This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: Sanctification (page 1 of 4)

‘And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites …’

I’ve had the plea­sure this school year of teach­ing the 7-12th grade Sun­day school class at my church in a study through Matthew’s Gospel. We’ve got a really bright bunch of teens who are very good at think­ing deeply about the impli­ca­tions and appli­ca­tions of the text.

We had some espe­cially engag­ing dis­cus­sions in , which begins in : “Beware of prac­tic­ing your right­eous­ness before other peo­ple in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” We talked about how we should be giv­ing, pray­ing and fast­ing in a way such that we guard against doing it in a way so as to be seen by others.

How strik­ing is the warn­ing of . Yet daily I see pas­tors (and those who aspire to be pas­tors copy­ing those chatty pas­tors) post­ing 140-character per­sonal prayers. Are they not doing the social media equiv­a­lent of stand­ing and pray­ing “in the syn­a­gogues and at the street cor­ners, that they may be seen by oth­ers” ()? So that they can be re-Tweeted or like-buttoned?

Why do those need to be on Twit­ter or Face­book? Is it so that they are seen by others?

Encour­ag­ing oth­ers to pray using social media is prob­a­bly just fine. Using social media so that your prayers can be seen by oth­ers? I think Scrip­ture coun­sels against that.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Don’t let that be you.


6:1 “Beware of prac­tic­ing your right­eous­ness before other peo­ple in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trum­pet before you, as the hyp­ocrites do in the syn­a­gogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giv­ing may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hyp­ocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the syn­a­gogues and at the street cor­ners, that they may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gen­tiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hal­lowed be your name.

10 Your king­dom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and for­give us our debts,
as we also have for­given our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temp­ta­tion,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you for­give oth­ers their tres­passes, your heav­enly Father will also for­give you, 15 but if you do not for­give oth­ers their tres­passes, nei­ther will your Father for­give your trespasses.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hyp­ocrites, for they dis­fig­ure their faces that their fast­ing may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fast­ing may not be seen by oth­ers but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not lay up for your­selves trea­sures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for your­selves trea­sures in heaven, where nei­ther moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your trea­sure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of dark­ness. If then the light in you is dark­ness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two mas­ters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can­not serve God and money.

25 “There­fore I tell you, do not be anx­ious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than cloth­ing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they nei­ther sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heav­enly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anx­ious can add a sin­gle hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anx­ious about cloth­ing? Con­sider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they nei­ther toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomor­row is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of lit­tle faith? 31 There­fore do not be anx­ious, say­ing, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gen­tiles seek after all these things, and your heav­enly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the king­dom of God and his right­eous­ness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “There­fore do not be anx­ious about tomor­row, for tomor­row will be anx­ious for itself. Suf­fi­cient for the day is its own trou­ble. (ESV)


6:1 “Beware of prac­tic­ing your right­eous­ness before other peo­ple in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)


6:1 “Beware of prac­tic­ing your right­eous­ness before other peo­ple in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trum­pet before you, as the hyp­ocrites do in the syn­a­gogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giv­ing may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hyp­ocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the syn­a­gogues and at the street cor­ners, that they may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gen­tiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hal­lowed be your name.

10 Your king­dom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and for­give us our debts,
as we also have for­given our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temp­ta­tion,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you for­give oth­ers their tres­passes, your heav­enly Father will also for­give you, 15 but if you do not for­give oth­ers their tres­passes, nei­ther will your Father for­give your trespasses.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hyp­ocrites, for they dis­fig­ure their faces that their fast­ing may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fast­ing may not be seen by oth­ers but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not lay up for your­selves trea­sures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for your­selves trea­sures in heaven, where nei­ther moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your trea­sure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of dark­ness. If then the light in you is dark­ness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two mas­ters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can­not serve God and money.

