Category Archives: Holiness

Challies: 9 Steps to Putting That Sin to Death

It’s a battle we all must fight. It’s a battle we all must fight from this moment until the moment we die. It’s a battle fraught with discouragement and setbacks, yet a battle we all can and must win. It’s the battle against sin.

All throughout the New Testament we are told to put our sin to death. For example, in Colossians 3 Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” How do you do that? How do you stop a sin, and how do you stop an especially stubborn and deep-rooted sin? Is there any hope? I want to track with John Owen here (via his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation) and give a list of 9 things you need to do to overcome sin. Consider that sin that is prevalent in your life and then consider each of these 9 steps.

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CultureWatch: Hating Sin, Loving Holiness

by Bill Muehlenberg

There are millions of Christians today who read Scriptures many times over, but live just like atheists. They read the Word of God but they don’t believe, they don’t live it. To read the Word daily yet ignore its clear demands and teachings means we are simply ‘Christian’ atheists.

Consider just one passage of Holy Scripture: Hebrews 12:14b which says this: “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. How many millions of Christians have read this countless times. But who actually believes it? Who takes a passage such as this seriously?

Without holiness we will not see the Lord. End of the story. No getting around it. Now of course New Testament Christianity is clear in teaching that the initial step in getting right with God (righteousness), and the ongoing step (sanctification) are a package deal We cannot have one without the other.

By grace through faith we are declared righteous and holy by the finished work of Christ. But that is only the beginning. The next step is to live like what we have been declared to be. Living a holy live experientially is also of grace through faith, but we must take the necessary steps to achieve this. We must be obedient. The gospel really is, as David Pawson reminds us, quite simple:

“It is not, ‘you must now be holy’. It is not, ‘you needn’t be holy – you’re still going to heaven’. It is, rather, ‘you can be holy’. Holiness is on offer as well as forgiveness. Both are by faith from beginning to end. It is not only to be covered by his righteousness, but to have his righteousness created within me.”

We are to be holy not just in our standing, but in our state. We are pronounced holy and righteous because of what Jesus did for us, but now we are to appropriate that, experience it, and slowly but surely live it out in our lives. It does no good to raise your hand as an emotional response to some gospel pitch years ago, but to keep on living like the devil.

A real Christian – over time at least – learns to hate sin – beginning with his own – and to love righteousness and holiness. But the reason so few Christians are moving down this path is because we have proclaimed a false gospel to people. We have emphasised the love of God but totally ignored the holiness and righteousness of God.

Thus our gospel is truncated and incomplete. We tell people that God loves them unconditionally and accepts them just as they are, and all they have to do is give a mental assent to all this. We no longer preach the horribleness of sin, the utter need of repentance, and a willingness to renounce self and take up our cross daily.

So we have plenty of Christians who have sung ten choruses of “Just As I Am” who leave a gospel meeting just as they were. They have never been regenerated because they have never repented. And they have never repented because they have never been told there is need to. Just accept God’s love – end of story. As Pawson says:

The idea that God loves everybody unconditionally, wants them all to come to him just as they are, and everyone can then be happy – that is not the gospel, or the God that we are to present to the world. It implies when we emphasise to unbelievers that God is love that we are lovable. Because we measure His love by ours…. God had to tell the Jews, ‘I don’t love you because you are special; you are special because I love you’. And that is the biblical emphasis. God doesn’t love us because we are lovable, but because He is love. That’s a very different thing. And so we have had an overemphasis on a God of Love in our preaching to unbelievers – something that the New Testament apostles never did.

He is quite right. I will give you a hundred dollars for every time you can find for me the love of God being mentioned in the book of Acts. Surely if we want to know what biblical evangelism is all about, we will find it here. But in Acts we find a gospel of repentance, and a God of righteousness and holiness being proclaimed.

We need to get back to New Testament evangelism. We need to get back to the gospel message of the New Testament. It is never about ‘you best life now’ or how to be happy and prosperous and feel good about yourself. It is about: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

All the great preachers and evangelists knows these truth, which is why they had such a powerful impact, and why their converts remained – they preached sin and repentance, and they preached holiness. And that is what we must once again do as well if we want to have a real impact, and if we want to make real disciples of Jesus Christ.

Let me close with some of these great men of God, and their great words on sin, repentance, and holiness. Let their words soak in deeply and with great Holy Ghost conviction:

“You know, we live in a day when we are more afraid of holiness than we are of sinfulness.” Leonard Ravenhill

“It is not the absence of sin but the grieving over it which distinguishes the child of God from empty professors.” A. W. Pink

“Listen, I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist, I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head, and I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.” Billy Sunday

“There must be a divorce between you and sin, or there can be no marriage between you and Christ.” Charles Spurgeon

“Sin is the greatest power in the world, with one exception, and this is the power of God.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“True repentance begins with KNOWLEDGE of sin. It goes on to work SORROW for sin. It leads to CONFESSION of sin before God. It shows itself before a person by a thorough BREAKING OFF from sin. It results in producing a DEEP HATRED for all sin.” J.C. Ryle

“The idea that God will pardon a rebel who has not given up his rebellion is contrary both to the Scriptures and to common sense.” A.W. Tozer

