Category Archives: Sanctification

Performance Orientation

Striving and Trying for God

Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.

Gal. 3:2 NLT

Performance orientation is attempting to earn God’s acceptance and love by our trying, striving, and laboring.

We suffer great exertion and struggle tremendously in our Christian walk. We long to live by the precepts of the Christian life. On a good day, our attitude and actions suggest some degree of Christian commitment. We think by our performance that God is obligated to bless us and reward us for walking according to his standards. We think of ourselves as “good little boys and girls” and that good things always happen to good people.  On our good days, we walk in self-righteous pride, and on our bad days, we plod along in discouragement and despair.

We have reverted back to living under the Law, we think we earn the blessing of the Holy Spirit by our performance. We think we deserve God’s rejection by our failures. We become frustrated with the Christian life, the up’s and down’s, the elation and the despair.

We have forgotten grace. We have forgotten that the Christian life is a person and that Jesus’ work on the Cross performed all we would ever need to be accepted by God. We have forgotten that Christ perfectly lived the law and died in our place that we might be accepted by God. We have forgotten that the Christian life is lived by faith trusting every day that Christ’s Cross has taken all our failed performances and nailed them to a tree.

We must remember that we are not accepted before God based on our performance, but we are accepted because of Christ’s beautiful performance on the Cross. We don’t perform the Christian life to be loved by God. We perform for God because know that we are loved and accepted in Christ.

We can begin each day with the deeply encouraging realization, I’m accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.”

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by-Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 6.

 

 

Who Are the Poor in Spirit?

The Spiritually Bankrupt

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:3 NIV

Every year, the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday is the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7); it is a privilege to yearly meditate and preach on this great sermon. Last Ash Wednesday, we examined several significant truths found within Jesus’ magisterial teaching, let’s look at one of those insights in this post and several more in the coming days.

Who are the poor in spirit? Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse in The Message, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” For Peterson, the poor in spirit are those who are at the end of their rope: they have nowhere else to turn, nowhere else to hide, and no one else who can help. They have nothing left, but God.

Indeed, the poor in spirit acknowledge their complete and utter bankruptcy before God. They are afflicted and know deep down inside that they cannot save themselves. The poor in spirit confess their unworthiness and utter dependence on God’s mercy and grace. The “poor” have confidence only in God. These dear ones will receive God’s kingdom: the rule and reign of Christ in their hearts now. They will experience the very life of God: all he is and who is in their lives today.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”—towards God. Am I a pauper towards God? Do I know I cannot prevail in prayer; I cannot blot out the sins of the past; I cannot alter my disposition; I cannot lift myself nearer to God? Then I am in the very place where I am to receive the Holy Spirit. No man can receive the Holy Spirit who is not convinced he is a pauper spiritually.

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, electronic ed. (Hants, UK : Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996).

 

“He Came to Make Us What He Teaches We Should Be”

The Sermon on the Mount

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:3 NIV

It’s just impossible! Absolutely impossible! I thought to myself as I read the Sermon on the Mount for the first time. I can’t, and no one can, live and obey Jesus’ directives in this sermon. Three chapters of loving those who hate you, laying down your life for those who persecute you, and forgiving those who have used you. Not only are Jesus’ words difficult to keep, but also, these admonitions should be obeyed out of love with a joyful heart. This sermon is impossible to live. But, that’s the rub.

We can’t live the Sermon the Mount in our own power. We must be poor in spirit desperately needing God’s strength in our weakness (Matt. 5:3). We must be mourners, a people who grieve the state of our fallenness yearning for help (Matt. 5:4). We must hunger and thirst for righteousness for we have no means within ourselves to overcome the world’s influences, sin’s grip, and the devil’s temptations (Matt. 5:6). The Sermon on the Mount is lived not by being adequate, but by being available. That is, available to Christ’s all-powerful and sufficient grace (2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9).

The Sermon on the Mount can only be lived by trusting Christ to live his life in and through us (1 John 4:9). Only Christ successfully lived the Sermon on the Mount and he can do it again in us (Col. 1:27). By summary, the Sermon on the Mount is what our lives look like when Christ is having his way in us.

Beware of placing our Lord as Teacher first instead of Saviour. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know Him first as Saviour before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. Fancy coming to men and women with defective lives and defiled hearts and wrong mainsprings, and telling them to be pure in heart! What is the use of giving us an ideal we cannot possibly attain? We are happier without it.

