Sanctification

There are some Christians who teach that saints are totally depraved, with no difference in our being than before we were redeemed. Some of these seem genuinely concerned that we do not hold to infusion of grace into our flesh; and that is a legitimate concern.

It’s not our flesh that has been made new by our new life in Christ. It’s our soul that has been made alive. The soul of the unregenerate is dead – unable to move his flesh in a way pleasing to God. The saint has a soul that is alive to God, with the Spirit of God willing and making him able to do things that ARE pleasing to God (Phil 2:13). This is what I think we are taught in various places, including Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Note this: the way we avoid being conformed to this age is by being transformed by the renewing of our minds. The soul of the saint has been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His glorious light (Col 1:13) and we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6). Obviously this is not speaking about our physical being, but our spiritual being.

It should also be obvious that our mind, which is part and parcel of our soul, controls our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. We are not told that our flesh gets better with time, but we are told to control our thoughts, words, and deeds; we are not to walk as reprobates do, but as children of God:

Ephesians 5:6-11 (HCSB) Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners. For you were once darkness, but now ⌊you are⌋ light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light ⌊results⌋ in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Did you notice: a command to walk as children of light, which will bear fruit of that light which will reveal itself in goodness, righteousness, and truth – which means we can discern what’s pleasing to the Lord. Why would He give us such discernment if we have NO ability to influence our thoughts, words, and deeds? Why tell us NOT to take part in works of darkness if we are depraved and unable to say no to sin?

None of us will be without sin while we inhabit these bodies of death; but none who have been born from above by the Spirit of God are without a Helper who wills and equips us to do that which is pleasing to Him. We have an Intercessor who will make a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13) so that sin will not have dominion over us, but allow us to run away from it, as Joseph did so long ago. This is the consistent teaching of Scripture.

Romans 6:16-23 (HCSB) Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?  But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.  I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the end is eternal life!  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That transforming renewal of our minds works its way out in our patterns of what we think, what we speak, and what we do. We have been liberated from sin and enslaved to God, which results in sanctification – the end of which is eternal life. Sort of sounds like sanctification is one of those essential things God works in us that we cannot do without.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (HCSB) Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God (see also 1 Peter 2:11).

We work at completing this sanctification by cleansing ourselves from impurities of the flesh and our fleshly desires. We should not think we can cleanse ourselves by our effort and we should not think God will sanctify us no matter what we do; both are ditches we need to avoid. It’s analogous to being so afraid of works righteousness that we do not tell people to repent and believe or being convinced we can save sinners by our clever words. Both are wrong thinking.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (HCSB) For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification. Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit.

Here is a very specific area of sanctification – sexual purity. Ouch! But look what we’re told: God wills our sanctification so we will know and be able to control our bodies in an honorable way. How anyone can say we are no different from unregenerate people confounds me. There is no teaching of perfectionism, but there is clear teaching that we are to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus so we won’t be led astray by lawless people (2 Pet 3:17 & 18).

Read the qualifications of elders and deacons in 1 Tim 3 and see sanctified life described in action terms: sensible, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunkard, not quarrelsome or greedy. No different from depraved reprobates?

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 (HCSB) But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, either by our message or by our letter.

We are chosen by God for salvation through sanctification. Not that we are sanctified and then saved, but that just as repentance and faith are separate but inseparable, so is salvation and sanctification. And this sanctification is the work of Spirit through the Word of Truth. And we finish this passage with the exhortation to behave rightly and think rightly, as taught by the apostolic records in Scripture. The Christian’s life IS DIFFERENT than the unregenerate’s life.

I have come to the conclusion that while justification (salvation, redemption) is monergistic, sanctification (perseverance, preservation) is not. But it’s not synergistic, either. That term conveys the notion that both elements or parties are required for the process to function. Even a casual read through the Bible will reveal the fact that God bids us to obey (Galatians 6:9) and enables to do so (Hebrews 13:20 & 21), He commands us to press on for the prize that will not tarnish and sustains us in the doing (Hebrews 12:1 & 2), and reminds us that apart from Him we do nothing (John 15:5). This is the essence of Augustine’s famous prayer that ignited the controversy with Pelagius: “God, command what you will, grant what you command.” The Christian will want to obey God and trust Him to bring it to completion. Yet He also works to conform us to His Son when we rebel and are not careful to walk as children of the light (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Hebrews 12:3-11; James 1:2-4 & 12). Brothers, this should not be the case, we should not kick the goads; but it is comforting (and convicting) to embrace a God Who is not dependent on us!

