Daily Light – July 15, 2019

One Day Our War Will End 

Article by   Iain Duguid    Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary

Nearly all Christians are familiar with the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10–20. But fewer are aware that the armor Paul describes traces its roots back to the Old Testament. In fact, the armor given to the Christian for his fight against the forces of sin and darkness is quite literally God’s armor — armor designed for and worn by God first and foremost. We fight and stand firm against Satan only in the strength that comes from the victory that Christ has already won for us.

This is why each of the various pieces of armor points us to Christ. The belt of truth is the belt that girds the messianic King (Isaiah 11:5). The breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation come from the divine warrior’s arsenal (Isaiah 59:17). The feet shod with gospel readiness are the feet of those who proclaim the arrival of Messiah’s kingdom (Isaiah 52:7). God himself is the shield of faith (Genesis 15:1). The sword of the Spirit, the word of God, is the weapon wielded by the promised servant of the Lord (Isaiah 49:2).

Christ Our Conqueror

In other words, God clothes us with nothing less than his own armor, the same armor that Christ has already worn on our behalf in his lifelong struggle with the mortal enemy of our souls, Satan himself. Jesus is no armchair general, who hands out the equipment but then watches the fighting from a safe distance. No, he has himself worn the armor and won the victory in our place! You are called to wear the Christian armor not because that’s what Jesus would do if he found himself in a similar situation to yours; you are called to wear God’s armor because that is what Jesus already has done, wearing God’s armor all the way to the cross.

Jesus stood firm against Satan’s schemes throughout his earthly life and ministry. Each of those specific temptations to which we have given in this week — lust, gossip, anger, pride, self-exaltation, lying, coveting — is a temptation he faced and stared down in your place. What is more, Jesus laid his life down at the cross for you, thereby accomplishing the victory that pours out God’s sanctifying Spirit into your life. Because of his victorious life, death, and resurrection, the same power that raised Christ up from the dead is now at work inside you and me through the ongoing work of the Spirit, raising us from spiritual death to new life. (In Ephesians 6:10, Paul echoes a trio of Greek words that he uses in Ephesians 1:19–20 to describe God’s power in the resurrection.)

Holiness Belongs to the Lord

However, the ongoing sanctifying work of the Spirit in your life is not ultimately under your control. In John 3, Jesus compares the process of becoming a Christian to birth. Just as a baby doesn’t have control over the time and circumstances of her birth, so God chose when to regenerate you and bring you to faith in Christ. But even after a child is born, he does not decisively control his own physical growth. He may wish to be taller or shorter, but wishing won’t make it so — or hasten the natural (slow) processes of physical growth. In the same way, we are not ultimately in control of the process of our spiritual growth. Sanctification is decisively God’s work from beginning to end (Philippians 1:61 Thessalonians 5:23–24).

That perspective is enormously encouraging in our daily struggle with sin and Satan. We often imagine we are fighting on our own in our struggles against sin. Not at all. That is why Paul reminds us that prayer is such an integral part of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:18–20). It is not enough to put on the armor of God; we need to be in constant communication with the God of the armor. The reality is that your victory over sin is ultimately up to Jesus, not you. His struggle was the decisive one, not yours. His victory on the cross purchased your complete sanctification, your ultimate holiness before God (Ephesians 5:25–27). His Spirit is now at work within you, growing you toward his goal of your complete purity. Your spiritual growth may be much slower than you might wish, but if you are in Christ, God will sanctify you completely.

Daily Struggle

That doesn’t mean that we’ll never have to struggle with sin, of course. Quite the reverse: Paul clearly expects us to be engaged in a daily life-and-death struggle with Satan in all of his awesome power. The imagery of armor and battle shows us that our fight against sin must involve blood, sweat, and tears — our blood, sweat, and tears, as well as that of our Savior. We too are to take up our cross and follow after our Master on the road of hardship and suffering (Matthew 10:38). We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Yet Paul tells us to work out our own salvation precisely because God is at work in us (Philippians 2:13).

Christ’s wearing of God’s armor in your place and his triumphant victory over sin at the cross mean that your struggle against sin is never hopeless. God will ultimately sanctify you — he has promised to do so. On that last day, you will rise to new life in Christ and stand in God’s presence, made perfect forever. No Christian will be left behind, half-sanctified. Sin and Satan shall not have ultimate dominion over you (Romans 6:14).

