The Cup

When Christ said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” he meant that his death guaranteed not only forgiveness, but His own indwelling presence. The new covenant guarantees that God is not simply way up there [though he is], but resides also in the very core of everyone who trusts in Christ. What Paul said of himself is true for every believer – “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

~Excerpt, The Blackie Pulpit, 2012

The Deceitfulness of Sin & The Triumph of Grace

SIN. It is more powerful than we often think, exerting its influence over us in a million ways everyday. It causes wars (hatred), economic downturns (greed), crime, and foul language. It creates the environment in which many evils thrive; where would the pornography industry be apart from any desire for it? Sin is the reason children disobey their parents. Sin is the reason, the heart of the matter, parents abandon their responsibility to parent. Sin is the reason, the heart of the matter, marriage covenants are broken. Sin is why the drunkard is as he is; his addiction is not God. Sin is why abortion is legal in this country; individual rights reign supreme (unless you’re the individual in the womb). Sin is why marriage has been redefined; remove God (that is, the God who is) from any discussion and we are “free” to do what is right in our own eyes. May God have mercy upon us.

There are a number of ways the Bible speaks of sin. But what has been impressed upon my heart is that sin is not just a master or a desire, it is also a liar. Hebrews 3:12-13 says,

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Sin is deceitful. It lies to us. It tells us that “white lies” are no lies. It tells us that all looking is not lusting. It tells us that its okay to stand up in our “canoes” as though there was no possibility of falling. It tells us that we will not reap what we sow, that there are no consequences for our actions. It even tells us that we ourselves, when those consequences come, are not to blame. Sin convinces us, “It’s not your fault. You’re a victim!” It gently sings us to sleep with the lullaby, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Sin is a subtle … and crafty … opponent. But as much as these lies infuriate me, I deeply grieve when sin tells one and convinces him “God’s Word won’t work for your situation. It doesn’t apply to you.” LIE!! YOU LIE SIN!!! You’re a dirty rotten, deceitful, satanic, hateful LIAR!

The Word of God is active and sharper than any two-edged sword! It is able to make one wise unto salvation! It restores the soul! All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, rebuke, reproof, and for training in righteousness, “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for EVERY good work.” “His divine power has given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness...” So, Sin, you lie! You will not defeat even one for whom Christ has died!

OUR HOPE is not “free will.” Nor is it in our own strength. Exerting our own wills to see when we’re blind has never worked. Can a blind man simply will himself sight?! No! His only hope is this: sovereign grace. Grace is more than God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. If that were all grace was, it would be a gloriously unsearchable thing. But grace, sovereign grace, is more than this. It is also God’s Rescuing And Caring Exertion (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10). Sovereign grace is a grace that rules over sin and so works in order to “will and to work for His good pleasure.” Yeah, sin exerts a deceitful, blinding effect. But grace will have the final say! Grace makes the blind see, the weak strong, and the captive free! SO… Dear God, as the sun disappears behind the now snow-capped Rockies, may all your people know your rescuing and caring exertion. And may they know it “in fullest measure. ”

Soli Deo Gloria.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). 

The Life of God in the Soul of Man

Unquestionably, God desires, and even wills, the believer’s sanctification. To the church at Thessalonica, Paul writes: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1Thess. 4:3). Thus, the pursuit of holiness, personal holiness, is a non-negotiable in Biblical Christianity. Those blessed with faith in Christ are exhorted to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We must strive for the holiness without which no one sees the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). So, no holiness no heaven.

The question arises. Since, the New Covenant Church is not under law, but under grace, how shall that pursuit proceed? How does one make progress in holiness? In classic Reformed circles, appeal is made to many respectable Confessions. And the Reformed answer goes something like this: We are saved from the Law of Moses in its condemnation. But after conversion, we must return to it for our sanctification. The Ten Commandments are the believer’s rule of life, our standard for holiness, God’s eternal moral law to which all men are bound. So says the Reformed tradition with its Covenant Theology. So says those voices with whom I align myself at many points.

However, when it comes to the matter of sanctification, I contend that the apostle Paul taught no such thing. I do not affirm sanctification needs the help of external Law. It is not my intent to explain myself in great detail here. That is not the intent of this post. For now, it serves my purpose to simply echo Pauline doctrine and affirm that the New Covenant Church is not under Mosaic Law to any degree whatsoever. Indeed, all those who by grace alone through faith alone in and because of Christ alone are justified, pardoned and robed with the redeeming white of Christ’s merit, are under grace! No external Law for the Christian. Nada. Zilch. To echo the apostle again, the Christian, by definition, is one without the need for a “guardian” (Galatians 4:2).

Why that is is simple. The New Covenant! I think Philippians 2:12-13 illustrates the incomprehensible glory of a tremendously weighty reality of the New Covenant. Get this and I think we will be much helped in our pursuit of holiness. The text:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 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.”

To focus on “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is, I firmly believe, a huge mistake. Do that, believer, and it will kill you. Of course, we see it there. We must see it and not deny or skirt it. But to emphasize the imperative is to misread not only Paul’s exhortation, but to turn the Christian life on its head. We say a thousand times “Yes, we must work out our salvation.” But (and this is a big but) the grammatical construction linking verses 12 and 13 demands two things:

1. Our work is not independent of God’s work.
2. God is the decisive, determining, energizing, effectual, sovereignly governing reality.

1. First, then. Our working out is not independent of God’s work. Rather, our working out is completely dependent upon God’s working. The conjunction “for” connects, grounds, and gives reason for the ‘working out.’ The imperatival 12th verse and indicative verse 13 must be seen as an indivisible whole, not two verses which give balance to each other! It isn’t that number one, “work out your own salvation” and number two, “it is God who works in you” are two children on a teeter-totter seeking to avoid extremes! No. These two verses must be held together since that is how they are written. As W.D. Dennison writes: “The Christian life is the organic union of the indicative and the imperative.”

Notice also where God is said to be working! He works “in you.” He works IN believers. God is not a distant God, transcendent only, looking down upon us ‘from a distance.’ Not at all. God is also IN you. How this can be I have no idea whatsoever! Who can comprehend the immensity and, yet, at the same time, the absolute immanence of God! But it’s true of everyone in union with Christ by grace alone through faith alone; the sovereign God of the universe dwells not just in the heavens above, working “all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), He also dwells IN you, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is insanely amazing. This is a reality unique to the New Covenant. In the Old, God dwelt in the tabernacle, outside of His people. In the New, he dwells IN his people in the Person of the Spirit of Christ. The need for the external “guardian” is no more!

2. Therefore, second, God is the awesome, decisive, governing reality in our sanctification. He directly works his will in us for his good pleasure. How can anyone see these verses and couch them in terms of balance? Who dares the attempt to set God’s inner working on par with our out-working? To make the attempt would be as futile as measuring a drop of water against the oceans of Earth. The scales would never balance! And for this I, for one, am grateful beyond words.

God’s sanctifying presence in us is the key. This is the context, the atmosphere, the ocean if you like, of our ‘working out.’ What the Law cannot do, God Himself does. How then do we pursue our santification, our holiness, our working out our salvation if not by the Law? One word: trust. Faith. God is at work in you, Christian. Trust Him. He is the determining reality. The life of God in you is not inconsequential. Your sanctification, your working out, your obedience to His will, even growing conformity to the image of Christ, the fulfillment and very substance of the Law, is bound to happen! After all, who is there that can thwart His will and working? He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

For you because of Him,