Any thoughts?

…..

This is Mike McKinley who has just written a new book titled “Am I Really a Christian“.

 

 What do you think?

 …….

How do you know that ‘YOU’ are really a Christian?

 

In fairness to Mike McKinley, I am putting up this piece that he has written about the subject, so that you can get a better idea of his thinking on the matter.

It’s here: http://www.9marks.org/blog/question-weve-forgotten-ask-what-christian#comments

 Here’s another link that may be helpful in understanding exactly what Mike McKinley means :http://tgcreviews.com/reviews/am-i-really-a-christian/ (provided for us by Jay in the comments section of this post)

___________________________________________________________

>>>>>>>>

  Hat tip to 9Marks blog  http://www.9marks.org/ for this video.

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94 Responses

  1. Wow… he has it EXACTLY WRONG. He espoused a theology of glory… ie: look inward for evidence of my Christianity.

    What he did not say was the truth… ie: look to what Jesus did and what He declares to me.

    Thanks for posting that Steve… a perfect example of a TOG.

  2. Thank you, Pastor Pat!

    The TOG strikes again. Leading others down the garden path to pride, or despair.

  3. I agree with Patrick…
    He asks some very striking questions but the conclusion is that the resolution to these nagging thoughts is to look inward, into the self towards one’s own effort not outward to what Christ has done. It is one thing to look inward in self examination but then the hope is that one will turn to Christ as a result. Luther wrote, “if there is one work for the christian to do, that is to work towards faith”… Trust… secure hope in Christ as saviour. It all sounds so very religious.. but the day to day living with the confidence that our sinful lives will not be held against us on judgement day because of Christ, is the ‘work’ the one may take up. THAT requires faith which then gives righteousness before God. This faith then is even given as a gift by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament.
    These doubtful worries about “Am I a christian?” should be salved and comforted by the proclamation of the Gospel and a reminder of one’s baptism.. not as a ‘lucky christian rabbits foot”, but as the Bible teaches, an appeal to a clear conscience before God. Knowing that it is God who declares the ungodly to be righteous because of Christ.

  4. Nice work, Mr. Gordon.

    Thanks!

  5. Whoa… This book sounds like it could be bad news. Listening to some other clips, this seems to be a classic theology of glory, as others have pointed out. The emphasis is on “are we doing it right or good enough” rather than on what God has done.

    If he were to claim his emphasis is on God’s work, then he is saying “If God hasn’t transformed you enough, you aren’t a Christian yet.” Bad news.

    While I agree with James that “faith without works is dead,” that doesn’t mean you can judge if someone’s “really a Christian” based on a lack of external works alone. This thinking seems to run parallel to the Calvinist’s quandary, “am I persevering enough?” It all leads to anxiety and the destruction of the gospel.

  6. Very well said, Alden!

    “It all leads to anxiety and the destruction of the gospel.”

  7. Any certainty we think we have by looking at ourselves is an illusion. Our certainty is in the external word of promise – alone. Either you are free in Christ or you are not. It’s all or nothing. Now watch the “yeah buts” come out of the woodwork.

  8. Amen, Pastor Mark!

    I think most of the ‘yeah but-ers’ have left this blog for more self-focused pastures.

    But one or two may chime in yet.

  9. I would’ve given you guys a “yeah but” 1 year or so ago… come to think of it I’m tempted to now… but I won’t. I get enough over at the GC blog.

  10. Right, Mitch.

    That place is “yeah but” central!

  11. A gospel which depends on us in any way is no Gospel at all.

  12. Thanks, A! Spot on!

    Off to work.

  13. Well… that doesn’t mean that you can just….

  14. I know I’m a Christian because I’ve felt Jesus. I’ve seen him move in me, and that he is alive and hasn’t given up on me. Oh and because I give 20% of my income to my mega-church (just kiddin’ bout that one)

  15. Everyone wants a measuring stick! Gods economy of Grace (in the gospel) is so misused since Gods measuring stick only comes through the cross and what Jesus did and not what we can do.

  16. A comment by I believe Mr. Gordon was spot on. We do look inward but only to see our sin. The holy spirit in us is there because of a work performed outside of us. We have to look inward to see our sin and then go outside of ourselves to Jesus where the forgiveness is complete. Anything is TOG and will lead to either pride, despair or as Steve says big phonies. Let me tell you I have found myself in all three. We really all are great sinners.

  17. Exactly, Robin.

    It’s hard to believe that not long ago you were a Baptist!

    Thanks, very much.

  18. First time at this blog. While your venom is charming, I do have a couple of questions.

    First of all, didn’t he define a Christian as one receiving the new birth as a gift of God, not by any merit? So, I’m pretty sure as far as what makes a Christian he would say it is outward- FROM God.

    Secondly, the Scriptures repeatedly call believers to search WITHIN for signs of this conversion:
    “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-11
    I’m pretty sure this passage clearly states that you are looking for internal qualities that make your calling and election sure. If you only see sin when you look inward, then you have not been apportioned the righteousness of God in Christ, and that, my friends, would make you not a Christian.

  19. Jay,

    Welcome to the blog.

    Venom? I didn’t see any “venom”, just disageements with someone’s point of view on knowing if one is a true Christian, or not.

    “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

    How are you doing along those lines?

    Personally, I’m a very mixed bag. I think it’s much safer to look outside of myself to what my Lord has done for me, than to look at qualities in my own life that condemn me much of the time.

    I may not have all those qualities as I should, but what of it?

    I have a Savior who loves and forgives the ungodly.

  20. The bible of course tells us to look inward to see if we are in Christ. If you are never introspective, you will never see your sin and consequently never seek forgiveness through repentance and faith. Of course you are exorted to do so because not looking to see if you are in Christ means you are just cruising along thinking very nicely of yourself and all of your goodness. We all better be examining and then upon being broken for the wretches we are, go to that work outside of us namely the death and resurrection of Jesus for forgiveness and restoration. I think I am beginning to understand Luther when he says the whole life is one of repentance.

    • Right, Robin. Repentance and forgiveness. Dying and rising (being raised).

      That is a picture of Baptism. That is a picture of what God does for us in His external Word.

      Thanks.

  21. This review may help clarify his position (actually, only reading the book would totally clarify, but I digress)

    http://tgcreviews.com/reviews/am-i-really-a-christian/

    • Thanks, Jay.

      I’m going to paste that linkn into the body of my post so that more people will have a chance to see it, and read it.

      I haven’t read it yet, but will do so soon.

  22. “I may not have all those qualities as I should, but what of it?”

    Seriously? You genuinely believe that is that attitude of Scripture? I believe Paul said about our continuing in sin, “May it not be!”

    Steven, either one is a universalist or believes that some are not saved. Are you saying a response of faith is not needed? Right living and a changed heart is not necessary? Then what exactly are you saying of the gospel? That it has not changed you? Then what’s the point? Simply removing the punishment of sin is not good enough. Moral neutrality will not get you to heaven. We need the righteousness of God imputed to us.
    I’m not saying there is not a balance here. Of course it is God’s grace that not only saves me but allows me to pursue holiness and to persevere. I’m with you there. But to say there’s not introspection seems very anti-biblical.

