How does sanctification work? The story of Dick and Ricky Hoyt

20 12 2011

I often recite the remarkable story of Dick and Rick Hoyt and apply it to the process of sanctification, that is the process by which God makes his people holy.  To be fair, I didn’t think of the comparison myself but took it from Bryan Chapel’s excellent commentary on Ephesians from the Reformed Expository Commentary series.  Below is a video of Dick and Ricky Hoyt.  Their story begins a 1 min 22 sec.  Following the video I have excerpted Chapel’s words:

Some years ago I enjoyed watching ‘iron man’ competitions on TV.  Watching those who swim, bike and run multiple- marathon distances in the grueling triathlon makes me dream of what I might be able to do if I had more time, opportunity, and a different body.  More inspiring to me than the usual stories of the big-name competitors, however, was the 1999 account of the father and son team of Dick and Ricky Hoyt.  The two have run together in more than eight hundred races.

More remarkable than the fellowship this father and son enjoy is the fact that the now adult son, Ricky, was born with cerebral palsy.  To race, he must be pulled, pushed, or carried by his father.  There is a part of us that might jump to the conclusion that Ricky does not race at all…that his father does all the work.  But tens of thousands of viewers saw the son’s role in this competition when wind, cold, and an equipment failure made progress hard on Ricky, even though his father was the one pedaling the modified tandem bike.  Dick knelt down to his son, contorted and trembling in the cold, as the two were still facing many more miles of race on the defective bike.  Said the father to the child belted to the bicycle seat, “Do you want to keep going, Son?”

The father would be the one enabling and providing the means to overcome, but the son still had to have the heart to finish well.  To the son were given the privilege and responsibility to desire to continue to make progress.  Though the example is not perfect, it explains much of what the Bible teaches about our spiritual battles.  We have a Father who has already given the power to enable us to resist all the challenges of our Adversary.  We can prevail through the means and strength our Father provides, but we must still have the heart to do so.

In light of this need for a heart that beats for him, our God bids us feed on his Word and seek the Spirit that opens our minds to the knowledge of the Savior and renews our will with a compelling love for him.  By God’s word and Spirit we are filled with the knowledge and love of him that give us the desire to run with him (and to him) more than anything else in this world.  The grace he pours into our hearts enables us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that (we) may be filled to the measure of  all the fullness of God” (Eph 3.18-19).

Brian Chapel, Ephesians Kindle Edition (P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg 2009) Loc 6464 of 7700





Ambrose: The Messy Work of the Lord Jesus

20 12 2011

Of course I have some reservations about this excerpt from Concerning Repentance (Book II, ch7), however, if you are able to lay aside some of the difficulties and hone in on the principles Ambrose is here advocating, what then do you come away with?  You come away with a picture of Jesus who goes into places of death, stink and decay.  He isn’t disgusted by them, but occupies them in order to transform the dead inhabitants into living people.  Of course we’re here talking about sin.  Too many people are afraid to let Jesus into the most decayed places of their lives because they are ashamed of those places.  So those places stay secret.  As long as they stay secret, they remain in decay and death.  However, if we invite Jesus into these places, he calls to the dead sinner “Come out!” and person walks out under the power of Jesus from the place of death.  (at the end of this excerpt I’ve written a little paragraph on how to work this out practically.  Check it out below!)

53. Why do you fear to confess your sins to our good Lord? Set them forth, He says, that you may be justified. The rewards of justification are set before him who is still guilty of sin, for he is justified who voluntarily confesses his own sin; and lastly, the just man is his own accuser in the beginning of his speaking. Proverbs 18:17 The Lord knows all things, but He waits for your words, not that He may punish, but that He may pardon. It is not His will that the devil should triumph over you and accuse you when you conceal your sins. Be beforehand with your accuser: if you accuse yourself, you will fear no accuser; if you report yourself, though you were dead you shall live.

54. Christ will come to your grave, and if He finds there weeping for you Martha the woman of good service, and Mary who carefully heard the Word of God, like holy Church which has chosen the best part, He will be moved with compassion, when at your death He shall see the tears of many and will say: Where have ye laid him? John 11:34 that is to say, in what condition of guilt is he? in which rank of penitents? I would see him for whom you weep, that he himself may move Me with his tears. I will see if he is already dead to that sin for which forgiveness is entreated.

