Posts Tagged ‘Sanctification’

Two notes on the following text.  First, the text was written by the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli.  Zwingli often gets lost between Luther and Calvin, although he shouldn’t be so easily displaced.  He was a remarkable thinker, gifted leader, and incredibly gracious in his dealings with a hostile Luther.  Second, and more importantly, this text deals with the common problem of Christians and continuing, even daily sin.  Pay attention to where Zwingli places confidence.  Is it in performance or Christ?  Pay attention to what Zwingli believes is a sign that God has entered into a person’s life, and to go further see if you can identify why he believes this.

“As long as we live, that rogue, the body, because of the temptation, will never let us live a godly life.  However, if we have trusted in God through Christ, then the flesh cannot throw us into damnation.  Rather, as Christ said to Peter: ‘See!  The devil has lain in waiting for you so that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith become neither unsteady nor weak” (Luke 22.31f).  Thus we must remain firm so that all our sins will be forgiven through Christ, although both the devil and the flesh will force us through the sieve and entice us with sin to despair.  But, as Peter’s external denial di dnot bring him into damnation, so also may no sin bring us to damnation, save one: unbelief.  Here, however, the true non-Christians say: “I firmly believe in Christ.”  Yet they do nothing Christian.  Herein one sees that they are non-Christians, for one recognizes a tree by its fruit.  Therefore, note for better understanding:  as has often been pointed out before, whoever has securely trusted in teh grace of God through Christ, after recognizing his sin, cannot be without the love of God.  Who would not love him who has so graciously taken away his sin and has begun first to love him, as 1 John 4.19 says, and to draw him to himself?  Where, now, the love of God is, there is God; for God is love himself and whoever is in the love of God is in God and God is in him, as 1 John 4.16 says.  Now if God is in the right believer and he nevertheless sins, then it follows that it is as Paul says in Romans 8.10: “If now Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit or soul lives because of justification.”  This justification is nothing but a person’s placing himself in and devoting himself to the grace of God.  This is true belief.  So the opinion of Paul is that our body is always dead and gives birth to works of death and sin.  However, the same sins cannot damn us if we are righteous in faith, so that we trust with certainty the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Huldrych Zwingli, A Short Christian Instruction Zwingli’s Works vol II pg 58-59

I think Bridges has a lot of good things to say, espcially in his book The Discipline of Grace, which was given to all of our folks who renewed or were confirmed in the faith.  Below is an essential truth about the Christian life, namely that the Gospel is for believers too.  Too often in evangelical America we shake hands at the cross with Jesus, thank him for what he’s done then get on to the “real work” of discipleship.  These folks have never come to the cross in the first place.  It was simply a detour on their future career in legalism.  Rather the true Christian, as Bridges commends to us, stays always at the cross.  This is a timely reminder for us in the performance driven culture we all live in. 


Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6,” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and then say, “Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.”


I came to see that Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,” was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: “The life I now live ….” Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.


Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds — our spiritual sacrifices — are acceptable to God

only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.


So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.


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Below is an excerpt from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Here Calvin introduces the spiritually edifying concenpt of God as pastor, teacher, and trainer.  Calvin asserts that we “cannot lay hold of God’s mercy with sufficient eagerness”.  There is a sense here that God has offered something precious, namely his mercy, and yet we are slow to take hold of it.  So God teaches us why we ought to be quick to take hold of it.  He shapes us through his use of language (enemies, sinners, children of wrath) and the severity of the neccessary act of our salvation (Christ’s death) in order that our hearts might be formed in such a way as to eagerly desire his mercy.  Why does he go through all this?  Simply put, because he loves us and desires that (with his help) we might come to him.  This is truly a tender, loving, thoughtful and tireless God! 

