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Posts Tagged ‘Faithfulness to God

Is It Okay To Fear Falling Away from Christ?

I am wondering about this question.  I know that the Bible promises much to believers about out security in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).  I know that Jesus promised to abide with us forever (Matthew 28:20).  I know the promise of the Lord to finish what He has started (Philippians 1:6).  I know the promise of God to forgive me of my sins when I confess them to Him (1 John 1:9).  I know that the Lord promised that no one could snatch us out of His Father’s hands (John 10:29).  I know the promise of Jesus that He would never cast me out (John 6:37).  I know the promise of Jesus as well that whoever believes has eternal life (John 6:47).

And yet I equally know that we are to fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 11:20-22).  We are to live a life of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  I know the grace of God empowers the believer to forsake sin (Titus 2:12-13).  I know the promise of God is faithful to not only forgive us of our sins but destroy the power of sin in our lives (Romans 6:6).  Those who are slaves of sin are not His children (John 8:34-35; 1 John 3:4-10).  Romans 8:12-13 warns us that we have an obligation before God to not live according to the flesh lest we die.  Jude 21 tells us that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.  Even the Lord Jesus warned us to make every effort to enter by the narrow door (Luke 13:24).  Paul the Apostle spoke of disciplining his body lest after he preached to others, he might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

So here is my question again: is it okay to fear falling away from Christ?  I am not being so presumptuous as think that I could never fall away from Christ.  I think of 1 Corinthians 10:12 and how Paul warned us to be careful lest we fall.  I don’t look down on those who have committed great sins and turned away from the Lord and think, “That could never be me.” That would be the pride of Peter and the Apostles (see Matthew 26:31-35).  I can turn away.  I can become engrossed in sin.  I could live a double life of sin.  I could be committing adultery on my wife, stealing from my job, filling my mind with worldliness.  I could be drifting along without prayer, without the Word, without the church, without true discipleship.  I could be faking it to others.  That could be me.  I pray its not but it could be.

I do rejoice in knowing that the promises of God are true.  I rejoice and believe that there is assurance and security in Jesus.  Yet I know that there are no promises given to those living in sin.  To say that I love Jesus but live a life of sin is not acceptable before a holy God (1 John 2:3-6).  My words and actions must go together (James 2:14-26).  This doesn’t mean that I earn my salvation.  Again, Jesus alone is Lord and He alone is the One who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Yet the Bible is clear that we are to persevere in the faith, to hold fast to Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:11-12).  We must fight for holiness.  I see nothing in Scripture to suggest otherwise.  This is a battle and Satan wants me to turn away from Christ.  Satan wants me to live for me, to do what I want, to be my own god.  This was Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5).

On the one hand I live in comfort knowing that the Lord is faithful to watch over me and I am saved in Him and secure in Him.  On the other hand I fear the Lord and don’t want to turn away from following Him.  I sense the wickedness in my own heart (Jeremiah 17:9).  I know I am capable of great sins.  I fear that.  I don’t want to ruin the Lord’s name.  I don’t want to be another casualty of war.  I want to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in all that I do (Colossians 3:17).  I have a long way to go to get there.  For now, I trust in Christ alone to save me and I trust in Him to sanctify me (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  I know that without Jesus, I would surely turn away and live a life of sin.  The Scripture is clear that we are to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me to turn away from evil and live a life that exalts Jesus Christ my Lord.

Signs of a Good Sermon

I listen to preaching a lot.  I mean a lot!  I drive for a living so I spend hours on the road so I fill my phone with preaching.  I listen to all types of preaching from Pentecostals to hard core Calvinists.  I subscribe to a few podcasts but I don’t mind finding a sermon title and just downloading it onto my phone and off I go.  While I am not a perfect critic of sermons, I have listened enough to know when I am about to hear a good sermon.  A few have surprised me along the way and started out bad but turned good or vise versa.  Yet I still enjoy listening to good preaching.

So what does it take for me to say a sermon is good?  Let me just run through some points.

1.  The Text of Scripture.

First, does the teacher open with the text of Scripture.  Seeker guys and poor preachers often open with goofy skits, clips from television shows or movies, man-centered stories, or just an illustration that is neither good nor bad.  They just don’t start with the text.  A good teacher will always begin with the Bible, stay true to the Bible, and teach the text.  The text dominates.  The text is the focus.  The text produces the points.

