“I’m accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.” Gerald Bridges;Jerry Bridges. Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (p. 10). Kindle Edition.
“Holiness deals with the thoughts and intents, the purposes, the aims, the objectives, the motives of men. Morality does but skim the surface, holiness goes into the very caverns of the great deep—holiness requires that the heart shall be set on God and that it shall beat with love to Him. The moral man may be complete in his morality without that.” Holiness Demanded by CH Spurgeon
“On the most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist. Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel . . . As I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free.”
Hedges, Brian G. (2010). Christ Formed in You (Kindle Locations 3189-3194). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
Desiring God is doing a series of brief interviews with various teachers called “Theology Refresh.” John Piper just did two on sanctification.
Part 1 covers sanctification in general. The progressive nature of becoming more like Jesus, being made more in to His image, becoming more holy in practice.
Listen now or download
Part 2 covers how sanctification works “on the ground;” how it happens in the real world and what role does the gospel plays in our sanctification. Listen now or download
Background Assumptions. It is important to articulate some assumptions that are made because these will form a foundation upon which we will build in the subsequent discussions. First, we must answer the question, why did God create the heavens and earth? The answer is that God created for His glory2. This is not because God is lacking in any way or that He needs anything from His creation (Acts 17:25); this is because He is Creator and a creation that is glorifying to Him is a natural outflow of who He is3. Secondly, let us answer the question what is God like? God is sovereign over all things and has no equal or challenger of any significance; God is good, love, merciful, gracious, patient, holy, peace love, righteous, just, jealous, and wrathful towards all evil4. Thirdly, what is the purpose of man? Man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) to reflect the attributes of God to creation, to relate with God and others, and to reign over creation5 with the purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever6. Our representatives, Adam & Eve, chose to rebel against God by jettisoning His sovereign authority over them; this was then evidenced by the act of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which God had specifically forbidden. This was not a minor infraction, but was an act of grand treason! Before this rebellion, life functioned harmoniously and in rhythm, like that of a spectacular symphony. But that is no longer the case. The consequences of sin are catastrophic: death (Genesis 2:17), difficulty in child-rearing (Genesis 3:16), distorted roles in marriages (Genesis 3:16), creation opposing man’s efforts to cultivate it (Genesis 3:17-20) and the creation itself is broken (Romans 8:20). And these effects will not be eradicated until Jesus returns and makes “all things new” (Revelation 21:5). The fall of man did not surprise God or catch him off guard. He is sovereign and the scriptures tell us that Jesus existed before the foundation of the world and that God’s plan always was to atone for the sins of his people through the death of Jesus.7 The cross was not plan “B” because plan “A” failed. So this requires us to answer the last, and perhaps the most difficult, question: “did God allow the fall to better display his glory and grace?” If God is sovereign Creator that rules and reigns with absolute authority, then we are compelled to answer ‘yes.‘ God knew before He formed the world that man would stray and had already provided an acceptable sacrifice to reconcile us back to Himself. God never initiates or is the author of sin, but He does use it to accomplish His sovereign purposes and will – this is visibly seen in the life of Joseph (Genesis 37-46). If God has the power to stop it, and does not then we must conclude that He permitted it for His greater glory and purposes. If we probe this question a little further, by daring to ask why would God allow this, what greater purpose could it possibly serve? Is God’s mercy and grace more apparent to Adam and Eve in the garden or to us in the person of Jesus Christ? It becomes obvious that the boundless love, mercy and grace of God is more completely displayed in adopting us than it was in Adam and Eve. We are a depraved, rebellious, hard hearted, idolatrous people who want nothing to do with God, and yet He loves us and chases us down and extends forgiveness and grace by living the life that we could not live, dying the death that we could not die to pay the penalty that we could not pay. So in short, God’s glory is much more revealed in His grace extended to fallen and rebellious humanity than it ever would have been had we never rebelled.8
1Webster defines a culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture. A culture is formed out of what is valued, what is important.