Distant Triumph Song

This means that in the midst of the pain of the frustrating daily struggle against sin and Satan, you can plead with God to continue to advance that process here and now, whether strengthening you to stand against Satan, or by sometimes allowing you to fall, in order to grow your humility and dependence upon him (see Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.5). The knowledge that God is sovereign over your sanctification gives you hope to keep on trying, even in areas of your life where sin continually seems to have the upper hand. It reminds you that even when you are seeing real advance in your life, it is nothing you have accomplished and gives you no reason to boast. God’s Holy Spirit deserves all the glory, not you.

And he will receive the glory on that last day, when all of God’s weary, battle-stained children enter into the gates of the new Jerusalem, with their warfare, trials, and travails now a memory of the past, and a new song on their lips — a song of praise to Christ, the victorious Divine Warrior, who won their redemption through his fight. 

As William Walsham How put it in his song “For All the Saints,”

And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song, And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!

But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day; The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on his way. Alleluia! Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west; Soon, soon, to faithful warriors comes their rest. Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Iain Duguid is Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, and author of several books, including The Whole Armor of God: How Christ’s Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare. A native of Great Britain, Duguid served as a missionary in Liberia before completing a PhD in Old Testament at Cambridge University. He and his wife, Barbara, have six grown children.

Daily Light – July 12, 2019

The Holy Spirit: He Is God!

Resource by John Piper

Scripture: John 14:15–17 and John 14:25–26 

Two Essential Truths About the Holy Spirit

Here are two truths about the Holy Spirit that we need to have clear from the beginning.

The first truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person not an impersonal force.

The second truth is that the Holy Spirit is God not a creation of God.

1. The Holy Spirit Is a Person 

The most important passage to support the first truth is John 14–16. At least three things in these chapters confirm that Jesus thinks of the Holy Spirit as a person not a mere force.

1) Jesus calls him “another Counselor” in 14:16, “I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth” (14:26; 15:26; 16:7). When Jesus calls him a Counselor or Comforter, he treats him as a person not a force. And when he calls him “anotherCounselor,” he means, “He will be a counselor like me.” The Holy Spirit is a counselor like Jesus is—he is a person.

2) In John 14:17, Jesus says, “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Then in verse 25 he says, “I have spoken to you while I am with you.” Jesus virtually identifies the Spirit with himself. “I am with you and will be in you” is the same as saying, “I am with you and the Spirit will be in you.” “You know me now as flesh and blood Son of God. You will know me soon through the Spirit who will be given to you.” Therefore, the Spirit is no less a person than Jesus is.

3) The Holy Spirit is described not merely as the voice of God’s teaching but as a teacher in his own right. John 14:26, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.” And in 15:26 he is a witness in his own right, “When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” And lest we think that the Spirit is just the extended teaching activity of the Father and the Son, John 16:13 says that the Spirit first hears and then teaches: “He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak.” The Spirit is treated not as a force, or influence, or activity of another person, but as a person in his own right, hearing from the Father and the Son, and teaching and bearing witness to men.

It will make a great deal of difference in your own life if you believe that you are being indwelt and led and purified not by impersonal forces from a distant God, but by a person who in his essence is the love of God (Romans 5:51 John 4:12–13). Handley C.G. Moule, the former bishop of Durham who died in 1920, gave witness to the importance of the Spirit’s personality:

Never shall I forget the gain to my conscious faith and peace which came to my own soul, not long after a first decisive and appropriating view of the Crucified Lord as the sinner’s sacrifice of peace, from a more intelligent and conscious hold upon the living and most gracious Personality of that Holy Spirit through whose mercy the soul had got that blessed view. It was a new development of insight into the Love of God. It was a new contact as it were with the inner eternal movements of redeeming goodness and power, a new discovery in divine resources. (Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 13)

2. The Holy Spirit Is God 

When you add the second truth about the Holy Spirit, the first becomes even more precious. The Holy Spirit is God. The person who indwells and leads and purifies is no one less than God, the Holy Spirit. The simple evidence for this is the frequent designation “Spirit of God.” The Spirit is “of God” not because God created him, but because he shares God’s nature and comes forth eternally from God (see 1 Corinthians 2:10–12). If the Son of God is equally eternal with the Father, as John 1:1–3 makes clear that he is, then so is the Holy Spirit equally eternal with them both, because, according to Romans 8:9–11, the Spirit of Christ is one and the same with the Spirit of God. If this were not so, we would have to imagine that there was a time when the Son had no Spirit and the Father had no Spirit. But I want to try to show is that the Holy Spirit is essential to the relationship between the Father and the Son. He is, to use Moule’s words again (p. 28), “the Result, the Bond, the Vehicle, of their everlasting mutual delight and love.”

