taken from challies.com
Growth in Christlikeness is a lifelong, active progression. We are holier on the day we die than we were on the day we came to Christ. We are holier on the day we die than we are on the day before we die. Yet this long progression is peppered with seasonal lulls, drudgery, and complacency. We know we are never as Christlike as we ought to be or even as we want to be. Yet while our lack of holiness ought to motivate greater effort in godliness, we often allow it to contribute to discouragement, laziness and apathy. Sanctification is a tricky business.
How does God go about this work of sanctification? David Powlison helpfully narrows it down to five means or five streams through which God pours out his sanctifying grace. These factors work in tandem, each one contributing to our lifelong gain in godliness.
God Changes You
God changes you. He sovereignly and sometimes invisibly intervenes and interferes in your life to help you grow in holiness. This may be the most obvious means, but your natural atheistic bent paired with your inclination for self-glory threatens to lead you to forget or dismiss its importance. Your sanctification would not be possible without God first intervening to make the gospel beautiful to your darkened heart and mind. You cannot will yourself to see when you have been blind from birth. In the same way, you cannot make yourself alive in Christ when you are dead in sin.
Conversion is only one example of God’s sovereign interference. When you call upon him to be your Lord, you must welcome his permanent and perfect interference throughout the course of your life. You must remember that your sanctification too depends on him, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Truth Changes You
God chooses to work in harmony with a book, his book. Romans 15:4 shows this interplay between God and God’s Word: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Yet in verse 13, Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” The Scripture gives hope because its author is the God and giver of hope.
The Bible is “perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). An unconverted mind may glean wisdom from its proverbial truths and even this can result in behavioural changes. But Christians drink from its words because they are indwelled by God’s Spirit and they desire to hear God’s voice. This, too, should result in behavioural changes, and changes of a much better and deeper nature. God’s truth transforms you as you read, ponder, understand, and obey his Word.
Wise People Change You
At a most basic level, you cannot know the gospel unless it comes to you. You came to faith because someone shared the gospel with you: “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). Soon after, I hope, you became a part of a church family. It is, after all, in this corporate setting that God dispenses grace through the ordinary means of grace. No man or woman is meant to be an island.
Proverbs 13:20 admonishes us to walk with wise people, for then we become wise. Conversely, the companion of fools becomes foolish. I hope you are acquainted with the sweet blessing of Christian friendship. God calls us to rebuke, to encourage, to confess our sins, to disciple, and to comfort one another in affliction. As we do that, we change each other. Perpetual isolation will keep you from one of God’s great means of sanctification.
Suffering and Struggle Change You
If even Christ “learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8), how much more are you changed by suffering and struggle? Think about doctrines that became dearer to you in the darkest nights of your soul. Think about the lessons you learned in your toughest trials. Suffering and struggle necessitate God’s grace in your life in a way that ease does not.
Much of your suffering is a result of your inner darkness, and the evil in others. As you wait with expectation for your complete sanctification, your sinful nature keeps you bent towards evil, and this often opens a door to suffering. Other times, it is the result of uncontrollable circumstances, of loss, of physical deterioration, of persecution, or of the harmful effects of someone else’s sin. We live in a decadent world where trouble abounds. But suffering is never without cause, for we know “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). God changes us through every struggle and every moment of suffering.
Suffering, wise people, truth, and the sovereign work of God must be joined with your willful and constant repentance. You resist sanctification when you are passive and unresponsive to these four factors. You are called to be both a hearer and a doer of the Word. If someone gently rebukes you for sin, you ought to choose to repent and change. In the face of suffering, you have the choice to give in to the temptation to mental doom or to find hope in God. When you believed upon the Lord, “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). But even your repentance is an outworking of God’s power in you.
Rather than resisting, enter into the current of God’s sanctifying work and see the Lord’s power reveal itself in all the ways God, truth, people, and struggle change you as you respond in continual obedience and continual repentance.
These points were drawn from How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison.
Here are seven marks of false teachers.
False teachers are man pleasers. What they teach is meant to please the ear more than profit the heart. They tickle the ears of their followers with flattery and all the while they treat holy things with wit and carelessness rather than reverence and awe. This contrasts sharply with a true teacher of the Word who knows that he is answerable to God and who is therefore far more eager to please God than men. As Paul would say, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thes. 2:4).
False teachers save their harshest criticism for God’s most faithful servants. False teachers criticize those who teach the truth, and save their sharpest criticism for those who hold most steadfastly to what is true. We see this in many places in the Bible, such as when Korah and his friends rose up against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:3) and when Paul’s ministry was threatened and undermined by those critics who said that while his words were strong, he himself was weak and unimportant (2 Cor. 10:10). We see it most notably in the vicious attacks of the religious authorities against Jesus. False teachers continue to rebuke and belittle God’s faithful servants today. Yet, as Augustine declared, “He that willingly takes from my good name, unwillingly adds to my reward.”
