Bar The Gates!

Dr. Steven Davey, courtesy of OnePlace.com

Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.Romans 6:13

John Bunyan, one of history’s greatest Christian authors, wrote the story of a fierce battle to take control of a city from its rightful ruler. This famous allegory, Bunyan’s second most popular work, is entitled The Holy War. His depiction of the human soul is a city, Mansoul, with five gates: Ear Gate, Eye Gate, Nose Gate, Feel Gate, and Mouth Gate.

The enemy of the city is Sin, who comes on a daily basis to attack at one of its five gates. Sin speaks to the Ear Gate; he presents vivid, alluring pictures to the Eye Gate; he tempts the other “Gates” as well.

The interesting thing about this battle is that Mansoulcould never be defeated by outside attacks, and Sin could never win in his assaults against the five gates…except in one way: someone on the inside had to open one of the gates and let Sin in.

In reality, these five gates are not Bunyan’s allegorical creations at all — they are for real! Bunyan had grasped what both Paul and Peter understood: that the soul of man is destroyed from the inside, not the outside.

This is why Paul urged the believers to stop presenting their members to sin. The word presenting in this verse is a military term, used in the transferring of weaponry or arms. Paul was actually saying, “Don’t let the enemy use your body as his weapon. Don’t let the enemy have your rifle or your sword so he can use it against you! Don’t leave yourself unarmed…don’t open the gates!”

Unquestionably, you cannot be a holy child of God while allowing your eyes to feast on unholy scenes. Most of today’s new film releases contain scenes of adultery or fornication. It is a fact, according to recent statistics, that over ninety percent of all sexual content in the average film is between unmarried people or people who are married to someone else.

If you choose to watch sin on the big screen, whether in a theater or your family room, you have just opened the Eye Gate and invited Sin to come in.

If Sin can’t get through one gate, he will try another. So, what are the lyrics to your favorite songs, and the lifestyle of your favorite artists? Most secular music today is filled with the same perversion that you see on the screen; merely listening to it may be as deadly as watching it…keep the Ear Gate closed!

You are in a Holy War, Christian, just as John Bunyan said. And you may be your own worst enemy! Sin is pounding at each Gate, but he can only come in if you allow him entrance. Sin can’t win the battle from the outside.

Don’t betray your Mansoul! By all means, reinforce the boundaries…fortify the walls…bar the Gates!

Bad News and Good News

The bad news:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.” – 1 Cor 6:9-11a

The good news:

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Cor 6:11b

Those were the words of the Apostle Paul to believers in the church in Corinth. The ‘bad news’ list of certain kinds of people probably could have been much longer, but Paul was making it very personal (“and such were some of you’) and setting the scene for the ‘good news’:

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Cor 6:11b

Paul also told a ‘bad news’ ‘good news’ story to the believers in Ephesus, and even kicked it up a notch:

The bad news:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. – Eph 2:1-3

Our Corinthians passage speaks of unrighteousness in terms of specific sinful behavior patterns, but our Ephesians passage talks about our very nature as mortal, fallen human beings!

The good news:

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“ Eph 2:4-5

The message of the gospel doesn’t start with John 3:16, it ends with it.

Think about it………..especially if you have not received and believed the GOOD NEWS!

J. C. Ryle on passive sanctification

by Jesse Johnson

clip_image001[4]The current debate about sanctification (does holiness come through personal effort, or is the best approach to sanctification to “relax” and trust God more?) is hardly limited to this age. J. C. Ryle fought the same battles over 100 years ago. Here are his comments on the idea that we are sanctified in the same way we are justified:

“I ask whether it is wise to speak of faith as the one thing needful, and the only thing required, as many seem to do nowadays in handling the doctrine of sanctification. Is it wise to proclaim in so bald, naked, and unqualified a way as many do that the holiness of converted people is by faith only, and not at all by personal exertion? Is it according to the proportion of God’s Word? I doubt it.

