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Simul Iustus et Peccator

(19 posts)

Why the saint’s strength is laid up in God

Tuesday··2007·02·13 · 1 Comments
At the moment of regeneration, we (Christians) are transformed (1 Corinthians 5:17). But that transformation does not make us autonomously righteous. It does not make us impervious to temptation. It does not take away our dependence on God. rather, it enables us to experience and rest in God’s gracious providence. [Why the saint’s strength is laid up in God.] Reason First. The first reason may be taken from the nature of the saints and their grace. Both are creatures, they and their grace also. Now, “it is in the very nature of the creature to depend on God its Maker,” both for being and operation. Can you conceive an accident to be out of its subject, whiteness out of the wall, or some other subject? It is as impossible that the creature should be, or act without strength from God. This to be, act in and of himself, is so incommunicable a property of the Deity, that he cannot impart it to his creature. God is, and there is none besides him. When God made the world, it is said indeed he ended his work, that is, of creation: he made no new species and kinds of creatures more; but to this day he hath not ended his work of providence: “My Father worketh hitherto,” saith Christ, Jn. v. 17, that is, in preserving and empowering what he hath made with strength to be and act, and therefore he is said to hold our souls in life. Works of art, which man makes, when finished, may stand some time without the workman’s help, as the house, when the carpenter has made it is dead; but God’s works, both of nature and grace, are never off his hand, and therefore as the Father is said to work hitherto for the preservation of the works of nature, so the Son, to whom is committed the work of redemption, he tells us, worketh also. Neither ended he his work when he rose again, any otherwise than his Father did in the work of creation. God made an end of making, so Christ made an end of purchasing mercy, grace, and glory for believers, by once dying; and as God rested at the end of the creation, so he, when he had wrought eternal redemption, and “by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high,” He. i. 3. But he ceaseth not to work by his intercession with God for us, and by his Spirit in us for God, whereby he upholds his saints, their graces, and comforts in life, without which they would run to ruin. Thus we see as grace is a creature, the Christian depends on God for his strength. But further, Reason Second. The Christian’s grace is not only a creature, but a weak creature, conflicting with enemies stronger than itself, and therefore cannot keep the field without an auxiliary strength from heaven. The weakest goes to the wall, if no succour comes in. Grace in this life is but weak, like a king in the cradle, which gives advantage to Satan to carry on his plots more strongly to the disturbance of this young king’s reign in the soul, yea, he would soon make an end of the war in the ruin of the believer’s grace, did not Heaven take the Christian into protection. It is true indeed, grace, whereever it is, hath a principle in itself that makes it desire and endeavour to preserve itself according to its strength, but being overpowered must perish, except assisted by God, as fire in greenwood, which deads and damps the part kindled, will in time go out, except blown up, or more fire put to that little; so will grace in the heart. God brings his grace into the heart by conquest. Now, as in a conquered city, though some yield and become true subjects to the conqueror, yet others plot how they may shake off this yoke; and therefore it requires the same power to keep, as was to win it at first. The Christian hath an unregenerate part, that is discontented at this new change in the heart, and disdains as much to come under the sweet government of Christ’s sceptre, as the Sodomites that Lot should judge them. What, this fellow, a stranger, control us! And Satan heads this mutinous rout against the Christian, so that if God should not continually reinforce this his new planted colony in the heart, the very natives (I mean corruptions) that are left, would come out of their dens and holes where they lie lurking, and eat up the little grace the holiest on earth hath; it would be as bread to these devourers. Reason Third. A third demonstration may be taken from the grand design which God propounds to himself in the saint’s salvation; yea, in the transaction of it from first to last. And that is twofold. 1. God would bring his saints to heaven in such a way as might be most expressive of his dear love and mercy to them. 2. He would so express his mercy and love to them, as might rebound back to him in the highest advance of his own glory possible. Now how becoming this is to both, that saints should have all their ability for every step they take in the way to heaven, will soon appear. 1. Design. God would bring his saints to heaven in such a way as might be most expressive of his dear love and mercy to them. This way of communicating strength to saints, gives a double accent to God’s love and mercy. (1.) It distils a sweetness into all the believer hath or doth, when he finds any comfort in his bosom, any enlargement of heart in duty, any support under temptations, to consider whence came all these, what friend sends them in. They come not from my own cistern, or any creature’s. O it is my God that hath been here, and left his sweet perfume of comfort behind him in my bosom! my God that hath unawares to me filled my sails with the gales of his Spirit, and brought me off the flats of my own deadness, where I lay aground. O, it is his sweet Spirit that held my head, stayed my heart in such an affliction and temptation, or else I had gone away in a fainting fit of unbelief. How can this choose but endear God to a gracious soul? His succours coming so immediately from heaven, which would be lost, if the Christian had any strength to help himself (though this stock of strength came at first from God). Which, think you, speaks more love and condescent: for a prince to give a pension to a favourite, on which he may live by his own care, or for this prince to take the chief care upon himself, and come from day to day to this man’s house, and look into his cupboard and see what provision he hath, what expense he is at, and so constantly to provide for the man from time to time? Possibly some proud spirit that likes to be his own man, or loves his means better than his prince, would prefer the former, but one that is ambitious to have the heart and love of his prince would be ravished with the latter. Thus God doth with his saints. The great God comes and looks into their cupboard, and sees how they are laid in, and sends in accordingly as he finds them. “Your heavenly Father knows you have need of these things,” and you shall have them. He knows you need strength to pray, [to] hear, [to] suffer for him, and, in ipsâ horâ dabitur, “in the very hour it will be given.” (2.) This way of God’s dealing with his saints adds to the fulness and stability of their strength. Were the stock in our own hands, we should soon prove broken merchants. God knows we are but leaking vessels, when fullest we could not hold it long; and therefore to make all sure, he sets us under the streamings forth of his strength, and a leaking vessel under a cock gets what it loseth. Thus we have our leakage supplied continually. This was the provision God made for Israel in the wilderness: He clave the rock, and the rock followed them. They had not only a draught at present, but it ran in a stream after them, so that you hear no more of their complaints for water. This rock was Christ Every believer hath Christ at his back, following him with strength as he goes, for every condition and trial. One flower with the root is worth many in a posie, which though sweet yet do not grow, but wither as we wear them in bosoms. God’s strength as the root keeps lively, without which, though as orient as Adam’s was, it would die. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth, 2002), 20–23.

