FAITH: Thru the Spirit by Faith

God’s ways work God’s way:

Spirit of God is received by hearing with faith (Gal.3.2);

Spirit of God is supplied by hearing with faith (Gal.3.5);

Spirit of God is received by faith (Gal.3.14);

through the Spirit of God, by faith, we remain focused upon Christ (Gal.5.5);

in this way God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal.4.6);

and it is by this very Spirit we will be made to walk (Gal.5.16),

bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5.22).

So then, by faith, we both live by and walk by the Spirit (Gal.5.25).

Or, as Paul says elsewhere, it is by faith in Christ that the righteous shall live (Gal.3.11).

Having begun (justification) in the Spirit, we continue (sanctification) in the Spirit, and finish (glorification) in the Spirit (Gal.3.3).

Whereas, the Law (striving by/under it) isn’t of faith (Gal.3.12)!!!

DOGMATISM: Flesh-beat-en(-ing)

A thought or two regarding Fundamentalism.

A leading characteristic of Fundamentalism would be Dogmatism.  This is really nothing more than a Letter-driven (as opposed to Spirit-driven (Gospel-based and -contextualized)) approach.  Instead of a ‘faith’ in Christ orientation, the Dogmatist’s way is generally one rooted in ‘fear’ – though lip service is paid to the Gospel.  The latter has a way of *driving* sheep (the believer, the local church) this-way-and-that, whereas the former sees the Gospel ministry as one of *guiding* the sheep in the Way (in faith toward Christ…for all of salvation…sanctification included). 

Here’s what I’m getting at… anything that is said/done in the name of Christ that isn’t consciously and intentionally – rooted and grounded in the Gospel – is something other than a Gospel ministry, no matter how “moral”/”biblical” it sounds.  Ours is not to be “biblical” but “Christian” and I think we can be found standing in the former without possessing the latter necessarily.  We are not then to be found in Moses seat (Mt.23.2).  Subscription to “biblical norms” does not mean one is clinging in faith to Christ for each and every aspect of salvation…including His growing us up grace and knowledge of Him (i.e., sanctification, godliness). 

Paul puts it this way…there are those of us who “have the form (appearance) of godliness, but essentially deny its power” (2Tim.3.5).  For godliness is not ours to strive after as some commodity on the shelf that is just there for our taking, but the very working of God in us a faith and love, that, consistently beholds Christ’s righteousness/godliness (1Tim.1.4), and are thereby sovereignly and progressively brought into the likeness of His Image (2Cor.3.18).  In this way, Paul thought of Christ as our sanctification (1Cor.1.30).  The Gospel itself (the truth about Christ’s incarnation, righteousness, death, resurrection, and ascension…His doing not ours) is the only thing whereby God brings about the peaceable fruits of righteousness among His people (Phil.1.11; Col.1.6).

In other words, the Flesh can strive in form and yet never connect to the Source…Christ crucified and risen (Rom.8.3-15).  How we answer the following betrays our actual stance toward God and our brother:  “Are disciples of Christ made by 1) inputting the right commands, or are they 2) fashioned by beholding (Christ’s glory in the scandal of the Cross) and thereby found living in the Way?”

As I’ve said before…fundamentalism is readily found wherever people are finding their hope to be in their law-keeping and not Christ’s (even where we don’t do this in regards to justification, but more so sanctification). This is true of even we who claim to embrace the doctrines of grace.  A sounder grasp of the relationship of the Law/Gospel (particularly what the two have to do with Christ himself) genuinely and lastingly keeps things in a Christian perspective.

Just two cents worth.

MUSING: Less is More

A few random thoughts from this past week (or two) loosely tied together: 

We all are wired for self-righteousness, regardless of what form it most manifests itself in…legalism or licentiousness.  Fact is, we as believers will always (this side of Glory) struggle with what we do RIGHT and WRONG, both.  Granted, daily we’re faced with our own shortcomings.  Yet, Mr. RIGHT has the same fundamental problem…SELF-righteousness.  Either way, Christ’s righteousness is always alien.  But for His ongoing graciousness, we’d have ZERO participation in the Kingdom.  ZERO! 

