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Quotes by C.J. Mahaney


Because we are the most forgiven people in the world, we should be the most forgiving people in the world.


When insufficiently convicted of our sin, we do not really confess and ask forgiveness. Instead we explain, excuse, and appeal for understanding.


Justification is being declared righteous. Sanctification is being made righteous. Justification is objective and a unilateral act of God; it relates to our position before God. Sanctification is subjective and a process in which we are daily involved; it relates to our practice before God. Justification is complete, total, and immediate at the moment of conversion. Sanctification is progressive, beginning at the moment we are converted and continuing until the moment we go to be with the Lord. These two doctrines are distinct, yet inseparable, for God never justifies without also sanctifying.


On the whole, the popular Christian literature I have reviewed locates the source of our problems far more readily in one’s parents, one’s past, and one’s pain than in one’s pervasive depravity.  Unless you have a firm grounding in biblical teaching, these materials will surely convince you that low self-esteem and unmet needs are the problem, not indwelling sin.


Once regenerated, we are delivered from the penalty of sin and from the authoritative power of sin, but not from the continued presence and influence of sin. Sin is no longer reigning, but it is remaining.


It’s a striking fact that every New Testament passage discussing the role of a wife in relation to her husband requires her to submit to him (Eph. 5;22-24; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1; Titus 2:5), while no passage indicates that a husband should be subordinate to his wife. Any honest reading of Scripture must conclude that a wife is commanded to submit to her husband.


Much suffering in the life of the church is a mystery. We must be comfortable with the mystery. We must allow God to have His secrets in our suffering.


[People] need their best theology in their darkest moments.


A pastoral pulse is forged in the crucible of suffering.


There is no miracle greater than the miracle of regeneration.


Every practice and every game is an opportunity to lead our children. Often, as parents, we think we have fulfilled our duty by simply attending our children’s games and cheering. Not so! We are called to so much more. Informed by the gospel, we are called to lead our children wisely. Before the game, this [means] preparing them to keep biblical priorities in mind while they play. After the game, this [means] celebrating their expressions of godly character more than we celebrate their skill for the final score. Every moment our children spend in sports is a teaching moment.


Today, the greatest challenge facing American evangelicals is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world.


Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God. In other words, a legalist is anyone who behaves as if they can earn God’s approval and forgiveness through personal performance.


“We think with our feelings,” Sinclair Ferguson has said. It’s true. We allow our feelings to guide our thinking and we shouldn’t. Emotions are a wonderful gift from God. And our relationship with God should bring to our lives strong godly affections. However, our emotions shouldn’t be vested with final authority. This should be reserved for God’s Word alone.


Sanctification is a process – the process of becoming more like Christ, of growing in holiness. This process begins the instant you are converted and will not end until you meet Jesus face-to-face. Sanctification is about our own choices and behavior. It involves work.  Empowered by God’s Spirit, we strive. We fight sin. We study Scripture and pray, even when we don’t feel like it. We flee temptation. We press on; we run hard in the pursuit of holiness. And as we become more and more sanctified, the power of the gospel conforms us more and more closely, with ever-increasing clarity, to the image of Jesus Christ.


Some might find it surprising that I would teach my nine-year-old about God’s wrath toward sin. But I find it surprising that any loving person would withhold this truth from another person they love. Because only when we understand God’s wrath toward sin can we realize that we need to be saved from it. Only when we hear the very bad news that we’re deserving of judgment can we appreciate the very good news that God has provided salvation through His Son.


When I become bitter or unforgiving toward others, I’m assuming that the sins of others are more serious than my sins against God. The cross transforms my perspective. Through the cross I realize that no sin committed against me will ever be as serious as the innumerable sins I’ve committed against God. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it’s not difficult to forgive others.


The implications of legalism are staggering in their arrogance. Legalism claims that the death of Jesus on the cross was either unnecessary or insufficient. It essentially says to God, “Your plan didn’t work. The cross wasn’t enough and I need to add my good works to it to be saved.”


Legalism involves seeking forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God through obedience to God. Legalism is substituting, in essence, my works for Jesus’ finished work.  Legalism is self-atonement and the height of arrogance.  It’s living as if the cross of Christ was unnecessary or insufficient.


Only the person who understands that the cross is the center of all human history can understand the Old Testament. Through the lens of the gospel, the Bible truly becomes one book telling one story: the story of sinful man, a holy God, and His plan of salvation through the substitution of Himself for His people.


Here’s how to beat condemnation.  Confess your sin to God.  Then believe in Him.  Exercise the gift of faith that God has given you to believe that Jesus died for the very sins you’re being condemned for.  The punishment He received was for you.  His resurrection is proof that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice.  The sins of your past and the sin you just committed were all atoned for; you need carry their weight no more.


Three main tendencies that can draw our hearts away from the centrality of the gospel:

1. Legalism, which means basing our relationship with God on our performance.

2. Condemnation, which means being more focused on our sin than on God’s grace.

3. Subjectivism, which means basing our view of God on our changing feelings and emotions.


Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity. It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned. It’s only when we receive his free gift of grace and live in the good of total forgiveness that we’re able to turn from old, sinful ways of living and walk in grace-motivated obedience.


It has been noted that every passage of Scripture – whether it’s in the Old or New Testament – either predicts, prepares for, reflects, or results from the work of Christ. 


Here’s the mistake the legalist makes. He confuses his own ongoing participation in the process of sanctification with God’s finished work in justification.  In other words, he thinks that godly practices and good works somehow contribute to his justification. But God’s Word is clear when it says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law…” (Romans 3:20). None of us earn God’s approval and love by our good works. None of us can add to the finished, complete work of Jesus on the cross. He paid the price of our sins.  He satisfied God’s wrath… The legalist allows his performance of spiritual duties to become his preoccupation and source of self-righteous pride. In doing so, he unwittingly walks away from the main thing – the gospel.


Nothing else is of equal importance. The message of the cross is the Christian’s hope, confidence, and assurance. Heaven will be spent marveling at the work of Christ, the God-Man who suffered in the place of us sinners.


On a daily basis we’re faced with two simple choices. We can either listen to ourselves and our constantly changing feelings about our circumstances, or we can talk to ourselves about the unchanging truth of who God is and what He’s accomplished for us at the cross. Far too often we choose to passively listen to ourselves. We sit back and let our view of God and life be shaped by our constantly shifting feelings about our ever-changing circumstances.

Recommended Books

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know

C.J. Mahaney and Carolyn Mahaney

Humility: True Greatness

C.J. Mahaney

The Cross-Centered Life

C.J. Mahaney

The (Unadjusted) Gospel

Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler and C.J. Mahaney