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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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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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The Buzz

Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Friday, January 14, 2011
The word of grace
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. - Acts 20:32 [ESV]

Paul was about to depart from Ephesus, on his way to Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit had informed him he would be incarcerated. He knew this was going to happen, but if he was daunted by it at all, it is clear that his willingness to obey God in the matter overcame this concern.

The verse reveals not only the heart of the Apostle in his concern for those at Ephesus, but also his understanding that the gospel was, at its very core, the message (word) of God's grace, which was able, not only to justify those who were presently lost, but also to sanctify those who were presently justified.

To be so certain that God has done something for you that you not only did not merit, but could never "deserve" is to trust in the grace of God. Unless a person is able to trust that God will show them grace, they do not have a faith that can save them. If they are lost and cannot trust that God will be gracious, they will remain lost, and again if they have trusted in God's grace to justify them, and there found their trust arrested, so that they will not trust God to sanctify them, then they will not be sanctified.

I want you to understand the relationship between sanctification and trusting in the grace of God. The person who has trusted in God's grace for justification is certainly able to trust in God's grace for sanctification - but the flesh doesn't want to. The flesh -did- want to trust in God's grace for justification, because it wanted to avoid wrath, but the flesh has no interest in sanctification, and so the the work of sanctification is harder for the one who has learned to love his flesh.

Briefly, there are some who are not saved but think they are because they have assented to the orthodoxy of some profession - that is, they assent to the fact that the gospel is real, and rest their hope in the fact that they have "rested their hope" in the "right" gospel. They are not trusting God to save them so much as they are trusting their faith to save them. It's subtle, but their hope isn't in God, it is really in themselves - they trust that they have believed the appropriate belief, and having checked that off the salvation list, God is required to save them. If you ask them they will give you the orthodox expression of faith, but for all that, they still are not trusting in God personally, rather they are trusting that what they have done will require God to do something, and their trust, at the core, is in themselves for choosing the right way to make God do something.

These who are not saved, but imagine themselves to be saved, will likewise fail to pursue sanctification by trusting in God - they may not pursue sanctification at all, but it is likely that they will, and this because it is something that others expect of them, and again, their religion expects of them. In order to convince themselves that their faith is real, they must do what faithful people do - even if pursuing sanctification is utterly alien to their unregenerate condition. That is what being deceived looks like - you try to do everything a legitimate believer does, not because you trust God, but because that is what you are convinced "proves" you are a Christian.

So when I speak of the justified believer who accepts sonship by having rested his trust in the certainty that God has indeed extended grace to him, but thereafter halts or stutters in the walk of sanctification because the flesh has no desire it, I want to be clear that both genuine believers, and false believers will have the same struggle. The genuine believer still has the same sinful desires as the false believer - and those desires are more than sufficient to overcome all his affections for God. The difference between the true believer and the false believer is that the true believer will have an uncompromised and unquenchable desire to become holy in order that he or she may be more pleasing to God, while the false believer will desire only that God would accept him as he is, and resent (deep down) the call to holiness - pursuing it begrudgingly, and self-servingly - as one might willingly embark on a healthy diet and course of exercise in order to avoid health problems, and not out of a love for healthy eating and exercise.

I make the distinction between the false and genuine believer on this point because the encouragement I intend to offer will be of little benefit to anyone but a genuine believer, and again will be entirely different than the advice I would give someone who is a false convert and deceived into believing his faith is the genuine article.

I encourage you, if you are trusting your orthodox expression of faith to justify you before God, to reconsider. The Pharisees mistook the correctness of what they believed and did as meritorious, and you are making the same mistake. God isn't obliged to passover you in judgment because you have acknowledged that the gospel is in fact true, nor is God obliged to spare you His wrath simply because you have believed the truth and thereafter began worshipping God and trying to be a better person. Unless you repent of your rebellion against God you will not be reconciled to God through Christ, and you will not repent of your rebellion against God until you trust God personally. Don't put your trust in the things you do or believe, but your trust in God - trust that He will extend grace to you when you repent of your rebellion against Him, and you will be baptized into Christ even as God has promised. This is the new covenant, and you cannot enter into it sideways.

I encourage you, genuine believer, who are halting at your sanctification - to remember the gospel by which you entered into God's grace. It was not anything you did that brought you here, but that work in your heart whereby you surrendered your whole self, not only in the here and now, but all your being and all you would ever be, to Christ. In this humility you entered through the gate, and now, and it is in this same humility you must walk. The desires of your flesh kept you away from God, and almost damned you eternally - these can produce only death, if not in you, it will fortify it in others - do not lay down in peace with these desires, but rise up and make war. Yet do not war as a fool wars, but pick up the weapons that are effective for the fight - they are spiritual weapons - humility (willing obedience) is the greatest - but it finds its strength in Gods grace. That is, all the surrender in the world counts for nothing if I don't believe God is going to be gracious. I must trust in God's grace as I surrender.

I know that your flesh has no desire for surrender, and that is why you are halted - because although you are a believer, yet you are living as though you were not. You are living in the flesh, and being in the flesh, you refuse to surrender your will to God, and this you do because you don't believe God is going to do anything if you "do" obey. That is where you are making a critical error. God commands you to walk in the Spirit - to be filled (as a sail is filled with wind) by the Spirit, which means only that you are to be surrendered to the will of the God who is with you in the person of the Holy Spirit, who informs your conscience through the scriptures, and convicts you so that you know the path of righteousness. The reason you don't surrender to the Holy Spirit is not because you don't know how, it is because you don't believe that doing so is going to "work". The problem, as our Lord said, is that you have little faith. Not that your faith is small, for even the smallest faith can move mountains - but rather that you have little practice in exercising faith.

Become, therefore, experts in faith - and faith is just the resting in the certainty that the promises God has made will be applied to you as an act of grace on God's part. Christ walked in the promises of God, showing what faith looks like. We are supposed to do the same. My encouragement then is that, if you are rejecting sanctification for yourself, ultimately because you don't want to trust in God's grace, though you have known the saving power of it - that you get judgment-day honest with yourself and stop abusing God's grace. You are being like an insolent child who knows the will of his father, but resists him because you want to have your own way. What father does not chastise such a one? Every good father does, and my encouragement to you then is to avoid this, for if you are a genuine child of God, and you continue to resist that sanctification that He is working in you - you will be chastised, and I know that you know this, which makes your rebellion even more sour.

Not that I would encourage you with threats of chastisement only, let me also remind you of that joy of your salvation - the day that you surrendered your life to Christ, and basked in the sweetness of fellowship - would that this precious moment of unity, certainty and joy could wash over you again. It can. In fact it can be your every day experience. Christ came to give life, and that more abundantly. Why settle for less? Repent - that was Christ's final message (in scripture) for the church, and if ever it was relevant, it is relevant today. Repent, trust in the word of grace which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:16 AM  
  • At 10:11 PM, January 14, 2011, Blogger Unknown said…

    Daniel, I love this post...
    The Lord has given me to trust in this grace, and I have tried to build up some sisters to do the same... Shall pass this post on to them!

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