That faith in Christ is the root of all holiness; that the first step towards a holy life is to believe on Christ; that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness; that union with Christ by faith is the secret of both beginning to be holy and continuing holy; that the life that we live in the flesh, we must live by faith in the Son of God; that faith purifies the heart; that faith is the victory which overcomes the world; that by faith the elders obtained a good report—all these are truths which no well instructed Christian will ever think of denying. But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith. The very same apostle who says in one place, “the life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,’ says in another place, “I Fight,” “I run,” “I keep under my body”; and in other places, “let us cleanse ourselves,” “Let us labour,” “Let us lay aside every weight.”

Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere teach us that faith sanctifies us in the same sense and in the same manner that faith justifies us! Justifying faith is a grace that “worketh not,’ but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ (Rom 4:5clip_image002[8]). Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it worketh by love,” and, like a mainspring, moves the whole inward man” (Gal 5:6clip_image002[9])…

clip_image004[4]Without controversy, in the matter of our justification before God, faith in Christ is the one thing needful. All that simply believe are justified. Righteousness is imputed “to him that worketh not but believeth” (Rom 4:5clip_image002[10]). It is thoroughly scriptural and right to say, “Faith alone justifies.” But it is not equally scriptural and right to say, “Faith alone sanctifies.” The saying requires very large qualification. Let one fact suffice. We are frequently told that a man is “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” by St. Paul. But not once are we told that we are “sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Later, Ryle added this, which again seems so timely:

I must deprecate, and I do it in love, the use of uncouth and newfangled terms and phrases in teaching sanctification. I plead that a movement in favour of holiness cannot be advanced by new-coined phraseology, or by disproportioned and one-sided statements, or by overstraining and isolating particular texts, or by exalting one truth at the expense of another…and squeezing out of them meanings which the Holy Ghost never put in them… The cause of true sanctification is not helped, but hindered, by such weapons as these. A movement in aid of holiness which produces strife and dispute among God’s children is somewhat suspicious.

by

‘We wish the gospel, but no lectures against sin’

The editors of Leben retell colorful account of the bush preacher and the saloonkeeper.

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The life of the frontier preacher was a series of challenges for which most could not possibly have been prepared. It was a constant struggle between sticking to the traditions and forms with which one was familiar and “going with the flow,” as it were, often with unexpected consequences. Dr. H. J. Ruetenik’s colorful account of his itinerant ministry relates such consequences of his decision to engage in mission work among the German settlers in Ohio. Having not yet found assurance of his own faith, he is no match for the saloonkeeper who would become his host and nemesis. We join der Busch Pfarrer on his westward journey.

I’ll ask the worthy reader to come with me at once to Petersburg, Ohio, where I had been directed to work as a missionary among the Germans. To explain later occurrences, I shall add here that it seemed advisable to drop the name of the denomination to which I belonged [German Reformed], as I had been told in the West the Lutherans and the Reformed lived together in the same community. It was best to drop these distinguishing names entirely, and to call one’s self Evangelical. Because I had no experience in these matters myself, it seemed best to follow the advice of brothers who had, and I called myself simply Evangelical.

Petersburg is a town of three or four thousand on the Eel River. It was in the month of June that I arrived. At this season of the year the whole surrounding country looked most charming. The river, clear blue and silver, glided along between woods and fields bright with flowers, in a narrow, fertile valley; while the town, set on hills, showed a long way off.

Everything about the town appeared favorable. The houses were airy and light, painted white, while in front of them were trim, green lawns and occasionally evergreens for ornament. There were several slender church spires, also painted white, with green blinds and tall, steep roofs. The courthouse dome shone with the tin covering. The streets were straight and wide, keeping the houses apart at a healthful, airy distance.

Naturally I knew not one of these attractive churches was to be mine, for my congregation was to be established by me. Up to this time the gospel had not been preached in German in Petersburg, although the Germans were so numerous that they formed about one third of the population. Also, I had not been invited by any one in particular. The only fact known was that very many Germans lived here without a minister.

