Category Archives: Mortification

Truly Transformational Small Groups & Relationships

We’d rather work a formula than submit to a process that will be scary and unknown, even if it will ultimately change our hearts and character. So don’t give in to the temptation to just “do” something else, to come up with a new plan, a retooled strategy, alone—again. There are no shortcuts to believing the difficult but life-giving, heart-changing, and joy-enhancing truths I’ve shared in these chapters.

Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God about Sex, Page 122

“Unfortunately, I’m finding more and more accountability groups to be pretty ineffective. If people are not careful, these groups can become nothing more than places where people unload and confess but do not change. In many cases the confidentiality, safety, and security of such groups become the highest goal of the group, inhibiting group effectiveness. Now, of course, you need these elements in a group—that’s a given. But when the dynamics of the group primarily center on the commonality of the struggle itself, then what can happen is that the expectation of change—and more importantly, how it happens—can get lost. Then the group will become ineffective and eventually collapse in a spirit of defeatism and hopelessness. Maybe you’re in a group like this and know what I’m talking about.

Not long ago I was talking with a guy who had been in such a group for several years. He told me, “John, the problem is that no one in the group is experiencing any type of breakthrough or change.” He went on to say that there is something of a “spiritual” basis to the group. A Scripture portion is read each week. Songs are sung. People share challenges, falls, and similar information. There’s lots of camaraderie. But, he added, “The common denominator of why we’re all there seems to be the problems themselves and the difficulty and shame of the struggles we share. This seems a more powerful glue to the group than does the hope and expectation that Christ will show up and actually do something.” The expectancy that God would work in hearts to bring about new steps of faith and repentance had been “dumbed down,” as had been the call to serious holiness. People in the group just weren’t that hopeful that they would ever change.

This can happen so easily in a group. It’s the natural path groups sometimes take if they turn inward and the essence of the group becomes the struggle itself. Ultimately, that’s the wrong “content” to focus on so exclusively. The commonality and the camaraderie are important, but effective change groups must put the application of God’s Word front and center. The Scriptures, carefully applied to real-life situations, must take priority and be highly valued as part of any group meeting. Otherwise, the group will remain comforting and safe but will lose its power to be an agent of change. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of groups. I believe in them. Part of our ministry’s mission is to help churches begin partner ministries, and I’ve seen groups used powerfully in the lives of hundreds of people over the years. I would say that groups can be used of God in ways that individual counseling can’t match. Something happens in groups that can become a very significant part of how Christ meets people in a new way, giving them the hope of the gospel, as well as being a tangible symbol of God’s love and care expressed through the group members.

When the centrality of the gospel is at the heart of a group, then the other elements of the group can be made more effective. There are three life-changing activities that must take place as part of any successful biblical support group. The first crucial element is accountability. Accountability happens when I speak honestly about my temptation, my sin, and the condition of my heart with other Christian brothers. This requires ruthless honesty about the destructive stuff that fills and fuels my heart and speaking of it with other men. Discipleship is the second, central element, which I have already mentioned. As a group member, I am growing in faith and in God’s truth and grasping more and more who I really am as God’s child because of God’s love for me. I can expect to see step-by-step move- ment (even if they are only small steps) and growth as I take hold of the reality of the gospel. Discipleship happens where I am and helps me apply the gospel to all the chaos, conflict, and confusion in my own heart, in order to make me a new and different person. Effective discipleship also enables me to get out of myself; to begin to love and serve others with my time, energy, and resources—because of what God is doing in me and what Christ is coming to mean to me. Third, there’s the important element of transparency. Transparency is when I commit daily—with everyone, and not just with the members of my group—to living openly and without deceit, offering my life and the motives of my heart to the examination of others! Transparency may seem like accountability, but transparency is when I begin ruthlessly speaking the truth about everything I do, on a day-to-day basis. Because my sexual struggles and sin have been hidden for so long, I realize that lying and deceit have become a part of my daily habits. Now, by God’s power, I learn to walk in the light and no longer in the darkness.

Do you see how the ordinary “accountability” group may fall far short of being an effective agent of change? That’s because the element of accountability is only one of several things that are needed, and it’s not even the most important one. But we often mistake it as such, omitting other crucial building blocks to wholeness.

