Donald S. Whitney: When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes a “new creation” of us (2 Cor 5:17). But when he accomplishes that radical, regenerating transformation of us, he does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t eliminate any of those things, instead he gives dramatically new purposes to them. He calls us to live the Christian life with the full — though God-centered — use of our minds and judgment and everything else that is a part of our humanity. Let go and let God? However, many people will tell you that your spiritual problems stem from the fact that you are trying to live the Christian life but that God never intended you to do so. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself, so he does not expect you to live
Applying the truth of the gospel
Erik Raymond: Imagine for a moment that you are part of the 1st Century Philippian church. You are a first generation gospel work that was founded through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. This famously included the “earthquake prison break” followed by the conversion of many people—not the least of which the jailer! The church is young, afflicted, generous, advancing, and still plagued with imperfection. And, here we sit awaiting the reading of a letter from our beloved Apostle Paul. After some prayer and a hymn, one of our elders stands up to read the letter in our gathering. Our ears are glued to his every word as we find ourselves transfixed by this content. Then we are surprised. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) Paul just called out two ladies—by name—and told them to basically “work it out”. I can almost see the pastor who was reading the letter pausing and looking at
Yes, You Can Please Your Heanvenly Father
Kevin DeYoung: Sometimes Christians can give the impression that pleasing God is a sub-biblical motivation. “We’re totally justified,” someone might say. “We’re totally accepted. If we tell our kids to please God, we are just giving them more law. We are training them to be little moralists. We’re discipling them to think of God as a kind of Santa Claus keeping a naughty-and-nice list.” Obviously (or maybe not so obviously), that’s not how God wants us to parent, because that’s not what God is like with his children. But don’t let the potential abuse of this “pleasing God” language lead you to suppress what Scripture clearly says. One of the principal motivations for holiness is the pleasure of God. Colossians 1:10: Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are pleasing to God. Romans 12:1: Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleases God. Romans 14:18: Looking out for your weaker brother pleases
John Owen: What Is Sanctification?
Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers, purifying and cleansing of their natures from the pollution and uncleanness of sin, renewing in them the image of God, and thereby enabling them, from a spiritual and habitual principle of grace, to yield obedience unto God, according unto the tenor and terms of the new covenant, by virtue of the life and death of Jesus Christ. Or more briefly:—It is the universal renovation of our natures by the Holy Spirit into the image of God, through Jesus Christ. The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 3: Pneumatologia: A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 386. (HT: The Old Guys)
Only Jesus Is Enough
Eric Costa: We don’t often live with a functional understanding of biblical justification and sanctification. We often try—usually subconsciously—to attain feelings of assurance, satisfaction, or righteousness in our sanctification. “If I can perfectly confess and repent of this sin… If I can just figure out how to change my life in this way… If I can just achieve a certain level of sanctification, then it will be enough.” We can invest a lot of hope and effort in our sanctification in order to obtain what we’re only supposed to get from our justification: that joyful sense of assurance, satisfaction, and righteousness that comes vicariously through Jesus Christ, by his grace alone. You cannot truly and perfectly diagnose your own sin, in order to feel that “enough-ness” about your confession and repentance. You cannot understand how you’re supposed to change to the degree where you will feel that “enough-ness” about your sanctification. What you can achieve will never be enough. You’re
Sanctifying Success is the Lord’s
Jared Wison: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Not a single one of us is a perfect repenter. And not a single one of us ever will be. I do believe we cooperate in the work of our sanctification, working out what God has worked in (Phil. 2:12-13), striving to lay hold of the holiness with which God has already laid hold of us (Phil. 3:12), holding true to what we’ve already attained (Phil. 3:16), but the power and the success of sanctification must be the Lord’s alone, if only because only he sees all we need cleansing from. It is a mistake to think that as we progress in sanctification we have less sin to address. We walk through victories, successions of freedoms, but my experience has been that the further
John Owen on the Four Main Functions of the Holy Spirit
John Owen: The chief and principal ends for which the Holy Spirit is promised and received may be reduced to these four heads:—(1.) Regeneration; (2.) Sanctification; (3.) Consolation; (4.) Edification. There are, indeed, very many distinct operations and distributions of the Spirit, as I have in part already discovered, and shall yet farther go over them in particular instances; but they may be reduced unto these general heads, or at least they will suffice to exemplify the different manner and ends of the receiving of the Spirit. And this is the plain order and method of these things, as the Scripture both plainly and plentifully testifies: — (1.) He is promised and received as to the work of regeneration unto the elect; (2.) As to the work of sanctification unto the regenerate; (3.) As to the work of consolation unto the sanctified; and, (4.) As unto gifts for edification unto professors, according to his sovereign will and pleasure. (HT: The
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Justification and Sanctification: What’s the Problem?
Matt Smethurst: The relationship between justification and sanctification—between being pronounced righteous in a moment and being made righteous over a lifetime—is delicate, complex, and altogether crucial to grasp. “Sanctification is always properly built on justification,” says Bryan Chapell in a new roundtable discussion with Kevin DeYoung and Rick Phillips. Still, he explains, we can make two mistakes concerning what motivates our obedience—denying either a plurality of motivations on the one hand or a priority of motivations on the other. “We’re never in danger of talking about grace too much,” DeYoung insists. “But we can talk about grace in a truncated, reductionistic way.” We must take great care, then, to deal faithfully with the Bible’s multiplicity of motivations, resisting the tendency to flatten certain texts, while at the same time never becoming “suspicious of grace.” Phillips cautions against rhetoric that suggests sanctification is a “tag on” to justification—little more than “being excited about justification.” Rather, he says, sanctification is a “twin grace with justification, each resulting from union
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10 Errors to Avoid When Talking about Sanctification and the Gospel
Kevin DeYoung: With lots of books and blog posts out there about law and gospel, about grace and effort, about the good news of this and the bad news of that, it’s clear that Christians are still wrestling with the doctrine of progressive sanctification. Can Christians do anything truly good? Can we please God? Should we try to? Is there a place for striving in the Christian life? Can God be disappointed with the Christian? Does the gospel make any demands? These are good questions that require a good deal of nuance and precision to answer well. Thankfully, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The Reformed confessions and catechisms of the 16th and 17th centuries provide answers for all these questions. For those of us who subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity or to the Westminster Standards this means we are duty bound to affirm, teach, and defend what is taught in our confessional documents. For those outside these confessional
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Our love for God depends upon knowing his love for us
“You cannot love God if you are under the continual, secret suspicion that He is really your enemy! You cannot love God if you secretly think He condemns and hates you. This kind of slavish fear will compel you to some hypocritical obedience—such as what Pharaoh did when he let the Israelites go against His will. However, you will never truly love God if you are compelled only by fear. Your love for God must be won and drawn out by your understanding of God’s love and goodness towards you—just as John testifies in 1 John 4:18-19: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear consists of torment; The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. You simply cannot love God (pursue holiness/progress in sanctification—J.F.) unless you know and understand how much He loves you.” Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 31 (HT: John
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Can I Grow in Holiness Without the Local Church?
In this brief video clip David Powlison explains what role the local church plays in our sanctification. (HT: Desiring God blog)
A resting, restless faith
“Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul “our good works” are not ours, but God’s. They are his work begun and continuing in us, his being “at work in us, both to will and to do what please him” (Phil. 2:13). That is why, without any tension, a faith that rests in God the Savior is a faith that is restless to do his will. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul puts to the church those searching rhetorical questions, “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV). These questions, we should be sure, have the same answer for sanctification as for justification, for our good works as well as for our faith. Both, faith and good works, are God’s gift, his work in us. The deepest motive for our sanctification, for holy living and good works, is