So I conclude that God can work to sanctify us without our active participation, yet we cannot work towards growing in likeness to Christ without His active participation (John 15:5). We take 100% responsibility for the sin in our lives, we give God 100% of the credit for the good thoughts, words, and deeds we do. His Spirit in us works so that we pray effectively (Romans 8:26), without Him we can do nothing.

Sanctification. If it’s not part of your life, you need to examine yourself to see if you be in the faith (2 Cor 13:5).

A CALL TO SELF-EXAMINATION

A CALL TO SELF-EXAMINATION  kom

by Benjamin Keach

What can render the state of a person worse than to be an enemy of God, Jesus Christ, and the power of godliness; and yet to think he is holy and a good Christian? Nay, because his conscience is blind in the matter, it acquits him since it lacks saving light, while he keeps up in a zealous performance of the external acts of duty and religion; by which means he is deprived of that help which some openly profane gain from the rebukes and lashes of their own consciences, which often proves a means of their conversion. But the hypocritical professor, not knowing he lacks a changed heart, nor understanding that he is without those Sacred Principles from whence should flow all he acts and does, but contrariwise he is stirred up by false Principles, and acts only by the power of natural conscience and affections, having no clear judgment to discern his own danger, nor what a state he is still in. His condition is deplorable, and this unclean spirit is worse and more dangerous than that which he was in before.

Their blindness and ignorance consists in that they cannot discern nor distinguish between a changed heart and a changed life, or between legal reformation and true regeneration. They think, because their behavior seems so much better than it was before, in their own apprehension, and in the apprehension of others also, their condition is good enough. They comparing themselves with themselves, beholding what a vast difference there is, or seems to be in respect of what they once were, when swearers, drunkards, whoremongers, etc., cannot but commend themselves to themselves. Once they saw themselves sinners, and called themselves so, and were ashamed of their own sinful and wicked lives; but now they are righteous in their own eyes, and so have no need of any further work, being arrived to that state of holiness (so they think) to that degree of piety, to that change, to that conversion, that they conclude they need not seek for further change and yet they are deceived…

The state of the self-righteous and Pharisaical persons is far worse than the state of gross and profane sinners. These are sick and know it not; wounded, but see no need of a physician… They may conclude they are converted, and therefore seek not after conversion.

It is a hard and difficult thing to bring a Pharisaical person, one that looks upon himself to be a religious man, to see his woeful state and condition.

Men may be civilized, and make a great profession of religion, and pass for saints on the earth, that are not such in the sight of God in heaven.

It is a most dangerous thing to make a profession of religion without true regeneration being first wrought in the soul; better to be no professors at all, than not so as to be sincere…

This may inform us of the cause and reason there is so great reproach brought upon religion, and on the ways of God, and on the people of God, by some who profess the gospel. Alas, many of them who are called saints, we may fear are but counterfeit Christians, such as who never experienced a true work of grace; they may have knowing heads, but unsanctified hearts…

Moreover, it sharply reproves those preachers whose great business is to bring men into visible profession, and make them members of churches, whose preaching tends more to bring persons to baptism, and to subject to external ordinances, than to show them the necessity of regeneration, faith, or a changed heart. For the Lord’s sake take heed what you do, if you would be pure from the blood of all men. We too often see when people are got into churches, they conclude all is well; and when conversion is preached, they do not think it concerns them, but other people who are openly profane: and thus they come to be blinded, maybe to their own destruction…

It may also put us all upon a strict examination of our own hearts, lest we should be found to be some of these false and counterfeit Christians. And that we may clear ourselves in this matter; consider:

1. Were you ever thoroughly convinced of your sinful and lost condition by nature, and of that horrid evil there is in sin? Did you ever see sin as the greatest evil, most hateful to God, not only of the evil effects of sin, but also of the evil nature of sin, not only as it has made a breach between God and man, but has also defaced the Image of God in man, and made us like the devil, filling our minds with enmity against God, godliness, and good men?

2. Is there no secret sin lived in and favored, the evil habit never being broke? Is not the world more in your affections, desires, and thoughts, than Jesus Christ?

3. Are you willing to suffer and part with all that you have, rather than sin against God? Do you see more evil in the least sin, than in the greatest suffering?

4. Do you as much desire to have your sins mortified as pardoned, to be made holy as well as to be made happy? Do you love the work of holiness as well as the reward of holiness? Do you love the Word of God for that purity which is in it, as well as the advantage that comes by it?