I know that when it comes to that last ingredient, transparency, you may be thinking, John, that seems like death! The accountability part is hard enough, but transparency, with everyone? Believe me, it may seem like death, but it’s the way to real life! It’s the way to a clear conscience and to knowing God’s love and acceptance through others who are on your team, rooting for you! There’s nothing like it. If you’ve not experienced it, you may just have to take my word for it. Small groups and one-on-one-or-two-or-three connections like this are what have helped change my life for over forty years now. Having relationships like this, where I’m reminded of the gospel through others, is what’s often made it possible for me to preach the gospel to myself in challenging situations, when my heart could easily head “south” into dark and destructive places.”

Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God about Sex, Page 127-130

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We become what we Worship

“But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.” (Hosea 9:10 ESV).

“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.” 1 Corinthians 3:18

In the last post, we discussed how we need to see God more clearly in order to experience His glory and grace.  This post is connected because we rarely stop to think about how our heart really affects our worship.  You don’t need to look too far in your own life to see this truth playing out.  The things that interest you are the things that mark you.  If it is the newest technological wonder, then you will talk about when it is expected to be out and how it will make life better.  If it is health and fitness, then you will talk about your latest workout, diet or special shake that will make you healthier.  If it is a new business endeavor, then you will tell people about it and how excited you are.  If it is a favorite sport or team, then you will know all of their stats and will talk about it all of the time.  Whether it’s a new car, relationship, job or activity, what captivates your heart is what drives your life.

This is not a bad thing.  We were designed to work, relate and rule so we are just doing what we were designed to do.  We can use this basic understanding of life to see how our lives are driven by what we look at and hold dear.  Many Christians believe that the Christian life is to be stoic and that we are not to enjoy anything.  On the contrary, we need to raise our gaze and see Christ as the greater treasure than anything this world has to offer (Matthew 13:44).  Recall the story of the Sirens from Greek mythology. The Sirens were beautiful women with angelic voices.  They lured unknowing travelers to their island by their enchanting voices.  When Jason went on a journey that took him by their island, He took Orpheus, who played the lyre, with him.  As soon as they could begin to hear the Siren’s voices in the distance, Orpheus played a more beautiful tune that drowned out the voices of the Sirens and they successfully sailed past the island.  Odysseus, on the other hand, wanted to hear the voices of the Sirens so He ordered his men to plug the ears and tie him to the mast of the boat.  He ordered them not to untie him no matter what he did.  As they passed the island, he heard the tune and was enchanted, but could not free himself in order to get to the island.

The primary work for us to do is not to build elaborate strategies of tying ourselves to the masts of our boats and plugging our ears with beeswax in order to avoid temptation and sin.  There are good things that we should do to build healthy boundaries that help us to avoid temptations that are real in our lives, but the real work is to hear a better tune.  The real work is not in making other things less attractive, but in seeing God as increasingly more attractive.  The real work is to see clearly because the Creator of all things has called you His own, has forgiven you and has adopted you as His own child.  This should cause your soul to sing its own song.  

Suffering is a valuable tool that God uses to help us to see more clearly.  No one likes suffering, but few Christians have walked through suffering and come out the other side that do not see more clearly and worship God more deeply.  Where do you park your hope? Where is your joy found?  If your hope and joy are on created things, you will walk a life of profound ups and downs because created things cannot hold the weight of your worship.  They cannot provide ultimate soul level satisfaction.  The Israelites set their hope on an idol that they thought would provide rain and bountiful harvests, but in the end their lives became debauched and repulsive (Hosea 9:10).  Why did this happen?  Because whatever we behold in our hearts as ultimate is what transforms us into its image (1 Corinthians 3:18).  What are you beholding?

For further reading, see A Letter to an Incomplete, Insecure Teenager – Desiring God.

Thoughts from Jude (part 2)

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 1:16 ESV)

These people are grumblers – those who are discontent and complain against God.  These people have a low view of the Almighty, as if He existed to sprinkle them with fairy dusted blessings.  This brings to mind the generation that died in the wilderness for their complaining and grumbling.  Jude goes further calling these people malcontents.  Malcontents are “finding fault or being discontented with one’s lot, querulous; a discontented, querulous person, a complainer”  Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament.  These people follow their own sinful desires instead of subduing them into obedience with the Scriptures.  They boast loudly and manipulate to get what they want.  Wicked people!  How often do we find ourselves complaining, grumbling, finding fault, being discontent?  These attitudes are rooted in an extremely low view of God – as if He owes us anything.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”  (Jude 1:17–19 ESV)

Jude uses Beloved.  We are God’s beloved.  That is something that we should sit in and marvel over.  How could a perfectly holy and loving God shower us with love and affection?  The better question is why would He?  Just because He wants to.  What glory it heaps on Him to love the truly unloveable – like me.  There are scoffers who are evil & divisive that only desire to follow their ungodly passions.  These people are not redeemed – these are wolves in sheep’s clothing that were false teachers within the church.  We must fight against this in our midsts!

