Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Change Happens Because of the Gospel

Today I'm working on a message I'll be giving to the small-group leaders of our church. The theme is "change." We're taking two days away to talk about sanctification, how God's Spirit works in us to change us and conform us to his image. The main goal of my message, which opens the retreat, is to remind us all that the basis of the ongoing work of change is the finished work of Jesus who died and rose again for our justification.

In his book The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges quotes nineteenth-century Scottish pastor and author, Horatius Bonar. Read this slowly and let its truth sink in:

The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily [communion] with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism. If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there; else, notwithstanding all our labor, diligence, fasting, praying and good works, we shall be yet void of real sanctification, destitute of those humble, gracious tempers which accompany a clear view of the cross. False ideas of holiness are common, not only among those who profess false religions, but among those who profess the true. The love of God to us, and our love to Him, work together for producing holiness. Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to god’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.

God calls us to participate, to cooperate with the work of his Spirit and, empowered by his grace, to work diligently. But all this labor must be founded on the objective reality of free pardon.

What sin are you struggling against? Anger? Lust? Anxiety? Do you long for a sense of pardon, peace and greater holiness? These fruits spring from the cross. You will only see real lasting change as you believe and apply what Jesus has done for you through his death for you. He has loved you with a perfect love. It is not the result of your works. It is a free gift. Turning from this truth as some sort of twisted self-inflicted punishment will only drive you further from the grace needed to change. Have you ever tried that? “I can’t think about grace, I need to feel condemned for a week as punishment.” It doesn’t work. As Bonar put it, "No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will."

No, but "the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches."

I pray whatever sin you're facing will be uprooted as you believe and trust "the free pardon of the cross."

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