Monday, March 12, 2007
Jerry Bridges wrote: "As a new Christian I prayed that God would use the Bible to guide my conduct. Then I began diligently to seek to obey it. I had never heard the phrase "the pursuit of holiness," but that became my primary goal in life. Unfortunately, I made two mistakes. First, I assumed the Bible was something of a rulebook and that all I needed to do was to learn what it says and go do it. I knew nothing of the necessity of depending on the Holy Spirit for his guidance and enablement. Still worse, I assumed that God's acceptance of me and his blessing in my life depended on how well I did. I knew I was saved by grace through faith in Christ apart from any works. I had assurance of my salvation and expected to go to heaven when I died. But in my daily life, I thought God's blessing depended on the practice of certain spiritual disciplines, such as having a daily quiet time and not knowingly committing any sin. I did not think this out but just unconsciously assumed it, given the Christian culture in which I lived. Yet it determined my attitude toward the Christian life.
As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God's blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.
Most Christians have a baseline of acceptable performance by which they gauge their acceptance by God. For many, this baseline is no more than regular church attendance and the avoidance of major sins. Such Christians are often characterized by some degree of self-righteousness. After all, they don't indulge in the major sins we see happening around us. Such Christians would not think they need the gospel anymore. They would say the gospel is only for sinners.
For committed Christians, the baseline is much higher. It includes regular practice of spiritual disciplines, obedience to God's Word, and involvement in some form of ministry. Here again, if we focus on outward behavior, many score fairly well. But these Christians are even more vulnerable to self-righteousness, for they can look down their spiritual noses not only at the sinful society around them but even at other believers who are not as committed as they are. These Christians don't need the gospel either. For them, Christian growth means more discipline and more commitment.
Then there is a third group. The baseline of this group includes more than the outward performance of disciplines, obedience, and ministry. These Christians also recognize the need to deal with sins of the heart like a critical spirit, pride, selfishness, envy, resentment, and anxiety. They see their inconsistency in having their quiet times, their failure to witness at every opportunity, and their frequent failures in dealing with sins of the heart. This group of Christians is far more likely to be plagued by a sense of guilt because group members have not met their own expectations. And because they think God's acceptance of them is based on their performance, they have little joy in their Christian lives. For them, life is like a treadmill on which they keep slipping farther and farther behind. This group needs the gospel, but they don't realize it is for them. I know, because I was in this group.
Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6," All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all," and then say, "Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you."
I came to see that Paul's statement in Galatians 2:20, "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me," was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: "The life I now live ...." Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.
Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father."
Yes Jerry's experience was also my own. And, as we read last week in Colossians 2 It was also the experience of these believers too!
Legalism doesn’t work Run, John, run, the Law commands; But gives him neither feet nor hands. Far better news the Gospel brings; It bids him fly and gives him wings.” —John Bunyan
Mysticism doesn’t work
The moral failure of modern mystics.
On expressing my concerns for a certain church where the head pastor was recently outed in the news paper for pedophilia and other staff for sexual immorality:
“Maybe Good doesn’t look at sin as we think.”
Asceticism doesn’t work Augustine is greatly influenced by asceticism, which looks as if it is something held in high regard by the Church and Christians at this time. The story of the two friends at Trier who abandon their possessions and their betrothed to follow God affects him greatly. Alypius after his conversion is praised for subduing his body by walking barefoot on the frozen soils of Italy. Chasteness in particular is held in high regard. The betrothed of the two friends at Trier dedicate their virginity to God, Augustine notes that Nebridius served God in perfect chastity after his conversion and of course Augustine himself sets out to be celibate.
Paul now shows us what does work. How in this world can you be holy? How can you be a holy eprson, and not fall into the traps of legalism, and its emptiness, mysticism and its foolishness, asceticism and its barreness?
Let me ask you a few questions:
1. What Is The Centre Of Your Life?
Throughout its about you with Christ.
Risen with Christ
Died with Christ
Hid with Christ
Christ who is our life
In Him we died, in Him we rose, In Him we triumphed o’er our foes; In Him in heaven we took our seat And heaven rejoiced o’er earth’s defeat.
John Fawcett (1740-1817), an important Baptist figure in the North of England, and came across these great lines: Depraved minds on ashes feed Nor love nor seek for heavenly food.
Augustine thou art a Platonist, not a Christian a platonist., for this is what you think about, this is what you talk about this is where your hearty is set. What would they say of you?
I did a funeral for a fisherman. He had pone fo those plaques with a singing fish on it. It had two songs.. “I gotta get out of this place”. And “Don’t Worry Be happy.”
William James divided all religious people (in several religions) into the once born and the twice born. The once born are the people of the journey, of the holy continuity, whose lives are more or less at home in Zion. The twice born have such inner tension that they must release it in a burst or blow apart. Augustine (and St Paul) are the classical examples of this type of believer
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.
What are the three things you are currently seeking the most? What are the three things you love the most? What are the three things you think about the most? What do you read? What do you watch? What do you daydream about? ponder? Based on your answers, what is your preoccupation, God or self? What should your preoccupation be? If your preoccupation has been yourself, why is that ? If your preoccupation has been yourself, then you need to make the commitment today to concentrate on Christ.
2. What Is The Concentration Of Your Life?
“Where you stand is dependant on where you sit” politicians stand on issues dependant on where they sit in parliament.
