Calvin on Jesus as Shepherd

John CalvinCommenting on Jesus as Shepherd in Psalm 110, John Calvin says,

“As a shepherd he is gentle towards his flock, but fierce and formidable towards wolves and thieves; in like manner, Christ is kind and gentle towards those who commit themselves to his care, while they who willfully and obstinately reject his yoke, shall feel with what awful and terrible power he is armed.”

Cross round

Are You Prepared to be A Part of the Salvation Process?

Who is Jesus? That is a question many people have asked throughout history, even Jesus Himself.

The People’s Response

Walking with His disciples into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked them who the people say He is (Matt. 16:13). The people’s response in Jesus’ day is about the same as it is today. Jesus is a good prophet or teacher who has come to teach them about the Father, show them the way to God, or be a good moral example, but He isn’t “The Way” Himself. He doesn’t provide us with salvation through His work, but rather shows us how to attain salvation through our work. For millennia, people have been responding to Jesus in this way.

The Disciples’ Response

The disciples, however, respond differently. Instead of seeing Jesus as the masses do, they believe Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). In other words, they believe Jesus is God incarnate, who has come on a God-directed rescue mission to save His people from sin, Satan, death, and God’s wrath through His work, not theirs.

Why the Difference?

As you can see, the disciples’ response is markedly different than the crowd. Why the difference? Was it because they were smarter? Or was it because they had personally walked with Jesus, seeing Him perform miracles firsthand, hearing His teaching, and experiencing private tutoring sessions with the Messiah Himself? Did those things lead to their response, or was it something else? Jesus tells us they responded in the way they did because the Father in heaven revealed it to them (Matt. 16:17). He opened their eyes so they could see the truth about Jesus (Matt. 11:25-27). That is not to say the things they saw and heard weren’t a part of the Father’s revelation, they certainly were. It is to say, however, that without the Father opening their eyes, all that they experienced wouldn’t have made a difference.

A Process

While God can do anything, we see that the disciples’ profession didn’t occur overnight. Rather it happened over time as they saw with opened eyes the truth about Jesus. Overtime as they walked with Jesus, they were confronted with His teaching, miracles, arguments, and private conversations. It was all those things, along with the Father opening their eyes, which led to their profession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

That’s true in our lives as well. Thinking back on my own salvation experience, a lot happened before I professed Jesus as my Savior. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home, where I was taught God’s Word. I went to a Christian school, where I learned more about Jesus. I attended church weekly, and I was involved in a Youth Group. Overtime, as I experienced those things through opened eyes, I came to see that I was a sinner, who was in need of a Savior, and Jesus was that Savior. I bet most people came to Christ that way as well, because salvation is a process. That’s true even for those who respond to the gospel the first time they hear it.

So while I would like to think my preaching convinced someone in that moment to come to Christ, when I really stop and think about it, I know a lot has happened behind the scenes beforehand. I know God has been working on their heart, whether they realize it or not, and God has opened their eyes so that they finally and fully understand the truth about themselves, that they are sinners, and about Jesus, that He is their Savior (Matt. 16:17). So whether we realize it or not, salvation is a process. At times, we get to play a part in that process.

Our Role

Knowing that salvation is a process we, at times, get to play a part in, helps us see our role. Thinking about our God-given spiritual gifts, we see that someone has to teach, pray, answer questions, encourage, etc. We can’t do all those things all the time, but we can be a part of the process in one way or another (1 Cor. 3:5-10a).

We Must Prepare

But here’s the thing, if we want to be a part of the process, we must be prepared. One of the best ways to prepare is by being in God’s Word. After all it is what we are sharing with others and what we are allowing to guide our counseling and prayer, so we must know God’s Word. Which means if you are not reading God’s Word on a regular basis, then it’s time to get started, so you will be prepared when God calls you to play a part in the salvation process.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you believe Salvation is a process?
  2. How are you preparing to be used as a part of the process?



Jail Cells

How to Break Free From Legalism

This is a continuation of my last two posts, which can be found here and here

Legalism is a damaging man-made religion that draws us away from relying on Jesus’ work to relying on our own work. It is defined as an excessive and improper use of the Law, which occurs when we use the Law either to attain or maintain our salvation.

Using the Law to attain or maintain our salvation is not wise, nor good because all those who rely on the works of the law for salvation are under a curse and must keep all of them (Gal. 3:10; James 2:10). Of course, that is not something we can do because none of us are, nor will we ever be perfect.

