KILLING SIN…PART TWENTY THREE

 

 

Psalm 63:title–11 (ESV)

 

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

 

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

 

my soul thirsts for you;

 

my flesh faints for you,

 

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

 

beholding your power and glory.

 

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

 

my lips will praise you.

 

So I will bless you as long as I live;

 

in your name I will lift up my hands.

 

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

 

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

 

when I remember you upon my bed,

 

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

 

for you have been my help,

 

and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

 

My soul clings to you;

 

your right hand upholds me.

 

But those who seek to destroy my life

 

shall go down into the depths of the earth;

 

10  they shall be given over to the power of the sword;

 

they shall be a portion for jackals.

 

11  But the king shall rejoice in God;

 

all who swear by him shall exult,

 

for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

 

 

So we’ve seen the first three issues in this Psalm. First of all, there is an intense desire for God’s manifest presence. Secondly, there is an anticipation of being together in corporate worship back in Jerusalem and thirdly, there is the satisfaction that comes in clinging to Christ in times of private worship.

 

But this is not where the Psalm ends. There is a fourth issue that is somewhat foreign to us as we don’t normally speak like this about our enemies.

 

The fourth issue we see is in verses 9-11 and it is confidence in God’s just purposes.

 

 

He is praying what we call an imprecatory prayer for God to judge his enemies and bring justice. He wants those who are hunting him down to kill him to actually be killed and be buried and be destroyed by the sword and die in the desert and be food for jackals.

 

 

In the midst of extreme agony and loneliness and pain, David just wants justice to be done.  He wants God to vindicate him.

 

 

One thing we need to be careful about here is that it is okay for us to want justice and to be vindicated and for God to work in His sovereign ways to bring about punishment for evildoers, but we must remember, that is not our job. Our job is not to exact revenge or takes matters in our own hands. To play God!

 

Romans 12:19–2119 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

In verse 11, the final verse, David as king—the rightful king who is being pursued by his enemies calls on all of God’s people to join him in rejoicing with God and praising God that He is a God of justice.

 

Now where do we see Christ in this Psalm?

 

 

David is the King of Israel and serves as God’s representative for the people. Those who are of the House of David are those who have sworn allegiance to the King and join him in worshipping God.  Those who are enemies of the King of Israel are liars and will find their end in destruction.

 

 

Jesus, is the true Son of David, and not only the King of Israel, but the supreme King of kings and Lord of lords. All who have sworn allegiance to the King are Christians. We as believers are subjects of the King and we owe Jesus all allegiance and worship and surrender. And yet there are those who are enemies of the King—those who refuse to bow the knee to King Jesus and they will suffer destruction in eternal hell as those who have rebelled against God in their sin.

 

 

So our only hope for life here and life eternal is to bow the knee to King Jesus as our ultimate and supreme authority.

 

 

But we can bow to a King in surrender because of his power and we are afraid that if we don’t we will be punished. We can bow begrudgingly and not truly love the King, but do it out of duty or fear of punishment.

 

 

That is not the heart of a true believer. Yes, we bow before Jesus as our Lord because He is sovereign and supreme, but we also bow before Him because we love Him and we see in Him a beauty and glory and treasure beyond compare.

 

 

Not only do we bow, but also we seek Him. We thirst for Him. We faint for Him. We cling to Him! We meditate upon Him. We long to behold his power and glory.

 

 

We see Jesus not only as our Sovereign Lord, but also as our Supreme Treasure. We bow to Him as King, but we also love Him because He is glorious and beautiful and worth losing all!

 

 

Do you have intense desire for Jesus?

 

 

Do you have an anticipation to be in corporate worship so that you can praise Jesus?

 

 

Do you have times of private worship where you can be satisfied by the joy of intimate times with Jesus?

 

Do you have confidence that God will be just in the end and right all wrongs through King Jesus?

 

 

Do you see Jesus as not only as dominant, but also as desirable.

 

 

Do you see Jesus as not only King, but as Treasure.

 

 

Do you see Jesus as not only Lord, but as Beautiful?

 

 

Cling to Him! Long for Him! Earnestly seek Him! Thirst for Him! Meditate upon Him!

 

 

The Lord satisfies those who earnestly seek Him.

 

Hebrews 12:2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Would we all have our eyes fixed on Jesus as we cling to Him and find in Him ultimate satisfaction, fullness, and joy in His presence alone.

 

Satisfaction comes from earnest seeking! Cling to Jesus!

 

 

 

 

KILLING SIN…PART TWENTY TWO

 

Psalm 63:5–8 (ESV)

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

But there is a third issue in this Psalm and it is connected to the first two.

 

 

The third issue we see is in verses 5-8 and it is the satisfaction that comes through private worship.

 

 

If David longs for being together with God’s people in corporate worship to experience God’s presence, there are also those alone times with just us and the Lord where we go to Him in private worship, or what some people call a quiet time or daily devotion, where we encounter His presence in a powerful way.

 

 

In verse 5, David uses this metaphor of being satisfied with a great feast. Is he literally talking about eating this wonderful meal that makes him full or is this a picture of what Jesus does for the thirsty and hungry soul for Him?

 

 

Remember what Jesus said in the Beatitudes about hungering and thirsting?

 

Matthew 5:6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

 

Christ delights in satisfying His people with Himself.  Jesus desires to make our cups overflow with Him.

 

John 15:1111 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

Jesus has a great desire for us to have a joy that is overflowing. He wants us to be overflowing with His love and joy and to be satisfied.

 

How do we have this joy and intimacy with Christ? How do we abide in Christ? How do we foster a hunger and thirst for Jesus?  Is it something that just comes automatically?

 

Listen to what David says in verse 6. He remembers and meditates upon Jesus while lying in bed or waking up late at night. In those alone times, He spends quality time with the Lord.

 

Some of you may get up early in the morning and spend time with Jesus and others may do it late at night before you go to bed and some of you have been awakened in the middle of the night to pray.  The timing is not the important thing, but that we actually spend time in prayer and private worship with Jesus.