Be Transformed

Tuesday··2007·10·02 · 5 Comments
I am not a preacher, but I have occasionally played one when asked to fill in. Of the few times I have done so, there is really only one that I can look back on with any satisfaction that I did right with that responsibility. On that occasion, I chose Romans 12:1–2 for my text. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Since then, I have always been interested in seeing how real expositors handle that text. I am always gratified to find that I didn’t botch it completely, and in fact agreed almost entirely with those who know far better than I. However, I am also severely humbled to see how much I missed. Luther heaps more shame upon me: Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (12:2). In this way the Apostle describes (Christian) progress; for he addresses those who already are Christians. The Christian life does not mean to stand still, but to move from that which is good to that which is better. St. Bernard (of Clairvaux) rightly says: “As soon as you do not desire to become better, then you have ceased to be good.” It does not help a tree to have green leaves and flowers if it does not bear fruit besides its flowers. For this reason—(for not bearing fruit)—many (nominal Christians) perish in their flowering. Man (the Christian) is always in the condition of nakedness, always in the state of becoming, always in the state of potentiality, always in the condition of activity. He is always a sinner, but also always repentant and so always righteous. We are in part sinners, and in part righteous. No one is so good as that he could not become better; no one is so evil, as that he could not become worse. This (fact) the Apostle expresses very nicely by saying “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He adds “By the renewing of your mind” to stress that renewal of the mind, which takes place from day to day and progresses farther and farther, according to the words, II Corinthians 4:16: “The inward man is renewed day by day”; of Colossians 3:10: “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind” or “Put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 151–152. What a rich passage this is! Maybe I’ll live long enough to thoroughly appreciate it. I have long said that being a Christian is not a matter of doing, but of being. I think I’ll have to replace being with becoming.

Mortification of Sin

Sinclair Ferguson encourages us to get serious about sin: Paul’s exposition [Colossians] provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin. . . . 1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is. Call a spade a spade—call it “fornication” (v. 5), not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “uncleanness” (v. 5), not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5), not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” . . . 2. See sin for what it really is in God’s presence. “Because of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). . . . See the true nature of sin in light of its punishment. . . . Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (3:7; cf. 6:21). 3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin. You have put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9–10). . . . New people live new lives. Anything less is a contradiction of who we are “in Christ.” 4. Put sin to death (v. 5). It is as “simple” as that. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way! But notice that Paul sets this in a very important broader context. The negative task of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positive call of the gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14). Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12–17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the gospel of grace, then we begin to make some real advances in holiness. Sinful desires and habits not only must be rejected but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13). As we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v. 14), not only in our private lives but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12–16), Christ’s name and glory will be manifested and exalted among us (3:17). —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 220–221.

