A SING-ALONG SONG – A FRACTURED FRATERNITY AND A CONCERNED GRANDFATHER

It was both jarring and disheartening. I am referring to the surreptitious video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers singing a “song of hate” filled with pejorative racist language as well as degrading epithets and threating statements referencing horrid acts of the past century designed to intimidate African-Americans. It was absolutely deflating and I confess that even though I have watched it three times, I have not been able to view it in its entirety.

Before attempting to give some observations from a Biblical perspective I need to confess that my inability to process this with some level of objectivity is at least partially due to the fact that I am blessed to have 8 grandchildren and 3 are African-American. I cannot tell you how grateful I was that that none of my grandchildren were in the room when this video popped up on a news channel as a “tease” of what was coming up after the commercial.  Therefore, I was given an opportunity to prepare them as to how, as believers, they need to view this (for what it is) and respond to it with the clarity of God’s Word, the fruit of the Spirit and the triumph of Christ.

A brief overview…

How could something like this exist in our country given what seems to be the significant “racial progress” over the last fifty years? The sing-along song displaying unvarnished racial animus was sung by supposedly accomplished college students during the same week that the moving and emotional events memorializing the extraordinary courage of the participants of the Selma march 50 years ago were being observed and experienced. Not to mention the still raw emotions swirling around the challenging events of the past year as our nation attempts to navigate the relational and legal dynamics of local police departments and the African-American community.

A few observations…

1. Progress - I am grateful that the overwhelming response throughout our country is one of horror, incredulity and disciplinary action. One of the reasons for this reaction of gratification is because it was not many years ago this video would have had a mixed response of anger by some and callous amusement by others.

2. Law – I am also grateful for the right use of good law for establishing beneficial public policy relating to the protection of the Constitutional rights of each and every citizen. While not all civil rights legislation has been good and/or necessary, it is undeniable that some laws were necessary to protect the unalienable rights of African-Americans and restrain those who would attempt to deny (i.e. alienate) their rights because they are African-Americans. The response to this event by the University of Oklahoma, in particular, and the culture in general, is a testimony to the blessing of good laws which not only protect and restrain but also, by their existence, declare the ideals and values of a country. Laws designed to protect the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution and restrain those who would deny them are absolutely right, appropriate and necessary. But legal initiatives restraining the objectives of racism in the culture and also displaying the values and ideals of a culture are incapable of changing the hearts of racists and therefore incapable of eradicating racism. The heart of the problem with all sin (including racism) is the problem with the heart. Laws in a society protect people, establish cherished ideals in the culture of the society and restrain evil doers. But laws cannot remove sin because they cannot change hearts. The revulsion that this video has produced and the rapid responses reveal the benefits of good law. But, the song in content and the universal, frivolous participation of those who sang it tells us that while racism has been shamed in the public arena by good laws it has not (and cannot) erase it from the heart. Therefore, while such racist sing-alongs are no longer in the public square, racist hearts will still be revealed by what comes out of the heart and will seek new venues to revel in sinful and sophisticated stupidity – even in a frat party sing along.

3. Biblically faithful theology and a Bible-shaped world view are crucial. The present theological battle in the church to maintain the Biblical doctrine of creation and the historicity of Adam and Eve is important for multiple reasons. One reason is they provide an effective and God honoring foundation to confront racism by rejecting the Darwinian mythology of multiple races. A Biblical world view, when embraced in a “renewed mind,” will agree with the Scripture in general and the Apostle Paul in particular. In Acts 17, Paul is defending the faith in the intellectual capital of the world – Athens – and in the heart of its worship center – the Areopagus.

“That God who made the world and everything in it….. and He made from one man (Adam) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17: 24 ff.

In one distillation and declaration of Biblical truth he affirms the God-established presence of the nations of the world as well as the reality that all humanity, while found in multiple cultures and nations, is actually one race – the human race – with one father (Adam) – the historical Adam and Eve. Racism is not only sinful but is also an act of stupidity because…

  • There is only one race. Therefore to be a racist is at best an act of sinful ignorance and at worst, an act of willing sinful ignorance.
  • A racist must embrace the multiple lies of Darwinian evolutionary claims concerning origins, which is both bad science and by definition non-science.
  • Affirming the importance of intentionally developing a Bible-shaped world and life view through a “renewed mind” leading to a “transformed life,” instead of a life “conformed to this world is absolutely crucial.”