As far back into eternity as God the Father has been generating or imaging forth the Son, there has been an infinite Holy Spirit of love and delight between them, who is himself a divine Person. Therefore, as Jesus prays for the church in John 17:26, he asks his Father for nothing less than the Holy Spirit when he says, “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.” The most glorious of all truths that we will discover in the next 20 weeks is that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, he comes not merely as the Spirit of the Son, nor merely as the Spirit of the Father, but as the Spirit of infinite love between the Father and the Son, so that we may love the Father with the very love of the Son, and love the Son with the very love of the Father.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.

Daily Light – July 11, 2019

Friends:   Today’s DL is full of golden nuggets.  Eat, digest, let them marinate down into your spiritual marrow ‘so that’ the truth will empower you to share this good news with others. 😊 dh

Did God Break the Law for Love?

Taken from an article by Jared C. Wilson, Author, Blog Writer 

It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. — Romans 3:26

See, many people tend to think that when the Father sent the Son to die on the cross to forgive sins, he was in some sense “breaking the law.” That line of thinking lends to the idea that…’because of Jesus, God is letting our law-breaking somehow slide.’

The god preached in this kind of scenario is really the false god of antinomianism (“against the law”) because he can only forgive sins by in some way compromising his holiness. In other words, he sort of tips the scales towards his mercy and away from his righteousness. A lot of Christians tend to think of God’s work like that — as if, with Jesus, he’s kind of bending the rules. He sacrifices one part of his self (holiness) in order that we might take advantage of another (love).

But the one true God does not compromise one bit. He bends no rules! In fact, he punishes every single sin. Not a single sin throughout all of history slips through the cracks.

So how can he forgive sinners like us while maintaining the perfection of his holiness? He puts our sin on Jesus Christ.

God has declared that he will by no means clear the guilty (Nahum 1:3). So he instead makes guilty people righteous! But to do this in a way that is just, he must make a righteous person guilty. And he accomplishes this, the Bible reveals, by punishing our sin by punishing his son Jesus.

In this way, all sin is accounted for. Whether by the wrath of hell or by the wrath of the cross, every single sin is accounted for. And in this way, the grace of God is revealed. Christians therefore believe that if anyone wants to stand before a holy God and be declared holy enough to escape judgment, they must reject trusting in their own good works and instead accept the good works of Jesus Christ as their own.

The cross of Jesus Christ, then, shows us how God is both perfectly holy and perfectly loving, simultaneously and totally just and yet totally gracious. He doesn’t bend any rules or break any laws, as the spirit of antinomianism would suggest. It is in fact through the very cross of Christ that God, according to the Apostle Paul, “showed his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

The Christian God is both just and justifier, and he does his justifying as an act of sheer grace, forgiving sinners not by their obedience (because they could never obey well enough) but by Christ’s obedience, which is perfect and thus perfectly fulfills the perfectly holy law of God.

In fact, when you do a bit of “reverse engineering” on the atonement knowing this, you can see that in fact it wouldn’t be very loving at all for God to have broken his own laws to save us. Because an atonement made by a law not perfectly kept is no atonement at all. If God broke his law to save me, I am not saved, because what is needed is perfection. It would not be perfectly loving for our holy God to apply to me an imperfect atonement! But in fact the gospel announces not just that my sins are forgiven, but that I am counted righteous in Christ.

I have received the righteousness of Christ, which means that’s his perfect obedience to the law of God is considered as my own perfect obedience to the law of God. That’s how gracious God is! He has broken antinomianism for love.

And now, in the spirit of this grace, I pursue obedience of God with gratitude and freedom and joy — not because I am saved by my righteousness but because, in a sense, I am saved from it.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. — Matthew 5:17

Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel WakefulnessThe Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church

Daily Light – July 10, 2019

How Do I Survive This Midlife Crisis?

Taken from an article by John Piper

The older I get, the more I want to give God public, heartfelt, explicit credit and praise for keeping me through every kind of distress that I have experienced. I really want to make known to as many people as who will listen that God has kept ahold of me. This is the decisive reason why I have kept ahold of him, and it is my first and main reason for being willing to say a few more words about this. I want to give God glory for being a keeping, holding God.

