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Duty of Gratitude for Divine Grace: Blessings of Grace: Perfection- Book Seventh- Chapter 3- Section 7

Book Seventh

CHAPTER III.

SECTION VII.–PERFECTION.

The process of sanctification, which is continued during the present life, is completed when the subjects of it are perfectly fitted for the service and enjoyments of heaven. In this work of the Spirit, the resurrection of the body is included, and the fashioning of it like the glorious body of Christ. Having been predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son,[227] the purposed work of grace is not completed until we appear in glory, with our bodies like the glorious body of the Redeemer. For this perfect conformity, the saints on earth long, and to it they look as the consummation of their wishes and hopes: “then shall I be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.”[228] This was the object of Paul’s earnest desire, the prize for which he put forth every effort. He refers to it in these words: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead: not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”[229]

The work of grace will not be completed until the second coming of Christ: “He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”[230] Then the last change will be made, which will fit us for the eternal service and enjoyment of God, in his high and holy place. “Then we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” “Now we know in part; but then we shall know even as also we are known.” “Then that which is perfect will have come;” and until then every saint must say with Paul: “Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect.”

Besides this final perfection, to which the saints are taught to aspire, there are stages in their progress to which the name perfection is, in a subordinate sense, applied in the Holy Scriptures. The disembodied saints, now in the presence of God, though they have not attained to the resurrection of the body, are nevertheless called “just men made perfect.”[231] They are free from the body of death, free from sin, free from all the tribulations and sorrows of this world, and are present with the Lord, and in the enjoyment of his love.

Even in the present life there are stages in the Christian’s progress to which the term perfection is applied. When they have attained to an enlarged knowledge of divine truth, they are said to be perfect, or of full age, to distinguish them from those who have learned only the first principles of the doctrine of Christ.[232] Men who make a full and consistent exhibition of the religious character, by a godly life, are called perfect. So Job was “perfect and upright, fearing God and eschewing evil.”[233] To Christians generally the term “perfect” appears to be applied, in the exhortation of Paul: “Let us, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”[234] He here includes himself among the perfect; and yet, in the same chapter,[235] he affirms that he was not already perfect. It is clear, therefore, that the words are used in different senses in the two places.

No perfection to which the people of God attain in the present life, includes perfect freedom from sin. Job, though a perfect man, said, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. If I say, I am perfect, it also shall prove me perverse.”[236] Paul, though numbering himself among the perfect, said, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.”[237] “I am carnal, sold under sin.”[238] John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves:”[239] and Solomon, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.”[240] With these declarations of God’s word, the experience of Christians in all ages has agreed; and they have found need for daily prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.”

In the precept, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect,”[241] we may take the term in its highest sense. As we are commanded to love God with all the heart–to be holy because he is holy; it is our duty to be perfectly free from sin; and to come up to this standard, should be our constant aim and effort. We cannot attain to a perfect knowledge of God in the present life; but we may follow on to know him.[242] So we cannot attain to a perfect likeness in holiness, yet we may be “changed into the same image from glory to glory.”[243] Progress in the divine life is full of reward, and full of encouragement, even while we are fighting the good fight of faith, and before we obtain the victor’s crown. The promise of grace to help in every struggle, of continued success in every conflict, and of final victory, is sufficient encouragement to put forth every effort. We should ever press toward the mark, ever keep the high standard of perfection in view, and aim to reach it. “Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”[244]

The indication is fearful when a man excuses sin in himself, on the ground that perfection is not attainable in the present life. A true Christian may have a besetting sin; but any one who has an indulged, allowed, or excused sin, has reason to fear that the love of sin has never been crucified in his heart. And he who satisfies himself with any standard below absolute perfection in holiness, is so far allowing sin in himself, and giving the indication which ought to alarm him.

In the spiritual warfare, of which every believer is conscious, the love of God in the heart is in conflict with other affections which are not duly subordinated to it. Growth in grace implies an ascendancy of the holy affection over those with which it contends. That gains strength, and those grow weaker, as the house of David waxed stronger, and house of Saul weaker,[245] in their struggle for dominion over Israel. It is therefore our duty, that we may grow in grace, to cherish the holy affections, which rise heavenward, and to mortify the carnal affections, which are earthward in their tendency. No man on earth can justly claim that the affections of his heart are perfectly regulated according to the high standard of God’s law. The internal conflict between the law in the members and the law in the mind, does not cease till God calls away the spirit from its union with the mortal body. The phrase “law in our members,”[246] does not imply that our sin belongs properly to our material bodies; but it nevertheless apparently suggests that the conflict between the law in the members and the law in the mind, may be expected to continue as long as the members and the mind have their present relation to each other. Just men are made perfect[247] when they become disembodied spirits. When absent from the body, they are present with the Lord;[248] and they are then holy; for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.[249]

