Monthly Archives: October 2010

Justification vs. Sanctification

John Piper provides these brief, yet clarifying definitions that I found helpful:

Justification is the biblical teaching that, by grace alone through faith alone, God counts believers in Jesus Christ to be perfectly righteous and totally acceptable in his presence forever. That is, God imputes the perfection of Christ to those who are united to Christ by faith (Rom. 3:28; 4:4-6; 5:1, 18-19; 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8.”

Sanctification is the biblical teaching that we are progressively conformed to the image of Christ in our attitudes and words and actions by the power of the Holy Spirit moving through faith to make us become in daily practice what we have already become in Christ (Rom. 6:22; 1 Cor. 5:7; Phil. 2:12-13; 3:12; Eph. 4:24).”

*John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 69.

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Gospel-Centered Church Conference

This past weekend at Christ’s Covenant Church we hosted Paul Alexander for the Gospel-Centered Church Conference. The conference audio is available here.

Alexander is the pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Elgin, Illinois. He was educated at the University of North Carolina and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Upon graduation, he spent a number of months interning under Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church before going on staff for 9Marks ministries.

Subsequently, Alexander co-authored The Deliberate Church with Dever, which is a book on how to build your ministry on the gospel. The Deliberate Church provides a helpful paradigm for becoming and sustaining a gospel-centered church.

During the most recent conference, Alexander covered a number of topics including what the gospel is and is not, how God’s word empowers gospel ministry, the role of discipleship and church membership, and the roles and relationships of elders and deacons. You can listen to the six conference talks on Christ’s Covenant’s website and download the 2010 GCC Conference Notes.

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text (Part 3)

Seeing Man in Every Text:

(Previous posts: Part 1: The Gospel in Every Text and Part 2: God in Every Text)

While every text is ultimately about God’s character, activity, and concerns, every text is also about mankind. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The inspired word, therefore, is given for the purpose of equipping God’s children to carry out the work that He has given them to do. Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us that God saved us by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, so that we might do good works. It is this knowledge of Him that gives us everything that we need for this pursuit of life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Psalm 119 provides an incredible list of the ways that God sufficiently provides for us through His word.

So, with this being the case, how does God’s word reveal information about mankind? Well, we find that it does so through revealing our origin and original innocence as those created in the image of God, it reveals our utter depravity and rebellion as a result of the fall (i.e., our fallen condition), and it reveals our remaining sinful tendencies (i.e., sinful heart conditions and idolatry) that continue to plague us this side of glory. God’s word is intended to make us what we cannot be on our own, since we are spiritually incomplete apart from Christ (Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 1:28-2:15). Every text has a central burden of God providing the solution to man’s fallen condition. For the very purpose of God’s word is to reveal Himself as the ultimate solution to our sinful predicament.

The Holy Spirit inspired each passage of Scripture so that God would be “more properly glorified through His people,” and the best way for us to determine the Holy Spirit’s intended purpose is to consider what was the universally-sinful human condition that necessitated it. Bryan Chapell in Christ Centered Preaching (Baker Academic: 2005, 51) defines the Fallen Condition Focus as “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God’s people to glorify and enjoy him.” God’s word provides the grace for us to deal with human brokenness that has been a barrier to the full experience and expression of His glory in and through us.

Some helpful questions to ask when discovering how the text reveals mankind are:

1.  What aspects of the image of God (longings, desires, interests, values) are reflected in this passage?

2.  What fallen conditions (desires, attitudes, actions, beliefs, etc) are stated, described, or implied in the passage?

3.  What struggles, challenges, temptations, and realities to walking with God are stated, described, or implied in this passage?


An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1.  Aspects of Mankind in the Image of God: God has given mankind appetites/desires, and a capacity for worship (though sin has distorted both).  God has given us a longing for purpose and a desire to work.  God has given us an interest in exerting our passions, energies, and strength toward that which brings satisfaction (though once again, sin has distorted the object of our satisfaction). God has given us eternal value, and as a result, He won’t leave every one of us entirely dead for all of eternity.

2. Man’s Fallen Condition: Sin has caused us to be spiritually dead (v.1) as a result of transgressing God’s law. Our tendency is to walk according to the ways of this world, following in the footsteps of Satan, and living in open disobedience.  We are unable to do otherwise, except that God intervene (v.4).  While created as sons and daughters of God, we became sons and daughters of disobedience (v.2). We live satisfy the perverted passions of our flesh by carrying out the selfish desires of our minds and bodies.  Like all of sinful humanity, God’s wrath was being stored up for us (v.3). Apart from grace, we tend to boast in ourselves and our works (v.9), and we tend to serve ourselves rather than the good that God prepared for us to do (v.10).

3.  Man’s Struggles & Tendencies: We struggle, at times, with the futile patterns of our former ignorance (cf. 1 Peter 1:14-23) by pursuing the passions of our flesh despite the fact that we’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. There is a tendency toward idolatry–seeking satisfaction outside of intimacy with God. We tend to boast in ourselves rather than giving full glory to God for our salvation, sanctification, and the good work of our hands that He alone provides (v.6-10).

These are just a few examples of how we see our fallen condition displayed in the passage. In the next post, we’ll consider how God’s grace provides the “gospel solution” to our fallen condition. He provides the very power and deliverance that we need to overcome our greatest degrees of sinfulness.

Upon reflection of our sinful condition apart from grace, might we praise Him that He did not leave us there for eternity.


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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text (Part 2)

Seeing God in Every Text:

(See Previous Post: Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: Part 1)

Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself. It is ultimately about His character and activity as a self-sufficient, self-satisfied, infinite being. His word informs creation about it’s existence, purpose, and the experiences of both the fall and redemption. God has revealed Himself in two particular ways: through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-32) and through His word–both written (Psalm 19:7-14) and incarnate (John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-23). Jesus Christ, the living Word, is the exact representation of God’s person and the embodiment of all of His glorious attributes. Every characteristic described in Psalm 19:7-14 regarding the word of God is most fully displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.