The second reason why I’m willing to say another word about this experience is that God’s keeping is manifest — his divine act, his decisive keeping, is manifest, shown, evident — precisely through our fighting to be kept. Now, make sure you hear that rightly. It’s a little bit odd, so make sure you hear it rightly, and not the other way around.

It’s not that God is moved to keep us by our fighting to be kept. Are you with me? Let me say it again. It is not that God is moved to keep us by our initiative in fighting to be kept, but (let’s turn it around now) that God moves us to fight to be kept, and thus he keeps us. If that sounds perplexing to you, that’s why I’m willing to talk about this again, because if you don’t get this, you don’t get the Christian life and how God sovereignly keeps his own.

God Uses Means

Now, first, the decisive thing to say about any Christian midlife crisis is that God keeps us. When I say Christian midlife crisis, what I mean is that God and God alone is the decisive one in getting us through so that we remain faithful to him for a lifetime.

God may use a thousand things. He mentions genetics, and stress, and all that stuff. That’s absolutely right. Who can fathom all the reasons why we go up or down, or why we come out and go back? Who can fathom the practical horizontal effects that are at work? Thousands of them, not just four. God may use a thousand things to keep us back from the cliff of pride and greed and sexual immorality and apostasy. But whatever the means — the horizontal means that we and others can see in our lives and the lives of others — whatever the means are, what is always decisive is the invisible power of God.

Promised Steadfast Hope

The greatest benediction in all the Bible, I think — there may be another one greater, but I don’t know of it — is spoken in celebration of God’s keeping. That’s amazing. Here it is:

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. (Jude 24–25)

“God and God alone is the decisive one in getting us through so that we remain faithful to him for a lifetime.”

That’s stupendous. That’s just over the top. What’s he praising? He’s praising that he kept me. He just kept me. If you don’t feel amazed that you woke up a Christian this morning, you don’t get it. You just don’t get it, because if God hadn’t kept you at 3:00 a.m., you’d wake up at 6:00 a.m. and be an unbeliever. That’s stupendous.

Peter puts it like this: “. . . who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). How are we being kept? By God’s power. How does it work? It works by awakening in us faith every morning.

Paul, more than anyone else — bless him, I love him, we all love Paul — felt the wonder and the force of God’s keeping. He says, “[God] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:8–9). In other words, he keeps whom he calls.

Or he says in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He began it; he will finish it. He will finish it decisively, and that’s why you will finish it.

Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Don’t miss the word endure. The escape from the tests is through the enduring, and that is the work of God. That’s my first and main aim in looking at this issue of midlife crisis again: just to give God all the credit for every stitch of endurance and perseverance.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

Here’s the other aim — namely, to communicate clearly that God’s keeping is manifest, shown, precisely through our fighting to be kept. I’m going to say it again because this is just so perplexing why people have a hard time getting this, yet they do. God’s keeping — God’s decisive, sovereign keeping of his own, his children — is manifested, works itself out, is shown, is evident in our lives precisely through our fighting to be kept.

“If you are fighting to be kept, God is at work in you.”

If you are fighting to be kept, God is at work in you. That’s the key statement in 1 Corinthians 9:26–27. Paul says, “I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Amazing — it’s amazing. Paul believed that if he let down his boxing guard, sin would deliver a knockout blow. I don’t know when people are going to listen to this, but just three days ago, there was a big heavyweight boxing match. I saw the headline, so I clicked on it. These people are paying, who knows, one hundred dollars for a live stream to get to watch this boxing match for fifteen rounds. But it ends in 28 seconds. I love it. Because this guy lets down his guard, and whammo! — he’s on the floor. Knocked out in just a few seconds. Paul believed, “If I let down my boxing guard for a moment, sin will deliver a knockout blow to me. It really will.” That’s how God keeps Paul. He makes him a fighter.

He says in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Beautiful. “I press on; I lay hold of.” But why? “I’ve been let hold of. I’ve been taken. I’m in his hands. I’m just grasping what I’ve been grasped with. Yes, I really run the race, but he is running in me.” Just like he says in 1 Corinthians 15:10: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Never Stop Fighting

As I look back over my thirties and forties — indeed, my twenties through my seventies — as I look back over my life, I have never stopped fighting. I don’t remember any season. I don’t remember a week. I wrote a whole book entitled When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight For Joy. That’s not an accident — a whole book on how to fight for joy.

