Archives For Sanctification

GOD'S CHARACTERHe arose early in the morning. There was no time to waste; after all, God had told him to do something. It was difficult but clear. He had to do it.

Previously God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Gen.12.1-3). This after, as Paul eloquently put it, Abraham was as good as dead (Rom. 4.19). The promise would not come through Eliezer, his present heir (Gen. 15.1-4) but his own son. Nearing 100 years of age Isaac is born and the word of the promise is confirmed. However, now, several years later, God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son on the mountain.

We know how the story ends. God mercifully stops Abraham and provides the ram. The promise does indeed come through Isaac. God is faithful.

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There always seems to be some sort of news of a scandal or shameful practices concerning professing Christians. Somewhere a pastor or professing Christian’s secret life of rampant sin gets revealed. As a result, we all (rightly) lose our collective breaths and our stomaches turn.

Then questions come. Why? How did this happen?

I remember hearing John MacArthur say,

“Nobody just falls out of a tree. They climb up in it, move around a bit, and then fall out.”

His point is obvious: this doesn’t happen overnight.

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Many years ago I was driving across the country to visit my future wife. As you can imagine I was eager to arrive so I minimized stops and attempted to make the 26-hour drive all at once. Going nearly a full day without sleep and in spite of being fueled on more Mountain Dew than is advisable, I began to nod off. I soon meandered over into the other lane and was startled by an 18-wheeler’s lights and horn! I awoke and swerved back in my lane. That shook me. My pulse went through the roof. I lost my breath. I contemplated what would have happened if I didn’t wake up. I was good for another 5 hours. No problems. After my pulse descended to reasonable levels I remember getting mad at myself. “How could I be so careless?”

The Book of Hebrews often functions like the headlights of an 18-wheeler. With pastoral clarity it provides a number of warnings as well as reassurances. We are told do not neglect so great a salvation then we are told that we have an anchor of hope within the veil. We are warned about the danger of hardening our hearts through unbelief while also being reminded that Jesus has delivered his people from the bondage of death (cf chapters 2, 4, 6, 10, & 12 for warning passages).

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If you are connected in any way to mainline (particularly American) evangelicalism then you have probably said or heard the following said countless times in the last two years:

“I need to get back in the Word.”

“My prayer life has been kinda dry lately.”

Often times these “confessions” come in the midst of small groups or in response to some eager, well-meaning brother or sister. How do we respond?

Most often it is with the super-spiritual, muppet-faced grimacing sigh: “Hmm. Hmm. I will pray for you that God would help you get back in the Word.”

Is this helpful?

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What is your most prized possession? To find out we would only have to look at what you give your time, attention, and resources to.

For the Christian, what should be the most prized possession? Everyone including the First Grade Sunday School Class just rightly answered, “Bible.” Very good; but, why?

The reason why is because the Bible is rock of revelation that our faith is built upon.

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As is I am sure is common in other places, we have experienced one of the longer, more intense spells of illness in recent memory. Here in Omaha, Nebraska sickness is being passed around like dollar bills. Our church family and our immediate family have also been greatly impacted. Even I, though not normally prone to getting sick, have come down with multiple viruses.

In recent weeks, while afflicted, some truth hit me like a surprise flu: I am generally very healthy. This is a tremendous blessing. In a world full of bacteria and sickness we get along pretty well. What’s more, we are not guaranteed health. Therefore, what we do get is a blessing.

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You are Saved by Works.

Erik Raymond —  November 5, 2013

If you are saved then you are saved by works.

No, I am not retreating or backsliding or apostatizing into Roman Catholicism or other synergistic form of salvation. I am simply restating the truth that the Bible declares. You are saved by works.

Let me elaborate and clarify the statement: You are saved by works, just not your works. If you are saved, you are saved based upon the works, the merits, the doing and dying of Jesus. This is the truth of the gospel.

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I am an unabashed gym eavesdropper. This is really the only place where I shamelessly listen to people talking. Whether it is in the locker room, on the workout floor in the lobby or wherever: I listen. In one recent conversation I heard a couple of guys talking. The one guy was in his mid 50′s and the other guy, I’ll guess early 20′s. Both guys were in great shape. The older guy was telling the younger guy what he has been up to in terms of training. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other for some time and this guy was noticeably different. He explained how he changed his diet, got disciplined about weights, and didn’t try to go too fast. Over the last year and a half the guy has transformed.

