Friday, July 21, 2017

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places or - Are We Getting Any Better?

“Even though our outward man is wasting away, the inner man is being renewed day by day”

The yoke of the cross

Do we get better as Christians? Well, yes and no. Scripture does speak of being transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2) and of the inner man being renewed day by day. By grace Christians are more and more sanctified in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit set apart unto godly living in thought, word, and deed.  Yet all too often we seem less than victorious in that sanctification.  Real sin still remains in every part of of our being so that as the apostle Paul writes,  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. A warfare in which it often doesn't seem to ourselves that we are getting all that much better inasmuch as we are eye-witnesses against ourselves. We see our very real role in our very real failings. 

Could part of the disconnect be that we are still looking for evidence in our own works which can somehow stand the scrutiny of God's holy law apart from the free grace of justification in Christ? - for he who has died is justified from sin (Rom 6:7)! 

So, are we looking for love in all the wrong places?

From Calvin's Institutes, book 3:
This cause, then, appears to be threefold. First, God turning his eye away from the works of his servants which merit reproach more than praise, embraces them in Christ, and by the intervention of faith alone reconciles them to himself without the aid of works. Secondly the works not being estimated by their own worth, he, by his fatherly kindness and indulgence, honors so far as to give them some degree of value. Thirdly, he extends his pardon to them [i.e. our works as Christians], not imputing the imperfection by which they are all polluted, and would deserve to be regarded as vices rather than virtues... 
But, meanwhile, they observed not how far the works which they insisted on regarding as meritorious must be from fulfilling the condition of the promises, were they not preceded by a justification founded on faith alone, and on forgiveness of sins — a forgiveness necessary to cleanse even good works from their stains...
In this way we can admit not only that there is a partial righteousness in works (as our adversaries maintain), but that they are approved by God as if they were absolutely perfect. If we remember on what foundation this is rested, every difficulty will be solved. The first time when a work begins to be acceptable is when it is received with pardon. And whence pardon, but just because God looks upon us and all that belongs to us as in Christ? Therefore, as we ourselves when engrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed... 
Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone.
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Believers: Dead to the Guilt of Sin - Alive unto Righteousness...

 Even so we also should walk in newness of life., Romans 6:4b
It is the purpose of our rising with Christ, that we also, by the glory or power of the Father, 2 Corinthians 13:4, should walk in newness of life. The resurrection of Christ was the effect of the power of God, not in the ordinary way of nature, but of a supernatural exertion of power. In the same manner, believers are raised to walk in newness of life. It is thus that, when Paul, Ephesians 1:20, exalts the supernatural virtue of grace by which we are converted, he compares it to the exceeding greatness of that power by which Christ was raised from the dead. This shows the force of the Apostle’s answer to the objection he is combating. Believers are dead to the guilt of sin, and if so, the ground of their separation from God being removed His almighty power is engaged and asserted to cause them to walk with their risen Lord in that new life which they derive from Him. It was, then, the purpose of Christ’s death that His people should become dead to sin, and alive unto righteousness. ‘Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness,’1 Peter 2:24. On this same ground, when viewing it simply as a motive, Paul reminds believers that since they are dead with Christ, they should set their affections on things above, and not on things on the earth, assuring them that when He who is their life shall appear, then shall they also appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:4. And again he declares, ‘If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him,’ 2 Timothy 2:11.
Robert Haldane, Romans Commentary