Tag Archives: Sanctification

The Lord’s Supper: As Sure As You Taste, Touch, and See

Lords Supper

75. Q. How does the Lord’s Supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts?

A. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him. With this command He gave these promises:[1]

First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross.

Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely does He Himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood.

[1] Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-25.

Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

*Referenced in sermon by Kevin DeYoung, “Bread and Wine” from Act the Miracle: God’s Word and Ours in the mystery of Sanctification, the Desiring God 2012 National Conference.

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A Lot More Dying to Do: A Birthday Reflection

birthday-candles33

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday.

In most ways, the day was no different than any before.  If it was not for calendar dates, I would know no difference.  But there it was, November 25th and therefore another birthday come by the gracious hand of God.

I have never been one to think much of my age.  It’s just another number in many respects.  A course that all must follow granted and paved by the Author, Giver, and Sustainer of Life.

Since God called me to Himself in His Son by His Spirit through His Word a little over ten years ago I have lived with an ever present urgency toward life.  Tomorrow is a gift not a promise.  This urgency, at times for better and at others for worse, has encouraged my longing for the wisdom of age and experience separated from the life and time needed to cultivate such gifts.  A temptation for all – particularly Christians.

As I reflected on my birthday, I was humbled by what came to mind.  Throughout the day, God’s gifts in my life were constantly brought before me: His salvation, constant provision, care, and grace, my loving and compassionate wife, three beautiful daughters, a supportive and loving family and friends, the body of Christ to which we have been joined, and so many other expressions of grace.

But more than that, my mind was fixed on Christ’s death (bear with me for I am not attempting to be super-spiritual).  Tradition (not dogma) has been that Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, was 33 years of age when he was crucified.  This is the age I now bear.  Many, in light of the fleeting nature of life marred by the curse of sin, say to themselves and others as they grow older that they have a lot more living to do.  Therefore they set out to amass for themselves those things which they feel are lacking in enjoying a “fulfilled life.”  Yet, as I considered my life in relation to Christ’s death on my behalf I realized that it was not more living to my self that was needed but rather I have a lot more dying to do.

You see, this is why Christ came – that in dying he would give us life and in dying we would live.  In Luke 9, following Peter’s great, God-given confession of Jesus as “The Christ of God,” Jesus announces the plan to bring life through death and the way in which we might enjoy such life.  Luke records Jesus’s words:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (v 22-25)

There it is.  Death for life and life for death.  Christ’s substitutionary and sacrificial death purchased my life, freedom, and eternity.  But my experience and enjoyment of the life he died to give is directly impacted by the life, or better yet, the death I live.

It is not more living for my self, my desires, my ambitions, my dreams, and my happiness that I need but the perpetual putting to death of these for the greater joy of living for Him, his desires, his will, and his people.  This is life.  It is the life that every person in Christ is called to enjoy not just to do.  This is life more abundant found only in and through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, as I reflect on my life I still see too much of me: pride, lust, idolatry, foolishness, self-righteousness, and much those entail.  What I long for, by God’s gracious sanctifying work of the Spirit, is to see more of Christ in and through me.  Alongside God’s purpose in salvation to be praised for His glorious grace is His purpose to present us holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:3f).  While this will be brought to fulfillment in Christ’ return (1 John 3:1-3; Phil. 1:6), my desire and His intention is that I be, here and now until I take my last breath, conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29-30).  This conformation (or transformation, as used elsewhere) comes through death – a dying to self and a living unto Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; cf. Luke 9:23-25 above).

As I look back upon my life, I am thankful and humbled by God’s immeasurable goodness to an unworthy soul.  John Newton said it well, “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world. But still, I am not what I once used to be! By the grace of God, I am what I am!”  Praise God!

So, as I look forward to what lies ahead, I wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) but not only in His return but the appearing of His glory even now in and through my life as I fix my gaze upon Him and am transformed (2 Cor. 3:18).

I am 33 but, by God’s grace, I have a lot more dying to do.

Soil Deo Gloria

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Can’t Say “Can’t” in Christ

Most Christians who need counseling have one thing in common.  Every observant pastoral counselor has noticed this all-but-universal characteristic: their conversation is studded with the word “can’t.”  This common trait may be explained in various ways.  Some might suppose that it is indicative of a basic weakness or inability that underlies their other problems.  This explanation leads to the conclusion that these are people who constitutionally, or for some other reason, really can’t do what God requires.  That is, of course, an explanation that accepts the counselee’s view that he is helpless.  It also renders the counselor helpless, you will notice.