Spots and Blemishes

R. C. Sproul, considering the separation between God and man that made a substitutionary atonement by a God-man necessary, draws three circles. The first represents the character of man. Imagine a circle that represents the character of mankind. Now imagine that if someone sins, a spot—a moral blemish of sorts—appears in the circle, marring the character of man. If another sin occurs, more blemishes appear in the circle. Well, if sin continues to multiply, eventually the entire circle will be filled with spots and blemishes. . . . Human character is clearly tainted by sin . . . The sinful pollution and corruption of fallen man is complete, rendering us totally corrupt. . . . To take it further, when the apostle Paul elaborates on this fallen human condition, he says, “There is none righteous, no, not one; . . . There is none who does good; no, not one” (Rom. 3:10b-12). That’s a radical statement. Paul is saying that man never, ever does a good deed, but that flies in the face of our experience. When we look around us, we see numerous people who are not Christians doing things that we would applaud for their virtue. . . . But how can there be these deeds of apparent goodness when the Bible says that no one does good? The reason for this problem is that when the Bible describes goodness or badness, it looks at it from two distinct perspectives. First, there is the measuring rod of the law, which evaluates the external performance of human beings. For example, if the law says you are not allowed to steal, and you go your whole life without stealing, we could say that you have a good record. You’ve kept the law externally. But in addition to the external measuring rod, there is also the consideration of the heart, the internal motivation for our behavior. We’re told that man judges by outward appearances, but God looks on the heart. From a biblical perspective, to do a good deed in the fullest sense requires not only that the deed conform outwardly to the standards of God’s law, but that it proceed from a heart that loves Him and wants to honor Him. You remember the great commandment: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matt. 22:37). Is there anyone reading this book who has loved God with all of his or her heart for the past five minutes? No. Nobody loves God with all of his heart, not to mention his soul or mind. . . . If we consider human performance from this perspective, we can see why the apostle would come to his apparently radical conclusion that there is no one who does good, that there’s no goodness in the full sense of the word found among mankind. Even our finest works have a taint of sin mixed in. I have never done an act of charity, of sacrifice, or of heroism that came from a heart, a soul, and a mind that loved God completely. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 85, 87–89.
I want to know God. I want to know his nature and his thoughts. It is this desire that drives me to read his Word and books about him by writers who know his Word far better than I. What could possibly be more wonderful, as wonderful, or even remotely wonderful compared to the knowledge of the eternal, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who is the source of all things, the epitome of holiness, righteousness, and justice? The answer is obvious: nothing compares. The greatest creations of the human imagination fade into utter insignificance in the glorious light of the ineffable perfections of almighty God. Why is it, then, that reading God’s Word becomes, at times, a chore to be done rather than a pleasure to be savored? I’m sure I can’t answer that question exhaustively, but I think I know at least part of the answer, and probably the greatest, most insidious part. Many would put the blame on Satan. Of course, the prince of darkness does not want me exposed to the light. Of course he wants to deceive me, and will do all he can to keep me from God and his Word. But I cannot shift the blame, not even to the father of lies. If God had destroyed Satan immediately after he deceived Adam, my worst enemy would still be right here with me. That enemy is me. I want to know God, I say again. I want to know him in all his glory. Yet there is a part of me that most definitely does not want to know him: my flesh. My flesh assiduously avoids all knowledge of God. Why? Because knowledge makes demands. My flesh does not like demands. Oh, it likes to make demands. It makes demands on people, on things, on circumstances, and even on God, but it hates demands made on me. What demands does the knowledge of God make? Knowledge of his holiness demands that I be holy. Knowledge of his sovereign lordship, of his ownership of all creation, including me, demands that I submit to his commands. Knowledge of his love demands that I love him and all that he loves. The knowledge of God does more than make demands. Just as a light shining into a dark corner reveals the dirt left unseen in the darkness, the light of God’s holiness exposes the filth in my heart. It discloses my unholiness, my intractability, my unloving selfishness. The knowledge of God leads to knowledge of self-knowledge I would rather ignore. So now, in addition to knowledge of God, I have knowledge of self. This is not a pleasant combination. Knowledge of God brings demands. Knowledge of self, of who I really am, crushes any hope that I can meet those demands. This brings with it yet another demand—that I be humble. But I am not humble. I am proud and independent. If I was humble, the logical thing to do at this point would be to acknowledge my helplessness, rest on God’s promises, and pray for grace. But very often, my reaction is anything but humble. Rather than praying, I resolve to do better. I will try harder. Can you believe it? I retreat to my own self-sufficiency! The very self-sufficiency that has already been destroyed! And that is exactly where I would be left, if not for the gracious, electing work of God; if not for the sacrificial redeeming work of Christ; if not for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. God takes a man who is unholy, unrighteous, unloving, whose knowledge of myself causes me to cringe from the knowledge of God, and gently, lovingly, draws me back into a place where I can say, with all my heart, I want to know God.

