Posts Tagged ‘Sanctification’

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Lent

How should I prepare myself for Pascha?

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”  2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)

What is Lent?

Lent is a season of forty weekdays and six Sundays for the church to journey with Christ to Holy Week and Pascha. It is an opportunity for of self-examination, repentance, purgation, and spiritual renewal.

Why may we struggle with Lent?

  1. Thanksgiving and Christmas are so ensconced in secular American culture that a period of preparation during Advent makes sense to us. Most Christians are attracted to this season as a way to rise above the materialism and commercialization of Christmas.
  2. Pascha is so foreign to secular American culture that a period of preparation during Lent just seems weird, threatening, out of place.

I. Lent seems like a dark, foreboding ritualism to some Christians – candles, ashes, fasting, prayer, works, and pilgrimage. Haven’t we been saved from empty, meaningless religion?

  1. Perhaps we struggle with Lent in the same way we struggle with the Psalms of lament, which make up two-thirds of the Psalter. Grieving over our lives (i.e. Lenten repentance and Psalms of lamentation) is foreign from our American way of living and our spiritual experience. We often subconsciously screen out what is dark, awkward, and uncomfortable.
  2. We need a season to prepare for Pascha. Most people think of Pascha as a weekend event, and the main preparation is the purchase of new clothes and a carefully planned Pascha egg hunt. However, Pascha is a forty-day season of feasting and celebration in response to the resurrection and new creation. If we prepare for a wedding, an anniversary, a birthday, a graduation, a vacation, an athletic competition, or any other special occasion in our lives, how much more do we need to prepare for Pascha? The forty days of Lent gets us ready for the forty days of Pascha.

The journey to Paschal joy

  1. Lent is a spiritual journey and its destination is Pascha, “the Feast of feasts.”
  2. Pascha celebrates the death of Death, the annihilation of Hell, the beginning of new and everlasting life.
  3. Pascha celebrates Christ’s resurrection as something that happened to him, is happening, and will happen to us.
  4. God has granted us the gift of new life. The resurrection alters our attitude toward everything, including death. In his death, Christ changed the nature of death from the inside out, transforming the tragedy of tragedies into ultimate victory. “O death, where is thy sting?” God made us partakers of Christ’s resurrection.
  5. We live as if Christ never came, never died, never rose again from the dead, is not the Lord of the world, and will not come again to judge the living and the dead.
  6. This is the real sin, the sin of all sins, the bottomless sadness, and tragedy of our Christian life.
  7. We may acknowledge and confess our various sins, yet we fail to refer our life to that new life which Christ revealed and gave to us. We continually lose and betray the “new life” we received as a gift from God.
  8. We are weak. We forget, we get busy; we become immersed in our daily preoccupations. We focus our material possessions – on what we have or what we do not have. We focus on our experiences – on where we are or where we want to go. We think only of ourselves. We live as if Christ did not rise from the dead, as if that unique event in human history has no meaning for us, as if we will not also rise from the dead. We fail to live constantly by “faith, hope, and love.” We fail to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
  9. Through our failure and sin, our life becomes “old” again – petty, dark, meaningless – a meaningless journey to a meaningless end.

II. Lent is a journey of repentance and return to Pascha.

  1. Lent helps us recover the vision and taste of that new Pascha life which we so easily lose and betray.
  2. The aim of Lent is precisely the remembrance of Christ, a longing for a relationship with God that has been lost. Lent offers the time and place for lamentation of our alienation and the recovery of relationship with God.
  3. The mood of Lent is “bright sadness.” The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the mysterious and radiant brilliance of the resurrection.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday

  1. The Service (Book of Common Prayer, 264-269)
  2. Prayer and invitation to repentance, both now and over the season of Lent
  3. Imposition of ashes
  4. Psalm 51: the prayer of the penitent
  5. Litany of penitence: a template for self-examination and confession during Lent
  6. The peace and Eucharist: Christ saves us from narcissistic self-absorption knowing that Good Friday means forgiveness and Pascha means joy.
  1. Why ashes?
  2. A sign of our Adamic identity, is that we are “of the earth”

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

  1. A sign of our finitude, brokenness, and mortality

“Dust you are and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

“Abraham said, ‘I am nothing but dust and ashes.’” (Genesis 18)