But there’s another explanation of this phenomenon: the biblical explanation is that men “cop out” on their responsibilities and fail to accomplish their tasks because of sin.

Paul allows no Christian to escape by the use of the word “can’t.” He writes:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

If indeed God never sends trials heavier than a Christian can bear, the Christian has no right to protest, “I can’t.”  If God has sent it, he can take it!  If God has required it, he can do it!  Even though the trials we face are not unique in their basic designs, the detailed form they take, the intensity with which they come, and the point in life at which we must face them, are all tailor-made to each individual child of God, and, don’t forget, God is the tailor!  No trials or temptations hang too long on us.  They fit us precisely.  God never allows the Devil to tempt a Christian beyond his ability to withstand, provided that he does so in God’s way, by means of God’s resources and not his own.  The book of Job stands as a sturdy witness to this promise.

But you protest – “I don’t think I could stand firm for my faith before a firing squad as other Christians have.”  You may be correct.  But you do not now have to face a firing squad.  The promise is not that you will have strength to meet tomorrow’s problem today, but only that, when it comes, God will provide the needed wisdom and courage to do so.  Often the strength comes in the doing….

Given the grace of God, given your knowledge of God’s Word, given your present state of sanctification, given the resources of the Holy Spirit within, there is no trial into which God calls you that is beyond your ability to withstand.  Instead of saying “can’t,” you should say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

This is an important principle to grasp…. The Bible is able to equip every Christian fully for every emergency in life.  To fail to use God’s gracious provision of the Scriptures in which lie the principles needed for a life of godliness is to misrepresent God to unbelievers.  It is no less than a slander against the One who died for sins on the cross and who, if He did that for us, will also freely give us all things necessary for life and godliness.  Indeed, those who do not know Christ are repelled daily by Christians who live and act in the spirit of the word “can’t.”

Paul neither ignores the severity of your problem nor minimizes it when he says you can endure it; he simply tells the truth about God and about you.  And if you doubt him, then remember that he was careful to preface this promise with the assurance that God’s Word is as certain as His own faithfulness: “God is faithful who will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able to endure.”

Christian wife, your home can be different.  Young man, you can help your behavior when you are out alone with girls.  Businessman, you can meet that irate customer tomorrow.  Shut-in, you can overcome the feeling of loneliness and uselessness that seems to be driving you to despair.  Whatever the problem, through Jesus Christ, you can.  So, go ahead and prove to yourself and those all around you that God’s promise is true.

Jay Adams, Christ and Your Problems, 23-26.

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From Glory to Glory: Beholding a Better Vision & Becoming Like Christ, Part 2

In the previous post we looked at a summary theme of the word of God: from glory to glory.  Specifically, our concern was this theme as a summation of the Christian life.  In Christ we move from the beginning with the glory of regeneration to our final hope in the glory of our glorification.  And we left off answering the question of its relevance  to us here and now, in the already but not yet, concluding that we have been redeemed that we would be sanctified – that this sojourn from glory to glory is about our being transformed into the image of God’s Son.

So, how are we to pursue sanctification?  What has God provided that we might be sanctified?  Look back to 2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This one verse contains so much truth concerning the Christian life.  Particularly, it reveals three aspects of our sanctification.

3 Aspects of Our Sanctification:

1. The Procedure of Sanctification – Beholding a Better Vision

How are we to pursue sanctification?  2 Corinthians 3:18 declares, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image.”  As mentioned earlier, at regeneration God does a gracious work of unveiling our eyes by His illuminating Spirit through the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-6).  Now that the veil has been lifted we may behold the glory of the Lord and by that vision we are transformed.  There is a direct connection between beholding the glory of God and being sanctified.  We mentioned the glory of God above but it is referring to something specific here.  2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that “the glory of God” is “in the face of Jesus Christ.”  What this is saying is that we are to behold Christ that we may be transformed.

Thomas Chalmers, in his sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, said that it is insufficient to say to someone or to yourself, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15), and think that is the end of sin.  Rather, that affectionate vision of the world must be replaced with a better vision.  He writes:

The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy?

