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Jesu, Juva

Posts Tagged ‘sin

Better

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

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

Lauterbach on censoriousness

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Mark Lauterbach has just finished an excellent series on censoriousness, which he defines (from Jonathan Edwards) as “a disposition to think evil of others.” Lauterbach shares thoughts from Edwards and himself on this sinful tendency.

Isn’t God holy? Yes, but then I reflect on how my Lord critiques me
and I think of Ps 130 — if the Lord numbered our sins, who could stand?
But he does not — he is patient and selective and gentle with us.

This series has six posts:

  1. Censorious thoughts, 1, introduction;
  2. Censorious thoughts, 2, on pride;
  3. Censorious thoughts, 3, also on pride;
  4. Censorious thoughts, 4, on receiving criticism;
  5. Censorious thoughts, 5, on love; and
  6. Censorious thoughts, final, on encouraging and supporting the work of the Spirit.

Toplady on mercy, first and last

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A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
I come with Your righteousness on, my humble offering to bring.
The judgments of Your holy law with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which Your goodness began, the arm of Your strength will complete;
Your promise is yes and amen, and never was forfeited yet.
The future or things that are now, no power below or above,
Can make You Your purpose forgo, or sever my soul from Your love.

My name from the palms of Your hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on Your heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes I to the end will endure, until I bow down at Your throne;
Forever and always secure, a debtor to mercy alone.

— Augustus Toplady, A Debtor to Mercy Alone, as modified by Bob Kauflin

Bavinck on Christian warfare

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We may not be a sect. We may not want to be one, and we cannot be one, except by a denial of the absolute character of the truth. Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is not of this world. But it does demand that everything in this world serve it. It is exclusive and jealous, and it will indulge no independent or neutral kingdom of the world alongside of itself. Naturally, it would be much easier to leave this age to its own ways, and to seek our strength in a quiet withdrawal. No such rest, however, is permitted to us here. Because every creature is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, since all things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, therefore the rejection of any creature were ingratitude to God, a misjudgment or under-evaluation of His goodness and His gifts. Our warfare may be conducted against sin alone. No matter how complicated the relationships may be, therefore, in which the confessors of Christ are placed in this time, no matter how serious, difficult, and virtually insurmountable the social, political, and especially the scientific problems may be, it were faithlessness and weakness in us proudly to withdraw from the struggle, perhaps even under the guise of Christian motivation, and to reject the culture of the age as demonic.

— Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, p. 10.

HT: Nathan

What Doug Wilson learned in Narnia

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Doug Wilson has written a series of posts on what he learned in the land of Narnia:

He writes,

I have learned far more in Narnia than I can ever begin to explain, and so all I am going to try to do here is give you a small taste of some of the more important lessons I learned there. I hope that readers of these small sketches will be able to do what I have done, and read these books over and over for the rest of their lives. Each reading offers additional wisdom, but the wisdom is never simplistic—rather it is richly textured, reflecting the many different sources of Lewis’ insight.

Consider his reflections on Lewis’s wisdom, and let it inspire you to reread the books!