What Does the Gospel Say About Sanctification

As a test, I frequently ask people “What does the Gospel say to that?”

For example, if the topic is gender confusion, I try to help people formulate a broader response in light of the Gospel. But people typically respond with law of some kind:

  • Genesis says God created man male and female
  • You should not lie with a man as you would lie with a woman
  • They exchanged the glory of God for a creature

All of these are some form of “just stop it.” They are true, and are legitimate expressions of God’s will for us in the area of gender identity. But they don’t get to the heart. The Gospel provides a more comprehensive response — including law — that addresses what has happened to distort the heart’s desires.

But in the last few years I noticed that in relation to a believer’s sanctification, not only in the area of mortifying certain sin but also in general spiritual growth, there is an increasingly tendency to tell people things like “just remember the Gospel.”

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Wich Stayts Nede Speling Hellp

For years I have warned that permitting retail establishments to intentionally misspell words would have dire consequences.

Schoolkids with minds full of mush would grow up confused about what to do with the letter Q. Adults learning English would face difficulties discerning how to spell certain breakfast pastries. Fans of beef and fowl alike would forget how to spell chicken. General havoc and mayhem would ensue.

A recent report by Google about which states need help spelling which words proves my fears were well-founded.

Google is a great help in research, such as “how to spell prestidigitation.” One of the drawbacks, however, is that Google records such things, and now everyone knows what your state’s citizens can’t spell.

Another drawback is the inability to use a dictionary, because, well, you have to have some skill in spelling to find the word you need to spell properly. And, because, well, you have to properly identify a book.

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A Different Kind of Happiness (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016)

Larry Crabb’s book is subtitled “Discovering the Joy that Comes from Sacrificial Love” and suggests an understanding of “true happiness” that comes from “true relationship.”

This description from the title and dust cover hits all those significant terms we might expect to generate book sales: joy, love, happiness, relationship.

First Thing versus Second Thing Happiness

Crabb begins with a good contrast of the kinds of happiness that vie for our attention, capture our imagination, and drive our actions: “first thing happiness” and “second thing happiness.” Crabb describes second thing happiness as when

We prefer to enjoy the good feelings that rise up within us when we are noticed, wanted, and respected by others, when things go well in our lives, according to our plans; and when we do fun things. We then often demand whatever produces the good feelings we want and feel bad when our demands go unmet.

By contrast, Crabb says, the Christian should strive for first thing happiness, which is “is entirely different”, and

develops when we struggle to love others with a costly love that is possible only if we have a life-giving relationship with Jesus that is grounded entirely in His love for us. … If we think we’re loving others and don’t experience something identifiable as joy, it would be good to wonder if we’re really loving anybody.

As with much of secular wisdom, particularly in the area of mental health, this demonstrates the truism that it might be adept at describing effects — behaviors, neuroses, attitudes, etc — but is dreadful at evaluating causes and prescribing remedies.

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Summer Weather Blockbusters

I’ve noticed that things tend to run in cycles. I know; I display an amazing perspicuity. But the cyclical nature of things is even reflected in motion pictures, where it can become quite the aggravation.

Note, by the way, that I said “motion pictures” instead of “movie.” The highbrow types refer to motion pictures as “films” and refer to themselves as “film critics.” The Film crowd considers “movie” intolerably lowbrow and pedestrian, but when was the last time you heard anyone say “I saw a film today?”

Other than x-ray technicians (Man, today I saw some exciting film of the third lumbar region!), my guess is that it must have been after high school biology class: Whoa! Dude, what a hip film about the mating habits of earthworms!

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What to do when God leaves out the instructions

Believers sometimes look around for specific instructions from God, and find nothing we like. Sometimes it seems that God has forgotten to give us enough instruction, so we end up taking the wrong steps or even refusing to take any steps to follow Christ.

But are we as direction-less as we suppose?

A curious thing happens when Joshua is finally able to lead the people into the promised land. We’re probably familiar with Joshua 1:8 (ESV):

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

This passage is cited frequently as an encouragement to pay diligent, consistent attention to the word of God. It’s used to encourage Bible reading, memorization, and meditation. And, less legitimately, to lay claim to a broad promise of “prosperity” and “success” for every believer, no matter the endeavor, leading the hapless five footer to claim the ability to dunk a basketball while muttering I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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