Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sully Notes 14 | You Can Change: God's Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Church Sully Notes 14 Part 1 of 3 Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Church Grace Repentance Faith


Sully Notes 14: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

3DM Missional Community Trilogy Sully Notes
Special Sully Notes



Emmaus City Church Sully Notes 14 Part 1 Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Church Faith Repentance GraceAfter Mike Breen, Tim Chester takes the cake for being the next author to have two books included in Sully Notes. The first was A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table. And You Can Change: God's Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions is equally good. Both are modern classics for me. But I would have gone with a different title for You Can Change. In fact, for a reprint, I think I would call it Hope for Change: Becoming More Like Jesus Through Repentance and Faith. Maybe I'll pitch it to Chester for the 3rd edition reprint. In the meantime, check out what I think is one of the best books available in learning how to fight sin and turn to Jesus with others.

You Can Change | Sully Notes 14: Part 1 of 3


Introduction

"It's about the hope we have in Jesus, hope for forgiveness, but also about hope for change. Not that this book will in itself change you. We're not changed by systems or rules. We need a Redeemer to set us free, and we have a great Redeemer in Jesus. This book points to Jesus and explains how faith in Jesus leads to change, what theologians call sanctification or becoming more like Jesus." pg. 9

"I'm confident that holiness is always good news. God calls us to the good life. He's always bigger and better than anything sin offers. The key is to realize why change is good news in your struggles with sin." pg. 10   

Chapter One | What Would You Like to Change?

" ... on the sixth day God's verdict on a world that now included humanity was 'very good.' God's work wasn't finished until there was something in the world to reflect his glory in the world. We often excuse our actions by saying, 'I'm only human.' There's nothing 'only' about being human: we're truly human as we reflect God's glory. ... 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Romans 3;23). 'Paul's language here,' comments Sinclair Ferguson, 'is loaded with the biblical motif of the divine image. In Scripture, image and glory are interrelated ideas. As the image of God, man was created to reflect, express and participate in the glory of God ... Enter Jesus, 'the image of God' (2 Corinthians 4:4): He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3). And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus is the glory of the Father. He makes God known in the world. He is God in human form. He shows us what it means to be the image of God and to reflect God's glory. That's why the New Testament sometimes says we should be like God and sometimes says we should be like Christ. It's because Christ is the true image of God." pgs. 11-12

"Jesus shows us God's agenda for change. God isn't interested in making us religious. Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn't interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us. God isn't interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn't interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city. The word holy means 'set apart' or 'consecrated.' For Jesus, holiness means being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn't mean set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God's glory in and for the world." pg. 13   

"Jesus is the perfect person, the true image of God, the glory of the Father. And God's agenda for change is for us to become like Jesus. ... 'For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers' (Romans 8:29). ... 'Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us' (Ephesians 5:1) ... 'Whoever claims to live in (God) must walk as Jesus did' (1 John 2:6). In Romans 8, Paul says that God uses everything that happens to us to make us like Jesus, both the good and the bad. Indeed, the bad things become in some sense good for us because they make us like Jesus. In themselves they may be evil, but God uses them for the good of those who love him, and that good is that we become more like Jesus." pgs. 14-15

"When Moses was in the tabernacle before God, he could take the veil off because he was turned toward God and not toward the people (Exodus 34:34). It's the same when we turn to God in repentance. The veil that hides God's glory is taken away. Our eyes are opened to see in Christ the glory of God. ... The message is that change takes place in our lives as we turn to see the glory of God in Jesus. We 'see' the glory of Christ as we 'hear' the gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Moral effort, fear of judgment, and sets of rules can't bring lasting change. But amazing things happen when we 'turn to the Lord.' ... when we turn to the Lord, Jesus sets us free through the Spirit. ... When we turn to the Lord, we become more like Jesus: people of grace and truth, of love and purity." pgs. 17-18  
Chapter Two | Why Would You Like to Change?