We should not attribute to death the efficiency of our final deliverance from sin. It is only an instrument which the Holy Spirit uses in his work, just as he has used the many afflictions which have preceded death, and of which death is the termination. As this is the last suffering which the righteous will endure, the last enemy which remains to be destroyed, it is appropriately used as the last instrumentality which the Holy Spirit will employ in his work. And it is a most suitable instrumentality. Death introduces us into the full knowledge of God, which is necessary to the perfect love of him. It opens to our view the unseen things of the eternal world, that they may have their full and proper influence on our minds. It separates us for ever from the things of earth, to which our affections have been so strongly inclined to cleave. The death of a beloved friend has often been blessed as a means of our sanctification: but when we die, all our surviving friends die to us at once. The loss of property has weaned us from the world: but at death we lose all our earthly possessions at a single stroke. God may have burned down our dwellings and consumed in the flames the coffers which contained our gold, when he graciously designed to direct our thoughts to the house not made with hands, and to the treasure which cannot be consumed. What, then, when the earth itself, which he has given for the habitation of men, and all therein which he has given them to enjoy, shall be burned up in the last conflagration; or shall be shown to us as prepared to be cast into that funeral fire? This is well adapted to eradicate from the heart the love of the things that perish. This fit instrumentality the Spirit employs in completing his work of sanctification. Yet, as in all our afflictions, the efficiency is not in the means employed,, but in the divine power which employs them to fulfil his gracious purpose.

[227] Rom. viii. 29.

[228] Ps. xvii. 15.

[229] Phil. iii. 11, 12, 13.

[230] Phil. i. 6.

[231] Heb. xii.23.

[232] Heb. vi. 1; v. 14.

[233] Job i. 1.

[234] Phil. iii. 15.

[235] Phil. iii. 12.

[236] Job ix. 20.

[237] Rom. vii. 21.

[238] Rom. vii. 14.

[239] 1 John i. 8.

[240] Eccl. vii. 20.

[241] Matt. v. 48.

[242] Hosea vi. 3.

[243] 2 Cor. iii. 19.

[244] 2 Cor. vii. 1.

[245] 2 Sam. iii. 1.

[246] Rom. vii. 23.

[247] Heb. xii. 23.

[248] 2 Cor. v. 8.

[249] Heb. xii. 14.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

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Duty of Gratitude for Divine Grace: Blessings of Grace: Sanctification- Book Seventh- Chapter 3- Section 5

Book Seventh

CHAPTER III.

SECTION V.–SANCTIFICATION.

THE HOLY SPIRIT CONTINUES TO SANCTIFY THOSE WHOM HE HAS REGENERATED, AND FINALLY PREPARES THEM FULLY FOR THE HOLY SERVICE AND ENJOYMENT OF HEAVEN.[160]

Regeneration is the beginning of sanctification, but the work is not completed at the outset. A new affection is produced in the heart, but it does not govern without opposition. The love of the world, the love of self, and all the carnal appetites and passions, have reigned in the heart; and the power of habit gives them a controlling influence, which is not readily yielded. Hence arises the warfare of which every regenerate man is conscious: the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.[161] In this struggle, the carnal propensities often threaten to prevail, and they would prevail, if God did not give a supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. “Without me,” said Jesus, “ye can do nothing.”[162] If severed from the living vine, the branches are sapless, fruitless, dead. But “he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit;”[163] and the Spirit of life from Christ, the head, flows through all the members of his body, and gives and preserves their vitality. This Spirit in them lusteth against the flesh, and enables them to carry on their warfare, and gives them final victory: “He that hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”[164]

As in the beginning, so in the progress of the work, the Holy Spirit operates by direct and by indirect influence. The indirect influence is by means of the truth. With reference to this, the Saviour prayed: “Sanctify them through thy truth;”[165] and, with reference to it, the Scriptures connect “belief of the truth,” with “sanctification of the Spirit;”[166] and speak of the heart being purified by faith.[167] The direct influence fixes the affections on the truth; or, in the language of Scripture, “writes the law in the heart.”[168] The mode in which this direct influence is exerted, we cannot explain; but the result is, that the truth produces its proper effect, which otherwise it would fail to accomplish, through the depravity of the heart. Our carnal affections tend to shut out the truth from the heart; hence Christ said; “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?”[169] While carnal affections tend to prevent the proper influence of the truth, the Spirit exercises an opposite influence, and “lusts against the flesh.” As this influence gives the word an efficacy which it would not otherwise possess, it is something superadded to the intrinsic power of the word. For this direct influence, the Psalmist prays: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law;”[170] and for this, the prayers recorded in the New Testament were offered: “Lord, increase our faith.”[171] “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”[172] This influence operated on the two disciples, when their understandings were opened, that they understood the Scriptures.[173] This influence is prayed for by every child of God, when, as he opens the Bible, he prays that what he is about to read, may be blessed to the good of his soul. And it is prayed for by the faithful minister of the gospel, and by every devout hearer, when at the beginning of a sermon, they ask God to make his truth effectual.