 

How often to do spend time reading and meditating upon His word and going to Jesus in private prayer.

 

In verse 7, David praises God for being his help and that he has been able to hide in the shadow of God’s protective wings.  This imagery of “shadow of your wings” evokes images of a huge and powerful eagle protecting his little eaglets from harm. It is this picture of God’s great protection.

 

Psalm 17:8Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,

 

Psalm 36:7–9How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

 

Again, we see the joy and singing and delight that David has in the Lord. He longs for Jesus. He thirsts for His power. He longs to be in corporate worship as well as he pours out his heart to the Lord in prayer and meditation upon His word and he thinks about God’s protection and sovereignty. His mind and heart is wrapped up in the glory and power of the living God.

 

And in verse 8, we see this very interesting term that David uses to describe all that he can do—CLING to God.

 

This is one of my life verses that has meant a lot to me over the past 10 or so years. I come back to this often because I love the imagery.

 

This word is “dabaq” and was used back in Genesis 2:24 when a man and woman shall cling to one another and become one flesh in the most permanent and intimate human expression there could ever be—a marriage between one man and one woman.

 

It’s amazing how this word “debar” or cling is used throughout the Old Testament. It always involves this intimate almost marriage like arrangement between God and His people.

 

 

 

This is the word used in Ruth.

 

 

 

Ruth 1:14  And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

 

 

 

Orpah means back of the neck. She went back to Moab. She never repented—she is a symbol of refusing to follow the LORD. But Ruth on the other hand clung to Naomi and pledged her undying devotion to go back to Bethlehem and be a part of the covenant people. She expressed this deep longing to remain committed to Naomi and Naomi’s God when she clung to her.

 

 

 

So this word “dabaq” is equated with loyalty and devotion.

 

 

 

This word also shows up in Deuteronomy when Moses reminds them of how the Lord fought their battles and how in turn they should remain faithful to the covenant.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 10:20-21  You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.  21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

 

 

 

We also see this word show up in Proverbs

 

 

 

Proverbs 18:24  A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

 

 

This is a wonderful proverb about having faithful and close friends. They stick—they cling—they are devoted—they are loyal in this very intimate way—just like a brother.

 

 

 

So positively, we see this word “dabaq” as a very strong way to show the most intimate of human relationships—marriage—a clinging between a husband and wife—friendship—a clinging in loyalty like Ruth and Naomi—and in obedience to the Lord—clinging to Him and His Word. 

 

 

 

Taken as a whole, this word is very expressive way to show intimate loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness no matter what the situation.

 

 

 

In verse 8, David gives the powerful expression of devotion to the Lord. My soul “clings” to you. I am totally dependent on the living God for my life, my salvation. I am nothing without Christ. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am nothing without the hand of the Lord to sustain me. I am thirsty and weary and bankrupt and nothing without Jesus.

 

 

 

That is a cry of a person who is humbled before the living God and who truly understand grace. What’s the only thing we can do? Cling to God. Hold fast to Christ. Find our satisfaction in Him.

 

And while David clings to God he has the ultimate hope in God’s ability to uphold him. To make him secure. To protect him. To see him through to the end.

 

Sometimes all we can do is CLING!

 

Remember David’s situation. He is alone. He is isolated. He is on the run. He is being hunted down like a dog out in the wilderness. He is thirsty. He is in the scorching heat. He has nothing but Christ. All he can do is to cry out for help and cling to Jesus.

 

That’s why we sing “All I Have is Christ, Jesus is my life!”

 

Do you cling to Jesus?

 

KILLING SIN…PART TWENTY ONE

 

Psalm 63:2–4 (ESV)

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.

The second issue we see is in verses 2-4 and it is the anticipation of corporate worship.

 

 

Now, what does this mean? An anticipation of corporate worship? What is David hoping for? What is he longing to be a part of again? He longs to be a part of the corporate worship that he enjoyed with other Israelites in the tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant.

 

 

In essence, he wanted to be in church with other believers to experience the joy of worshipping together as God’s people.

 

Remember, he is isolated out in the desert living on the run from his son Absalom and he desperately wants to go back to Jerusalem to experience the joy of corporate worship.

 

 

In verse 2, David harkens back to an experience he had in the sanctuary—that is the tabernacle—where he beheld or saw first hand the power and glory of God.   We really don’t know if David literally saw God in all his majesty face-to-face in the tabernacle, but we know that Moses was not allowed to see God and live.  Others like Daniel and Isaiah and Ezekiel who saw the glory of God fell down as dead men utterly ruined in their sins.

 

 

So what exactly did David see in the sanctuary?

 

 

Most scholars believe that David was referring to the symbol of God’s manifest presence among God’s people—the Ark of the Covenant in the sanctuary. In other words, no one can actually see God and live so the Ark is the visible expression of an invisible God in that time. It was the mediated presence of God for the Israelites. It was a visually reminder that God was truly indeed with them.

 

 

During the times of Moses, God would descend in a cloud on the Ark in the sanctuary and the people would worship and tremble in awe.

 

 

What David longs here for is the experience of being together in worship again with God’s people to come to the tabernacle and to experience the power and glory of God.

 

 

Is that your desire when you come to worship on Sunday mornings? Do you long to be with God’s people so that you can experience the power and glory of God? Or is Sunday morning just a duty? What do you truly expect to happen when you show up at this place? Do you expect to experience the power and glory of God?

 

 

Do we truly long for God to do something special when we meet? Do we long for the manifest presence of God? Maybe God is withholding a special measure of His presence because our hearts don’t really want it. We just want to show up and be comfortable and sing a few songs and hear a good message, but do we really want to encounter the Living God in a very profound and special way?

 

 

How does David view being in the presence of God in worship?

 

 

In verse 3 he praises God for his steadfast love. Again this word is “hesed” in the original language, which means God’s faithful, tenacious, pursuing love for His people where He promises to never leave or forsake them, but to love them to the end because He’s sworn upon Himself in covenant that He will be true to His promises.

 

 

He sees this love of God as better than life itself.

 

 

Can we truly say that? We believe that the love of Jesus is better than life itself?