Chalmers gives the solution to the problem – the gospel:

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God…. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy.

How are we to pursue sanctification?  How do we put off sin and put on holiness?  How do we become more like Christ?  We must behold a better vision – Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.  We behold Christ in His works in the world (creation), in His work of redemption on behalf of sinners, in His work in the world through the church, and in His word as we read it, obey it, and share it with others.  Struggling with sin? Look to Jesus.  Desire the world?  Fix your eyes upon Christ, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”  Want to change?  It is a battle but eternal worth the fight (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  Behold a better vision and become like Christ.

2. The Product of Sanctification – Becoming Like Christ

The result of beholding Christ in all His glory is that you will be “transformed into the same image.”  When you take your eyes off the world, sin and self and perpetually gaze at the Savior you will be transformed into His image.  Beholding is becoming.  John Owen, in The Glory of Christ, wrote:

It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.

On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.

When we behold the glory of God in Christ we become like Him “from one degree of glory to another.”

3. The Producer of Sanctification – Bestowed by the Spirit

We must behold Christ to become like Him.  We must, as Paul wrote, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  We must strive for holiness.  Yet at the end of the day we must proclaim with Scripture that whatever holiness or victory over indwelling sin exists it is “by the grace of God.”  Though we work, it is “God who is at work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 says that our hearts and eyes being unveiled, our beholding of the glory of God in Christ, as well as our being transformed into that same image “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  As we set our gaze upon Christ’s person and work, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the very image of the One we behold. All this is “to the praise of His glory” (Eh. 1:12,14).

Let us all, for the glory of God and for our good behold a better vision in the glory of God in the gospel and become more like Christ.

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From Glory to Glory: Beholding a Better Vision & Becoming Like Christ, Part 1

The whole of Scripture could rightly be summed up by one word: glory.  Or, if we were to use a phrase:from glory to glory.  The glory of God is, most assuredly, the preeminent purpose for all creation  (Rom. 11:33-36).  When we speak of the glory of God we are not referring to a distinct attribute like omnipotence or independence.  Rather, God’s glory “is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of his manifold perfections.”  It is the splendor of His attributes on display for all creation to behold.  The Bible speaks of God’s “glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6), the “glory of His might” (1 Thess. 1:9), as well as the whole earth being “full of His glory” (Is. 6:3).  Creation reveals God to be glorious (Ps. 19:1) but as revelation progresses God’s unveils a fuller presentation of His glory in redemption (Rev. 7:9-12): from glory to glory.

Another way this theme can be seen is in creation itself.  When God created, it was glorious.  He declared it to be “good” as a reflection of His glory.  But as we know that is not the end of the story.  Sin entered into creation through man, resulting in God’s subjection of it to futility and it is now “groaning,” awaiting to “be set free from its bondage to corruption.”  Yet, that still is not the end.  There is still to come a time, after the judgment, that God will renew creation to a greater degree of glory that was there in the beginning.  While the original creation was and remains a glorious work of God, the new heaven and new earth to come will be glorious beyond comprehension as the very glory of God will dwell amongst His people: from glory to glory.

We can also see this theme in the ministry of the two great prophets of God.  Moses’ ministry was glorious.  He led God’s chosen people out of slavery to the edge of the promise land.  He was given the Law of God, instituted the right worship of God, and wrote the Pentateuch.  Greater than all those, he pleaded with God that he might see His glory and the Lord graciously granted his request, only hiding His face from him.  From that time forth, his face shown and had to be veiled after he spoke with the Lord.  As glorious as the ministry of Moses was there is a prophet who is more glorious.  Moses shown with another’s glory, this prophet came with His own (John 1:14).  Moses spoke the word of another, this prophet is the Word become flesh (v 1-2, 14).  Moses failed in the wilderness, this prophet fulfilled all righteousness and was “in every respect…tempted as we, yet without sin” (Matt. 3: 15; 4:1-17; Heb. 4:15).  Moses could only institute and offer sacrifices on behalf of the people and for himself, this prophet provided the perfect sacrifice “once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27).  Moses interceded for the people when they turned from God yet his ministry was temporary, this prophet “always live to make intercession” for the saints (Heb. 7: 25).  Moses wrote about and pointed to the grace of God to come, this prophet is the grace of God come to man.  Moses could not see nor reveal the fullness of the Lord, this prophet came to make God known, for “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3).  This prophet is Christ Jesus our Lord.  Moses’ ministry was glorious but Christ’s is the fullness of glory (Heb. 3:3): from glory to glory.

