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Archive for the ‘Sanctification by Faith’ Category

Tim Chester’s book, You Can Change, will provide theological and practical help as you set out to change particular parts of your life. Pick up a copy today!

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From Ray Ortlund:

“Be of good courage and cast these dreadful thoughts out of your mind.  Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. . . . When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell.  What of it?  Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means.  For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf.  His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Where he is, there I shall be also.’”

Martin Luther, in Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Philadelphia, 1955), pages 86-87.

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Bear fruits in keeping with repentance…(Luke 3:8)

Churches and movements which have recovered and cling to the gospel as the center of their lives run the risk of misusing and abusing the gospel. Once we understand that God exposes our sin and sinfulness not as an attempt to motivate us to try harder but to press into Jesus as our hope, we open ourselves up to believing that no further response is necessary. We rightly believe that because of Jesus, God will perfectly love us forever even if we never get better. But our failure to engage in the hard work of digging into the morass of the motivational structure of our hearts in order to apply the gospel to the sinfulness beneath our sin turns the gospel into a shiny veneer laid over the top of an increasingly hardened heart.

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Sam Storms is the main speaker at this year’s Desiring God Pastor’s Conference – a conference devoted this year to the theme of joy. Two questions he addresses are helpful for us as a church:

Why Is Joy So Important to Us as Christians?

  1. Joy requires the engagement of the whole soul, unlike any other expression of the human heart. There are things I understand with my mind that I don’t enjoy. There are decisions I make with my will that I don’t enjoy. When I genuinely enjoy something my mind is engaged and my will is active, requiring the conscious engagement of my whole being.
  2. There’s no such thing as hypocritical or insincere joy. You can pretend to have joy but you can’t have fake joy. There’s something pure and serene about joy that you can’t have about any other affection.
  3. There’s a power in joy that isn’t true in other affections. Consider the many occasions that the Bible combines a description of suffering with joy. We know those circumstances refine us, but joy in God also empowers us to persevere amidst pain. That’s why Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, because your reward in heaven is great.”
  4. Joy most clearly reveals what the human heart values. There’s something about joy that magnifies God (not inflates or enlarges him) more than anything else.

What are some ways that we fight for joy in our lives – and the lives of those we lead?

  1. Weave into the spiritual and intellectual fabric of your people the awareness that God’s designs in the moral commandments of Scripture are to expand their capacity to enjoy him and not to inhibit it. (See Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Christian Happiness.”)
  2. Preach often on the bigness and the beauty of God.
  3. Labor to turn their eyes from the pathetic, little, transient pleasures of what can be seen and felt and tasted to the grand and eternal pleasures of the glory that is to come.
  4. Build into the mental, emotional, and theological framework of your people an understanding of how suffering serves joy. (For a good resource, direct your people to Matt Chandler’s videos about the brain cancer he is facing.)
  5. Be an example to them of joy in your own life and relationship with God.

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Lots of conversations this week about anxiety after last Sunday’s sermon in Matthew 6. Our focus was on the downward drag that anxiety has on our generosity – and many of you are building on that connection and seeing its impact in other areas of your life.

As you wrestle with this area of sin in your life (and I want to encourage you to attack it from that angle and not just blow it off as an innate part of your personality), let me encourage you to do two things:

  1. Make it Known. Confess this to your friends in your community group and fight club. Be specific. And ask for their help in praying for you and pointing you to Jesus.
  2. Get Trained. Use this page of resources from John Piper on Fear and Anxiety. Read and think and write and take steps away from anxiety as you move towards becoming a person whose faith in Jesus becomes more secure.

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Affliction is the strange fruit of adoption – the first bite is bitter but the aftertaste is sweet.

This is how God convinces us that we belong to him. His love for us shows up in the darkest depths.

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It’s one thing to confess that I’m a sinner. It’s another bag of marbles to own up to the fact that certain sins show up in my world more often than others. So while no one is completely immune to anxiety (which needs to properly be labeled as sin and not excused as the way God made me), I’m not particularly vexed by it. I have my moments – in fact, I’m pretty sure I had my first panic attack last week – but that temptation is not an overwhelming struggle for me.

But I have areas of life where there are more moments of failure than I’d like to admit. And while I’d like to hide behind words like struggle and weakness, what I’m talking about here are those parts of life that feel dead because there’s been too much damage caused by guilt and shame. The places and moments when I’m more blind towards and belligerent against the God whom I still believe I love. Yet here are the symptoms and the scars of my spiritual disfigurement – and on some days it simply doesn’t look like anything is about to change. I don’t think I’m going to get better. I’ve given up hope that this pattern or that problem is going to be part of my past and never show up in the present ever again.

That’s why Romans 4:17 is my life this morning and is giving me enough grace and guts to write this down and toss it out there in the hope that you’re going to read this and know you’re not alone. You’re not the person God wants you to be – and yet still he loves you and reminds you that he is a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Now here’s the kicker – this is not an explicit promise that God is going to make me a better person but a reminder that God still loves me even if I never get better. What keeps me alive to God is this: He creates everything I need and gives it to me as a gift. And what I need when struggle and weakness becomes failure is to hear God tell me that he loved me while I was failing. This is what I need God to create – not simply obedience and victory over my sin and sinfulness but the faith to believe that my life with him exists and thrives because Jesus was delivered up for my trespasses and raised for my justification (Romans 4:25).

God does not expose my failure to make me push harder to be better but to press into Jesus more deeply.

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