When You Encounter Various Trials

Monday··2008·11·10 · 1 Comments
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. —James 1:2–4 Life is hard. Working for a living is hard. Marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. Sometimes, just getting up in the morning is hard. Are you thankful? You should be. I don’t mean you should not grieve and mourn over serous calamities, or even cry out to God for deliverance. I mean, can you recognize God’s hand at work, stripping away your independence, self-sufficiency, and pride, strengthening your faith, and trusting him to work all things together for your good, thank him and be joyful? These are hard questions for me. I think I have experienced my share (what is my share, exactly?) of trials, and I think I can honestly say that I have learned to be content and thankful for lessons learned and for the providence of God in those situations. I do pretty well, I think. But wait; what did James write? “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you look back on various trials, and see how God has worked through them . . .” No, he wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials . . .” When, not after. This is a hard pill to swallow, and I’m afraid I haven’t quite choked it down yet. Here is where I’d like to have a nice, inspirational, devotional book-like conclusion, but I’m afraid I haven’t got one. It’s only the grace of God that brings me around to see in hindsight what I’m too selfish or stupid to see at the moment. Needle-point that and hang it on the wall.

Lord’s Day 13, 2009

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. Psalm 122:1 (geneva bible) Confession. Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) O this soul, how dark and blind! O this foolish, earthly mind; This ever froward, selfish will, Which refuses to be still! O these ever roaming eyes, Upward that refuse to rise; These still wayward feet of mine, Found in every path but thine! O these pulses felt within, Beating for the world and sin, Sending round the fevered blood, In a fierce and carnal flood! O this stubborn, prayerless knee, Hands so seldom clasped to Thee, Longings of the soul, that go, Like the wild wind, to and fro; To and fro without an aim, Returning idly whence they came, Bringing in no joy, no bliss, Adding to my weariness! Giver of the heavenly peace, Bid, O bid, these tumults cease; Minister Thy holy balm, Fill me with Thy Spirits calm! Thou the life, the truth, the way, Leave me not in sin to stray; Bearer of the sinners guilt, Lead me, lead me, as thou wilt! —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Psalme 119:97 104 (Geneva Bible) Mem. 97 Oh howe loue I thy Lawe! it is my meditation continually. 98 By thy commandements thou hast made mee wiser then mine enemies: for they are euer with mee. 99 I haue had more vnderstading then all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. 100 I vnderstoode more then the ancient, because I kept thy precepts. 101 I haue refrained my feete from euery euil way, that I might keepe thy word. 102 I haue not declined from thy iudgements: for thou didest teach me. 103 Howe sweete are thy promises vnto my mouth! yea, more then hony vnto my mouth. 104 By thy precepts I haue gotten vnderstanding: therefore I hate all the wayes of falshoode. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lorde Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Pride

A warning about spiritual pride: This was the sin made [Satan], of a blessed angel, a cursed devil; and as it was his personal sin, so he chiefly labours to derive it to the sons of men: and he so far prevailed on our first parents, that ever since, this sin hath and doth claim a kind of regency in the heart, making use both of bad and good to draw her chariot. First, it maketh use of evil. Pride enters into the labours of other sins; they do but work to make her brave, as subjects to uphold the state and grandeur of their prince. Thus you shall see some drudge and droil*, cheat, cozen†, oppress; and what mean they? O it is to get and estate to maintain their pride. Others fawn and flatter, lie, dissemble; and for what? to help pride up some mount on honour. Second. It maketh use of that which is good. It can work with God’s own tools, his ordinances, by which the Holy Spirit advanceth his kingdom of grace in the hearts of his saints. These often are prostituted to pride. A man may be very zealous in prayer, and painful in preaching, and all the while pride is the master whom he serves, though in God’s livery. It can take sanctuary in the highest actions, and hide itself under the skirt of virtue itself. Thus while a man is exercising his charity, pride may be the idol in secret for which he lavisheth out his gold so freely. It is hard starving this sin, because there is nothing almost but it can live on—nothing so base that a proud hear will not be lift up with, and nothing so sacred but it profane; [it will] even dare to drink in the bowels of the sanctuary, nay, rather than starve, it will feed on the carcasses of other sins. “That sin is with greatest difficult to avoided which springs from a victory of our vices.” This minion pride will stir up the soul to resist, yea, in a manner kill, some sins, that she may boastingly show the head of them, and blow the creature up with the conceit of himself above others. As the Pharisee, who through pride bragged that he was not as the publican—so that pride, if not looked to, will have to do everywhere, and hath a large sphere it moves in. nothing indeed (without divine assistance) the creature hath or doth, but will soon become a prey to this devourer. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:191–192. * to work slowly. † to persuade by deceit.

