Grow By Grace

There are all sorts of ideas floating about today in various circles concerning sanctification. If you are getting confused by them, consider the following:

But grow in (by) the grace (help) and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:16).

More often than not, in NT (Koine) writing, it seems that the Greek “en” (often translated “in”) ought to be translated by one of its other possibilities–“by, with,” etc. Here, I am sure that it should read “by,”as I noted in the parenthesis in the quotation. The idea of a “spherical dative” is foolish here (as in many of the translations made of this important preposition).

What Peter was trying to get his readers to understand is that in order to grow in their faith it takes grace and knowledge—both, of course, applied to daily living—in order to grow. And growth, as one learns more about Christ and becomes more like Him, is what sanctification is all about. That grace (here, “help,” the second meaning of the word grace, is also a more appropriate translation).

Growth comes about as a believer learns more of the Christian faith and is helped by God to practice it. More and more he progressively comes to walk as he should (not, in this life without failures, of course). But if one is a true believer, he grows. He will change. He can because he is a new creation. Sanctification is not “on the spot,”as one modern preacher recently said. Nor does it come about without effort: studying and prayerfully applying scriptural truth. It is the result of knowing God’s truth about putting off the old sinful ways and replacing them with new biblical ones that please God. Growth is a sign of life—in this case spiritual life. No growth—no life.

Think about this and refuse to be herded by the crowd that teaches that something other than growth is essential.

A Higher Life?

J.I. Packer, in his interesting book, Keep in Step with the SpiritPacker, tells about his experience with Keswick Higher Life teaching when he was a new Christian back in the 40s. He then takes it apart piece by piece in what is one of the most devastating attacks one could bring against an erroneous viewpoint. He shows its origins in the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification, and how it used some of those tenets in new ways to form the instantaneous sanctification views of Keswick.

If you are having difficulty with quietistic teaching, please take a gander at this book. It will enlighten you. Not only will it expose the fallacies of the view, it will also explain how it can destroy vital Christian living. This latter point seems to be Packer’s major concern, as indeed it should be.

In addition, sprinkled about the book—and focused upon in a couple of places—you will discover some of the finest explanations of the process of sanctification as it involves the acquisition of new “habits of holiness.” Packer draws this teaching from a number of sources, but in particular from Romans 7 which, in the debated verses, he quite rightly affirms can only be describing Paul’s struggle as a believer.

All in all, you will find this book not only worth its cost, but one that you will refer to again and again in order to remind yourself of what a true walk with the Spirit is like. It will become a valuable asset to your library. If you don’t have it—get it, NOW!

Christians Do Fall

They fall in a variety of ways—

They fail in their endeavors to serve the Lord., They fall in the ways they represent Him before the world They fall in their relationships with one another. They fall in raising their kids. Face it—Christians fall; there is no denying it. Some pretend—putting on a “good front.” But every discerning believer knows that it is a front and not what is behind it! If you are genuine, you will admit that you fall in many ways, again and again (seven times is not a limiting number here).

Well, what shall we say about it? Is there any hope for us? Can we do better? Yes. First by taking hope. Listen to this:

Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up . . .       (Proverbs 24:16).

The words “righteous man” are the OT equivalent for the NT testament “saint.” As you can see from the juxtaposition of “fall” and “righteous” the latter word doesn’t mean without fault!.

There is great assurance in this verse—God doesn’t let His children wallow at the feet of the world, utterly defeated. In repentance, believers find the Lord takes them by His hand and lifts them up! Take these reassuring words to heart, believer: they are for you when next time you stumble and fall!

Love by Life

In 1 Kings 3:3 we read,

Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David (HCSB).

What a clear and explicit statement of how one goes about loving God! These days, there is much confusion about this very point. There are those who would tell us, in near monkish terms, that one loves God by all sorts of personal disciplines and denials. Yet, we find no such things in the life of David—a life, in general, that is mentioned here as exemplary enough to hold up as an example. Of course, David had his faults—which are set forth in the Bible, but for the most part, he was willing to follow God’s commands, and repent when he failed to do so (there are no greater repentance psalms in the Bible than those written by him).

Don’t let anyone tell you that by following man-made restrictions and regulations one best loves God. Col. 2: 23 says it all:

Of course, they have a reputation for wisdom because of their self-imposed worship and supposed humility, and ascetic treatment of the body, but those things are of no value in keeping the flesh from satisfying itself.

God Himself has set forth the terms by which He is served in love. These, here, are termed “the statutes of David.” That does not mean that he set up his own statutes, but that he faithfully followed God’s (for the most part, that is—note the qualification about the high places in this verse).

If you want to love God, you will do as the Lord Jesus (Who never failed to do so) did—you will keep His commandments. Fundamentally, love is not a feeling. Love is giving: “God so loved the world that He gave”; “He loved us and gave Himself for us,” etc. The great commission is explicit: “teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.” These statements all reflect the same activity, namely, giving.

In the passage from 1 Kings, the word “walking” is the usual Hebrew expression for speaking of one’s lifestyle (or, as we also put it, how one conducts himself). So, John says in his two short epistles that he is delighted to hear how the reader’s children “walk in the truth.” That is, they live lives characterized by God’s truth. And, tying all of this together, he speaks in those letters of “love in the truth.”

 

Blessed in the Doing

Some Christians have missed James’ point—they think that it is contemplating the cross, preaching the gospel to one’s self, and all sorts of other exercises invented by themselves (and others who think like them) that produce fruit in the Christian life. But like Luther, they seem to by-pass, debunk or otherwise disparage the place of good works.

