Watering Sweatpea SeedlingsYesterday, we looked into some baseline biblical facts about the nature of sanctification. We saw, first, that sanctification is a fundamentally internal and supernatural work. And so true holiness of heart is not something that we can accomplish directly in ourselves. Instead we learned, secondly, that sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God. The Scriptures everywhere attribute that work to Him.

But while it’s unmistakable that the Spirit is the sovereign agent of sanctification, that fact in no way contradicts the reality that He effects this transformation through the use of means which the believer must appropriate. God has ordained that the Spirit accomplish this glorious work through means. So when Scripture commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is commanding us to make diligent use of the means the Spirit employs in effecting our holiness.

Today, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about five of those means of sanctification—five means which we can appropriate, and, by doing so, put ourselves in the way of the Spirit’s sovereign, sanctifying work.

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SanctificationAs you are likely familiar with, there has been a fairly large-scale discussion taking place recently within evangelicalism surrounding the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s demonstrated that there is widespread confusion about what the doctrine of sanctification is, how it relates to our justification, and how God’s role and man’s role work alongside one another.

But if there’s a doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And I say that because it’s where we all live. We all live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification—in the present pursuit of Christlikeness. And so we need to get this right. If we are concerned to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27), if we desire to please the Lord in all respects (Col 1:10), if it’s our ambition to put the sanctifying power of Christ on display, then we need to be clear on how we go about growing in holiness.

So over the next few days, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about these issues, with the hope that I might be able to add something helpful to the discussion, and to help us align our thoughts with the biblical teaching on the matter.

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Robust discussion has resurfaced these past few weeks regarding the law-gospel issue and the relationship of sanctification with justification, being fueled, in part, by Tullian Tchividjian’s removal from TGC’s blogdom. In light of that, the Cripplegate is reposting an article from last year on identifying common legalism misconceptions.

The “L” word. It’s one of the ugliest of all words: legalism. Defined as the idea that we can earn right standing with God, it does violence to the glorious gospel of Christ. It says, “No, sorry, it’s not enough,” to the substitutionary atoning work of Christ. It confuses the way to forgiveness, it tarnishes the gospel of grace, it lays up heavy burdens that no one can carry, it crushes hope, and fuels despair. It declares that man possesses finesse to propitiate the just wrath of God due our sin. For that, legalism is deadly and must be opposed at every level. Paul called it another gospel whose proponents are condemned (Gal 1:8-9).

Consequently, labeling something/one legalistic ought to be done with caution. To bring the charge is to say that this thing or person is in danger of propagating an unsavable system and trampling the cross of Christ. So if we label something legalistic, we better thoroughly understand the gospel, the definition of legalism, and what exactly is happening with what we are labeling as legalistic. Otherwise, we are sinning by erroneously labeling something in opposition to the cross of Jesus Christ.

Even so, the legalism card often gets overplayed. More and more I’ve interacted with Christians humbly and faithfully working out their salvation with fear and trembling, only to have the legalism card slapped on them. As such, they’re being fallaciously warned about legalism boogeymen. There are many I’ve heard of lurking in Christendom.

Looking Under BedHere are 5 all-too-common legalism boogeymen we need to shoo away:

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The company that made Courageous, October Baby, and FireProof released a new movie this month: Mom’s Night Out. I don’t often review movies, but I wanted to write about this one because of how it got slammed by main-stream reviewers as sexist and condescending. The truth is, the movie is anything but and those reviews really serve as a reminder of how disconnected the entertainment culture is from a Christian world view.

MNO_wp1_widescreenEach of Provident Film’s releases is better than the one before, and this movie is no exception. It is the first of their films to use a cast of already familiar secular actors (such as Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Trace Adkins from Lincoln Lawyer, who join a few of the regulars from other Provident movies) as well as a soundtrack filled with popular secular songs. It is well written, well acted, and easily the most produced of Provident’s films so far.   Continue Reading…

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

Chapter 3 Summary

Michael Brown

Dr. Brown opens up the chapter juxtaposing the carefulness with which John MacArthur prepares his sermons against the carelessness with which he speaks about the Charismatic Movement, and wonders how one can make sense of the dichotomy and suggests that John MacArthur has a blind spot in his theology.  Dr. Brown makes four statements designed to point out the blind spot:

Statement #1.In recent history, no other movement has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, to distort the truth, and to smother the articulation of sound doctrine. . . . The Charismatic Movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, no contribution to interpretation, no contribution to sound doctrine” (Kindle Locations 888-890).