All this seemed reason enough to follow the suggestions of an experienced minister and come as a missionary to this district. The consequences of this attempt were in no way to be anticipated. I was filled with the enthusiasm of a young preacher who has not learned that even the most faithful labor must remain unrecognized and unsuccessful, and according to the Lord’s mysterious design.

The friendly appearance of the town as it lay a mile away, set in the beauty of the day, was entirely suited to raise my happy, innocent hopes. I was considering how, among all the other churches, one would soon be having a graceful spire pointing skyward for me; how I would come forward among the people in the power of the Lord and would illuminate eternal life; how I would attract them to their gentle Savior by going about with love and kindness, and —

“Hello, driver!” a voice called out suddenly to the driver in whose carriage I was riding from the nearest railroad station.

We stopped. At the side of the road a fat man with a very red face, round as a full moon, approached and asked to be taken along to town. He spoke English brokenly, and, like the driver, was of German extraction. As he climbed in, I moved over to make room for him on the seat beside me. Then we continued on our way to town.

“Damned hot, eh?” he asked me as he settled himself.

That tore me from my pleasant dreams to crude reality, yet I controlled myself and answered, “It could not be quite that hot. Such a degree of warmth or heat, as you have just mentioned, one can expect only after death.”

“It sounds as if you were a parson,” remarked my new neighbor, good-naturedly pounding my shoulder. “May I offer you a cigar?”

“Thank you, for both,” I replied. “I am no priest, nor do I smoke.”

“Oh, now I’ve guessed it; you no doubt are what is called a Methodist minister. They all do not smoke,” he said, a sly expression on his chubby face, winking cheerfully, proud of his astuteness.

“No,” I countered, “I am a Protestant minister, if you permit me.”

“Bravo, by G—!” returned the stranger. “Then you are the man for me, for I am Evangelical, too. Pardon me, are you stopping in Petersburg?”

“That was my intention,” I answered. “I am traveling just now to find out whether the people here wish me to preach the gospel to them.”

“You are getting to just the right place, Reverend. Yes, indeed, we want to have the gospel preached. I live in Petersburg. The true, pure gospel is what we want. You must come with me to my house. You can lodge there, for I have room enough for you above my grocery. How glad the people will be to know that an Evangelical preacher has come. We have a Methodist one here, but he preaches only conversion and being born again, temperance and repentance; and we don’t want all that, Reverend, by G—, we do not want all that. We wish to have the pure gospel preached, but no lectures against sin. If you are willing to preach the gospel, pure and simple, without meddling in our private affairs, you will certainly be well off with us, Reverend.”

To myself I wondered what the fellow meant by the pure gospel, where there was to be nothing about repentance, rebirth, temperance, etc.; and whether his swearing would be a private affair. Yet the man seemed good-natured, and I thought I should try to have him do better. And so I told him I would gladly accept his offer, but I would beg one thing of him before making any permanent arrangement.

“With the greatest pleasure, Reverend. If it is at all possible, I will gladly grant you any favor.”

“Will you be so kind as to try to refrain from swearing? It always pains me to hear it.”

“That, I think, is really none of your business, Reverend. Pardon me, but that is a personal affair, which I beg you not to meddle with. I shall be glad to have you proclaim the gospel, pure and simple. But as for private affairs, don’t be offended with me, Reverend, but those are private affairs. My G—, if it is nothing more than a little swearing, if a fellow is honest and truthful otherwise, that will do no harm, Reverend. Look, Reverend, here we are at my house. Just get down here. I see there are quite a few Germans in the tap-room. You can meet our best Germans here right away.”

For the full article on Dr. H. J. Ruetenik, please visit Leben’s website.

Sanctification Defined

"Sanctification is commonly regarded as a process of moral and spiritual transformation following conversion. In the New Testament, however, it primarily refers to God’s way of taking possession of us in Christ, setting us apart to belong to him and to fulfil his purpose for us. Sanctification certainly has present and ongoing effects, but when the verb ‘to sanctify’ (Gk. hagiazein) and the noun ‘sanctification’ (Gk. hagiasmos) are used, the emphasis is regularly on the saving work of God in Christ, applied to believers through the ministry of the Holy Spirit." -David Peterson.

