Sunday, November 25, 2012

Come to Him on such a footing

Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.

--Horatius Bonar

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The law doesn't produce gospel behavior

Audio: (4:08 min.)

We know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.  So clearly in Paul's mind, there's a lawful use of law, and an unlawful use of law.  He says that his goal in his preaching is love, and he explains why certain people have failed to reach that goal because of the way they're using the law. 

So you see what's at stake here?  Love at Bethlehem Baptist Church is at stake.  You can totally botch love if you make an unlawful use of law.  Love comes not from list keeping or law keeping.  Lists cannot turn unloving, selfish hearts into humble, child-like, God dependent, Christ exalting, loving hearts.  It can't do it. 

We come to Christ for this.  You don't go to law for this.  You go to Christ for this.  And you cleave to Him like a desperate sinner, and hold onto Him as your only hope, and through that hope that flows into you... a cleansing of the heart  ... the heart is cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9 says).  And then the conscience is purified because Christ declares it pure. 

There is a lawful use of the law, and there is an unlawful use of the law.  There is a right way to move towards change in people's lives, and there's a devastating way to move towards change in peoples lives ... successful change.  There is deadly success in getting people changed in the wrong way.  And Christ gets no glory from it, and therefore is a failure, and is not a fulfillment of the law.  Notice he does not say [that] the law was added because so many of you are righteous and longing to do good and I want to give you some helpful advice, and counsel and guidance.  He does not say that.

So here's my question.  What produces behavior that is not contrary to sound doctrine, but is in accord with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God?  Answer:  The gospel produces behavior that accords with the gospel.  The law doesn't produce gospel behavior.  The gospel produces gospel behavior.  And the law can never to that.  You stay dead to the law in that sense. 

All you justified saints who have come to Jesus alone.  And I pray that it's all of you.  And if you haven't that you come right now... that you turn away from law keeping, and you draw near, in your hearts, right now, to Jesus Christ who alone can forgive all your sins and make you right before God.  So [to] all of us who've done that ... What do we do with Exodus 20?  I'll give you three answers.  Number one:  Read it, and meditate on it, as those who have died to it, as the ground of your justification, and the power for your sanctification.  Second:  Read it, and meditate on it, knowing Christ is my righteousness, Christ is my sanctification, Christ is my redemption, Christ is my wisdom.  Third:  Read it, and meditate on it, to know Christ better, and to treasure Him more.

-John Piper, sermon, "How to Use the law Lawfully to Bear Fruit for God"
source: here

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why the Law cannot sanctify

Audio: (6 min.)

So now today we pick it up, to talk about why the law cannot sanctify.  You can't even get to first base in becoming a holy person until the wrath of God against you is removed, and condemnation has become acquittal.

If you're justified this morning, by faith alone.  You've put your faith in Jesus Christ.  You've received Him as the savior and Lord and treasure of your life and your verdict has been changed and God says, "not guilty" over your life ... accepted, received, righteous in Christ.  Does God, now that you are justified by faith alone, send you back to the law to get sanctified?  And I'm answering no, He doesn't.

Everybody in this room is corrupt.  Where are you going to turn to have your heart revolutionized?  Law?  A list?  It isn't going to happen.  The law is powerless to take away your rebellion.  The law is powerless to take away your treasonist preference for things over God.  In fact, (let's say it the way Paul really says it), if you go to the law, as a rebel, do you know what you'll do?  You will make the law a new theater for revolt.

Now let's see this.  You need.  We need to erect some barriers between us, (and I'm talking us christians now), barriers between us justified sinners and running to the law as the first or chief or decisive instrument of our sanctification.  Don't do that.

If Christ's obedience becomes the obedience I need to be accepted with God (which it does...that's the meaning of justification), and the law presumably is given to help me perform my acts of obedience, and he already did that for me ... why the law?  And that's exactly the question in Paul's head when he says the next sentence:  "The law came in so that the transgression would increase."  ... Wow.  That's God's purpose for the law ... to move into the hearts of rebellious people and turn rebellion into many transgressions.