4. The Gospel – The Gospel alone – the “message of reconciliation” delivered by a “ministry of reconciliation” – is the only answer to heart-sins.  Law restrains, declares values and reveals how helpless we are apart from the Gospel of Grace in Christ to save us from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. Remember the heart of the problem is the problem with the heart and the Gospel alone has the power to change the hearts of men and women thereby eradicating the heart of the problem. The sins of bigotry can be forgiven and the heart of bigotry can by God’s grace be transformed.  Exhibit one – the Apostle Paul. Not only was Paul, once the killer of Christians, forgiven, he also was transformed and became one of the greatest evangelists whom the Lord used to multiply Christians. He was a persecutor of the church but was forgiven and became the greatest church planter in the history of the church. He was a relentless Gentile hater as a Jewish Pharisee but became the Apostle to the Gentiles, taking a Gentile name and embracing Timothy, a Gentile from a Gentile father as his “adopted son” in the Lord.

5. Leadership works - Good leadership produces good results and bad leadership produces bad results. If you look closely at the video you will see “a leader” and the followers. This observation does not absolve those who were led into participating but simply affirms that leadership matters. Interestingly, some who participated have already stepped out to apologize and confess. What if another leader had stepped up at that moment to challenge the song, its content and intent? Perhaps, those who were on the edge but ended up “going along” would have been moved in the direction of what is good, right, excellent and virtuous. So, the question to my brothers and sisters but most of all to me is – Would I have been “strong and courageous” by God’s grace, for God’s glory and displayed as well as persuaded others to pursue “a more excellent way?”

6. Character – Finally, while realizing many are debating the legal issues of the President of the University of Oklahoma, I personally believe standards of conduct must be maintained even in a state university. But there remains a question that must be asked of the SAE fraternity and the University – including the President, Board and Administration. I know to enter into the University and/or the fraternity you must have means (money) and you must have displayed academic competency and achievement. But what about character? Lest you think I am out of touch with reality, I challenge you to go and research the entrance requirements to Colleges and fraternities just 75 years ago. See the depth and penetrating nature of the questions concerning character and demonstrated habits of life which saturated the entrance examination process.  This is a character issue as well as a heart issue – not just a violation of politically correct speech.

 Summation…

We thank the Lord that in His Providence we have seen (since the mid-19th century) laws that confront the racism and prejudice that attempts to deny the “unalienable rights” of all citizens in general and the confrontation of systemic racism against African-Americans in particular. And while thanking the Lord for laws that set virtuous cultural ideals which protect the equality of each and every citizen we also know these Laws cannot change hearts. But the Gospel does.

But hearts are only changed through Gospel evangelism and discipleship focused upon a Christ-centered and Bible-shaped Life-view, leading to a Christ-centered and Bible-shaped Life-style, motivated by a Christ-centered and Bible-informed Life-love -the love of Christ compels us.

This Gospel of Grace gloriously liberates us from the penalty of our sins (including bigotry and racism); it definitively liberates us from the power of our sins (including bigotry and racism); it increasingly liberates us from the practice of our sins (including bigotry and racism). And it must be displayed in the covenant community of the King, our Lord and Savior – His Church.

This is what I long for my three African-American grandchildren to see and hear. More than that this is what I long for the world to see and hear – from us who know Christ as Lord and Savior – most importantly from me.

EMBERS TO A FLAME CHURCH REVITALIZATION CONFERENCE

EMBERS BIRMINGHAM 2015 (2)_Page_2

Join us for the Embers to a Flame Conference on Church Revitalization following the Biblical roadmap and ten strategies to church health and vitality.

To see a video and for more specific information regarding the conference to be held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in January 2015 go to http://www.emberstoaflame.org

A PASTORAL HEADS – UP ON REFORMATION WEEK

In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul begins his exposition of the Gospel with a brief statement about the Gospel (1:16-17) – which he will soon expand and expound in the letter – and then moves to a tightly constructed declaration of Divine judgment now revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18-34)In this theological narrative Paul explains the inevitable course of Spiritual Entropy by Divine design whenever a culture/society is devoid of a cogent, courageous and compassionate Gospel witness of redeeming grace and its companion common grace.