    The venom I was referring to (probably a harsh word) is probably more along the lines of theological arrogance? If you browse the comments you see these “oh those people who believe _____ are so wrong and ignorant and sinful” type statements. But to ignore a vast amount of Scripture that speaks to the contrary seems like the dangerous route there.

  23. I was speaking to the comments with the venom statement, not your post. Your post both here and at 9 Marks was fine.

  24. “Do you struggle with doubting yourself?” the author asks. “Then stop thinking about yourself this very second, turn the eyes of your heart toward him, and trust him. Do it right now!” Gospel by Law?…well yes…

  25. Jay,

    I do think that is the proper attitude. I admit that I am not what I should be. I am not happy about it. I repent of it, and am sorry and ask for forgiveness. Maybe I made it sound meaningless in my first mention of it. it’s not.

    But it also is not cause for me to think that I need to ascend to a certain level of roghteousness before the Lord will forgive me. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completeion.” I trust that. But Scripture tells me what I am. I’m a real sinner who needs a real Savior. And I have one. The law will always accuse us, and rightfully so. If I start believeing tht I might be able to do something to improve in the eyes of God by my actions or my seriousness, or how I feel, then I am in great danger of becoming prideful. The attitudes of the publican and the Pharisee are quite instructive here, I believe. And we know which one went away justified.

    Thanks, Jay.

  26. This is an e-mail I received from Mike McKinley:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the invitation to respond to the comments on your blog. If you don’t mind me being brief, here are my thoughts. You can post this on your blog as you see fit.

    1. I greatly appreciate those who are concerned to root our salvation and assurance in the finished work of Christ. I share that concern.

    2. I think that it’s wise to be cautious in coming to conclusion on the basis of short, edited videos. If someone reads the book and comes to different conclusions than I do, then I welcome a gracious conversation. But it seems to me that much of the sturm und drang in the comments would be mitigated by reading the book and allowing me more space to nuance what is a difficult topic.

    3. I don’t think that we can dismiss the Bible’s clear command to examine ourselves with respect to our standing in Christ (II Corinthians 13:5). I can’t imagine any understanding of that command that doesn’t involve me examining myself to see whether I am in the faith. If people want to label that as a theology of glory… then so be it. I respectfully disagree.

    Warmly in Christ,

    mike mckinley=

  27. Johan Gerhard, the great orthodox Lutheran theologian of the 17th century, gives a wonderful analogy of the old man and the new man. He points out that when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, He was displaying Himself as a king, but of a kingdom that was not of this world. In preparation of this event, Jesus sent his disciples to get a certain donkey “upon whom never a man had sat”. Matthew tells us that the disciples actually brought back two donkeys to Jesus, both a colt and his mother. Contrary to what we would expect, Jesus chose to ride on the little colt, towing the mother ass behind, rather than the other way around. Gerhard says that he did this to teach us about the “new man” and the “old man”. The “new man” is the little colt “upon whom never a man has sat”, but that the Lord Himself rules and directs according to His own power and will. The “old man” is the mother ass, whom we have to drag around with us in this life, but is no longer who we are. We are the colt, belonging to a new kingdom, and being ruled and directed by Christ our King. We are no longer the old ass, but must be tethered to her and experience something of her ornery and stubborn nature while we are yet in this world.

    Another analogy – The relationship of the old man to the new man is like an exceedingly dirty light bulb. The dirty bulb itself is like the old man. It is hopelessly bespeckled and besmirched with sin and is not able to be reformed. It is what it is. But when we are baptized, believing the Word of God for the remission of our sins, then this old bulb is as it were placed in the Gospel socket containing the power of the Word of God. By this power, our filament is lit and light begins to shine through the dirty bulb, even if ever so dimly. The lit filament is the new man, and as he feeds upon the power source (the Word of God) he begins to progressively increase in brightness. His nature ever remains the same. He is light by new birth, and continues to be light. But through feeding upon the Word of God, the new man is progressively manifested through the dirty bulb to the world. Paul writes, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:15).

    Luther writes, “[Paul says], ‘There is a double life: my own, which is natural and animate; and an alien life, that is of Christ in me. So far as my animate life is concerned, I am dead and am now living an alien life. I am not living as Paul now, for Paul is dead.’ ‘Who, then, is living?’ ‘The Christian.’ Paul, living in himself, is utterly dead through the Law but living in Christ, or rather with Christ living in him, he lives an alien life. Christ is speaking, acting, and performing all of his actions in him; these belong not to the Paul-life, but to the Christ-life… He does not deny that he lives in the flesh, for he is doing all the works of the animate man. Besides, he is also using physical things – food, clothing, etc. – which is surely living in the flesh. But he says that this is not his life, and that he does not live according to these things. He does indeed use physical things; but he does not live by them, as the world lives on the basis of the flesh and according to the flesh, because it neither knows nor hopes for any life besides this physical life… For this [alien] life is in the heart through faith. There the flesh is extinguished; and there Christ rules with His Holy Spirit, who now sees, hears, speaks, works, suffers, and does simply everything in him, even though the flesh is still reluctant. In short, this life is not the life of the flesh, although it is a life in the flesh; but it is the life of Christ, the Son of God, whom the Christian possesses by faith… [This] inner man, who owes nothing to the Law but is free from it, is a living, righteous, and holy person – not of himself or in his own substance but in Christ, because he believes in Him.” (LW, vol. 26, pp. 169 – 172, 164).

  28. Thank you, Stuart. Good stuff!

    “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

  29. Isn’t it fascinating that this topic always winds up having us chasing our spiritual tails? God forbid that we should have a theology which let’s us relax.

    • Thank you Pastor Mark! What a fabulous summary of peace in Christ! Relax! Your message of the Gospel is absolute music to a recovering legalist. I enjoy your sermons immensely!

  30. What do you mean, “relax”?

    Didn’t Jesus tell us that his yoke his hard?

  31. But, am I a christian. .enough?…

  32. Even you are, Brent.

    (even I am)

  33. You know, I have been on this Roman Catholic site for a couple of days (figured it might be good for those folks to hear the gospel for a change) and going through all the gyrations that ensues…and then I went to this Gospel Coalition site (Kevin De Young, to be exact) and I feel as though I am right back at the Roman Catholic site.

    I mean their theology is almost exactly the same!

    • That’s the irony of much of Protestantism/Evangelicalism: Whereas Roman Catholicism preaches an explicit works righteousness, many Protestants/Evangelicals preach an implicit one.

      Jay’s a good example.

  34. Steve, I’m really struggling to understand your position.

    Would you agree with Paul in that if you keep repeatedly doing ______ sin, then you will not inherit the kingdom of God? (What would your answer be to the following passages: Hebrews 12:14, Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:3-5, 1 John 3:14; 4:20)
    In your position, does an adulterer not need to examine himself to see if his election is sure? Does he just say, “oops, failed again. no biggy. Glad I got that cross!”
    I’m just wondering where holiness/mortification of sin fits in to your line of thinking? How is this not what Paul was speaking against in Romans 6? How can we who died to sin still live in it? And therefore if I don’t find myself hating sin why can that not be a sign that the Spirit may not live in me?