25 “There­fore I tell you, do not be anx­ious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than cloth­ing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they nei­ther sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heav­enly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anx­ious can add a sin­gle hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anx­ious about cloth­ing? Con­sider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they nei­ther toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomor­row is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of lit­tle faith? 31 There­fore do not be anx­ious, say­ing, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gen­tiles seek after all these things, and your heav­enly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the king­dom of God and his right­eous­ness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “There­fore do not be anx­ious about tomor­row, for tomor­row will be anx­ious for itself. Suf­fi­cient for the day is its own trou­ble. (ESV)


“And when you pray, you must not be like the hyp­ocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the syn­a­gogues and at the street cor­ners, that they may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV)

Loving God, loving neighbor

In Defense of Jesus, the New LawgiverI was revis­it­ing John G. Reisinger’s In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver tonight, par­tic­u­larly his dis­cus­sion of .

He is pretty much on the mark (more on that after the quote.) And it’s why in our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, we look to Christ and not a check­list, because it’s not a check­list writ­ten on our hearts.

[W]e are just as emphatic that it does not mean that God inscribes a New Covenant list of rules on the heart of a Chris­t­ian. We are skep­ti­cal of any attempt to cre­ate a new list to replace the old list. There is no New Covenant Deca­logue. We dis­avow the way some NCT peo­ple use the term law of Christ. We do not think there is a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive, revealed list of the spe­cific laws of Christ any more than there was a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive list of God’s moral law revealed at Sinai. Under the New Covenant, God puts “love God, love neigh­bor” into the heart of every per­son in Christ by the Spirit. There is a sense in which the com­mands to love God and love neigh­bor are as suf­fi­cient as a com­plete list would be.

– Reisinger, John G. In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver. Fred­er­ick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008. Print. p. 117–8.

I say “pretty much on the mark,” because it is the giv­ing of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of the believer that ful­fills . The very nature of God — His love — in the Spirit of Christ is His law writ­ten on our hearts.


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)

An audacious statement

Studies in the Sermon on the MountOne of the most trea­sured the­o­log­i­cal tomes on my book­shelf is D. Mar­tyn Lloyd-Jones’ Stud­ies in the Ser­mon on the Mount, a work col­lected from 60 ser­mons by the Doctor.

In a recent dis­cus­sion on the role of law in the believer, I was reminded of some quotes from that book.

First, is the auda­cious state­ment of in which Jesus declares Him­self to be the ful­fill­ment of the Hebrew Scriptures:

It is, in other words, that all the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be ful­filled in Him down to the small­est detail. Every­thing that is in the law and the prophets cul­mi­nates in Christ, and He is the ful­fill­ment of them. It is the most stu­pen­dous claim that He ever made. (p. 163)

Is the Ser­mon on the Mount cod­i­fi­ca­tion, or is it a descrip­tion of the believer?  The “blessed are” state­ments of the Beat­i­tudes are indica­tive in the Greek; they are descrip­tive of the new crea­ture that is the believer.

About the Law — which Paul calls our pedagogue/tutor/guardian, Lloyd-Jones wrote:

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not treat us like that. It does not treat us as chil­dren. It is not another law, but some­thing which gives us life. It lays down cer­tain prin­ci­ples and asks us to apply them. Its essen­tial teach­ing is that we are given a new out­look and under­stand­ing which we must apply with respect to every detail of our lives. That is why the Chris­t­ian, in a sense, is a man who is always walk­ing on a kind of knife edge. He has no set reg­u­la­tions; instead he applies this cen­tral prin­ci­ple to every sit­u­a­tion that may arise. (p. 216)

Lloyd-Jones fur­ther explains:

What is of supreme impor­tance is that we must always remem­ber that the Ser­mon on the Mount is a descrip­tion of char­ac­ter and not a code of ethics or morals. It is not to be regarded as law – a kind of new “Ten Com­mand­ments” or set of rules and reg­u­la­tions which are to be car­ried out by us – but rather as a descrip­tion of what we Chris­tians are meant to be, illus­trated in cer­tain par­tic­u­lar respects. It is as if our Lord says, “Because you are what you are, this is how you will face the law and how you will live it.” (p. 21)

It is not a new set of let­ters (“For the let­ter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ESV).