The main concern of this post is the way in which this theme sums up the Christian life.  Look to 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:3-6:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit…. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

From regeneration to glorification and everything in between can be summed up as from glory to glory.  Beginning at regeneration, the God who said “Let there be light” in the darkened void of creation shines the heart-softening, eye-opening, ear-clearing, mind-illuminating light of the gospel into your heart by the work of the Holy Spirit through the word of God, bringing forth life from death, love from hate, freedom from slavery, fellowship from enmity, repentance from rejection, and belief from blasphemy.  Glory be to God!  We are saved gloriously by the grace of God.  The salvation of a sinner is so glorious that the angels, who behold the glory of God, long to look and understand His grace.

“But,” the Bible tells us, “we have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7).  As glorious as our present redemption in Christ is, the gravity of sin still weighs heavily upon our mortal bodies, so we, along with the creation mentioned above, “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).  You see, this mortal life is not the end for anyone.  For those in Christ, we long to be home with our Lord, free from the residue of sin in our flesh, and free from the corruption of this perishable tent in which we dwell.  This longing is not without warrant for the God who called us to Himself guarantees that He will glorify us, making us like Christ in His resurrected state, giving imperishable and incorruptible bodies.  This is our one and sure hope.

What about right now?  Yes, regeneration and salvation are glorious and we should never lose our amazement of God’s glorious grace towards us.  Glorification will be all the more glorious as our redemption will be fully realized, therefore the Christian life is truly from glory to glory.  But, how does that apply to us now?  What are we to be doing in between salvation and glorification?  The Scriptures are clear that the purpose of God’s plan of redemption for us is that we “be conformed to the image of His Son.”  This is not only eschatological but for us here and now.  We have been redeemed that we might “be transformed by the renewal of [our minds],” that we who have this hope of glorification would “purify [ourselves] as He is pure,” that we might “strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord,” and that we, who have been raised with Christ, would “put to death what is earthly in [us]” and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision of the flesh.”  In a word, sanctification.  We were redeemed that we would be sanctified.

In the next post, we will consider the God-ordained means of sanctification.

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Weeding the Garden of the Heart that Flowers of Grace Flourish

“Put to death therefore what is earthly within you…” – Colossians 3:5

Our forefathers used to speak of mortifying sin.  That may conjure up ideas of man of reclusive instincts flaying their bodies in the hope of avoiding sin.  We know better from Scripture – the body may be the instrument of sin, but it is not its source, and therefore to deal harshly with it is no solution to the problem. ‘The flesh’ is not merely ‘flesh and blood’!  But these mediaeval associations have tended to persuade Christians that the whole idea of putting sin to death is somehow or other related to legalism and the righteousness of the law.

We must affirm in this context that crucifying sin is a central practical issue in Christian experience.  This neglected area of truth must be recovered, and in our present culture must be taught to younger and older Christians alike.  Undoubtedly one of the reasons some younger Christians make shipwreck of their faith is because they have never learned how to deal with indwelling sin, or, what is worse, have been encouraged to see it as an irrelevance.  It is one of the signs of our morally-confused church life today that there is so much hesitation here.  We have lost confidence in the clear commands of Scripture….

What then is this killing of sin?  It is the constant battle against sin which we fight daily – the refusal to allow the eye to wander, the mind to contemplate, the affections to run after anything which will draw us from Christ.  It is the deliberate rejections of any sinful thought, suggestion, desire, aspiration, deed, circumstance or provocation at the moment we become conscious of its existence.  It is the consistent endeavor to do all in our powers to weaken the grip which sin in general, and its manifestations in our lives in particular, has.  It is not accomplished only by saying ‘no’ to what is wrong, but by a determined acceptance of all good and spiritually-nourishing disciplines of the gospel.  It is by resolutely weeding the garden of the heart, and also by planting, watering and nurturing Christian graces there, that putting sin to death will take place.  Not only must we slay the noxious weeds of sin, but we must see that the flowers of grace are sucking up the nourishment of the Spirit’s presence in our hearts.  Only when those hearts are so full of grace will less room exist for sin to breathe and flourish.

Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction158-59, 162.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ” – Matthew 5:29-30

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