SANCTIFICATION: How?

- 2Cor.3.3-4

“…you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.”

Meaning: Preaching Christ faithfully, inscribes the Spirit upon the heart of the believer. We can be confident that the gospel of Christ works in this way among his people.

FAITH: To Live By

Romans 4:20-21 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, (21) fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

How lovely. This is the faith (confidence) the justified LIVE by. God can give us a strong faith (thru the word of Christ, by the Spirit) in God, that He can deliver on His promises (which flow from Christ, the Amen!). This is the faith that glorifies God. This is the faith wherein we are sanctified.

SLIPPING: Need Chains?

Where the Gospel “seems” to lose traction – failing to “improve” our lives – we are apt to apply the chains of the Law in some form.

However, the believer’s traction, in whatever degree God causes it, is never apart from the Gospel itself.  In our beholding the person and work of Christ, the treads of the Gospel grip upon our lives, causing our minds and hearts to genuinely love God and neighbor.

The treads of the Spirit leave the marks of the Gospel.  So, let’s hang those Law-chains where they belong…upon the Cross.

RIGHTEOUS: Trying to be?

I came across this recently in Piper’s book entitled Think.  In principle, this seems to apply quite well to believers, particularly as we struggle to live under grace and not the Law.

In relation to Rom.10.2-3…

“They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” 

Piper writes:

Here is the root of their suicidal zeal for God.  In all their thinking about God and his righteousness, they missed the main point – that it is a free gift for faith.  When they seek to establish their own righteousness, they are not submitting to the righteousness of God.  In fact, their effort to establish their own righteousness is rebellion and insubordination against the righteousness of God.  This is why they are not saved.

But you can hear the zealous kinsmen of Paul cry out in defense: “Wait a minute!  You do us entirely wrong.  It is precisely our efforts to establish righteousness in our lives that is our submission to God’s righteousness.  What else would subjection to God’s righteousness look like, except the zeal to establish righteousness in our lives so that it come into conformity to God’s righteousness?  What would you want us to do – be indifferent to whether we are righteous or not?”

But Paul says that when you live this way – when you labor to show yourself righteous so that God will accept you – you are not submitting to God’s righteousness; you are in rebellion against God.  Why?  Because God’s righteousness is a gift of free and sovereign grace, not a merited attainment by human effort – or even a Spirit-wrought performance of relative success in holiness (sanctification).  And since it is always and entirely a free gift, submission to it means receiving righteousness as a gift.

The way that gift comes is described in Rom.10.4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  All of God’s law was leading to Christ for righteousness for all who believe.  By faith we receive Christ.  And in Christ we have the righteousness of God.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor.5.21). This is what they were ignorant of, and therefore, Paul says, they had a zeal for God and were not saved.

…Paul’s kinsmen needed to see that the righteousness of God that they lacked was a free gift of that same grace.  It comes only through union with Christ by faith.  And when it comes, it brings in its train the power to love (Rom.13.8; Gal.5.6).

MATURITY: Christ-centered

A few insights into the nature of genuine spiritual maturity by Tullian T. (found here):

“It’s important to note that in these verses Paul doesn’t pray for something the Colossian Christians don’t have. Rather, he prays they will grow in their awareness and understanding of what they do have. Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Christian growth happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you do have.

“I used to think that when the Bible tells us to work out our salvation, it meant go out and get what you don’t have-get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, get more love, and so on. But after reading the Bible more carefully I now understand that real gospel fruit happens, not as we “work harder” but only as we continually rediscover the gospel. You could put it this way: rediscovering the gospel is the hard work we’re called to.

“You see, the secret of the gospel is that we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us. The irony of the gospel is that we actually perform better as we grow in our understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ’s performance for us, not our performance for him.

BOOK REVIEW: The Naked Gospel

AMAZON BOOK REVIEW:  The Naked Gospel

[The following is my own book review. mjm]

Please, listen closely to all reviews that deem this book as faulty! And, note well, how, what Farley is teaching bears upon the criticisms by others about this book.  Some will say: “The book is off-track!” This is exactly right…The Naked Gospel is far from the garden-variety preaching/teaching we all have been subject to within much of the church.

The Gospel remains a stumbling block for all those who would seek life apart from and not in Christ Jesus, himself.

Our default mode: LAW!

Thank you, Andrew, for laboring to bring to light the Truth of the Gospel…Jesus is Our righteousness, Our life, Our rest, Our Lord! And as Lord…he literally RULES in the lives of those who believe (take Him at his word, that, He is Life!).

I have lived long enough (within the realm of works-righteousness) and alongside others who do the same to see the truth of Scripture confirmed that man is incurably self-righteous (even when it appears “godly”).

Chief Problem: IDOLATRY!

As Christians, we exercise some of the most blatant forms of IDOLATRY. That is, mingling grace (God’s image-making) and works (Our image-making). Failing to give up on our own “image-making” project (fashioning ourselves into God’s image), while missing how it is that God in Christ (the expresses image of God) goes about making us into His image.

Every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is FULFILLED in Christ.
Ultimately, every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is DESCRIPTIVE of the work of Christ “for” and “in” us.