Our culture reflects this profile even as others have throughout the ages. In fact, as the three exchanges of sinful rebellion and the three Divine acts of “giving over” are observed in the text, it is clear our nation is in the third downgrade which is socially and legally approved “sexual anarchy” leading to a shameless culture of depravity. How did a nation, society, and culture so providentially blessed by the Gospel arrive at a point where righteousness is not only suppressed but “evil called good” and “good called evil?” Beyond that, how has that which was once affirmed as sacred and foundational (i.e. freedom of religion, the sanctity of life, marriage and family) now mocked and any who might raise their voice to call us back to sanity ridiculed? More than ridiculed, those who would speak for ethical sanity are dismissed as intolerant bigots by a new culture which lives by intolerance and bigotry.

If Paul is right, and he is, the reason for this is the absence of a humble yet courageous, thoughtful yet convicting verbal and visual Gospel witness. In other words, the problem is not that the world/culture has lost its way. On the contrary, the world/culture has found and returned to its way. It is the Church and the individual Christian who have lost their way. We are the ones who, from pew and pulpit, are to send the flowing rivers of a Gospel defined and empowered redeeming grace and common grace into the public arena as we minister to people one by one and speak to the society issue by issue.

This means the “first responders” to our Lord’s call and this present distress must be Christ’s church and authentic Christians. This would lead us to obey our Lord’s directive – “judgment begins with the household of God.” We must repent of our idolatry of cultural affirmation and applause in the name of contextualization and relevance. We must abandon our functional rejection of the binding and invigorating sanctity, supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Word which is the Truth. We must have pastors who repent of believing the church exists to give us work instead of the reality that we exist to do the Lord’s work in His Church – “the people have become like their teachers.” This blog cannot possibly contain all that we need to confess, repent of and pursue with a new obedience.

So, in light of this week’s remembrance of the Reformation, I would propose the following Biblical remedy.

GOSPEL AWAKENING – REVIVAL – NEW REFORMATION
We are in need of a Gospel Awakening in this nation. Yes, this nation. A heart to take the Gospel to “all the nations” does not preclude a priority of reaching your own nation. On the contrary, integrity demands it. The Reformers understood this and modeled it. The prayer of Knox, whose ministry ultimately blessed the world, was “Give me Scotland or I die.” As the English Reformers Latimer and Ridley literally embraced the fire for Christ in Oxford the word to Ridley from Latimer was “Be of good courage Mr. Ridley for today we shall light a candle for Christ that shall not be put out in all of England.” We, throughout the world, still gain light and heat from that candle for Christ in England. Calvin, who would send missionaries throughout the world from Geneva, even to Brazil, prioritized his own country, France, with over 1300 missionaries and letters accompanied by dangerous visits to pastors and churches.

To have a Gospel Awakening the church must receive a Heaven-sent Gospel-saturated, Holy Spirit-delivered, God-glorifying and Bible-shaped revival. Today’s church, impotent and illiterate, opting to be either a museum of past religion or an accommodating cultural participant in the name of relevance, is in desperate need of revival prayer and preaching.

To have revival prayer and preaching we are in need of a New Reformation. The preachers, elders and leaders of our Lord’s church must be moved upon by the Lord of glory and grace. Then we will be done with “lesser things” and that means we will be done with ourselves and become consumed with Christ and fully committed to proclaiming the preeminence and prominence of Christ. When God begins a life-changing and world-shaking Gospel movement it is clear from both history and Scripture that He works through His church and that means He intentionally raises up preachers and leaders who relentlessly love Him “who first loved” them and passionately love to tell the world of Him – the Lord of grace and glory.

But all of this means one more thing. If we are in need of a Gospel Awakening delivered through our Lord’s church… and if that means His Church is in need of Revival… and if that means we need a new Reformation providing leaders and preachers who will connect His church to the life lines of protracted intercessory prayer and Gospel preaching… then that means…
It must begin with me – and how about you? Then we will again proclaim Christ, King of Kings over all the nations to our nation. Not a tribal God for this nation but the God of Glory and Grace to our nation. Beginning with me the cry of the Reformers and their spiritual offspring must again arise – “For Christ’s Cross and Crown.”