Secondly, the Bible remains the focus throughout the sermon.  The focus is not on pleasing flesh.  The focus remains from the start to the end, the glory of God in His Word (2 Corinthians 4:5).  The Scriptures alone speak for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  A good sermon will stay focused throughout on the Word of God.  The focus is not on “seven points to your joy” but the focus is the text to the glory of the King.

2.  Knowledge of the Text.

Does the teacher own the text?  Is it clear that the teacher has studied the text and they know it?  I love it when a good Bible teacher has even memorized the text because they have poured over the text over and over and over again.  Lazy teachers don’t do that.  They just pick out their title, find their points, find their proof-texts, and go.  The faithful Bible teacher (2 Timothy 2:2) will study the text until he has drained every ounce of life from it (and he will still find more when he comes back to it).  The faithful Bible teacher is hungry to hear from God in His holy Word (Psalm 1:1-2; 119:30).  The good Bible teacher will draw from the text, teach the text, show the context of the text, use proper exegesis to teach from the text, and never uses his text as a pre-text.

3.  Few Illustrations.

Illustrations are fine but some rob God of His glory.  Some illustrations make the illustration the focus rather than the text of Scripture.  The good Bible teacher wants you to remember his text and the teaching from the text instead of their illustrations.  This is why I think illustrations should be few and never take away from the glory of God in His Word.  Further, a good sermon will have biblical illustrations that show how the text is revealed in other parts of the Word of God.  Biblical illustrations are timeless while others often are not.  And again, you want people to hear the Word of God and not your word.  Your word doesn’t save sinners.  God’s Word saves sinners (Romans 10:17).

4.  Exaltation of Christ and Deification of Man.

The good sermon will always focus on the glory of Jesus Christ.  Jesus showed His disciples how He was revealed in all of Scripture (Luke 24:27).  From Genesis to Revelation, the focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our everything!  Jesus is the very reason we live and breath and He is our life (Colossians 3:1-3).  Jesus is the wisdom of God (Colossians 2:3).  Jesus must be the One that we want people to adore and honor.

And yet poor sermons will focus on man.  They will focus often on the teacher with the teacher constantly telling you stories about themselves or other people.  The sermon is full of points aimed at us rather than Christ.  The poor sermon will focus on how the text helps us.  The poor sermon will focus on flesh rather than the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Was this the preaching of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)?  Was this the preaching of Peter (2 Peter 1:16-21)?

Sermons should focus on Jesus and honor Him as Lord and Savior.

5.  Is the Gospel Preached?

Many sermons start off good but turn to law.  The well-meaning teacher wants to help us pray more, to witness more, to love our wives more, to honor God with our money more, to help us to sing more, etc. yet they turn to law instead of gospel to produce this.  The motivation for the disciple of Jesus is not law but gospel.  Every sermon should focus on the gospel and how the gospel helps us along the way.  None of us are capable of perfectly pleasing the Father.  Jesus did that for us.  None of us are perfectly able to keep the law.  Jesus did that for us.  Jesus is our salvation and when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), it was done!  We now keep the law of Christ but not out of works mentality trying to produce righteous from God (Romans 4:5) but out of love for the Savior (John 14:15).  And yet we still struggle to perfectly obey Christ (1 John 2:1).  Thankfully, Jesus is our salvation and He is our high priest before God the Father (1 John 2:2).

The gospel then must take precedence over the law.  The law reveals my sinfulness before a holy God (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but the grace of God is what helps (or assists me in the words of Charles Wesley) to obey the Lord God (Titus 2:12).  Because we are now under grace and not law, we aim to please the Lord (Romans 6:1-4).  The gospel is our focus and Jesus is our perfect example that we walked after (1 John 2:6).  However, we are not saved by our works but by the grace of God given to us freely in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) so that we might now do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  To quote the Lutherans: God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbor does.  Grace works in us (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Grace is what the good sermon must proclaim!

6.  A Call to Repent.

I think a good sermon should also include a call to repent.  Not all agree with me here.  I have heard many good sermons that didn’t end with a call to repent.  Some just end.  Yet I think that we should always call people to forsake their sins and place their faith in Christ alone for salvation.  We don’t have to do an altar call but we should call people to repentance.  The Lord may be gracious to save the humble (2 Timothy 2:24-26).  I understand that not every text of Scripture is dealing with salvation but if our focus is on Christ (as it should be), then we will glorify Christ who is the Savior of all men but especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). If Christ is truly glorified, how can we not proclaim that He will save sinners who come to Him (Luke 19:10)?  How can we preach Christ but miss calling people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31)?