  35. Would one conclude that Jesus saves and gives life to spiritually dead people, but then it is our efforts, cooperation and inner strength that keeps us in Christ or living the ‘christian’ life? Or may we even settle for our best intentions? Is the ‘struggle’ alone meritorious? What if we don’t succeed in conquering those nagging sins? Is Christ still Lord and Saviour to the hapless sinner? Does He at some point reject one who is just not shaping up? I’d like to hear the Baptist point of view on Holiness living..Is there a means by which the progression and ‘success’ in ‘christian’ living is measured? If so, then by who’s standards? Which preacher is qualified to examine one’s life? Or is he examination purely existential? At what point does the whole enterprise turn into ‘christian buddhism”?
    What is the goal of a book like this? Is it to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted?

    • If there was a genuine work of Christ in the heart of someone, if their heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh, wouldn’t you say that his work is significant, powerful and effective enough to change someone’s life? If it looks no different than another, then one should return to the basics: faith and repentance. These are the signs of a regenerate heart. So, no, without change Christ is not the Lord of that life. I think that’s the testimony of Scripture.

      • Jay,

        And who is the judge of that? Can any of us say with certainty who has been changed and who hasn’t been?

        Would anyone have looked upon the scumbag tax collector in comparison with the religious man, doing all that was expected of him (the Pharisee), and said, “Yes, that scumbag tax collector…he’s the one that Jesus loves and forgives.”

      • I would say that the judge is the Holy Spirit combined with the Word of Truth. We don’t have to figure it out on our own. We have God’s desire or will for our lives. If we show no interest in that becoming a reality, then there must not be a love for God, which to me would show no heart of flesh.
        Perseverance in the faith is a requirement for salvation. He grants us this ability, but it’s still a requirement. I also believe faith is required for salvation. He grants it to us, but it’s still required.
        What about Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 9 that he disciplines or beats his body so as not to be disqualified. He runs the race. Doesn’t sound like he sits in complacent grace.
        So, since you believe in mortification of sin, how can you not say that at the very least that is a “mark” of salvation, to hate sin?

      • Jay,

        The Son of God commands you to “Be perfect, as My Father in heaven is perfect.”

        Do you sin?

        Then, by your own standard, you are not a Christian.

      • Amellienialist,
        That is false. Why? Because that’s not what Scripture says. I don’t use human logic. I’m trying to use the Scriptures. So, I’m asking for someone, anyone, to explain the “Check yourself before your wreck yourself” Scriptures to me from your point of view.

  36. Jay,

    Sin ought to convict us all, and drive us to Christ. I’m not in favor of sin. I am in favor of repentance and forgiveness.

    I think everyone keeps committing thee same sins over and over again.

    I see and know Christians who regularly break the speed limit …everyday! I know Christians who do not go to visit the prisoners in jail or in prison. I know Christians who do not regularly feed the hungry. I know Christians who do not live on a thin margin of income and give the rest to the poor. I know Christians that do not invite their enemies to dinner…only their friends. I know Christians who lay on the couch all weekend and watch sports, while they could be evangelizing. And they do these same sins over and over and over and over.

    Are they lost because of these sins they commit?

    I put myself in that number, as well.

    How about you, Jay?

    • Steve, the question is not whether or not these sins make them lost. It’s whether or not there are marks of a changed life.
      Assurance is found in the work of Christ alone. Yes.
      It’s not, “Do my works assure my salvation?” It’s, “Do my works show that I died to self in the first place?” There are markers of this changed life. And so, according to John, if you do not love other people then you hate God. That’s the Bible. It’s probably why Jesus warns in Matthew 7 of the big surprise awaiting people who have not had the changing work of Christ within them.
      Of course I’m not perfect. But the burden of freedom from the law drives us to live more gloriously in his Spirit, not to abuse the work of Christ.
      I just cannot imagine how you think striving for holiness is legalism. Isn’t the plea of the Psalmist for God to search his wicked heart and show him where he fails and lead him to the different path? And I seriously would like a post for your position on the verses I mentioned earlier. What would your interpretation be?
      I have a friend who ministers in a Lutheran church and, no offense, this might be the problem with your denomination: he looks around and finds no care for holiness. “I’m saved, that’s it! Doesn’t matter if I never lick any of my sins!” I think it does matter. I think it’s a symptom of whether or not you have the cure.

      • Jay,

        When the law (what we ought or ought not be doing) is used to try and get people to change their ways, it just makes them worse.

        You might look at someone and say, “Look at Bob over there. he goes to all the Bible studies, he’s an elder in the church, he works at the soup kitchen three times a week…he’s a real Christian.”
        When in fact, Bob is doing those things because the law (the preacher) has goaded him into it, and his motives are completely shot.

        My point is this Jay; we cannot know who is really changed and how. Peole have their testimonies, and we take them at their word. But even Jesus told us that “all men are liars”.

        So we preach the law to convict, not to make better (it can’t anyway), and then we trust that the Spirit will grab a hold of that person and “complete the good work in them which He started.”

        We come from radically different theological backgrounds, Jay, and I doubt that we will convince each other here. But at least we have a better understanding of each other and that is a good thing.

        Thanks, my friend.

        – Steve

      • You’re making up your own canon and not simply stating what God has revealed.

        What did Paul say when he inspected his own fruit?

        “I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate [. . .] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7). (The Greek for “keep on doing” is “prasso,” which means “to do habitually.”)

        So, Paul hadn’t “licked” the “evil” he “hated” but committed it “habitually.” By your standard, he was no Christian.

        What was Paul’s answer to this dilemma? “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7).

        What does Christ say about what we should see when we look inside ourselves? Should we see our good works, or should we see our sin and then . . . our Savior?

        “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

        “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18).

        God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be honest about just how bad your sins really are, because Christ paid for them all. Here’s great news for the wicked, from Martin Luther to Philip Melanchthon:

        “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.

        “We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?

        “Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

        Like the tax collector, St. Paul, and Martin Luther, when we look at ourselves, we should see our sin and then look to the Son of God Who gave His life for sins of the world. If you want to know if you are a Christian, look at Christ.

  37. Steve,
    Isn’t it amazing how much the “legalists” like me make so much of the sins we “do” and completely miss the sins that we commit by “not doing” and are in some ways worse because we aren’t out proclaiming the Kingdom non-stop. That should be our greatest priority and it isn’t… My family is more important… or my job… Golf. As much as I “feel” I love Christ I don’t live it out… Even on my good days… Whatever that means!

  38. You and me, both, Mitchell!

    The list of things that we ought be doing (omission), but aren’t, is far longer than the list of sins of comission. And they are every bit as damning. Maybe more so, because many of those opportunites (people) that we choose to ignore may never again come our way.

    Sometimes when I run into a legaist, go getter, type who is tryung to lay the law on me…I turn it back on him/her, by pouring the law on them. The sins of omission is a huge caldron! (for ALL of us!)

