Justified Journal

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Tag: Law

How to bind a human conscience

For all the pastors trying to get people to do what they should, here is an easy set of directions to follow;

Preparation:

In order to be truly effective, you must gloss over any scripture that speaks of the finality of Christ’s work, or the continued unconditional work of Jesus Christ in the life of the believer.  If you let them know this, what will be the motivation for sanctification?  For example, where it is written Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:2), add the idea ‘if you follow His commands faithfully’.  This will give you the entry to dictate what application points the congregation needs today.

Method:

1. Assume that All of Scripture has application points for believers.  They want something to do, and your job is to make the action points crystal-clear.  If you have difficulty finding application points, expand the amount of scripture you’re covering until you find some

2. Separate verses from their context to emphasize their importance.  James 1:22 reads, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  This is ready for your application points to the congregation.  Don’t forget that these need to be tangible actions they can follow

3. Other verses don’t seem to be ripe for application, but you can overcome that if they are general.  1 Pet. 1:16 states, “Be holy for I am Holy”.  “Being” isn’t really doing, but you can expound on this verse and explain that this verse means we have to keep clean from sin.  Then, you can give them 5 or 6 ways to do this.  Philippians 2:12 states, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling”.  Ignore the fact that this is written to a group (your is in the plural) and move right into private morality.

3. Do NOT preach out of the Old Testament!  Although there are many good rules to follow in the Old Testament, that part of the Bible does not apply to Christians

4. Give your sermon a catchy name like, The seven steps to a better prayer life, or Nine ways to overcome sin.  When people read the title, they know they are going to get some practical instruction.  This empowers them to believe they can do it

5. Remember, people are sheep.  They need to be directed at every turn.  Without the guidelines you give, they will end up outside the sheep pen

©John Dostal 2016

The good work of trials

Hebrews 12:

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

I don’t like trials.  Initially, I respond badlyto them.  I resist them, deny they are happening, and sometimes, get angry.  They really suck.

And the intensity of trials (nowhere to run to escape them) causes us to think they are evil.  They are only present because God’s blessing is absent.  In fact, the reverse is true.

God tells Ananias to lay hands on Paul of Tarsus, a man who had sorely persecuted the church (Acts 9):

13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Emphasis mine).

Paul, himself, states in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church”

What’s the deal, God?  Why are you sending pain into the life of a guy you just converted?  Shouldn’t he become a king or something?

1 Pet. 2 states:

20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps …

So, even we are called to enter into suffering.  But, not purposeless suffering.  It is the means by which God disciplines us into acceptable sons and daughters, properly trained in this life to be princes and princesses ruling in the next.

Our humiliation in this life is the result of sin, but orchestrated for our benefit to train us.

Where is God when we go through trials?  We are pitied, felt sorry for, and spoken of in quiet tones.  In this world, the trials Christians suffer seem shameful, as if God rejected us.  The truth is, the trials we go through is a test of our faith, but a judgment on those who are not counted worthy as sons and daughters to go through these trials.  God does not abandon us during trials (despite feelings and confusion); He is intimately connected to us in them.

We can respond in many ways, but a good close reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John will reveal the opposition and difficulties Christ faced on this earth.  Hold fast to Him.   Remember, Jesus Christ, himself, is interceding for you and me.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for me.  We share His name, therefore, we share His sufferings.

Jesus, himself, led a lousy, deprived, short, and, seemingly meaningless life to outward observers.  But all the trials, testing, and temptations led to the ultimate glory to God … The death of the Lamb on the tree.  And without the death, there is no sonship for us whatsoever.  We would be lost for all eternity.  His work is the blessed work of the cross.  It was the epic, total destruction and disarming of the powers of evil.  And, it couldn’t have happened unless Jesus suffered unto death.

So, when people think you’re suffering is bad, sad, or shameful, tell them that it is the very proof that God is your Father. Tell them He has counted you worthy to share in Christ’s sufferings in this life so you can share His glory in the next.

Amen

“Hidden” sanctification

“Put your nose to the grindstone”

“Pull yourself up from the bootstraps”

“Apply yourself”

“Try harder”

We may have heard these phrases when we were in school from our teachers or our parents.  They were attempting to get more “out of” us.  For most kids, this doesn’t work, because they are already trying as hard as they can.

As we grow into adulthood, however, there is no one looking over our shoulder to “keep us in line”.  In a sense, we are free.

For me, this began in college.  At first, I screwed around and didn’t put much effort into my studies.  Eventually, though, I went out of state and really excelled at the university I was attending.  I was internally motivated to succeed.

It’s rewarding to get good grades.

There are many people who believe that the Christian life operates on the same principle.  If I do X, then I am living like a Christian and being sanctified.  If I don’t, then I am not being sanctified.

Only one problem … it is a rejection of Jesus Christ.