  1. A sign of mourning and lamentation, often because of our or another’s rebellion and alienation from God

“But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up…When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head.” (2 Samuel 15:32-34)

“On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting, and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.” (Nehemiah 9:1)

“Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)

“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly… In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” (Esther 4:1-3)

  1. In the third century, the church began the custom of burning the branches used on Palm Sunday, saving the ashes for the following year, and marking notorious and penitent sinners, such as robbers and murderers, with these ashes. Out of sympathy and solidarity, family and friends of these “marked” persons began using the ashes also, which is consistent with the gospel message that all of us are in need of God’s grace and in need of repentance and restoration.
  2. A Christian vision of the world
  3. Dualism – The radical separation between matter and spirit, profane and sacred, earthly and heavenly.
  4. Sacramentalism – The whole creation is of a piece; physical elements signify deep spiritual realities (i.e. water, bread, and wine; also oil, candles, ashes, palm branches, laying on hands, rings, etc.). We do damage to ourselves, to Jesus, and to the Bible when we try to separate the physical and spiritual, the human and divine, the earthy and the heavenly.

Repent

“Repent, and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

  1. Repent: change, turn your life around, move in another direction.
  2. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses was, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite (Repent ye!), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

III. Repentance is the beginning and continuation of a truly Christian life. Repentance, especially focused during Lent, is a long and sustained spiritual effort.

  1. Lent reminds us (in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism, question and answer #88) that two things are involved in genuine repentance: “the dying of the old self and the coming to life of the new.” New life with Christ involves a daily surrendering of the old life.
  2. “It is not easy, indeed, to reject a petty ideal of life made up of daily cares, of search for material goods, security, and pleasure, for an ideal of life in which nothing short of perfection is the goal: ‘be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ This world through all its ‘media’ says: be happy, take it easy, and follow the broad way. Christ in the Gospel says: choose the narrow way, fight and suffer, for this is the road to the only genuine happiness. In addition, unless the Church helps, how can we make that awful choice, how can we repent and return to the glorious promise given us each year at Pascha? This is where Great Lent comes in. This is the help extended to us by the Church, the school of repentance, which alone will make it possible to receive Pascha not as a mere permission to eat, to drink, and to relax, but indeed as the end of the ‘old’ in us, as our entrance into the ‘new.’” (Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha)

Turn from sin toward Jesus via remembering your baptism

“Live in your baptism.” (Martin Luther)

  1. Listen to the Father’s voice in baptism: “You are my child whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3)
  2. Review the baptismal vows and prayers before God (Book of Common Prayer, 302-307)

IV. Remember the practice of baptism in the early church

  1. The baptized turned their backs on the west (the symbolic direction of the evil one and sin), saying, “I renounce the devil and all his works,” and spitting in the face of Satan as a sign of ending that relationship.
  2. The main purpose of Lent was to prepare the catechumen (the newly converted Christian) for baptism, which was performed during the Pascha liturgy. Even though we are baptized, what we constantly lose and betray is precisely that which we received at baptism. Therefore, Lent and Pascha is our return every year to our own baptism, our identity in Christ, our death in him, our life in him. Pascha is the rediscovery and the recovery by us of what we were made through our own baptismal death and resurrection.

Turn from sin toward Jesus

  1. Remember that life with God is a loving, engaging, and demanding relationship. Sanctification (becoming increasingly righteous like God) is a subtle and gradual process rather than dramatic and instant moment.
  2. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses the three primary acts of Jewish piety: fasting, – prayer, and almsgiving. He did not reject these practices, but sought to correct and deepen them. Jesus promoted an embodied, lived out piety in order to establish, maintain, repair, and transform our relationship with God, neighbor, and self. Be sure to meditate on Matthew 6:1-18 before Lent.

Fasting: turning away from self

  1. A commemoration of the wilderness experiences of Israel and Jesus and a spiritual reminder that “People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).
  2. A reminder that your body is holy and belongs to God – made by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and filled by the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

V. We are a psychosomatic unity. Our souls affect our bodies; our bodies affect our souls (i.e. kneeling, folding, or lifting hands, bowing head, etc.).