The Power of Grace in the Sanctification of Believers

I recently found more than a few comments to this blog awaiting approval (or not), most of which were from the same gentleman who took offense at what he judged my antinomian tendencies. Antinomianism, according to Webster is ‘ the doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.’

According to this delightful fellow, I apparently have some company in the ranks of very well known evangelicals who have also been accused of being antinomian heretics due to their focus on grace and it’s power. In fact, I had first met this fellow when I commented on another blog devoted to declaring the heresy of one of the aforementioned well known evangelicals. I had suggested that he might have misread the preacher/teacher in question and had apparently invited the long string of comments on this blog informing me of my heretical tendencies and near complete lack of knowledge concerning God’s sovereignty in the salvation of men. Most interesting was his use of what is perhaps the most significant passage in all of scripture concerning the believer’s sanctification, to prove his point:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

In his anti-antinomian fervor my ‘mentor’ didn’t actually discuss the passage in it’s context and focused primarily on the phrase  “work out your own salvation”, as if the ‘heretics’ against which he railed completely ignored it. My friend’s ramblings aside, this might be a good moment to take a closer look at these verses and ask a few questions that might help us obtain a clearer picture of the teaching that Paul is providing his listeners:

In these two verses, what are the Paul’s instructions to the believer?

First of all, the ‘therefore’ refers back to Christ’s humble obedience to the Fafher’s will, even to the point of death on a cross. We are instructed to likewise attain humble obedience (therefore) and given the ‘how’. We are instructed by Paul to work ‘out our salvation”. The believer already has both salvation and the assurance of it for all eternity, because he/she has believed and trusted in the Son for the forgiveness of sin. (See John 3:16-18) And indeed, ‘work out’ is the expression used in several major translations, and the phrase that at times gives us trouble if we ignore what immediately follows in the text. A closer look at the original Greek will give us a fuller understanding of what Paul was saying:

What does it mean to ‘work out’ the salvation which we already posses?

I offer for your consideration the following perspectives:

Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest translates verse 12:

“Wherefore, my beloved ones, as you always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, carry to its ultimate conclusion [likeness to the Lord Jesus] your own salvation with a wholesome, serious caution and trembling.” (Eerdmans)

Scottish minister and Professor of Divinity at Glagcow Univrsity William Barclay:

“So then, my beloved, just as at all times you obeyed not only as in my presence, but much more, as things now are, in my absence, carry to its perfect conclusion the work of your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God, who, that he may carry out his own good pleasure, brings to effect in you both the initial willing and the effective action.” (Westminster Press)

The New Living Translation NLT:

“Dearest friends, you were always so careful to follow my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” (NLT – Tyndale House)

The Amplified Bible:

“Therefore my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

Noteworthy theologian Martyn-Lloyd Jones  offers this:

“So that is the essential meaning of salvation, and what Paul’s appeal tells them to do is to work out that salvation. And working out means perfecting, bringing to pass, leading to a full result, or finishing something which has already been commenced.”

It does not mean that we are to labor, solely by our own human efforts, to be pleasing to God, for scripture tells us that all of our righteousness is like a filthy rag, still tainted by sin (Isaiah 64, see also Psalm 14 & Romans 3).

It does mean that we are to yield to ‘God who works in us’, and do so humbly (with fear and trembling); knowing that is is GOD at work by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

How exactly does God work within us?

John Owen provides us an excellent answer to this question:

God works in converted men a will to that which is spiritually good; which is to be understood, not of the formation of the natural faculty of the will; or of the preservation of it, and its natural liberty; or of the general motion of it to natural objects; nor of his influence on it in a providential way; but of the making of it good, and causing a willingness in it to that which is spiritually good. Men have no will naturally to come to Christ, or to have him to reign over them; they have no desire, nor hungerings and thirstings after his righteousness and salvation; wherever there are any such inclinations and desires, they are wrought in men by God; who works upon the stubborn and inflexible will, and, without any force to it, makes the soul willing to be saved by Christ, and submit to his righteousness, and do his will; he sweetly and powerfully draws it with the cords of love to himself, and to his Son, and so influences it by his grace and spirit, and which he continues, that it freely wills everything spiritually good, and for the glory of God: and he works in them also to “do”; for there is sometimes in believers a will, when there wants a power of doing.”

