5 Holiness Myths

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

5 Holiness Myths

What comes to mind when you think of a holy person? Some of us see the beauty of holiness lived out on a regular basis in our churches and homes. But others fail to see the appeal of a holy life lived out, either because they haven’t seen it in practice or because less-appealing counterfeits have filled their horizon. Sometimes it’s helpful to articulate what holiness is not in order to gain a clearer understanding of what it is and why we want it. Here are five false views that you may have encountered.

1. Holiness is an honorary status.

Some speak of saints as if they were some sort of extra-dedicated class of Christian, a select few who have earned a special status. But the Bible does not make this distinction. Paul calls all Christians saints (1 Cor. 1:2). He tells the Corinthians that they have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.” This is our position before God. We are sanctified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:11).

Because we are saints in Christ, we are to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” (Eph. 4:20–24). In other words, our practice should match our position. This growth in holy practice is what the theologians call “progressive sanctification.”

There are not two tiers of Christians. All Christians are saints, and all of us are becoming holy in practice.

2. Spirit-empowered holiness feels easy.

The idea that sanctification requires effort may seem unspiritual to some, but the Bible is full of athletic metaphors that encourage us to do just that. Paul told Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), and the author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for . . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Spiritual disciplines are essential for growth. As we study God’s Word and pray, our will and desires change to become more like Christ. As we daily resist sin and make God-honoring choices, we are working our spiritual muscles and making progress in the right direction.

Read the rest here.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

Sharing today from Desiring God.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

By Scott Swain

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.”1 However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”2

Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.”3 Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.4

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness.5 In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”6

Read the rest here.

God’s Greatest Miracles Happen in and Around Us All the Time

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

God’s Greatest Miracles Happen in and Around Us
All the Time

By Randy Alcorn

Recently I listened to John Piper answer the question, “Why Do We See So Few Miracles Today?” on his Ask Pastor John podcast.

His answer is great. It also got me thinking about something else I would add to what John says: that visible miracles are reminders of the reality of greater invisible miracles, which in fact are happening all the time as God regenerates hard human hearts. Hence, God is doing far more miracles than we realize. That’s what this blog is about.

The Costly Miracle of a New Heart

Our Lord transforming human hearts, through stunning acts done daily around the globe, is every bit as miraculous as Jesus transforming water into wine. In fact, these redemptive acts make the dividing of the Red Sea, the falling walls of Jericho, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead actually pale in comparison. Is that an overstatement? No, because the greatest physical miracles cost our all-powerful God nothing, but the miracles of salvation, sanctification, and glorification cost the very life of God’s Son.

God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), makes us new in Christ (Ephesians 4:24), and changes our destiny from death to life, from Hell to Heaven (John 5:24). He takes drug-addicts, sex-addicts, pride-addicts, gossip-addicts, and every variety of sin-addict and works a transforming miracle in us.

As we yield our wills to Him daily, He provides yet another series of sanctifying miracles for us, so that cumulatively, if we have eyes to see, we’ll realize there have been thousands of intervening miracles of grace in just our own lives, and countless millions more in the lives of others. (For more on this, see The Wonderful Miracle of Conversion.)

When God drew me to faith in Christ, as a 15 year old, my life changed radically. One of the hundreds of verses I memorized was this one: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the only explanation of this was nothing less than miraculous. As the next verse says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (v. 18). Miracles are things which God does that cannot be explained by natural processes or human actions. Hence every true conversion—which is not the same as every outward profession—is by definition a miracle.

God’s Miraculous, Empowering Grace

Often when someone dies it’s said, “We prayed for a miracle, but for some reason God chose not to answer.” I understand this, and indeed it’s true that God sometimes doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.

When that’s the case, I think we would do well to realize this: “While he didn’t perform the miracle we asked for, He performed many other miracles of grace and encouragement, inspiration and comfort, personal transformation and increased dependence on Jesus, worship and deepened relationships, faithfulness and perseverance, empowerment, and open doors of evangelism…and almost certainly many other miracles we don’t yet know of but one day will. And some—perhaps many—of those miracles happened because the miracle we prayed for didn’t.” (See “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”)

Read the rest here.