  39. The imputed righteousness of Christ Jesus IS our holiness. Period.

  40. I’m reading a book from Michael Horton “Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace” and it is really a great explanation of the goodness of God’s grace.

  41. “Abandon good and evil, cling to Christ”… What more can there be?.. Christ takes upon Himself my wickedness and gives me His righteousness. … Again I raise the question to Jay.. who determines these markers in a changed life? Who acts as ultimate inquisitor to sort out the changes in one’s life or not enough change? Jay have you received a spirit of divination to peer into souls? Will you pass judgement?..even St. Paul said that he does not even judge himself.. What is going on here in your theology? I am missing the point of the unease in ‘nominal christianity’ as the topic has been put. It sounds to me that american evangelicals have chosen sides in the reformation.. and they have sided with Erasmus. “Luther, if you continue with this gospel of grace alone, what will compel men to good works”? Shall we accept the tent revival conversion stories as prerequisite additions to the gospel? “I used to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey but now I live clean!” are these the changes you are seeking? If this is what you are after..then start making your list of behaviors to avoid and the other list of things that one must be doing.. or is it inner piety that you require? What are the marks of satisfactory piety to prove that one indeed is a christian? Sounds to me like this is no life of freedom in Christ, but rather a vein pursuit of the self.

  42. What I found particularly interesting about the video was the fact that nominal Christianity is seen as to do with ‘God’, in a rather distant and remote sense (Jesus isn’t mentioned until we get to the statement about judgement). If “Christianity” is being done in this manner, where Jesus Christ is entirely absent from our church-going, bible reading, etc, then the genuine article won’t be found, so why would we expect people to be anything but ‘nominal’? Actual Christianity placards the person and work of Jesus as our only hope – anything else is woefully counterfeit. PS – MItchell: Putting Amazing Back into Grace- Excellent stuff!

  43. I’m not trying to say that God’s grace is not sufficient for salvation. But to say there have to be no evidences of that in your life is un-biblical.
    Can you get more clear than 2 Corinthians 13:5? Examine yourselves to see if you’re in the faith. Not to earn your way into the faith, but to see if you’re in it.

    A couple more things:

    “Law” is not simply what we should or should not do. It is a covenant reality. So if Christ fulfills the law that does NOT mean that there is no more right and wrong actions. That’s lunacy. Do you get away with that in your marriage covenant? Do you get to treat your spouse in any way you want and still call it love? Simply put, if you repeatedly perform a sin and “repent” but show no remorse or progress, then THERE WAS NO REPENTANCE! Your “I’m sorry” carries no weight. There was no actual turning from sin, which is what the word means. So I’m not sure how you guys are using the word.

    We have no work in salvation. But the Scriptures call us to examine ourselves to see if there genuinely is new life in us. To claim the name of Christ and his gospel, and then to pursue no evidences of that in your own life is blasphemy against his name. How does the love of Christ, this grace you love to espouse, not compel you to right living? I’m staggered that you can’t see this is what Paul speaks against in Romans 6.

    And for that matter, can you point me to anyone who will comment from your perspective on all the Bible passages I’ve mentioned?

    • “There is now a new righteousness revealed from Heaven , apart from the law”… As for the marriage analogy… He is faithful, we are not.

      You are implying that repentance is a work or achievement to be rewarded by grace and forgiveness. “To claim the name of Christ”..
      is that meritorious? Is that a prescription or description? What is this so called evidence?! What are you after in people?!? If one doubts that their sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ, don’t you try and comfort that person and tell them that they are forgiven and that they can trust that this is true? Or…do you require acts of satisfaction, like a Roman Catholic priest would require?

  44. Steve,
    I just saw one of your replies. For clarification purposes, let me ask a few questions.

    Are you a pastor or elder/leader in your church? Does your church believe in church discipline?

    The root of the question was not “Can I know that someone else is a Christian?” The question was “How can I know that I’m a Christian?” How do you know that God has taken your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh?
    I’m seriously asking, how can YOU know? Can you know?

    • Jay,

      I’m not a pastor, nor an elder.

      How can I know?

      I’m baptized. That’s how I know. God made promises to me in my baptism and I’m quite sure that He will not go back on those promises. His Word is sure, even when mine is not.

      • Whoa, I guess we’re way off in doctrine here.

        So, your work or action of baptism is how you know you’re a Christian? Doesn’t that argument seem a tad counterproductive to what you guys are saying? Isn’t that a synergistic salvation? Not by faith alone but by faith and baptism?

  45. Sacraments…. “This is the body of Christ given FOR YOU”..”This is the blood of Christ given FOR YOU”..This is how one who doubts their own faith can know for sure that they are in Christ.

    • Brent, (combo reply ahead)
      I’m waiting for one person to respond to the many Scripture passages concerning examining oneself, making our calling and election sure, etc. Seriously, I’m not trying to be snippy. I really want to know how you handle that.
      Quick aside: in preaching, I believe in being gospel-centered. I can’t be a better husband until I understand who is the One, True Bridegroom. I can’t “face my giants” until I understand I’m an Israelite who needs a mediator to win the battle for me. I’m with you there.

      But how do you know if the blood of Christ has atoned YOUR sins? Are you a universalist? Do you believe we can tell everyone, “Your sins are forgiven?” Can you tell everyone, “You will be with Christ in heaven?” If you can’t, how do you determine who you say that to, and who you don’t?
      But, back to the original question, how do you know about yourself? Since the heart is wicked and deceitful, why can’t that work against your line of thinking? What if I don’t really have faith? You tell me not to worry about sin because that’s taken care of. All I need was faith. Well, how do I know if I have been apportioned the faith to believe? Do you ignore Paul’s admonition to examine oneself?

      My assurance is in the work of Christ alone, and I also know, because of the testimony of the Word of God, that that particular work of Christ and the Spirit within me will make itself known. Do you disagree?

      • Jay first of all..being a better husband in itself has nothing to do with christianity.. a pagan can learn how to be a better husband.. Conquering your giants? go to a Tony Robbins course…

        How does one know if the blood of Christ and His work of salvation has atoned for personal sins and is apportioned to him individually? Look to baptism.. As St. Paul teaches us.. “do you not know, that when you were baptized, you were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ”? So if a christian is worried or fretted that they have the true christian faith, Do as Jesus commanded.. ‘Teach them ‘ about what happened to them when they were baptized as a baby.. or, if as an adult they have not yet been baptized, present baptism to them so that they would then, be in Christ and the life in Christ and with His church would start and flourish.

        Yes I tell everyone that their sins are forgiven for Jesus sake and that they have a Savior Whom they may with all confidence come to, call on, worship and trust. When one ‘HEARS’ this and believes it, then the work of the Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified that person through the means of the Word and Sacraments (baptism, preaching, teaching and the Lord’s supper).. After all, Christ gave Himself for the sins of the world… We let Christ Himself divide sheep from goats…. We tell as many will listen that Christ is Savior and pray that on that day, there will be many, many more sheep than goats.

        Jay.. Lutherans are not biblical fundamentalists at their best.. We interpret Holy scripture through the gospel. We do not read the bible like a muslim reads the koran. If Christ and His gospel are removed from the scriptures, then one is left indeed with a ‘christian koran’ and the bible just becomes another religious tome and rule book.

