Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sully Notes 15 | The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness Part 3 of 3

Emmaus City Sully Notes 15 Part 3 of 3 Holiness Worcester MA Acts 29 Soma Christian Reformed Church Faith Repentance Christlikeness

Sully Notes 15: 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 is the link to the previous Sully Notes 15:

The Hole in Our Holiness | Sully Notes 15: Part 3 of 3 


Chapter Eight | Saints and Sexual Immorality 

" ... when there is compromise with the world, we need conviction. We have to undergo the difficult task of looking at our lives and seeing how we may be out of step with Scripture." – pg. 107

"In the Old Testament, when a good king would take over in Israel or Judah he would rid the land of idols and false religion. And God would be pleased. But often, even with the good kings, we find that despite much progress 'the high places were not taken away' (1 Kings 15:14; 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 35). These were the various sites in Israel where people would do sacrifices and rituals – the kinds that the other nations performed. The high places were a symbol of Israel's compromise. The high places were so entrenched in the culture, they seemed so normal, that even the good kings did not think to remove them. Or if they did, they couldn't muster the courage to act on their convictions. The high places were blind spots. The people couldn't see what they represented. They were so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things were, that the kings didn't tear them down and the people didn't stop worshiping there. Sexual immorality is one of our high places. I'm afraid we – and there is an 'I' in that 'we' – don't have the eyes to see how much the world has squeezed us into its mold. ... More often than not when the apostle Paul lists behaviors not fitting for the Christian, sexual immorality is at the head of the list (Romans 1:24; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5). In moving from darkness to light, one of the first things new Gentile converts had to accept was a radically different sexual ethic. ... 'The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will raise us up by his power ... Flee from sexual immorality' (1 Corinthians 6:13b-14, 17a). ... Paul says 'flee.' Don't reason with sexual sin, just run. Don't dabble. Don't peruse. Don't experiment. Don't 'find yourself.' Don't rest your resolve. Don't mess around. Just flee.– pgs. 108-109, 111

"In 1 Corinthians 6:12 we find Paul responding to one of the Corinthians' favorite slogans. Apparently they liked to affirm that 'all things are lawful for me.' They were proud of their Christian liberty. And yet Paul explains that even 'free things' are not free if they enslave you. When examining gray areas in the Christian life, we need to do more than look for a specific Bible verse condemning the practice in question. We need to use bigger questions like the ones in verse 12. We need to ask whether (blank) is 'helpful' to us in glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31) or whether it enslaves us to habits we cannot break." – pg. 111

"Union with Christ also means moral responsibility. Look at 1 Corinthians 6:15. Paul's language is circumspect, but his argument is quite shocking. Since we belong to Christ, we are members of his body. Therefore, when you engage in sexual immorality – whether it's prostitution, as Paul mentions, or adultery, or sex before marriage, or any sexual sin – it's as if the members of Christ are engaging in sexual sin. To put it bluntly, if you shack up with a whore it's like dragging Christ into bed with her too. When you put your faith in Christ, you become one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17). So when you put your sexual organs where they don't belong, you are putting the Lord Jesus where he doesn't belong. Sexual sin is terribly serious because it is a sin against your own body and a sin against the body of Christ of which you are a member. If you can't picture Christ with a prostitute or Christ in front of porn or Christ sleeping around, then you shouldn't picture yourself in those circumstances either.– pg. 112

" ...  the main goal in all relationships is to glorify God, not to get as close to sinning as possible. ... do not stir up love before its time (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). These are powerful desires we are talking about and, in the wrong context, strong temptations. Many godly people have found themselves doing all sorts of things they never thought they'd be doing. You have a whole lifetime in front of you to figure things out, so be careful not to awaken passions that cannot yet be fulfilled. ... we should view members of the opposite sex against the backdrop of the family relationship. Indeed this was Paul's approach: 'Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2). So, young single men, what does purity look like toward your sister?" – pgs. 114-115

"No matter how entrenched the patterns of sin, I tell you on the authority of God's Word: your situation is not hopeless. With the gospel there is hope of cleansing. With the Spirit there is hope of power. With Christ there is hope of transformation. With the Word of God there is hope of holiness. If you have died with Christ, will you not also be raised with Christ (Romans 6:4-8)? If you have been crucified with Christ, is it not the person of Christ  with all his purifying power – who lives in you (Galatians 2:20)? And if God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, how will he not also with him graciously give you all things (Romans 8:32)? God can forgive (again). God can empower (more). And God can change you, even if it's slowly, haltingly, and painfully from one tiny degree of glory to the next.– pg. 122

Chapter Nine | Abide and Obey

" ... holiness is being like Christ. ... being like Christ is possibly only for those who are in Christ. ...  those in Christ should make it their aim to grow in fellowship with Christ. We must always remember that in seeking after holiness we are not so much seeking after a thing as we are seeking a person. ... We don't just want holiness. We want the Holy One in whom we have been counted holy and are now being made holy. ... our unchanging union with Christ leads to an ever-increasing communion with Christ.– pg. 123