God Doesn’t Help Those Who Help Themselves

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity

God Doesn’t Help Those
Help Themselves

By Michael Horton

According to a Barna survey, 87 percent of today’s Evangelical Christians (the heirs of the Reformation) affirm that medieval Roman Catholic conviction, that “God helps those who help themselves.” Two-thirds of the Evangelical Christians in America said that we all pray to the same God whether we’re Buddhists, Muslims, Jews or Christians.

Through the middle ages, Christianity became entangled with the vines of superstition, ignorance and spiritual lethargy that same thing we see all around us today. When Luther uncovered the theological scandal, the fragile Roman scaffolding began to creak. The essentials of the Reformation were doctrinal. It was part of the Renaissance to call for a return to the original sources, so it made sense that Christian scholars returned not only to the great classics of Western civilization and to the early fathers, but to the biblical text itself.

The Reformation was the greatest back to the Bible movement in the history of the church since the death of the apostles. But they went back to the Bible not simply as an end in itself, but in order to recover the essential truths that the Bible proclaimed and that the church had either forgotten or actually rejected. Those essentials were Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone and to God alone be the glory.

Why is the Reformation needed today?

What was so special about the Reformation in the first place that makes a second one so worthwhile? 

Well, do you believe that the Reformation got these doctrines out of balance with other doctrines as the Roman church believed? Or do you believe that the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone to the glory of God alone and that this is the Bible’s central message from Genesis to Revelation?

If it’s the Bible’s central message, then it must be essential for us as it was for the Reformation in the 16th century. The problem we’re facing as a church today is that our situation is even worse than it was for the medieval church. Now just look at each of those slogans in the light of today’s realities, first of all the so-called evangelical, Bible-believing Christians in America are supposedly the spiritual heirs of the Protestant Reformation, and yet according to their responses to recent surveys, their views are actually much closer to those of medieval people before the Reformation.

The battle cry, “Scripture alone,” is rarely heard even in these conservative Protestant churches today as pop psychology, marketing, and management principles, pragmatism, consumerism, sociological data and political crusades tend to have the greatest authority and weight in the churches. Christ alone is challenged by the voices of those who are following our culture of religious pluralism insist that Jesus is the best, but not the only way to the Father. In fact, two-thirds of the Evangelical Christians in America said that we all pray to the same God whether we’re Buddhists, Muslims, Jews or Christians, two-thirds. Grace alone has fallen prey once more to the moralism and self-confidence of the human heart.

Read the rest here.

Love Song

We were treated to a spontaneous mini-concert by our two-year-old grandson, whose full repertoire consisted of “Jesus Loves Me.” He belted out the chorus with vigor and quality. If one of us attempted to sing along, he abruptly fell silent until we ceased. He indicated in non-verbal terms that he intended to perform solo.Then he resumed the lyrics, never missing a word.

The words of the song are simple, yet profound; personal, yet universal; gentle, yet powerful. Little did our grandson appreciate the joy and heart-warming belief he conveyed in his memorized lyrics, booming out the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus heard the succinct but sincere words of “Jesus Loves Me” and acknowledged the love the words generated in our grandson’s heart. If there is no doubt in a toddler’s mind regarding the unconditional love of God, why would any of us harbor skepticism?

Throughout God’s Word we are presented with substantial evidence of God’s love: “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7), explains the source of love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), condenses one of the most powerful messages in the Bible.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), states the purpose of God’s love. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1b, NLT), describes the eternal nature of our Lord’s love.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!’ Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-14; 16, NLT).

If Jesus had appeared, our grandson would have eagerly run into His open arms. Children of all ages readily believe God. They do not require long explanations; just a statement of the love of God from trustworthy adults is convincing enough for them. Children love Jesus because Jesus first loved them. God simplifies, removing cobwebs and confusion. Young children readily understand simple, direct explanations and commands, for their faith has not yet been sullied by deceptions of the world. God instructs us to mirror the faith of children who possess uncomplicated, unpretentious faith.

There was another young boy who expressed his love in a tangible manner. One day when Jesus withdrew by boat to a solitary place to pray, multitudes of people who anticipated his next stop walked ahead of Him on land, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). All through the day, Jesus ministered to the people, offering healing to body and soul. As evening approached, the disciples suggested their Master send the crowds away. Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to feed the multitudes in the remote countryside. When Jesus’ disciples returned to Him after checking the crowd for any remnants of food, they had found only five barley loaves of bread and two fish, donated by a boy in the listening throng.