Why Don’t I Feel New?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. —1 Corinthians 5:17 At the moment of regeneration, we are united with Christ, baptized by and filled with the Holy Spirit. There is no “second blessing,” no “haves” and “have-nots.” “The old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Every believer is “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” But let’s be honest. Even for the most committed Christian, it doesn’t always seem like “the new has come.” We don’t always feel like a “new creation.” Usually we are more keenly aware of the sin that oozes from within us than we are of the rivers of living water Christ spoke of. Although we “have the first-fruits of the Spirit, [we] groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). And we groan this way all our lives. Remember that it was a mature apostle, not a fragile new Christian, who cried out in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” . . . As believers we are new creatures—reborn souls—vested with everything necessary for life and godliness, but we cannot appreciate fully the newness of our position in Christ because of the persisting presence of sin in us. Like Paul, we “delight in the law of God, in [our] inner being” (Romans 7:22). Only the principle of eternal life in us can explain such love for the law of God. But at the same time, the flesh constricts and fetters us, like tightly bound grave clothes on someone just up out of the grave. This flesh principle is at war against the principle of new life in Christ. So we feel like captives to the law of sin in our own members (v. 23). How can this be? After all, Paul earlier wrote in this very epistle that our bondage to sin is broken. We are supposed to “have been set free from sin” (6:22). How is it that just one scant chapter later, he says we are “captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (7:23)? But being captive is not quite the same thing as being enslaved. As unredeemed sinners, we were full-time slaves of sin—willing servants, in fact. As Christians who are not yet glorified, we are “captives,” unwilling prisoners of an already-defeated enemy. Although sin can buffet and abuse us, it does not own us, and it cannot ultimately destroy us. Sin’s authority and dominion are broken. It “lies close at hand” in the believer’s life (7:21), but it is no longer our master. Our real allegiance is now the principle of righteousness (v. 22). It is in this sense that “the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even though we still fall into old patterns of sinful thinking and behavior, those things no longer define who we are. Sin is now an anomaly and an intruder, not the sum and substance of our character. —John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (Second Edition) (Crossway, 2013), 132, 133–134.

Lord’s Day 46, 2013

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. —Galatians 2:20 Crucifixion and Resurrection O Lord, I marvel that thou shouldst become incarnate, be crucified, dead, and buried. The sepulchre calls forth my adoring wonder, for it is empty and thou art risen; the four-fold gospel attests it, the living witnesses prove it, my heart’s experience knows it. Give me to die with thee that I may rise to new life, for I wish to be as dead and buried to sin, to selfishness, to the world; that I might not hear the voice of the charmer, and might be delivered from his lusts. O Lord, there is much ill about me—crucify it, much flesh within me—mortify it. Purge me from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation, the shame of being thought old-fashioned, the desire to be cultivated or modern. Let me reckon my old life dead because of crucifixion, and never feed it as a living thing. Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour, to be content to be rejected, to be willing to take up unpopular truths, and to hold fast despised teachings until death. Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained. Never let me wander from the path of obedience to thy will. Strengthen me for the battles ahead. Give me courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys. Help me to be a holy, happy person, free from every wrong desire, from everything contrary to thy mind. Grant me more and more of the resurrection life: may it rule me, may I walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence. —The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Ryle, Romans 7, and Paul’s Perspective

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. —Romans 7:14–25 Concerning this text, there is disagreement over the perspective from which Paul writes. Some say he is writing as unconverted; others say as an immature believer. I fall in with Ryle, who wrote: Is it wise to assert so positively and violently, as many do, that the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans does not describe the experience of the advanced saint, but the experience of the unregenerate man, or of the weak and unestablished believer? I doubt it. I admit fully that the point has been a disputed one for eighteen centuries, in fact ever since the days of St. Paul. I admit fully that eminent Christians like John and Charles Wesley, and Fletcher, a hundred years ago, to say nothing of some able writers of our own time, maintain firmly that St. Paul was not describing his own present experience when he wrote this seventh chapter. I admit fully that many cannot see what I and many others do see: viz., that Paul says nothing in this chapter which does not precisely tally with the recorded experience of the most eminent saints in every age, and that he does say several things which no unregenerate man or weak believer would ever think of saying, and cannot say. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), xvii–xviii.