But before we proceed farther, we must see in passing, how can 435it be said that God, who prevents us with his mercy, was our enemy until he was reconciled to us by Christ. For how could he have given us in his only-begotten Son a singular pledge of his love, if he had not previously embraced us with free favour? As there thus arises some appearance of contradiction, I will explain the difficulty. The mode in which the Spirit usually speaks in Scripture is, that God was the enemy of men until they were restored to favour by the death of Christ (Rom. 5:10); that they were cursed until their iniquity was expiated by the sacrifice of Christ (Gal. 3:10, 13); that they were separated from God, until by means of Christ’s body they were received into union (Col. 1:21, 22). Such modes of expression are accommodated to our capacity, that we may the better understand how miserable and calamitous our condition is without Christ. For were it not said in clear terms, that Divine wrath, and vengeance, and eternal death, lay upon us, we should be less sensible of our wretchedness without the mercy of God, and less disposed to value the blessing of deliverance. For example, let a person be told, Had God at the time you were a sinner hated you, and cast you off as you deserved, horrible destruction must have been your doom; but spontaneously and of free indulgence he retained you in his favour, not suffering you to be estranged from him, and in this way rescued you from danger,—the person will indeed be affected, and made sensible in some degree how much he owes to the mercy of God. But again, let him be told, as Scripture teaches, that he was estranged from God by sin, an heir of wrath, exposed to the curse of eternal death, excluded from all hope of salvation, a complete alien from the blessing of God, the slave of Satan, captive under the yoke of sin; in fine, doomed to horrible destruction, and already involved in it; that then Christ interposed, took the punishment upon himself and bore what by the just judgment of God was impending over sinners; with his own blood expiated the sins which rendered them hateful to God, by this expiation satisfied and duly propitiated God the Father, by this intercession appeased his anger, on this basis founded peace between God and men, and by this tie secured the Divine benevolence toward them; will not these considerations move him the more deeply, the more strikingly they represent the greatness of the calamity from which he was delivered? In short, since our mind cannot lay hold of life through the mercy of God with sufficient eagerness, or receive it with becoming gratitude, unless previously impressed with fear of the Divine anger, and dismayed at the thought of eternal death, we are so instructed by divine truth, as to perceive that without Christ God is in a manner hostile to us, and has his arm raised for our destruction. Thus taught, we look to Christ alone for divine favour and paternal love.

Calvin’s Institutes 2.16.2   Read it online at CCEL

tree-and-roots1Many times people ask me, “what about application?”  This is a valid question, one that I intend to answer, however I think our modern view of “application” is really an attempt for us to baptize self-help in the name of spiritual progress.  In other words, by “application” what we really mean is seven Biblical principles for time management.  Self-help is really just legalism poorly packaged.  It has the powert to discipline the flesh, but it does not have the power to change the human heart and its desires.  “Repent and believe” is the application of Scripture, but the human heart says “give me some work to do!”  But works cannot produce righteousness nor can they change the human heart.  That is why “works of the flesh” (things we consciously do) always result in the most disastrous sin (Gal 5.19).  However “fruit of the Spirit” (things that are produced from the inner-work of the Spirit) produces life (Gal 5.22).  The important distinction to make is that fruit just happens.  It is a result of nourishment and watering.  So what nourishes and waters the human soul in such a way that it produces fruit?  Well, I say that it is principally beholding God in all his majesty, which is chiefly revealed to us finite creatures in the cross, where God’s extravagent and unmerited love is abundantly demonstrated.  Below is an excerpt from Edwards’ “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven.”  Notice that for Edwards, beholding God puts the human soul under compulsion to worship him.  Check it out below:

That they see God, sufficiently shows the reason why they praise him. They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.  (Jonathan Edwards, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven“)

For Edwards, merely beholding God puts you under an irresistable compulsion to worship him.  Now worship is not merely something confined to Sunday morning but it is a life activity (Rom 12.1).  We worship God by going to the workplace with integrity, watching out for our clients, caring for our family.  Essentially we live our life to the glory of God.  This is a fruit not a work.  Do not try to do any of these things!  Rather, allow the water that nourishes the soul, namely the Gospel, compel us (assisted by the Spirit) to worship God through a Godly life. 