Seek things above, mind Matt. 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (involves our motivation)
We continually must decide to turn our minds and hearts toward Heaven. The tense of Paul's command is that we must be actively, constantly turning our thoughts Heavenward. This is not our normal practice. Normally we fret, stew, finagle, rearrange, plot and despair. Then and only then do we sometimes turn toward Heaven. To be heavenly minded we must deliberately turn God's way FIRST. Whenever you feel one of these emotions begin to well up inside you . . . look up.
We must resist the notion that true happiness can be found in anything this world has to offer. It is not in the new car, the faster computer, the new mate, the bigger home, the highest award, the swelling bank account. It's not in the lottery, or the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. True happiness is not in the will of a rich relative . . . it will only be found in Heaven! The Lord's instruction must be kept close to our heart: (Matt. 6:19-21) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If our greatest desire is for the things of this earth, that's where our heart is. If our greatest desire is for the things of Heaven, that's where our heart will be.
We must make time to "look up". The first way to do this is to make time to read the Bible. We must read with a desire to be instructed. The Bible is God's thoughts for us. As a student can't become a Doctor unless he reads the medical books, a football player can't succeed unless they know the plays, and a mechanic cannot fix the new machine he has never seen before without consulting the book, so a believer can't fix their thoughts on Heaven without consulting the Scriptures.
DEDICATE Yourself To The PURSUIT of God. (V. 1)
Set affections on things above heart Phil. 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (involves our meditation)
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Erasmus 1529 in Antwerp “We can not call any man a Platonist, unless he have read the works of Plato. Yet call we them Christian, yea and divines, which never have read the scripture of Christ. Christ sayeth, he that loveth me doth keep my sayings, this is the knowledge and mark which he hath prescribed. Therefore if we be true Christian men in our hearts, if we believe unfeignedly that he was sent down from heaven to teach us such things as the wisdom of the philosophers could never attain, if faithfully we trust or look for such things of Him, as no worldly prince (be he never so rich) can give unto us, [then] why have we any thing in more reverence and authority, then his scripture, word, and promise, which he left here among us to be our consolation?”
CONCENTRATE On The WILL of God. (V. 2)
3. What Is The Circumference Of Your Life?
The circumfernce is those things that affect your practical Christian living. its where the rubber hits the road.
The circumference is affected by the center
listen to George Mullers testimony : "There was A day when I died, utterly died, died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will—died to the world, its approval or censure—died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends—and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God." Thus answered George Mueller when asked for the secret of his successful service. While it is never wise to set up any personal experience as a pattern for others, there is back of all successful spiritual service that which answers in some practical way to the above—namely, a surrender, a voluntary consent to the frightful and blessed implications of the Cross. With many Christians this surrender is a definite crisis in their Christian experience. Countless Christians, on the other hand evade this concrete, crisis-identification with Christ in death and resurrection, fearing that it savours of fanaticism; and therefore prefer to continue in a kind of indefinite and ineffective Christian life. To them that is the one all-important thing. As to their Christian inheritance they remain lazy, hazy, and indefinite—living a life of little fruit and less fight. While they feel that they would like to enjoy an abundant life, they consider the terms too severe, and therefore oppose any crisis. They refuse to consent to their crucifixion with Christ. The gateway lo their goal lay through nothing short of a grave.
The pathway into the Christian's holiness is marked out through death and resurrection. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3,4). Christ's pathway back to glory could have been by no other way than through death and resurrection. Neither can mine, for the servant is not above his Lord. Maxwell.
"The believer's whole disposition should orient itself toward heaven, just as a compass needle orients itself toward the north." To be "preoccupied with heaven is to be preoccupied with the One who reigns there and His purposes, plans, provisions, and power. It is also to view the things, people, and events of this world through His eyes and with an eternal perspective. . . it is to allow our preoccupation with heaven to govern our earthly response."[MacArthur, COLOSSIANS p. 128]
What does Paul mean when he says we died to sin? It's fairly obvious he doesn't mean we died to the daily committal of sin. If that were true, no honest person could claim to be justified because we all sin daily. None of us truly loves God with our whole being and none of us actually loves our neighbor as ourselves (see Matt. 22:35-40). Nor does it mean we have died in the sense of being no longer responsive to sin's temptations, as some have taught. If that were true, Peter's admonition to abstain from the passions of the flesh would be pointless (see 1 Pet. 2:11). So what does Paul mean?Some Bible commentators believe that Paul means only that we have died to the penalty of sin. That is, because of our union with Christ, when Christ died to sin's penalty we also died to sin's penalty. Well, it certainly means that, but it also means much more. It also means we died to sin's dominion.
Consider Yourselves Dead to Sin
So we are free from both the guilt and the dominion of sin. But what use is this information to us? How can it help us live out a gospel-based pursuit of sanctification? Here Paul's instructions in Romans 6:11 are helpful: "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."
The circumference takes in everything about your life Vs 5 Now MORTIFY the deeds of the flesh. There are some thigs you can stop doing now. You no longer have to live captive to your own desires. You can put to death some of these things.
SEPARATE Yourself From The ENEMIES of God. (VS. 5-7)
4. What Is The Conclusion Of Your Life?
What is your destination? What is your destiny? When I speak of destiny I speak not of that which the world thinks of, "fate, chance, or luck." Our destiny speaks of "one's lot" in Christ by the divine providence (the ability to see beforehand and act) of God.
Looking for the appearing of Christ.
Knowing we will appear with Him glorified!
1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
SATURATE Character With Hope.