In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already - it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
“… the legendary ‘Rabbi’ Duncan concentrated it all into a single unforgettable sentence, in a famous outburst to one of his classes: ‘D’ye know what Calvary was? what? what? what?’ Then, with tears on his face — ‘It was damnation; and he took it lovingly.’”
J. I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood (Wheaton, 2007), page 95
"Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road, switchback after switchback. And the point of Biblical stories like Joseph, Job, Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up, he is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and the glory of Jesus Christ."
In recent years, great strides in biblical theology and contemporary canonical exegesis have brought new precision to our grasp of the Bible’s overall story of how God’s plan to bless Israel, and through Israel the world, came to its climax in and through Christ. But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testament book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther’s primary question: how may a weak, perverse, and guilty sinner find a gracious God? Nor can it be denied that real Christianity only really starts when that discovery is made. And to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great metanarrative, distract us from pursuing Luther’s question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel.
This is an incredible thing about Jesus: he is a vine (and we are his branches) - and he is all about bearing fruit. He exists not to take but to give. Generous fruitfulness: that is what he is like. That elicits praise.
Christianity isn’t like training a horse, to make it run a little faster. That is moralism and legalism. Moralism and legalism can make you nice, but they can’t make you new. Christianity is like an operation on the horse, to make it fly.
"I am more and more persuaded that when we characterise the Bible as a book about spirituality, we do it and ourselves a disservice. The Bible is not a higher-plane tome about some mystical life of spiritual devotion. It does not teach blissful separation from the brokenness of everyday day life. No, the Bible is a book about this world. It is a gritty, honest book. When we read Scripture, we face the world as it actually is, in big-screen, high-def detail. God doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t paper over the cracks. He doesn’t flatter or avoid. There is no denial of what is real and true.”
It is plain which persons prefer to cheapen the forgiveness of sins, and which ones to prostitute the dignity of righteousness. They make believe that God is appeased by their wretched satisfactions, which are but dung (Phil 3:8). We affirm that the guilt of sin is too heavy to be atoned for by such light trifles, that it is too grave an offense against God to be remitted by these worthless satisfactions, that this, then, is the prerogative of Christ’s blood alone. They say that righteousness, if ever it fails, is restored and repaired by works of satisfaction. We count it too precious to be matched by any compensation of works; and therefore, to recover it, we must take refuge in God’s mercy alone.