So when I preach the Gospel, what is the principle application?  The application that I am hoping for is that my listeners behold God through the glory of the crucified Jesus and are compelled to worship him.  As a fruit of this “beholding” they begin to perform extravagent gestures of genorsity, sacrificial love, grace, forgiveness as demonstrations of their deep worship of the Savior.  Not to earn his favor, but because they have beheld him and love him deeply.  This deep love for the Savior is the well from which Christian spiritual growth must always flow.  May the beauty of the stricken Jesus “irresistibly impel” you, drawing you into a lifestyle of praise to the glory of the Savior.

both necessary for a new heart

Justification and Sanctification: both necessary for a new heart

Iain has been reading a lot from the former Bishop of Liverpool lately and I’ve been blessed by the insights he’s gained. Below is a handy little excerpt on justication and sanctification. Enjoy!

In what, then, are justification and sanctification alike?

(a) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

(b) Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

(c) Both are to be found in the same persons. those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.

(d) Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

(e) Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

Such are the points on which justification and sanctification agree. Let us now reverse the picture and see wherein they differ.

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pubThis holy meditation preserves “the children of men, who put their trust under the shadow of God’s wings,” so that they are “drunken with the fatness of His house, and drink of the full stream of His pleasure. For with Him is the fountain of life, and in His light shall they see light. For He extendeth His mercy to them that know Him, and His righteousness to the upright in heart.” He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies the ungodly. This meditation does not elevate with pride: this sin arises when any man has too much confidence in himself, and makes himself the chief end of living. Impelled by this vain feeling, he departs from that fountain of life, from the draughts of which alone is imbibed the holiness which is itself the good life,—and from that unchanging light, by sharing in which the reasonable soul is in a certain sense inflamed, and becomes itself a created and reflected luminary; even as “John was a burning and a shining light,” who notwithstanding acknowledged the source of his own illumination in the words, “Of His fulness have all we received.” Whose, I would ask, but His, of course, in comparison with whom John indeed was no light at all? For “that was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Therefore, in the same psalm, after saying, “Extend Thy mercy to them that know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart,” he adds, “Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hands of sinners move me. There have fallen all the workers of iniquity: they are cast out, and are not able to stand.”  Since by that impiety which leads each to attribute to himself the excellence which is God’s, he is cast out into his own native darkness, in which consist the works of iniquity. For it is manifestly these works which he does, and for the achievement of such alone is he naturally fit. The works of righteousness he never does, except as he receives ability from that fountain and that light, where the life is that wants for nothing, and where is “no variableness, nor the shadow of turning.”


From Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” 11.7

“To inspire all people through the power of the Gospel to become living members of the Body of Christ…”

The Revelation to John

Dec 1:  Eternal power at work in the world   (Rev 1.4-8)


 Is John’s Revelation applicable to us?  After all, it is addressed to seven churches in Asia, NOT to Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach!  And surely there were more churches present in Asia besides those seven.  Is John not concerned with them?  The key to answering these questions comes from the number.  In Judaism the number seven had special significance because of the Sabbath (the seventh day), the sabbatical year (Exod 23.10-11), and the Year of Jubilee (the year of release after seven sabbatical years; cf. Lev 25.8-17, 29-31).[1]  The number seven is also significant in the New Testament.  For example, Matthew’s Gospel begins with what is seemingly are rather inane genealogy.  But it is nothing of the sort!  Rather, using seven sets of seven ancestors, Matthew shows that in the person of Jesus God has brought the perfect servant, prophet, priest, and King (Matt 1.1-17)!  By perfect, we mean in the classic Greek sense the point at which nothing can be added nor taken away. 


So what does this have to do with seven churches?  While there are some compelling points to be made from history about the representative functions of the actual seven churches listed in the Apocalypse (and these are no doubt equally true), the transcendent meaning of the seven churches is that this Revelation is written to the one, true church present in all times, in all ages, and in all of Christ’s people.  The number seven indicates that this letter is to the complete church, the church from which nothing and no one may be added nor taken away.  So the letter is to the actual seven churches of the late 90’s A.D. as well as to Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach and all the faithful churches in Christ Jesus that were, that are, and that will be. 


Knowing that this letter is addressed to us, we then move to pay particular attention to what is being said.  Last week we spoke of how Jesus reveals the Father to the world.  We also spoke on how the purpose of this book is to unveil the spiritual realities at work that shape and affect the material world we live in.  While the book goes on to give much detail in regard to this, for now, in the form of a doxology we have an awe inspiring revelation of the immense powers at work behind the curtain of the spiritual world. (more…)