Conclusion

I suppose I could write more (and I know I could).  Good sermons are hard to find.  The seeker church has destroyed good preaching.  Since pragmatism now reigns in the Western Church, poor preaching is often passed along as good preaching (because of the crowds).  Good expository preaching is hard to find.  I have been asking the Father to raise up more and more faithful Bible teachers who will be expositors of His inerrant and infallible Word.  The duty of the Bible teacher is not to entertain.  It is to train (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:2).  I pray that you don’t find yourself in Luke 6:26!

Christ’s Resurrection As Our Foundation

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith.
– 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 (HCSB)

The cornerstone of my faith in God is Christ Jesus.  You take Christ out of my faith, I have no faith.  I believe all that is written about Him in the Bible from the promise given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 to the fulfillment of the ages when Christ shall reign victoriously forever in Revelation 22.  I hear the rebuke of Jesus (Luke 24::25-26) and I respond in faith that He is who He says that He was, the very Son of God who came to take away our sins (John 1:29).  I believe the testimony of the Apostles, that Jesus is alive forever more (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)!  I stand with Paul the Apostle and declare that He will see all His enemies under His feet including death (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

My faith isn’t based on reason alone.  My faith isn’t based on the teachings of Jesus alone.  My faith is reasonable (Acts 26:25).  I do believe that the words of Jesus are faithfully recorded in the Bible for me to study and live (John 8:31-32).  Yet my faith is in a historical person, in what He accomplished.  I believe with Isaiah the Prophet that Jesus went to the cross for my sins (Isaiah 53:4-6) and this pleased the Lord (Isaiah 53:10).  I believe that Jesus alone now turns away the holy wrath of God against my sins (Romans 5:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).  I believe that I now have no condemnation before God the Father because of the work of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1) and I am declared righteous before a holy God through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26 HCSB).  Jesus now sits by the right hand of God signifying His position of authority (Matthew 28:18) and power (Psalm 110:1).  Jesus now prays for the saints of God (Hebrews 7:25) till the kingdom of God is fully come (1 Corinthians 15:24, 28).

Jesus I now proclaim!  He is my message (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  Jesus is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).  What Jesus did is what I preach!  My focus, my worship, my thoughts, my affections, my desire are all aimed at one person, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 14:25-35).  I want to see Him glorified in everything I say and do (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).  I now have access into the holy presence of a holy God through the holy Son of God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Jesus is my high priest by whom I pray and worship God (Hebrews 9:14).  Through Jesus, the Lord has removed the blinders so that I now see Him exalted and glorified (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).  He is my everything (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)!

I know that when I die, I will not leave a large mark on human history.  I will not go down in the history books for my great accomplishments or acts of valor.  I will not go down in history as a great poet, a great writer, or a leader.  Yet that is okay with me.  I know Jesus and that makes all the difference in the world to me (2 Timothy 1:12).  In eternity, Jesus will be all that matters (John 3:18).  No one else will matter.  Nothing else will matter.  Only what is done for Christ will last forever (1 Corinthians 3:11).  This is why Jesus must be our foundation.  He must be the one that we build our lives upon or we fail (Matthew 7:24-27).  Jesus must be the one that we preach or we fail (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).  Jesus alone is the only one who can save us from the wrath of God (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:4-5).

As I celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, I pray that others will repent and see that Jesus alone is the only way to God (John 14:6).  The answer for us fallen humans is not religion.  The answer is not a church group or the moral teachings of great people.  The answer is Jesus alone!  Our foundation must be built on Jesus alone or we fail.  The hope for the nations is the Lord Jesus Christ.  May His kingdom come (Matthew 6:10)!