The Cross Is Not Enough

The doctrine of double imputation demands that we have more than a cross-centered theology. R. C. Sproul explains: Justification: Our Sin Transferred to Christ In our justification a double transfer takes place. First, the weight of our guilt is transferred to Christ. Christ willingly takes upon Himself all of our sin. Once our sin is imputed to Christ, God sees Him as a mass of corruption. He sees a mass of sinfulness. Because the sin now has been transferred to Jesus’ account, He is counted or reckoned guilty in our place. But if this transfer were all that happened, if the imputation were a one-dimensional transaction, we would never be justified. If Jesus were to take on His back all of the sins that I have ever committed and bear the punishment for me, that would not get me into the kingdom of God. All that would do is keep me out of hell. I would still not be just. I would be innocent but still not just in a positive sense. I would have no righteousness of which to speak. Remember, it is not simply innocence that gets us into the kingdom of God. It is righteousness. Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never get into the kingdom of God (see Matthew 5:20). If the only thing that occurred in salvation were the removal of my guilt, I would still have no merit. Justification: Christ’s Righteousness Transferred to Us So there is a double transfer. Not only is the sin of mankind imputed to Christ, but His righteousness is transferred to our account. In God’s sight [we are] now clean. When God declares me just, He is not lying. This is no mere legal fiction. If the imputation were fictional, then God’s declaration would be a legal fiction. It would be a lie and blemish on the character of God. But the point of the gospel is that the imputation is real. God really did lay my sins on Christ, and God really did transfer Christ’s righteousness to me. There is a genuine union for those who are in Christ. We truly possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. Christ is our righteousness. That’s why He is our Savior: not merely because He died but because He lived. Without His meritorious life the atonement would have no value. Without His obedience, His suffering on the cross would be merely a tragedy. We must have the double transfer, by which God declares us just. When we consider this double imputation, we see the essence of our salvation in a phrase made famous by Martin Luther: simul justus et peccator. Simul is the Latin word from which we get the English word simultaneous. It means “at the same time.” Justus is the word for “just” or “righteous.” Et means “and.” Peccator is the Latin word for sinner. So simul justus et peccator means “at the same time just and sinner.” This is the glory of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The person who is in Christ is at the very same instant both just and a sinner. That’s good news, for if I had to wait until there was no sin in me to get into the kingdom of God, I would surely never make it. —R. C. Sproul, Saved from What? (Crossway, 2002), 96–98.

Unwilling, Wandering, and Weary

The feet of the harlot abide not within her house, neither will thy affections easily within the house of God; doth not experience tell thee that they love to be gadding, and therefore require a strong and vigilant guard? Parents set their children before them at church, and have their eyes much upon them, because otherwise they will be toying and playing; truly so will thy heart, if thine eye be not on it. Alas, thy heart in duty is like one that looks through an optic glass on some small object, with a palsy hand, it is long before he can discern it, and as soon as he hath found it, so unsteady is his hand that he hath lost it again; therefore it behoves thee to keep it diligently, and to watch it narrowly; there is a bottomless depth of deceit in thine heart—how unwilling is it to a duty! how much wandering in a duty! how soon weary of a duty! ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who knoweth it?’ Jer. xvii. 11. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:91.

Lord’s Day 22, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector,standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. —Luke 18:10–14 Hymn 131. (L. M.) The Pharisee and publican. Luke xviii. 10, &c. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Behold how sinners disagree, The publican and Pharisee! One doth his righteousness proclaim, The other owns his guilt and shame. This man at humble distance stands, And cries for grace with lifted hands That boldly rises near the throne, And talks of duties he has done. The Lord their diff’rent language knows, And diff’rent answers he bestows; The humble soul with grace he crowns, Whilst on the proud his anger frowns. Dear Father! let me never be Join’d with the boasting Pharisee; I have no merits of my own But plead the suff’rings of thy Son. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

When do you “Amen”?

Some people love to shout “Amen!” if you’re in the “right” kind of church with the “right” kind of preaching, you’ll hear it a lot, along with expressions like “Preach it, Brother!” and “That’s right, Preacher!” I am descended mostly from Scandinavian immigrants, and was raised Lutheran, so there is just no hollering “Amen!” gene in my DNA. I, as far as I can remember, have never done it, and likely never will. Thinking it while quietly nodding my head is as expressive as I get, and if you share my heritage, you know what I mean. If you share my heritage, you also know that very strong feelings are often hidden behind very subtle expressions. Without opening my mouth or shifting the least bit in my seat, I can holler “Amen!” with the best Indy-Fundy Baptist at a KJVO conference. Sadly, like the IFB, my “Amen!” moments have most often come in response to some grand moral declaration applying to someone else. Moral indignation always feels good. By the grace of God, my “Amen!” moments have a new motivation. I’ve learned the gospel. The gospel kills the kind of pride that loves to denounce the sins of others. The gospel lays us low. It reduces our righteousness to “filthy rags.” I can no longer shout “Amen!” at denouncements of “worldliness” or “backsliders.” It’s tough to shout anything with head hanging, and when every sin named whispers “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” I am simul iustus et peccator, the man Paul described in Romans 7. I now cry “Amen!” (silently, of course) when the preacher tells me I need to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and assures me that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” who promised, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing . . . and I will raise him up on the last day.” I holler “Amen!” when reminded that “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” “Amen!” because I know I am guilty, and “Amen!” because I’ve been pardoned. When do you holler “Amen”?