 

 

Many of you know I have recently read an abridged version of the Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. In this Edwards lays forth twelve proofs or evidences of true conversion of a person who has authentically been born again. Listen to what he says about valuing Jesus:  “To have a conviction, so clear and evident and assuring, as to be sufficient to induce them, with boldness, to sell all, confidently and fearlessly to run the venture of the loss of all things, and of enduring the most exquisite and long-continued torments, and to trample the world under foot, and to count all things but dung, for Christ.”

 

 

Are we willing to lose our life to save it for the surpassing greatness of the steadfast love of God?

 

 

David longs for corporate worship so that he can come back to the sanctuary and praise God and bless Him and lift up his hands and worship and sing.

 

 

When you come to this place on Sunday mornings with these people that you call your church family, is your ultimate joy to lift your hands in worship and bask in the love of God for you as a sinner and to find in Jesus your greatest satisfaction?

 

 

There’s something powerful about being in corporate worship where God chooses to show up in power and glory as a way to give us an opportunity to praise Him with our lips and to raise hands in worship to Him.

 

 

So we’ve seen the first two issues with this Psalm. First of all, David has an intense desire for God’s manifest presence, as he is isolated in the wilderness being hunted down by his wicked son. And secondly, he longs to go back to Jerusalem so that he can worship again in the sanctuary among God’s people.

 

 

KILLING SIN…PART TWENTY

He was a 22-year-old college student from Australia who made headlines in 1992 when he survived the Himalayas in Nepal without food for 43 days.  His name is James Scott. How did he survive? He survived on melted snowballs and one caterpillar. He wasn’t dressed properly and had to endure the isolation and hunger of being alone in the freezing mountains. He saw numerous attempts by helicopter to find him, but they never came. Only the scavenging birds circled over him as his body began to deteriorate. He lost 1/3 his body weight.  Just how did he survive? He was young, fit, and used his training in karate to discipline himself.  He was also in his senior year of medical school so he knew about how the body works.

 

 

 

He understood that he would not survive if he started vomiting and had severe cramping. So he would read two pages of a book between each mouthful of a snowball to pace himself so that he would not vomit. He also knew that most body heat was lost through his head so he used spare clothing to cover his head.  Nobody predicted him to survive, but after 43 days his sister found him after a long and involved search process.

 

 

 

He wrote about his endurance and sustained hope in the book “Lost in the Himalayas”.

 

 

 

That’s an amazing story of a human being undergoing extreme weather conditions to survive.

 

 

 

Most of us will never relate to what he went through. How many of us have truly been hungry? Thirsty? How many of us have survived in the desserts of the Middle East under the excruciating heat? Our soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan understand this experience.

 

 

 

King David experienced hunger, thirst, isolation and pain in the wilderness of Judah.

 

 

 

Many years before, David committed adultery with Bathsheeba and murdered Uriah and even though his sins were forgiven, there would be dire consequences.  Nathan, the prophet, told David that the “sword” would never depart from his house. In other words, from this point forward, David would have to see anger, jealousy, and violence tear apart his family. And as he is older, his son Absalom instigates an insurrection and tries to overthrow his father from the throne, so David has to flee into the wilderness and hide out so his son doesn’t kill him.

 

 

 

In 2 Samuel 15, we see Absalom’s conspiracy and how David has to flee Jerusalem and hide out in the wilderness.

 

 

 

Most scholars believe that this is the context for Psalm 63.

 

 

 

At a point of extreme pain and isolation in the hot dessert, David pens this Psalm as a lament to God for help.  David is on the run. He is alone. He is hiding out. He is fearful for his life. His own evil son is unjustly pursuing him. He is also taken away from Jerusalem where the tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant and worship were vital to David’s spiritual growth.  He is alone and he desperately wants to return to Jerusalem so that he can experience the manifest presence of the Lord again.

 

 

 

Read Psalm 63

 

 

 

Here is the overarching theme or big idea from this Psalm: The Lord satisfies those who earnestly seek Him.

 

 

 

From this Psalm, we see FOUR major movements or sections that show this overwhelming desire for God’s presence.

 

 

 

The first issue we see is in verses 1 and it is intense desire for God’s manifest presence.

 

 

 

David begins this Psalm with this intense desire for God’s presence. He earnestly seeks God. This word “earnestly seek” is a good translation of the Hebrew word because in the original language there is intensity to the seeking. It means to diligently or passionately seek God.

 

 

 

We often hear people talking about “seekers” or seeker-sensitive or seeker-driven worship services geared toward making the entire worship experience catered to non-believers who are seeking God.

 

 

 

It’s interesting that when we see people “seeking” God in the Bible, it is almost always used to describe God’s people, not non-believers. As a matter of fact, Romans 3 tells us that no one as a sinner dead in trespasses seeks after God.

 

 

 

The great paradox of being a Christian is that once we are saved, we are not content with just a simple knowledge of God, but we want to seek Him and passionately pursue Christ with all diligence.  When the Bible shows this intense seeking and desiring of God it is almost always use of believers.

 


A. W. Tozer captured this idea of the Christian passionately seeking Jesus when he writes, “
To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”

 

 

 

Do you see the paradox? We’ve found God. We’ve been saved. We are born again, but that’s not enough. We want to pursue and seek after Jesus. It’s the ultimate goal of our lives to pursue Jesus as our all in all.

 

 

 

We seek for God’s presence.  Now why do I use the word “manifest presence” of God? Isn’t God everywhere present in what theologians call the omnipresence of God? Yes, that is true. God is infinite and He is always present and you can’t run away from God. What David wants is his “real” or “felt” presence. His manifest presence. To have that experiential knowledge deep in our souls that God is there. That God is near. It is that deep sense of joy and contentment and confidence that the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts to confirm God’s presence and love for us.

 

 

 

We thirst as David says. We faint.

 

 

 

David is using imagery that he was probably very familiar with as he was hiding out in the dessert wilderness. He is literally thirsty and hungry and weak and ready to faint physically, but he uses these physical descriptions to articulate spiritual thirst and hunger for the living God.