  1. To what are we saying “no”?
  2. Food – Saying no to my hunger that is often disproportionate to my hunger for God; saying no to what I enjoy in order to enjoy God more; anticipating the Eucharist (i.e. single day fast, multi-day fast, or extended fast – sweets, meat, caffeine, alcohol, etc.).
  3. Time – Saying no to my busyness, distraction, and noise in order to have extended solitude and silence or time to listen to God through is Word or his people (i.e. limit your extracurricular

Activities and commitments, take a true Sabbath).

  1. Money – Saying no to my greed, my urge to acquire, accumulate, hoard, compare (i.e. no advertising, no new purchases for myself, pursue extravagant generosity).
  2. Words – Saying no to my pride, envy, jealousy, anger, dishonesty, my insecure ego that needs more power, attention, pity, gratitude, approval (i.e. not defending myself, not dominating conversation or talking about myself, not gossiping or slandering, using my tongue, my lips, my words to encourage and affirm).
  3. Sex – Saying no to lust, my unfulfilled desires for pleasure (i.e. look people in the eyes, recognize their personhood and dignity as the image of God, delight in their beauty, mourn for their brokenness).
  4. Are these things inherently evil? Does God not want us to enjoy food, time, money, words, and sex? God made all these things good. In addition, we often enjoy them in sacred and redemptive ways. However, we also have a tendency to forget that these are gifts from God. We may become overly comfortable or bored with them. We may become ungrateful. We may distort and pervert them to self-serving ends. We may use them to advantage ourselves and disadvantage others. We may use them for evil. So one way to sanctify or redeem them as God’s good gifts is to go without them for a time to recalibrate our relationship with God and our relationship with these material goods.
  5. The all-day fasts during Lent are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We do not fast on Sundays, the day of resurrection and Eucharist.

VI. When you fast you are vulnerable. Do not plan to turn away from self if you do not also have a plan in place to turn toward God (prayer) and toward your neighbor (almsgiving).

Prayer: turning toward God

“Evening, morning, and noon I cry out to the Lord” (Psalm 55:17).

  1. The prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian (306-373)
  2. “O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. Nevertheless, give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.”
  3. Pray it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. In the morning, meditate on the four powers from which you seek to be delivered – sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. In the afternoon, meditate on the four virtues you desire to experience in your daily life – chastity, humility, patience, and love. In the evening, review the events of the day, confessing where you failed, giving thanks where you have succeeded, and praising Jesus Christ for his righteousness and grace.
  4. “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with your beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of your digestion. Consequently, one must train the habit of faith. The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change. The next step is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, the sum of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. Moreover, in fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?” (C.S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven)

Almsgiving: turning toward our neighbors

  1. Combine God-focused prayer and neighbor-focused almsgiving by praying for your apartment complex or your street or the block where you work.
  2. Serve via Project Peace.

VII. Brainstorm simple acts of compassion toward known and unknown neighbors.

  1. Save money during Lent to give to the Pascha diaconal offering, which goes to meet financial and other tangible needs within and beyond the community.

Personal reflection and group discussion

  1. Have you ever practiced Lent? If so, what was your experience? If not, what do you hope to gain from the Lenten journey?
  2. How would you apply the Lenten themes to your life and spiritual journey in the coming season?

What do you need to put off and what do you need to put on?

VIII. Fasting – Could we each commit to giving up something we enjoy on a daily or regular basis in order to deepen our desire for God? What? Could we all commit to fasting the entire day on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday? How about fasting from lunch on Wednesdays during Lent?

  1. Prayer – Could we each commit to at least morning or evening prayer each day during Lent?

Could we spend 15 extra minutes on Sundays praying for the life and mission of the church?

  1. Almsgiving – Could we give up a luxury item during the week (i.e. lunch on Wednesdays) and give the money to a friend in need or the diaconal fund or a social service provider? Could we donate a portion of our weekend to do extra volunteering?

Adapted from Lent at Christ Church, edited by Rev. Gary DeSha

Run-Away-Poster

3 Biblical Strategies for Fighting Lust

1. Run From

“So flee youthful passions”

“Passions” refer to our cravings, our longings, and our desires. More specifically the passage speaks of “youthful passions.” These fleshly lusts are said to “wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). On the surface these cravings are anchored in the members of our body (Romans 6:12), but as we look deeper we find they stem from our sinful hearts (Romans 7:7). Ultimately these passions are forms of idolatry (Colossians 3:5), revolving our lives and desires around created things rather than the Creator.