55. The people will say to Him, Come and see. John 11:34 What is the meaning of Come? It means, Let forgiveness of sins come, let the life of the departed come, the resurrection of the dead, let Your kingdom come to this sinner also.

56. He will come and will command that the stone be taken away which his fall has laid on the shoulders of the sinner. He could have removed the stone by a word of command, for even inanimate nature is wont to obey the bidding of Christ. He could by the silent power of His working have removed the stone of the sepulchre, at Whose Passion the stones being suddenly removed many sepulchres of the dead were opened, but He bade men remove the stone, in very truth indeed, that the unbelieving might believe what they saw, and see the dead rising again, but in a type that He might give us the power of lightening the burden of sins, the heavy pressure as it were upon the guilty. Ours it is to remove the burdens, His to raise again, His to bring forth from the tombs those set free from their bands.

57. So the Lord Jesus, seeing the heavy burden of the sinner, weeps, for the Church alone He suffers not to weep. He has compassion with His beloved, and says to him that is dead, Come forth, John 11:43 that is, You who lies in darkness of conscience, and in the squalor of your sins, as in the prison-house of the guilty, come forth, declare your sins that you may be justified. For with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10

58. If you have confessed at the call of Christ the bars will be broken, and every chain loosed, even the stench of the bodily corruption be grievous. For he had been dead four days and his flesh stank in the tomb; but He Whose flesh saw no corruption was three days in the sepulchre, for He knew no evils of the flesh, which consists of the substances of the four elements. However great, then, the stench of the dead body may be, it is all done away so soon as the sacred ointment has shed its odour; and the dead rises again, and the command is given to loose his hands who till now was in sin; the covering is taken from his face which veiled the truth of the grace which he had received. But since he has received forgiveness, the command is given to uncover his face, to lay bare his features. For he whose sin is forgiven has nothing whereof to be ashamed.

So how is this done?  For Ambrose (I think this is Biblical (1 John 1, James 5), this is not a private spiritual exchange between the sinner and Jesus.  Rather, this action of confession is done in the church.  In other words, you confess your sins in the church, and the church brings Jesus to the tomb and shows him the decaying soul inside.  The importance of confessing sins with someone else is that we need to be reconciled to both Christ and the church.  We’re not individuals, but part of a Body.  Now, I would want to qualify what I mean by confessing “to the church”.  By this I don’t mean you need to go find a priest for confession.  Nor do I mean that publically proclaiming a general confession to the church is sufficient.  Rather, find someone you trust.  Confess specific sins (even the most shameful!) and have your “confessor” ask Jesus to come into this dead place on your behalf and call you out of it.  A final note.  This is not a practice that leads to justification.  Rather, it is a process that aids sanctification.  Confession does not bring about salvation, rather it aids in your spiritual and moral maturity.  





Rob Sturdy: The Glory of Christ and the Destruction of Sin

19 12 2011

I think it would be good for me to do a little explanation on the front end for why I have chosen these two themes, “the glory of Christ” and the “destruction of sin.” I think it would also be wise for me to explain why I have chosen such a hard sounding session for a “renewal” conference.  So let me begin with the two themes, and I trust that it will become clear in time how the two relate.  First the glory of Christ:

The Glory of Christ

Let me begin by saying that the glory of Jesus Christ is an all consuming passion of mine, and I believe it is a passion well ingrained in the language of Scripture.  First of all let me say from Scripture that I gain the sense that God the Father’s consuming passion is the glorification of his Son:

“If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ (John 8.54)

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2.9-11)

Furthermore, the glorification of the Son is one of the if not the principle work of the Holy Spirit:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16.12-14)

I want to take a second and unpack that last verse for a moment.  Jesus says “I still have many things to say to you, but I won’t say them now.  I will say them later.”  But how will Jesus say them later if he leaves?  “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  So the work of the Spirit is to come and complete the words of Jesus.  That is the action of the Spirit, and the fruit of that action is the New Testament.  Now I believe the next verse is crucial for how we read the new testament.  “He will glorify me,” that is when God the Holy Spirit inspires the New Testament into being he is inspiring words of Jesus’ glory into being.  The whole of this book is to be read as a praise song to the Lord Jesus.  If you read it in any other way you have wandered far off the rails of reading this book rightly.