 

 

 

He is alone, hot, thirsty, tired, and weak and all he wants is God to show up.

 

Psalm 73:25–2625  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 

This is spiritual desperation. This is being poor in spirit. This is pouring your heart out to God and wanting nothing but Christ as your portion.

 


It’s very similar to the cry of Paul.

 

Philippians 3:8–10Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

 

Is this your passion? To know Jesus more deeply? To count all as rubbish for Him alone? To earnestly seek and hunger and thirst and faint for Jesus?

 

 

So the first thing we see is an intense desire for God’s manifest presence..

In the next post we will continue to explore this Psalm….

KILLIN SIN…PART NINETEEN

Secondly, the Bible uses the idea or being thirsty to show our desperate need to treasure Christ in gospel repentance.

Psalm 42:1-2   As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

 Psalm 63:1-5   O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

Isaiah 55:1-3  Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

This is an invitation from a loving God to those who are desperately thirsty. In the original language when God invites us to “come” it is an expression of love and sadness over our thirst. In the ancient near east at that time water was a scarce commodity and you would have water vendors—modern day Culligan men—who would stand in the street markets and invite people to come and buy water as they were parched in the desert heat. But God in His mercy invites us to come and drink not only water but wine and milk that is FREE!!

This water alone quenches our thirst and leaves us satisfied.

John 7:37-38  On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

Thirdly, we see this idea of longing or yearning for Christ.

Psalm 77:3  When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.

This word “moan” really means to grow or roar. What happens when a lion roars? It means he’s hungry.  We often say that our stomach is growling when we’re hungry.

His spirit also faints. He is overwhelmed.

Think about this idea of hungering and longing and being totally overwhelmed by Christ. When we remember and meditate upon Him—that is when we treasure Him and keep our eyes fixed on Him—we realize that we have a deep longing in our souls to be satisfied. We have a longing for true lasting pleasure and everywhere we look in this world to find it will never satisfy.

The only true source of everlasting joy and pleasure is in Christ.

Have you ever growled and moaned and fainted in desperation for Christ?

Psalm 84:2  My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

 So when we think about gospel repentance it is a two-fold issue. We turn from, hate, kill, abominate, flee, and mortify our sin. We kill sin constantly, but that’s not enough. Killing sin alone is only half of gospel repentance.

We must also turn toward Christ and see Him as supremely glorious. We must treasure Him. We thirst after Him. We taste and see that He is good. We long, faint, and yearn for Him. We seek Him. We find in Him our ultimate satisfaction. We desire Him. We find in Him our greatest pleasure.

Sam Storms in his great book “Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God” gives some great phrases in relation to how we can treasure Christ.

Are you: enamored, enthralled, entranced, excited, astounded, absorbed, stunned, consumed, thrilled, pre-occupied, overwhelmed, enthused, mesmerized, monopolized, captivated, fascinated, exhilarated…with JESUS!

KILLING SIN…PART EIGHTEEN

In our battle against sin, not only are we to be killing sin, but we are to be treasuring Jesus.

What I find interesting is that when you trace this truth through the Scriptures, you find the use of metaphors related to our senses.

As we think about gospel repentance in treasuring Christ, let’s explore some of these metaphors.

First of all, the Bible often uses the sense of taste to show us our desperate desire for Jesus.

Psalm 34:8  Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

What does it mean to taste the LORD? This is a very interesting metaphor?

We are to taste and see.

 Let me give you an example the best I know how. Have you ever gone to Cold Stone ice cream or an ice cream shop and you weren’t quite sure what the flavor tasted like and they gave you a sample on this little spoon to try it out. It was a quick little taste.

But if you really liked it you got this huge waffle cone with triple scoops and you devoured the ice cream because you loved its taste.

Think about it with Jesus for a moment. How often are we content with just a little sampling of Christ in our lives. Instead, we need to find our greatest desire in tasting and seeing that He is good. We need to spend time in prayer and worship and reading our Bible and truly tasting the goodness of Christ.

But why?  There are many things you can feast on in this world. You can taste a lot of things in this world and find your pleasure in them. Things that you think will bring you happiness and joy and satisfaction. We are consumers to the core and we are tasting everything this world has to offer except Jesus.

But why is Jesus worthy of our taste?

Peter answer this for us.

1 Peter 2:2-4  2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation-  3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.  4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.

Notice in verse 4 that Jesus is chosen and precious.

The word precious here is key. Jesus is worthy, He is exalted, He is far above any other thing, and He is to be treasured because He is supremely valuable.

What do we find when we taste and see that the Lord is good? We find in Christ a valuable treasure that satisfies our deepest longing as the precious and chosen Savior that He is.

In my times of spiritual dryness I have been encouraged by one paragraph in an ancient book by John Owen called “Communion with God”. I was reading it at a point in my life when I was dry and frustrated and God used his words to minister to me and I often go back and reread it. It may not mean anything to you, but let me just share this with you.

I’m going to paraphrase it for you because it was written in 1657

“When we see the love of God, we will delight in Him…once the heart is taken up with the height and majesty of God’s love, we cannot choose but to be overpowered, conquered, and endeared to Him…exercise your thoughts upon the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father and when you do this, you will find that your heart is wrapped up in delight for Him…Sit down a little at the fountain and you will quickly discover the sweetness of the streams. You who have run from Him, will not be able to keep a distance from Him for a moment.”

In our next post we will continue exploring these metaphors related to our senses…

KILLING SIN…PART SEVENTEEN

The other half of gospel repentance involves treasuring Christ above all.

Why do I use the word “treasure”? It means that you value Him as supreme. You can use other words as well. You find your ultimate satisfaction in Him alone. You desire Him as your all in all. He is your magnificent obsession.

Where do we see this in Scripture?

Matthew 6:9–10Pray then like this “Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.

Why do I start here with the Lord’s prayer?

It’s for a number of reasons. First of all, this is where we get from the very mouth of Jesus how we are to pray. Secondly, this is the first and most important petition in the entire prayer. Thirdly, this shows us what it truly means to treasure the living God.