As I listened to them I couldn’t help but notice the younger guy’s shock. He is knee-deep in the culture that demands instant results. He remarked of how amazed he was at the difference over time. In the end it was a proper plan, consistency of discipline, and time. The guy was a different guy.

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Sometimes we speak of sin in extremely unbiblical categories. For example we may speak of our bad attitudes, selfishness or anger as defects that are to be expected. We say or think things like, “I am a sinner” or “I’m not perfect” or “I know I really should do…” And when we do say things like this our Christian brothers and sisters too often affirm these truth claims with passive affirmation (nodding, agreeing, or otherwise not helping).

This produces a culture where sin is not really a big deal. It’s just a necessary part of life that we need to deal with. Like a man with a limp we just keep moving along with our spiritual handicap.

This causes two immediate problems:

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Recently I wrote an article for Christanity.com about the most attractive women on the planet. The specifics are related to what they embrace, their beauty, and their smile. Here is the link to full article. I suspect that you have seen these women and can testify to their distinctive beauty!

Because of the gospel, which displays God’s love for us, Christians are to love others in the same way (1 Jn. 3.16). However, we often struggle with understanding and applying this verse. One helpful clarification is the distinction between “loving” and “liking” people.

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones is extremely helpful in drawing this distinction for us. What follows is a quote Life in Christ a collection of his sermons on First John.

So let me put it like this: we are not called to like the bretheren, but we are called and commanded to love them. Furthermore, I would assert that loving and liking are not degrees of the same thing but are essentially different.

What is liking? What is it to like a person? Well, I would say that liking is something natural something instinctive ore elemental, something that is not the result of effort; you find yourself liking or not liking. In other words, liking is something physical and unintelligible.

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When you are a little kid you are very aware of your parent’s presence. As a Dad I see this when my two little toddlers sense me tiptoeing out of the room and then proceed to chase me down. At this stage in their lives they have weighed the cost of me doing a load of laundry or fetching something out of the basement against them being alone. And they have sided with the latter in every case. They are aware of and cherish their parents’ nearness.

There are many ways to apply Jesus’ teaching that we must become like a child in order to enter the kingdom (Mt. 18.1-6). The picture of a child fully trusting in and enjoying their parents with admirable simplicity comes to mind. Along with this a child’s awareness and cherishing their parent’s closeness and care. More to my point, another implication of becoming like a child is being aware of and cherishing God’s nearness to us.

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This past year I ran my first marathon. As I ran I continued to chart my progress and endurance. Each mile marker rendered judgment against my goals. How am I doing? How will I finish?

The marathon is a fitting analogy for life. With the passing of each year there is a mile-marker of personal evaluation. There is an opportunity to take inventory, evaluate progress, and look ahead toward the finish.

To be honest, I have not done a lot of the latter. I have not looked ahead to the finish line and estimated my time. Like so many others, I like to live “mile-to-mile” making quick adjustments, taking advantage of quick bursts to make up for moments of laziness on the hills of life. While these inventories and adjustments are an integral part of doing what we set out to do they will not compel us in the same way as look at the end.

A look at the end of our life, the finish line, will bring a couple of things into focus:

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By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 Jn. 3.16)

What is love? In short, love is joyfully and willfully sacrificing yourself in the service of others for the purpose of seeing them blessed. This is what we see in the gospel and this is what Christians endeavor to do as we respond to the gospel. The Gospel is the most heart-melting and liberating truth. It models and motivates true love.

The type of love we have in the gospel is total acceptance even in light of full disclosure. God knows how sinful we are but accepts us eternally based upon the doing and dying of Jesus.

As has been said by others before, “We are more sinful than we can ever have imagined but we are more loved than we can ever have hoped.”

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It was Jesus who taught that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45). It makes good sense then that we can get a good read on what is in our hearts by what comes out of our mouths. Particularly as Christians, we can learn a lot about what we believe about the gospel by listening to ourselves talk.

There is one phrase that is particularly indicting. It is a phrase that unwittingly slashes the gospel tires while making a personal excuse. In other words, this phrase deflates the gospel of its power while inflating us with an excuse. As a result, I think we should dump it from our vocabulary. The phrase is: “I can’t.”

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We take a lot for granted. Advances that once seemed like life-changers are now staples. It’s hard for us to imagine but there was a first day with electricity, running water, and the Internet. Now these privileges are expected.