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Dr. Brown suggests that charismatic scholars don’t make contributions to theology as charismatics, but rather as Christians (just like cessationists) and suggests that one can no more separate a charismatic from their charismatic beliefs than one can separate someone from their shadow.

Dr. Brown then offers forth examples of charismatic contributions to Christian doctrine/practice in Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and himself. Continue Reading…

While there are many terrible places on earth to be a Christian (Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan, etc.), Pakistan is arguably the worst. Other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ.

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Foxe's_Book

In light of Jesse’s post yesterday …

Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a must read for every Christian. Written by John Fox over 350 years ago, it catalogs the lives of hundreds of believers who, throughout church history, were willing to give their lives for the cause of Christ. When it comes to contagious courage, I can think of no greater testimony than reading about those who embraced their Lord to the point of embracing death.

One such account concerns the lives of Jerome Russell and Alexander Kennedy, two English Protestants who took a daring stand for what they believed. Because of their biblically-sound doctrine, the pair was arrested and imprisoned. Kennedy was only eighteen years old. After some time, the two men were brought before religious officials for questioning. Russell, being older, gave an articulate defense, usI ing the Scriptures to support his belief in salvation through faith alone. Yet, in spite of the evidence, the men’s accusers prevailed and Russell and Kennedy were deemed heretics.

In keeping with the jurisprudence of the times, they were condemned to death—their sentence to be carried out the following day. Early the next morning, Russell and Kennedy were led from their prison cells to the place of execution. They could have denied their Lord, right then and there, and been spared. But when Kennedy, being but a young man, began to display signs of fear, Russell quickly encouraged him to stand firm: Continue Reading…

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is married, 27-years-old, mother to a 20-month old son, 8-months pregnant, and last week was sentenced to death for being a Christian.   Continue Reading…

The word “false” is almost always followed by “teacher” (though sometimes “prophet” or “brother” or “convert” or “gospel”).  That specific word was thrown out a lot in the recent Strange Fire meltdown and is regularly getting stamped on a whole lot of people, movements and ideas.

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Seeing that there’s so many wrongful understandings and applications of the word and how it’s been used (in the specific phrases “false teacher” or “false prophet”) by both sides of the Strange Fire debate, I thought it would be worthy of a rather exhaustive treatment that will hopefully bring some clarity to who is and who isn’t a false teacher.  I’m going to do this in two steps:  First I’m going to:

(#1) do my best to give a biblical understanding of the term “false”

(#2) I’m going to do my best to  give a biblical understanding of the concept of “false teacher”

Let’s go! Continue Reading…

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

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Lyndon and myself are offering a chapter-by-chapter review of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown’s rebuttal book against Strange Fire. So far Lyndon has reviewed the preface and the first chapter. Today, I come to the second chapter.

Rejecting the Strange Fire, Embracing the Authentic Fire

Chapter Summary

In the second chapter of his book, Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown addresses the charge that charismatic and Pentecostal Christians never police their own ranks. He acknowledges that there are many, many terrible things done in the name of the Holy Spirit, especially by leaders on so-called “Christian” TV, [AF, 13]. He also acknowledges that virtually all of the abuses seen on TV take place in charismatic circles and that is inexcusable [AF, 38]. But such outlandish things do not represent the core of the charismatic movement and they certainly have not gone without severe criticism from charismatic leaders.

In order to prove his point, Brown lists a number of leading men from within Pentecostal and charismatic churches who have decried for years those terrible abuses propagated by TV preachers. For instance, David Wilkerson, Gordon Fee, Jim Cymbala, John Wimber, Lee Grady, Jack Hayford, and Derek Prince.  All of those men have been vocal critics against the prosperity Gospel, fund raising manipulation, and wild behavior that characterizes much of what is called “Christian TV.” Continue Reading…