Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers...
Editor’s Note: I attended the Together For the Gospel conference this year in Louisville, Kentucky. I praise God for the men he has raised up to disciple his church all over the world and for their instruction this week, particularly on the topic of holiness. In this article, I am opening to you my notes from the messages. I hope it stokes your desire for holiness, piques your interest to listen to these excellent sermons, and moves you to worship our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the holiness of heaven that drives out the filthiness of the world. It is the beauty of Christ that compels us to say no to what is broken and grotesque in the world. Paul says, if it’s beautiful, if it’s lovely if it’s right, if it’s good, if its pure, hang out there, stay there, dwell there (Philippians 4:8). I want to flood my life—fill my life—with joy-bringing, Jesus-exalting beauty.
Being entertained by what God finds deplorable is probably a bad usage of 30 minutes to 2 to 3 hours. If I find myself entertained by rape and incest and horrific violence and sexual perversion, what does that say about where my mind and heart are? And is Jesus sitting there with me enjoying that? Again, don’t read me wrong brothers and sisters, I’m not telling you to throw out your TV, although some of you should throw out your TV…Don’t play with sin.
I used the illustration before, I’ll use it again. There’s something broken in our minds, broken in our spirits, broken in our souls that leads us to believe that we are in control of sin in a way that is not biblically true. The way I’ll illustrate that is:
…So I’m watching this show and near the end of the show there’s this scene—they’re trying to shoot this commercial, and this commercial was going to be for shampoo or something and it’s this woman, you know this model, and they want her to lay on this male lion. And the lion attacks her and just rips her to shreds. And then they’re interviewing the trainer and the guy is like, “Couldn’t see this coming!” And I’m like, “It’s a LION; it has one purpose in all of creation—to kill stuff! It is an apex predator!” But to hear this brother talk, he talked about raising it from when it was a baby, getting it when he could just hold it, taking it for walks, combing its mane. And I just have to believe that many of us are playing with sin like this brother was playing with a lion. Oh I’ve got control of this. Oh man this is never gonna turn on me. Man for 15-20 years I have trained this sin to sit when I tell it to sin, to get in its bed when it’s time to get in bed... I would urge you brothers to not play with lions. Eventually, in season at the right time, it will turn and it will devour. Therefore put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh.
The cross is not a new strategy. God always finds a way to destroy human wisdom. In every situation God has the last word.
God’s immutability [unchanging nature] is good news for God’s people because God never dies, he never moves on, he never fails. His promises are yes and amen in Christ and cannot be any different. God says, “You should be out of chances, but I am not out of mercy”…We are as fickle as he is faithful.
If God’s immutability is sad news for the wicked, it is unimaginably good news for God’s people…God never dies, God never moves on, God never fails. His Word does not change; his character does not change; his decrees do not change. He is immovable in his goodness, immovable in his mercy, immovable in his purposes to be your God in Christ Jesus—always for you, never against you. He promises to justify the righteous by faith, to forgive the brokenhearted, to draw near to those who draw near to him. These promises are yes and amen in Jesus Christ, and they cannot be any other…“You should be out of chances, but I am not out of mercy.” Divine immutability is an attribute of perfection and a doctrine of comfort that your eternal happiness in Christ is infallibly secure. The unending glories of heaven will not be altered. God’s purpose in election will stand.
Stop eagerly anticipating future salvation while conveniently denying present sin…you’re not safe when you’re denying sin.
Here’s what Adam and Eve are told to do in these creation commands: “Be who you are, which is to be like me. That’s where you experience blessing, when you are who I created you to be, which is my image in this world. That’s where you find freedom. That’s where you find blessing. That’s where you find joy.” The obedience is not to condition God’s love, to get God’s love, to keep God’s love. It’s the sphere in which they enjoy God’s love and his goodness and his blessing.
And then look what happens in Genesis three…Satan is saying, “If you want to find God, disobey. That’s where your freedom is.” Whereas their experience of the blessing and supreme enjoyment of God was actually to be enjoyed in the sphere of their obedience—that’s how they’re like God. In other words, would there be a way you could supremely enjoy God and image him in this world without supremely enjoying him? Um, no. And the serpent says “Yes. There is a way you can be more than you are. That way is by disobeying God.”
Notice here that obedience in all of this is not the enemy. Obedience is not the problem. A misunderstanding of who God is, and what he has given his commands for, and the goodness of his commands—that is the problem.
The Church is not a growing number of people, but a number of people growing.
Without the holiness of God, sin has no meaning and grace has no point.
If you’re not at odds with sin, you’re not at home with Jesus.
Jude 1:24: Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Here’s the marvelous news. When you look up away from yourself and you look up to God, you see a God who is able…you see a God who has capacity and competence and power. You see a God who himself is not weak. And he will use that ability to do two things in your life.
Number one, he will use that ability to keep you from finally falling, from finally stumbling. Life is full of stumbling…Now this text says that we have a God who is able to keep us from stumbling, keep us from falling away, keep us from finally failing to reach the mark that he has set for us.
And here’s the mark in the second part of what he’s able to do: He’s able to present you, beloved, me, beloved, blameless, faultless before the presence of his glory with great joy. Oh beloved, we are not sneakin’ into heaven…And when we get there, guess what beloved? Christ is going to stand us before him in his presence, in his glory, with great joy. We join the party in festal garments. We enter into heaven—full of light and laughter and joy. God is able to make you happy. To do that he first makes you holy. And then he brings you home to heaven where in holiness you can enjoy him in the happiness of eternity. He is able, beloved, to get us where he wants us, which is in his presence. And when we get there (v.25) we will sing with all the elect angels and all the redeemed of humanity to the only God—there is no other. Our Savior belongs to us through Jesus Christ our Lord and we will sing, “be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever,” and with the angels cry, “Amen!”
Bad theology bewitches believers.
The great Shepherd is concerned with the sanctification of his people.
So you die and you rise—that’s a work of God….whatever you call this moment of conversion, it is decisively—decisively— the work of God: New creation of God, new birth by the wind of God’s Spirit, mighty call of God out of the tomb of spiritual death, divine choice of God out of the darkness of the world, divine union between us and the dying and rising of Christ so we have newness of life. Whatever it’s called, it is a gift of a new nature with a new gladness in a new God through a new gospel. If God waited for us to bring this about by our so called “free will” it would never happen. Sinners do not create new life. Sinners—it is what we were before conversion, right? Sinners do not bring themselves to new birth. Sinners do not call themselves out of the tomb. Sinners do not choose themselves out of the world. Sinners do not forge a union with Christ so that his death and his life become ours. This is the work of God bringing into being a new person. And my point is that the most basic, most essential distinction between this person and the world…is not new decisions, not new deeds, not new doctrines…these are all necessary traits of the new nature. They are not most basic and most essential. Most basic and most essential is a new gladness in a new God through a new gospel.
Find the full T4G messages here.
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