Aside from the glory of Christ being an obvious passion of the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Scripture it is also a personal passion.  In August and September of 1999 I had the great opportunity to read about Jesus for the first time in my life.  In August of 1999 I left my home in Alabama to study at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina.  Wednesday of Hell Week we were escorted to the chapel where a team of chaplains greeted us and gave us Bibles.  It was not the first Bible I had ever owned, but it was the first Bible I had ever read.  By mid September I had made it clear through John’s Gospel and without knowing the cross, or the forgiveness of sins, or the adoption of sons, or of eternal life, I did know simply from reading about Jesus in John’s Gospel that Jesus was glorious.  I knew he was worth following and from that moment on I committed my life to following him.  I want to be very careful as I talk about commitment, because Christian commitment is not a work but a grace.  What do I mean by this?  Augustine described Christian commitment as grace best when he wrote:

Do not think that thou are drawn against thy will.  The mind is drawn also by love… “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart” (Psalm37.4).  There is a pleasure of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet.  Moreover, if it was right in the poet to say, “Every man is drawn by his own pleasure,” –not necessity, but pleasure, not obligation, but delight, -how much more boldly ought we to say that man is drawn to Christ?…Give me a man that loves, and he feels what I say.  Give me one that longs, one that hungers, one that is travelling in this wilderness, and thirsting and panting after the fountain of his eternal home; give such and he knows what I say

– Augustine, Homilies on John’s Gospel [1]

According to Augustine, Christian commitment is commitment to the extent that a thirsty man is committed to drinking a cup of water, or a hungry man is committed to eating a sandwich.  As Augustine says I was drawn by pleasure, not obligation but delight.  To the extent that is commitment, I suppose you could say I was committed, but I hope you now see what I mean by commitment as grace rather than as work.

And finally, I want to argue that a passion for the glory of Christ is one of the key distinguishing factors between a hypocrite and a true child of heaven.  As a pastor of a church I see men and women who have a Biblically informed worldview.  I also see many men and women who profess Christ as Lord and savior.  I also see a great deal of men and women who pray, attend worship, tithe, read their Bibles etc.  But where the rubber really hits the road for me relates to the glory of Christ and the desires of the heart.  Let me draw back for a moment in order to enhance this theme somewhat.  C. S. Lewis in his Reflections on the Psalms had some interesting things to say about worship, praise, and glory and how they relate to the human heart.  He writes:

“I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.”[2]

First you will notice from Lewis’ quote that all people worship something. Second you will notice that all people worship whatever they most value.  Thirdly you will notice that when people do this they take delight in it. And finally you will notice that because they delight in praising what they value, they cannot help but praise what they value. The true child of heaven worships Christ because they value him most, and delight in praising him because it is the consummation of their desire.  William Guthrie a Scottish Puritan living in the 1600’s once wrote:

“Hypocrites never apprehended Christ as the only satisfying good in all the world, for which with joy they would quite all; for then the kingdom of God were entered into them…The truly renewed man dare, and can upon good ground say, and hath a testimony of it from on high, that his heart hath been changed in taking up with Christ, and hath been led out after him, as the only enriching treasure in whom ‘to be found he accounteth all things else loss, and dung (Phil 3.8,9)”[3]

The Destruction of Sin

In regards to the destruction of sin let me first say that the destruction of sin is a calling placed up all those who have been adopted by the Father and called into the Body of Christ. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3.5).

1)      The destruction of sin directly relates to the glory of Christ.  “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom 2.24).  In a recent national survey the number one reason why people said they would not become Christians was because their principle experience with Christians was one of hypocrisy.

2)      Sin can keep us from the light of Christ.  “And this is the judgment:  the light has cominto the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3.19-20).  Many times in the lives of young Christians, not young in age but young in experience I have witnessed this phenomena.  They receive Christ.  Sin is dealt a crushing blow.  Their lives are visibly and dramatically changed, so much so that they begin to trust in their changed lives rather than in the God who changed it and they set up their changed life as a false God.  When that false God fails them, they withdraw from the God, from the church, and from the Godly people who have poured into them because they don’t want the sin, which they proclaimed form the rooftops as defeated to be exposed.

3)      Sin will be with us as long as we are in the body:  “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Rom 7.21-23).  I want to be clear that this seminar is not about abolishing sin in your life.  Rather, if Paul’s words resonate with you at all take heart!  For you would not even struggle if the Spirit of God were not struggling within you.

