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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Submission to the Will of God

John 4:31-34 The great keynote of Jesus' life is submission to the will of God. His uniqueness lies in the very fact that He was the only person who ever was or who ever will be perfectly obedient to God's will. It can be truly said that Jesus is the only person in all the world who never did what He liked but always what His Father liked.

He was God-sent. Again and again, the fourth gospel speaks of Jesus being "sent" by God. There are two Greek words used in the fourth gospel for this sending. There is "apostellein", which is used seventeen times, and "pempein", which is used twenty-seven times. That is to say, no fewer than forty-four times the fourth gospel speaks, or shows us Jesus speaking, about His being sent by God.

Then once Jesus had come, again and again He spoke of the work that was given Him to do. In John 5:36 He speaks of the works which His Father has given Him to do. In 17:4 His only claim is that He has finished the work His Father gave Him to do. When He speaks of taking up and laying down His life, of living and of dying, He says, "I have received this command from My Father" (10:18). He speaks continually, as He speaks here, of the will of God. "I have come down from heaven," He says, "not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (6:38). "I always do," He says, "what is pleasing to Him" (8:29). In 14:23 He lays it down, out of His personal experience and on His personal example, that the only proof of love lies in the keeping of the commandments of the one a person claims to love. This obedience of Jesus was not, as it is with us, a spasmodic thing. It was the very essence and being, the mainspring and the core, the dynamic and the moving power of His life.

It is His great desire that we should be as He was. To do the will of God is the only way to peace. There can be no peace when we are at variance with the King of the universe. (Daily Devotions)

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Distinction Between Justification and Sanctification

In what way are justification and sanctification alike?

1. Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.
2. 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.
3. 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 meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

In what way do justification and sanctification differ?

1. Justification is the "reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual "making" a believer inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble way for some.
2. The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but it mingles with much infirmity and imperfection.
3. In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.
4. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and to take pains, and labor. Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he truly believes in his heart. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.
5. Justification admits of no growth or increase: a believer is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as the believer lives.
6. Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our "natures", and the moral renewal of our hearts.
7. Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our worthiness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
8. Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God "within" us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

It can never be too strongly impressed on our minds that justification and sanctification are two separate things. Never ought they to be confounded, and never ought the distinction between them to be forgotten.

The nature and visible marks of sanctification have been brought before us. What practical reflections ought the whole matter to raise in our minds?

1. For one thing, let us all awake to a sense of the perilous state of many professing Christians. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord"; without sanctification there is no salvation (Heb.12;14). Then what an enormous amount of so-called religion there is which is perfectly useless! What an immense proportion of church-goers are in the broad road that leads to destruction! The thought of awful, crushing, and overwhelming! Oh, that preachers and teachers would open their eyes and realize the condition of souls around them! Oh, that man could be persuaded to "flee from the wrath to come"! If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible must not be true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be?
2. For another thing, let us make sure workd of our own condition, and never rest till we feel and know that we are "sanctified" ourselves! What are our tastes, and choices, and likes, and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matter little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not? If not, the fault is all our own!
3. For another thing, if we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain - we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith, for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to brings with us as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must live and then work.
4. For another thing, if we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ. He is the Head from which every member must be supplied (Eph. 16). To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God, and to be daily drawing out of His fullness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people - this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification. Believers who seem at a standstill are generally neglecting close communion with Jesus, and so grieving the Holy Spirit. He that prayed, "Sanctify them" the last night before His crucifixion, is infinitely willing to help everyone who by faith applies to Him for help, and desires to be made more holy.
5. For another thing, let us not expect too much from our own hearts here below. At our best we shall find in ourselves daily cause for humiliation, and discover that we are needy debtors to mercy and grace every hour. The more light we have, the more we shall find ourselvem as we go on; renewed, pardoned, justified - yet sinners to the very last. Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.
6. Finally, let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness. While some are satisfied with a miserably low degree of attainment, and others are not ashamed to live on without any holiness at all - content with a mere round of church-going, but never getting on -let us stand fast on the narrow way and follow after eminent holiness ourselves, and recommend it boldly to others. This is the only way to be truly happy. Holiness is true happiness, and that the believer who gets through life most comfortably is the sanctified believer. They have solid comforts which the world can neither give nor take away. (J. C. Ryle)

Sanctification - What is It?

