heart. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11).

In the pages that follow, we will journey together with Jesus, applying the following gospel truths to our grief journey:

  • Jesus is a suffering Savior who is intimately acquainted with our grief. It’s normal to hurt.
  • Jesus is a compassionate Savior who lovingly consoles us in our grief. It’s possible to find comfort in our hurt.
  • Jesus is a healing Savior who compassionately speaks eternal truth into our earthly wounds. It’s possible to grieve with hope.
  • Jesus is an empowering Savior who mightily enables us to comfort others with the comfort we receive from God. It’s supernatural to love in the midst of loss.

In our journey, we will grieve together . . . and we will hope together (see 1 Thess. 4:13).

—Bob Kellemen, Grief: Walking with Jesus

New Release Today: Early Reformation Covenant Theology by Robert J. D. Wainwright

Early Reformation Covenant Theology: English Reception of Swiss Reformed Thought, 1520–1555 by Robert J. D. Wainwright

About

Robert Wainwright demonstrates the importance of covenant theology in the early years of the Reformation when Huldrych Zwingli, Heinrich Bollinger, and John Calvin recast late medieval conceptions of the divine pact within radical new parameters of grace alone and Scripture alone. Their ideas spread surprisingly quickly into English discourse, explaining the early emergence of Reformed theology under Henry VIII. Wainwright scrutinizes the covenant thought of William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, John Hooper, and John Bradford, questions essentially Lutheran characterizations of Henrician evangelicalism, and portrays early Reformation covenant theology as distinct from proto-Puritanism.

Endorsements

“The clarity of its analysis and the richness of its evidence make Robert Wainwright’s book an excellent guide to the early English Reformers encounter with the theology of Zurich and Basel, Strasbourg and Geneva.”
—Steven Gunn, Professor of Early Modern History, Merton College, University of Oxford
 
“A path-breaking study of covenant theology in early Tudor England.”
—Felicity M. Heal, FBA, Emeritus Fellow and Lecturer in History, Jesus College, University of Oxford
 
“A model for how the history of theology and the history of religious movements can be fruitfully integrated.”
—Peter Marshall, FBA, Department of History, University of Warwick
 
“A timely, scholarly, and persuasive reassertion of the Reformed character of the English Reformation.”
—Stephen Hampton, Dean and Senior Tutor, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge

“Wainwright’s careful reading of the writings of the Continental Reformers . . . alongside those of the English Reformers . . . shows similarities and lines of influence in a way that has not been done before.”
—Charlotte Methuen, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Glasgow
 
“Rides the crest of a wave of an innovative reinterpretation of the English Reformation. More than likely to set the cat among the pigeons.”
—Torrance Kirby, FRHistS, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, McGill University

About the Author

Robert J. D. Wainwright (M.A., M.St., D.Phil., Oxon) is chaplain and fellow of Oriel College, University of Oxford. He read history at St John’s College, Durham, and Christ Church, Oxford, and theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Rob was awarded the Denyer and Johnson Prize for the best first in the Final Honours School 2014.


Walking by the Spirit by Deepak Reju

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25)

Who is in charge of your life? Are you following the desires of your flesh and the pressures of this world? Or are you being led by the Spirit?

Living by faith through the Spirit and putting your sin to death are two sides of the same coin. But one drives the other. As you live according to the Spirit’s strength and direction, God gives you the power to put to death the sinful desires of your flesh.

When you were born again, the Holy Spirit took up residence in you. He gives you life. So we “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

Since we live by the Spirit, we need to follow his lead. Walking by the Spirit, as the verse goes on to instruct us, pictures walking in a row or marching in a line. Think about a soldier marching in step as his sergeant barks out orders. The cadence of the sergeant’s orders bellow out (“Step . . . step . . . step . . . step . . . step . . . step”), and the soldier’s every step is in accordance with his directions. The soldier stays in the formation, and all he needs to do is obey the sergeant’s instructions. The NIV appropriately translates this as “Let us keep in step with the Spirit.”1 The Spirit leads, and all you need to do is follow his lead.

But you don’t do this by yourself. The apostle Paul is not barking out orders to you while watching from a safe, smug distance. He is marching in the same formation. Paul says, “Let us walk by the Spirit.” He includes himself. You’re not alone. In fact, in this line is a host of other believers fighting the same battle and marching in step with you.

