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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010
1008: Justified By Faith (Part I)
You know how some Christians pray for patience, as though God granted patience apart from living in the Spirit? These are often encouraged in this direction by well meaning enablers who touch their noses and nod as they look over their glasses and say in their best Troy McClure voice, "You know if you pray for patience, God is going to bring things into your life that require patience..." <wink>

These believers, however they were led to the place of crying out for those things that God freely and always gives to the obedient, have come to think of Christianity in terms of the haves and the have nots; and they see themselves as have nots.

They genuinely want the blessings of Christ, they want to experience the fundamental truths of Christianity, but they want these in order to empower their obedience, rather than to have these flow from their obedience. They are lazy, and blame their lack on God not supplying up front what they "need" to be good Christians. Of course, they probably wouldn't articulate it that way, but deep down, they are already wondering whether they are false believers (because no matter how often they ask for this or that they never seem to get it), or whether they understand Christianity right, or worse, whether Christianity is all bunk.

At the very least, such a prayer betrays a confused theology; consider seriously, The one who lacks something that has been promised to everyone who walks in the Spirit is obviously not walking in the Spirit. The patience that God sends to His children is not called down in prayer, but freely flows from the Spirit when we walk in Him. No one who is in the Spirit lacks patience, and no one who is walking in the flesh has it.

I begin with that thought, because I am convinced that most professing believers do not live in, nor walk in the Spirit. Many, I suppose, are where they are because they don't really want God, they just want to avoid hell. They have considered the religions of the world, and determined that Christianity is the one truth faith, and so to ensure that they avoid suffering in hell, they seek out a church, and set about doing whatever they have to do to meet the absolute minimum requirements for getting into heaven when they die.

A few years back, the seeker sensitive movement was in full swing, and the conservative voices in Christianity rightly poo-pooed the notion that there were unsaved people seeking Christ, given that scripture plainly says that there are none who seek after God, not even one. But these failed to understand the subtleties involved - there are no sinners seeking Christ on their own accord, but there are many, many sinners seeking a get-out-of-hell-free card through religion. There are indeed many "seekers" - they just aren't seeking Christ, they are seeking heaven insomuch as they are trying to avoid hell.

It isn't that these hell-fearers haven't heard the same gospel, they have, but (and I am using a very broad brush here) because their faith is not the kind that seeks to be reconciled to God, but rather seeks to secure a better afterlife through whatever hoops need to be jumped through - they hear the gospel and regard it as the contract by which God is obligated to provide them with a better afterlife. They read "believe in Christ" as "believe that the contract binds God", and so they accept the freely offered better afterlife by exercising faith that God has to keep the contract if they do. They haven't sought God, they have sought personal gain, and believe that the gospel is the means to that end. They hear the same gospel, but understand it differently than a justified believer does.

Now, there are probably dozens of ways to misunderstand the gospel, but all of them end in the same way - works righteousness. Rather than try and paint every possible carnal misinterpretation of the doctrine of justification, I will just say that some people are deceived - they hear the gospel, and believe something about it that doesn't result in them being saved, but does result in them being (at the very least superficially) convinced that they are saved.

In this light, when we speak of the visible church, we are describing a motley lot indeed. We are not necessarily describing a group of homogeneously justified believers, rather we are describing everyone and anyone who claims to be a Christian. Not just those who attend a regular "Christian" service either, but a group of people who believe themselves, for whatever reason, to be Christians.

I mention these things up front, in order to paint, as it were, the picture of a typical church. There are typically some genuine Christians in any congregation - maybe even the majority, but mixed in with the wheat, scripture tells us that there will also be tares - people who believe themselves to be Christians, and maybe are even zealous for their religion, but who are deceived about their faith, thinking it to be the genuine article, when it is in fact counterfeit.

For most of you reading, this shouldn't be some shocking revelation. Yes, of course there are tares amongst the wheat. That is why we practice church discipline, to weed out those who may be tares, to maintain purity in the church.

One of the most dangerous consequences of having tares (counterfeit Christians) in the church is that these tares believe themselves to be genuine. Why is that dangerous? It is dangerous because in order to explain the unrelenting carnality they experience, they must redefine Christianity in terms of their own carnality. In other words, they invent doctrine that either excuses carnality, or mimics Spirituality with carnal effort.

Praying for patience, for instance. Where does such an idea originate? Not with the Spirit of God, but with a carnal person trying to be spiritual apart from the Spirit. That isn't to say that every person who has ever prayed for patience is not a real Christian. But it is to say that such teachings come into the church, and remain entrenched, because there are enough immature, or worse, counterfeit, believers to allow it. Most professors of faith want assurance, and a right walk with God is powerfully assuring. The carnal man, and the spiritual man have this in common, when they profess faith, they want to live out that faith, and they want to see evidence that they are not walking or running in vain.

Well. That's it for the intro.

Looking at the length, I suppose this needs to be a two parter (or longer). I will leave it at that for now, and when I pick it up again, I will show, Lord willing, the difference between walking by faith, and walking in some other way. What I want to deal with in this article is the relationship between motivation and faith. I want to show what it looks like to live in Christ, and contrast that with what I see (or suspect) in the faith of many who, while sincere, are ignorant of these basic things because they have (thus far) lacked instruction in such matters.

Update: In my reading this a.m., after posting this, I came across an article that makes for a good primer to what I am about to go on about... If you have time, please read this brief and timely article on the perseverance of the saints, h/t Daniel J. Phillips over at Biblical Christianity.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:13 AM  
4 Comments:
  • At 8:35 AM, August 04, 2010, Blogger David Kjos said…

    "They genuinely want the blessings of Christ, they want to experience the fundamental truths of Christianity, but they want these in order to empower their obedience, rather than to have these flow from their obedience."

    "At the very least, such a prayer betrays a confused theology; consider seriously, The one who lacks something that has been promised to everyone who walks in the Spirit is obviously not walking in the Spirit. The patience that God sends to His children is not called down in prayer, but freely flows from the Spirit when we walk in Him. No one who is in the Spirit lacks patience, and no one who is walking in the flesh has it."

    I'm going to save that, and in a few months post it as my own.

     
  • At 8:54 AM, August 04, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Yay! Someone still reads my blog!

    If a man could make a fortune stating the obvious, I would be well on my way to buying a few happy meals. ;)

     
  • At 12:14 PM, August 06, 2010, Blogger Even So... said…

    They genuinely want the blessings of Christ, they want to experience the fundamental truths of Christianity, but they want these in order to empower their obedience, rather than to have these flow from their obedience.

    I am with David on that score...but of course, you have been saying things like this for 5 years...

     
  • At 12:25 PM, August 06, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    I am like that guy who only knows one song, but I know it well. ;)

     
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