“…the soul and substance of all false religion in the world” by John Owen

“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin…All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates, Rom. ix. 30-32, may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do: but, saith he, ‘This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about.’ Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”

-John Owen, The Mortification of Sin


“This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.” by Sinclair Ferguson

“What, then, is the remedy for legalism?

At the stage we have reached in reflecting on the Marrow, it scarcely needs to be said.

It is grace. But it is not ‘grace’ as commodity, grace as substance. It is grace in Christ. For God’s grace to us is Christ.

Yes, it is the atonement; but not atonement as theory, or as an abstract reality, something that has an identity of its own outside of and apart from the Lord Jesus. For Christ himself, clothed as he is in his gospel work, is the atonement—’He is the propitiation for our sins.’

The remedy therefore is the one that healed Paul of the deep disease of legalism. It is not difficult to imagine that he too knew what it was to be beaten by Moses. He was after all ‘the chief of sinners.’ But here is what he discovered:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes though faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

The remedy is that prescribed by Charles Wesley, discovering that these words are true:

‘O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—More full of grace than I of sin . . .’

Where sin abounds, where the law condemns, there grace abounds all the more even to the chief of sinners. Indeed especially to the chief of them, for the more sin there has been, the more God’s grace has abounded. This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.”

-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

“Do not look down on another person—including another Christian.” by Sinclair Ferguson

Surely the Pharisee was God’s man, the righteous one who could leave the temple assured he was justified before God. It could not be the miserable tax collector, could it? For, apart from being a tax collector and therefore by definition associated with “sinners,” he:

Could not even lift his eyes to heaven—which was expected in prayer etiquette. Beat his breast in the light of his obvious sinfulness. Cried out to God to be “merciful” (literally, “propitiated”) to him—since no sacrifice was prescribed for his high-handed transgressions. Acknowledged he was “a sinner.”

There was, surely, only one answer to Jesus’s implied question: “So which of these two men went home from temple worship that day justified, righteous in the sight of the Holy God of heaven?”

We are over-familiar with this parable. We know “the right answer.” We have been immunized against the unexpected, indeed stunning truth. It was the tax collector. How can contemporary Christians recapture the sense of shock at hearing Jesus’s conclusion?

In one sense the answer is simple. It should shock us because evangelical Christians may existentially have more in common with the Pharisee than with the tax collector. Those into whose temperaments justification by grace has fully permeated:

Do not look down on another person—including another Christian. The instinct to do so is one of the most obvious telltale signs of a heart from which legalism has not yet been fully or finally banished; for it implies that we have merited grace more than another.

Do not assume that there is anything in our devotion to the Lord that is the reason for God’s acceptance of us rather than of somebody else who lacks it.

Do not assume that it is on the grounds of a decision we made, or for that matter our years of commitment to Christ, that we are accepted before God.

Do not despise (“ treat with contempt,” in Luke’s expression) an embarrassing breach of etiquette, or outward show of sorrow, in another person.

So, when did you last beat your breast and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”?

-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

“But there is such a thing as rising early for the love of God” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs. “Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14)

With remarkable frequency the Scriptures remind us that the men of God rose early to seek God and carry out His commands, as did Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Joshua (cf. Gen. 19:27, 22:3; Ex. 8:16, 9:13, 24:4; Josh. 3:1, 6:12, etc.). The Gospel, which never speaks a superfluous word, says of Jesus himself: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). Some rise early because of restlessness and worry; the Scriptures call this unprofitable: “It is vain for you to rise up early … to eat the bread of sorrows” (Ps. 127:2). But there is such a thing as rising early for the love of God. This was the practice of the men of the Bible … every common devotion should include the word of Scripture, the hymns of the Church, and the prayer of fellowship.”

-Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together – The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

“…brief verses cannot and should not take the place of reading the Scripture as a whole” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“But there can be equally little doubt that brief verses cannot and should not take the place of reading the Scripture as a whole. The verse for the day is still not the Holy Scripture which will remain throughout all time until the Last Day. Holy Scripture is more than a watchword. It is also more than “light for today”. It is God’s revealed Word for all men, for all times. Holy Scripture does not consist of individual passages; it is a unit and is intended to be used as such.

As a whole the Scriptures are God’s revealing Word. Only in the infiniteness of its inner relationships, in the connection of Old and New Testaments, of promise and fulfillment, sacrifice and law, law and gospel, cross and resurrection, faith and obedience, having and hoping, will the full witness to Jesus Christ the Lord be perceived. This is why common devotions will include, besides the prayer of the psalms, a longer reading from the Old and the New Testament.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community