We can walk in obedience if we let the Spirit lead. Do you believe that that’s true? Or have you given in to your sinful nature so often that you’ve given up hope? Consistent victory over the flesh is possible, but it comes only from the Spirit’s lead. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Who is setting the agenda for your life—your sinful flesh, or the Spirit? Be honest. When you wake up in the morning, how self-reliant are you? Do you walk into the day with your game plan, your desires, your dreams, your goals, your expectations, and your schemes charting the course? Or do you turn to God and say, “Lord God, I need your help”; “Holy Spirit, come and lead the way”; “I can’t do this on my own—only you can”? When’s the last time these phrases came out of your mouth? Do you pray these kinds of prayers in humility, pleading for the Spirit to direct your life?

Don’t wait any longer. Give up your own schemes and follow the Spirit’s lead in your life. You can’t defeat this problem through your own power; it can only be done through the Holy Spirit’s strength.

—Deepak Reju, Pornography, Fighting for Purity


Avoiding Conflict by Steve Hoppe

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

“I go out of my way to avoid conflict with my partner.”

It’s one of over two hundred statements on an assessment that I administer to couples to evaluate their matrimonial health. Potential responses range on a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” I’ve found that the most common response is “strongly agree.” In other words, couples love avoiding conflict.

This is bad for at least three reasons.

First, conflict avoidance is typically rooted in idolatry. If you’re consciously fleeing marriage conflict, it’s usually because you’re worshipping a false god. Take Mark as an example. When he would critique his wife Emily during their first few years of marriage, she would instinctively criticize him back—often to a harsher degree. She would raise her voice, call him names, and manipulate the conversation to make everything his fault. Things would rapidly spiral out of control, leaving him agitated, anxious, and upset. To avoid feeling this way, he would shut his mouth and put a smile on his face. He chose serenity over her sanctification and harmony over her holiness. He avoided conflict with Emily because he was worshipping the idol of peace.

Second, conflict avoidance is bad because God uses conflict to sharpen us—to make us more like Christ. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” How does a metalworker use iron to sharpen iron? First, he heats a dull, jagged piece until it becomes ductile. He then takes a cold, sharp piece and uses it to cut a straight line along the molten piece’s edge to eliminate its surface irregularities. When the molten piece cools, it has a brand-new sharp edge. In a similar way, our skilled metalworker (God) uses intense heat (marriage conflict) to “melt” us. He then takes a cold, knifelike piece of iron (our spouses) and, through a process of calculated cutting (confrontation and admonishment), sharpens (sanctifies) us. When we avoid conflict, we miss out on being sharpened by our spouses and by God.

Finally, conflict avoidance is bad because it contradicts the conflict-saturated life and ministry of Christ. Jesus confronted sin (John 2:13-16). He challenged hypocrisy and wrong belief among influential religious leaders (Matt. 23). He even said to his good friend Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23). Ultimately, he faced the conflict of the crucifixion and willfully endured it to obey his Father and save his followers. He entered conflict out of love for God and love for others.

Will you do the same in your marriage?

—Steve Hoppe, Marriage Conflict: Talking as Teammates


The Doctrines of Grace by Shane Lems

Introduction

Stories . . .

The Bible is a book with many stories: the flood, the exodus, Joshua fighting the Canaanites, Samson battling the Philistines, David defeating Goliath, the prophet Hosea marrying the sinful woman, and Jesus healing the blind man. Those are just a few of the many great stories in God’s Word, and I’m sure you could add more to the list.

Though there are many stories in the Bible, all of those little stories are part of one big story: our triune God saving his people from sin, death, and hell. Really, the whole Bible is this great story of God redeeming sinful people from the wages of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23). Right at the center of this story is God’s Son, Jesus. He lived, died on the cross, and rose again to save sinful people. This is what we call the gospel, the good news that Jesus is the Savior “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). The Lord himself says, “Besides me there is no savior” (Hos. 13:4). “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). This is also what this book is about: the saving grace of God.