We are commanded to hallow or to treasure or to glorify or to magnify or to find great joy and pleasure in the name of God.

God who is in heaven as our wonderful Father who has given us His Son Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit desires to be hallowed. He is worthy to be praised above all. Before we ask Him for anything or try to get anything from Him. The first and most important response we have to God is to enjoy Him as God. To find our greatest satisfaction in hallowing or glorifying or magnifying His holy name as our all in all.

Psalm 16:11 – 11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In God’s presence there is fullness of joy. Not just a little bit of joy. But fullness of joy. In Hebrew poetry like the Psalms often the hymn writer will give two statements that are parallel and that’s what we find here. The fullness of joy is said in a different way with pleasures evermore.  In God’s presence or from His right hand there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

The word “pleasure” is a very interesting word. It really means “spiritual delicacies”. Blessings that are so exquisite and wonderful that Christ gives to us in His grace. And they last forever.

So if you want to experience true lasting joy and unending pleasure—where do you find it? In the presence of Christ. By seeking and treasuring and desiring Him above all. Not in the things of this world or by the fleeting pleasures of sin, but in true lasting pleasure. We find our ultimate satisfaction in Christ alone.

Don’t be scared off as Christians by the word “pleasure”—God has created us for pleasure IN HIM!

Is this true for you? Do you find unending pleasure and joy in the presence of Christ and nowhere else?

Hebrews 12:2  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is one of my life verses and you all know that by now. But we must continually be looking to and fixing our eyes and keeping our gaze on Jesus. He is the Finish Line. He is the prize? He is our Treasure and our eyes must be on Him!

Psalm 27:4  4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

What is this one thing that David so longs for? What is his ultimate desire? It’s expressed in three ways. He seeks, he dwells, and he gazes.

The word for seek here is very strong in the Hebrew. He desperately desires something. He is seeking diligently after something. What is David so hungry for?

He also wants to dwell. To stay. To linger. To not rush. To be in God’s presence.

But then we get the clincher. He wants to gaze upon something. He wants to keep his eyes fixed on something. He wants his focus to be laser sharp on one single thing.

What is it? The beauty of the LORD.

He wants to see the glory and beauty and majesty of the Lord. It’s David’s way of saying what the writer of Hebrews was saying about fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Treasuring Christ means gazing upon Him. Looking to Him. Finding in Him our ultimate pleasure and satisfaction.

Paul says it another way.

2 Corinthians 3:18 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

What Paul is saying here is that the more we look at Jesus, the more we look like Jesus. When we behold or look at or take in and are mesmerized by the glory of Christ, the more we are transformed into looking like Him.

The Holy Spirit grants us this wonderful gift in the Christian life—the ability to see Jesus and to marvel at Him and to fix our gaze upon Him and to treasure Him and the more we do that, the more the Holy Spirit does this amazing work of grace in our lives to make us look more like Jesus.

John Owen said this, “One of the greatest privileges and advancements of believers, both in this world and to eternity, consists in their beholding the glory of Christ.”

Sam Storms, “It grieves me to say this but the primary reason people are in bondage to sin is because people are bored with God…That sinful habit you struggle with daily, that low-grade addiction that keeps you in the throes of guilt and shame, that inability to walk with consistency in the things you know please God, ultimately will be overcome when your heart, soul, mind, spirit, and will are captivated by the majesty, mercy, splendor, beauty, and magnificence of who God is and what He has and will do for you in Jesus.”

Listen to the compelling words of Jonathan Edwards from one of his sermons:

Have your eyes ever been opened to see the glorious excellency of Jesus Christ? Has the light of the Word of God ever shined into your hearts so that to see the excellency of that Word that teaches Christ and the way of salvation by him? Has the Word of Christ been sweeter to you than the honey on the honeycomb?

Is the Word of Christ sweet food to your soul that puts new life into you and is better than silver or gold? Do you see your need you have of Christ? The Blessing of God: Unpublished Sermons from Jonathan Edwards

That’s our desire in gospel-repentance. To see the excellencies of Christ. To behold Him in all of His beauty. To be captivated by Christ alone as our ultimate treasure.

In our next post we will continue to see what it means to desire or treasure Jesus…

KILLING SIN…PART SIXTEEN

Over the past few weeks, we have seen the deceitfulness of sin, the importance of killing or mortifying sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, and how the Keswick view of sanctification is somewhat inadequate to answer this struggle.

But Killing Sin is only half the battle. We must be ruthless in killing sin or it will be killing us, but there is another aspect of gospel repentance.

Many of you have probably read the “Odyssey” where the main character Odysseus sets sail for the city of Troy to help bring dignity back to Greece because Paris had kidnapped Helen—the wife of the king. There’s the whole story of the Trojan Horse and other adventures, but the journey home after the war would be just as dangerous.

On his way back he faces the Sirens—these beautiful singing mesmerizing goddesses who would lure sailors from the ocean to the shore.  On the outside these sirens are beautiful and sing so great but really they are demonic cannibals who want to eat the flesh of the sailors once they get them to shore. It doesn’t make sense to stand there as ugly demonic cannibals and advertise that you want to eat sailors. Nobody in his right mind would go to shore, so they disguise themselves as these beautiful singers who lure the sailors with enchanting songs.

Odysseus knows about their plot and he tells his sailors to put wax in their ears so that they won’t be tempted and lured away. They are to not look at them, keep their eyes straight, and row for their lives to get out of there. But Odysseus wants to hear their beautiful songs so he has his men strap him to the mast of the ship with his ears unplugged and he charges them under no circumstances are they to untie him.

This illustrates how we often deal with sin. We try legalistic things like just saying “no” and tie our hands, but in our hearts, we really want to hear the allure of the world and its pleasures. In our heart of hearts we still desire sin.

Now, there’s another character in Greek mythology named Jason and he dealt with the sirens in a different way. He faced the temptation by bringing along his own singer Orpheus who was the most talented musician in the land. When it came time for Jason and his crew to pass by the Sirens, they didn’t plug their ears or strap themselves to the mast of the ship. Instead, the let Orpheus just play his songs and he was so much more beautiful than the Sirens, that they didn’t stand a chance. They didn’t pay attention to the Sirens, because they found a greater pleasure in the music of Orpheus.