In the Christian’s life the same could be said of prayer. Prayer is not an unalienable right of all people, like voting in America when you turn 18. Instead, prayer is a blood-bought privilege for those who trust and treasure Jesus.

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With a title like this there is little room for dilly-dallying along the way to the answer. So without much introduction, here is the tip that could save your marriage: Get a part-time job.

There. That’s it. Husbands, if you want to save or strengthen your marriage, get a part-time job.

I should say right off the bat that I am not talking about a literal job that will pull you away from the home for more hours. Instead I’m arguing for the husband to approach his time at home with his family with the same thoughtful intentionality and engagement that he would if he were to go to work.

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True Religion

Erik Raymond —  December 28, 2012

It is popular today to decry the word “religion.” And I suppose the goal here is a good one: to show the futility and falseness of a ritualistic, cold, unlively, practices of religious stuff. At the same time the word religion is a biblical word, used in James 1:27. It describes the practice of godliness. In other words, the religion of the Christian is simply Christian living in light of the gospel (Jam. 1:17 ff.)

There are three clarifying aspects of this “true” religion.

1.) It involves hearing- there is an authority here, it is the Word of God. True religion is ordered by the authoritative Word from above. Instead of making up rules and turning preferences into commandments and binding consciences with external practices, true religion rests is the hearing of God. This is why we work to confess sin and receive the truth (Jam. 1.19-21).

2.) It involves doing- the doing here is related to the hearing. After all, if one hears and does not do then he is deceived. One of James’ great burdens in this letter is hearing and doing. The doing flows from the hearing. If there is no doing, or obedience then there is good reason to believe that it is not true religion (Jam 1:27, 2:13ff.).

3.) It is before God- so often religion, in our popular sense of the word, is about the performance of men before men. The Bible places the emphasis upon God as the audience (Jam. 1:27). It is his holiness, grace, and regenerating love that fuel our obedience.

We don’t have to pit religion against relationship because true religion comes from a true relationship. If one has been born again by the word of truth (Jam. 1:17) then they will hear and do, that is practice their godliness before God.

Imagine a college football coach calling a team meeting after his players receives accolades from the media and fans for their on the field performance. Instead of pats on the backs he sits them down and gets serious, pointing out a couple of troubling trends with their play. The team may feel good and even look good to fans, but to the discerning eye there are major omissions that bring concern.

In The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung is like that coach (or at least a team captain) on the gospel-centered team. He is pulling aside the squad, amid rounds of applause for its resurgent emphasis on gospel grace, and pointing out the danger of an underdeveloped theology and practice of holiness.

DeYoung writes: “The sky is not falling, and it won’t until Jesus falls from it first. But we don’t have to pretend everything else is wrong to recognize we don’t have everything right. There is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness. This must change. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.”

DeYoung is calling people back to the biblical concept and practice of holiness. This is an ambitious undertaking in and of itself, but what’s more, DeYoung sets out to do it clearly and concisely (in just 144 pages!). In spite of the challenge, I think he hits a home run. He unpacks the biblical doctrine of holiness and places it within the framework of God’s redemptive purposes. God is a holy God and he has saved his people to themselves be holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
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The other day I was in the Apple Store and overheard the sales pitch that most of us have heard concerning the hardware. “Macs run great. They never break. I’ve had mine for like 23 years.” We all nod in amazement because we have been led to believe that while the machines are not manufactured in heaven they are just short of glorified.

But have you noticed what happens right after you say you are going to buy the computer? The salesman immediately starts angling for the Apple Care. In other words, he starts to sell you the warranty. It turns out that these things are not perfect. They do break. And the couple of hundred frog-skins is actually a good investment.

Isn’t this the reality of this broken world? Don’t you live in light of this tension all of the time? You are always hearing products overhyped and then you see them break. We should expect it. The world is broken.

As it turns out, technology (and science) cannot save. They can improve our lives but they cannot save them. Even Apple has its flaws.

This is tremendously important to remember as a Christian. We must remind ourselves amid the arms race for technological salvation that it is not equipped to meet ultimate needs and provide ultimate happiness. This reality is achieved by God entering into our world to bring deliverance to us from this world. God is not committed solely to improving our lives but to redeeming them. As his creation he is committed to rescuing and restoring his people.

The next time you are offered a warranty remember how broken this world is and how gloriously different and powerful Christ is.