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“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.”

John Calvin in preface to 1534 French translation of the New Testament

Where are the Sweetest Spots?

“Sweet are the spots where Immanuel has ever shown his glorious power in the conviction and conversion of sinners. The world loves to muse on the scenes where battles were fought and victories won. Should we not love the spots where our great captain has won his amazing victories?” Robert Murray McCheyne

Some times we find ourselves in dreadful spots where despair and the sentence of death is all we may expect from looking at our circumstances. God is near to all who call upon His Name in Jesus, however, and He raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He is our rescuer! God is glorified in rescuing us and changing dreadful spots into the sweetest spots in our stories.

This song makes me rejoice and exult in Christ, our Rescuer 🙂

Artwork by Will Coats

Identity in Christ

Identity in Christ

Our identities, besides being one of the most precious things to protect from theft, crisis, or loss, are extremely important to God. The Father has given each of His children a personal identity in Christ that will shape them on their journey to heaven. If, in the process of identity formation, we ignore what God says concerning our identities, then we may expect confusion in the other three seasons of spiritual formation, from adolescence to old age (see chart below for Calling to Christ, Intentionality for Christ, and Legacy from Christ).

Robert Davis Smart

Embracing Your Identity in Christ:: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies (Kindle Locations 116-121). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual Failure: The Unlikely Path to Christian Success

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61).”

When is spiritual failure predictable? The disciples were increasingly aware that Jesus was seriously and deliberately going to get in big trouble and difficulty. The situation was intensely dangerous when Peter felt led of the Lord to say something like: “Master, I know things are getting rough around here, but I want you to know that under no circumstances will I let you down. If every single one of these guys let you down, you can count on me. I won’t.” (I don’t think this made the other disciples happy, and they made sure to record this account in the gospels.) Jesus told Peter that before the crack of dawn Peter would fail him.

Spiritual failure is predictable when we rely on the strength of our own commitment, when we think we stand, when we underestimate Satan’s desire to sift us like wheat, when we lack watchful prayer, and when we presume that we can hide and blend in with nonbelievers without having to admit we love Jesus. All this was true of Peter.

How does spiritual failure happen? Spiritual failure happened to Peter so fast. Surprised by the servant girls’ questions and trying to blend in unnoticed, Peter denied Christ three times. The rooster crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered and wept with the sting of Jesus’ rebuke, the look of compassion, and the promise Jesus made about Peter’s aftermath of failure to strengthen the others. Spiritual failure is predictable and happens fast, but it need never be final.

Peter posted his sign, “Gone fishing.” After the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter and the others fished all night and caught nothing. “Did you catch anything?” Jesus asked them from the shore. “Nothing,” they replied in admitting their lack of success. Peter knew it was Jesus and struggled towards shore to sit by another fire where Jesus again turned to look at Peter. Three times Jesus asked: “Peter, do you love me with deep intensity?” Jesus asked this three times in order to remedy Peter’s three denials.

On that day Peter became a success because Christ makes spiritual failures into his special instruments and endows them with power from the Holy Spirit for victorious living. Whereas Satan wants us to take the occasions of our failures and make it our identity: “You are a failure,” Jesus defines our identity by his victory. “You are Simon (Pebbles), but you shall be called Peter (a Rock).” Although we all have spiritual failures, Christ refuses to let them define us. All God’s heroes have spiritual failures on their resumes.

Spiritual failure may just be the path to success for the Christian.

Christian Identity Leans into Something Lasting Like “Planting Trees” by Andrew Peterson


We chose the spot
We dug the hole
We laid the maples in the ground
To have and holdAs autumn falls
To winters sleep
We pray that somehow in the spring
The roots grow deep

And many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn, hmm

He took a plane
To Africa
He gathered up into his arms
An orphan son

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
This tree will spread its branches out
And bless the dawn

So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light

Let go of all that’s passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees, hmm, yeah

She rises up
As morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake

And her heart is so full
It overflows
She waters us with love
And the children grow

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn

These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone, hmm

A Page on Identity from Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Danish Philosopher-Theologian Soren Kierkegaard’s Definitions of “Sin”

  • “Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God. . . . Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God” (The Sickness Unto Death, 1849, 162).