What does this tell us about gospel repentance?

It’s not enough to just say no to sin. We must replace it with a greater desire to say yes to Jesus and find Him more alluring and wonderful than the allurements and temptations of this world.

But killing sin alone will not work all by itself.  Because we have desires and pleasures, when one sin is killed, we will still have desires and a need for satisfaction. Our hearts are not vacuums but need to be captivated and entranced by something wonderful.

The deceitfulness of sin creeps in and tells us that sin is way more satisfactory and pleasurable than Christ. And so just by killing sin we’ve only dealt with half of the issue of gospel repentance. The other half is to have our eyes and hearts and minds set on a greater affection. We are to have greater desires for Christ.

Instead of just saying “no” to sin, we need to see Christ in all of His glory and find that He is more captivating and beautiful and glorious and worthwhile than the sin before us or the sin we have just brutally killed through mortification.

Thomas Chalmers in his famous sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” argues that the human heart must have something to cling to in order to find pleasure. Never is the human heart just neutral but it is always desiring satisfaction. It will either find satisfaction in sin or it will find satisfaction in a greater desire through Christ.

His basic argument and I agree with him is that the love of this world cannot be overtaken or conquered by just showing how worthless this world truly is. It has to be expelled or replaced with a greater vision of beauty and desire.  You don’t show a sinner how worthless the world is, instead you show him how glorious Jesus is.

This is pretty hard for us as Christians. We are really good at showing the evils of the big bad world out there and we can easily identify sin, but it is much harder to have our eyes fixed on the glories and beauties of Christ. This takes time. This takes saturating ourselves in the Scriptures. This takes beholding Him in all of His glory as we read the pages of the Bible and we spend time in prayer.

In other words his argument is that the best way to expel or get rid of sin or a worldly desire is to focus our attention and desire on a greater one—Christ Jesus.

In our next post we will explore what it means to TREASURE Christ…

KILLING SIN…PART FIFTEEN

Weakness Number Three:  “MICROWAVE MAGIC” SANCTIFICATION

 

            A few summers ago, we went on a family vacation to Disneyland. We had the privilege of taking advantage of convenient the “fast pass” which makes standing in long lines a thing of the past.  I hate standing in lines—any lines. We see this impatience all around us in our culture—from fad diets, high speed internet, to overnight express mail, and I-phone apps.  We live in a micro-wave magic world. We get impatient when we have to actually watch a television program in “real time” instead of fast forwarding through the commercials once we have recorded it on our DVR.  Our culture demands instant pleasure. We want things yesterday! And yet how does this translate into the area of growing in godliness?

 

            Another weakness of the Keswick doctrine of pursuing holiness lies in its claim that sanctification is instant and victory is complete over all known sin. Through the use of techniques such as “letting go and letting God” or “ceasing from striving” or “absolutely surrendering” a believer can experience a higher level of spirituality.  A person struggling with the sin of pornography for instance through a crisis of belief and a moment of surrender can be instantaneously free from this sin and achieve complete victory. One of the key early proponents of the Keswick view said, “A victory gained … by a gradual conquest over evil, getting one sin after another out of our life, is counterfeit victory.”[1]  In other words, if Christians struggle over a long period of time to kill indwelling sin instead of defeating it through an instantaneous surrender, that victory proves inauthentic.

 

            Does the Bible teach instantaneous and complete victory over all known sin in this life? Can we through a simple process of “letting go and letting God” never ever have to struggle with sin again?  My wife and I enjoy hiking in our home state of Colorado. A few years ago we decided to face a challenge we had wanted to do for a while–climb a 14’er! For those not from Colorado, that means a mountain that is over 14,000 feet above sea level. So early one Saturday morning, we began the trek up Grey’s Peak which we were told was a relatively easy climb. After four hours of stopping to catch our breath every fifteen feet, wincing in pain, and seeing all of these 20 something’s pass us by, we came to reinterpret the term “mountain top experience”. Our hike up the mountain was a visual allegory for the Christian’s journey through life. There are peaks and valleys, twists and turns, rocks and hills, steep cliffs and flat meadows, but in the end, it is all uphill. There is no instantaneous arrival at the top of the mountain unless you fly in by helicopter. The Christian life is not a casual helicopter flight with immediate results, but as John Bunyan has so vividly captured– a “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  We as Christians are on a life-long journey full of adventure, struggles, heartache, doubt, and at times victory on our way to the Celestial City. Bishop J.C. Ryle said this: “The theory of a sudden, mysterious transition of a believer into a state of blessedness and entire consecration, at one mighty bound, I cannot receive. It appears to me to be a man-made invention, and I do not see a single plain text to prove it in Scripture.”[2]  B.B. Warfield also warns against the expectation of instantaneous sanctification promised in the “victorious life” teaching by saying, “Its glowing and ‘romantic’ overtures that offer life on a higher plane are ultimately offers of victory to the impatient.”[3]

 

Instant Yieldedness or Constant Warfare?          

 

We find Scripture’s emphasis on the reality of indwelling sin sprinkled throughout the New Testament. Let us examine two passages which shed light upon this issue of instantaneous sanctification.  In Galatians 5:17, Paul writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  Again, once God has saved us by His sovereign grace, He does not eradicate sin out of our lives. We still have the desires of the flesh. But by the same token, He has graciously given us the Holy Spirit to take up residence within us. The desires of our indwelling flesh wage war against the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This opposition that Paul addresses is a continuous warfare. The desires of the flesh are continually on an ongoing basis opposed to the desires of the flesh.[4] Paul nowhere intimates in this passage that a believer will achieve complete and instantaneous victory over all known sin. Instead, he guarantees us that we will have a lifelong internal battle between our fleshly desires and the desires of the Holy Spirit. This battle will finally end the moment we step foot into heaven. 