False teachers teach their own wisdom and vision. This was certainly true in the days of Jeremiah when God would say, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer. 14:14). And today, too, false teachers teach the foolishness of mere men instead of teaching the deeper, richer wisdom of God. Paul knew, “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3).
False teachers miss what is of central importance and focus instead on the small details. Jesus diagnosed this very tendency in the false teachers of his day, warning them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). False teachers place great emphasis on their adherence to the smaller commands even as they ignore the greater ones. Paul warned Timothy of the one who “is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).
False teachers obscure their false doctrine behind eloquent speech and what appears to be impressive logic. Just as a prostitute paints and perfumes herself to appear more attractive and more alluring, the false teacher hides his blasphemies and dangerous doctrine behind powerful arguments and eloquent use of language. He offers to his listeners the spiritual equivalent of a poisonous pill coated in gold; though it may appear beautiful and valuable, it is still deadly.
False teachers are more concerned with winning others to their opinions than in helping and bettering them. This was another of Jesus’ diagnoses as he considered the religious rulers of his day. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15). False teachers are ultimately not in the business of bettering lives and saving souls, but of convincing minds and winning followers.
False teachers exploit their followers. Peter would warn of this danger, saying: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. … And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (1 Peter 2:1-3). The false teachers exploit those who follow them because they are greedy and desire the riches of this world. This being true, will always teach principles that indulge the flesh. False teachers are concerned with your goods, not your good; they want to serve themselves more than save the lost; they are content for Satan to have your soul as long as they can have your stuff.
Inspired by Shai Linne and Appendix II of Thomas Brook’s Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices.
Christian men, you have been given a race to run, and you have been called to run to win. At times this race will seem like a marathon and at times a sprint. During times of sorrow or adversity, the days may seem to drag, each one bearing the weight of a lifetime, grueling days giving way to long, sleepless nights. But during times of joy the days will fly by, and you will marvel at how quickly time has passed. An Olympic sprinter spends years in training to prepare for an event that is over in 10 seconds. At times it will seem like your life has gone by just as quickly, that the child you were only just cradling in your arms is now holding your arm as you escort her down the aisle. Whether life plods by or speeds by, you are responsible for each moment. If you are going to run to win, you must redeem your time.
Redeem the Time
There is nothing you have that has not been given to you, no good thing you possess that is not a gift of God’s grace. You who deserve nothing but wrath and condemnation have been given innumerable blessings. You are responsible before God to faithfully steward each one of them. If God has given you the blessing of marriage, you must always keep in mind that your wife is first God’s daughter, his creation. Your foremost responsibility is to care for her in a way that honors and pleases the Father. If God has given you children, they are first his children, created in his image and for his glory. The call of the father is to discipline and instruct his children on behalf of God. If God has given you money, it is his money, and you are meant to use it as if God is going to require an accounting for every penny. What is true of a wife and children and money is true of time. Yet, as Donald Whitney says, “If people threw away their money as thoughtlessly as they throw away their time, we would think them insane.”
God has given you the gift of time, and he has given it to you in trust with the expectation that you will use it wisely and that you will diligently commit it to the highest of purposes. When Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, he calls them to live lives of extraordinary holiness, then says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Making the best use of time” is, more literally, “redeeming the time.” Time must be redeemed by liberating it from useless pursuits and dedicating it to the highest purposes. Time is laid out before you, and it must be grasped, it must be seized from all the ignoble purposes that could otherwise steal and waste it. You relate to time well when you understand it as a precious gift to be used, not a valueless possession to be squandered.
God knows the number of years, months, and days he has allocated to you. You cannot add to or take away from them. But what you can do in greater or lesser measure is put that time to use. While still a young man, Jonathan Edwards resolved “never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” He understood that time had been given to him in trust, and he meant to use it well. He, like the wise and loyal servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents, longed to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
Time Wasted, Time Redeemed
Time is a gift you are meant to accept and treasure. Yet there are many things competing for your time, many temptations to misuse it. Let’s consider a few common ways time can be wasted.
You waste time in laziness. If Solomon so regularly warned of laziness in his day, how much more do we need to guard against it in a world of endless entertainment and ubiquitous social media? The lazy man is the one who makes any excuse not to work, the one who lies in bed or on the sofa when there is work that needs to be done, the one who begins projects but never brings them to completion, the one who cannot learn because he considers himself surpassingly wise (Proverbs 26:13-16). Your mother may have warned you that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Behind the cliché is a sober warning, for those who pass their days in idleness are those who practically beg Satan to tempt them to sin.