When approaching any text, we should determine what it reveals about the character and activity of God.  The following questions may be helpful in “getting the most out of the text” (as Matt Harmon likes to say it)!  The extent to which any text will include these three categories will vary, but every text will reveal at least a few things about God’s character, whether by explicit citation or implicit inference.

1.  What aspect of God’s character do we see in the passage?

2.  What activities do we see God doing in this passage?

3.  What things, events, people, and situations is God concerned about?


An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1. God’s Character: Merciful (v.4), Loving (v.4), Life-giving (v.5), Gracious (vv.5, 7), Redemptive (vv.5, 8), Powerful (v.6), Ageless/Eternal (v.7), Revelatory (v.7), Kind (v.7), Author of Salvation (v.8), Creator (v.10), Good (v.10), Sovereign (v.10).  There are undoubtedly more, but these should whet your appetite.

2.  God’s Activity: God, because of His mercy, loved us (v.4); God made us alive together with Christ (v.5); God, by His grace, saved us (v.5, 8); God raised us up and seated us with Himself in the heavenly places (v.6); God has chosen to one day show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ (v.7); God created us in Christ Jesus so that we might one day bear the fruit of good works (v.10).

3.  God’s Concerns: God is concerned for wretched sinners and is merciful in that He does not leave them all that way (vv. 1-4); God is concerned with bringing salvation and new life to the spiritually dead (vv. 5-6); God is concerned with enabling His children to share in Christ’s exaltation (v.6); God is concerned with displaying the riches of His glory and grace (v.7); God is concerned that He alone receive honor for the work of salvation (v.9); and God is concerned that His children reflect His glory by bearing the fruit of good works (v.10).  God has a great concern for reversing the curse of the fall and bringing new life to a fallen creation.

As you study God’s word, may you see more of Him in it. His word, first and foremost, is intended so that all of creation might know WHO He is and WHAT He has done.  May we praise Him for the revelation of Himself to us!!

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: (Part 1)

Over the next several posts, we’ll be looking at how the gospel is revealed in every text of Scripture, and then we’ll consider how we can properly respond to such revelation.  However, before we examine these beautiful realities, it would be best to give a clear definition the gospel.

What is the gospel?

In short, the gospel is the good news of God’s saving grace toward sinners.

God created the world to be a trophy-case of His glory, to show off the beauty of His incredible greatness. Since God’s character must express itself, He created the world to experience the fullness of Himself. For example, in order to love someone, there must be an object upon which to express your love. God, being immeasurably glorious, created objects upon which He might extend the expression of His glory. And for their enjoyment, those creatures would have the unique privilege of reflecting His glory back to Him.  You see, God was fully self-satisfied without creating mankind, and yet the glorious joy of His character compelled Him to express that in an overflowing manner so that His glorious joy might be enjoyed by others. Thus, God created all the world to reflect the beauty of His glory, and mankind was the pinnacle of God’s creation. It was precisely in this embodiment of God’s glory that mankind experienced ultimate joy and purpose.

Mankind was created in the image of God as a tangible, finite representation of His infinite glory. Mankind was given the amazing privilege of being the caretaker of creation, as a vice-regent of the Cosmic King.  In caring for the Garden of Eden as God specified, mankind would experience perpetual intimacy with God; they being the recipients of His love and satisfaction and He being the object of their worship. Yet, as we all know, mankind rebelled against God by ignoring His counsel and serving themselves. Mankind was not content to worship and obey God, but instead sought to exalt themselves and lean on their own understanding.  As a result of their sin, mankind experienced separation from the Holy Creator and experienced the pending wrath of a Righteous Judge. The sin that alienated man from God brought fallen-ness and death upon the entire created world. Mankind no longer had the essence of life and had no ability to restore all that had been lost. That same reality that plagued mankind from the earliest days of sin has continued to each one of us who have followed-suit by living self-centered lives of our own.

Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh to live in our fallen world amongst fallen people. He came in the world, not to condemn the world but to save it. While being tempted in every way that we are, He overcame sin. He lived a life of perfect obedience and was without sin, and died a sinner’s death, becoming the curse for us. He lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserved. He bore the weight of our sin and endured the Father’s wrath that we so aptly deserved, and offered to us deliverance from sin and death through our faith in Him.

The only saving response is to run to Christ for salvation. Jesus called sinners to repent and believe. He told them to turn from their sin and the horrible consequences that it so rightly deserved, and to instead turn to Him for salvation by putting complete trust in Him to save them. Instead of trusting in their own imperfect works or clinging to the things of this world, they are to put their trust in Him as their only source of hope, security, and satisfaction. He, as the Son of God, is the only adequate object of our affection. Through loving Him as our greatest treasure, God has promised eternal life and unending satisfaction in the life to come. The heart longs for something more, something greater, something lasting… Jesus Christ is the only person in whom our greatest longings may be fulfilled.  He is the only person by which we might escape the coming justice due us because of our trespasses against our Creator’s law. He offers us an opportunity to find amnesty through our union with Him. The King shows mercy to those who honor His Son, and welcomes to His table those who otherwise had no entrance to the feast. Those who refuse to respond to God’s offer of salvation will experience an eternity of His wrath. And the rest of creation will once again be restored to a beautiful reflection of His beauty and glory.

May you recognize God as the cosmic authority, yourself as a great sinner, Christ as a great Savior, and your need to turn from your sin and put your trust entirely in Christ to save you. By those means alone, will you experience salvation from sin and death as God saves you and changes your heart to be more reflective of His.

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