"Union with Christ is the irrevocable work of the Spirit. Once united, nothing can separate us from Christ. Nothing can make us a little more or a little less united. Union with Christ is unalterable. Communion with Christ, on the other hand, can be affected by sin and unresponsiveness to God's grace. It's like marriage: you can't be more or less married (union) but you can have a stronger or weaker marriage (communion).– pgs. 73-74

"We cannot bypass the central apostolic categories of incarnation, redemption, substitution, propitiation, reconciliation, and justification and go straight to communion with God. The summons of the gospel is not to meditate or contemplate, but to repent and believe. Only through this exercise of faith can we have union with Christ. And then from this union it is our privilege and responsibility to pursue deeper communion with Christ ... In his brilliant work Communion with God (1657), John Owen takes four hundred pages to unpack how we can have communion with each distinct member of the Trinity. The Father's special communion with us is love; the Son's communion is grace; and the Spirit's communion with us is comfort. ... 'God remains among us and in his people by renewing them with his life, with his Spirit, and making his presence known in them and among them (John 14:16, 23); they remain in him by obeying his commands.– pgs. 125-126

"We obey as we abide and abide as we obey. Frustrated believers need to be reminded that they will bear fruit only as they are connected to the Vine. Apart from Jesus they can do nothing (John 15:5-6). Likewise, lazy believers need to be reminded that if they are serious about remaining in Christ's love and experiencing abundant life they must get serious about obeying the Father's commandments (John 15:10-11). Fellowship with Christ does not exist apart from fealty to Christ. We see this connection just as clearly in John's epistles as we do in his Gospel. If we abide in Christ we must walk in the same way he walked (1 John 2:6). No one who abides in Christ keeps on sinning (1 John 3:6). Whoever does not love does not have eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15). Whoever keeps the commandments abides in God and God in him (3:24). If we love one another, God abides in us and we abide in God (1 John 4:12, 16). As we've already seen, John is not telling us to be morally flawless. There is an Advocate we can fly to for forgiveness (1 John 1:9; 2:1). But finding assurance in Christ is no excuse for presumption when our lives are marked by apathetic (or defiant) disobedience to Christ. The verb 'to abide' occurs more in John's writings than in all the rest of the New Testament combined. He wants us to see that fellowship with Christ is wonderfully possible in this life and in the next. ... walking with Christ and enjoying communion with him involves walking as Christ did and keeping his commands." – pgs. 126-127

"Our feelings go up and down. Our sense of closeness fluctuates. But God is always there. He has a way of sanctifying us apart from our conscious effort. He quietly brings events and conditions into our lives that humble us, purify us, and draw us to Christ. Quite often, God uses suffering to smooth out our rough edges and break down our streak of independence. We may not be aware of any particular patterns that have led us to Christ, but over the years we may find that indeed our love for Jesus is stronger, our relationship with him is firmer, and our sense of his presence is stronger. Even in the dark times and dry seasons, we will find that God has been working all along. In thinking about our fellowship with Christ we must never imagine that Christ is hiding in a corner, waiting for us to break through his hard exterior, just hoping we'll pay attention to him. He is constantly reaching out, wooing, speaking, entreating, moving, and standing at the door to knock (Revelation 3:20).
(1) We pursue communion with Christ through prayer. We are commanded to 'continue steadfastly in prayer' (Colossians 4:2) and even to 'pray without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If there is one thing Christians all agree on, it's that God wants us to pray. We need to understand that time spent in prayer is time spent with our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.
(2) We pursue communion with Christ through the word of truth. We take hold of Christ as his words take hold of us. Mutual indwelling involves more than just obedience. It also 'entails a growing absorption of Jesus' teaching' into our heads and hearts. It is only when we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, that God abides in us (1 John 4:15).
(3) We pursue communion with Christ through fellowship with other Christians. Because the church is the body of Christ, we commune with Christ while also communing with other Christians. John says, 'that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ' (1 John 1:3). No matter how insignificant your church may seem, fellowship in that body of believers is fellowship with God.
 (4) We pursue communion with Christ through partaking the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is not only a visible reminder of the gospel, it is a spiritual feast where Christ is present as both the host and the meal. At the Table, Christ nourishes us, strengthens us, and assures us of his love. We enjoy communion with the living Christ. As Richard Baxter remarked, 'No where is God so near to man as in Jesus Christ; and no where is Christ so familiarly represented to us, as in this holy sacrament.'
God may be everywhere, but he is only with – in a covenantal sense – those who believe in his Son. Communion with God is possible only because of union with Christ. And what a remarkable possibility! The goal in the Garden was uninterrupted fellowship with God. The aim ever since has been restored fellowship with God. The end of the story is eternal fellowship with God." – pgs. 128-134 