If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalise us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above  we know Him first as Saviour, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us (emphasis mine).

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, electronic ed. (Hants, UK : Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996), 10.

 

Bored and Weary

Loss of Joy and Fulfillment in God

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Col 3:1 NLT

Boredom is the refusal to enjoy the presence of God and weariness is our unwillingness to be refreshed in Christ. Boredom is the result of becoming so focused on the passing pleasures of this life that we forget the joy of our heavenly reward. Boredom is being so absorbed by the immediate gratification of electronic stimuli that we cannot enjoy the simple blessing of God’s presence.  Boredom is a state of being weary and restless caused by the loss of the constant conscious presence of Christ. Boredom and weariness are sisters, they are both symptoms of our loss of joy, peace, and rest in God.

There is no such thing as weariness in God’s work. If you are in tune with the joy of God, the more you spend out in God’s service, the more the recuperation goes on, and when once the warning note of weariness is given, it is a sign that something has gone wrong. If only we would heed the warning, we would find it is God’s wonderfully gentle way of saying—“Not that way; that must be left alone; this must be given up.” Spiritual fatigue comes from the unconscious frittering away of God’s time. When you feel weary or are exhausted, don’t ask for hot milk, but get back to God.

Oswald Chambers, Not Knowing Where (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1996).

The Reign of God’s Grace

Grace is Empowerment to Live the Christian Life

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

2 Cor. 9:8

God’s grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly decisions and choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Grace is the person, Jesus, living his life in and through us empowering every one of us to live a righteous and holy life (2 Cor. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14).

We’re brought into God’s kingdom by grace; we’re sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessing by grace; we’re motivated to obedience by grace; we’re called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and we’re glorified by grace. The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by Day (Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress, 2008), 52.

It Will Get You No Where

 

Flattery Is a Form of Deception

To flatter friends is to lay a trap for their feet.

Prov. 29:5 NLT

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.

Prov. 28:23 NLT

Flattery is encouragement without substance: praise without merit. Flattery misleads—the praised abilities are not as good as advertised. Flattery is the giving of confidence in a talent or ability that the other person does not possess. Flattery glosses over the faults, flaws, and weaknesses of others for the purpose of gaining and receiving approval.

Encouragement is different from flattery in that our faults are recognized, but we are urged to overcome their difficulties. The wise person according to the Book of Proverbs sees through flattery and does not resort to its deception.

Too often the flatterer finds more favor than the reprover. ‘Few people have the wisdom to like reproofs that would do them good, better than praises that do them hurt.’ And yet a candid man, notwithstanding the momentary struggle of wounded pride, will afterwards appreciate the purity of the motive, and the value of the discovery. ‘He that cries out against his surgeon for hurting him, when he is searching his wound, will yet pay him well, and thank him too, when he has cured it.’

Unbelief, however, palsies (def. weakens) Christian rebuke. Actual displeasure, or the chilling of friendship, is intolerable. But Paul’s public rebuke of his brother apostle produced no disruption between them. Many years afterward Peter memorialized his ” beloved brother Paul” with most affectionate regard. The Apostle’s painful rebuke of his Corinthian converts eventually increased his favor with them, as the friend of their best interests. The flatterer is viewed with disgust; the reprover—afterwards at least—with acceptance. A less favorable result may often be traced to an unseasonable time, a harsh manner, a neglect of prayer for needful wisdom, or a want of due ‘consideration’ of our own liability to fall. Let us study the spirit of our gracious Master, whose gentleness ever poured balm into the wound, which his faithful love had opened. Such a spirit is more like the support of a friend, than the chastening of a rod.

Charles Bridges, A Commentary on Proverbs (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1846), 549.

“Practically Godly”

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Sanctification is a inward work of the Holy Spirit which delivers us from the control and influence of sin and transforms us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Spirit takes our worldly thinking, fleshly habits, and unrighteousness behavior and convicts us of our wrongful thoughts, breaks our selfish patterns, and transforms our attitude and actions. The Holy Spirit uses the means of grace: the Word of God, sacraments, prayer, circumstances, godly fellowship, and Spirit-filled worship as his tools of instruction and transformation.

Sanctification is the progressive work of the Spirit: Christian growth is a life-long process which creates Spirit-filled souls. The Holy Spirit removes sinful imperfections as we are daily enabled to put off the bondages of sin and put on the life of Christ. Walking in the Spirit is actively attained for it involves continuous choices of faith and obedience. Simultaneously, we passively receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit as we purposely choose to appropriate the Holy Spirit’s power over sin.