In both the Old and New Testaments, this is the big story of the Bible: God the Father saves sinners through his Son Jesus by the power of his Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed (written on page 13) tells this story very well. Many Christians from all over the world have been saying the Apostles’ Creed for around 1,500 years. All true Christians agree that the main point of the Bible is that our God saves sinners. It’s what Christianity is all about!

Salvation . . .

How exactly does God save sinners? That’s a question many Christians have discussed since Augustine debated a man named Pelagius around a.d. 400. Shortly after 1500 the Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote, preached, and talked about justification by faith alone. They strongly disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church, which said sinners are justified by grace and faith, but also by obedience to the church and God’s law. The Reformers said sinners are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God used the Reformers to re-form the church according to his Word, the Bible.

History . . .

In the early 1600s some people in the Reformed churches of Holland were saying things about salvation that didn’t sound Reformed or biblical. These people, called the Remonstrants or Arminians, summarized their teaching with five points. This is what they taught:

1. All people have free will, which means they can either choose to believe in Jesus or choose not to believe in him.

2. Before the world began, God elected (chose to save) people whom he knew would use their free will to believe in Jesus.

3. Jesus died to make salvation possible for anyone who uses his or her free will to believe in him.

4. The Holy Spirit draws people to Jesus, but people can use their free will to resist the Holy Spirit.

5. Someone who is truly a Christian can fall away and not be a Christian anymore.

This is a short summary; we’ll talk more about these things later.

Many pastors and elders in Holland strongly disagreed with these five points. A church meeting (called a synod) was held in the city of Dordrecht in 1618. Pastors and elders from Holland (and several from other countries) talked about these five points in the meeting. After much discussion, study of Scripture, and prayer, the Synod came up with five points of its own. Their five points showed that the Arminians’ five points were neither Reformed nor biblical. They wrote a church document called the Canons of Dort. Solid Reformed churches still appreciate, preach, and teach these truths today. Later in this book we will refer to the Canons of Dort. You can find the Canons in appendix D.

  • A canon is a statement.
  • Dort is short for the city of Dordrecht.

Churches . . .

It is also important to know that the Canons of Dort teach basically the same things as other Reformed documents like the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession of Faith. The Presbyterian documents—the Westminster Confession and Catechisms—also teach the same things as the Canons of Dort. But the Canons of Dort speak only about the doctrines of grace specifically, while the other confessions deal with many more biblical topics. The point is that these confessions stand together on the main truths of the Christian faith. Presbyterian and Reformed churches that use these documents (also called confessions) are in agreement on these five points of the Canons of Dort. (Look at appendix B for more information on this.) Of course there is a lot more to being Reformed than just these five points. These five points aren’t the only things Reformed Christians believe. But they are an important part of Reformation teaching. whiteline1r

  • Confessions are statements of faith.

TULIP . . .

Most people know these five points as the five points of Calvinism. The popular acronym is TULIP, which stands for this:

1. Total depravity

2. Unconditional election

3. Limited atonement

4. Irresistible grace

5. Perseverance of the saints

Usually, if someone is a Calvinist, he or she believes these doctrines of grace are biblical. But I don’t think we should use the name Calvinist, since John Calvin himself would not like us to think he made up these points. Many in the Christian church believed and taught these truths before Calvin was even alive. A better name for these points is the doctrines of grace. That’s why the title of this book is what it is.

This Book . . .

In this book we will see how these doctrines have everything to do with God’s grace. Pay attention to the following lessons. We’re going to look at many Bible verses that talk about grace and salvation from sin. Each lesson will also have two memory verses. One goal of this book is to learn and memorize what the Bible says about salvation from sin. Another goal I have in writing this book is to show how these doctrines of grace are meaningful in the Christian life. They aren’t just truths for the Christian mind. They are also truths for the Christian heart. People who believe these doctrines of grace should live joy-filled, thankful Christian lives of obedience to God.

In this book there are twelve lessons: an introduction lesson (which you’re reading right now), a concluding lesson, and two lessons on each of the five doctrines of grace. This book is only an introduction to the doctrines of grace, so we won’t be discussing all the details. Appendix A has a list of books that are good ones for further study—many of which I’ve used to write this book. Appendix C has a list of all the Bible verses this book uses to explain the doctrines of grace.

—Shane Lems, The Doctrine of Grace: Student Edition