“If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is a fiction.” C.H. Spurgeon

“Before I preach love, mercy, and grace, I must preach sin, law, and judgement.” John Wesley

“True repentance will entirely change you; the bias of your souls will be changed, then you will delight in God, in Christ, in His Law, and in His people.” George Whitefield

“The holiest person is one who is most conscious of what sin is.” Oswald Chambers

I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him. Charles Spurgeon

“People may refuse to see the truth of our arguments, but they cannot evade the evidence of a holy life.” J.C. Ryle

“The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God.” R.C. Sproul

“As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.”
Jerry Bridges

“It is not surprising that the cross has been discounted by modern theologians; it is because they have started with the love of God without His holiness.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Every man is as holy as he really wants to be.” A. W. Tozer

The holy man is not one who cannot sin. A holy man is one who will not sin. A. W. Tozer

“The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” Leonard Ravenhill

“Without holiness, no one shall see the Lord. Jesus didn’t die to save us from hell. That’s a fringe benefit! He died to get total occupation of us. To be holy in speech… in actions… in everything.” Leonard Ravenhill

Source

Pursuing Righteousness

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. 1 John 2:29 NIV

John’s point is simple: some likeness of a father and mother is seen in the life of a child. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” So what would it look like to be born of God?

John says, “If you know that God is righteous, it will be obvious to you that everyone who does what is right has been born of God!”

What does that mean? John says, “If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). John is not saying that everything Christians do is right. He’s saying that a true Christian hungers and thirsts after righteousness, pursues righteousness, and by the grace of God, makes progress in doing what is right.

Righteousness does not begin with a personal system of values. It begins with God. “If you know that he is righteous.” You’ll allow him to tell you and show you what is right. How? Through what God has said in his Word he teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). If you are born of the God who is righteous, you will do what is right, and you will learn what is right as you place your life under the authority of God’s Word.

John does not say, “If you do what is right, you will be born of God.” He says, “If you are born of God, you will do what is right.” If the life of the God who is righteous is in you, then it will become evident in your pursuing what is right.

Are you pursuing and making progress in doing what is right?

That’s this week’s LifeKEY!

Colin S. Smith
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From the message by Colin Smith called “Signs of Life – Part 1” from the series “Regeneration: How Christ Changes Your Soul.”

Click Here to Review the Entire Series

Spurgeon Quotes on Prayer

 

I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this, the measure of the intensity of your prayer.

The ship of prayer may sail through all temptations, doubts and fears, straight up to the throne of God; and though she may be outward bound with only griefs, and groans, and sighs, she shall return freighted with a wealth of blessings!

It is a good rule never to look into the face of a man in the morning till you have looked into the face of God.

It is well said that neglected prayer is the birthplace of all evil.

Methinks every true Christian should be exceedingly earnest in prayer concerning the souls of the ungodly; and when they are so, how abundantly God blesses them and how the church prospers!

Oh, without prayer what are the church’s agencies, but the stretching out of a dead man’s arm, or the lifting up of the lid of a blind man’s eye? Only when the Holy Spirit comes is there any life and force and power.

Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer can do.

Prayer meetings are the throbbing machinery of the church.

Remember, Christ’s scholars must study upon their knees.

True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.

We shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.

 

America’s Greatest Sermon for America’s Greatest Need

 

While the United States celebrated her 238th birthday last Friday, many Americans are unaware of another significant anniversary taking place this week. On July 8, 1741, America heard what is often hailed as the greatest sermon preached on her soil from a man who is often hailed as the greatest theologian and thinker to minister on her soil.

In the years 1733 through 1737, Jonathan Edwards continued to preach in the  Northampton pulpit that was now his own, having been bequeathed to him by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. During these years God had blessed Edwards’ preaching and ministry with revival in New England and beyond. Many were converted and others edified in their faith. Biographer George Marsden quips, “By March and April of 1735, the spiritual rains had turned the stream [of conversions] into a flood.”[1] Edwards himself describes the revival’s effect on his congregation:

 

Our public assemblies were then beautiful, the congregation was then alive in God’s service, everyone earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth; the assembly in general were, from time to time in tears while the Word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors.[2]

From 1739 through 1742, New England and other colonies experienced what historians now refer to as The Great Awakening. This was largely accomplished through the itinerant preaching of George Whitefield and the theological ministry of Jonathan Edwards. While Whitefield is known as the preacher of the Awakening, Edwards is often revered as the theologian of the Awakening. Nevertheless, Edwards was no less the preacher, as a perusal of any of his sermons would prove.

On July 8, 1741, Edwards traveled to a town named Enfield, where he had been invited to attend a church service. Enfield was a notoriously hard-hearted town. While the neighboring town of Suffield was enjoying much of the grace of God poured out in the revival, Enfield remained obstinate. A team of ministers devised a plan and “instituted a series of weekday services where they would travel back and forth between pious Suffield and impious Enfield, hoping to spread the infection of revival.”[3]

On that particular Wednesday, Edwards intended to hear a sermon, not preach one. But as providence would have it, the pastor of that church was sick, and Edwards was called upon to preach. He “just happened to have the sermon manuscript in his saddlebag,”[4] and so 273 years ago Tuesday he preached the most famous sermon delivered on American soil: “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.”

