Sunday, March 29, 2009

We All Want to Be More Like God!

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!


ianmcn said...

Heard Andrew Wommack preach in York last night, and a quote he came out with was that really struck me was: "Grace doesn't cause people to live in sin; it frees them from the paralyzing effects of guilt and condemnation so that they can live holier accidentally now than they ever did on purpose before."

jul said...

Interesting stuff, I'm with you on the quote you hated! And while Piper's quote makes some sense, it's not necessarily grounded in Scripture, which says the power of sin is the law. I know that doesn't make sense in our brains but God said it's true. If some of these guys would notice some of these verses they might change their methods of 'sanctification', to say something like setting people free from condemnation etc. (like Ian's talking about).

I'm not sure math is the answer either, though I suppose temporarily...I couldn't write my personal advice in public haha, but if you want to know e-mail, I also have something interesting to listen to from U.S. public radio which nails the problem on the head (it was actually a show on the 10 commandments!)

Also, just reading in Timothy today about what godliness is...the short answer is Jesus! And it says it's a mystery, namely because the only true godliness that we can experience doesn't come from us or by what we do at all.

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

(1 tim. 3:16)

If we don't understand all the instructions or descriptions of godly living as unquestionably rooted in the person of Jesus, we will see it all as law and be therefore destined to live in the end of Romans 7 on a treadmill of failure never being able to make it to Romans 8--FREEDOM!

Dan Bowen said...

Interesting point Julie ... is THE power of sin THE law? I know and we all agree that law enhances sin, and where there is no law there is no sin etc.

But on the other hand it's interesting that Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers BY removing the law! And not pleasure. So is pleasure that sin offers just a by-product? And law is the true hidden power?

As for Edward's maths tactic ... well I was never very good and maths and was told by my maths teacher at the Christian school that I would never amount to much! So far be it from me to disagree with a Puritan but I think I will avoid that tactic!