5. Have you seen your own righteousness as filthy rags, and have you been made poor in spirit?

6. Have you received a whole Christ with a whole heart? A whole Christ comprehends all His offices (prophet, priest, and king), and a whole heart includes all our faculties. Is not your heart divided?

7. Is Christ precious to you, even the chiefest among ten thousand? Are you the same in private as in public? Do you love Christ above son or daughter? Do you love the Person of Christ?

8. Can you bear reproof kindly to your faults, and look upon him your best friend, that deals most plainly with you?

9. Do you more pry into your own faults, than the miscarriages of others? Are you universal in your obedience? Do you obey Christ’s Word, His commands, because you love Him?

10. Have you been the same in a day of adversity, as now you are in a day of prosperity?

11. Can you say you hate sin as sin? Is your mind spiritual, and set upon heavenly things? Do you love the saints, all the saints, though some of them are not of your sentiments in some points of religion?

12. Can you go comfortably on in the ways of Christ, though you meet with little esteem among the saints? Can you stay your souls upon God, though in darkness, having no light? Is all the stress of your justification and salvation built upon Jesus Christ?

Consider these few questions, and do not doubt but that your hearts are sincere, when you can give a comfortable answer to them, though it be with some fear and doubts that still may arise in you. A true Christian is ready to mistake what belongs to him, and take that to be his, that belongs to an hypocrite; while, on the other hand, an hypocrite mistakes that which belongs to him, and applies that to himself, which is the portion of sincere Christians. – Benjamin Keach

Taken from The Counterfeit Christian or the Danger of Hypocrisy by Benjamin Keach, (London: John Pike, 1691). Some archaic words have been modernized.

Do not quickly read these questions and forget about them. Many professing Christians today are simply outwardly religious, but their hearts have not been changed by the regenerating power of God. Christ demands the supreme place in your heart and affections. If you love anything more than Christ; if you love anything equal to Christ (though you may have a wealth of biblical knowledge); you are not a child of God. “Do not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7).

I’ve Got Your Back

Jim Galvin, co-creator and co-editor of the Life Application Study Bible, advertises himself as an organizational consultant specializing in strategy, effectiveness, and change who is relentlessly focused on releasing the potential of IveGotYourBack-400pxleaders and organizations. He has written a book on biblical principles for leading and following well, titled I’ve Got Your Back. I was provided a copy of this book free of charge provided I review it. So here ya go!

I’ve Got Your Back by Jim Galvin

a review by Stuart Brogden

This book is subtitled, A Leadership Parable – biblical principles for leading and following well, and indeed most of this small volume is a story about common folk who are professing Christians struggling with life’s challenges and being gently educated by someone older and wiser. The second part of the book, one chapter, boils down the biblical principles contained in the 11 chapters of the parable and puts them squarely into their proper theological context.

Throughout the book, Galvin shows us application of biblical leadership principles, not so different from many books that do so, but leave out the person and the work of Jesus Christ – without Whom none of us can do anything good! This focus is made clear in the theological wrap up, but not so much in the parable. The author provides good counsel through his mentor, Jack, structuring three categories of leadership with 5 ways of following. Applying these in accordance with proper interpretation of the Bible, Galvin fails to press on the characters – and his readers – that all good we are able to do is by the grace of God in His Son. There is much talk about God and the Lord, along with much self-talk about making choices and facing fears – none of this is bad. It simply does not bring in the One in Whom we are able to do all things. This dawned on me as I was reading the last chapter – it’s subtle enough that one might not notice the absence of Christ from the parable, at least in a meaningful way. Chapter 5 is a prime example: quite a bit of Scripture presented showing how one is to live. Not a hint of the only provision we have for living right – only advice to “work harder”. Here’s the fine point – we are to work hard, but never thinking we are sufficient apart from Christ; not a one-time decision to follow Him, but a daily recognition that He is our strength and wisdom and strong tower.

Our author makes clear the monergistic aspect of our salvation, calling us passive in our justification, and he goes on to say that our sanctification is very much a cooperative effort in which we work hard and strive for godliness – “while remaining utterly dependent on his (the Holy Spirit) power.” Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! The first 9 pages of part 2 are very good and have a proper focus on our eternal dependence on God. Some of the content on pages 148 & 149 need to be woven into the parable; if the author thinks he put it there, it did not work for me, Christ is hidden.