God works within the believer to give him/her the two things most necessary for the task of ‘working out’ our salvation; the desire and the power to do that which pleases Him. The ‘working out’ or our salvation is simply God working in us, resulting in our sanctification.

Why does God so work in the life of every believer?

I believe God works in believers’ lives for the same reason He determined to have a remnant out of lost and dying humanity as a people for Himself:

“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”  (Ephesians 1:5-6 ESV)

All that God does in the life of of the believer is first and foremost “according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”, not for our personal satisfaction (our best life now).

Perhaps my ‘mentor’ will return to read this post and discover that to focus on God’s grace does not make one an ‘antinomian heretic’, but instead leads to a Christian life in which good works are empowered more  by God’s grace than sin tainted human effort.

I freely admit that I don’t know how pure my ‘working out’ is on any given day. I’m a sinner saved by grace challenged to simply walk in humble submission and obedience to God as I read and study His word and yield to His working in me.

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Justification and Our Peace

“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:1

Let me, in the last place, offer some counsel to all who have peace with God, and desire to keep up a lively sense of it.

It must never be forgotten that a believer’s sense of his own justification and acceptance with God admits of many degrees and variations. At one time it may be bright and clear; at another dull and dim. At one time it may be high and full, like the flood tide; at another low, like the ebb. Our justification is a fixed, changeless, immovable thing. But our sense of justification is liable to many changes.
What then are the best means of preserving in a believer’s heart that lively sense of justification which is so precious to the soul that knows it? I offer a few hints to believers. I lay no claim to infallibility in setting down these hints, for I am only a man. But such as they are I offer them.

(a) To keep up a lively sense of peace, there must be constant looking to Jesus. As the pilot keeps his eye on the mark by which he steers, so must we keep our eye on Christ.

(b) There must be constant communion with Jesus. We must use Him daily as our soul’s Physician, and High Priest. There must be daily conference, daily confession, and daily absolution.

(c) There must be constant watchfulness against the enemies of your soul. He who would have peace must be always prepared for war.

(d) There must be constant following after holiness in every relation of life—in our tempers, in our tongues, abroad and at home. A small speck on the lens of a telescope is enough to prevent our seeing distant objects clearly. A little dust will soon make a watch go incorrectly.

(e) There must be a constant laboring after humility. Pride goes before a fall. Self-confidence is often the mother of sloth, of hurried Bible-reading, and sleepy prayers. Peter first said he would never forsake his Lord, though all others did—then he slept when he should have prayed—then he denied Him three times, and only found wisdom after bitter weeping.

(f) There must be constant boldness in confessing our Lord before people. Those who honor Christ, Christ will honor with much of His company. When the disciples forsook our Lord they were wretched and miserable. When they confessed Him before the council, they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

(g) There must be constant diligence about means of grace. Here are the ways in which Jesus loves to walk. No disciple must expect to see much of his Master, who does not delight in public worship, Bible-reading, and private prayer.

(h) Lastly, there must be constant jealousy over our own souls, and frequent self-examination. We must be careful to distinguish between justification and sanctification. We must beware that we do not make a Christ of holiness.

I lay these hints before all believing readers. I might easily add to them. But I am sure they are among the first things to be attended to by true Christian believers, if they wish to keep up a lively sense of their own justification and acceptance with God.

I conclude all by expressing my heart’s desire and prayer that all who read these pages may know what it is to have the peace of God which passes all understanding in their souls.

If you never had “peace” yet, may it be recorded in the book of God that this year you sought peace in Christ and found it!

If you have tasted “peace” already—may your sense of peace mightily increase!

__________________

Excerpted from a J.C. Ryle work that discusses our present and eternal justification before God and our peace (assurance) of it.

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