You waste time in busyness. Busyness is a cousin to laziness and no more noble than its relative. It is a modern-day plague. Even if you reject laziness, you may swing to the opposite pole of busyness, filling your every moment with activity and judging yourself by the number of tasks completed. Today you practically expect that when you ask a friend how he is doing he will reply, “Busy! So busy!” Yet busyness must not be confused with diligence, the number of activities with meaningful accomplishments. God has given you a short little life and expects that, of all the great things you could do, you will identify and pursue the few that matter most. Because there is only so much you can do, diligence and redeeming the time involves saying “no” to a million good opportunities to focus fully on a few excellent ones.
You waste time in spiritual carelessness. It was Martin Luther who famously said his busiest times also needed to be his most prayerful. When responsibilities threatened to overwhelm him, he knew that he was too busy not to pray. You fail to redeem your time when you fail to prioritize your spiritual growth and health. If life is too busy for you to read God’s Word, to spend time in prayer, and to attend the local church, it is far too busy. If you are too unmotivated to commit to such basic disciplines, you are in spiritual peril. Before you do anything else, take a step out from the whirlwind of busyness and reassess your priorities in light of eternity.
You waste time when you do not rest. God himself chose to work for six days, then to rest for one. He did this not because he was worn out, but to set a pattern that we would follow. We are weak and limited creatures who need to rest. Our need for rest requires that we commit enough of our time to sleep and to activities that will refresh our minds and spirits. Rest and recreation are necessary to renew us and to prepare us to diligently carry out the tasks God has assigned to us.
Do It Now
Right now is the time to redeem your time! Consider how you can commit to diligently steward your moments and your days.
- Pursue and grasp a biblical understanding of productivity. Properly understood, productivity is not “getting lots done” or “getting more done than the other guy.” Productivity is using your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. A biblical understanding of productivity will free you from lesser pursuits and help you focus on the ones that matter most.
- Plan to be disciplined. It is very telling that when we are busy or lazy, the spiritual disciplines tend to be among the first things we neglect. Be sure you plan the time, place, and context in which you will read God’s Word and pray every day. Be sure you prioritize worshipping with the local church and never allow anything to supplant it. And then, once you have put first things first, plan how and when you will do your most meaningful work throughout the week.
- Resolve to constrain or cut out enemies of your diligence. In our day, there is no shortage of distractions eager to bring you from meaningful labor into meaningless sloth. What needs to be cut out or significantly restricted from your life in order for you to redeem the time? Do you need to limit Netflix time so that you can spend more time connecting with your wife and children? Do you need to delete social media apps that lure you away from diligence throughout the day? If you are going to run to win, you need to remove whatever is slowing you down.
- Speak to someone who does it well. We have all encountered people who model the faithful use of time. Find one of these people and ask him how and why he does it. Ask for practical pointers on using time diligently.
Run to Win!
You came into this world with nothing and will leave this world with nothing. All that you have between the beginning and the end is a gift of God’s grace, and that includes the little dash on your tombstone. That simple line will represent the time given to you. It was given in trust with the expectation that you would take hold of it and put it to the best and highest use. If you are going to run to win, you must redeem your time.
see more great content from challies.com
My family moved to St. Simons Island, GA in 1989. I was 12 years old. One of the first things that I distinctly remember about that beautiful, little secluded Island was the fact that we could walk into a store, write our name on a ledger and walk out with just about whatever we wanted in the store. I remember my dad and mom talking about needing to pay off their account at the hardware store every month. The owners and my parents both wanted to keep “short accounts.” It was a peculiar and fascinating experience for a boy who moved there from a major city in which that would have never happened. The population of the Island was small enough at that time for store owners to feel as if they could offer that service. Needless to say, it didn’t last long. Within a year or two, you could no longer do so. It is somewhat tragic that this practice isn’t part of our culture anymore, because it serves as an illustration of an important aspect of our spiritual life. In the Christian life, we are–as the Puritans used to say–to “keep short accounts with God and men.” So, what do short accounts look like in the Christian life? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Confess Your Sins. Believers are people who confess their sin. That is part and parcel of what it means to be a Christian. If a man or woman, boy or girl, never confesses their sin, they reveal that they do not believe that they are sinners in need of a Savior. A true believer is one who has learned, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to say, “Will you please forgive me?” This is true in the vertical dimension of our relationship with God, first and foremost; and, it is true in the horizontal relationships we have with others. If we don’t confess our sin, we evidence that we are not sincere in our profession of faith in Christ. We must first confess our sins to the Lord. We learn this from Psalm 51, where David prays, “Against You and You only have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). Even though David had sinned against Uriah, Bathsheba, both of their families, his family and all of Israel, he viewed his sin, first and foremost, as that which he committed against the Lord. It was sin because he broke God’s law. We too must first go to the Lord and then to others. When we go to others, but not to the Lord, we functionally act like the man or woman who goes to the priest in the confessional but not to God in heaven.