4)      Sin will sicken the “new man”.  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  Commenting on this verse John Owen writes:

“Paul affirms that the inward man is renewed day by day, while the outward man perishes.  Those who neglect mortification allow the inner man to perish.  Grace in the heart must have exercise.  If it is allowed to lie still, it withers and decays (Rev 3.2), and sin seeks to harden our hearts (Heb 3.13).  The omission of mortification withers grace while lust flourishes.  The frame of the heart grows worse and worse.  When sin gains a considerable victory, it breaks the bones of the soul (Psa 31.10; 51.8).  It makes a man weak, sick, and ready to die (Psa 38.3-5), so that he cannot look up (Psa 40.12). [4]

5)       If you neglect the destruction of sin you will cause both yourself and those you love enormous pain. Read the rest of this entry »





Thomas Watson: What is the Fear of the Lord?

19 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from Watson’s The Great Gain of Godliness pgs 12-16. Incidentally, the book was lost for some time and thus was on Spurgeon’s “wish list”. Unlike Spurgeon, who longed to read this lost text, you can find it easily on amazon for around $7 or simply read it online by clicking here

Having done with the frontispiece of the text, I begin, in the first place, with the character in general of the godly: they are fearers of God, “Those who feared the Lord”. What fear is meant here? Considered negatively:

1. It is not meant of a natural fear, which is a tremor or palpitation of heart, occasioned by the approach of some imminent danger. “They are afraid of dangers on the road” (Eccles. 12:5).

2. It is not meant of a sinful fear, which is twofold:

A superstitious fear. A black cat crossing the path, is by some more dreaded than a harlot lying in the bed.

A carnal fear. This is the fever of the soul which sets it a shaking. He who is timorous, will be treacherous; he will decoy his friend, and deny his God. Three times in one chapter Christ cautions us against the fear of men, (Matthew 10:26-31). Aristotle says that the reason why the chameleon turns into so many colors, is through excessive fear. Fear makes men change their religion as the chameleon does her colors!

A carnal fear is EXCRUCIATING, “fear has torment in it.” (1 John 4:18).The Greek word for torment is sometimes put for hell (Matt. 25:46). Fear has hell in it.

A carnal fear is PERNICIOUS. It indisposes for duty. The disciples, under the power of fear, were fitter to flee than to pray, (Matthew 26:56), and it puts men upon sinful means to save themselves: “The fear of man brings a snare!” (Proverbs 29:25). What made Peter deny Christ, and Origen sprinkle incense before the idol—but fear?

Considered positively, the fear meant in the text is a divine fear, which is the reverencing and adoring of God’s holiness, and the setting of ourselves always under his sacred inspection. The infinite distance between God and us causes this fear.

When God’s glory began to shine out upon the Mount, Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake!” (Heb. 12:21). Such as approach God’s presence with light feathery hearts, and worship him in a crude, careless manner—have none of this fear.

“Those who feared the Lord”. In the words are two parts.

1. The Act—fear.

2. The Object—the Lord.

“Those who feared the Lord”. The fear of God is the sum of all true true religion. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ). Fear is the leading grace, the first seed which God sows in the heart. When a Christian can say little of faith, and perhaps nothing of assurance, yet he dares not deny that he fears God (Neh. 1:11). God is so great—that the Christian is afraid of displeasing him; and so good—that he is afraid of losing him.

Doctrine: It is an indispensable duty incumbent on Christians, to be fearers of God. “Fear God!” (Eccles. 5:7). “That you may fear the glorious and awesome name of the Lord your God!” (Deut. 28:58). This fear of God, is the very foundation of a saint. One can no more act as a Christian without the fear of God—than he can act as a man without reason. This holy fear is the fixed temper and complexion of the soul; this fear is not servile—but filial. There is a difference between fearing God, and being afraid of God. The godly fear God as a child does his father; the wicked are afraid of God as the prisoner is of the judge! This divine fear will appear admirable if you consider how it is mixed and interwoven with several of the graces.

1. The fear of God is mixed with LOVE (Psalm 145:19, 20)

The chaste spouse fears to displease her husband, because she loves him. There is a necessity that fear and love should be in conjunction. Love is as the sails to make swift the soul’s motion; and fear is as the ballast to keep it steady in true religion. Love will be apt to grow wanton, unless it is counter-balanced with fear.