So the function of the law, the purpose of the law, the effect of the law ... is rousing sinful passions, not subduing sinful passions.  You go to the law to get your sinful passions fixed?  It won't work.  The law stirs sinful passions.  If you turn to the law to get your heart changed, it won't work.  It will make you worse.

If the law is not the place where you go to as the first and chief and decisive means of sanctification, where do you go?  Answer ... You go to Christ.  Die to the law.  Don't turn to the law first, chiefly, decisively, as the instrument whereby your corruption can be made into holiness and loving humility.  Turn to Jesus, welcome Jesus into your life, see Jesus, savor Jesus above all competitors, and you will be changed.  But not by the law.

Oh how many christians there are who are just doing external stuff with lists.  Lists of doctrines, and lists of do's and dont's, thinking that's christianity and will commend them to God.  It won't!  Trust in Jesus.  Treasuring Jesus, resting in Jesus, delighting in Jesus, valuing Jesus, hoping in Jesus, enjoying Jesus, leaning on Jesus, knowing Jesus ... will.  Turn away from the lists to the person behind the lists.  Go through the lists quickly to the person.

So where does our obedience come from?  Paul says if I were to take on my lips a description of where your obedience came from, I would not dare to speak of anything except what Christ did.

The hardest thing in my life is to see Jesus.  To see Him.  Him... Him! ... not sentences about Him merely, but Him.  That's the dynamic of sanctification.  That's the process of holiness.  That's what will get you changed, and Him glorified.  And I welcome you to join me in the quest to get to Jesus, know Jesus, love Jesus ... don't get stalled at the law.

-- John Piper, Sermon, Nov. 11, 2001
(Source: here)

Friday, November 2, 2012

I believe, that I can't believe

Audio: (< 4 min.)

We'll read Luther's explanation:

"I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.  In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this christian church, day after day, He fully forgives my sins, and the sins of all believers.  On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life.  This is most certainly true."

The third article of the Apostle's Creed as Luther looks at it, and interprets it, gets to the heart, in some ways, of the reformation understanding of the gospel.  With this alarming beginning he makes, he really gets to the heart of the matter.

He starts by saying, "I believe, that I can't believe."  What Luther is advocating, and what the reformers were advocating in this third article was that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to gain faith in God.  And the word is... NOTHING. 

The objections that are raised, of course, by the old sinner in us are union, and manifold, and all over the place:  "Well God has offered Christ, but we have to accept Him.  God has put Christ forward, but we have to believe in Him.  God has put Christ out there, He's put the parts in place, but we have to assemble it and make it our own."  ... Well that of course is exactly wrong.  That is not the gospel... That is the religion of the old sinner that takes the gospel and turns it to his or her own advantage. 

But Luther wants to be clear... When it comes to belief, what I confess is that I can't believe this.  For if it is true that there is nothing that we can do to believe, then that means that God has put an end to us. It means that God has brought us to the foot of the cross and there said, "That's it.  As far as you are concerned, it's over.  You can do nothing." 

What was completed on the cross was the work of Christ, obliterating, destroying, demolishing, smashing, everything that had come before Him:  The old way of Law, the old way of moral improvement, the old way of self justification, the old way of religion as pathway to God's acceptance ... all of that destroyed ... Now there is nothing left for us to do...  But hear, and by God's grace, believe, that this is true.

If we believe at all in Christ as our savior, if we have any hope in Him, if we have any faith, that He is ours, that He is our Lord, it is not because we've sized Him up and decided He's worth the effort.  It's not because we've taken the bits and pieces of the story of salvation that God has laid on the table, and managed to assemble them in such a way that now they fit for us.  It's because the Holy Spirit has reached into our hearts and minds somewhere along the life we've been living and has called out of us trust and faith even against ourselves.

-- Mark Anderson