2Isaiah 43:7: “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made”, and “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1 ESV). As time, as we know it, is brought to an end God will receive the worship that is rightly His: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”” (Revelation 4:11 ESV). David proclaims “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalms 8:1 ESV) and Ephesians 1:11-12 tells us “that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12 ESV). God created for His glory because it was a natural outflow of the character and nature of who God is. One can hardly glance at the stars on a quiet night or take in the Swiss Alps or the Pacific ocean or the Grand Canyon without worship welling up in his soul. When we take in so much of creation we want to proclaim with Jeremiah that “it is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:12 ESV)! More information on this available at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/biblical-texts-to-show-gods-zeal-for-his-own-glory
3For a more in depth discussion on this, see The Character and Nature of the Created Order by Bruce Henry.
4For a more in depth discussion on this, see The Character and Nature of God by Bruce Henry.
5Brian Hedges’ book, Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change, is very helpful in developing these ideas of reflecting, relating and reigning. (Kindle edition, location 260-334)
6The Westminster Shorter Catechism, AD 1647; 1 Corinthians 10:31, Romans 11:36, Psalm 73:25-28.
7“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:20 ESV); “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24 ESV); “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV); “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” (Revelation 13:8 ESV)
8“For since the Son of God was made man in order to restore us, who were already lost, from our miserable over throw, how could that be foreseen which would never have happened unless man had sinned?” “God created man flexible; and not only permitted, but willed that he should be tempted. For he both adapted the tongue of the serpent beyond the ordinary use of nature, to the devil’s purpose, just as if any one should furnish another with a sword and armor; and then, though the unhappy event was foreknown by him, he did not apply the remedy, which he had the power to do. On the other hand, when we come to speak of man, he will be found to have sinned voluntarily, and to have departed from God, his Maker, by a movement of the mind not less free than perverse.” “For his grace is more abundantly poured forth, through Christ, upon the world, than it was imparted to Adam in the beginning.” John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete) on Genesis (trans. John King; Accordance electronic ed. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), n.p.
Yesterday, I briefly posted a quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which said “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.” Calvin wrote this after reflecting upon the godly men in scriptures: “Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.” Let us look at a few passages that show the response of men when they are duly confronted with the presence of the Almighty:
- Isaiah was likely the most holy man of his day, and he was reduced to speechlessness when he was in the presence of the Lord: ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
- Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). He was convinced that if he could gain an audience with God he would be able to “argue with him, and [I] would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:7 ESV). God ultimately answers Job’s plea in chapter 38 as He begins to unfold for Job (and us) his might, sovereignty and infinite-ness for the next 5 chapters. Job attempts to stop God in chapter 40 by saying, ““behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further”” (Job 40:4–5 ESV), but God continues unpacking His sovereign infinite-ness. Once Job had experienced being the presence of God, he rightly reckons himself to be finite, limited in perspective and insignificant: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”” (Job 42:5–6 ESV).
- Even the Israelites, who had experienced first hand the miraculous delivery at the hand of God from Egyptian slavery, were fearful of being in the presence of God. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19 ESV)
It is unfortunate that much of what we are taught and consume in the modern evangelical church is man centered and attempts to build us up; it is Christianized self esteem. This is not the historical understanding that holy men from the past had, nor is it the picture that we see in the scriptures. What we need most is to be racked with the infinite might and majesty of the eternal, sovereign Creator so as to be put in our place. He is sovereign, infinite and eternal, we are limited, finite and tiny. When we are confronted with the majesty of God, we are rendered speechless and understand our right position in the universe. And when we understand that the universe and scriptures are not about us, but God, there is great joy and freedom. And ultimately profound worship emerges as we marinate on the fact that the eternal, mighty, holy God would be mindful of us, insignificant worms. Instead of digesting a steady stream of how to texts (be a better husband, be a better father, break free from pornography, etc), try spending time mining out the majesty of God and many of your struggles will begin to loose influence in your life.
“men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”