Besides the word of truth, the dispensations of Providence are used by the Holy Spirit, as means of sanctification. Afflictions are often blessed to the spiritual good of God’s people. David says: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.”[174] These afflictions are chastisements which our heavenly Father employs, to make us partakers of his holiness.”[175] In themselves, afflictions have no sanctifying efficacy, and many who are tried by them, are incited to greater hatred of God; but the Holy Spirit accompanies them to the believer with a sanctifying power, and uses them to wean his affections from the world, and fix them on God. When outward things either cease to give him enjoyment, or produce positive grief and pain, he finds within him a source of happiness, in the exercise of faith and hope in God. Hence, in his darkest hours, as to worldly prosperity, the believer sometimes finds his prospects of heaven most clear, and his foretaste of future blessedness most delightful.

[160] 2 Thess. ii. 13; 1 Pet. i. 2; 1 Cor. vi. 11; 2 Cor. iii. 18; Mal. iii. 3; Eph. v. 26; Tit. ii. 14; Prov. iv. 18; Phil. i. 6; 1 John iii. 2.

[161] Gal. v. 17.

[162] John xv. 5.

[163] 1 Cor. vi. 17.

[164] Phil. i. 6.

[165] John xvii. 17.

[166] 2 Thess. ii. 13.

[167] Acts xv. 9.

[168] Heb. x. 16.

[169] John v. 44.

[170] Ps. cxix. 18.

[171] Luke xvii. 5.

[172] Mark ix. 24.

[173] Luke xxiv. 45.

[174] Ps. cxix. 67.

[175] Heb. xii. 10.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

The Wednesday Word: The Purged Conscience

The work that purges the conscience has already been done and dusted. The more we understand this, the more we see there is no need for a guilty dread before the Father. The truth of the Gospel really does set us free. That is why a Gospel-educated conscience keeps us in perfect peace.

Of course, the truth of the purged conscience is only for those who have come to terms with their personal guilt. If you’ve seen, that by nature, you are a sinner, a dyed in the wool, incurable sinner. And, if you, as that wretched sinner, have by faith embraced the cross in repentance and are resting on the finished work alone, then a cleansed conscience is part of your inheritance.

The cleansed conscience sees that God Himself has disposed of our sins in a manner which has satisfied Him (Isaiah 38:17).

The question now is not whether or not the Father is satisfied that our sins have been paid for and put away. The question is, are we convinced that this has been done? Is our conscience informed about the accomplishments of God through the blood? Or is the guilt of old sins proving to have a longer than usual shelf life? Are old sins casting long shadows? If so, we need to apply the Gospel to ourselves.

Here’s the newsflash. The Father has laid all our sins on His spotless, sinless Son. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our sight. Christ the Lamb poured out His blood and took our sins away. The blackest and worst of our sins have gone. They were laid on Christ Jesus, and now they are no more. The man who represents us before God has taken them away, and they will never again be found (Isaiah 43:25).

These truths, when received by faith, will heal the conscience.

But our capacity for unbelief is staggering. We know, in theory, that the Father is satisfied with the blood. We say we believe that to be the case, yet we scrape out an ever limping, frustrating Christian existence supported only by a broken and troubled conscience. Is it that our sin is too great for the blood? Is it that our case is too extreme for God? I hate to tell you, but if you think like that, it is nothing other than self-righteousness. What is so extraordinary about your sin that the blood of Christ cannot take it away?

If God assures us that our sins are taken away, then they are taken away! The man who represented you at the cross is now in heaven seated on the Throne of Cosmic Majesty! This means that we can, right now, enjoy the truth of a purged conscience.

May these truths sink into us. We will never be any more righteous than the blood of Christ has made us. We will never be more accepted than we already are in the ‘Beloved One’ (Ephesians 1:6). Works could not get us into right standing with God, and our failings cannot get us out. Peace with God and freedom from all condemnation can only be obtained and maintained in the Gospel.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com

When interpreting scripture we must sharply distinguish between justification and sanctification, nevertheless they are never to be divorced from one another

Arthur PinkWhile justification and sanctification are to be sharply distinguished, nevertheless they must not be divorced (1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11).

“Christ never comes into the soul unattended. He brings the Holy Spirit with Him, and the Spirit His train of gifts and graces. Christ comes with a blessing in each hand: forgiveness in one, holiness in the other” (Thos. Adams, 1650).