A nation descending into the abyss as a consequence of our sin and an impotent professing church as well as the Divine design of sin’s judgment awaits us to awaken to Christ. Even knowing that, those who are in rebellion against the Lord God need to be given eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to receive. It seems as if they are more willing to speak with us than we seem willing to speak to them.

The Real State of the Union

This conference is being held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church on November 9-10 in conjunction with Westminster Theological Seminary featuring speakers: Dr. Peter Lillback, Dr. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Harry Reeder and Dr. William Edgar. Please join us!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-real-state-of-the-union-tickets-12048311825

WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM QUESTION #1

What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Westminster Shorter Catechism Question #1

The Westminster “Divines” (i.e. those called of God, sent by the Holy Spirit and affirmed by His church) gathered each day by edict of Parliament to compile first The Westminster Confession of Faith to unify the church of the Reformation in England with a distillation of essential Biblical truth and eventually two teaching tools. One teaching tool was the Larger Catechism designed for pastors to use in discipling the ordained officers of the church. The second was the Shorter Catechism designed for fathers to use in discipling their families. The very first question they composed to initiate the Catechisms was framed to explain Biblically God’s purpose in making man (Creation), male and female; saving man (Redemption) and sustaining man (Providence). Yet the question has what seems to be either a grammatical oddity or a carefully phrased precept. Let’s look closer.

First let’s examine the question. What is the chief end of man? (note that “end” is singular). Now let’s look at the answer. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (note that “end” is repeated as a singular but “end” though singular is defined as two-fold and therefore plural – “to glorify God forever” and “to enjoy God forever.” So did they make a grammatical error, were they sloppy or is something else of significance being communicating to us? Perhaps some would argue they made a grammatical error but I know of no one who would call them sloppy. These men began every day by re-affirming the vow they took on the first day as Dr. David Calhoun reminds us in his research on the Westminster Assembly.

“to maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory and the peace and good of his Church.”

Furthermore, the careful wording of the Confession and the Catechisms would manifestly reveal the care they took in the formulation of Biblical truth which they desired to be taught in both the family and in the church. That then means they were being thoughtfully engaging. So what were they saying to us beyond the obvious fact that we are created, saved and sustained “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever?”

What the “Divines” were saying is that God’s design in creation, redemption and providence is to make, save and sustain man (male and female) with a two-fold purpose. Therefore it could be re-written or understood more clearly in this way – “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever” (as others have noted such as the beneficial expositions of Jonathan Edwards and in our day John Piper). But I would suggest that is not all they are saying by expounding a singular purpose as defined by a two-fold fulfillment. They are also saying that “the chief end of man is to enjoy God BY glorifying Him forever.”
In other words we exist “to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever” and we “enjoy God BY glorifying Him forever.” To be more precise they are saying when we are embracing our created, redeemed and sustained ‘responsibility’ “to glorify God” we will “enjoy God” and when we “enjoy God” we will instinctively and increasingly “glorify Him.” To attempt to be even more specific, the more you “glorify Him” the more you will “enjoy Him” AND the more you “enjoy Him” the more you will “glorify Him.” To “glorify God” (our sacred responsibility) and “to enjoy God” (our sacred relationship) are two sides of one coin and therefore mutually dependent upon each other and inseparable from each other. You inevitably will display one when you intentionally embrace the other.

How many times in my life has the joy of Christ as my Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer caused me to both intentionally and spontaneously glorify God in worship and witness? But how many times in my life have I been momentarily empty of joy yet obediently embrace God’s call to glorify Him in worship and witness and the result was the joy of the Lord filling my heart and soul to overflowing? The answer to both of these questions is – many times.

To conclude a short blog, while knowing there is no conclusion to our grace secured forever lives, – The Triune God of glory has made you, saved you and sustains you for one purpose or “end” – to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your responsibility is to glorify Him and your relationship is to enjoy Him. The more you enjoy Him (your grace-given and God-secured relationship) the more you will glorify Him and the more you glorify Him (your grace-enabled and God–defined responsibility) the more you will enjoy Him.