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”  (Jude 1:20–21 ESV)

 

Pursue Christ!  That is the best defense against these ungodly scoffers!  Pursue an abiding relationship with the risen Christ that is fueled by the Spirit!  God, help us.  Keep yourselves in the love of God.  This means to cherish, to think on, to pursue, to understand more fully how much God loves us and to be deeply moved by that truth.  If it weren’t for the grace of God, we too would be lost!  We should yield to the Spirit’s leading in accordance with His revealed will in the scriptures.  Let us pursue doctrinal soundness, Spirit wrought dependance and worship laden love.

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  (Jude 1:22–23 ESV)

Be merciful to those who doubt the promises of God. How beautiful is that? Be patient with those who waiver – help them, love them, walk with them. I do believe, help me with my unbelief!  This is a powerful passage on hating sin and its consequences, but mercifully engaging those who are wrapped up in it. Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is really only possible when one knows how deeply depraved they really are and how close they are to the same sin – except for God’s restraining grace. God help us!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  (Jude 1:24–25 ESV)

God is the One who keeps me from stumbling.  He is the One Who is able to present me blameless before Him.  He does this for His glory and our joy.  He is over all things!  Praise God that my salvation & growth are not up to my faithful obedience, but are the result of His faithful obedience on my behalf!

You make a crummy god

This is an excerpt from Matt Chandler’s Advent Message, The Promise of a Savior.

“We have been unable to fulfill our lives in away that our souls cease to chase the dangling carrot. Here’s why I worry about us. We’re never going to suffer as much as Job and we’re not going to be as rich as Solomon. Do you know where that puts us? Directly on the treadmill, running to whatever is next. If you think about your life, your whole life has been a series of “What’s next?” Where there’s not a “what’s next,” we get super restless.

We just wanted to get to high school. Then we just wanted our driver’s license. Then we just wanted to get out of high school. Then we just wanted to get into college. Then we just wanted to get out of college. Then we just wanted to find the one. We wanted to get married. Then we needed to find a job to support this marriage. Then we wanted kids. Then we wanted a promotion at work. We’re constantly punting down the field of our lives the next thing.

That glittery, sparkly little thing out there in the future continues to drive us while never satisfying us. We’re not even going to get tuned into that, because new stuff and advancement is intoxicating like a drug.

We’ll run and we’ll run and we’ll run, and there will always be something that’s next. You’ll continue to punt the fullness of life down the field of your life until your run is over. Only something that’s beyond the sun and not underneath it can solve that issue with the human heart. We need this Savior. We need the Ancient of Days to help with that.

I’ve said this for years. I just so passionately believe it. There’s always one or two who get upset when I say it. I mean not to upset you, I promise, but I want to make it very clear that I believe no one has lied to you, deceived you, and betrayed you more than you have. Despite the fact that there are mountains of empirical data that you make a crummy god over your own life, my bet would be most of us feel very confident in our “godness” over our lives and see any sort of authority or boundary as an affront to our sovereignty.

Of course, all we have is evidence that we really stink. We lie to us and betray us and trick us and don’t tell us the truth and don’t show up when we say we’re going to, but we really make awesome gods. We need this Savior to rule over our hearts .

The last thing he talks about is atoning for our sins; that this Savior would atone for our sins, eradicate sin. If we were honest, many of us in here, even now, are slaves to sin in our lives. Probably what I can comfortably say is that you have two different lives going on. You have your life at church, where you’re great and you love the preaching and the singing, but you have this whole other life that maybe one or two people know about, or maybe nobody knows about but you, and you are actively being owned and dominated by your sin.

You have bought into the ridiculous lie that you’re controlling it, that you can stop whenever you want, and you would never cross this certain line, and you have everything under control. How long have you been trying to stop? A decade? Two? Bro, you’re not in control; you’re being driven. Only this Savior can set us free from the hooks of sin that deep into the soul.”