We must run from these things. Every Christian, even though the Spirit of Christ indwells him or her, still lives in a mortal body surrounded by worldly amusements. These youthful lusts stubbornly cling to our heals. As we see these passions stirred in us, we must habitually flee from them.

This might mean mentally fleeing: bouncing our thoughts away from lustful imaginations.
This might mean visually fleeing: bouncing our eyes away from lustful images.
This might mean physically fleeing: walking (or running) away from tempting situations.

2. Run To

“. . . pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace”

It is not enough to flee from youthful lusts. We must run toward a new passion. We are to “pursue,” that is, eagerly and swiftly run toward Christlikeness.

Christ promises His people a heart of . . .

Righteousness (real integrity, a passion for justice, and a life pleasing to God)
Faith (strong and welcome conviction and trust in God)
Love (benevolent affection toward God and others)
Peace (tranquility in the heart and harmony with God and others)

We are to run hard after these things each day knowing these character qualities are how we were created to live. We pursue these things knowing it is our destiny to live this way. A billion years from now, when sin is a distant memory, we will be living lives of love, peace, and righteousness in the kingdom of God. Have this hope we purify ourselves, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

3. Run With

“. . . along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

We must not only run from lust and toward God’s vision for our lives, we must run with our brothers and sisters with the same vision. We must all find companions for this stretch of the road, those who share our faith and convictions, those in the common struggle for holiness.

These friends should be those who “call on the Lord,” an expression for those who are saved (Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13). These are other men and women who have cried out to God for the forgiveness of their sin from a “pure” (genuine) heart.

Running with others involves a certain level of intentionality. It is not enough to simply know others around us are on the same journey because they profess a Christian faith. We must have real running companions; those who actually help us flee youthful passions and pursue a Christlike heart.

James 5:16 and Hebrews 10:24-25 offer a structure of what this kind of accountability looks like.

Building a good accountability relationship takes time. There are benefits and blessings along the way, but the ripest fruit comes after a real friendship is built.

Thinking of these four building blocks together, they form a structure that gives purpose and shape to our accountability relationships.

The foundation is meeting together. This includes all the basic methods of communication and conversation: meeting for coffee, talking on the phone, writing e-mails, or anything that involves a meeting of minds.
The central pillar in the room is confession of sin: getting honest with God and one another about what we are doing that we should not do or not doing that we should.

The outer walls that support and protect this relationship are prayer and encouragement.

~ Luke Gilkerson

(Luke is the general editor and primary author of the Covenant Eyes blog. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and is currently working on an MA in Religion.)

What-Do-You-Believe

Doctrine matters…really. There are two important things to keep in mind. Matters of doctrine or as John Piper calls them “theological trademarks” are not new, or distinctive to us, they are not a niche or eccentric. True apostolic doctrine all have wide foundations in the Bible and deep roots in the history of God’s people. What you and I read in the Apostles Creed or in the Nicene Creed, really matter. The true apostolic teaching revealed in Holy Scripture, and through the writings of the early Church fathers, and the Reformers are treasures for the Church today. These doctrines are fundamentally eternal truths that we must immerse ourselves in so that we can increase the vision of our awesome God so much that we will want to act on them. These teachings will make us want to build something, to start something, to dream big, and risk even more for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! I pray for nothing less.

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“If you are yet unsaved, our heart yearns over you: and we would fain say a word which may be blessed to you. Open your Bible, and read the story of the lepers, and mark their position, which was much the same as yours. If you remain where you are you must perish; if you go to Jesus you can but die. “Nothing venture, nothing win,” is the old proverb, and in your case the venture is no great one. If you sit still in sullen despair, no one can pity you when your ruin comes; but if you die with mercy sought, if such a thing were possible, you would be the object of universal sympathy. None escape who refuse to look to Jesus; but you know that, at any rate, some are saved who believe in Him, for certain of your own acquaintances have received mercy: then why not you? The Ninevites said, “Who can tell?” Act upon the same hope, and try the Lord’s mercy. To perish is so awful, that if there were but a straw to catch at, the instinct of self-preservation should lead you to stretch out your hand. We have thus been talking to you on your own unbelieving ground, we would now assure you, as from the Lord, that if you seek Him He will be found of you. Jesus casts out none who come unto Him. You shall not perish if you trust Him; on the contrary, you shall find treasure far richer than the poor lepers gathered in Syria’s deserted camp. May the Holy Spirit embolden you to go at once, and you shall not believe in vain. When you are saved yourself, publish the good news to others. Hold not your peace; tell the King’s household first, and unite with them in fellowship; let the porter of the city, the minister, be informed of your discovery, and then proclaim the good news in every place. The Lord save thee ere the sun goes down this day.”  ~ C. H. Spurgeon