I say with Paul here in 1 Corinthians 15:14, that if Jesus is not risen from the dead, our faith is without a foundation and is pointless.  Yet if Jesus is alive (and He is!) then this makes all the difference in the world for the disciple of Christ (1 Peter 3:18).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/04/2015 at 10:46 PM

The Seeker Church Lectionary

Its’ February so you know what that means from the seeker/relevant/postmodern churches don’t you?  It means that the lectionary points them to preach goofy sermon series’ on sex and marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, we should address these issues when the Bible does address them.  If you preach verse-by-verse through the Bible, you will no doubt have to deal with the issues of sex and marriage often.  The Bible is full of stories about these issues and much in the New Testament deals with this as disciples of Jesus.  Yet the seeker churches always will be found preaching on these subjects during this month because of Valentine’s day (and to draw a crowd which is the bottom line).

One need not think too hard to figure out the seeker church lectionary.  Typically the lectionary will point to the Christian calendar and will have the Bible teacher teach lessons around the season.  If we are nearing Resurrection Sunday, the lectionary would have you preach on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  If we are nearing Christmas, the lectionary would have you preach on the incarnation of God.  The lectionary was created to keep the focus on the Bible.  While I don’t use a lectionary, I appreciate seeking to keep the church focused on biblical truths throughout the year.  The seeker lectionary, however, doesn’t revolve around the Bible nor the Christian calendar.  It revolves around the culture and around the cultural calendar.  I will grant that the American culture calendar does revolve around many Christian holidays but the seeker lectionary revolves around the culture and especially the worldly-minded culture (notice the John Bunyan reference).  I’m not sure who sets the seeker lectionary anymore.  In the 1990’s it was Willow Creek and Bill Hybels.  In the early 2000’s it was Rick Warren and Purpose-driven Church.  In the mid 2000’s it turned toward the emergent movement but has seen swayed from them (thank the Lord as the emergents are now full-blown liberals and out of the “evangelical” camp).  I would say, if I had to guess, that Andy Stanley plays a big role in the lectionary but he is not the only one.

In our town I have noticed that the seeker churches are preaching on sex this month but using the wicked “Fifty shades of grey” movie to help.  Again, notice that the Bible does not take focus here.  The focus in not the text of Scripture.  The focus is always on the shock value of sex.  Sex sells in our wicked culture.  It’s one of the top reasons that I don’t own nor watch TV.  Sex fills our culture.  If you want to draw a worldly crowd preach on what they want most: sex, money, and pleasure.  The idols of sex and sports are the two biggest I know of among men.  The men at my work live and breathe for sex and sports.  Their lives revolve around those two issues.  Pleasure is in there as well with all their “toys” such as motorcycles and other things (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

What is the faithful disciple to do?  How do we react to the seeker lectionary or our culture?

First, be faithful to God.  Don’t bother trying to make friends with the world (James 4:4).  Don’t bother trying to appease the world.  It will never happen.  If you truly follow Jesus, if you truly preach repentance, if you truly love Jesus above all others and all things, the world will despise you (John 15:18-25; 1 Peter 4:12-19; 1 John 2:15-17).  The world will never love the disciple of Jesus nor the disciple of Jesus loving the world.  The two are at war with each other (Ephesians 6:12).

Secondly, be faithful to preach the Word of God.  Leonard Ravenhill use to tell the young men who came to him for advice on preaching to read 1 and 2 Timothy each month.  Ravenhill believed that we must heed the words of Paul the Apostle in 1 and 2 Timothy in this sinful world that we find ourselves preaching in and to.  I recommend expository teaching.  Expository preaching avoids goofy sermon series’ and is faithful to teach the text.  The focus in expository preaching is on the Word of God and its full authority.  Expository preaching takes very seriously the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28:20 and the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2.  I recommend reading this book on expository preaching.

Thirdly, address the issues of sex, money, greed, power, etc. as the text dictates and not the culture.  Don’t allow the culture to determine your Bible teaching.  Remember our focus must be on exalting Christ and His kingdom.  We are here to preach Him (2 Corinthians 4:5).  We are to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and our focus is on that one issue.  We are called to be faithful to the One who saved us.  The culture should not drive our Bible teaching.  The text of Scripture should.  If the topics come up in your text, deal with them.  If they don’t, deal with what you have at hand.  Be text driven by the words given to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by the culture.

Lastly, the bottom line for me is faithfulness to the King.  Jesus said that He would judge us based on faithfulness or unfaithfulness (Matthew 25:29-30).  Paul told Timothy to appoint faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).  Faithfulness is the key.  God is not looking for talented men.  He is not looking for culturally relevant men.  He is looking for faithful men to proclaim His Word.  I want to be found faithful.  I don’t care if the world finds me odd.  I don’t care if people make fun of me for preaching on the streets or for calling people to repent.  I don’t care if people bash me for standing in front of abortion clinics to call the women to repentance.  I don’t care if the world ignores me.  I want to be faithful the King.  He is the One who saves sinners in the first place (John 1:12-13; 6:44).  My job is to lift Him up (John 12:32)!