Man is innately most comfortable in his own image-making…being as God.

For those who can’t readily swallow naked (non-sugar-coated!) Gospel-Truth (even as a Believer!)…there remains a degree of blindness and deafness to the REALITIES of Christ as fulfillment of all shadows (The Law). We become what we behold! Blind, deaf, and dumb? Or, seeing, hearing, and praising?

Farley’s work here is a great beginning to our continuing to unpack the essence of Christ crucified and risen, the New Creation.

TRANSFORMATION: All Passive

Bill Mounce has an interesting blog entry here:  To Be Changed (Transformed)

The topic is Transformation.  Bill summarizes in saying,

“But notice what these four uses of μεταμορφοω all have in common: they are all passives. The power to change does not naturally well up from within us but is the gift and the work of God’s Spirit.”

It was previously asked: “But how does this transformation happen?”

Answer: “There are two clues (outside of Rom 12:2). Paul tells the Corinthians, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (μεταμορφουμεθα) into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).”

Well, at least two passages come to my own mind here:

1)   “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Mt 13:23)

2)   “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.  Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”   (2Cor 9:8-15)

Thus, we see that Paul does not forget what he stated earlier (2Cor 3.18) by the time he gets around to 2Cor 9.13.  The Gospel itself is the SOLE means that God uses to workout God’s image, Christ Jesus (2Cor 4.4), in us.  And in what measure?  As He sees fit… “some a hundredfold, another sixty, and in another thrity.”

Ours then is always but a “passive capacity” in the way of salvation.  God alone is the prime mover, the “active” Operator.  The Cross itself was and remains emblematic of our always needing God’s intervention of salvationing.

SANCTIFICATION: God to man (not the inverse)

Here is an interesting conversation by the folks over at Reformed Forum along with Richard Gaffin.  What is interesting (at least in my mind) is how difficult a time these brethren have in calling Sanctification a work that is ENTIRELY God’s. 

If you care to listen to only part of the conversation where they get into the ‘nitty-gritty,’ try listening from 40:00 min onward.

Gaffin makes two very interesting remarks:

1)   The ‘Guilt-Grace-Gratitude’ model that many within the Reformed camp hold to does not hold up under Scriptural scrutiny.

2)   Referring to G.C. Berkower (though there is angst in his doing so by the others), he expresses quite plainly that “good works” in sanctification are “not the way of man to God, but of God to man.”  Meaning, it is entirely a work of God.

Sadly, as things are wrapping up, the other fellows toss in two comments that are seemingly polar to what Gaffin just finished saying.  Nonetheless, Gaffin is cordial enough to leave it at that; not to say that he himself entirely avoids working man’s will back into the equation during the course of the conversation. 

 Anyway, check it out here:  Sanctification and the Gospel

Get over it…NOT!

Gerhard Forde wisely stated:

“In this life, we never quite get over grace, we never entirely grasp it, we never really learn it. It always takes us by surprise. Again and again we have to be conquered and captivated by its totality. The transition will never be completed this side of the grave. The Christian can never presume to be on the glory road, nor to reach a stage, which now forms the basis for the next stage, which can be left behind. The Christian who is grasped by the totality of grace always discovers the miracle anew. One is always at a new beginning. Grace is new everyday. Like the manna in the wilderness, it can never be bottled or stored. Yesterday’s grace turns to poison. By the same token, however, the Christian never has an endless process of sanctification to traverse. Since the totality is given, one knows that one has arrived. Christ carries the Christian totally.”

Christians, Partly Unbelievers

Mk.9.24. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

John Calvin, commenting on the text, stated:

“He declares that he believes, and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief.  These two statements may appear to contradict each other, but there is none of us that does not experience both of them in himself. As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers; but God forgives us, and exercises such forbearance towards us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith. It is our duty, in the meantime, carefully to shake off the remains of infidelity which adhere to us, to strive against them, and to pray to God to correct them, and, as often as we are engaged in this conflict, to fly to him for aid. If we duly inquire what portion has been bestowed on each, it will evidently appear that there are very few who are eminent in faith, few who have a moderate portion, and very many who have but a small measure.”

 

Kim Riddlebarger on Mark 9.24, goes on to say:

“Calvin had it right.  Because of indwelling sin, each one of us remains partly an unbeliever until we die. This means that we will constantly struggle with faith, doubt, and with indwelling sin. Remember that the law is written on our hearts. The gospel is not. This is why we need to continually hear the word preached, and why we need to receive the sacraments on a regular basis. When we do so, we are saying “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” This man’s words are very much our own–or they should be. This should be our confession….

 

“It is precisely because we are partly unbelievers that we need to hear the gospel…. As partial unbelievers, our faith is weak and we go about the motions without the power and blessing of God, we will fail. But in Jesus, we have every resource we will ever need, and that without limit or measure.”

