Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What does perseverance look like?

What does perseverance look like?

"For we have become partakers of Christ, 
if we hold fast 
the beginning of our assurance 
firm until the end." (Heb. 3:14)


- What assurance did you have at the beginning?
- What part did you play in this assurance?
- To persevere, what is it that you are supposed to hold firm until the end?

Sinclair Ferguson speaks about what we are to hold firm.

Audio: 5 min. 17 sec.   (If audio does not show, click on the individual post title.)

The great question of Martin Luther's church world was the question of how God gives you grace.

-- The Roman Catholic perspective described
In your baptism, God gives you a gift of grace. And throughout the whole course of your life, by means of your response to God's grace, you grow in righteousness.  Yes you slip back, but if you slip back there is grace for those who slip back. There are sacraments in the church to help you. But over an extended period of time, what God does is He gives you more grace as you respond to His grace. And as you respond to His grace, He gives you more grace.

Grace was thought of, even spoken of, as though it were a substance that was infused into people's souls. Actually, it's surprising, almost alarming, how many protestants speak that way too. And speak about grace as though it were a thing, as though it were a substance ... "I got grace."  Not having an appreciation that when the bible speaks about grace it always means the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, it means Christ.

The goal was, that a time would come when your faith would be so suffused with love for God that God's grace would have worked righteousness into your life, and because God had worked righteousness into your life, it was righteous of God to justify you.

So it wasn't that they didn't believe in the righteousness of God. It wasn't, from one point of view, that they denied that justification was by grace. They insisted that justification was by grace, but it was by grace on the basis of the righteousness that had been worked into you.  You were justified because you were justifiable. And Luther's problem was very simple. How can I ever be sure that grace has done enough in my life.

-- The Protestant perspective responds...
This is not the righteousness that God is looking for at the end of my life, as the result of the work of His grace in me.

[Rather it is His own righteousness.]

Oh blessed be His name. This is the righteousness of God which God gives to me as a free gift at the beginning of my christian life. As I come with the empty hands of faith, He gives me this righteousness in my justification. And so it's not something that I'm striving for for the rest of my life. It's something that the rest of my life is actually grounded in.

And now [Luther] understood that he was as righteous before God as Jesus Christ is righteous, because the only righteousness he had was Jesus Christ's righteousness.

The non-christian lives his or her life forwards, to the future. The christian lives his or her life backwards from the future. We've already seen the future. We've already seen the final verdict. And all fear is gone because we are as righteous in God's sight, and therefore we are permanently righteous. We could no more lose our justification than Christ could lose His righteousness, because the righteousness that is ours is not the righteousness that is wrought within, but the righteousness that lies outside. So Luther said, in this sense, the gospel is entirely outside of us.

Some of us are so inward. Some of us can get so caught up in how am I doing spiritually. And that's all very well, but it's not all very well if we dislocate it from the ground in which we start ... that we are justified in Christ, with the justification that God gives to us in Christ, and therefore we are as permanently, and as irreversibly, and as fully righteous in the sight of God as Jesus Himself is.

-- from a sermon by Sinclair Ferguson

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