2. The fear of God is mixed with FAITH. “By faith Noah, moved with holy fear, prepared an ark” (Hebrews 11:7). When the soul looks either to God’s holiness, or its own sinfulness—it fears. But it is a fear mixed with faith in Christ’s merits; the soul trembles—yet trusts. Like a ship which lies at anchor, though it shakes with the wind, yet it is fixed at anchor. God in great wisdom couples these two graces of faith and fear. Fear preserves seriousness, faith preserves cheerfulness. Fear is as lead to the net—to keep a Christian from floating in presumption; and faith is as cork to the net—to keep him from sinking in despair.

3. The fear of God is mixed with PRUDENCE. He who fears God has the serpent’s eye in the dove’s head. He foresees and avoids those rocks upon which others run. “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3). Though divine fear does not make a person cowardly—it makes him cautious.

4. The fear of God is mixed with HOPE. “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:18). One would think that fear would destroy hope—but it nourishes it. Fear is to hope, as the oil to the lamp—it keeps it burning. The more we fear God’s justice—the more we may hope in his mercy. Indeed, such as have no fear of God do sometimes hope—but it is not “good hope through grace” (2 Thess. 5:26). Sinners pretend to have the “helmet of hope” (1 Thess. 5:8)—but lack the “breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14).

5. The fear of God is mixed with INDUSTRY. “Noah, moved with holy fear, prepared an ark” (Hebrews 11:7). There is a carnal fear, which represents God as a severe Judge. This takes the soul off from duty, “I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:25).

But there is also a fear of diligence. A Christian fears—and prays; fears—and repents. Fear quickens industry. The spouse, fearing lest the bridegroom should come before she is dressed, hastens and puts on her jewels, that she may be ready to meet him. Fear causes a watchful eye—and a working hand. Fear banishes sloth out of its diocese. “The greatest labor in true religion,” says holy fear, “is far less than the least pain the damned feel in hell.” There is no





Jerry Bridges: If I “died to sin” why do I keep sinning?

19 12 2011

A wonderful excerpt seeking to answer an important pastoral question

The question arises, however, “if we died to sin’s dominion, why do we still struggle with sin in our daily lives?”  When Paul wrote, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” he was referring, not to the activity of committing sins, but to continuing to live under the dominion of sin.  The word live means to continue or abide in.  It connotes a settled course of life.  To use Paul’s words from Romans 8.7, “The sinful mind [one under sin’s dominion] is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”  But the believer who has died to sin’s reign and dominion delights in God’s law.  the believer approves of it as holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7.12), even though he or she may struggle to obey it.

We must distinguish between the activity of sin, which is true in all believers, and the dominion of sin, which is true of all unbelievers.  Sinclair Ferguson has written, “Sin is not primarily an activity of man’s will so much as a captivity which man suffers, as an alien power grips his soul.  It is an axiom [John] Owen [whose teaching Ferguson is summarizing] that while the presence of sin can never be abolished in this life, nor the influence of sin altered (its tendency is always the same), its dominion can, indeed, must be destroyed if a man is to be a Christian.

Therefore a believer cannot continue in sin.  We no longer live in the realm of sin, under its reign and practical dominion.  We have, to use Paul’s words, died to sin.  We indeed do sin and even our best deeds are stained with sin, but our attitude toward it is essentially different from that of an unbeliever.  We succumb to temptations, either from our own evil desires (James 1.13), or from the world or the Devil (Ephesians 2.1-3), but this is different from a settled disposition.  Further, to paraphrase from Ferguson on John Owen, our sin is a burden that afflicts us rather than a pleasure that delights us.

The late Scottish theologian John Murray wrote on Romans 6.2, “What the apostle has in view is the once for all definitive breach with sin which constitutes the identity of the believer.”  A believer cannot therefore live in sin; if a man lives in sin he is not a believer.  If we view sin as a realm or sphere then the believer no longer lives in that realm or sphere.

My perception of present-day Christendom is that most believers have little understanding of what Dr. Murray calls the “once-for-all definitive breach with sin.”  But it is this decisive deliverance from the dominion of sin through union with Christ in His death that ensures that a true believer will not have the cavalier attitude, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  If a person does have such an attitude, it is a likely indication that the person is not a true believer, however much he or she professes to have trusted in Christ for salvation.

Bridges, The Disciplines of Grace, pg 72

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