Yet, Paul in his letter to Titus, ends each of the three chapters with comments about the necessity of true works by the faithful. And the statement of James 1:25 says it all: Christians are “blessed in the doing” (CCNT/P).

Some think that Christians, even though they are “new creations,” are incapable of doing what pleases God. But Paul says that were “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). They always mess up every attempt to act righteously. If the former were true, and all the exhortations to do good, to live by the fruit of the Spirit and so forth, would be fruitless if not worthless. Indeed, if it were impossible to please God by following His commands (in the power provided by the Spirit, of course) Christians might think it impossible to attempt honoring God in their daily living.

But the fact is, as James assures us, it is in the doing of God’s directive will (found in the Scriptures alone) that we shall be blessed. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Not Now!

Many seem to think that they can be entirely sanctified today, within a week—or month, etc.

Sorry—but things don’t work that way.

One grows by grace: 2 Peter 3:16 (another verse for your 3:16 collection).

You see, as he pursues the elements of the lifestyle mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5ff he puts off elements of his old sinful lifestyle and replaces these with new biblical ways. Sanctification is progressive and gradual—never complete until we reach heaven.

There are those who confuse justification and sanctification.  Justification (God declaring one righteous by faith in Christ) is an act of God alone; sanctification is progressive as the Holy Spirit within believers enables them to understand and follow biblical truth (John 17:17).

Once justified, one is justified once and for all—he cannot lose.  It is a legal term—according to God’s court of justice the believer, by faith in the Good news that Christ died for his sins and rose from the dead, has his sins all forgiven and he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight.

Friend, have you been justified? If so, be sure that you progress in your daily growth by God’s grace.

Full sanctification will come at death—but not now.

Action

Today, one of the errors permeating evangelical churches is the confusion of justification and sanctification. Justification is the declaration that one is righteous before God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection for his sins. It is a one-time act on God’s part, centering around the sacrifice of the cross. Sanctification is an on-going process, lasting throughout a believer’s life.

Justification must not be confused with sanctification: the former is solely the act of God, the latter the work of the Spirit, enabling the believer to obey.  As Jesus said,

If you love Me, keep My commandments.

One does not become sanctified by “contemplating” the cross. He grows by grace as he does the will of the One Who called him. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise—the Bible is clear:

Turn away from evil and do what is good;
Seek peace and pursue it     (Psalm 34: 14).

Those commands all call for action. Sanctification is the fruit of the Spirit!

Contagion

This is what the LORD of Hosts says: Ask the priests for a ruling.  “If a man is carrying consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does it become holy?”

The priests answered, “No.”

Then Haggai asked, “If someone defiled by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled?”

The priests answered, “It becomes defiled.”

Then Haggai replied, “So is this people, and so is this nation before Me”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “And so is every work of their hands; even what they offer there is defiled.

Haggai 2:11ff is interesting because it gives us important information about sin and righteousness. Here is what it says in interpretation of the Old Testament laws:

  1. Sin is contagious
  2. Righteousness isn’t.

What should that mean to you?

First, that you won’t become a Christian by growing up in a Christian home. It will require personal faith on your part as an individual.  As a Christian, being among Christians isn’t enough for your growth in righteousness.

Secondly, that if your associations are evil, you can expect some of that evil to rub off onto you.

So—consider this and act accordingly!

Commands?

Someone has found 684 commands in the New Testament. Accurate or not, the number must be somewhere nearly so.

And, yet, there are those who believe that any command given to another believer is merely law or works, or something equally as reprehensible to them.

It is neither wrong for God to command us (as Christ in the great commission did), nor preachers today to do so. God doesn’t wrong us by doing so; He commands His children as any good Father would—for our benefit. Why is it, then, that this strange idea is abroad today that all commands are wrong?

Is the problem, then, that we ought not need commands, and that the idea of issuing commands indicates those who need them are living at a lower level than they should?  Or is it simply that the objectors just don’t like to be told what to so?

Whatever the reason, commands there are in the Bible—and we’d better heed all of those directed to us. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Chapter Headings

The opening statement of Romans 5:1

Therefore, having been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the conclusion of Paul’s argument in chapters 1-4, and should be the concluding statement of chapter four. The chapter headings were not in the original Scriptures, but were added many years later by uninspired men for our convenience in locating things. They are useful for this purpose but, often, not “very sensibly placed.  As result, they often create confusion. A “therefore,” obviously, concludes rather than begins something.

The argument which it concludes in Romans 1-4 is simply this:

  1. The Gentiles, without the law, sinned and are condemned.
  2. The Jews, with the law, sinned are condemned.
  3. Therefore all have sinned,
  4. And must, as a result, must be saved by faith, as Abraham was.
  5. This is true also of us—so that when we believe the Gospel,
  6. We are at peace with God because He has declared us righteous (justified us) by faith. And, we have peace of heart as well!

Let’s not get confused because of a chapter heading in the wrong place. Justification is by faith; God declares us righteous when we trust Christ as our Savior.

Now, how are we sanctified, progressively? Paul goes on in the 6-8th chapters to make that plain—it is by replacing the old fleshly patterns, habituated by the body (which, of course, included brain), with new, spiritual ones. How can that be done? By the work of the Spirit who enables us to produce, what Paul calls in Galatians 5, His own fruit. We are to produce the Spirit’s fruit by His wisdom and power at work in us, enabling us to obey (2 Timothy 2:22)whatsoever Christ commands us to observe (Matthew 28:20).