The Practice of Mortification

I recently read this in Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life.  I thought that it was very good and was worth the time to post it.  I hope that you enjoy it!

“The aftermath of a conversation can change the way we later think of its significance. My friend-a younger minister-sat down with me at the end of a conference in his church and said, “Before we retire tonight, just take me through the steps that are involved in helping someone mortify sin.” We sat talking about this for a little longer and then went to bed; I hoped he felt as blessed as I did by our conversation.

I still wonder whether he asked his question as a pastor or simply for himself-or both.

How would you best answer his question? The first thing to do is to turn to the Scriptures. Yes, turn to John Owen (never a bad idea!) or to some other counselor dead or alive. But remember that we have not been left only to good human resources in this area. We need to be taught from “the mouth of God” if the principles we are learning to apply are to carry with them both the authority of God and the promise of God to make them work. Thus our Lord Jesus Himself believed (Matt. 4:4).

Several passages come to mind for study: Romans 8:13; Romans 13:8-14 (Augustine’s life-transforming text); 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Ephesians 4:17- 5:21; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Peter 4:1-11; 1 John 2:28-3:11. Significantly, only two of these passages contain the verb mortify (“put to death”). Equally significantly, the context of each of these passages is broader than the single exhortation to put sin to death. As we shall see, this observation turns out to be of considerable importance.

A Good Starting Place
Colossians 3:1-17 is probably the best place for us to begin. The believers in Colossae were relatively young Christians. Theirs had been a radical experience of conversion to Christ from paganism. They had entered a gloriously new and liberating world of grace. In fact, perhaps-if we may read between the lines-they had felt for a while as if they had been delivered not only from sin’s penalty but even from its influence, so marvelous was their new freedom. But then, of course, sin reared its ugly head again. Having experienced the “already” of grace, they were discovering the painful “not yet” of ongoing sanctification. Sound familiar? Just at this point keen young Christians can be all too vulnerable to “quick fixes.”

But as in our evangelical subculture, quick fixes do not solve long-term problems. Unless the Colossians gained a firm grasp of gospel principles, they were at risk of falling prey to false teachers with promises of a higher spiritual life. That was what Paul feared (Col. 2:8, 16). Holiness-producing methods were in vogue (Col. 2:21-22). Moreover, they seemed to be deeply spiritual, just the thing for earnest young believers. But, in fact, says Paul, such things “are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).

Not new methods, but only an understanding of how the gospel method works, can provide an adequate foundation and pattern for dealing with sin. This is the theme of Colossians 3:1-17.

Paul gives us the pattern and rhythm we need. Like Olympic long jumpers, we will not succeed unless we go back from the point of action to a point from which we can gain energy for the strenuous effort of dealing with sin.

How, then, does Paul teach us to do this?

NEW IDENTITY
First of all, Paul underlines how important it is for us to be familiar with our new identity in Christ (3:1-4).

How often, when we fail spiritually, we lament that we forgot who we really were.

Christians have a new identity. We are no longer “in Adam” but “in Christ”; no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit; no longer dominated by the old creation but living in the new (Rom. 5:12-21; 8:9; 2 Cor. 5:17).

Paul takes time to expound this:
• We have died with Christ (3:3; we have even been buried with Him, 2:12).
• We have been raised with Christ (3:1).
• Our true life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3).
• We are so inseparably united to Christ that we will appear in glory with Him (3:4).

Failure to deal with the presence of sin can often be traced back to spiritual amnesia-forgetting our new, true, real identity. As a believer, I am someone who has been delivered from the dominion of sin and who therefore is free and motivated to fight against the remnants of sin in my heart. You must know, rest in, think through, and act upon your new identity-you are in Christ.

SIN EXPOSED
Second, Paul goes on to expose the workings of sin in every area of our lives (Col. 3:5-11). If we are to deal with sin biblically, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can limit our attack to only one area of failure. All sin must be dealt with. Thus, Paul ranges through the manifestation of sin in private life (v. 5), everyday public life (v. 8), and church life (vv. 9-11; “one another” and “here” indicate the church fellowship).

