Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Some Thoughts On How Then To Live...

When beginning the day once again with the hope of living in a manner pleasing to the Lord, a question may arise in the heart, "How then?", which can cause one to somewhat tremble and fall prey to a necessity-driven kind of response. The way in which one deals with this moment (a moment that often reoccurs throughout the day) can lead to either a resting trust in Christ as the ground of Christian living or an unsure-works-direction based on the unconscious faulty notion that one's acceptance before God is somehow dependent in part upon one's obedience rather than that of Christ’s obedience and sacrificial death on the cross.

Is this experience necessarily a bad thing? I don't so. In fact, it seems that it necessarily follows given that we are sinners who by nature look to excuse ourselves from the accusations of our conscience (Rom. 2:15). So can't it can be said that, in part, this is the normal Christian life? On one level we certainly know that to be a believer means more than just "believing." After all, we have been saved from our sin that we might begin to live more righteous and holy lives. We are saved unto good works in Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11-14). But, if we are honest with ourselves (always a challenge) and have a modicum of self-knowledge, we know how desperately short we fall of the obedient living to which we are called. In our sense of failure is the nagging thought that something very crucial is missing, some clearer truth, stronger determination or power that enables one to Do this! Hence a threatening imperative presses in on the conscience to find some way to do a better obedience! Or more likely, the demands of the day simply take over, hours fly by before realizing another day has passed, and not much has changed. Maybe tomorrow...

If we are keeping score, up to this point the Law has been the dominant player. And again, this is not a bad thing. The Law, in fact, is doing its assigned work. The problem lies, as the apostle Paul tells us, not in the Law which is holy and good but in me the sinner/saint (Romans 7:12-13, 22-23). Someone/Something in me says, "Do this or else!" And that someone is sin in me! "What?", you say?! Yes. Within our hearts still lives the legal tenor of unbelief willfully expressed as seeking at least a partial acceptance before God which we can personally hold as formed in part by our own works and obedience.

So then how to respond to this legal attitude or leaning that infects the heart? To fight it by seeking to measure up to it is a sure way to increase condemnation and a resultant weakening faith. Rather, to embrace the implication or indictment that my wavering faith and lack of obedience brings is to actually yield to the Law's purpose in the hand of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), i.e. to convict of sin and to us lead to Christ (Galatians 3:24), the mercy of God's forgiveness and cleansing found in him. This is the solid ground of our sanctification and holiness.

From John Owen's Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit -
This whole matter of sanctification and holiness is peculiarly joined with and limited unto the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls...

The “law,” indeed, for certain ends, “was given by Moses,” but all “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” There neither is, nor ever was, in the world, nor ever shall be, the least dram of holiness, but what, flowing from Jesus Christ, is communicated by the Spirit, according to the truth and promise of the gospel.
From The Westminster Larger Catechism:
Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men (see WLC Q/A 95), it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.
And an encouragement from Thomas Boston, A View of the Covenant of Works, from the Sacred Records: Exhortation to Believers, pp 230-231 -
Secondly, Believers in Christ, delivered from this covenant [of works],

(1.) Be thankful for your deliverance, as a deliverance from the Curse. Let the warmest gratitude glow in your breasts for so great a deliverance; and let your soul, and all that is within you, be stirred up to bless your glorious deliverer for this unspeakable blessing. 
(2.) Walk holily and fruitfully in good works, since the bands of death are removed, and your souls are healed. Be holy in all manner of life and conversation; adorning the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things. Let the whole tenor of your lives testify that you are not under the curse, but that you inherit the blessing of eternal life, by living to the praise and honour of Christ, who hath delivered you from the wrath to come.
(3.) Turn not back to the broken covenant of works again, in legal principles, nor in legal practices. The more the temper and frame of your spirit lies that way, the more unholy will ye be; and the more your duties savour of it, the less savoury will they be unto your God. It is only by being dead to the law, that ye. will live unto God.

No comments:

Post a Comment