- 2015Aug 28
A couple months ago, I was unpacking boxes of books and files in my new office at Cornerstone Community Church when a lesson plan caught my eye. It was on the Tri-Unity of God, which I had put together in the fall of 2012, while Satan was making a very distressing but unsuccessful attempt to destroy the gospel witness of our former church through one of his oldest strategies---attack from within by promoting lies about God. In this case, it was by leading a few members to deny the Trinitarian nature of God and embrace a strange mix of modalism and Jesus-only Pentacostalism, and attempt to spread it to other members. My pastoral response was twofold: plead with those who had embraced soul-damning error and protect the rest of the flock by teaching biblical doctrine. My summary document included a chart of the works that the three persons of the godhead accomplish together, fourteen of them.
One of those works, which I want to briefly reflect on, is the work of sanctification. In other words, all three members of the divine Godhead are involved in the work of rescuing sinners like you and me and gradually fashioning us into the image of Jesus. The Father called us in Christ; the Son redeemed and keeps us; and the Spirit transforms us into His image as we grow in submission to His written Word.
The Father Set Us Apart for Christ
According to Scripture, the Father chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). We are saints by calling (1 Corinthians 1:2), that is, we have been set apart by God---for God. We now belong to God since we have been bought by Him with the blood of His Son (1 Corinthians 6:20). Believers in Christ are “the called” (Jude 1), and “those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
The Son of God Redeemed Us through His Blood
According to Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:21-25); lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15); died, was buried, and rose bodily from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4); ascended to heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those whom the Father set apart to be the Son’s bride (Acts 1:9; Hebrews 4:15-16; 9:24; 10:12). The death Jesus died on the cross of Calvary was a representative, propitiatory, and substitutionary sacrifice for sin (John 19:30; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He redeemed us---bought us back from the slave market of sin---with the price of His blood (Ephesians 1:7). And those whom He redeems He also sanctifies (Hebrews 2:11).
The Spirit Transforms Us into the Image of Christ as He Empowers us to Obey the Word
According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit ministers to the believer by leading, teaching, empowering, interceding, producing spiritual fruit, and filling (controlling) those surrendered to God’s Word (Romans 8:14, 26; 1 John 2:20,27; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:18). In short, He sanctifies us. That is, as we behold the glory of Christ in the Word---with a heart attitude of submission---we are gradually, progressively transformed from the inside out. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
These glorious works should compel us to worship the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
- 2015Jul 02
Last week’s Supreme Court decision in favor of homosexual marriage is one that grieves the heart of any true Christian. It brings grief because we know the Scriptures are true when it says that sin is a disgrace to any nation (Proverbs 14:34). But it also grieves us because we are sinners who have experienced the transforming power of the gospel and, therefore, also know that the hearty approval of sin does not do the sinner any favors. Instead it only leads to a deeper hardening of the heart away from God, and a searing of the conscience that cries out its warnings concerning the consequences of rebellion against God.
So we grieve, but we do not grieve without hope. Why is that? Because we know that Jesus Christ and His gracious gospel always win. He will win the victory when He returns and He will win now, though it rarely appears that way from the horizontal perspective. We know this because we believe it by faith. Therefore, my prayer for the true church continues to be the same as it has been for decades: “Lord, awaken us. Since judgment shall first come to the household of God, awaken us to our own sinfulness and give us the gracious gift of repentance that we may know You more deeply, obey the Word more faithfully, love others more authentically, and announce the good news of Christ to the nations more fervently.”
Let Us Not Lose Gospel Perspective
You see, one thing that is true of the true church is that we never lose hope, ultimately. Yes, we get discouraged, even angry, but we do not lose hope if our eyes of faith are focused where they should be—on the glory of the risen Christ. And we never lose our perspective when we remember that Jesus will come again to judge the world and claim His bride and when He does He will set all things right. Therefore, let us not lose hope. Let us not lose gospel perspective. Let us remember that the gospel always shines brightest when the world is darkest. Yes, the world is running rapidly downhill toward destruction, but that is because the world is made up of sinners who, in their independence from God, are desperately trying to fill their lives with things that will never satisfy. Until they find rest in Jesus who invites all sinners to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28), folly will abound still more and more. What is needed now is the same thing that has always been needed, a firm belief in the power of the gospel to transform sinners from the inside out.
Let Us Resurrect the Doctrine of Conversion
Authentic biblical ministry stands in awe of the power of God’s gospel to convert thoroughly sinful men and women from thoroughly sinful thoughts, actions, motives, emotions, and desires to Spirit-generated new creations that reflect the beautiful love and holiness of Jesus Christ—the Lord we are called to follow. God’s vision for making disciples; therefore, requires a theological understanding of the nature and effects of sin and of the work of His sovereign grace; not merely to reform sinners, but to regenerate, redeem, rescue, and thoroughly recreate them by reclaiming them for His own possession. Therefore, we must be convinced that, in order for any natural-born rebel who is against God’s divine sovereignty to come to the place of voluntarily submitting his or her will to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and, as a disciple, obeying His commands, a supernatural revolution must take place in the inner person. Nothing short of an extraordinary work of God via the wonder-working power of the gospel message is required—a work called “conversion.”
A biblical illustration of conversion is seen in the body of believers that God redeemed in the thoroughly sinful city of Corinth. Noted for its immorality, the city contained the temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility, which housed 1,000 temple prostitutes. Its reputation was so well known that to commit sexual immorality was to “corinthianize.” G. Campbell Morgan described Corinth as one of the greatest cities in the Roman Empire, “characterized by wealth, luxuriousness and lust, by extreme cleverness and the arguments of its philosophers. The language used then was supposed to be the highest form of the Greek language. There was a phrase of the time, ‘To speak as they do at Corinth,’ which meant they spoke with accuracy and beauty, and with artistic finish. Corinth was the centre of everything intellectual, on the level of their own philosophies; but it was rotten at heart, utterly corrupt, given over to every manner of lasciviousness.” The good news is that God in His mercy chose to save some out of this corruption.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
These are words of hope. “Such were some of you” (v. 11) is a bold declaration of the power of the gospel to change lives and lifestyles. The next word, “but,” highlights a strong contrast between what they were in the past and what they now are in Christ. This is conversion. This is a turning from sin to God. This is what God’s transforming grace looks like. Let us remember that conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit through the faithful proclamation of the gospel, the light of which can only be seen in the dark.
Tomorrow, we will consider the three miraculous works of the Spirit that take place upon conversion to Christ.
[Much of the content of this blog post is adapted from Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-Personal Discipleship, published by Shepherd Press.]
- 2015Apr 03
When the Old Testament prophet Isaiah predicted the suffering of Messiah he said, “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” (53:10). Why? Why would God the Father be pleased to kill His only begotten Son? The verse goes on to answer that question, “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering.” God was pleased with the obedience of Jesus and the price He willingly paid for the guilt of our sin.
- God was pleased to display His love for us.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The required payment for sin is death. Jesus paid that price by dying on the cross and enduring God’s wrath against our sin.
- God was pleased to raise His Son from the dead.
On the cross Jesus cried, “It is finished.” The debt for sin was paid in full. Three days later, He rose from the dead to prove it. He now lives, and offers eternal life to those who will repent and trust Him. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom 10:9-10).
Have you placed the eternal well-being of your soul into the hands of God by trusting in Jesus? If not, cry out to Him today. Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).