The challenge in mortification is akin to the challenge in dieting (itself a form of mortification!). Once we begin, we discover that there are all kinds of reasons we are overweight. We are really dealing with ourselves, not simply with calories. I am the problem, not the potato chips! Mortifying sin is a whole-of-life change.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES
Third, Paul’s exposition provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin.

Sometimes it seems as if Paul gives exhortations (“Put to death. – – ,” 3:5) without giving “practical” help to answer our “how-to” questions. Often today Christians go to Paul to tell them what to do and then to the local Christian bookstore to discover how to do it!

Why this bifurcation? Probably because we do not linger long enough over what Paul is saying. We do not sink our thinking deeply into the Scriptures. For, characteristically, whenever Paul issues an exhortation, he surrounds it with hints as to how we are to put it into practice.

This is certainly true here. Notice how this passage helps to answer our “how-to” questions.
1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is. Call a spade a spade-call it “fornication” (v. 5), not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “uncleanness” (v. 5), not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5), not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” This pattern runs right through the whole section. How powerfully it unmasks self-deception-and helps us to unmask sin lurking in the hidden corners of our hearts!
2. See sin for what it really is in God’s presence. “Because of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts to the cross (kick and scream, though they will), to a wrath-bearing Christ. My sin leads not to lasting pleasure but to holy divine displeasure. See the true nature of your sin in the light of its punishment. Too easily we think that sin is less serious in Christians than it is in unbelievers: “It’s forgiven, isn’t it?” Not if we continue in it (1 John 3:9)! Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (3:7; cf. Rom. 6:21).
3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin. You have put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9-10). You are no longer your “old self.” The identity you had “in Adam” is gone. The “old man was crucified with Him [Christ], that the body of sin [probably meaning “life in the body dominated by sin”] might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). New people live new lives. Anything less than this is a contradiction of who we are “in Christ.”
4. Put sin to death (v. 5). It is as “simple” as that. Refuse it, starve it, and reject it. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!

But notice that Paul sets this in a very important broader context. The negative task of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positive call of the gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).

Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12-17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to a further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the gospel of grace, then we begin to make some real advances in holiness. Sinful desires and habits not only must be rejected but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13). As we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v.14), not only in our private lives but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12-16), Christ’s name and glory will be manifested and exalted in and among us (3:17).

These are some of the things my friend and I talked about that memorable Sunday evening.”

Sinclair Ferguson. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Kindle Locations 1826-1877). Kindle Edition.

For further reading:
Putting off involves fostering a new affection
The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers

Faithfulness’s Fuel

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:13–21 ESV)

This section starts with “therefore” which causes us to first reflect on Peter’s previous train of thought which was because God has saved you & is ensuring an inheritance that is spectacular – let us set our hope FULLY on the grace of Jesus Christ!  We are to do this by dwelling on, mulling over & meditating upon true & transcendent things – things which we easily forget.  We have to get outside of ourselves and our worlds and the difficulties that we face and think on ultimate realities.  Realities like this world is transient and is coming to an end, a perfect and never ending kingdom is coming in which we will dwell as sons of God.  God’s undeserved approval has been showered upon us, not because of what we have done or can do, but solely upon His sovereign goodness & grace.

Peter calls us not to be conformed to the “passions of our former ignorance.”  Passions are our inner drives and desires, deep down things, not merely behavioral things.  Peter’s exhortation to his readers is to be like Dad.  Our holiness & sanctification is tied to our identity as His children.  If you read this as a list of what you must do and how you must behave without marrying it to your identity in Jesus Christ then you have departed from the gospel of grace and have embraced a works based righteousness theological system.  The entire book of Galatians is a treatise on how they had departed from the gospel and embraced works based righteousness.  Paul deploys strong words in his epistle to the Galatians like bewitched (3:1), emasculate (5:12) and accursed (1:8) to communicate the danger of departing from grace and embracing works based righteousness.  Gospel oriented sanctification, or grace driven effort, is rooted in what God has done for us and our identity as His children.  It seeks to root out idols of the heart by identifying the false beliefs that drive our external behaviors.  It is root focuses, not fruit focused.  Works based righteousness places the responsibility for change primarily upon our shoulders – it is up to us to manage our sin.  It is primarily focused on our behavior and never asks the deeper question of what is driving our sinful behavior.  It is fruit focused, not root focused.