        To your question..how does THIS Lutheran know that my sins have been forgiven when the evidence of my sinful life speaks to the contrary? Because Jesus of nazareth was raised from the dead. I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit..and I have been taught by His church that I am indeed included in His fold because of Him.. The Holy Spirit has given me in times great power to believe it and in times just barley a thread of hope to trust it. Both of these conditions have come from outside of me by the external Word, not from within by examining my own efforts, intentions or ‘beliefs’..

        The more I listen to the opposite interpretations of christianity and other claims of what the gospel ‘is’.. ( I was raised in an american anabaptist sect,..spent 20 years in non-denominational/baptist churches and danced around the fringe of pentecostalism ).. the more I see this theology as a viper that sucks the yolk from an egg.. it leaves the shell but there is nothing inside.

        Christ and Him crucified for the ungodly..that’s it Jay.. nothing more..if one tries to add anything more to this, than one is in danger of having no part of Christ.

  46. I guess people will ignore my questions.

    Tickman, to say that being a better husband has nothing to do with Christianity is ignoring Scripture, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be guilty of such a thing. If it didn’t matter, Paul wouldn’t have addressed it.

    If this mentality is to sin without feeling guilty, then have at it. “Repentance” without change is no repentance at all. To suggest the Scriptures teach a salvation without change, I just can’t fathom that. And neither does the Bible. I can’t even imagine what you guys do with the book of James.

  47. Jay,

    Do you not feel bad about not being at the homeless shelter, or soup kitchen, right now?

    There are so many things that we could be doing for others at the moment, but choose to do other things. Are these sins of omission less than other sins?

    How would you look in comparison to Mother Theresa? Many who looked at her and then looked at you or I might say, ‘well…they say they are Christians, but they sure aren’t acting like it.’

  48. Jay, The attached article lays out what we ‘radical Lutherans’ are all about regarding sanctification. Not all Lutherans accept this view but this is where Steve, and Brent and yours truly come out on the issue.

    grace to you,

    Pastor Mark Anderson

    http://pastormattrichard.webs.com/Forde_Sanctifcation.pdf

  49. Jay,
    I believe I answered your questions very directly. It was how do I know if I am in Christ? That His saving work is for me? I addressed this very plainly.

    You are drawing some suprising conclusions from our discussions! Sin without feeling guilty?..Who said that?! Jay, is repentance a work we perform? Is it our duty to repent then we get the goods? Is that how the system works? Assuming then that our conduct of living is the lynch pin to being a christian or a ‘nomimal’ christian or a Spirit filled christian from just a garden variety ‘backslidden carnal christian’..If this is the way it works..then how do YOU know where you fall in terms of your performance? How do YOU measure up? I mean.. is the guy who stole your parking space still an ‘***hole’ at a bad moment in your day?
    Still catch yourself letting your mind wander where it ought not go? Ever imagine things that would be embarrassing or even shameful if they were displayed on the jumbo-tron for all to view? Do you really need all of your possesions or is it that you really just want them?
    Still working on your marriage and giving in all that you could or do you find yourself still holding your ground out of principal?

    Get the point? How are you doing with all of these things.. we could go on and on.. How is the christian life distinguished and sorted out? Do we grade on a scale? Do we measure our performance each week
    at worship with the other guy to find out if we at least are better than him? WHO decides this for our lives?! No one is throwing a party for the struggles and sorrows we face in ourselves over our sin and selfishness.. The contrary.. We regret our sinful condition and look forward to the day when Christ appears and we will be free from these bodies of sin. If you are trying to make your experience in your life’s struggle with sin, applicable somehow to the next guy.. or if I were to make my experience a standard by which I judge the next convert.. oh brother! What a mess that would be! How would that even be possible?!

    I love this qoute from the article Pastor Anderson posted to read..

    “Sanctification enters the picture supposedly to rescue the good ship Salvation from shipwreck on the rocks of Grace Alone. Sanctification, it seems, is our part of the bargain. But, of course, once it is looked on that way, we must be careful not to undo God‟s justifying act in Christ. So sanctification must be absolutely separated from justification. God, it seems, does his part, and then we do ours.”

    I have heard with my own ears Pastor Greg Laurie from Harvest say this very thing regarding salvation.. “God does His part but we must do ours”… When I heard this on the radio, I almost drove off the road!
    This view is nothing more than synergistic, Pelagianism that even the Roman Catholic church at least in ‘lip service’ denounced.

    Jay? What are you after? Are you a moral reformer? Like Charles Finney? You want us to have at least a smaller burden on our backs?
    What is your measure of a ‘changed life’?…

    I have raised these and more questions to you with out your direct response..

  50. I realized there are probably some core differences that aren’t being voiced. I think I get the position from the article. Thanks for that help, Pastor Mark.

    The original question was not about sanctification, but marks of justification. If you say there aren’t any, you’re discounting great amounts of Scripture. Fruit of the Spirit vs. Fruit of the Flesh? (Gal. 5)

    I still would like to know how anyone interprets the verses I’ve mentioned. Here are other questions I have?
    1. Is everyone justified?
    2. If not, how do you know who is justified? Meaning, for your specific local context, how do you define who is a church member?
    3. Does your church believe in church discipline, and if continuing in sin isn’t a probablem, how does that all mesh together?

    Tickman, to try and answer some of your questions:
    – I’m saying that the system is cause and effect. Being regenerated, being given a new life by the Spirit of God not by any merit, that is the cause. But to say there doesn’t have to be an effect questions whether or not there is a cause! I’m not talking about a Christian’s sin in terms of condemnation. Romans 8:1 makes that clear! But for a person who “made a profession of faith” whose life does not reflect any sense of the Spirit’s transforming power to perhaps come to the conclusion that they were never made new! Or, for their church to come to that conclusion as well. I would say that is scripturally mandated.
    – Am I perfect? No! But am I more in tuned with Christ today than 10 years ago? Absolutely. Does my life reflect it? I think so. Is perfection the standard? Is Mother Teresa? That’s a silly argument. What about the local pastor who slaves away at sermon preparation and visiting the sick and counseling and leading his family in the way of Christ and occasionally volunteering at the homeless shelter? The “average joe” seeking to honor the Lord with their work, lead their home and worship and serve the Lord in their local church? Of course that represents Christ, too!

    So, Steve, when you challenged me about not being in the homeless shelter I was in my office about to do sermon prep. Is that OK? Does that honor God?

    Look, Donald Barnhouse said, “There are no perfect feet that walk the path of faith.” I’m totally down with that. But, the Scriptures indicate that there are markers for a changed life, for those who are inhabitants of the Kingdom of God.