I have never stopped fighting to tremble at God’s severity. I have never stopped fighting to rejoice at God’s kindness. I cannot remember missing a day that I was not in God’s word and in prayer. I suspect there were some. I’m not claiming any perfection. I just can’t remember any. It’s that much a part of my life. Every day is a day of pleading over the word that I would be kept and shaped according to the God I see in the Bible.

I’ll end with this. I’ve never tried to go it alone. It’s easy to go at it alone. People are hard. People cause the most problems. Books — they’re not a problem. People are the problem. I know that’s not right. I know that’s not biblical. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Well, how am I going to take care? Here’s the answer: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

Trust is my lesson. Trust God’s sovereign keeping. And in that confidence, cut off your hands, and tear out your eyes, and fight for a greater joy than any sin could ever bring.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.

Daily Light – July 9, 2019

The Legalist’s Final Rest

Six Reasons to Read Galatians Again

Article by Jeff Robinson, PhD

I’ve found that many Christians, post-conversion, tend toward legalism or antinomianism in their pursuit of sanctification.

I’ve seen this trend both in churches I’ve pastored and in Christian friends. One woman grew up in a strict Reformed Baptist home. She always tended toward legalism, and fought it biblically for years. Another friend was converted in his mid-thirties after spending many years searching for joy in bars and honky-tonks. He has battled an antinomian impulse for many years. Others pendulum-swung after conversion: from legalism to license, or vice versa.

Not all Christians struggle deeply in one of these areas, but the tendency is widespread. That’s why we so desperately need Galatians.

Give My Life Back to Jesus?

My discovery of the spiritual riches in Galatians came at the end of a long road. For more than a decade, I tried to follow Jesus by “rededicating” my life to him over and over and over again, maybe two hundred times. I was converted at age 10 and was fortunate to grow up in church. That church preached the gospel pretty well. My sin. His grace. Repentance. Faith. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. God’s anger at sin and sinners was always present.

But discipleship and sanctification? Not so much.

Although my childhood church helped me understand how to become a Christian, it took me a lot longer to learn about the pilgrimage that follows salvation — the need for daily repentance and killing sin, praying for the fruit of the Spirit, and other crucial elements of sanctification. I lived as if justification came by grace through faith but sanctification came by law.

My life was a frustrating merry-go-round of sin — rededication, law-keeping in my own strength, sin, rededication, law-keeping — you get the picture. I had to keep proving to God that I was serious about him. Practically, it was a strange brew of Baptist nominalism and Roman Catholic formalism.

Sanctified by Grace

Then, at a national conference for Christian men in 1995, I heard a plainly worded sermon on Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Through the preaching of that passage, God worked in my heart. The gates of paradise swung open (to use a phrase from Luther), and I walked through. At age 28, I understood (perhaps for the first time) that both justification and sanctification are by grace — I was saved by grace and am now being sanctified by grace. Though I hadn’t yet begun to study the Reformation in any depth, I comprehended more clearly two vital solas: sola fide and sola gratia.

I understood how they applied to my daily walk with Jesus: I was saved(justified) by grace through faith alone, and I am being saved (sanctified) by grace through faith — the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God. For all the effort involved in the Christian life, we grow, at bottom, by faith in Jesus Christ, as we rest on the grace he gives us. The cycle of rededication, sin, and rededication stopped; my growth in the Lord accelerated, and I eventually entered the ministry with a heart to help others.

And I fell in love with Galatians. Nearly 25 years later, I have preached or taught through Galatians five times and have read meditatively through it dozens of times. Still, I haven’t grown past my need to walk on a path paved with the grace-saturated words of this letter. I suspect I’m not alone, so here are six reasons I’ll never be able to leave Galatians behind.

1. Good works, however good they may appear, do not justify us.

I know, this is Christianity 101, an obvious truth, particularly for those of us of a certain theological persuasion. But I’m a fourth-class legalist at heart, and my inner Pharisee is often the preacher I am most eager to hear. The system of rededication I operated under for so many years gave me security because I was constantly doing something, then checking the box. Done. But Paul corrects this impulse: “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2–3).

While genuine saving faith will show itself in spiritual fruit (as James 2 makes clear), I am regularly tempted to make my works — rededicating myself to God, doing evangelism, feeding the hungry — the ground of my acceptance with God. But in Galatians, Paul reminds me that justification is through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. I never grow past my need to be reminded of the gospel.