THE GOSPEL BLESSING OF GUILT

Gospel? Blessing? Guilt? Is it not a contradiction to put those words together in a title? How can “guilt” possibly be a “blessing” much less a “Gospel Blessing?” The answer is no. The title is not a contradiction. There is a guilt which is a Gospel blessing and by the way there is also a guilt that is an anti-Gospel curse. But I will acknowledge the title is counter-cultural in much of today’s contemporary grace preaching which treats guilt as the unwanted stranger to a Gospel-driven Christian life. So let’s briefly examine guilt as a Gospel blessing. We can start by first describing the onset of a guilt moment in a Christian’s life.

A Lord’s Day has arrived. Somehow you have navigated getting everyone in the family up, fed, dressed, out the door, into the car and headed to church. Beyond that, amazingly the entire family is in a reasonable state of relational neutrality as the brief trip to the Lord’s Day morning worship service is achieved in record time. In fact, this Sunday you have arrived in time to actually look at the worship folder, prayerfully peruse the printed meditation while the prelude wonderfully provides an environment for worship preparation. Starting with the Call to Worship you are guided with focused simplicity throughout the worship service upon both the majesty of God and the blessings of the Gospel by Confessions, Psalms, Hymns, Songs and Scripture Readings along with various prayers of intercession, thanksgiving, illumination and consecration.

Then came the preaching of God’s Word and by God’s grace came also the convicting and convincing work of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word owned by God’s Spirit had exposed both your sin and God’s solution in Christ to both forgive you of its guilt and free you from its power. In those moments the bittersweet Gospel work of grace arrived in the depths of your heart and soul. Bitter was the reality of how you had sinned and assassinated God’s glory in your disobedience to His glorious Law. Yet sweet was the patience and power of His grace reminding you of the gifts of forgiveness and of the power that enables you to assassinate besetting sins. All of these redeeming and life-changing promised blessings of grace had begun to flow experientially at the moment the Gospel gift of guilt arrived in the preaching of God’s Word and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. And when the Gospel blessing of guilt arrives there are five Biblical affirmations identifying it as a Gospel blessing.

The first affirmation of the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin is the fact of its felt presence. Not everyone who “feels guilt” over the reality of personal sin is saved by grace but no one who is saved by grace can develop a lifestyle that dismisses guilt and sign ongoing peace treaties with sin in their lives. In contrast there are those who are lost in their sin and rebellion and are so calloused in their sin that they “feel no guilt.”
The second affirmation of the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian is that while bitter is its taste at the point of conviction it sends us to the sweetness of the patient and powerful Savior who has promised that His grace to forgive us is greater than our sin. And His Word declares “if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Thirdly, the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian awakens within us a heart-hatred of sin and at the same time a heart-gratefulness for salvation. Why? Because the Gospel promises not only an unfailing forgiveness united to the gift of His righteousness but also the power and desire to kill sin and pursue holiness in and for Christ.

Fourthly, the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian is an awakened and renewed awareness of the majesty, patience, power and undeserved blessings of God’s love for us to save us from the persuasion, power, penalty, position, practice and one day presence of sin for His glory and our joy.

Fifthly and finally, at least for this blog is the Gospel blessing of guilt that is differentiated from “false guilt”. Specifically the false guilt that is produced because I think that I am not doing enough to enable God to save me or assist God to save me or the false guilt that is produced by not measuring up to the “traditions” of men. Traditions have their beneficial place in life but they are not the standard to define sin. Sin is defined only as the transgression of God’s Law by omission or commission in thought, word and deed. The Gospel blessing of guilt is used to remind us that God’s grace is greater than either sin’s penalty or power when by faith and repentance we flee to Christ alone for salvation.

In summation, the Gospel blessing of guilt is experienced in two contexts. First, it is experienced in the conversion of the elect as the preaching of the Gospel exposes our sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and exalts Christ as our Savior to whom we flee as He removes sin’s guilt and shame. Secondly, it is experienced in the sanctification of the elect by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as the Lord exposes our sin to remind us of not only our positional blessings in Christ but also our relational blessings with Christ as we grow by grace to “put off the old man” and to “put on the new man” in order “to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.”

While false guilt is to be abhorred, guilt itself in the life of a Christian is not necessarily a false guilt nor should it be avoided. On the contrary, true guilt should be welcomed as a Gospel blessing as the Lord uses it to bring us to Christ, remind us of the joy of our salvation and grow us to become more like our Savior and increasing consistency in exalting our Savior.