Ulti­mately, the eter­nal stan­dard of right­eous­ness is Christ Him­self, the rev­e­la­tion of and reflec­tion of God, the per­fect image (Greek eikon) of the Father. He is and always has been the right­eous­ness that the Law pointed to. And He is the stan­dard of our right­eous­ness. No law has ever encom­passed His holi­ness, the only stan­dard that mat­ters.  No law, no let­ters can encom­pass the right­eous­ness that exceeds the scribes and the Phar­isees.  Only the liv­ing Torah, Christ whom the writ­ten Torah pointed to, is that righteousness.

Christ’s teach­ing, Paul’s exhor­ta­tions, all point to being that which we as new crea­tures are recre­ated to be.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; lis­ten to him.” ( ESV)

The Spirit of Christ, indwelling the believer and inform­ing him in His word is not a set of rules. Look­ing at God’s law merely as rules to fol­low inher­ently misses the heart and focuses on the exter­nal. What the Law pointed to was ful­filled in Him and in is being ful­filled in us. While it is shrouded in this body of death now, it is real­ized fully in glory.


17 “Do not think that I have come to abol­ish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abol­ish them but to ful­fill them. (ESV)


He was still speak­ing when, behold, a bright cloud over­shad­owed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; lis­ten to him.” (ESV)

Wallowing in darkness is a form of self-righteousness

Erik Ray­mond has a great post today about what hap­pens when we as believ­ers wal­low in our own sin­ful­ness. The quote from Spur­geon is price­less. Read more here: The (poten­tial) Stinger in the Tail of All that Sin Talk | Ordi­nary Pas­tor.

The greatest threat

I’ve been fol­low­ing Tul­lian Tchividjian’s pas­sion­ate advo­cacy of the suf­fi­ciency of the gospel and the dis­cus­sions he’s had with oth­ers who want to drive peo­ple to law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. Two peo­ple at our church have brought up Tchividjian’s lat­est book,Jesus + Noth­ing = Every­thing, so I thought it was about time I read it. This snip­pet is from a sec­tion of the book sub­ti­tled, “The Great­est Threat”:

The Bible makes it clear that the gospel’s pre­mier enemy is one we often call “legal­ism.” I like to call it per­for­man­cism. Still another way of view­ing it, espe­cially in its most com­mon man­i­fes­ta­tion in Chris­tians, is moral­ism. Strictly speak­ing, those three terms — legal­ism, per­for­man­cism, and moral­ism — aren’t pre­cisely iden­ti­cal in what they refer to. But there’s so much over­lap and inter­con­nec­tion between them that we’ll basi­cally look at them here as one thing.

And what really is that one thing?

Well, it shows up when we fail to believe the gospel. It shows up when behav­ioral oblig­a­tions are divorced from gospel dec­la­ra­tions, when imper­a­tives are dis­con­nected from gospel indica­tives. Legal­ism hap­pens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game.

Our per­for­man­cism leads to pride when we suc­ceed and to despair when we fail. But ulti­mately it leads to slav­ery either way, because it becomes all about us and what we must do to estab­lish our own iden­tity instead of rest­ing in Jesus and what he accom­plished to estab­lish it for us. In all its forms, this wrong focus is anti-gospel and there­fore enslaving.

Tchivid­jian, Tul­lian.Jesus + Noth­ing = Every­thing. Wheaton, IL: Cross­way, 2011. Print. (p. 45–46)

I haven’t com­pleted the book yet, but I’d rec­om­mend it on hav­ing read the first third of it alone.

Addicted To Law?

Tul­lian Tchvid­jian is one of the best voices for grace and the Gospel out there. He writes today:

But while I’m not sur­prised when I hear ven­omous rejoin­ders to grace, I am sad­dened when the very pack of peo­ple that God has uncon­di­tion­ally saved and con­tin­ues to sus­tain by his free grace are the very ones who push back most vio­lently against it.

Read the whole thing at The Gospel Coali­tion: Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted To Law.