2. Confusing law and gospel is a pathway to misery.

Sadly, many Christians walk this difficult road every single day. A pithy saying often (falsely, I think) attributed to John Bunyan captures this potential misery well:

Run, John, run, the law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the gospel brings: it bids us fly and gives us wings.

The law as power for Christian living is a terrible taskmaster. For years, I tried to earn for myself what Christ had already bought. For years, I was a joyless, tired Christian. I’ve met far too many Christians over the years who are in the same condition due to an unbiblical understanding of law and gospel. Instead of seeing the law as a guide to their sanctification, they saw the law — and not the gospel — as the means of achieving their sanctification. Grace is the tracks on which both justification and sanctification run.

3. Christ has set us free from sin, but not free to sin.

For all the years I spent struggling with legalism, I also spent a lot of time as a practical antinomian. I loved the part where Paul says we are set free from the law. I sinned. God forgave. That was his job. While I would have never agreed that this was true, I lived as if it were. I’m probably not the only Christian in church history who has lived this way for a season until God’s truth corrected this deadly untruth. Grace not only pays the penalty for sin; it also disables the power of sin. God’s grace not only pardons but empowers. A Christian is a slave to Christ, free to no longer submit to the chains of sin (Galatians 5:1).

4. The Holy Spirit is not the junior-varsity player within the Godhead.

Here’s one often overlooked fact about Galatians: references to the Spirit outnumber the terms related to justification. Galatians taught me to walk in step with the Spirit and liberated me from any need to be constantly re-upping my commitment to Jesus. It helped me to see the vital role the Spirit plays in my sanctification and corrected my naïve theology that practically assumed the Spirit was only for Pentecostals. All Christians should write Galatians 5:16–25 over the door of their hearts.

5. The Christian life is the crucified life.

Paul reminds us that if we are in Christ, then we are crucified with him (Galatians 2:20). Our sin — not in part, but the whole — is nailed to the cross, and we bear it no more. Our old man is nailed to the cross, and we are free to take up our crosses daily and go hard after Jesus. We are set free from love of self, liberated to love and serve others. Central to orthodox Christianity is give, not get. For years, I lived as if the reverse were true.

6. God calls us to reassert the gospel in every generation.

Paul’s strong admonition in Galatians 1 helped spur Luther and other Reformers to recover the true gospel in the Reformation. The same gospel must be asserted and reasserted in every generation. Peter sought to stir up our minds by way of reminder because we are a forgetful people (2 Peter 1:13). And the first thing to go, usually, is the gospel. But the gospel we reassert must be the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. As Paul points out in Galatians 1, all other so-called “gospels” are the broad road that leads to destruction (Galatians 1:6–9).

Find Freedom

Do the tendencies to legalism and license sound familiar? Then flee to Galatians and find glorious freedom from the bondage of continually proving your goodness to God, or find joyful liberation from your desires for liberty to chase after the world.

For every Christian can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Jeff Robinson , PhD, is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. He is lead pastor of Christ Fellowship Church of Louisville, and he serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and as adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary and Grand Canyon University. He is co-editor for the book, Christ Has Set Us Free: Preaching and Teaching Galatians.

Daily Light – July 8, 2019

From David Niednagel, Pastor, Teacher.  (David uses S.O.A.P. in his morning quiet time – study, observe, apply, pray)

2 Corinthians 7:8-16   Sorrow – good and bad

7:8  I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. 9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

11 Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. 12 My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in the sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us. 13 We have been greatly encouraged by this. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was about the way all of you welcomed him and set his mind at ease. 14 I had told him how proud I was of you—and you didn’t disappoint me. I have always told you the truth, and now my boasting to Titus has also proved true! 15 Now he cares for you more than ever when he remembers the way all of you obeyed him and welcomed him with such fear and deep respect. 16 I am very happy now because I have complete confidence in you.   NLT

Paul wrote them a strong letter, pointing out their sin and calling for repentance – and they did it! It could have gone either way. If Paul’s words had been softer, or not from a heart of love, or if they had resisted they would have hardened in their sin and the church would have died. It was painful – but worth it. 

Paul makes a powerful observation/statement – Godly sorrow leads to repentance and life. Worldly sorrow, where we grieve over the consequences more than over our sin, leads to discouragement, hopelessness, resentment, anger – and death.

But they passed the test! And Paul has confidence they will remember the lessons and make better choices in the future.