    Lastly, I still think some answers to these Scriptures would be appropriate:

    2 Corinthians 13:5
    Romans 6
    Hebrews 12:14
    Romans 8:13
    Galatians 5:19-21
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    Ephesians 5:3-5
    1 John 3:14; 4:20

  51. I really like this Bob Kellerman’s term “Gospel Imperatives” and how they are not the law.

    http://www.rpmministries.org/2011/06/trust-and-obey/

  52. Interesting question, Jay. Perhaps we could phrase it this way:
    ‘The defining mark of a Christian is?’ I see part of the problem in your ’cause and effect’ answer. The cause of people being saved is the love of God, as the Gospel itself tells us (John 3:16). The effect of that love is the redeeming work of God in Christ Jesus, given to us. All are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption in Christ – that’s the ‘mark’ of a saint… one who, by faith, has received a gift – the redemption made ours in Christ.

    The negation of that justification is due to one thing only – people’s desire to remain in darkness (John 3:19, Romans 1:18-24). Judgement truly transpires when we are left to no more than our own devices. Christians are ‘the wicked’ who have been rescued (justified by grace through faith), and therefore, Christ (and Christ alone), in them, is true and total redemption (the very source and means of wisdom, righteousness, adoption, sanctification and glorification). Our very union in and to one another is in that bond, which facilitates our fellowship in the healing and wonder of the gospel. If we walk in that light, then we are members of one another through the marvel of life He has given in His life, death, resurrection and ascension – that alone truly sustains us and by that, we ‘proclaim’ Christ in word, life and sacrament – good ‘service’ equates to nothing more and nothing less – we hold out the word of life. God uses this as He deems fit.

  53. Howard,
    Thanks for your response. In my cause and effect analogy, I wasn’t asking what causes God to save, but what work causes our holy living.

    Your mark- one who has faith and received a gift.
    My question is to the proponents of the ideas here is what do you do with all of the language in the Bible that suggests there are gospel imperatives, not law, that should occur when the new birth happens? In other words, how do you know you have faith? Because it doesn’t seem to be as black and white as “some people accept the free gift, others reject it and walk in darkness.” The Bible speaks many times about those who are apparently deceiving themselves. Think of 1 John 2:3-6: if you say you know him and don’t keep his commandments you’re a liar. And he goes on to clarify, “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
    And there are countless verses like this. And yet no one here has directed me to an answer of them. I just don’t see how you can say that there is no fruit of a life changed by God. We were dead in our sins and God made us alive!!! How could a person not be changed? Not just feel about about failing God by omission and whatever else, but truly be better. James tells us that a faith not accompanied by any works is dead. Worthless. Not real faith.

    So, back to the original question of whether or not there are tests for your own heart to ask “Am I a Christian?” I think the Bible makes it clear that you most certainly can go through that exercise and the readers of this blog say that’s legalism. I don’t get it.

    And I really would like to hear how people with this view deal with church discipline.

  54. BTW, here’s McKinley’s blog post on how assurance is found in the character, work and promises of Christ.

    http://www.9marks.org/blog/basis-our-assurance

    The argument is not about what gives us assurance. It’s about identifying marks of a believer: for yourself and for those in your church (protecting regenerate church membership)

  55. You’re most welcome, Jay. I think my ’cause and effect’ answer still applies – the only cause of any genuine ‘health’ (holiness) within us is the work and life of Jesus Christ (this is what makes us new, granting us new natures), and it is because of that life at work within us that we are those who can now love one another (our brethren and our enemies). Deception occurs in a number of ways – in 1 John, for example, a deceit that the Apostle appears to be addressing is regarding the nature of sin in the Christian life (some saying they have no sin), needing to be aware of our need for cleansing and genuine fellowship in the light (keeping His word by thereby walking in love).

    I think the real well-spring of genuine Christian concern regarding how we speak of ‘our’ actions is Paul’s teaching in Romans 7. I would like to look at the value of that, for example, in the light of considering John’s teaching in his first letter. John speaks about our walking in Christ bringing about such changes as an undoing of desire for the things of the world (2:15), a propensity to practice righteousness (2:29), an inclination to purity (3:3) and an abstaining from sin (3:6). The imperative here, then, is to live in a particular fashion which ‘states’ that we are Christians, but (and it’s a big ‘but’) there’s a problem here….
    How far do we measure up against these requirements?

    In one of his last works (The Great Evangelical Disaster), the late Francis Schaeffer looked at just one of John’s commandments in this letter – to love one another, noting how Jesus teaches how this would mark us, in a fashion that the world could see, as His disciples. Dr Schaeffer goes on to show how the world, in general, has not evidenced that trait in most if not all of Western evangelicalism – that we have truly failed in some telling ways to express and convey the love of Christ. Does that mean this is not, at least in part, a genuine branch of the Christian church?

    My answer would be to come back to Paul’s teaching to us in Romans 7. Yes, we can be those who, by God’s saving work, have died and risen with Christ (Romans 6), yet we are still in conflict with the old, which is always at war against the good. Sin remains within me, which is why, I believe, after his admonishing us to seek purity in our lives (and thereby our fellowship), John himself returns to the one true touchstone – whether our hearts condemn us or assure us, what truly matters is faith Him (3:23) – that is what enables something more than just our natural selves to be evidenced.

    The picture, then of the Christian in the here and now, is most certainly of a work in progress – alive to God, but still so very aware of the pull of the old, and it is because of that that our boast needs to be of His work, His righteousness, His life – if our eyes are fixed upon Him in such a fashion, we are much more likely to run well.

  56. (Re-submitted due to slight typo in first version):

    You’re most welcome, Jay. I think my ’cause and effect’ answer still applies – the only cause of any genuine ‘health’ (holiness) within us is the work and life of Jesus Christ (this is what makes us new, granting us new natures), and it is because of that life at work within us that we are those who can now love one another (our brethren and our enemies). Deception occurs in a number of ways – in 1 John, for example, a deceit that the Apostle appears to be addressing is regarding the nature of sin in the Christian life (some saying they have no sin), needing to be aware of our need for cleansing and genuine fellowship in the light (keeping His word by thereby walking in love).

    I think the real well-spring of genuine Christian concern regarding how we speak of ‘our’ actions is Paul’s teaching in Romans 7. I would like to look at the value of that, for example, in the light of considering John’s teaching in his first letter. John speaks about our walking in Christ bringing about such changes as an undoing of desire for the things of the world (2:15), a propensity to practice righteousness (2:29), an inclination to purity (3:3) and an abstaining from sin (3:6). The imperative here, then, is to live in a particular fashion which ‘states’ that we are Christians, but (and it’s a big ‘but’) there’s a problem here….
    How far do we measure up against these requirements?

    In one of his last works (The Great Evangelical Disaster), the late Francis Schaeffer looked at just one of John’s commandments in this letter – to love one another, noting how Jesus teaches how this would mark us, in a fashion that the world could see, as His disciples. Dr Schaeffer goes on to show how the world, in general, has not evidenced that trait in most if not all of Western evangelicalism – that we have truly failed in some telling ways to express and convey the love of Christ. Does that mean this is not, at least in part, a genuine branch of the Christian church?