Our God is our Father and Judge.  We will be called to account for how we stewarded our lives in this world which should strike sobriety in our souls.  We should have a reverent fear and awe of God as we live our lives.  God is still a consuming fire Who is too glorious for man to see; He’s not our buddy, He’s the Almighty Creator who breathes galaxies into place.  Because of our identity as His children, we should walk in ways that are in keeping with our identity – this is not by focusing upon external behavior modification.  The external things that we do that are sinful should be ferociously attacked on the surface to hold them at bay, but the deeper question of what is driving them needs to be answered.  When their source is identified, God can remove the roots that are causing the sin.  We should walk in holy, reverent awe of God as our time as exiles in this world knowing that a perfect place in the presence of God is our future inheritance (a new Eden).

We are to walk in reverent awe (fear) because we were rescued at great cost – the cost was the blood of God Himself.  God died for our sins.  What sacrifice?  He tasted death, wrath & separation; the God who was never created and is perfectly holy was dipped in the disgust of sin, was separated from all goodness and bore His own wrath for me.  I was indeed bought with a price.  We were delivered from a life of meaningless futility where we are constantly chasing after the wind to one of profound significance; He breaks our bondage to generational sins and frees us.

The cross was the plan before time began.  It is not plan “B” because plan “A” did not work out.  Before anything was formed or put into motion, Jesus knew He would die to atone for the sins of His chosen people.  But, this complete revelation was not made known until recently (2000 years ago) for our sake.  Jesus was raised so our hope is firmly planted on the One that death could not hold.  What profound encouragement & glory.  Understanding and embracing that God has bought us with a profound price and that our inheritance is glorious provides fuel for us to walk faithfully.

Cooling affections

““If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 13:1–5 ESV)

This section warns the Israelites not to listen to or follow prophets who do miracles and tells them to follow & serve other gods!  This seems easy and straight forward to us, but at this point in history the scriptures had not been fully given to the people so prophets played a major role in God revealing His will to His people.  The Israelites were called to follow God (who was familiar), to fear God, to obey God and to hold fast to God.  In the western world, there is little cost to count for this, but for the Israelites it would be their lives and their very existence.

God calls them to take radical steps to purge the evil in their midst, in this case a false prophet.  That false prophet shall be put to death!  Scripture always paints the removal of evil & the killing of sin (mortification) in violent ways.  It paints pictures and uses words like murder, annihilation, mutilation & amputation (Colossians 3:1-11, Matthew 5:29-30 & 26:41).  This was physical for the Israelites – a picture of what we should pursue in our walk with the Lord.

We tend to minimize our sins & idols as “not being that big of a deal.”  But, God’s standard is holiness and He is completely devoted to conforming His children into the image of His Son.  Far too often we are content to bring our sins & idols into our hearts (Ezekiel 14:3) where we dream about them, place our trust in them & rely upon them for our well being in life.  In short, we worship them.  Killing sin always starts in our hearts and is aimed at ripping out the things that we have come to rely upon for our identity, safety, well being (emotional, physical or spiritual) – the things that we have placed our hope for deliverance in.  When things get ripped out of our hearts, pain is involved because a part of us is dying.  Dying is painful.  But the person who is willing to endure the pain will find true life, abiding joy & deep satisfaction (Psalm 16:11, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).

What tugs at your hearts affections?  Do you find your affection for the Lord cooling, while your affections for other things warming?  We must flee those things that create competing affections in our hearts.  This is done practically by removing ourselves from the situation & exposure, and by cultivating a deeper love for God.  The answer is to see God more clearly (sovereign, holy, merciful, good, gracious) so that the things that vie for our affections become less attractive because they pale in comparison.

The fuel to kill complaining

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14–15 ESV)

Don’t grumble & complain.  Sounds easy enough.  Paul is calling the Philippians (and us) to continue to work out what God is working with in.  We should not grumble and complain because Jesus, the infinitely perfect Creator, did not grumble and complain about becoming human and becoming obedient to death.  He is our focus, His sacrifice is our fuel.

The result:  blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish (v15).  As our outsides increasingly match up with the inner realities of being children of God and the work that He is doing within, we prove ourselves to be truly His.  His choice of words are reminiscent of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness and God ultimately calls them a crooked and twisted generation (Deuteronomy 32:5).  Surrender to Him today and do the work to see Him for who he really is for as you behold Him you will increasingly become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Oh Lord, let us just get a glimpse of your glory so that we may be transformed.