Do not kid yourself for a moment, brethren; all of us are struggling to live according to faith in Christ.  He who does not think so is the greater fool.  Faith does not come as a commodity we pull off the shelf at Wal-Mart.  So yes, there are God given means to His giving/sustaining/nurturing us in faith, but the measure too is His, not only the means

As someone once said, our growing in grace is about our becoming more realistic (honest) about our being human.  Becoming a Christian is about our no longer “being as gods”.  It is tough for us (and understandably so) to get very comfortable with ourselves, even in Christ.  The entirety of our days are spent laboring according to a performance model.  No labor, no pay!  Yet, the whole of the Christian Faith is hinged on an entirely different model…Christ crucified for sinners (which we remain while here).  So, daily we struggle between (confusing) the two, on top of the fact that the world goes round and round like this, we have a natural inclination to perform and be stroked for doing so.  God’s plan is different.  He does all the essential work!  He does all the salvationing.

So then, let us not get bogged down in wondering too long, about how self-righteous we might still be.  ALL of us are Selfish and everyday this kills us; and boy does it ever hurt.  I hate it!   

I hope that anyone who hears me is reminded of at least two things: 1) God saves, and 2) We are sinners (and we never quite get over either one).  

The world (and sadly much of the Church) hates it when we say…screw that idea of our “measuring up!”  Christ is our measure and may this – by His mercy – become something central in our lives.  We who hate this have a common response: “What, aren’t you going to do anything?!”  NO.  NO.  NO.  HE HAS!  Get over it!  God help us to think in this way without lacking due charity.

The equation then is this: 

Less = More  (< = >). 

Less of us, and the totality of Christ! 

Christ then is our YES! YES! YES!

Depths: Of Sorrow and Joy

Octavius Winslow once wrote:

 “As our deepest sorrow flows from a sense of sin, so our deepest joy springs from a sense of its forgiveness…This comfort have all the saints. Your sins, O believer, are forgiven. ‘I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins,’ says God (Isa. 44:22). You are not called upon to believe that God will pardon, but that He has pardoned you. Forgiveness is a past act; the sense of it written upon the conscience is a present one. ‘For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified’ (Heb. 10:14), has forever put away their sins…

“Thus, beloved, God comforts His conscience-troubled people. He loves so to speak to their hearts! Is it any delight to Him to see you carrying your burden of conscious sin day after day and week after week? Ah, no! He has procured the means of your pardon at a great price-nothing less than the sacrifice of His beloved Son- and will not the same love which procured your forgiveness, speak it to your heart?…Is sin your trouble? Does conscious guilt cast you down? Look up, disconsolate soul! There is forgiveness with God. It is in His heart to pardon you.”

Assurance: Christ Centered (not yoU-turned)

John Piper once said:

“Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed from one degree of glory to the next,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18. And we see the glory of the Lord, as he says five verses later, in the knowledge of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

“So fixing our minds and our hearts mainly on the center of the Bible—which is Christ crucified, risen, reigning, and providing an alien righteousness that we have by faith alone—this glorious center of the gospel is where hope is awakened, preserved, kindled, and assurance is maintained.

Gospel: ‘A’ or ‘Z’ (all or zilch)

Horatius Bonar once wrote:

“The truth is, that all that Christ did and suffered, from the manger to the tomb, forms one glorious whole, no part of which shall ever become needless or obsolete; no past of which can ever leave without forsaking the whole. I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that “He is not here, but is risen”; always resting (with the angel) on the stone that was rolled away, and handling the grave-clothes, and realizing a risen Christ, nay, an ascended and interceding Lord, yet on no pretext whatever leaving any part of my Lord’s life or death behind me, but unceasingly keeping up my connection with Him, as born, living, dying, buried, and rising again, and drawing out from each part some new blessing every day and hour.

Faith: Greatest Grace!

John Owen once wrote:

“Wherefore we say, the faith whereby we are justified, is such as is not found in any but those who are made-partakers of the Holy Ghost, and by him united unto Christ, whose nature is renewed, and in whom there is a principle of all grace, and purpose of obedience. Only we say, it is not any other grace, as charity and the like, nor any obedience, that gives life and form unto this faith; but it is this faith that gives life and efficacy unto all other graces, and form unto all evangelical obedience.

“…if it be intended that they are such a condition of the covenant as to be by us performed antecedently unto the participation of any grace, mercy, or privilege of it, so as that they should be the consideration and procuring cause of them, – that they should be all of them, as some speak, the reward of our faith and obedience, – it is most false, and not only contrary to express testimonies of Scripture, but destructive of the nature of the covenant itself.