I think Galvin’s categories of leadership and followship are mostly on target and will be valuable to the reader. The danger for all of us is to follow Jack’s lead in the parable and teach biblical principles apart from the person and the work of Christ Jesus, leading people to think they can do what the author tells us (in part 2) we cannot do – manage life with others in work and church without being a new creature in Christ and trusting in Him alone for strength and wisdom to live rightly in this evil age.

Read the book – but by all means do not fail to read part 2. The parable alone is not what the body of Christ needs. We need to be reminded to fix our eyes on the unseen, trusting in the Lord of Heaven for protection and provision now and for eternity. To Him be honor and glory and dominion forever!

Are You Resisting Sanctification?

sadness-man-in-the-shadow-1368461366ES7 I have been noticing a pattern of sin in my life that I know has always been there, but I never really recognized it for what it was. When God redeemed and made me a new creation almost 13 years ago, He gave me a new nature. As part of that nature, God made me aware of my sin, not in a generic sense, but in a very specific one. No longer did I feel bad about coveting, lusting, lying or hating just because bad consequences occurred. I actually began to hate my sin because I saw it for what it was, a rebellious act toward a kind and loving God. A God who mercifully redeemed me by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And instead of just trying to find someway to justify my sin, I now wanted to repent of those things because I loved my Savior.

That battle to repent from my sins and to live a life that is pleasing to God has never been an easy one. In fact, one besetting sin stuck with me for over three years before God helped me to see just how wicked it was. Today I struggle with that sin, but I no longer dive head long into it. I make great efforts to never again set my feet anywhere near the path that leads me there. I rejoice when God gives me victory over sin, but I am ever aware that this wicked flesh is always waiting to find reason to transgress God’s law for its own satisfaction.

However, as of lately, I have become aware of multiple areas of sin in my life. Perhaps it is because my family and I have been going through many trials that I am more sensitive to His working in me. We certainly have had to rely on the Lord far more than ever before. As a result of that, I am becoming more aware of His working in our lives. And perhaps that is what has opened my own eyes to the sins I had previously ignored. Yet, it is my reaction to these areas of sin that is an even greater problem than the sins themselves. It is this area that I desire to share with you in hopes you can be edified and strengthened.

I have noticed that whenever I have begun to see an area of sin in my life that God is exposing, my first reaction, almost without fail, is to become upset, despondent, sad or depressed. I will practically shut down and begin to focus solely on myself and my failure to live up to the perceived standard I am supposed to live up to. I then complain about what a terrible Christian I am. I begin to seek comfort with family and friends, telling them about how bad I realize I am in the eyes of God. When they console me and tell me I am being too hard on myself, I feel refreshed, thinking I clearly have misunderstood what God was showing me. I then proceed on with my life as if nothing had ever happened.

Did you catch the sin? I see that God is showing me an area, or even areas, of sin, but rather than admit it and repent, I become introspective and complain to others. That is the sin. As a Christian, I am one time sanctified, made righteous in the eyes of God through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, my rebellion and wickedness is placed on Jesus at the cross, His perfect righteousness is accounted to me through repentance and faith. From that moment on, I am seen in God’s eyes as perfect, because all my sin – past, present and future – was punished at the cross. So no matter how often I stumble into sin, I am secure in the Father because I was purchased by the Son.

However, it does not stop there. Throughout my walk as a Christian, I am sanctified by God. That means that He is continually working to make me more like His Son. He is ever growing me through the reading of His word, expanding my understanding of the richness of His grace. He leads me in deeper prayer and worship, causing me to love Him more, and in turn, loving others around me. He causes me to care less about myself and to desire to serve Him alone. And He is also constantly exposing areas of sin in my life, leading me to repentance. God is purging me of my sins so that I may reflect my Savior in my thoughts, words and deeds. This process of sanctification is ongoing, never ending, right up until the day God calls me home. On that day, I will be glorified. I will be made perfect and will sin no more. But until that day, God sanctifies me and every other Christian He has redeemed in Christ. So the process of sanctification should be welcome in the life of every Christian. After all, God is refining us in the fire, removing the dross which is the sin for which Christ died. Yet, I find that rather than embrace sanctification, I am actually resisting it.