The Corruption of Indwelling Sin

Tim Challies is currently guiding his readers through John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. I’ve decided to follow along. You might want to, also. At the bottom of the excerpt farther down this page, you will find links to several ways to do that. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. —Colossians 3:5 Today, I draw your attention to just one sentence: Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? —John Owen, Of The Mortification of Sin In Believers, The Works of John Owen (Banner of Truth, 1968), 6:11. [Also: Overcoming Sin and Temptation with updated language, paperback or Kindle; free PDFs of The Works of John Owen (Mortification of Sin is found in volume 6)] So complete is the corruption of our flesh that everything we do is, to some degree, tainted with sin. This was Paul's lament in Romans 7, causing him to cry, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” I, also, am a “wretched man,” and so are you. As long as we are in this flesh, we will battle to kill sin. But, as Paul did not ultimately despair, neither should we, because as “the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit,” so also is “the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). And those who are baptized into Christ—that is, every believer—have been given a new nature, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to crucify “the flesh with its passions and desires” (v. 24).

Be Quick to See Grace

Ryle looks at the fear of the Disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee and compares them to others, like Abraham and David, who are named as righteous men, but on occasion acted faithlessly. He exhorts us to look at ourselves, see that same weakness in ourselves, and know that we will never be perfected this side of eternity. But that knowledge should not make us complacent or careless. Do I want to apologize for the corruptions of professing Christians, and excuse their sins? God forbid!—Do I want to lower the standard of sanctification, and countenance anyone in being a lazy, idle soldier of Christ? God forbid!—Do I want to wipe out the broad line of distinction between the converted and the unconverted, and to wink at inconsistencies? Once more I say, God forbid!—I hold strongly that there is a mighty difference between the true Christian and the false, between the believer and the unbeliever, between the children of God and the children of the world. I hold strongly that this difference is not merely one of faith, but of life—not only one of profession, but of practice. I hold strongly that the ways of the believer should be as distinct from those of the unbeliever, as bitter from sweet, light from darkness, heat from cold. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 273. Ryle’s purpose is two-fold: that believers should not become discouraged, and that we might be patient and extend grace to others. I do want young Christians to understand what they must expect to find in themselves. I want to prevent their being stumbled and puzzled by the discovery of their own weakness and infirmity. I want them to see that they may have true faith and grace, in spite of all the devil’s whispers to the contrary, though they feel within doubts and fears. I want them to observe that Peter, and James, and John, and their brethren were true disciples, and yet not so spiritual but that they could be afraid. I do not tell them to make the unbelief of the disciples an excuse for themselves. But I do tell them that it shows plainly, that so long as they are in the body they must not expect faith to be above the reach of fear. Above all, I want all Christians to understand what they must expect in other believers. You must not hastily conclude that a man has no grace merely because you see in him some corruption. There are spots on the face of the sun; and yet the sun shines brightly and enlightens the whole world. There is quartz and dross mixed up with many a lump of gold that comes from Australia; and yet who thinks the gold on that account worth nothing at all? There are flaws in some of the finest diamonds in the world; and yet they do not prevent their being rated at a priceless value. Away with this morbid squeamishness which makes many ready to excommunicate a man if he only has a few faults! Let us be more quick to see grace and more slow to see imperfections! Let us know that, if we cannot allow there is grace where there is corruption, we shall find no grace in the world. We are yet in the body. The devil is not dead. We are not yet like the angels. Heaven has not yet begun. The leprosy is not out of the walls of the house, however much we may scrape them, and never will be till the house is taken down. Our bodies are indeed the temple of the Holy Ghost, but not a perfect temple until they are raised or changed. Grace is indeed a treasure, but a treasure in earthen vessels. It is possible for a man to forsake all for Christ’s sake, and yet to be overtaken occasionally with doubts and fears. I beseech every reader of this paper to remember this. It is a lesson worth attention. The Apostles believed in Christ, loved Christ, and gave up all to follow Christ. And yet you see in this storm the Apostles were afraid. Learn to be charitable in your judgment of them. Learn to be moderate in your expectations from your own heart. Contend to the death for the truth that no man is a true Christian who is not converted, and is not a holy man. But allow that a man may be converted, have a new heart, and be a holy man, and yet be liable to infirmity, doubts and fears. —Ibid., 273–274.