 

            In addition to Paul, the apostle John addresses this issue in his First Epistle when he writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10) We can never get to the point where we can say that we are somehow without sin. John does not espouse the idea that we can be instantaneously free of all known sin. He simply tells us that when we confess our sin, God is faithful and just in His forgiveness and cleansing. The word for “confess” again denotes continuous action. In other words, the life of a believer is one of continual confessing of sins because we will always have sin in our lives.  As we progress in holiness the sin in our lives will become less habitual and grievous.

 

            In reality, the Keswick method confuses the historic Protestant distinctions between law and gospel. In essence, our holy God demands absolute obedience to His moral law. We see these all throughout the Scriptures as the moral imperatives codified in the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament and the ethical axioms in the New Testament. The law exists to show guilty sinners that we can in no way uphold this law perfectly and that we have fallen short of God’s standard. The gospel breaks in as the good news which announces to us that Christ actually lived the perfect life that none of us could live and obeyed every single command of God perfectly in thought, word, and deed.  Through His victorious life (not ours), His vicarious death on the cross, and his triumphant resurrection, by faith we are united to Him and His absolutely perfect record of righteousness is imputed to us. As a result, we stand not only innocent before the Father, but also clothed in the positive righteousness of Christ. The grounds for our acceptance with God comes from both the life of Christ in keeping the law for us and the death and resurrection of Christ in purchasing us as His people.

 

            The Keswick theology has subtly shifted the emphasis on law as God’s standard and moved it to “surrender” as God’s standard. The problem with this is that God’s laws have been clearly stated in Scripture so that there is no confusion. “Surrender” is such a nebulous term that becomes difficult to even define or quantify.  Michael Horton says this, “No longer did God require absolute perfection, but ‘absolute surrender’. It was not external works of obedience that God required, but ‘complete consecration’ and ‘yieldedness’. Those, however, who attempt to ‘yield’, ‘surrender’, and ‘love’ as God commands soon realize that this is even more difficult than conforming outwardly to divine commandments.”[5]

 

Introspective Frustration

 

            Ultimately, the Keswick movement leads to an unhealthy introspection where believers constantly wonder if they have surrendered or yielded themselves enough to God. This in turn leads to frustration when the struggle with sin continues to ensue.  Christians who have tender consciences often wonder why they still struggle with sin even after many attempts to “let go and let God”.  They wonder if maybe they haven’t let go enough. And then how does one know how much to let go? How does one know if he or she has surrendered enough? What is the basis for this? Is it external obedience to the revealed law of God or is it some internal and subjective prompting or impression? And why are we in the driver’s seat in this process? Why do we have to “let go” before a sovereign all-powerful God can be allowed to do His work in our lives?

 

            Frustrated believers begin to question their faith and wonder if something is truly wrong with them. Did they do the technique correctly? Was it consistent enough? Were they truly serious about it? Frustration leads to despair as they begin to compare themselves to others who have so called “reached” this plane of higher victorious spirituality. The “have nots” are told by the “haves” to stop striving and start letting go in order to truly arrive at this crisis of surrender like they are supposed to in order to achieve immediate victory.  Instead of practicing gospel repentance in truly killing sin (which we will address in Chapter 13), the defeated Christian falls into a trap of endless trips to the altar for a time of re-consecration. Frustrated with guilt, they rededicate their lives to the Lord for the thousandth time hoping that this time it truly sticks and that they have yielded enough to finally have victory. They wait for that moment of emotional crisis in order to yield to God so that they can subsequently be filled with the Spirit. But what if that crisis never comes? What if every day is a crisis of battling doubt and that living in a state of warfare is actually the normal part of being a Christian? Michael Horton writes,

 

War with sin and doubt, guilt and depression, are not signs of defeat, but proof of Christ’s victory. After all, those who are not baptized into Christ by the Spirit are at peace with sin and unbelief. The absence of war within is true only of people in one of two states: unregenerate or glorified. The believer is presently neither. Such conflict is not the evidence that one is a “carnal Christian” but is the genuine experience of every true believer throughout the course of this life.”[6]

 

If you have struggled with sin and have not experienced this immediate victory, do not think of yourself as a second class Christian, but as a pilgrim on the long and winding road to heaven. Be encouraged that what God has begun in you He will sovereignly complete (Philippians 1:6). In your frustration and desire to see growth in the battle with sin, find hope in the fact that our great Savior will bring you to completion in His perfect timing.

 

 In the end, the Keswick teachings on sanctification leave believers with an inadequate answer to help them in their quest to truly kill sin. Instead of passively surrendering to Christ through a fuzzy technique called “letting go and letting God”, Paul gives us a different instruction. He writes in 1 Timothy 1:18: “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.”

 

In our next post we will shift gears and understand the expulsive power of a new affection in gospel repentance….

 


[1] Charles Trumbull, “Victory in Christ”, 36

[2] J.C. Ryle, “Holiness” (England, Evangelical Press: 1879), xxv

[3] B.B. Warfield, “The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume VIII, Perfectionism Part Two” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, Reprinted 2003) , 464

[4] The word “opposed” is a present middle  indicative middle 3rd person singular which signifies continuous action or ongoing warfare

[5] Michael Horton, “In the Face of God”, (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1996), 167

[6] Michael Horton, “In the Face of God”, (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1996), 193

 

KILLING SIN…PART FOURTEEN

IS EFFORT SINFUL?

            The Keswick model of sanctification argues that any effort exerted on our part in struggling with sin or pursuing holiness stems from the flesh and proves counterproductive to experiencing true victory. What do the Scriptures teach about striving in our attempt to grow to become more Christlike? While this is not a comprehensive list, let us examine three key passages.

            First of all, in Philippians 2:12-13, Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This text more than any other clearly illustrates the apparent paradox in our progressive sanctification. At first glance it can actually be confusing. When the word “work” shows up we immediately get suspicious because we think Paul proposes a works-based righteousness and that he throws salvation by grace out the window. That could not be farther from the truth.  Paul’s discussion does not focus on how a sinner receives salvation, but instead, shows us how a saved person actually lives out on a daily basis the salvation they have already received. It is key to first understand that Paul focuses on the word “obedience” instead of “victory”.  The saints in Philippi have “always obeyed” which demonstrates that Paul’s agenda centers on obedience to God’s commands rather than instantaneous victory through passivity.