  • “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him” (TRFG, 162).
  • “Sin is building our identities and self-worth on anything other than God” (162).
  • “It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God” (162).
  • “[Kierkegaard means that] everyone gets their identity, their sense of being distinct and valuable, from somewhere or something . . .“Sin is the making of good things into ultimate things” ” (162).

Devils Keep Our Identity in Christ at Bay

Wormwood is a devil in training under his Uncle Screwtape’s coaching by mail. Wormwood’s “patient” is a young man, who has been recently united to Christ by faith in the Gospel.

DemonsScrewtape tries to make it simple for Wormwood by keeping out of the young Christian’s mind the truth about who he is in Christ. Screwtape’s second letter instructs the younger demon by saying:

“All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is!”

By Screwtape’s tenth letter he simply says: “All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary.”

A true sense of who you are as a Christian will never come to our minds if you fail to keep two things in mind: 1) You must never give anyone but Christ the authority to tell you who you are. 2) You must never pretend to be someone you are not.


Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). The Screwtape Letters (pp. 8, 46). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Narrow is the Way that Leads to Life

Gauguin_-_D'ou_venons-nous_Que_sommes-nous_Ou_allons-nousWhere Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? is a painting by French artist Paul Gauguin. Gauguin inscribed the original French title in the upper left corner: D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous. The painting was created in Tahiti, and is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

This blog seeks to let the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament answer these questions,  though primarily “Who are we in Christ?” Jesus asks two questions; namely,  “Which person are you of the two?” and “Where are you going of the two places?” Your identity determines your destiny. The main question is one of identity.

At the end of His sermon on the mount (Matthew 7) He calls for a decision by setting a clear, uncompromising contrast between two identities; one enters the narrow path with a smaller crowd and ends up with life in the end. She bears good fruit and is authentic. She withstands the torrents of trials and death itself because she heard and put into practice Christ’s words. The other identity is that of one pretending to be some one they are not (a wolf in sheep’s clothing). She takes the broad path with the large crowd, bears bad fruit, and doesn’t put into practice the Gospel. She is not known by Christ, and at last she is like a house that ended in a big crash.

On the one hand, there are those who use God to get something from Him and others. On the other hand, there are those who receive Christ’s acceptance, forgiveness, and His righteousness. They get Christ, then use everything to love Him and others.

You must want and receive Jesus in exchange for everything else – your good works, your reputation, and yourself. For the saddest words of separation are spoken to those who say: “I lived did all these good things my whole life for your Name. Why don’t You accept me? Did we not . . .?” Jesus, nevertheless, said: “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”

Have you placed all your trust in Christ? Do you trust He lived a perfect life of goodness in your place? Do you trust that He paid the penalty you deserved by dying in your place? Do you trust He rose again and won the victory over death? Have you put His words into practice? Have you repented of your entitlement-mentality that Christ owes you something for your good works? Do you know He loves you? Lovers make great knowers.

A Poem for the Holy Spirit

A Plea for the Holy Spirit

by Robert Davis Smart

Love Witness of my Father’s Rights,

Counseling Messenger divine;

Come in power from Ascension Heights,

Tabernacle through weakness and thorny pine.


Send forth the eternal word,

The word of sovereign grace;

That all may know their bleeding Lord

Has risen to sit in that highest place.


My tongue and voice are yours to preach

My soul, it deeply groans and painfully aches;

Make it weep for every one I long to reach,

That revival glory may come with holy quakes.


Then when all are holy hushed,

When Christ’s blood has been applied;

Over the door posts of shame once blushed,

Promise us Your presence, Christ be magnified.