Completed by the Spirit: Download the original paper

By request, here’s the com­plete paper from July 2010 from which the Com­pleted by the Spirit blog series was adapted. You’re wel­come to down­load it and dis­trib­ute it freely as long as you do not mod­ify it:

Com­pleted by the Spirit: New Covenant Sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Paul (PDF, 240 kb)

Completed by the Spirit Part 22: A Summary

This is the 22nd and final part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The apos­tle Paul writes through­out his epis­tles that the law was given for a dif­fer­ent covenant and that believ­ers are not under its juris­dic­tion. He makes no qual­i­fi­ca­tions in this: he does not sep­a­rate the law into com­po­nent parts – moral, civil and cer­e­mo­nial – and he does not pre­scribe com­mands of the Torah for our Chris­t­ian walk.

Paul warns us of the power of the law to pro­mote sin in the flesh and implores us not to sub­mit to its yoke of slavery.

While John is often referred to as the apos­tle of love, love is a major focus of Paul’s teach­ing. (A search for “love” in the Pauline epis­tles returns 115 results in the ESV.) It is love that ful­fills the law in the Chris­t­ian; it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is a reflec­tion of the rela­tion­ship among the Trin­ity and it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is the out­work­ing of our com­pleted Christ-likeness in glory.

Until then, an increas­ing reliance upon the love of Christ – given to us by His Spirit –molds us more and more into His image.

No law can pro­duce the fruit of the Spirit. All that the law can do is pro­duce sin, despair, self-condemnation and self-righteousness in our remain­ing imperfection.

It is our union with Christ through His Spirit that results in our sanctification.

“I have come to real­ize,” writes Jerry Bridges, “that the deep work of spir­i­tual trans­for­ma­tion of my soul has been what the Holy Spirit has done, not what I have done. I can to some degree change my con­duct, but only He can change my heart.”[1]

Thus, while Paul gives us imper­a­tives in his expo­si­tion of what it means to be a fol­lower of Christ in our hearts and in our con­duct, those imper­a­tives have their basis only in the indica­tive of what Christ has done in us.

“[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion,” self or oth­er­wise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” ().

Next: Com­men­tary on this series, the after­math of the paper, and fur­ther thoughts on the Gospel vs. Law sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion debate — per­haps sev­eral posts!


[1] Jerry Bridges, The Dis­ci­pline of Grace (Col­orado Springs: Nav­Press, 2006), 106.

 


8:1 There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 21: Do Not Submit Again to a Yoke of Slavery

This is the 21st part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Given all that we’ve stud­ied in this series, how do we apply what is shown to us about sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Scripture?

How do we grow in holi­ness or coun­sel those who are com­bat­ing sin by rely­ing on the Holy Spirit and fol­low­ing imper­a­tives grounded in the indica­tive of the gospel and the gift of the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us?

Our study has pro­vided us two answers: one pos­i­tive and one negative.

We do focus on the gospel.

We do not focus on the law.

When we set our eyes on Christ and look at His per­son and work, we behold more and more what it is that our union with Him has granted to us. Con­tinue reading

Completed by the Spirit Part 20: A Pattern of Indicative-Powered Imperatives

This is the 20th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

As we noted from the writ­ings of Thomas Schreiner in our pre­vi­ous install­ment, Paul doesn’t give us com­mands, or imper­a­tives, in the form of laws, but rather as based in the indica­tive — that is, in our posi­tion in Christ. Paul exhorts us to be who we now are.

In addi­tion to those pre­vi­ous exam­ples, we can also look to Paul’s let­ters to the Eph­esians and Colos­sians for imper­a­tives grounded in the indicative.

: [1] I there­fore, a pris­oner for the Lord, urge you to walk,” (imper­a­tive), “in a man­ner wor­thy of the call­ing to which you have been called, [2] with all humil­ity and gen­tle­ness, with patience, bear­ing with one another in love, [3] eager to main­tain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (indica­tive).

Con­tinue reading


4:1 I there­fore, a pris­oner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a man­ner wor­thy of the call­ing to which you have been called, with all humil­ity and gen­tle­ness, with patience, bear­ing with one another in love, eager to main­tain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (ESV)

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