When I become morose over an area of sin in my life I am actually doing a couple of things. First, I am actually denying my own sinfulness. By acting shocked that God has revealed more sin in my life, I am claiming I should be able to not sin. If I am in fact, as the Bible describes me, a wretched sinner deserving nothing but judgment from God, then I should not be surprised that everything I do is tainted by sin. I should expect, daily, God to be showing me areas from which I need to repent. I should express concern over sin in my life, because sin is wickedness against God; however, I should not become distraught over it. By succumbing to emotional turmoil, I am actually stating that I believe I am capable of not sinning. I am ascribing to myself a kind of sinless perfection that exists only in God Himself.

Secondly, when I become this despondent over my sin, my inclination is to seek comfort in the eyes of others. By seeking their comfort, rather than repenting before God, I am actually trying to deny that sin which God has revealed. As I described above, I have personally complained to family and friends when I start seeing new sins in my life. I seek their comfort because I secretly believe that they will dull the edge of the sword which God used to expose me. When we run to others, asking them to reaffirm our personal image of ourselves, we are asking them to actually act in God’s stead as our judge. We value their opinion over God’s word because we believe their personal relationship with us will prevent them from saying anything too harsh about us, even if it is true. We are further sinning because we are setting up men in the place of God to judge us. And if you doubt this, check your reaction when a loved one doesn’t affirm you, but rather points out that sin God is revealing. If you are even more hurt by what they say, then you know that you were not asking for the truth from them, but a lie which would make you feel better.

So by ascribing to ourselves a kind of pseudo-perfectionism and getting others to affirm it, we are actively resisting God’s work of sanctification. We are denying that we need to repent before the Lord and submit to His holy work in us. This is utterly sinful, yet we can submit to it so easily. We can justify this mindset because we know that we should not sin, especially because we have a new understanding of how evil sin is. So we make the mistake of setting up personal, legalistic standards that we can then judge the progress of our Christian growth by. In doing so, we actually are falling back on idolatry because we become the judges of ourselves rather than God. In God’s eyes we are completely sinful and only the blood of Christ makes us righteous. In our own eyes, if we can reach certain benchmarks, we can declare we are righteous by what we do. When God exposes sins that we were previously unaware of, it deals a serious blow to the idolatrous view of ourselves. Wanting to reassert that view, we can easily fall into the trap of resisting God’s work of sanctification.

So what are we to do? The first thing is to remember who we are in Christ. Before we were redeemed, we were rebellious and wicked sinners bound for Hell. There was absolutely nothing good about us. By recognizing this, we can do away with the absurd notion that we are capable of not sinning at all. We will sin, even as new creations in Christ. But because we have been bought by His precious blood and have been made new by the Holy Spirit, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. We no longer have to sin. We will be tempted because our flesh is weak and longs to be satisfied. Because of that, we will fall into sin. Yet, because the power of the Holy Spirit resides in us, we can trust in God, being slaves to Him, to give us a way of escape when temptation comes. So we recognize that we are not capable of perfection of our own accord, but only in the power of Christ can we resist temptation and sin.

The other thing we can do is embrace sanctification. Rather than retreating into ourselves and grumbling over newly discovered sins (or the discovery that we are still struggling with the same ones) we should rejoice that our heavenly Father is at work in us. By revealing this area of wickedness, God is seeking to make us more like His Son. He is refining us into a tool fit for His use. If I am overly concerned that I am still sinning, yet I do not repent, it is like I am refusing to sharpen the blade on a dull axe. Instead of making the tool fit for use, I am demanding that God use the tool in its busted condition. It is a ridiculous notion to think that I am already a tool that is perfect in design and will never fail. But if I yield to the sanctification of God, He takes me as that busted and worthless tool and makes me into one that is perfectly designed for the job He has in store.

My encouragement to my brethren is to examine your own heart when it comes to sanctification. If you are angry at your sins, depressed and begging for affirmation, then you are denying the need for God’s perfect work in your life. If this is happening, repent, turn from that wickedness and yield to God. It is part of His perfect plan and will that you be made into a tool fit for His use and His glory. Therefore, I urge you to submit to and rejoice in His sanctifying work in you.

We Are Justified by Faith

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law,” (Romans 3: 27, 28)

As I began my morning devotions today, this passage in the book of Romans jumped out at me. Have you ever really stopped to consider it’s meaning? We are justified, not by our works, but by faith. Faith in what? In the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is this very principle that is the heart and soul of the Christian faith. Where every other man-made religious system determines your justification on what you can do, Christianity bases it solely on what has been done by God. This is where out assurance lies, it is where our guarantee of salvation lies. The shed blood of Christ on the cross, His work on our behalf. Christ gave everything, we can contribute nothing. And it is the faith that Christ has completed that work on our behalf through which God justifies us. Our complete and total trust that Christ’s work is sufficient to satisfy the righteous wrath of God. Our surrender to His transforming our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. That alone makes us right before God and nothing else.