The light-hearted congregants of Enfield were sobered by the gravity of their desperate condition made known to them in detail. The sermon created a stir among them unlike anything before or since. Stephen Williams, a man in attendance, wrote of the service in his diary:

A most awakening sermon. … Before the sermon was done, there was a great moaning and crying out through the whole house. ‘What shall I do to be saved? Oh I am going to Hell! Oh, what shall I do for Christ?’ … The shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing. … Amazing and astonishing the power of God was seen. Several souls were wrought upon that night, and oh the cheerfulness and pleasantness of their countenances that received comfort![5]

I want to share with you some of the more memorable passages from this sermon that God so powerfully used in that Enfield church. My hope is that reading a bit from Edwards on the realities of the hell we deserve will do four things:

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The Apparent Paradox of Sanctification – John MacArthur

 

Philippians 2:12-13

Code: B140702

by John MacArthur

How do you overcome sin and live the Christian life?  Is defeating sin something God does in you, or do you defeat it by obeying the commands of Scripture? In other words, is the Christian life an exercise in passive trust or active obedience? Is it all God’s doing, all the believer’s doing, or a combination of both? Those questions are as old as the church, and the varied answers have spawned movements and denominations.

This is not an unusual issue when dealing with spiritual truth. Many doctrines involve seeming paradoxes. For example, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man; and while Scripture was written by human authors, God wrote every word. The gospel is offered to the whole world, yet applied only to the elect. God eternally secures believers’ salvation, yet they are commanded to persevere.

Christians who try to reconcile every doctrine in a humanly rational way are inevitably drawn to extremes. Seeking to remove all mystery and paradox, they emphasize one truth or aspect of God’s Word at the expense of another which seems to contradict it. This is precisely how many Christians have handled the doctrine of sanctification. One view of sanctification emphasizes God’s role to the virtual exclusion of the believer’s effort. This is often referred to as quietism. The opposite extreme is called pietism.

The quietist sees believers as passive in sanctification. A common maxim is, “Let go and let God.” Another is, “I can’t; God can.” Quietism tends to be mystical and subjective, focusing on personal feelings and experiences. A person who is utterly submitted to and dependent on God, they say, will be divinely protected from sin and led into faithful living. Trying to strive against sin or discipline oneself to produce good works is considered not only futile but unspiritual and counterproductive.

One champion of this view was the devout Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith, whose book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life has been read by millions. In it she writes,

What can be said about man’s part in this great work but that he must continually surrender himself and continually trust? But when we come to God’s side of the question, what is there that may not be said as to the manifold ways, in which He accomplishes the work entrusted to Him? It is here that the growing comes in. The lump of clay could never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay pit for thousands of years; but when it is put into the hands of a skilful potter it grows rapidly, under his fashioning, into the vessel he intends it to be. And in the same way the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is made into a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use. (Westwood, N.J.: Revell, 1952, 32. Italics in original.)

How a Christian can fall into sin is a difficult question for the quietist to answer. They are forced to argue that such a person obviously misunderstands the matter of complete surrender, and has taken himself out of the hands of the heavenly Potter. But that flawed answer brings God’s sovereignty into question—if the Lord is completely in control, how can a believer take himself out of God’s hands?

Pietists, on the other hand, are typically aggressive in their pursuit of doctrinal and moral purity. Historically, this movement originated in seventeenth-century Germany as a reaction to the dead orthodoxy of many Protestant churches. To their credit, most pietists place strong emphasis on Bible study, holy living, self-discipline, and practical Christianity. They emphasize such passages as “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1) and “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).

Unfortunately, this unbalanced view often leads to an overemphasis on self-effort to the virtual exclusion of dependence on divine power. As you might expect, pietism frequently leads to legalism, moralism, self-righteousness, a judgmental spirit, pride, and hypocrisy.

The quietist says, “Do nothing.”

The pietist says, “Do everything.”

In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul presents the appropriate resolution between the two. He makes no effort to rationally harmonize the believer’s part and God’s part in sanctification. He is content with the paradox and simply states both truths, saying on the one hand, sanctification is of believers (Philippians 2:12), and on the other hand, it is of God (Philippians 2:13).

The truth is that sanctification is God’s work, but He performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of His people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.

Today there is an intense debate within the church about this vital issue. The stakes are high—your view of sanctification informs and directs how you understand your new nature in Christ, how you evangelize others, pursue godliness, govern your heart and mind, how you raise and discipline your children, and how you understand and follow God’s commands in Scripture. For pastors and church leaders, your position on this issue will determine how you preach and teach, how you give counsel to troubled hearts, and how you engage in church discipline.

Neither quietism nor pietism represents the biblical path of sanctification. Both are spiritual ditches to steer clear of—they will impede your spiritual progress, and potentially obstruct it altogether.

In the days ahead, we’re going to examine the model of sanctification Paul presents in Philippians 2, and explore the dual realities of God’s sovereign work and man’s responsibility.

 

(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians.)


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140702
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