lawcup

I know someone, who claims they are a believer in Christ and that grace rendered the Old Testament Scriptures outdated and the Biblical moral law irrelevant. They believe a false teaching that is called “antinomianism” which is a doctrine of demons straight from the pit of Hades.

Antinomian means “anti = against + nomian = law” against law or in opposition to the law

“The Gospel proclaims liberty from the ceremonial law: but binds you still faster under the moral law. To be freed from the ceremonial law is the Gospel liberty; to pretend freedom from the moral law is Antinomianism.” ~ Adam Clarke

The contemporary evangelical theologian J. I. Packer defines five strains of antinomianism:

1. Dualistic Antinomianism (Gnostic): This view sees salvation as for the soul only and bodily behavior as irrelevant both to God’s interest and the soul’s health…

2. Spirit-centered Antinomianism: …puts such trust in the Holy Spirit’s inward prompting as to deny any need to be taught by the law how to live. Freedom from the law as a way of salvation is assumed to bring with it freedom from the law as a guide to conduct.

3. Christ-centered Antinomianism: …argues that God sees no sin in believers, because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them, and therefore what they actually do makes no difference, if they keep believing.

4. Dispensational Antinomianism: …denies that biblical law is God’s direct command and affirms that the Bible’s imperative statements trigger the Word of the Spirit, which when it comes may or may not correspond exactly to what is written.

5. Situationist Antinomianism: …says that a motive and intention of love is all that God now requires of Christians, and the commands of the Decalogue and other ethical parts of scripture, for all that they are ascribed to God directly, are rules of thumb for loving, rules that love may at times disregard. ~ J. I. Packer (from Concise Theology pp 178-180)

Here is a short list of the errors of antinomianism:

1. How the antinomians view justification:

a. That the justification of sinners is an imminent and eternal act of God, not only preceding all acts of sin, but the very existence of the sinner himself, and so perfectly abolishing sin in our persons, that we are as clean from sin as Christ himself.

b. That justification by faith is no more but a manifestation to us of what God did before we were created. That because God laid His iniquities upon Christ, God cannot charge one sin upon a man who believes this teaching.

2. That men ought not to doubt of their faith, or question, whether we believe, or not: That we ought no more to question our faith than to question Christ.

3. That believers are not bound to confess sin, mourn for it, or pray for the forgiveness of it; because it was pardoned before it was committed; and pardoned sin is no sin.

4. That God sees no sin in believers, whatsoever sins they commit. That God can see no adultery, no lying, no blasphemy, and no deceit in believers for though believers do fall into such transgressions, yet all their sins being pardoned from eternity, they are no sins in them.

5. That God does not get angry with the elect, nor does he discipline them for their sins; and to say that he does so is an injurious reflection upon the justice of God.

6. That by God’s laying our iniquities upon Christ; he became as completely sinful as we, and we as completely righteous as Christ.

7. That believers need not fear either their own sins, or the sins of others for that neither their own, nor any other men’s sins can do them any harm, nor must they be concerned for their own salvation.

8. They will not allow the new covenant to be made properly with us, but with Christ for us; and that this covenant is all a promise, having no condition on our part. They do not absolutely deny that faith, repentance, and obedience are conditions in the new covenant; however, they say that the conditions are not on our part, but upon Christ; and that He repented, believed, and obeyed for us.

How the Word of God answers the antinomian:

Rom. 3.23-25

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

Rom. 8.3-4, 30

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

2 Cor. 5.19-20

“That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Gal. 3.13-14

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[a] through faith.”

