About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.

Measured Growth

If you’ve been in a house long enough with growing children, chances are you’ve got a door frame somewhere with pencil marks measuring their growth. It’s amazing to see how they grow over time. I’ll admit, about the time my youngest started to catch up to me in height, I just decided to stop measuring, I didn’t what to admit defeat.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way we could measure our growth in the Lord? What would it be like if we could have a record of measurements on a wall in our home, showing our development in faith, good works, prayer, and love.

Or maybe it wouldn’t.

For some, there would be no sign of growth, or long periods where no change took place whatsoever, or maybe even a few steps were lost.

God’s word calls us to sanctification, to a life of holiness, growing into the likeness of Christ, of maturing in our faith and leaving behind the passions of the world.

1 Th 4:3–5  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…

1 Pe 1:15  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

Eph 4:13  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Heb 10:14  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

God has justified and redeemed us as His people in Jesus Christ, so that we may grow in holiness, in sanctification, in Christlikeness. This is, as the Westminster Larger Catechism tells us, “a work of God’s grace, whereby those whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of His Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole person after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.

Let me condense that: Sanctification is the work of God, where those chosen by God to be holy are, by the Holy Spirit, renewed in the image of God.

The Holy Spirit, vitally uniting us to Christ, applies Jesus’ death and resurrection to our lives, and works grace upon grace within our lives, so that we:

  • Continue to repent of our sin
  • Learn trust in Christ for salvation more and more
  • Develop a love for the Word of God and find in it our only rule for life and faith
  • Grow in our love for the Church, for the fellowship of those who have been justified and sanctified by God in Jesus Christ
  • Stand ready to say and show the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ to those around us.

The Westminster Confession reminds us that this work of God sanctifying us is imperfect in this life, for there will abide in us some remnant of corruption. And so we are to be at war, the spirit against the flesh, always putting to death the old man wishing, and being renewed in the new life day by day according to God’s Word.

In reading through J.C. Ryle’s, Holiness (get a free copy here), I am encouraged by, and challenged in, his bullet points on the Nature of Sanctification. I’d like to share them here as food for thought, hopefully encouraging you in your life of growth in God’s grace.

  1. Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. The branch that bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine.
  2. Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life.
  3. Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation.
  4. Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. He that boasts of being one of God’s elect, while he is willfully and habitually living in sin, is only deceiving himself and talking wicked blasphemy
  5. Sanctification is a reality that will always be seen.
  6. Sanctification is a reality for which every believer is responsible. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight and a very ignorant man.
  7. Sanctification is a thing which admits of growth and degrees. A man may climb from one step to another in holiness and be far more sanctified at one period of his life than another. More pardoned and more justified than he is when he first believes he cannot be, though he may feel it more. More sanctified he certainly may be, because every grace in his new character may be strengthened, enlarged  and deepened.
  8. Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshipping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper.
  9. Sanctification is a thing which does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.
  10. Sanctification is a thing which cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God.
  11. Sanctification is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment.
  12. Sanctification, in the last place, is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven. Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there. We must be saints before we die if we are to be saints afterwards in glory.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th 5:23).

SDG

Quotes from: Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.

Digging Low to Build High

The first thing that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness

Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ must certainly have a desire to grow in holiness. There is, by nature of our fellowship with Him, and the operating of His Spirit upon our lives, a transformation of our desires; a longing to be more like Christ, to enjoy fellowship with Him, to see evidences of His grace and goodness in our lives, and to be found useful in His kingdom. This, I believe, is the heartfelt desire of every sincere Christian, in some shape or form, and it may be best summed up in one word: Holiness.

As those who have been redeemed in Christ, we are called to be holy:

  • 1 Th 4:7  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
  • 1 Pe 1:15–16  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
  • 1 Pe 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
  • Heb 12:14  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

So we desire to grow in holiness, and our natural tendency, the way in which we would get the process started, is to just go and be holy. We often think that simply by doing, we will eventually become what we want to be. We start taking on good works, acts of piety and holiness, taking on more disciplines, striving to become what we’ve been called to be.

And when our holiness is produced by our own striving, it will fail.

All we’ve done is put up a flimsy façade, which can never stand the test of time. We’ve put lipstick on a pig: it’s still a pig, and it’s still not pretty.

No, if we want to grow tall in holiness, first we must dig deep and deal with our own sinfulness.

When God begins to bring growth into the life of a follower of Christ, the first thing that will come is a deepening understanding of his or her own sinfulness, and an ever growing need for God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.

This is often a difficult providence. We ask that God would help us to grow in faith and allow us to serve in holiness, and the first thing God does is show us our own brokenness and need. We ask God to teach us to pray, and God shows us how anemic and faithless our prayer life has been. It seems like God is giving the very opposite of what we ask for, but in reality, this is for our own good.

J.C. Ryle, in his book, Holiness, writes, “People will never set their faces decidedly towards heaven and live like pilgrims until they really feel that they are in danger of hell… We may depend upon it, men will never come to Jesus and stay with Jesus and live for Jesus unless they really know why they are to come and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin… Once we see that sin is far viler and far nearer to us and sticks more closely than we supposed, we will be led, I trust and believe, to get nearer to Christ.”

If your prayer is that would you grow in holiness and Christlikeness, do not be surprised if the answer to your prayer is an ever growing awareness of your own depravity and desperate need for Christ. The closer you come to the light, the more you will see.

But do not be discouraged. For as you come to the light of Christ, he stands ready to forgive, to heal, to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, to cover you in His garments, to sanctify you through the working of His Holy Spirit.

SDG