May the Lord help us to be found faithful.

Practicing Righteousness

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
– 1 John 2:29 (NASB)

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
– 1 John 3:10 (NASB)

I do believe in the doctrine of imputation.  I have read the works of some who disagree.  They hold that the Bible never says anywhere that we are “imputed with Christ’s righteousness.”  They hold that the Bible declares us to be righteous by virtue of being in Christ by faith but they hold that the Bible never says that the righteousness of Christ is ever imputed to us.  Even the passages that are appealed to for the doctrine of imputation such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 or Philippians 3:9 do not say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.

However, to me this is simply semantics.  While the Bible never uses the phrase “imputed with Christ’s righteousness,” the doctrine is based on not just the New Testament but the Old Testament as well.  For example, in the famous story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 12, the blood of the Passover lamb would serve as a substitute for God’s judgment against the Egyptians.  The Israelites were protected by the blood.  The blood served as a sin offering substitute by which the Israelites’ sins were imputed to the lamb and the lamb bore them on their behalf.  This looked forward to God’s perfect sacrifice of His own Lamb (John 1:29).  The Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world and would bear the sins of the people of God.  God’s Lamb would be our perfect sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22-24).  Jesus’ blood now cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and His blood is our defense before a holy God.

Hebrews 9:11-22 reads:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus then is our substitute before God.  He bore our sins on the cross.  His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (Romans 5:9).  Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from all sin but He is our mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Jesus Christ is our salvation.  He is our everything before God.  We have nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).  He is our salvation, our redemption, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our boasting must be in Him alone (1 Corinthians 1:31)!  In Jesus we have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

Just as the Old Testament sacrifices were imputed with the sins of the Israelites, so the New Testament saint had their sins imputed upon Christ our Lord and He bore our sins.  Thus all He accomplished for our forgiveness is now imputed toward us.

This, however, should not ignore the passages that speak of practicing righteousness.  To merely claim Christ’s righteousness apart from pursuing holiness is not biblical.  Full salvation looks to Christ alone for salvation but we also look to Christ alone to sanctify us.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14 reads:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We look to Christ Jesus to help us not just to be forgiven of our sins but to be made holy before Him.  Jesus came to bear our sins and to give us complete victory over our sins (Matthew 1:21).  We don’t have to be slaves to sin (John 8:34-36).  Those who are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4) are no longer slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:5-23).  Through the Lord Jesus we are able to live a holy life (1 John 2:1-2).  We don’t have to live a life of defeat in sin.  We can be set free by His grace from sin and its domain (Titus 2:12-14).  Our hearts are cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and the Lord wants to continue that deep work of cleansing in us (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

My earnest prayer has been for the Lord to give disciples full victory that we have in Christ.  We don’t have to be slaves to sin.  We can be slaves of righteousness.  If we are not slaves of righteousness, John the Apostle says that we are not righteous at all.  The doctrine of Christ’s imputation should never be used as a basis for sinning.  If that is the heart of the person living in sin, they know nothing of the grace of God.  While I acknowledge that true saints of God can (and will) sin, this is not the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 John 2:1).  May our hearts be to live a life of holiness, pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:9-10).

Confessions of a Perfectionist

Note: This post is not intended to teach that we can abide in sin.  This is not my point.  I want to make that clear before I start.  The Bible is clear that we should forsake our sins (1 John 2:1).  Paul told the Corinthians to “stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).  In 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5, Paul the Apostle rebukes those in the Corinthian church who have not repented of their past sinning.  In fact, the New Testament is clear that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14), to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), to be slaves of righteousness and not slaves to sin (Romans 6:1-23) and that to be slaves of sin shows we are not Christ’s (John 8:34-35).  John the Beloved wrote in 1 John 3:7 that he who practices righteousness is righteous.  It is not merely enough to claim “imputed righteousness” and go on sinning.  I don’t deny that we are righteous in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21) but I do deny that this gives us a license to abuse God’s grace and continue in a life of sin (Jude 4; cf. Hebrews 10:26-31).

