Category Archives: sanctification

Be Killing Sin? But How?

One frequently hears “Be killing sin or it will be killing you…” I know that it is attributed to John Owen, but I don’t know the context.

Without anything else, it is pretty despairing, isn’t it. How does one go about killing sin?

What knife to you use to circumcise the foreskin of the heart?

Do you cut off the arm that offends? Pluck out the eye that offends?

Where do you stop cutting?

Do we kill sin by amputation?

Do we exercise more will-power? How do we do that when our will is also fallen?

Do we offer expensive sacrifices like Cain?

Ten- thousand rivers of oil? Our firstborn children?

I’m being genuine here. As Christians and as humans we all want to do better. We all long for the day that we will be free from sin. I truly want to kill sin in me…most of the time…

I know that sin is deadly and an offence against a holy God.

I know the hurt that I have caused in others.

And I try to kill it. I have many decades of resolve. And many decades of broken resolve.

Kill sin? Will someone tell me how?

Or do I follow what Paul said –

” O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 7:24-8:1)

I don’t know how to kill the sin in me. Crush it out, Lord Jesus. I kill sin by bringing my heart to you. It is safe in your hands.

I will wait on the watchtower, longing for your return.

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Whoever loves their life…

Whether you have been a believer your whole life, or whether you are a new convert, there will come a time when the Bible will cut you to the heart.

God still says, “Adam, where are you?” and invites you to come out of hiding and stand before Him.

The Bible has a way of confronting your deepest identity, your deepest held convictions, your deepest secrets and hurts.

It puts the finger right on who you are and who you think you are, because who you are is a child in the image of Adam. And who you are called to be is a child of God in Christ. That means that Adam must go, so that who you were made to be might live.

You can’t get there if you never put to death the old man. That guy has to die.

And that is painful. It cuts to the heart. The scripture reveals your secrets and says, “Nail this to the cross.” It isn’t just those things that you do; it is the things that you are. Sanctification is only finished when we die. Only our death can finally put to death this body of death. But the little deaths, the taking up our crosses, must be daily. Jesus said that.

So the confrontation will come.

It will come in a sermon. It will come in your reading. It will come in your memories.

But it will come. The Holy Spirit will see to that.

What you do when it comes will be a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, mostpeople attack the messenger. Mostpeople won’t go there. Mostpeople will conclude that the “preacher is wicked. The bible has errors. That guy’s a jerk. That isn’t the Jesus I know…”

The alternative is just too hard. I like that old guy. He comforts me if I ignore the voice of all those that I have trampled in my push to be a god.

But if you go through the painful process of taking up the cross and hearing the thundering voice of the Word of God confronting everything you thought was right and normal and good, you will find your life.

If you want to hold on to “your life” – your life, your values, your identity, everything that you believe you are – the only possible result is death. You will think that you gained everything, but in the process you ironically lose yourself.

You must be born again to even see the kingdom of God. And that means that the old man must die.

Not gonna lie. That hurts like hell. Because it is hell, and it has to go. Your pride cannot take you into the kingdom of God.

(Luke 9:23-25)  23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
  24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
  25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

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Filed under Gospel, growth, sanctification

Instead of “purity culture”

For decades now, Youth Group generally involves some 2o something dude, who may or may not be a little bit creepy, telling kids about staying “pure” until marriage, avoiding the world’s music and movies, what swimsuits girls should wear, and that boys should “bounce” their eyes so as not to ensnared by the inevitable lust.

We lived in terror of our children becoming worldly, so we amped up the pressure, laid down the law, covered everything up and valiantly warred against the flesh.

And we are now reaping the results. Not so good.

What we were actually doing, according to the scripture, was catering to the flesh, believing that righteousness would come by the law. And we are reaping the results of sowing. It is a pretty ugly crop, and exactly what God said it would be:

(Galatians 6:7-8)  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Everyone has the deep desire, the idolatry to seek to purify themselves. We insist that we can fix our own problems if we just apply the right technique. The Bible calls this “the flesh”, and nowhere was that more evident than in the “purity culture” of the past decades.

All we have accomplished is increased guilt and shame, fueling greater and greater lusts seeking to overcome guilt and shame, which in turn increases guilt and shame even more. We have given our children no tools whatsoever in the battle against the prince of the power of the air, and we have reaped the whirlwind. Despair and death reign, for we made a covenant with death and turned our back on the Lord of life.

Look at your own experience. If you went to youth group, did you hear more about the evils of Harry Potter, exposed collar bones, swimsuits that exposed the tummy and the dangers of lust?