I believe that one of the most challenging walks of the Christians life is struggling with the assurance that we are saved. We so often look at our lives, the constant struggle that we have with our sinful flesh, and we are tempted to believe that we cannot possibly be saved because of those sins. We see that we are supposed to be new creations, yet we continually fall into sin. As a result, we cannot believe we really are new creations because we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing. In the end, we actually evaluate our new birth in the same way that the false religions of this world do, through our works.

Yet, as we read the passage penned by Paul to the Romans, what is he challenging them with? He asks “what becomes of our boasting?” Think about that for a moment. When we actually accomplish something in our lives, what is inevitable result? We are proud of what we have accomplished. Pride swells up in our hearts and we can’t wait to tell someone all about it. But through the law of faith, such prideful boasting is “excluded.” Why? Because our faith is in the accomplished work of someone else! We cannot tell people how we did something great because the things we have done sent Christ to the cross! Jesus alone accomplished salvation through His death and resurrection. Jesus alone was completely obedient to His Father and fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law. The only boasting we can do is to say we were so wicked and vile that He had to save us through His work. We can rejoice because we don’t have to boast! We don’t have to rely on our sinful works to accomplish righteousness! We can rest because all the work of justification was accomplished at the cross!

If you struggle with your assurance in your faith, look to this passage and remember that it is God who alone is the just and the justifier. It is He who has made you a new creation and it is His work that is progessively sanctifying you. If you are one who has truly repented and placed their faith in Christ, then God’s work in your life will reveal itself in your hatred for your sin, your desire to walk and grow in faith, in your love for God’s Word, and in your desire to be more like your Savior. But these are the result of your justification, not the cause of it. You are justified by the One who said “It is finished.” Look to His finished work and rest.

A Word of Encouragement

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 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. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV)

The words of the Apostle Paul written to Timothy should serve as great encouragement to those of us who have been saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As I read those words, I was reminded that, despite my wretched sinfulness, despite having no good thing in me that would cause God to desire me, He demonstrated His love for me in that He sent Jesus Christ to redeem me.

Like Paul, we should see ourselves as the chief of sinners. Daily we should remind ourselves that our very sins put Jesus on the cross. That it took the shed blood of the Son of God Himself to pay the price we owe to God. Yet He did so willingly, of His own accord, so that He might bring glory to the Father. That in doing so, He might demonstrate His mercy by redeeming vile, wretched, rebellious sinners for His use.

In fact, it is Paul’s statement that “…Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example…” really caused me to stop and think. Jesus Christ saved us to be examples of His perfect patience to those He will save. In other words, when we are saved by God, we are cleaned up for His usefulness and put on display as His craftmanship. When God saved me, I was a rebellious sinner, even though some thought I was a “nice guy.” Yet, I lied, cheated, blasphemed and other sins I do not wish to mention. Those that knew me then would know I was not really all that “nice.” Yet, today, God’s sanctifying work in me is put on display by Him for one reason, to show the perfect patience in transforming a vile sinner into a tool useful for His work.

That is what God does when He saves us, He transforms us for His use! If you are anything like me, it is very easy to see all the faults, failings and sins that we still struggle with while we are in this flesh. We may even begin to wonder if we are truly saved because of that. Yet, here in Paul’s pastoral epistle, we see that the issue is not about us and what we can do, but in God’s finished work of salvation and his ongoing work of sanctification. It is not about us being able to say what we have conquered in our flesh, it is about God being able to boast in his sanctifying work alone! We weren’t saved so we could claim there was something just awesome about ourselves, which there never was, but so that we could be a light, a signpost pointing others to the very Savior they didn’t even know they needed, Jesus Christ.

I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, if you struggle with your walk, if you have trouble in finding assurance, look the this passage by Paul. You were saved and are being sanctified for one reason, to be evidence of the amazing work of your Savior. Find peace and comfort in knowing that “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

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For another thing, let us not expect too much from our own hearts here below. At our best we shall find in ourselves daily cause for humiliation, and discover that we are needy debtors to mercy and grace every hour. The more light we have, the more we shall see our own imperfection. Sinners we were when we began, sinners we shall find ourselves as we go on; renewed, pardoned, justified—yet sinners to the very last. Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.

– J.C. Ryle

1816 – 1900