We have no knowledge of the boy whose lunch was used in Jesus’ miracle to feed thousands of hungry, attentive followers. Had he been sent from his home that morning to accomplish an errand, but intrigued by the crowds, he fell into the rank and file of those pursuing Jesus? When the disciples circulated among the people asking for any available food, the boy offered his own lunch. In a time when many people went hungry, the gift of food for Jesus’ use displayed phenomenal generosity.

The little boy who contributed his lunch of bread and fish, gave it up willingly. The loaves were small, like individual dinner rolls. The fish were also diminutive, perhaps a smoked or a pickled variety, like herring, a delicacy for lunch.

God had already planned to use the boy’s meal to feed the entire multitude of five thousand men plus women and children, who would minimally total about 15,000 people. Jesus’ disciple, Andrew, took the boy’s small lunch to Jesus. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:10-13).

If we allow God to use our availability and material possessions, as the little boy demonstrated, we may also be used as catalysts for a miracle. Imagine the thrill and amazement on the face of that boy who watched as Jesus multiplied his meager lunch to feed the masses. Fascinated by Jesus’ miracle, he then participated in the picnic created from his personal lunch donation. What a story he would tell his family when he finally arrived home later that day!

Jesus loves and respects boys and girls, and they know it. “‘I tell you the truth: anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:17); a severe warning, encouraging us to simplify our faith enough for a child to understand. Though Jesus’ disciples initially displayed doubt, they learned a new level of uncomplicated faith displayed by a child. Jesus commands all of us to emulate the frank openness of a child’s faith.

The miracles Jesus accomplished aroused anger and hatred among the Jewish rulers and teachers of the law. When they “saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15). When those same rulers asked Jesus if he could hear what the children were saying about him, Jesus replied, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Jesus acknowledged praise from children. They were His ardent supporters; they knew they were loved, professing their faith as they enthusiastically sang about their Savior in the temple courts.

Envision the children clasping hands, dancing around the courtyard in a circle, singing exuberant worship songs to Jesus. If you listen intently, there will arise above the crowd an angelic voice singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak, but He is strong.” Suddenly Jesus’ attention will be focused compassionately on our grandson, the little boy with unsurpassed love for Christ, the one who treasures his adoration and praise.

What is the Gospel?

Another good one from the GotQuestions? site.

What is the Gospel?

Question: “What is the gospel?”

Answer: The word gospel literally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the Bible, exclusively in the New Testament. In Greek, it is the word euaggelion, from which we get our English words evangelistevangel, and evangelical. The gospel is, broadly speaking, the whole of Scripture; more narrowly, the gospel is the good news concerning Christ and the way of salvation.

The key to understanding the gospel is to know why it’s good news. To do that, we must start with the bad news. The Old Testament Law was given to Israel during the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1). The Law can be thought of as a measuring stick, and sin is anything that falls short of “perfect” according to that standard. The righteous requirement of the Law is so stringent that no human being could possibly follow it perfectly, in letter or in spirit. Despite our “goodness” or “badness” relative to each other, we are all in the same spiritual boat—we have sinned, and the punishment for sin is death, i.e. separation from God, the source of life (Romans 3:23). In order for us to go to heaven, God’s dwelling place and the realm of life and light, sin must be somehow removed or paid for. The Law established the fact that cleansing from sin can only happen through the bloody sacrifice of an innocent life (Hebrews 9:22).

The gospel involves Jesus’ death on the cross as the sin offering to fulfill the Law’s righteous requirement (Romans 8:3–4Hebrews 10:5–10). Under the Law, animal sacrifices were offered year after year as a reminder of sin and a symbol of the coming sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:3–4). When Christ offered Himself at Calvary, that symbol became a reality for all who would believe (Hebrews 10:11–18). The work of atonement is finished now, and that’s good news.

The gospel also involves Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The fact that Jesus conquered sin and death (sin’s penalty) is good news, indeed. The fact that He offers to share that victory with us is the greatest news of all (John 14:19).

Read the rest here.