Or did you hear about the Lord of glory, dying for your sin? How he took upon himself our shame and guilt? How he is softly and tenderly calling you into his arms?

Did you learn all about your wrong choices? Or did you learn about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who has broken the bands of death so that we might live forever before him?

So here are some things that I think are far better things for our youth to learn. Let’s start teaching these things instead of “purity culture.”

  • Boys and girls are created by God. They have dignity and worth as image-bearers of God.
  • Minds and souls and personalities and gifts are wonderful things and ought to be celebrated and honored.
  • But mankind is fallen. We have corrupted ourselves because we wanted to be gods and serve only ourselves. So now we are lonely, miserable, isolated, shamed, guilty, because we were not made to serve ourselves. We were made to reflect another.
  • But God loves his creation and doesn’t want anyone to perish. So he sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem us from the bondage of lusts and shame and guilt and misery.
  • His goal in sending his Son was not that you might continue to live in shame, but that you might be free and clean and holy and dressed in his righteousness alone, worthy and acceptable in his sight.
  • And now God is calling us all to lay down our weapons. Lay down our demands to serve ourselves, and come home.
  • Whatever we have done, and whatever others have done to us, in Jesus’ sight, you are not filthy, unclean, dirty, unwanted, unloved.
  • You can stand before him exactly as you are. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You don’t have to hide. He already knows. He knows what you have done. He knows what was done to you. He knows your hurts. He knows the dark, secret places; he knows where the cancer is and he desires to take it on himself and nail it to his cross.
  • And he desires that you simply come to him. He wants you to take that guilt and shame that you have been carrying around, and leave it with him. He looks right at you and says, “Do you want to be healed?”
  • And he wants you to receive what only he can give you – a clean conscience. Purity. Worthiness. Dignity.
  • You are worth it. He fights for justice for you and will make every crooked path straight. You can leave that with him.
  • You are worth it, for he died and rose for you.
  • You are worth it, for you are not a ruined flower, you are not a dirty person, you are not whatever wicked men have said you were. You are in Christ. A dearly loved son or daughter. Accepted in the beloved.
  • You are not your own, but belong to your faithful savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all your sins and redeemed you from all the power of the devil, and so preserves you that without the will of your Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from your head. In fact, all things must work together for your salvation. Therefore by his Holy Spirit, he also assures you of eternal life and makes you heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto him.
  • Wow. I am loved. Valuable. With dignity. With honor – because I am not my own, but belong to my Savior.

Can you imagine how different our lives would be and the lives of our children would be if we (and they) understood and believed these things?

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Filed under modesty, sanctification, Sin and Grace

Come to me and rest

13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying:`Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. (Exo 31:13)

If I did more, maybe I will be worthy of love. If I accomplished more, maybe I can leave a mark and not go down into the void.

If I worked harder, maybe people would like me more. If I wasn’t so lazy, perhaps I could get my father’s approval. If only I could have a few more hours, a few more moments, a little more strength…

If only I didn’t just spend an extra hour today resting, maybe I could have accomplished something…

It is subtle, but it looks just like the so-called puritan work ethic. Lazy boys starve and are cast away. Stupid boys are beaten and mocked. We’re just a little better than that. Read McGuffey. How will your kids learn Latin if you don’t work harder. That Ezekiel 4:9 bread won’t make itself. If you don’t work harder, your family might have to eat store-bought.

Stay vigilant. Don’t mess up. Don’t slack off. Even on the Lord’s day. God hates idleness. You are supposed to be taking a Sabbath, not slacking off. This is what makes this country great. Hard work, hard men. Let the others slack off. We’ve got work to do.

Don’t miss a trick. Don’t miss an opportunity. Pull up your man-pants and do more, do it harder, do it better. How will you get to college if you don’t get straight A’s. Slackers don’t win and losers don’t need to apply.

Perhaps if you weren’t such a lazy slacker, you could get God to pay attention to you. Perhaps if you weren’t so stupid and slow and good-for-nothing, you would be worthy of love…

 

And to all of these hateful voices, God says, “Stop.

“Take a rest. A Sabbath. You no longer work for the Egyptians. You no longer are a slave to sin. You no longer have to pretend to earn my favor. Child….rest.

“I commanded you to keep my Sabbaths so that you will learn that I the Lord sanctify you.”

I sanctify you…think of those words. Jesus himself pours his water over your head and cleanses you. His blood covers your sins from the sight of God. His righteousness fits your body perfectly. Your body – he made it. He made your mouth, he made your lips. He gave you your words, your speech, your tongue.