2. Confess Your Sins Particularly. The Westminster Confession of Faith has an intriguing statement about this in its chapter on repentance, where we read, “Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly” (WCF 15.5). In short, we must never conclude that it is sufficient to confess that we are generally sinners or that we have generally sinned. When we confess our sin to God and men, we are to confess our sins specifically. We are to own the guilt of the particular sins that we have done. We are to examine our actions against the Law of God (i.e. the Ten Commandments) and confess the particular ways in which we have broken His law. My wife and I try to teach our boys to do this when they have sinned against one another. We teach them not to say, “I’m sorry.” Instead, we seek to teach them to say, “Will you please forgive me for doing x, y or z.” We also try to do so in our marriage. It is good for husbands to ask their wives to forgive them for sinful anger, for lack of gentleness, for lack of understanding, for pride, for laziness, for indifference, etc. Likewise, it is good for a wife to ask her husband to forgive her for all the ways that she has specifically failed to obey the Lord in her relation to him. Likewise, members of the church need to learn to confess particular sins to one another. When one member of the church has sinned against another, he or she needs to go to the offended party and seek out their forgiveness for what they have specifically done wrong. Sadly, this occurs quite infrequently in the family, in marriages and in the church.
3. Confess Your Sins Quickly. One of the sure signs that there is something out of alignment in your soul is that you do not go to the Lord and confess your sins as soon as you recognize that you have sinned against Him. Pride keeps us from uninhibited confession of sin. The same is true with regard to our relation to others. Like the disciples in the Garden, our flesh would rather sleep than engage in the spiritual work of prayer…especially when we have sinned. The Apostle Paul warned believers not to “let the sun go down” on sinful anger, because Satan will most certainly get a foothold in our relationships when we do so. We must learn to confess our sins quickly.
4. Confess Your Sins Continually. We must continually go to God and men in confession and contrition. We must resist the temptation to give into sin and stop confessing it. Confessing and seeking to forsake sin is one of the means of Christian growth in grace. When we stop doing so, we have begun the first step toward backsliding or apostasy. It doesn’t matter how many times we may fall into the same sin, we must go back to the Lord and back to those against whom we have sinned in order to seek our forgiveness. The Proverbs tell us, “The righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Prov. 24:16). When Simon Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive his brother seven times, Jesus told him to do so seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22) This means that we should repeatedly confess our sins to God and men–no matter how many times we have sinned.
5. Approach Others When Sinned Against. Part of keeping short accounts with others is going to them when you believe that they have sinned against you. Jesus taught us to do so when he said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15). It is just as much our responsibility to humbly and forthrightly address what we believe to be the spiritual debt of others to us as it is for them to come to us and confess their sin. This has got to be one of the least practiced, yet most important, parts of the Christian life. In a culture that essentially says, “Live and let live,” believers need to learn what it means to go to and lovingly confront a brother or sister when they believe that he or she has personally sinned against them. Often, one believer is obvlivious to the fact that he or she has sinned against another. Telling a brother or sister your fault is part of helping them keep short accounts with God and men.
6. Forgive Others Indiscriminately. We must guard against only forgiving those we like. To do so would be to show affinity not forgiveness. No matter who comes to us and asks us to forgive them, we are to stand ready to extend the forgiveness for which they are coming. We have no right to hold faults over the heads of those who have come to us because we don’t like their personality. I have seen some of the roughest of persons come to a place of deep brokenness over their sins–only to hear those they have sinned against criticize them for that roughness. We are not called to only forgive our friends. We are called to forgive any who repent and seek that forgiveness from us.
7. Forgive Others Continually. As noted above, Jesus taught us to forgive and unlimited number of times (i.e. the sense of “seventy times seven”). We are all ready to write others off when they sin against us a certain number of times. One of my friends often reminds me that most relationships–because of the self-righteousness in our hearts–can only handle one or two offenses. However, when we remember how much God has forgiven us, how can we not repeatedly forgive others. If we set a certain limit on how much we forgive others, we are in danger of having God hold our offenses against us. The parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:36-50) is a frightening indictment against those who do so. This does not mean that there will not be consequences for those who continually sin against another. A husband who continually cheats on his wife is most certainly subject to her executing her God-given right to divorce him. However, she must repeatedly and continually forgive him of his sin if he repents, just as God does for us in Christ.
So much more could and should be said on this subject. However, what has been said should encourage us to make sure that our ledger is cleared. We need to be diligent to keep short accounts with God and men. In doing so, we will experience more of what it is to live by the grace of God in Christ, to live in gracious relationships with one another and to be agents of grace in extending forgiveness to others.