    My answer would be to come back to Paul’s teaching to us in Romans 7. Yes, we can be those who, by God’s saving work, have died and risen with Christ (Romans 6), yet we are still in conflict with the old, which is always at war against the good. Sin remains within me, which is why, I believe, after his admonishing us to seek purity in our lives (and thereby our fellowship), John himself returns to the one true touchstone – whether our hearts condemn us or assure us, what truly matters is faith in Him (3:23) – that is what enables something more than just our natural selves to be evidenced.

    The picture, then of the Christian in the here and now, is most certainly of a work in progress – alive to God, but still so very aware of the pull of the old, and it is because of that that our boast needs to be of His work, His righteousness, His life – if our eyes are fixed upon Him in such a fashion, we are much more likely to run well.

  57. Howard, very well articulated. I think we are in actual agreement with the cause/effect. I think. The cause is Christ. Period. End of story. The effect, in a sense, is the reconciliation. That’s the perspective I’m coming from.
    Anyway, just some follow up ideas/questions:
    “Right living” should of course never be a platform on which to boast. We boast only in the cross. If I’m at all faithful to Christ today it is because of his grace and mercy.
    Of course sin still wages war against us. To me, the teachings of Romans 7 makes the calling to examine oneself and the regenerate membership of your church all the more important! There is a harmony to me of faith alone and faith that produces works. I don’t think either extreme is healthy.
    So, my question still is: how do you deal with the “examine yourselves and others” passages and how do you guard your regenerate church membership (church discipline)?

  58. The point of stability is, as you note, Christ – His work, His grace, His mercy. When we genuinely examine ourselves, the confessions of Paul in Romans 7 become our own – leading us to look again away from our poverty to Christ for our deliverance… that is health. It is also the ‘place’ of the believer, like David in Psalm 51, we come to the throne of grace to find mercy in times of need, and find it there. That is how we are ‘guarded’, aided, and given the assurance to face another day.

  59. Howard,
    So, if a person in your congregation was involved in an ongoing, unrepentant adultery, you believe no action should be taken, because we’re all just trying to fight the flesh? If that person has had a moment of confessing Christ as savior, then who is the Church to argue such a thing? Is there any accountability at all?

  60. It sounds like you missed my point, Jay. Due to what we were, we’re all prone to fall, but God’s grace keeps us, and, if we do sin, there is grace and mercy in a time of need (if we come to the throne and ask for that). If we don’t respond to His prompting or correction, then God will supply ways and means to make us see our fall (as was the case for David) – He will pursue us here even if we had made our bed in hell, because of His love for us. What ‘makes’ us accountable, ‘confessing’ and children of God is His love, and that is what keeps us as well. Sometimes, the journey takes us into some hard places, but like the sons of Korah, walking through the desert, we will still find ourselves longing for His dwelling place.

    Here’s a nice quote I came across today:
    When the goal becomes conquering our sin instead of soaking in the conquest of our Saviour, we actually begin to shrink spiritually. Sinclair Ferguson rightly points this out:

    “Those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality, that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only when our piety forgets about us and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety be nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ”.

    It’s really all about LOOKING to Jesus, not our own feet, if we are really going to run well – not just a cursory glance (like Moses’ first peek at the burning bush), but a proper apprehension – beholding His glory, full of grace and truth – that is what truly satisfies and sustains.

    Here’s a link to the item where I gleaned the above quote:
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/02/14/reminders-are-more-effective-than-rebukes/

    Hope that helps!

    Regards,
    Howard.

    • I don’t think I’m missing the point. Nobody is answering. I want to know how people in your position treat the admonish to rebuke, discipline in church, etc. These are biblical commands. The commands to search oneself.
      Luther said that saving faith is fides viva, living faith. The essence is that without the flowing forth of fruit, there was no saving faith in the first place.
      So, essentially, I’m still just looking for commentary on all of these passages I’ve mentioned.

  61. What do you think ‘my position’ is, Jay?
    You clearly think I’m missing something major – admonition, church discipline, and the like – would that be right? Does your view of ‘my position’ mean I’m without true faith, of is there another element here? Perhaps ‘nobody is answering’ because the issue of ‘correction’ itself is understood differently (i.e regarding the Biblical commands)? I’ve already sought to clarify how I think genuine correction works (my example of John’s letter) – is it different in your view? Perhaps you could clarify your view here.

  62. What do you think ‘my position’ is, Jay?
    You clearly think I’m missing something major – admonition, church discipline, and the like – would that be right? Does your view of ‘my position’ mean I’m without true faith, or is there another element here? Perhaps ‘nobody is answering’ because the issue of ‘correction’ itself is understood differently (i.e regarding the Biblical commands)? I’ve already sought to clarify how I think genuine correction works (my example of John’s letter) – is it different in your view? Perhaps you could clarify your view here.

  63. Howard,
    Let’s talk specifics. We’ve probably been speaking in too many generalities (and typos in my case!).
    I’m defining your position, from what I can tell from this blog and articles, as “One cannot look to any internal signs of the covenant relationship between a person and God, signs of salvation, signs of justification. One can only look to the outward work of Christ.” Is that an accurate statement?
    I believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone. (Steve mentioned baptism being a part of that. I’m kind of confused there.)
    If there is person X who claims to be in the faith. And that person has been baptized. And they are a member of your church. And that person enters into an adulterous relationship and refuses to get out of it. Says that they are forgiven and that maybe they really love this other person, etc. And 1 John 3:9 says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” What do you do with that person? What is your counsel? What is your plan of action?

  64. I think what needs consideration, Jay, is the propensity in some of your statements to, at least in measure, minimize some of these issues, at least in some aspects of definition and thereby actual expression.

    Let’s take a few points from your last reply.
    You touch upon defining assurance as seeing what Luther defined as the ‘whole gospel being outside of us’ – that we place faith in the complete work of Christ for salvation, which is true, but you seem to have trouble seeing how that is related ‘to us/for us’ (i.e. in the sacraments – Steve’s statements are confusing to you). This is not surprising. As Michael Horton notes, “In many contemporary reformed & evangelical circles, (classical) forms for Baptism and the Lords Supper were viewed as too high in their sacramental theology, so (some) felt compelled to counter such a strong emphasis. In this way the sacraments (& embodiment theology in general) die the death of a thousand qualifications”, so I’d suggest there’s much more to unpack here which would help in opening up your understanding on the Christian life.

    The reason I touch on that is not because I think you should hold a particular ‘sacramental view’, but 1) because there are clear practical aspects to our understanding of Christian spirituality involved here and 2) I see the same manner of what might be deemed contracted consideration when you touch upon the matters of sin and discipline.

    You speak of adultery in terms of a ‘relationship’ (implying something ongoing between two people) and ask me how this should be addressed and dealt with if it comes to light within a Christian community. The answer, in one sense, is straightforward – Christ Himself outlines a way we can act in cases where sin is involved (Matthew 18:15-20) and there are certainly times when such actions have to be applied (1 Corinthians 5), but there is more to say here. The verse you refer to in 1 John states that Christians do not make a practice of sinning. In truth, most of us may outwardly do OK in the way we behave, but is that the whole story? Jesus teaches us that real sin (murder, adultery and the like) take place at a far deeper level – they originate in the human heart, and it’s when we truly hold up the mirror of God’s law here that we can truly begin to see things as they really are – in the manner that Paul does in Romans 7. If we miss this understanding, we can quickly find ourselves thinking we are not like others (even thanking God for that), when we actually need to be like the man who knows himself well enough to believe He cannot really approach, but cries, please be merciful to me, a sinner – that is the one who will know the mercy of God.