Christ lives in us by the power of the Spirit and he enables us by grace to make righteous choices. His grace enables us to say, “no,” to ungodliness and worldly passions and say, “yes,” to uprightness and godliness (Titus 2:11-14).

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 19.

Sanctification is the moment by moment subordination of the mind, the affections, and the will, to the rule of the Holy Spirit. Not in the energy of the flesh are these things done, but in the power of the indwelling Spirit himself. To watch unto prayer, to hide God’s word in your heart, to resist the devil, to make no provision for the lusts of the flesh, to follow holiness-to do these things is to ‘walk after the Spirit. ‘So shall the righteousness of the law  . . . be fulfilled in us.’

Ernest F. Kevan, “The Saving Work of the Holy Spirit,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 192.

Theological Note: The Reformed definition (Bishop Ryle) and the Deeper Life definition (Rev. Kevan) are in agreement. Both emphasize Christ work in us as we choose to walk apart from sin. Both the passive work of the Spirit and the active work of the will are stressed in each view.

HT: Kevin DeYoung, J. C. Ryle Quotes

This Is Devotion to God . . .

Devotion to God is the Fear of the Lord

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

Isa. 26:9

The fear of the Lord is a silent wonder, a radical amazement, and an affectionate awe of a God who became incarnate in human flesh, died in our place, and rose again. This fear is not a fear of punishment, but the dread of hurting or breaking God’s heart by disappointing his plans for us. We exhibit the fear of God by submitting to his lordship, trusting his Word, and honoring his delegated authorities. We fear the Lord by maintaining a constant conscious awareness of His presence–we always know that God is watching our actions, attitudes, and actions. This fear is not a fear of retribution or punishment, but a deep heart-felt desire to walk in holiness and obedience to God’s Word.

This is devotion to God – the fear of God, which is an attitude of reverence and awe, veneration, and honor toward Him, coupled with an apprehension deep within our souls of the love of God for us, demonstrated preeminently in Christ’s atoning death. These two attitudes complement and reinforce each other, producing within our souls an intense desire for this One who is so awesome in His glory and majesty, yet so condescending in His love and mercy.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 11.

Who is a Sincere Person?

One in Whom There is No Guile

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matt. 5:8

A sincere person’s life is transparent before God and people. Their inward thoughts, intentions, and motives are pure. Sincere people are people whose actions and attitudes are unmixed, thereby lacking any devious or manipulative qualities (John 1:47). Deceitfulness and hypocrisy are inconceivable as real options in their Christian lives. Sincere people refuse to wear masks and act differently in front of people by projecting an image or playing a part. Habitual lying is inconceivable to a sincere person: they will suffer hurt before they would lie to cover their tracks (Psa. 24:4). Jesus honors sincere people, he declares that they will have a beatific vision of God (Matt. 5:8).

When we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” our answer, if we are awake is, “My God, how am I going to be pure in heart? If ever I am to be blameless down to the deepest recesses of my intentions, You must do something mighty in me.” That is exactly what Jesus Christ came to do. He did not come to tell us to be holy, but to make us holy, undeserving of censure in the sight of God.

Oswald Chambers, Biblical Ethics (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1997), 22.

Coppin’ an Attitude?

What’s Your Mental Disposition? Christ or Self?

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Phil 2:5 NLT

Our attitude is a mental disposition, or frame of mind, that affects our thoughts and behavior. A good attitude is an inward disposition of thankfulness indwelt by Christ: a thankful attitude sees the world through God’s eyes, good yet fallen. As we respond to our circumstances from God’s perspective, we make right responses. These Holy Spirit inspired responses produce right behavior enabling us to perform righteous deeds. These deeds exalt Christ and produce righteous praise to our Heavenly Father.

In other words, enjoying Christ creates a good attitude and that attitude produces holiness to the praise and glory of God. Scripture calls us to have the same mental disposition of Christ who laid aside all heavenly splendor for the goal of laying down his life for us. His attitude was one of unselfish delight in his Father’s will.

The one attitude of the life is Jesus Christ first, second, and third, and nothing apart from Him. The thing that hinders God’s work is not sin, but other claims which are right, but which at a certain point of their rightness conflict with the claims of Jesus Christ. If the conflict should come, remember it is to be Jesus first (see Luke 14:26).

Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1946), 33.