"The instinct to self-atone runs deep in our hearts. We want to make amends for our sin on our own. But God has done it all through Christ because of his grace, his undeserved love to us. Grace is so simple to understand and yet so hard to grasp. ... The problem is that we seem to be hard-wired to think we must do something to make God favorably disposed toward us. We want to take the credit. But all the time God is saying, 'In my love I gave my Son for you. He's done everything needed to secure my blessing. I love you as you are, and I accept you in him.' God can't love you more than he does now, no matter how much you change your life. And God won't love you less than he does now, no matter what a mess you make of your life. 'God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)." pg. 24

" ... trying to impress God, others, or ourselves puts us at the center of our change project. It makes change all about my looking good. It is done for my glory. And that's pretty much the definition of sin. Sin is living for my glory instead of God's. Sin is living life my way, for me, instead of living life God's way, for God. Often that means rejecting God as Lord and wanting to be our own lord, but it can also involve rejecting God as Savior and wanting to be our own savior. Pharisees do good works and repent of bad works. But gospel repentance includes repenting of good works done for wrong reasons. We need to repent of trying to be our own savior. Theologian John Gerstner says, 'The thing that really separates us from God is not so much our sin, but our damnable good works.' ... When you feel the desire to prove yourself, remember you're right with God in Christ. You can't do anything to make yourself more acceptable to God than you already are. You don't need to worry whether people are impressed by you because you're already justified or vindicated by God. And what makes you feel good is not what you've done, but what Christ has done for you. Your identity isn't dependent on your change. You're a child of the heavenly King. ... " pgs. 25-26

"When we try to prove ourselves by our good works, we're saying, in effect, that the cross wasn't enough. ... You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness always starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behavior, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don't see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin itself and desiring God in its place. ... We don't change so we can prove ourselves to God. We're accepted by God so we can change." pgs. 27-29

"God gives us a new identity, and this new identity is the motive and basis for our change. Again and again in the New Testament we are called to be what we are. It's not about achieving something so we can impress. It's about living out the new identity that God gives us in Jesus. 'His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature ...' (from I Peter 1). We don't need anything new to be godly because we already have all we need. The great and precious promises that shape our new identity enable us to be like God. Growth in godliness begins with faith in those promises. Notice the problem when someone is ineffective and unproductive (see 1 Peter 1:9). He's 'forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.' He's lost sight of his new identity." pgs. 29-30

"God sent his Son to buy our freedom. We're no longer slaves with a slavemaster. Now we're children with a Father. We don't have to worry about proving ourselves because God says, 'You're my child.' We don't have a spirit of fear, but a Spirit who prompts us to cry, 'Abba, Father.' We don't have to worry about the future because God has made us his heirs so that all his resources are ours. G.C. Berkouwer says, 'The adoption to sons that is the foundation of sanctification, the only foundation ... In his faith each has all the possession he requires and can therefore freely and lovingly devote his entire life to the service of his fellowman. ... our motive for change: to enjoy the freedom from sin and delight in God that God gives to us through Jesus. ... becoming like Jesus is something that God gives to us. It's not an achievement that we offer to him. It's enjoying the new identity he has given us in Christ. It begins with his work for us. He has set us free from sin and offers us a relationship with himself." – pgs. 31, 35-36

Chapter Three | How Are You Going to Change?

"The Puritan John Flavel said, 'We are more able to stop the sun in its course or make rivers run uphill as by our own skill and power to rule and order our hearts." – pg. 42

" ... as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him ... (Colossians 2:6-7). ... After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3). ... We become Christians by faith in Jesus, we stay Christians by faith in Jesus, and we grow as Christians by faith in Jesus. J.C. Ryle wrote, 'If we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain – we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith ... If we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ." – pgs. 43-44