    My answer, then, is we can do all kinds of things that are ‘right’, especially in a realm like church discipline, but unless our actions and words are fuelled by and soaked in the love of God – be they to bruise in order to heal, or to correct in mercy – they will be is ineffectual as a broken bell, and highly destructive. I speak from many experiences (both in myself and others) of that manner of misery.

    In his second letter to the Corinthians – a Christian community full of life and a plethora of troubles – Paul instructs them to grant forgiveness to anyone who has caused them some pain – to re-affirm their love for such persons. It is the abundance of genuine love that should be the hallmark of our faith and community, but, as I touched upon previously, that is so very often not the case, and that, I suspect, is truly our greatest failing.

    I hope these few musings have helped a thought or two. No doubt further correspondence will transpire…My aim, I hope, is to point in some small way to the ‘how much more” that is really ours in Christ – beyond the ‘mess of pottage’ we so often, and sadly, so readily accept as the ‘Christian’ way.

    I look forward to further thoughts and discussion!

    Howard.

  65. I don’t think the correlation has to be made between striving for holiness, enacting church discipline, and genuinely making your calling and election sure with haughtiness from making spiritual comparisons. In no way do I think these verses that challenge us to examine ourselves suggest in any way that it’s ok to make yourself feel better to find someone who “sins more than you.” I’m saying this conversation is about progress in holiness.

    I know sin comes from the heart. So, let’s take that for a moment. If the state of a person’s heart is no better twenty years than when they first came to Christ, you would have no problem saying that there is no problem? Do you think God was kidding or exaggerating when he included the command for Christians to “be holy as he is holy?” I think Peter would say we don’t use that as a whipping tool which others on this blog have done. “God says be holy so if you’re not holy you must not be a Christian.” Actually, 1 Peter says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” Where are the qualifications in that? I don’t understand the position that says an ongoing sinful state of the heart, one that does not make progress in holiness, is perfectly ok.

    And, I still have a long list of verses waiting for some interpretation. Even if someone could point me in the direction of a commentary written from your position or something, I would appreciate it.

  66. And here we hit, once again, the limitations of discussion via the internet! Do you really think that my aim in my prior message was to convey either of the views you raise in the opening paragraph of your reply?
    My intention was to point toward ways in which we essentially need to see how the works of Justification and Sanctification are actually married in the Gospel, and thereby, in the faith and life of the Christian – I’m sorry if that didn’t ‘come across’.

    “Progress in holiness”, I would say, simply cannot be made unless the life and work of Jesus Christ are at the very core of what we are about, hence my seeking to point towards the word ( the objective work of the Gospel) and the sacraments as the bed-rock of this.
    It may seem obvious, but numerous times over many, many years, that cornerstone has been almost ignored or woefully lacking in the numerous schemes and projects I’ve encountered to ‘become’ more holy, and because of that, neither the full weight of understanding concerning our nature’s or God’s unmerited work have been included in various growth initiatives.

    With regards to progress itself, I would suggest a great deal of this (definition and understanding) comes down to where we that progress occurs.

    In Justification, we are given a righteousness that is not our own, but Christ’s, and that is what brings peace with God. We do not cease to be sinners – we become sinners who are saved by grace. The new life (indwelling by God’s Spirit) which becomes ours at that moment, wars against the old nature, allowing us to become those who ‘do’ those things which are pleasing to God. It is that indwelling which make us holy – it is His life and leading within us that accomplishes the redemptive work of Christ. Such activity confirms that our sanctification, once again, is of God, and not of ourselves.

    What, I believe, is imperative here, is that God’s gracious saving work causes us, more and more, to look upon Christ for our redemption and understand with painful clarity the utter depth of our own sin. This conflict does not lessen, but becomes more acute as we become those who love Christ and His work. This work of God’s Holy Spirit both insures God’s union to us and ‘forgives the selfishness that still remains’.

    The ‘discipline’ – the rod and staff – God uses to empower and encourage growth in this fashion is the Word and the Sacraments. In our fellowship in these, when properly given to God’s people, we can truly feed upon the substance, the life, of God in Christ.

    Sanctification, then, in very many respects, does not amount now to a immediate annihilation of the flesh, but as shown so many times, a subduing or bridling of it, and this is furnished most effectively, not by seeking to impose all manner of outward restraints, but by our feeding upon/living in Jesus Christ.

    It is these considerations, I’d suggest, that have to be where we begin to look at these matters. Would you agree?

    Howard.

  67. I very much agree that the gospel, the work of Christ, is the root of justification and sanctification and what we depend on for our glorification. Done and done.

    We have different views of the sacraments, and that’s obviously OK.

    So, back to the original question, I believe our progress in holiness comes from the work of Christ. But don’t you think the consistent pattern of Scripture is that there are markers that one can look at to determine whether you are in the darkness or light? How do you know you or someone in your church is not a liar or deceiving themselves?

    If individual sins don’t matter, why did Paul spend a vast amount of time warning these Christians about fruit of the flesh versus fruit of the Spirit? If checking yourself isn’t necessary, why did Paul say it was?

  68. Which brings me back, once again, to Romans 7.
    Paul, as a regenerate man, longs to do good, to fully obey the law (he even describes himself as a slave to such – verse 25 ), so there is no lack of yearning, in the new man, about such – this facilitates the struggle between the old and the new, and is a confirmation that the Gospel has and is truly bringing change. This, then, would be the ‘marker’ which I would view as imperative – the yearning in each of us for full redemption.

    The problem for each of us is we are, as well as being redeemed, still ‘flesh’ (7:14) in the most troublesome sense of the word – sold under sin. Where do ‘individual sins’ derive from? Why are we still, so often, so ‘fleshy’ in what we do, even as the Christian community (my earlier example of the church at Corinth is certainly very applicable here)?

    Yes, Jay, I agree we can certainly examine ourselves soberly, and where does that lead us? It should lead us to the manner of understanding in this passage, and that is certainly healthy…

    Are we comforted because we are not at ease in what we currently are? That is the right conclusion! Nothing good dwells within my own self, but the ‘want’ of the Christian is for something more – the day when all of our being fully delights in the nature and life of God. We live in anticipation of that day, because He has begun a good work and He will complete this.

    It is that reality and the confidence which faith makes ours which enables us to look beyond ourselves (beyond the rule of the old and any false comfort in the flesh) to Christ Himself, and thereby we are empowered to run well.

    We can seek to peg our sanctification to all manner of external measures – particular understandings, forms of behaviour, and particular practices, but the one thing which truly matters is Christ within us. Yes, that is certainly expressed in our being ‘in’ this present fallen realm, but no longer ‘of’ it, but that is most often clearly revealed in His strength perfected in our weakness. The Christian ‘holds’ (actually, is held) to Christ, for in Him alone is all that is required.

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