Lord, I have seen so many people more upset about getting caught for their sin, than for the sin itself. They blame others instead of grieving over their own self-centeredness and foolishness. Help me face my own sin and repent and not make excuses or blame others. And use me to help others be grieved over their sin more than getting caught. Help me/us learn the sweet benefits of brokenness and repentance and not listen to the schemes of the devil to resist. And Lord, help me know when to use strong letters or words to reach others. I am more likely to use softer words so I don’t upset people, than to describe their actions like You see them. Help me see situations through your eyes, and speak like Paul did. And help me pray every time for You to work now just like You did in Corinth.  Amen.

Daily Light – July 5, 2019

Why God Hides His Will for You

Article by Sam Allberry

Some time ago, the relief organization Oxfam ran a number of ads that used a familiar proverb:

Give a man a fish and he’ll feed himself for just a day, but give him the means to catch his own fish and he’ll be able to feed himself and his family for a whole lifetime.

The principle is clear and, on the surface at least, compelling. It is often used as the difference between aid and development. One gives what is needed in the moment; the other seeks to provide the means for being self-sustained. There is an important parallel to this in the Christian life.

The Will of God for You

The book of Hebrews reminds us that in the Old Testament era God spoke “at many times and in many ways” (Hebrews 1:1). We think not just of prophets being given direct words from God, but also of angels appearing with divine guidance, of visions, dreams, and even personal messages appearing on a wall to declare what was to take place (Daniel 5:5).

Looking back on such times, we can easily feel a little envious. Which of us wouldn’t want our own private angel to tell us how best to navigate life? Or a vision to let us know what God’s will is? Without such direct revelations, it can be hard to discern what God would have us do.

But when we think that way, we may actually be asking for less, rather than for more.

The New Testament is not short on teaching about God’s will. It is there. It is clear. But it is often not as specific as we would like. On one occasion Paul writes, “This is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That’s all well and good, but what job should I take? Should I move next year? Should I be pursuing marriage? And what about all the smaller decisions we face each day?

How We Find His Will

God hasn’t given us a Magic 8 Ball. That might seem frustrating. But he has given us something better:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

This is our relationship to God’s will: not that he emails a daily briefing of what we’re to do each day, but that he gradually renews our minds, changing the way they work, giving us the capacity to discern his will without moment-by-moment direct updates.

This is hugely dignifying. God is not telling us what to think at every moment, but how to think. He’s rarely telling us what decision to make, but teaching us how to make decisions.

What God Is After

There are a couple of examples of this in the New Testament. We’ve already seen what Paul said to the Thessalonians. God’s will is that we be sanctified; that by ever-increasing measure we become more and more like he is: holy (1 Peter 1:15). A significant component of that is therefore resisting all sexual immorality. Any move toward sexual sin (mental or physical sin) is a direct contradiction of God’s will. As we take in God’s word, we gain a better understanding of what he’s like, and what he likes.

Or take Romans 8:29: “Those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.” What’s God’s will for you? That you become more like Jesus, and that many others become more like him too. Anything that leads us toward that end is God’s will.

A couple I know retired a few years ago and finally fulfilled their dream of a house by the sea. But they gave no thought to whether there were any healthy local churches. Their decision took them far from the main means God has for conforming his people to the image of Christ and for drawing others to him. Their church didn’t send them out with that purpose. They weren’t ultimately thinking of God’s will for their lives.

Or let me turn this on myself: What if I didn’t take time to be with the Lord and in his word this morning? The Bible doesn’t say I have to sit at my desk at seven o’clock with an open Bible. It does say I’m to become more like Christ. And this won’t happen without time on my knees and in his word.

Transformed, Not Just Informed

So, God doesn’t give us a spiritual GPS — “turn left here; then right.” He gives us an atlas — “this is your destination; get here, by all good means available.”

This may not be as easy as simply being told what to do or where to go, but surely it’s far more rewarding. God is training us to not need angels delivering instructions. He’s giving us far more: the increasing capability, by his Spirit who lives in us, to think like he does — to have our minds rebooted with his new operating system. God is not merely handing us a fish when we need to eat, but teaching us how to feed ourselves.

During the process of learning how to “feed ourselves,” however, God’s will often seems frustratingly vague and non-specific. The difficulty is part of the design. In those moments, we must look again at the destination we’re headed, pray much, and think carefully about how to get there. God wants so much more than to prescribe our every step. He wants to help us change. He does not simply want to inform us, but to transform us.

Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) is an apologist and writer for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and a consulting editor for The Gospel Coalition, and is based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of 7 Myths about Singleness.