He knows that you are dust. This is why you don’t have to work for his favor. He knows you can’t. He carries you. He clothes you. He covers you. It is his pure water that washes all of the filth away.

Just rest, child of God. Just rest. One day in seven.

Silence those voices that tell you that 6 days and 24 hours a day are not enough. He knows you are dust, and need a rest. Buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and take a day. No dishes. No cooking. No cleaning. And just rest. Stop.

God gave this day to you, so that you would know that your Father loves you and knows that you are finite, weak, and human. Your bones need rest. You need rest.

Just stop. One day. Not a work that you do to earn God’s favor, but just stop and rest in his love. He sanctifies you.

25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
28 “Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Eze 36:25-28)

 

This is the Sabbath of God. The Pharisees turned it into a work to do to keep God from killing you. If you do it purely enough, then maybe God will leave you alone.

They missed everything. God gave the Sabbath so that man would know that Jesus is coming. He pours the water. He sheds the blood. He gives the Spirit. He gives rest to the weary soul.

And he gave us very practical instructions. One day in seven, rest. God gives you your daily bread. Your significance is found only in Christ. Your name is already written in the book of life. Your sins are already put away.

You already have God’s approval in Christ. How could you gain more? You already have treasure stored up for you in heaven. How could you gain more.

So rest. Let that email go for today. Let that phone ring for today. This is your day – God has given it to you. It is the Lord’s day, for he has risen from the dead. But he rose from the dead so that you could rest.

Rest, child. Let it go. Put it off. Gather with God’s people. Listen to the Lord grant you grace and peace. Sing praises to him. Pour out your heart to him.

Raise your voice to heaven. Watch the baptismal waters flow and remember that he has cleansed you from all sin.

Taste the bread and drink the wine and remember that his body was broken and his blood shed for you. For you.

So you can rest under his wings.

Rest.

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Filed under sabbath, sanctification

Random thoughts on Sola Fide

In no particular order – just wanted to get these down somewhere.

  • From my conception to my last breath I will never do one work that can stand before the judgment throne of God.
  • If I was given a glass of water that only had a little poison in it, I would still refuse it. There is no such thing as “sort of pure”. If there is even one drop of sin in what I do, it isn’t holy. Holy is clean, pure, with no admixture of uncleanness. All that I do, though, is mixed with sin. If I reject that, then my works are also mixed with pride. God hates pride.
  • Think about this (not directions on how to live, but what it says about Christ:
  • 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;
    26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
    27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. (Eph 5:25-27 NAS)

    Do you see that? Sanctification is a promise of God, given to the bride of Christ out of love. Sanctification is not a duty we perform, it is a promise we receive, long for, and trust in.

    It is Christ who does it. He cleanses, he purifies, he covers. He prepares his bride for the consummation.

  • Christ sanctifies his people through the means of grace: the word, the sacrament, the local body of believers, prayer.
  • If my sanctification depended on me, I would either be in continual despair, or become an expert in self-deception.
  • Those in despair seek out gurus to tell them how to live, how to act, how to use their money. They will give all that they have to assure themselves that they will be OK come the judgment day. But they will always know that it isn’t enough. They will never desire God enough. They will never submit enough. They will never be clean enough.
  • This is why Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  • The reason that God strictly commands us to keep his commandments is to remind us continually of our sinful nature, so that we will never rely upon our own works for our salvation, but that we instead will continually cry out for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. Without me, you can do nothing.”
  • And how do you abide in Christ? Faith alone. Sola fide. If you add even one work as the ground or hope of your salvation, you will be in continual despair or hardened in pride.
  • The desire to add works to our salvation is called by Paul “the flesh”. And the result is always the same:

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Gal 5:19-21 NAS)

  • This is crucial: If you seek to sanctify yourself by your works of holiness, you will never get what you think you will get. Is there a connection between #metoo and the rejection of faith alone? I believe so.

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Thoughts concerning Slaves and Children

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:4-7 KJV)

A servant, whether a slave or an employee, works for two reasons. Either to earn a wage or to avoid punishment.

But God doesn’t want good employees, or good slaves. He wants sons and daughters. This is why the greatest commandment is:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Mat 22:37 KJV)

This is why righteousness can never come by the law. The law makes fearful slaves, but God desires our hearts.

It is true that a heart that loves God is a heart that keeps the commandments of God, but it is deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to earn a reward – whether it is final righteousness or final justification or any other “wage”. It is also deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to avoid punishment, for Jesus has already taken the cup of God’s wrath and drank the last drop. There is no more condemnation.