Perfectionism is a dangerous thing.  I once aimed with all that was in me for perfection.  I strove to overcome sin by my power and I thought it was merely a choice of my will to overcome sin.  I paid little attention to abiding in Christ and strove in my strength to overcome sin.  And the more I strove, the more I struggled with sin.  I would overcome one sin only to find another sin had taken its place.

The true danger of perfectionism is pride.  I had pride in me.  Oh I would have claimed Christ and would have said that I was seeking to overcome sin because of Christ and His victory on the cross but I was only paying lip service to Him.  After all, what Christian would deny that Jesus was really the One that they were striving to obey?  In reality, I was nothing more than a hypocrite and a Pharisee all at the same time.  I was nothing more than a white washed tomb (Matthew 23:27-28).  Around others I could act so holy and pure but inwardly, I was tormented by my sins.  I hated my flesh.  I despised what I knew about me when none were around yet I continued to play the hypocrite and act like I was living in complete victory.

I see now the errors of my ways.  It was not seeking Christ that was a sin.  It was not seeking to overcome my sins that was a sin.  It was my faith in me, my pride in thinking that could gain the victory by the sheer power of my own will.  Yet my will is tainted by my flesh.  My will wants to honor me above Christ.  My will wants to live for the glory of me above the glory of Christ.  My will wants to exalt me and not turn others toward Christ.

I rejoice now though for the gospel.  The gospel is not about what I do to obtain His forgiveness.  The gospel is not about what I do to overcome sin.  The gospel is not about how I can now, by the power of my will, live free from sin.  The gospel in fact informs me that I am saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).  No doubt His grace teaches me to say no to sin (Titus 2:12) but my focus now is on Christ and Christ alone (Titus 2:13).  I know now that through the gospel, I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  I know now that through Christ, though I was once dead in my sins, I am now alive in Him (Ephesians 2:1-6).  I recognize that my passion is to glorify Christ in all that I say and do and not because of my own striving, my own will power, but in light of the gospel that saves me (1 Corinthians 15:10).  I see now that Christ came into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and Paul the Apostle understood that before a holy and pure God, he was sinful and lost (1 Timothy 1:15).  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ and not on our works!  Good works flow from a redeemed life (James 2:14-26; cf. Ephesians 2:10).  The love of God grabs us and empowers us (John 14:15, 23-24).

Our part is to consistently submit to the Lordship of Christ.  This is the key to overcome sin.  It is not by making “sin lists” or by striving merely in our own power to overcome sin.  This has never worked.  The key is to focus on the Lordship of Christ, be saturated in His Word (John 17:17), and to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  To follow the flesh only spells doom (Galatians 6:7-9; James 5:19-20).  2 Peter 2:20-22 warns us against returning to the flesh while thinking we are forgiven.  We must repent of our sins but we do this by the power of the gospel and not by merely creating resolutions.

Here then is the balance.  We adore the gospel that saves us.  We acknowledge that we are saved by the grace of God alone and that Christ is our salvation.  We rejoice in the Lord for His forgiveness and for setting us free from the power of sin (Colossians 1:13-14).  We praise God for the gospel truth that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus alone (1 Peter 1:18-19) and not by our works (Titus 3:5-7).  We confess that without Christ, we would be lost sinners, hell-bound.  We celebrate the biblical fact that we are holy before God through Christ (Hebrews 10:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

This gospel truth then produces a joy in longing to serve the Lord.  I want to be holy as He is holy not because of legalism and perfectionism but because of what He has done in saving me!  I want to strive to be like Jesus and set my mind on things above and not on this world (Colossians 3:1-4) because of the work of Christ.  I rejoice that I am justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1).  I rejoice that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  This leads me toward holiness.  This gospel leads me to want to pray, to worship, to share the gospel with the lost, to seek to be pure and blameless (Philippians 2:12-15).  I want to press on (Philippians 3:12-16).  I want to forsake my sins in the light of His forgiveness of my sins (1 John 1:9) but I do not deceive myself into thinking that I have overcome sin by my power for I cannot (1 John 1:10).

So I rejoice in Christ.  I praise the Father for the gift of His Son and that I am saved, redeemed, forgiven in Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Yet I also long to be holy, to be pure, to be blameless but I know that I can only obtain holiness by God’s grace working in me.

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