"The songwriter Bob Kauflin describes a three-year period of hopelessness in his life characterized by depression, panic attacks, and itching. He confessed this hopelessness to a pastor who, to his great surprise, said, 'I don't think you're hopeless enough.' Kauflin thought he was joking, but the pastor explained, 'If you were completely hopeless, you'd stop trusting in what you think you can do to change the situation and start trusting in what Jesus Christ has already done for you at the cross.' 'A light went on,' says Kauflin. For months afterward, every time he felt anxious or hopeless, he would say to himself, 'I am a hopeless person, but Jesus Christ died for hopeless people.'" – pg. 46

"'Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it' (Hebrews 12:10-11). ... God never punishes us since Christ has already paid the price of our sin in full. God always and only disciplines us to strengthen our relationship with him. It is always an act of love. It's a sign that we are truly God's children (Hebrews 12:8). God uses hardship (12:7) to weaken our allegiance to this world and set our hope on the world to come, to weaken our dependence on worldly things and strengthen our faith in him (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 6-9). Even the sinless Son of God was made perfect by God through suffering (Hebrews 2:10). ... God the Father has designed a complex and full training package for each believer. Every circumstance of our lives is part of this lifelong development program. He uses 'all things' for our good, and that good is that we become like his Son (Romans 8:28-29). Day by day he is working out his plan until we 'share in his holiness.'" – pg. 47

"Jesus sets us free from the penalty of sin, i.e., death. But Jesus also sets us free from the power of sin, i.e., slavery. We're free to live for God. Telling a slave to be free is to add insult to injury. But telling a liberated slave to be free is an invitation to enjoy his new freedom and privileges." – pg. 49

"It's the Spirit's life in us that enables us to trust in Jesus as our Savior (faith) and submit to Jesus as our Lord (repentance). And it's the Spirit's life in us that enables us to grow in our faith and obedience. ... 'God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him' (Philippians 2:13).
    • The Father is intimately involved in our lives so that our circumstances train us in godliness.
    • The Son has set us free from both the penalty and the power of sin so that we now live under the reign of grace.
    • The Spirit gives us a new attitude toward sin and a new power to change.
The combined forces of the Trinity are at work in our lives to set us free and make us holy." – pg. 53  

"Without Jesus we can never break free from sin's grip. But Jesus came to set us free from sin and destroy Satan's power. He's begun a process in us that will end with our becoming like God: 'we are God's children now ...  we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is' (1John 3:2). That process isn't yet complete, so we still fall into sin. But we're no longer enslaved by sin. We can change. More than that, John says holiness has now been written into our DNA! 'No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God' (1 John 3:9). That's the negative: not sinning is in our DNA. Later John states the positive: 'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God' (1 John 4:7). Love is in our DNA." – pg. 54

"John says the end of the change process is certain: I will be like Jesus when I see him as he is (1 John 3:2). That means change is not only possible, it's inevitable! I used to think sanctification was a bit like pushing a boulder up a hill. It was hard, slow work, and if you lost concentration you might find yourself back at the bottom. But it's more like a boulder rolling down a hill. There's something inevitable about it, because it's God's work, and God always succeeds. The sad thing is that often I try to push the boulder back up the hill. I say in effect, 'Don't change me yet – I like doing that sin.'" – pg. 55

" ... salvation from start to finish is God's work, in which we are active participants through faith and repentance by the grace of God. We work hard, but then say with Paul, 'It was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure' (Philippians 2:12-13)." – pg. 55 

"By faith we find God more desirable than anything sin offers. By faith we continue to be united to Christ, the source of our new life. By faith we embrace the new identity that is ours by grace. By faith we follow the new desires of the Spirit." – pg. 56

"We begin the Christian life through faith and repentance, and we continue the Christian life through faith and repentance. John Owen says, 'Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.' When the crowd asks Jesus what God expects of them, he replies, 'This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent' (John 6:28-29). It means we need a kind of re-conversion each day. The first of Martin Luther's famous Ninety-five Theses was this: 'When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.' Each day we turn afresh in faith and repentance toward God. We rediscover our first love all over again so that we're not tempted to engage in spiritual adultery. 'The key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel.'" – pg. 57  

Next post: Sully Notes 14 | You Can Change Part 2 of 3 

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