Work that flows from hope of reward or fear of punishment is the work of a servant. And God responds to servants this way:

9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luk 17:9-10 NAS)

Salvation is not learning to become a good slave, for God would have sons and daughters. Sons and daughters certainly obey and honor their father, but the motive is from a heart of love and gratitude, which is pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus did not come to make us slaves. He came to make us heirs.

And love is only learned from the gospel, received by faith. Love can never be learned from the law.

The apostle James warns of dead faith, which is faith without works. His point is NOT to add works to dead faith, but to repent of dead faith and gain a living faith in the living savior. Living faith always brings forth good works, as a loving son always obeys the father. But we are saved because we are united to Christ by faith, not because we worked hard enough to earn a reward.

The difference between a son and a slave is everything.

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“…Let’s just pipe down and let the experts handle this.”

I normally try to take Mondays off. But I made the mistake of trying to catch up with the controversy over Piper’s recent “final salvation” post.

I’m not really at this point going to expound on my own problems with this post. It has been done already by Rachel Miller and Brad Mason and in other places. Scott Clark has done some excellent work on this subject at https://heidelblog.net/. So we’ll leave that lie for now. That isn’t what has me worked up today.

This morning in my studying through this issue, I read this by Mark Jones:

Here’s the problem for these critics of Piper. This isn’t really a problem. And if you write blog posts taking issue with Piper on this particular topic, but claim to be Reformed, you probably need to spend some time getting theological training and then, after that, publishing via peer-reviewed journals, books, etc., before you can be taken seriously. And even then, it’s possible that you could have such a built-in bias against someone that you’d find a problem with them for saying “Jesus loves sinners.”

I read it again. And then I went back to it and read it again. And to me, this is a big problem, and is infecting every area of the church. What he is saying is this: “She isn’t educated according to our standards of education and therefore has no right to speak to theological issues and be taken seriously.”

Does this not bother anyone else? Throughout the history of the church, since Jesus in the days of his flesh, there have been the “scholars” who have refused to hear anyone who was not “properly educated and peer reviewed.”

At the time of the Reformation, it was forbidden to put a bible into the hands of a layperson because only the scholars had the proper training to interpret the bible correctly. A layperson would mess it up to no end and start talking about justification by faith apart from works and salvation by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone.

Is this really where we want to go? Are we now going to defend those who attempt to add works to our salvation by rejecting the perspicuity of scripture?

It is starting to sound quite familiar, isn’t it?

I fear that we are creating many mini-popes, untouchable by the common layperson. This is a very, very dangerous place to be.

Do we really want to go back to that? Here is the Westminster on the subject:

Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7)
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130).

The question is not how many peer-reviewed articles one has, or what their alma mater is, or how many letters they have on their name. The only question is this: Are they right? Is what they are saying consistent with the Holy Scriptures?

Many years ago, my late father was involved in the controversy surrounding Norman Shepherd and Federal Vision. The debate took its usual turn, with every party quoting every Reformer. Calvin quotes and Witsius quotes and Ursinus quotes all thrown back and forth like arrows in the quiver.

At the end of it all, Dad – now in the arms of Jesus – responded with a quote that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “I don’t care who said it. If they said that, they were wrong. If Calvin said it, he was wrong. If Ursinus said it, he was wrong. If Witsius said it, he was wrong!”

As Paul puts it,

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
  9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
  (Gal 1:8-9 KJV)

Do we need the experts to explain that to us? It doesn’t matter how big a ministry someone has. It doesn’t matter how many books one has sold. It doesn’t matter how many peers have reviewed your articles in respected journals. It doesn’t matter where you graduated from. If you proclaim another gospel, YOU ARE WRONG. And if someone calls you on it, you better listen, no matter how big their ministry is, how many followers they have, whether they are male or female, young or old, rich or poor, peer-reviewed or not. You better listen even if they went to *gasp* COMMUNITY COLLEGE!

Because in the end, God just doesn’t care how many awards you have won or how many articles you have published in acceptable journals, or how many famous people endorse your books. In the end, only one thing matters – are you found in Christ? Are you washed in his blood and Spirit? When he comes again, will you be able to say this:

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phi 3:8-11 KJV)

This is what it means to know Christ. Nothing else matters. When I forget that, and begin to count on my credentials or my own righteousness, I thank God when he sends someone to remind me – no matter who he or she is or how many credentials or letters they might have.

We would do well to remember that.

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