The Gospel Reformation Network Affirmations and Denials on the Gospel and Sanctification

Friends,

 Grace and peace. It has been my joy to participate in a growing fraternal fellowship of Reformed and Evangelical pastors identified as The Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) for the past three years. The GRN is committed to addressing some of the issues of Gospel preaching in today’s setting which has been influenced by what we have called a “contemporary grace movement.” The problem with this movement is not hyper-grace or too much grace. The problem is a dwarfed grace that rejects the right use of God’s law in sanctification and declares any preaching of Gospel imperatives and call to human endeavor in the life of a believer as at best moralism and at worst legalism. Therefore, our fellowship has given specific focus upon the Biblical and historically Reformed understanding of the Gospel privilege and imperative of sanctification. In doing so the GRN also desires to highlight the multi-dimensional motivations that believers experience propelling them to obey our Lord’s call to “pursue sanctification.” The GRN joyfully affirms the monergistic Gospel blessings of Effectual Calling, Regeneration, Justification, Adoption, Definitive Sanctification and Glorification while also vigorously, yet carefully, affirming the synergistic endeavor of progressive Gospel Sanctification. This requires Gospel preaching that communicates the foundational Gospel blessings of the elect in Christ and the Gospel responsibilities of the elect to “put off the old man and put on the new man” for Christ. It also seeks to preach with the same care that the Apostle Paul displays in his Epistles as he intentionally lays a Gospel foundation of our positional blessings “in Christ” before calling the professing believer to the Gospel commands to “follow Christ.” This thoughtful and intentional Gospel of grace ministry is sometimes displayed in one verse such as “walk in manner worthy of our calling.” (NOTE – not in manner worthy to be called or stay called but in a manner that honors the sacredness, richness and regality of our calling) or “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (worship language) for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (NOTE – our responsibility to “work out” but we are only able to “work out” because of God’s grace and power which is sovereignly “working in.” Furthermore we are not working “for” our own salvation but working out an already grace-secured salvation and even more you are working out “your own” salvation, not someone else’s salvation. Not only does Paul consistently do this but the other human authors of Scripture do so as well. For instance, Peter calls believers “to grow IN the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (NOTE – the imperative of human endeavor – “grow.” Also note the careful wording. You do not grow FOR grace but IN grace and it is only because of the presence of God’s grace and the indwelling power of Holy Spirit that the believer is enabled to “grow.”)

 This is why we labor together with our fellow Gospel preachers to affirm the “whole Gospel to the whole man.” The contemporary grace movement’s penchant to either careless wording of the relationship and distinctives of Justification/Adoption (revealing our deliverance from sin’s guilt) and Regeneration/Sanctification (revealing our deliverance from sin’s power or purposed wording promoting antinomianism in order to attack legalism) must be lovingly but clearly addressed and rejected. The preaching of the whole gospel to the whole man means that we must not reduce the Gospel to one element of the “ordo salutis.” The Gospel is not simply regeneration (born again)… nor Justification… nor Adoption.. nor Sanctification .. nor Glorification. Anytime the Church makes the Gospel one element of the Ordo Salutis it ensures a reaction toward another element in the next generation. Anytime the Gospel preachers attack the error of Quietism by promoting Pietism it assures the error of Quietism in the next generation. And obviously the reverse is equally true. Anytime the Gospel preachers attack the error of Legalism by promoting Antinomianism either with thoughtless zeal or with a purposed strategy they assure the error of Legalism for their children’s church. And again, clearly the reverse is equally true. The intentional pursuit of holiness and the mortification of sin in the life of a believer resting in Christ alone for salvation and who is empowered by Holy Spirit is neither legalism nor moralism but the necessary evidence of love to Christ, His Word, His people, the lost and His glory.

 The fact is, progressive Gospel-saturated Sanctification is set in motion by the monergistic work of God in Christ and through Holy Spirit with Effectual Calling, Regeneration, Justification and Adoption. And then it is effected in life with a supernatural synergistic work of God’s grace in the life of an engaged believer who is 100% dependent upon the power of God’s grace delivered by the indwelling Spirit of God and 100% devoted to the means of grace in pursuit of obedience to Christ out of love to Him who first freely loved us.

