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Jesu, Juva

Posts Tagged ‘holiness

Better

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“God has better plans for you than an easy life and victories to follow victories.” — Daniel Baker

J. C. Ryle on denying yourself

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Joshua Harris quotes J. C. Ryle on self-denial:

Are you making any sacrifices? Does your religion cost you anything? I put it to your conscience in all affection and tenderness. Are you, like Moses, preferring God to the world, or not? Are you willing to give up anything which keeps you back from God, or are you clinging to the Egypt of the world, and saying to yourself, “I must have it, I must have it: I cannot tear myself away”? Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? Or is all smooth and rounded off, and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion? Do you know anything of the afflictions of the gospel? Is your faith and practice ever a subject of scorn and reproach? Are you thought a fool by anyone because of your soul? Have you left Pharaoh’s daughter, and heartily joined the people of God? Are you venturing all on Christ? Search and see. —J.C. Ryle, Holiness

Conviction and the cure

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My pastors have been preaching through Exodus, and just finished ten weeks in the ten commandments. They have done an incredible job of helping us to feel the weight and glory of God’s holiness; but without letting us forget that the law sits on the bedrock foundation of the gospel (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you . . . out of the house of slavery”), and that our reading of the law absolutely must be infused with gospel hope.

Yet it is still so tempting for me to hear such a message and nurse my conviction, without really going any farther. Perhaps I resolve to change some things, but in reality my ears are tuning out the very gospel hope and power that are the only way I can possibly move beyond conviction. Mark Lauterbach critiques his sermons on this point, but we should also critique our listening — are our ears tuned in to savor conviction, or savor the gospel:

Is conviction of sin the measure of a sermon? … I used to notice that people would give me the most response to a sermon that was the most demanding. “Oh Pastor, that was such a wonderful sermon, I was so very convicted.” Should I have found this encouraging?

[But] while conviction is a gift to us, it is always conviction to lead people to the cross. I know the arguments about people needing to be slain by the law — and agree that awareness of need of forgiveness is crucial. But if I leave them there, I have not been faithful to the Savior. Conviction should drive people to the cross — and they should leave with hope toward the Savior.

We want to welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent, but we shouldn’t get off the bus there. Our conviction should drive us to look upward to our Savior rather than inward on our sin; the gospel is our only hope and power for forgiveness and for real change.

How do we make that something more than a mantra? How can we practically seize this gospel power to change? Here are some regular practices that can strengthen our faith and empower our obedience; please comment to add more:

  1. Regularly recount the gospel to ourselves, thanking God that our sins are completely forgiven and that we approach him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  2. Regularly acknowledge that whatever success we have in obedience is a gift from God.
  3. Regularly pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to change, knowing that this grace and help will surely be given to us because of the cross.
  4. Remind ourselves of the reasons that we should obey. Regularly feed our souls with these truths as a way of provoking joyful, grateful, faith-filled obedience:
    1. God is my creator, and he is good; he knows what is best for me.
    2. True and lasting joy are only found in God and in pleasing him; these idols that I cling to cannot compare to God’s glory and beauty and goodness and joy.
    3. God has saved me from condemnation and wrath, and my gratitude at this precious gift should overflow in obedience.
    4. God is my loving father and I should reflect his character.
    5. Christ has purchased my very life with his blood and I should reflect his character.
    6. The Holy Spirit indwells me and empowers me to reflect Christ’s character.
  5. Read books that fuel our appreciation for the gospel and our love for God, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life, C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life, and John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God (download, purchase).

Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch

Piper on justification and sanctification

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“The only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin”:

All the sins of God’s people, past, present and future, are forgiven because of the death of Christ once for all. . . . This justification on the basis of Christ’s death for us is the foundation of sanctification — not the other way around. I put it like this: the only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin. Without a once-for-all justification through Christ, the only thing that our striving for holiness produces is despair or self-righteousness.

But I did not say that the work of God in justification makes the work of God in sanctification optional. I didn’t say (the Bible doesn’t say) that forgiveness makes holiness optional. It doesn’t make it optional, it makes it possible. What we will see today is that the God who justifies also sanctifies. The faith that justifies also satisfies — it satisfies the human heart and frees it from the deceptive satisfactions of sin. Faith is the expulsive power of a new affection (Thomas Chalmers). That is why justification and the process of sanctification always go together. They both come from the same faith. Perfection comes at the end of life when we die or when Christ returns, but the pursuit of holy living begins with the first mustard seed of faith. That’s the nature of saving faith. It finds satisfaction in Christ and so is weaned away from the satisfactions of sin.

— John Piper, God Sanctifies His People