One of the things I tell people when I discuss this topic is that if your work sanctifies you, then you are stealing the glory from Jesus who is the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Here is why I reject the idea of self-sanctification:

1. It is anthropocentric at its core.  That is, it rejects Christ’s work in favor of my own.  This is also idolatrous.

2. It is antinomian.  This means, a person who uses the commands of Scripture to sanctify themselves is actually minimizing the depth of God’s Law.

3. It is a return to R.C. beliefs on infusion of righteousness.

4. It falsely divides Justification from Sanctification (two big “churchy” words).  I will quote from Gerhard Forde who wrote that sanctification is “the art of getting used to . . . justification.

But, most Christians will not prefer this answer.  They would rather go to their church for the purpose of self-improvement.  They want to have something to do.  They become their own Holy Spirit, and their own “project”.

This is called “being curved in on oneself”

At the end of Matthew, we see two groups at the end before the Throne of Christ.  Here is the interaction He has with the righteous ones:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Were they aware or unaware of their works?  Were these works the effort of private morality, or public service?

So, at this point, you have a choice.  Is the Christian life a “DIY” thing, or is it a “He does it all” thing”?

I believe the latter.  Why?  Because He is the Author and Perfecter of faith, and He will not share His glory with anyone.  I am His work, from start to finish.  You are too, whether you believe it or not.

The benefit(s) of reading God’s Law

Geek alert!!:

“Bene factum” is the Latin foundation for the word benefit.  It means “good (bene) product (factum)”.

So, what is the “good product” of reading God’s Law?  If the Law is Holy, and I am sinful, it reveals the contrast between God’s perfection and my imperfection.  Isn’t this a downer?  Why would I want to read something which highlights my failures?  In this way, the Law is an amplifier of sin.  It acts as a projector, taking things we think are small issues and magnifying them a thousand times bigger.  Why is that a benefit?

It’s important to remember the context in which God delivered the Law to Israel.  They were a lawless people before Moses guided them out of Egyptian servitude.  This does not mean they were cannibals or anarchists.  Israel was a large body of people needing order and a foundation for nation-building.

Unfortunately, their lawlessness was deeper than the need for societal boundaries.  Even as Moses was up on the mountain, they were busy breaking the law by making a golden calf.  They thought they could create order and appease whatever deity by developing their own object of worship.

This is the heart of lawlessness.

And, modern Christians do this with God’s Law as well.  They replace the revealed Christ with the “do’s and don’ts” of Scripture.  By reading and attempting to hold to some of the stringent laws of the Old and New Testaments, they shift the focus off of the cross and onto themselves.  Their performance is the heart of their faith.  This is often called “sanctification”.

In reality, this is self-justification.  It is a denial of the work of Jesus Christ.  It is anti-Christian.  Instead of leading us to the cross and the finished work (and, by the way, continual working) of Christ, we are lead to the vomit of utilizing God’s Law to appease God.

But, Jesus undoes this in His deeper requirements set out in Matthew 5-7 (know as the Beatitudes).  James follows a similar path in the book bearing his name.

Only the sacrifice of God appeases God.

So, what benefit is it to read the Law? As I have been reading Deuteronomy, God’s Law is rarely alone.  It comes with blessings and declarations of God’s promises to always be the God of His people.

Additionally, God’s Law has to do with how Israel was to relate to people.   Compared to many societies of that time, Israel’s Law was incredibly compassionate, providing for those less fortunate.  It also demanded a respect to the boundaries of individuals, creating harmony among neighbors.  God shows how he cares for widows, orphans, and foreigners in His Law.

God’s Law does highlight sin, but also created a means of restitution in sacrificial offerings.  God provided a means by which people could be cleansed of sin.  Our eternal sacrificial lamb is Jesus.

God’s Law corrects our shifting view of what is right.  Like others, I have a tendency to fall into relativism and self-justifications.  God’s Law dispells a reader of his/her delusional self-perceptions.  God’s Spirit testifies to our Spirit through the Law what is right and what is wrong.  God’s Law destroys the mistaken belief that we are god.

Finally, in reading God’s sobering Law, you and I can be thankful that although there is injustice in the world, there will be a day when God will correct all injustices.  God has already corrected the injustices we have committed by dying for us on the cross and redeeming us from sin.

As a footnote, when we read the Law in the light of what Christ has done and is doing for us, we might feel a desire to live “in line” with His desires.  After being measured by the Holy Law, found guilty and been given forgiveness, there is a new desire produced to attempt to live in light of His will.  Perhaps perspective of the Law is transformed by the Christ who has fulfilled every “jot and tittle” so that we don’t have to.  Ultimately, however, it is God’s forgiveness which creates a desire to pass on His love, kindness and forgiveness to others.  In that, the Gospel has its final Word.

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