Chapter Ten | That All May See Your Progress

"In 1 Timothy 4 ... Paul tells young Timothy to 'set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity' (1 Timothy 4:12). Does that feel a little intense to you? 'Hey, Timothy, ... I want you to be exemplary in pretty much every area of your life. Got it?' Sounds scary. But then comes this part about progress in verse 15. Apparently, Paul didn't think 'set an example' meant 'get everything right the first time.' You can take verse 15 as an upper or a downer. My discouragement came in thinking that people could see me five years from now and realize I used to be less mature, less capable, and less godly. It's a little bit of a bummer to realize that later I'll look back at the me I am now and be glad I'm not entirely the same me any longer. But verse 15 has mainly been an encouragement. It means I can ... set an example with my life without 'having arrived.' I can grow. I can mature. I can become holier than I am now. My behavior and my teaching can improve. Progress is not only what God expects from me but what he allows from me. pg. 81

" ... when it comes to sanctification, it's more important where you're going than where you are. Direction matters more than position. Your future progress speaks louder than you present placement. So cheer up: if you aren't as holy as you want to be now, God may still be pleased with you because you are heading in the right direction. And be warned: if you aren't as holy as you used to be, God probably isn't impressed with yesterday's triumphs when for the last few months you've done nothing but give up. ... progress in the pursuit of holiness is easier said than done. ... As David Powlison likes to say, sanctification is like a man walking up the stairs with a yo-yo. There are a lot of ups and downs, but ultimate progress nonetheless. ...  (And) don't be afraid to hand the spiritual thermometer over to someone else. The assumption in verse 15 is that other Christians will notice our progress. An honest, discerning friend is often more accurate than we are in assessing our relative spiritual health. They can see your general movement while you may only see today's failure. Remember, it's the testimony of almost all saints that as they get closer to God they see more of their ungodliness. It's normal to feel less holy as you become more holy. Being more aware of sin in your life is usually a sign of the Spirit's sanctifying work, not of his withdrawal. All that to say, when it comes to seeing your own sanctification, it's not always best to take your own word for it. Ask others: can you see my progress? ... Sanctification will be marked by penitence more than perfection. pgs. 138-139

"Real contrition is hard, painful work. As Thomas Brooks put it, quite vividly, 'Repentance is the vomit of the soul.' Think about throwing up for a moment. There is nothing pleasant about it. I can't think of any physical sensation I like less. ... Genuine repentance is similar. It's not a convenient escape hatch after a weekend or a life of folly. It means admitting specific wrong, recognizing your offensiveness to God, changing course, turning to Christ, and wishing with all your heart you had never made the mistake you now despise. ... Throwing up is not easy. And neither is repentance. But one is much sweeter than the other."  pgs. 140-141

"If we are going to understand the nature of true repentance, we need to be familiar with Paul's distinction in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 between worldly grief and godly grief: '(9) As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. (10) For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (11) For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.' ... To use the words of the Heidelberg Catechism, godly grief 'is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it' (Q/A 89). The prodigal son saw that he not only had made a mess of his life, but he had sinned against his father, the one who loved him the most and had given him everything. This is exemplary. Too often we are simply sorry we got caught. Sorry we have to live with the consequences. Sorry we got knocked down a few notches in some people's estimation. Godly grief doesn't blame parents or the schools or the government or friends or the church. Godly grief says, 'Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!' (Psalm 51:1-2). ... Regret feels bad about past sins. Repentance turns away from past sins. Regret looks to our own circumstances. Repentance looks to God. Most of us are content with regret. We just want to feel bad for awhile, have a good cry, enjoy the cathartic experience, bewail our sin, and talk about how sorry we are. But we don't want to change. We don't want to deal with God. Godly grief is fruitful and effective emotion. The Spirit uses it to spur us to action, to make us zealous for good works, and to help us run from sin and start walking in the opposite direction." – pgs. 141, 143-144 

"Robert Murray M'Cheyne, a nineteenth-century Scottish preacher who died at the age of twenty-nine ... : 'the greatest need of my people is my own holiness.' Now in one sense, I suppose the gospel is more important than holiness, because the good news of Christ's death and resurrection is good even if the person sharing it is a scoundrel. So maybe M'Cheyne should have said, 'the second greatest need.' ... (But) in truth, a dying world needs you to be with God more than it needs you to be 'with it.' That's true for me as a pastor and true for you as a mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandparent, friend, Bible study leader, computer programmer, bank teller, barista, or CEO. Your friends and family, your colleagues and kids – they don't need you to do miracles or transform civilization. They need you to be holy. As Horatius Bonar (another Scottish preacher and a friend of M'Cheyne) reminds us, holiness is not measured by 'one great heroic act or mighty martyrdom. ... It is of small things that a great life is made up.'" – pgs. 144-145 –pgs. 144-15

"Paul says, 'Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us' (Philippians 3:17). It's godliness that God is looking for. The best-looking Christian is the one growing by the Spirit into the likeness of Christ." – pg. 147

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