Sanctification means to make holy (morally pure, spiritually whole, separated from evil and dedicated to God and His purposes), to consecrate (to set apart) and to separate from the ungodly patterns and practices of the world. It involves being set apart from sin so as to have intimate companionship with God and serve Him effectively. In practical terms, sanctification involves an ongoing process of spiritual growth, development and maturity by which God refines us spiritually, prepares us for His purposes and involves us in His plans.

In addition to the word "sanctify", the Biblical standard of sanctification is expressed in such terms as "love the Lord your God with all your heart...soul...mind" (Matt. 22:37), "blameless and holy" (1 Th.3:13), "perfecting holiness" (2 Cor. 7:1), "love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Th. 1:5), "pure and blameless" (Php 1:10), "set free from sin" (Rom. 6:18), "died to sin" (Rom. 6:2), "in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness" (Rom. 6:19), "obey His commands" (1 John 3:22), and "overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4). Such terms describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who accept God's forgiveness and spiritual salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. That work of the Holy Spirit includes liberating us from the power and slavery of sin (Rom. 6:1-19), separating us from the sinful patterns and practices of the world (Rom. 12:1-2), renewing our nature and character to be like Jesus Christ, producing in us the fruit - the effects and character traits - of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22-23) and enabling us to live in a way that influences others to follow Christ (1 John 17:15-19,23)

These aspects of sanctification do not suggest absolute perfection, but an ethical righteousness - relating rightly to God and doing right according to His principles that are shown by moral purity, godly obedience and blameless character. With God's help and spiritual enablement and our identification with Christ's death, we are set free from sin's power (Rom. 6:18). We should therefore, no longer be swayed by sin's influence because we have the power for spiritual victory through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist and overcome the temptation to defy God (1 John 2:1, 3:6), even though we never reach a place in this life where we are completely free from temptation and the possibility of sin.

God's children achieve sanctification by faith and dependence on God (Acts 26:18), by identifying with Christ in His death and resurrection, by the personal sacrifice and shed blood of Christ, by studying and applying God's Word, and by the spiritually renewing, life-transforming work of the Holy Spirit in their minds and hearts.

Sanctification is both a work of God and a work of His people. It is described as a lifelong process by which a follower of Christ continues to put to death the natural impulse toward sin, is progressively transformed to be more like Jesus, grows in grace, exercises a greater love for God and others and fulfills God's purpose for his or her life.

True sanctification requires that believers maintain a close personal relationship with Christ, devote themselves to prayer, obey God's Word, be sensitive to God's presence and care, love what is right and hate what is wicked and wrong, put sin to death, submit to God's discipline and continue to obey and be filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

At times, sanctification may involve a definite crisis experience or exceptional encounter with God after one's initial experience of spiritual salvation. In such an instance, a followers of Christ may receive a clear revelation of God's holiness - His purity, perfection and separation from evil - as well as an awareness that God is calling him or her to a unique task. This would involve setting oneself apart in a greater way from sin and worldliness in order to get closer to God and become better prepared for His divine purposes (2 Cor. 6:16-18)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cheap Grace

Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like dollar store wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. "All for sin could not atone." The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners "even in the best life" as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world's standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin. That was the heresy of the enthusiasts. Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavoring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ! The world has been justified by grace. The Christian knows that, and takes it seriously. He knows he must not strive against this indispensable grace. Therefore, let him live like the rest of the world! Of course he would like to go and do something extraordinary, and it does demand a good deal of self-restraint to refrain from the attempt and content himself with living as the world lives. Yet it is imperative for the Christian to achieve renunciation, to practice self-effacement, to distinguish his life from the life of the world. He must let grace be grace indeed, otherwise he will destroy the world's faith in the free gift of grace.

Let the Christian rest content in his worldliness and with this renunciation of any high standard than the world. He is doing it for the sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace. Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace - for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

(next post - What is Costly Grace (the true grace taught in the Bible)