While we may know the dangers of legalism, we may still find ourselves slipping into legalistic tendencies from time to time, which means it’s important we understand how to break free from legalism.

(1) We must know the signs of legalistic living

See my last two posts here and here.

(2) We must know and preach the true gospel to ourselves often.

Galatians is a book I often turn to when talking or teaching on the incompatibility of the gospel and legalistic thoughts and actions. I find Galatians helpful because Paul is specifically employing the gospel against legalism. Reading through the book, several big ideas come to light. Let’s explore those with an eye on the gospel and legalism.

A. The gospel tells us we are saved by grace and justified by faith (1:6-8; 2:15-21; 3:7-9; 10-14; 15-18; 5:2-6).

Salvation is an unmerited free gift of God. Our faith in Christ’s work, which is given to us by God (Eph. 2:8-9), makes us righteous, not our own work. At no time in the past, has our works ever been God’s plan of salvation. His plan has always been justification through faith.

Not understanding that we are saved by grace and justified by faith is particularly harmful because those who attempt to justify themselves through their own works must keep the whole Law, which they cannot do.

B. The gospel sanctifies us by providing us the Holy Spirit, changing our desires, and motivating us to live for God out of gratitude (2:19b-20; 3:2-3; 5:16-26).

We don’t grow by trying harder, isolating ourselves, disciplining ourselves, or getting down on ourselves, instead we grow through the gospel. One of the benefits of the gospel is the Holy Spirit. When we believe the gospel, the Holy Spirit takes up resident in our lives. It’s the Holy Spirit who makes us aware of the sin and idols in our lives, empowers us to battle them, and reminds us of the gospel so that we desire to please God out of gratitude.

As well as our desire for self-gain and control are crushed by the gospel as we are made a new creation, whose heart is changed. In this way, our obedience is no longer masked rebellion (we aren’t trying to control God or put Him in our debt), rather our obedience is done out of gratitude, which means it is pleasing and acceptable to God.

C. The gospel frees us to see legalism as slavery, and the gospel as freedom (2:4; 11-14; 3:22-26; 4:8-11; 4:21-5:1).

In the gospel, we are free from performance driven living, anxiety about acceptance, the need to please others, sin, satan, and death.

D. The gospel frees us to use the law for its intended purpose (2:19; 3:19-22).

The Law was designed to point us to our need for a Savior by showing us that we are unable to keep it at all points. Even the idea of sacrifices, which are built into the Law, are meant to point beyond ourselves to a future sacrifice which is final and complete. Standing on this side of the cross, we know that sacrifice to be Jesus.

The Law also acts a guide. As a guide, the Law tells us how we can flourish as a people and please God.

As well as the Law reveals to us God’s character and for what He cares. As His people, we should care about the same things as God, and we should long to learn more about His character.

Reflecting on the intended purpose of the Law allows us to delight in it instead of seeing it as oppressive and something to be rejected.

E. The gospel frees us to see ourselves for who we really are (4:1-7).

We are made righteous and accepted by God through our faith in Christ, not through our works. Being made righteous in Christ results in our adoption as Sons of God. As adopted sons, we are made heirs along with Christ.

F. The gospel frees us to love others instead of use them to make ourselves seem more righteous than we are (2:11-14; 3:27-29; 5:13-15).

The gospel kills the need for prejudice, racism, classicism, pride, and self-loathing, which makes it possible for us to truly love others and God.

G. The gospel frees us to live for God, not man (2:11-14).

We don’t have to work to keep a certain image because we are already accepted by God, which means we can confess sin, ask for prayer, and seek accountability.

(3) We must listen to and read gospel-centered resources.

We will naturally want to run to a works based salvation. One way to guard ourselves is to surround ourselves with those things that constantly draw us to the gospel instead of away from it. There are thousands of good gospel-centered resources available. Here are a few to get your started.

Books: See my book recommendations page for several resources that are near and dear to me.

Blogs: For the Church, The Gospel Coalition,, 9Marks, Ligioner Ministries, Albert Mohler, Desiring God

Podcasts: Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler, Acts 29The Austin Stone, Albert Mohler’s – The Briefing

(4) We must allow Scripture to guide our spiritual life, not our own or the world’s thoughts and ideas.

The Bible is where we must turn in order to learn how we are saved, how we are to live with God as our King, and what should motivate us to live as God has called us to live.

Question for Reflection

  1. What are some other ways to break free from legalism?