I've been thinking about the whole issue of sanctification and the question of "Already but not yet" and I've been wondering whether a lot of our disagreements as Christians particularly with this issue of grace are linked to a question of method. The great unifying factor is that essentially we all want to become more Christ-like in our behaviour, we all hate sin and it's presence in our lives and essentially we all want sin out! Where we disagree is the best way to actually reach that purpose.
I've had the benefit of trying a lot of methods as well which helps to add some validity (I hope) to what I am trying to say and argue. For instance I have 'done' the accountability groups thing and am well aware of their aim but am not convinced as to their usefulness. Last night at work I was re-reading John Piper and Justin Taylor's "A God-Entranced Vision of All Things". And I was intrigued to find three quotes in the chapters that all present slightly different perspectives on how to attempt to combat sin. Here they are;
1. The Quote I Liked.
"Many Christians think stoicism is a good antidote to sensuality. It isn't. It is hopelessly weak and ineffective. And the reason that it fails is that the power of sin comes from the promise of pleasure and is meant to be defeated by the superior promise of pleasure in God, not by the power of the human will. Willpower religion, when it succeeds, gets glory for the will. It produces legalists not lovers".
John Piper - "Chapter 1 - A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards - 300 Years Later" - (p29).
2. The Quote I Hated.
"As practices the spiritual disciplines are first about doing and then about being. The spiritual disciplines are right doing that leads to right being".
Donald Whitney - "Chapter 5 - Pursuing a Passion for God through Spiritual Disciplines" - (p110).
3. The Quote I Couldn't Believe.
"When I am violently beset with temptation or cannot rid myself of evil thoughts, to do some sum in arithmetic or geometry or some other study, which necessarily engages all my thoughts and unavoidably keeps them from wandering".
Jonathan Edwards quoted in Noel Piper - "Chapter 3 - Sarah Edwards: Jonathan's Home and Haven" - (p59).
John Piper's quote makes perfect sense. Sin is fun and it offers pleasure. Let's not deceive ourselves. The lie is that it will satisfy and of course it does not. Donald Whitney's quote seems to me to be a perversion of true gospel power. The gospel is about right BELIEVING first and then right DOING will follow. Frankly Whitney's quote seems to illustrate my 20 to 30 years of legalism. Trying to read my Bible and pray legalistically every day. And it doesn't work. And if it does work then it will foster pride because my doing accomplished something.
Jonathan Edwards on the other hand ... wow.
There's a technique I haven't tried before - doing maths in my head to try and get rid of lustful thoughts!