 

“Jesus knows we are partly unbelievers. It is not the strength of faith, nor the intensity of faith, that he’s looking for. It is the presence of faith. He simply asks us to trust in him, and seek his power through prayer. And when we do so, everything is possible. But it is only possible when we confess, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

Reaching the Top and Depths w/ The Gospel

Elyse Fitzpatrick in an interview (re: Because He Loves Me):  “Simply put, I think that this is the most important book I’ve written because I’m finally writing about the One who is preeminent, Jesus Christ. I feel like much of my life has been spent pursuing godliness and encouraging others to do so while leaving Jesus behind. Not that I didn’t love him, just that I didn’t see how relevant he is to everything in my daily life.

“I can’t imagine ever writing on anything else again because once you’ve reached the pinnacle of God’s work in the world, what else is there to say? I’ve spent a good part of a year confining my thinking and reading (when not being silly or reading fiction!) to one topic: God’s love for us in Christ, and it’s transformed my heart. I can see how it’s been so easy for me to gloss over God’s love and move on to my responsibility, and I can see how deeply wrong that is.

Gospel Truth precedes Godliness

Gabriel Wilson once wrote: “I heartily with you regret the great decay of practical godliness, but wonder the less of it, seeing truth is a-going; and you may believe it is vain to talk of the recovery of religion in its practice and power, in order to the revival of truth, and setting matter of doctrine to rights, for this I humbly conceive is not the due order. It will be but a perfuming and supporting a dead carcase, or forcing water forth a flint, to essay (i.e., to perform or attempt something) holiness of heart and life, without the knowledge and belief of the truth.

The gospel is a doctrine according to godliness. The love of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth, are inseparable. The doctrine of Christ being once believed and received, then, and not till then, will godliness natively and inseparably result from, and accompany it; and this, if you look back, has been the blest order in all times of reformation in the church, the light of truth coming in, the Spirit of God coming along, making it effectual to change the hearts and lives of men. O that the Sun of righteousness would return, and rise on us with his life-giving, healing light and heat!”

Faith = Faced toward Christ!

John Owen once wrote:  “It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.”

Suffering “for” or “against” the Gospel?

Martin Downes wrote:  “It is a solemn thought that God can sustain his people when they suffer for the gospel so that they will not be ashamed of the testimony of their Lord. It is a solemn thought that Jesus Christ will make his enemies a footstool for his feet.”

 

 

Faith precedes and preserves Change

Bill Mounce wrote:  “In the New Covenant our old heart is removed and a new softer, pliable heart of flesh is put in its place. But if our heart is changed, is it possible for our lives also not to change? Of course not. Changed people live in a changed way. This is why judgment (outside of John) is always done on the basis of our lives (i.e., works). Our changed lives of obedience show the reality of the heart changed through faith. …This is the obedience of faith. It is an obedience that first shows itself in a response of faith, and an obedience that necessarily moves into a life of ever-increasing faithful obedience.”

Fix your eyes!

J.R. Miller once wrote: 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

Keeping the heart upon Christ–transfigures the life.

The old monks intently gazed upon the crucifix,
thinking that the print of the nails would come in their hands and feet, and the thorn-scars in their brow–as they gazed.

It was but an utter fiction–yet in the fiction there is a spiritual truth. Gazing by faith upon Christ–the lines of His beauty indeed imprint themselves on our hearts! That is the meaning of Paul’s words–”We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord–are transformed into the same image!”

The gospel is the mirror. There we see the image of Christ. If we earnestly, continuously, and lovingly behold it–the effect will be the changing of our own lives into His likeness. The transformation is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and we are only to behold, to before Christ–His image is imprinted on our soul.

Faith in Christ’s Faithfulness

Christian Cryder had written:

“Scripture repeatedly attributes sanctification to God, not man: “I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Lev 20:8; cf. Ex 31:13, Lev 21:8, Ez 20:12, etc).

“Jesus is said to be the author [justifier] and finisher [sanctifier] or our faith (Heb 12:2), and this truth is placed in the immediate context of the importance of faith (Heb 11), followed by a call to personal faith in Christ (“looking at Jesus…” in Heb 12:2). It is important to note that the author of Hebrews is speaking here to people who already believe. As believers, the way we draw near to Christ is “with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb 10:22), and our own confidence is repeatedly grounded in the faithfulness of Christ (Heb 10:23).

Continue reading……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Believing More and More Deeply

Christian Cryder:   “[O]ur hearts are sanctified (changed, perfected) only as we repeatedly embrace the gospel in faith. Luther offers an analogy from marriage: faith is the wedding ring which unites us to Christ; by it he inherits all that is ours (sin, unrighteousness), and we inherit all that is his (glory, righteousness). Our desires are transformed as we focus on Christ’s magnificent, ravishing love for us.

“Tim Keller sees in this the fundamental dynamic for Christian living: “We are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our mind, heart, and life by believing the gospel more and more deeply as our life goes on.” The reality of my union with Christ funds my spiritual change; the indicative drives the imperative. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this truth. We clean ourselves up, then, not be trying harder or by doing good works, but by believing God’s promises more and more.

“It is important to note that this concept of sanctification by faith is fundamentally biblical. As Dr. Richard Gaffin says, “What faith will always understand is that the path of sanctification has on it the same signposts as the path for justification – grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”