            In these two verses who works? Is it all up to us or is it all up to God? The answer is neither.  Our initial salvation was monergistic in that God alone did all of the work. He chose us before the foundation of the world. He adopted us into His family. He redeemed us through Christ’s blood. He caused us to be born again. He transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. As sinners who were dead in our transgressions, we lacked the power to save ourselves and could not contribute one iota to our redemption. God alone gets all the credit for saving us. This is what theologians call the “monergistic” working of God. This word comes from two Greek words used together to create this idea—“mono” means “one or alone” while the word “ergon” means to “work”. So monergistic salvation means that God alone does all the work in saving sinners. Yet, once we are saved and have been born again and given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are now empowered to live out this truth through this pursuit of holiness.  This endeavor (post-salvation) is both monergistic and synergistic in nature. “Synergistic” means “two or more working together”.  In other words, we as believers must do our part in this process, and God alone does His part. At the end of the day, we must realize that if any fruit, transformation or anything of lasting significance is to occur it comes from the fact that God alone monergistically worked in us to accomplish that growth.

            In this passage in Philippians, Paul gives us the command to work out our own salvation. In the original language, this is a command to be obeyed on a continuous basis. In other words, we could translate this as “keep on continually working out your own salvation”. What exactly does it mean to “work out” our salvation? The word Paul uses here[1] denotes active labor and it also signifies “to bring about, produce, create”.[2]  In this process of growing to become more like Jesus, God commands us to exert continual energy to make this a reality. We do this with fear and trembling which denotes a godly fear and reverence of our awesome Savior.

            If we just stop at verse 12 and use this in isolation to build a theology of sanctification, it would become very depressing and produce guilt and frustration.  In one sense, we are commanded to take personal responsibility in our growth in godliness by working out our own salvation. This requires diligence, obedience, urgency, and passion. Yet if left to ourselves in this venture, we would never see any lasting fruit or experience gospel transformation.  In and of ourselves, we cannot produce change. In God’s gracious provision, verse 13 displays for us the role God plays in our sanctification. It is synergistic in that we play a vital role in pursuing holiness through our own initiative to work out our salvation. But yet, it is also monergistic in that God is ultimately the One who works in us to accomplish His will.  God keeps on continually working in us to do two things—will and work. In other words, God gives us the desire and the power to obey His commands. Those two realities were not part of us as unregenerate sinners before our salvation. In our lostness, we neither desired to obey God nor did we have the power to obey God.  Our desire was for ourselves and our pleasures and because we did not have the Holy Spirit living within us we lacked the power to obey. But through the new birth and the power of the gospel, God grants to us in our sanctification these two resources—the desire to obey and the power to obey. He does this so that at the end of the day He receives all the glory for being the sole provider of our desperate need for grace. We work but God also works. Our working may be feeble and inconsistent and shallow at times, but behind the scenes, a sovereign God works to ensure that we perform His will through our good works according to His good pleasure. Again, Jerry Bridges aptly calls this cooperative effort between us and God as “dependent responsibility” by saying that the responsibility to work out our salvation is 100 percent our responsibility, but at the same time we are 100 percent dependent on the Holy Spirit to actually produce any fruit.[3]

The second passage of Scripture which answers this question about striving or struggling in the Christian life is found in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 where Paul writes, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  This word “train yourself” comes as a command which needs to be obeyed on a continuous basis. We could translate it as “keep on continually training yourself for godliness.” In addition, this word comes from the world of athletics from where we get our word “gymnastics”.[4]  When Olympic athletes in the first century would prepare for the games, they would go into strict physical training. Paul borrows this word from the athletic world to vividly illustrate the grueling nature in which we as Christians must strive to grow in holiness.

Duff Gibson holds the honor of being the oldest person to win a gold medal in an individual sport in the history of the Winter Olympics—age 39. In the 2006 games in Italy, he won the skeleton race which is similar to the luge and bobsledding.  In skeleton racing, the athlete rides face down on a small sled flying down a track at forces up to 5 g’s.  For years, Gibson practiced on the ice training his body for that one moment in history when he would finally win the gold medal.  Think about the rigorous schedules athletes endure to prepare for the Olympics and how much time they put in the gym, or on the field, or on the slopes. First class athletes are not haphazard even though they may have a great deal of natural talent. They discipline themselves everyday to train with intensity and passion. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps spends up to eight hours a day in the pool. This type of intensity is what Paul describes when it comes to training ourselves for godliness.  Instead of “letting go and letting God”, Paul urges us to diligently “go to the gym” and “work out” spiritually so that we can grow in godliness.

In addition to Paul’s teachings on the importance of exerting energy in our progressive sanctification, Peter also echoes this truth. In 2 Peter 1:5-8 he writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does God command us to do in this passage?  We are called to make every effort  to continually grow in godliness so that we will not become ineffective in our spiritual walk with Christ.

To add emphasis to this command, Peter uses a strong expression in combining two Greek words which convey the idea of an urgency and quickness to exert energy.[5]  In other words, he exhorts us to hurry up with a passionate zeal and start making effort to increase in godly character. This verb choice is a far cry from the passive “let go and let God” quietism of the Keswick view of sanctification.  

In our next post we will explore the third weakness of Keswick sanctification…”microwave magic” sanctification…


[1] katerga,zomai katergazomai

[2] The Greek lexicon BAGD claims that the verb signifies working at something until it is completed, or carrying it through to its completion.

[3] This is a paraphrase from pages 95-97 in Jerry Bridges’ and Bob Bevington’s book “Bookends of the Christian Life” (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2007)

[4] gumna,zw gumnazo

[5] Peter combines the words pareisfe,rw pareisphero—“to make every effort”—and spoudh, spoude—“with diligent haste” in the aorist imperative which gives the command an urgency. It could be translated  “Hurry up with a diligent zeal to exert energy”…