Eph. 1.17

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”

2 Cor. 13:5

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

2 Peter 1:10

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

Titus 1:16

“They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

1 Cor. 10:12

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

1 John 1: 7-10

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

James 3:2

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

Psalm 51:1-6

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

Romans 7:21

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”

Ephesians 4:30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
1 Timothy 1:13

St. Paul said, “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

1 Cor. 11:32

“But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

Hebrews 12:8

“If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”

2 Cor. 5:21

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jeremiah 23:6

“In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.”

1 Cor. 5:12-13

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

1 John 3:4

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”

Romans 4:6, 22-23

“Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: But the words “That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness. It was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone.”

Romans 2:8

“But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

1 Peter 4:17

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?”

Luke 13:3

Jesus says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 29:47

“And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Acts 3:19

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”

John 3:36

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Hebrews 8:10-12

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

The covenant of redemption was made between the Holy Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The covenant of grace, into which believers are taken, there is a Mediator, and this Mediator is Christ Himself.

In conclusion*,

Paul’s seventh argument against the Judaizers is this: If the law is kept as a way of salvation, it produces only death and destruction because of its curse. Thus, the Judaizers really destroy the law by misusing it. On the other hand, on the basis of grace we keep the law. Thus, the way to magnify the law is to use it properly, not as a way of salvation but as a guide to holy living. The Spirit, not the law, gives life, and life yields obedience to the law (Galatians 5:13ff.).

Paul begins by saying that we are free from the law as a slave-master, but not free to sin (5:13). True moral freedom means loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Those who do not love show that they are not free and are still slaves of sin (vv. 14–15).

Paul goes on to say that if we live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. This sounds at first as if Paul is saying something mystical: Just yield to the Spirit and you will float along doing good and never sinning. This is not at all what he means. Being led by the Spirit means doing certain things and not doing other things, and it is the law that shows us what these are. It is the law that shows what loving our neighbor entails. Thus, the Spirit-led person is the person who studies the Bible and obeys it, not as a means of salvation but in a spirit of gratitude and out of a desire for holiness.

One of the major problems in Christianity has always been “antinomianism.” It is still a great problem today. We hear from some teachers that it is possible to have Christ as Savior but not as Lord, as if we could chop God in half and have a relationship with only half of Jesus. The outer fringe of this heresy teaches that it does not matter how you live so long as you claim the promise of salvation. This is not the teaching of the New Testament. Paul lists a whole catalogue of sins in Galatians 5:19–21, and then says, “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

A mere profession of faith does not get you into heaven. What is required is a continuing relationship with God, the sovereign Savior of men. That relationship means bowing the knee and serving Him because He has saved you.

Some nominal “believers” are professors of faith only. All who claim to be in Christ must also be possessors of faith. Read slowly and carefully the two lists of Galatians 5:19–23. Where do you need help? Pray through each of the sins and blessings listed. Examine yourself, and ask God to grant His Spirit to transform your life.

*Concluding remarks taken from Ligonier Ministries devotional “Grace Fulfills the Law.”

Gospel

The Gospel is: εὐαγγέλιον – euaggelion; a reward for good tidings; the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term Gospel comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God; the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Jesus Christ; as the Messianic rank of Jesus was proved by His words, His deeds, and His death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the Gospel or glad tidings.

The Gospel shall be proclaimed in all the inhabited world!

The Gospel must be preached, to the Jews; even to all, without any distinction of people, Jews and Gentiles, Barbarians, Scythians, bond and free, male and female, rich and poor, greater or lesser sinners, even to all mankind; than which, nothing was more provoking to the Jews; who would, if they could, have revoked and made null this commission of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the word of peace and reconciliation, by His atoning sacrifice; the doctrine of free and full pardon by His blood; and of justification by His righteousness; and of complete salvation by Him: even every doctrine relating to His person, as God and man; to every office of His, as prophet, priest, and king; to His incarnation, sufferings, and death, His resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, and intercession for His people, and second coming to judgment; with every doctrine relating to the grace of God, of the Father in election, and the covenant of peace, of the Son in redemption, and of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification: all which he must be published and declared in the most free, plain, and open manner, with all boldness, faithfulness, and constancy! 

“Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the Gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:

that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures…” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-4


In 1993, my wife and I were involved in an historic train wreck. The crash of the Sunset Limited into an inlet from Mobile Bay killed more passengers than any Amtrak accident in history. We survived that eerie accident but not without ongoing trauma. The wreck left my wife with an ongoing anxiety about being able to sleep on a train at night. The wreck left me with a back injury that took fifteen years of treatment and therapy to overcome. Nevertheless, with these scars from the trauma we both learned a profound lesson about the providence of God. Clearly, God’s providence in this case for us was one of benign benevolence. It also illustrated to us an unforgettable sense of the tender mercies of God. In as much as we are convinced that God’s providence is an expression of His absolute sovereignty over all things, I would think that a logical conclusion from such a conviction would be the end of all anxiety.

However, that is not always the case. Of course, our Lord Himself gave the instruction to be anxious for nothing to His disciples and, by extension, to the church. His awareness of human frailties expressed in our fears was manifested by His most common greeting to His friends: “Fear not.” Still, we are creatures who, in spite of our faith, are given to anxiety and at times even to melancholy.

As a young student and young Christian, I struggled with melancholy and sought the counsel of one of my mentors. As I related my struggles, he said, “You are experiencing the heavy hand of the Lord on your shoulder right now.” I had never considered God’s hand being one that gave downward pressure on my shoulder or that would cause me to struggle in this way. I was driven to prayer that the Lord would remove His heavy hand from my shoulder. In time, He did that and delivered me from melancholy and a large degree of anxiety.

On another occasion I was in a discussion with a friend, and I related to him some of the fears that were plaguing me. He said, “I thought you believed in the sovereignty of God.” “I do,” I said, “and that’s my problem.” He was puzzled by the answer, and I explained that I know enough about what the Bible teaches of God’s providence and of His sovereignty to know that sometimes God’s sovereign providence involves suffering and affliction for His people. That we are in the care of a sovereign God whose providence is benevolent does not exclude the possibility that He may send us into periods of trials and tribulations that can be excruciatingly painful. Though I trust God’s Word that in the midst of such experiences He will give to me the comfort of His presence and the certainty of my final deliverance into glory, in the meantime I know that the way of affliction and pain may be difficult to bear.

The comfort that I enjoy from knowing God’s providence is mixed at times with the knowledge that His providence may bring me pain. I don’t look forward to the experience of pain with a giddy anticipation; rather, there are times when it’s necessary for me and for others to grit our teeth and to bear the burdens of the day. Again, I have no question about the outcome of such affliction, and yet at the same time, I know that there are afflictions that will test me to the limits of my faith and endurance. That kind of experience and knowledge makes it easy to understand the tension between confidence in God’s sovereign providence and our own struggles with anxiety.

Romans 8:28, which is a favorite for many of us, states that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). There’s no other text that demonstrates so clearly and magnificently the beauty of God’s sovereign providence than that one. The text does not say that everything that happens to us, considered in and of itself, is good; rather, it says that all things that happen are working together for our good. That is the master plan of God’s redemptive providence. He brings good out of evil. He brings glory out of suffering. He brings joy out of affliction. This is one of the most difficult truths of sacred Scripture for us to believe. I’ve said countless times that it is easy to believe in God but far more difficult to believe God. Faith involves living a life of trust in the Word of God.

As I live out the travail that follows life on this side of glory, hardly a day goes by that I am not forced to look at Romans 8:28 and remind myself that what I’m experiencing right now feels bad, tastes bad, is bad; nevertheless, the Lord is using this for my good. If God were not sovereign, I could never come to that comforting conclusion — I would be constantly subjected to fear and anxiety without any significant relief. The promise of God that all things work together for good to those who love God is something that has to get not only into our minds, but it has to get into our bloodstreams, so that it is a rock-solid principle by which life can be lived.

I believe this is the foundation upon which the fruit of the Spirit of joy is established. This is the foundation that makes it possible for the Christian to rejoice even while in the midst of pain and anxiety. We are not stoics who are called to keep a stiff upper lip out of some nebulous concept of fate; rather, we are those who are to rejoice because Christ has overcome the world. It is that truth and that certainty that gives relief to all of our anxieties.

~ R. C. Sproul (from Tabletalk, January 2010)