Reflections on Conflict and Pride

Have you ever had an argument with your spouse (If you aren’t married, replace “spouse” with anyone else)? I don’t mean the good kind of argument, in which there is a free and civil exchange of opposing opinions. I mean the kind that devolves into irritation, anger, and possibly, unkind words. If you have—just admit it, you have—you know how difficult it can be to clean up the mess. And you know that the difficulty is not usually some external obstacle, but rather is an internal conflict with pride—yours, the other party’s, or quite likely, both. I like it best, naturally, when I’m not at fault, when I’m able to restrain myself and behave decently when everything in me is urging me to release my passions and strike back. It’s still unpleasant, but at least my conscience is clear. Even then, though, it’s almost impossible not to feel some unexpressed outrage over the injustice I’ve been dealt. Then there is the pride that often accompanies the knowledge that I’ve controlled myself and been “good.” I don’t always feel that way, but too often, I do. And hidden sins are still sin. The easiest conflicts to resolve are the ones in which I alone am at fault. Once I come to that conclusion, it’s a relatively simple matter to confess it and say, “I’m sorry.” I still hate it, but I can do it. I must do it, and I will not be happy until I do. I can resolve those conflicts, because it’s entirely in my hands to do so. And it’s difficult to go away proud. The hardest conflicts to resolve are those in which I believe the fault is shared, especially if I didn’t start it (yes, that’s as juvenile as it sounds). Yes, I know I did wrong, but I (maybe) didn’t start it, and after all, I was provoked. I’m not the only one who owes an apology. I’m offended, too! So I sit and stew over it. Yes, I know I should confess, and yes, I even want to, but it’s not fair! What if I’m the only one who admits my fault? What if I don’t receive an apology in return? I’ve worked hard to avoid making phony “I’m sorry, but . . .” statements, and I don’t think I’ve done that in a very long time, but time and practice have done nothing to change how much it absolutely kills me. I want to say “but.” I want to explain myself, to mitigate my guilt. Yes, I was wrong, but it’s perfectly understandable, don’t you see? Alright, I’m sorry, but where is my justice? It seems natural in those situations to think of myself as only half of the problem, bearing only fifty percent of the blame, but God doesn’t see it that way. He looks at me and what I have done independently from what anyone else has done. He didn’t see two people cooperating in a sin; he saw two people sinning independently against each other and against him. That leaves me with one hundred percent of my own guilt. It’s only when I see that, when I can separate my sin from another’s, that I feel its full weight. Only then will my pride be killed. Only then can there be sincere confession and genuine repentance. Only then can I take the full weight of my guilt to the cross, and leave it there.

Imperfect Hate

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 David Clarkson lists three characteristics of genuine repentance: sorrow for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin to Christ. Concerning hatred of sin, we may observe that we don’t hate it enough, that, in fact, we still find some attraction to it. We may, then, worry that our repentance is not adequate. Clarkson writes, All hatred of sin is here imperfect. No perfection in this life, but sense of imperfection. Both graces, and gracious affections, want many degrees of perfection. Grace is but of a child s stature, it has perfection of parts, but not of degrees. A child has all the parts of a perfect man, but wants many degrees of man s perfection. And as with grace, so with this affection; it is not perfect, either rations objecti; sin is not hated as it should be according to its hatefulness; nor ratione facultatis, so much as it is possible for the heart to hate it; not raised to such high degrees of hatred, as it may be will be. . . . He that truly hates sin, though but imperfectly, cannot be properly said to love it. He that hates all sin, and hates it above all that the world counts hateful, and abhors himself that he can hate it no more, and mourns for the imperfection of his hatred, and strives in the use of appointed means to perfect it, does truly hate it. In the same subject there cannot be contrary affections to the same object. We count it impossible to love and hate the same thing or person. . . . He that hates does not love, &c. It is as impossible, as for the same thing to be both black and white; the same water to be at once both hot and cold. It may be neither, but it cannot be both; if one, not the other. So here, and though hatred be but in us in a remiss degree, imperfectly, and it may be supposed the imperfection arises from the mixture of the contrary affection, yet that which is predominant gives the denomination. He that hates sin more than he loves it, may be said simply absolutely to hate it. We say not water is cold if it be hot above lukewarmness, though it be not hot in the utmost extremity. We say not that he loves sin who hates it truly, though not perfectly. If he be overpowered to act it, surprised with some pleasure in it, this argues not love. For he abhors himself acting, mourns bitterly for delight in it, as Paul, Rom. vii. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:38–39. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. —Romans 7:15ff


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