The Gospel reveals that God’s grace in Christ HAS delivered us from the persuasion of sin (effectual calling), the power of sin (regeneration), the penalty of sin (justification) and the position of sin (adoption) and furthermore, it IS delivering us from the practice of sin (sanctification) and gloriously one day it WILL deliver us from the presence of sin (glorification) through the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession and second coming of Christ. This progressive sanctification is the expression of our love to Christ by the power of Holy Spirit in that we, who once in sin lived to assassinate the glory of God now, by grace, desire and pursue the exaltation of the glory of God which is the joy of our new life in Christ.

 With these thoughts, as one grateful participant in the fellowship of the GRN, I, without reservation commend to you (for reading) the Affirmations and Denials of the Gospel Reformation Network (below) which we have adopted and if so led, for your adoption and subscription. But more than that, with thoughtful passion let’s unite to preach the Gospel of Christ – “the whole Gospel to the whole man.” By God’s grace, I would humbly yet boldly ask the Lord that together we might know the Gospel, love the Gospel, be gripped by the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel to the glory of our Triune God revealed in the preeminence of Christ our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Our nation, this world needs preachers of the whole Gospel to the whole man. My brothers, get up on a high mountain and proclaim Good News! Our God reigns! The Gospel is not an appeal from an impotent God through fearful people. It is a regal proclamation and a commanding invitation from the King who has sent us. He has won the victory over sin, death, hell and the grave and Our King reigns! Come to Him and reign with Him. This is the Gospel of reigning grace…greater than all our sin!

The Gospel Reformation Network Affirmations & Denials

on the Gospel & Sanctification 

  • We affirm that legalism is a dangerous problem that the church must always address.
  • We deny that legalism is the primary enemy of the gospel to the exclusion of spiritual bondage, moral rebellion and a love for sin.
  • We affirm that unregenerate man, being totally depraved, is unable to obey or please God unto salvation.
  • We deny that the believer, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, remains unable to obey and please God, by grace and in Christ.
  • We affirm that the gospel provides salvation for the whole man, including man’s need for both imputed and imparted righteousness.
  • We deny that the gospel is provides freedom from the guilt of sin in justification without deliverance from the power of sin in regeneration and liberation from the practice of sin in sanctification.
  • We affirm that both justification and sanctification are distinct, necessary, inseparable and simultaneous graces of union with Christ though faith.
  • We deny that sanctification flows directly from justification, or that the transformative elements of salvation are mere consequences of the forensic elements.
  • We affirm that gratitude for justification is a powerful motivation for growth in holiness.
  • We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic.
  • We affirm that believers are not under the Law as a covenant of works, where the believer is required to merit his or her own righteousness before God.
  • We deny that Christ has freed the Christian from the moral Law as the standard of Christian living.
  • We affirm that through the finished work of Christ believers are adopted by God as sons and now relate to God as their loving heavenly Father.
  • We deny that our adoption precludes God’s fatherly displeasure when His children rebel, or that God’s Fatherly love prevents Him from disciplining Christians who stray from the path of righteousness.
  • We affirm that God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered effort to put off sin and put on righteousness is necessary for Christian growth in grace.
  • We deny that all practical effort in sanctification is moralistic, legalistic or that the only effort required for growth is that Christians remember, revisit and rediscover their justification.
  • We affirm that growth in the Christian life comes through faith, which believes and acts on the promises of God in the Scriptures.
  • We deny that faith is wholly passive in sanctification or separated from good works in the same sense that justification is by faith alone.
  • We affirm that faithful preaching of the Law for use in the Christian life must always be done in the context of God’s provision through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • We deny that preaching the Scripture’s indicatives without the imperatives is a healthy model for Christian ministry because such preaching fails to conform to the pattern seen in Scripture and is dangerous to the life and ministry of the church.
  • We affirm that Christians gain assurance of salvation by cherishing the promise of the gospel and by the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer’s life.
  • We deny that assurance gained through growth in godliness amounts to a performance-based religion or necessitates an unwholesome spiritual pride.
  • We affirm that Christians can and should experience victories over sin, however limited and partial, and that these victories bring glory to God and bear testimony to the power of His grace.
  • We deny that rejoicing in victories over sin amounts to spiritual pride or performance religion, although Christians may and sometimes do sin in this way.

http://gospelreformation.net/