Yet how rarely is Ephesians 2:8, 9, completed by the quoting of verse 10! Again, the twin truths of Divine preservation and Christian perseverance must not be parted, for the former is accomplished via the latter and not without it. We are indeed “kept by the power of God,” yet “through faith” (1 Peter 1:5), and if in 1 John 2:27, the apostle assured the saints “ye shall abide in Him,” in the very next verse he called on them to “abide in Him”; as Paul also bade such work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and then added “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Balaam wished to die the death of the righteous, but was not willing to live the life of one. Means and ends are not to be separated: we shall never reach heaven unless we continue in the only way (the “narrow” one) which leads thereto.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

John Newton, William Law, Justification, and Sanctification

by Reformed Reader

Near the end of 1768 John Newton exchanged a series of letters with a pastor friend who had been reading William Law’s writings. Law, who died in 1761, was a priest in the Church of England who later became a private teacher. Law’s popular work focused on things like devotion, holiness, sanctification, and perfection. Newton’s friend believed that righteousness and sanctification were synonymous. In other words, in his reading of Law’s call to devotion, Newton’s friend thought his sanctification was his righteousness. He believed that if he wasn’t devout enough, sincere enough, or zealous enough, God would not accept him. In fact, he even was afraid that he would end up forsaking the Lord; he lacked peace, comfort, and assurance.

 

 

 

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The Wednesday Word: Beginning the New Year with the Blood

What better way to begin this New Year other than preaching to ourselves about the Blood of Christ.

Among other things we could remind ourselves that,

1. We have redemption through the Blood (Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 5:9).
2. We have remission of sins through the Blood (Hebrews 9:22).
3. We are sanctified through the Blood (Hebrews 13:12).
4. We have a purged conscience by the Blood (Hebrews 9:14).
5. We have forgiveness of sins through the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).
6. We have peace with God through the Blood (Colossians 1:20).
7. We are cleansed by the Blood (1 John 1:7).
8. We have been washed by the Blood (Revelation 1:5).
9. We have been made kings and priests through the Blood (Revelation 1:5-6).
10. We overcome the devil by the Blood (Revelation 12:11).
11. We are justified by the Blood (Romans 5:9).
12. We are reconciled to God by the Blood (Romans 3:24, 25).
13. We enter into the holiest by the Blood (Hebrews 10:19).
14. We are made nigh to God by the Blood (Ephesians 2:13).
15. Christ’s Blood is precious (1 Peter 1:18).

On the first ever Passover, the Lord said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” He didn‘t say, “When I see how you feel about the blood, I will pass over you” or, “When I see you weeping and mourning because of your sins, I will pass over you.” No, He said; “When I see the blood, I will pass over you (Exodus 12:13).”

It was the blood that saved the Israelites, not their righteousness, not their fear, not their feelings. They were saved by the Father’s estimation of the Blood.

Some people say, “If I were only a better person, I would feel safe before God.” But, here’s the gospel truth, we don‘t need to enquire about the depth of our goodness. Our goodness cannot get us right with God. Indeed, the Lord says that our righteousness, not our sin, is like a filthy rag. The biggest problem God has with us is not our sin, it’s our righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).

The very best man has done is like a filthy rag before God. This is why we by faith look away from ourselves to the blood. Our atonement and reconciliation has been accomplished outside of us, apart from us in history.

We need, therefore, to ask whether or not we are sheltered under the blood? If we are, we are safer than any man or woman who has prayed without ceasing, given their finances and sacrificed for the cause of the gospel for 100 years. It is not their righteousness and good works that are going to save them. Good works, long hours of prayer and devotion, while commendable, have never saved anyone. The Father says, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” And when we are sheltered beneath the blood of Christ Jesus, we are saved; but if not shielded, we are lost.

The blood of Christ is our only refuge and protection from the wrath to come. Christ’s blood has been shed. His blood is now on the mercy-seat. Faith alone takes a hold of this remarkable truth and makes it our own.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com

Growth in Grace 8 — Knowledge Must Be Supplied with Self-control

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Do you want the male version or the female version? Have you ever heard that question? Or perhaps you have yourself asked that question. You know the difference between the male and female versions of a story.

Take the simple question: Did you go to the store and buy the milk? The typical male would give you a one word answer, Yup.

The typical female answer would involve telling you how hard it was to find a parking place, how she met Sally at the story, how she had not known that Sally worked there, how she noticed that the price of milk had gone down 10 cents, how there was a new girl at the cash register, how that new girl looked a little like the girl you both knew in college, and how she almost put the transaction on credit rather than debit. I am exaggerating—a little!—but you recognize the truth in this illustration. Men can be thick-headedly and frustratingly short. Women can drive you around the block before they tell you what you want to know.

 

 

 

 

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