Nov

29

2012

Tullian Tchividjian|8:51 am CT

Two Ways To Run

In an essay on sanctification, Gerhard Forde writes about the two ways we can run from God–breaking the rules and keeping the rules:

If our righteousness depends totally on Jesus, and is appropriated only in the relationship of trust (faith), then we begin to see that God has two problems with us. The relationship can be broken in two ways.

The first would be our failure, our immorality, our vices, our rule breaking. Since we lack faith and hope in God’s cause, the relationship is threatened or broken; we go our own way. That problem is usually quite obvious.

But the second problem is not so obvious. It is precisely our supposed success, our “morality”, our virtues, our rule keeping. The relationship with God is broken to the degree that we think we don’t need unconditional justification, or perhaps even to the degree that we think we are going to use God to achieve our own ideas of sanctity. The relationship is broken precisely because we think it is our holiness.

The first problem, our failure and immorality, is usually most easily recognized and generally condemned because it has consequences both personally and socially. But the second problem, while generally approved in human eyes because it is advantageous and socially useful, is more dangerous before God because it is praised and sought after. It is the kind of hypocrisy Jesus criticized so vehemently in the gospels: “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matt. 23:27).

59 Comments

  1. Anna,
    That was a very good insightful post.
    Thank you.
    I do not understand why Mr T and others here won’t just address all the many scriptures, specifically, that state that we as believers are now to obey the imperatives of Christ in the NT.
    Why does it bother them so?
    I really do not understand it.
    I keep thinking that maybe this is a semantic issue.
    Or maybe it is about personalities.
    Maybe certain personalities LEAN towards relying on their works/actions AFTER becoming a Christian by faith alone.
    Perhaps they begin to trust in their works NOW rather than the finished work of Christ.
    Frankly I do not see this problem in the Church at large.
    I see in the Church, more, a tendency to be grace abusers and thus seemingly look/act like weeds among the wheat.
    It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that Paul is very serious with those who name the Name and yet do not bear the fruit of the Spirit.
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+5%3A11-13&version=NIV
    Galatians 5 also seems clear here:
    Life by the Spirit

    13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

    16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

    I really do want to understand if there is something I am missing, but I do hope that our discussion can continue in love and not any sarcasm. Thanks.

  2. The problem lies in that we can’t force God to give us the Holy Spirit (without whom we are unable to produce true good works). We must wait patiently. This is where we all fall into taking matters into our own hands.

  3. @Seeking Truth:

    what happens when we don’t obey the imperatives?

  4. Hi RJ,
    Well, it seems to me in the Word that God , like a loving father, disciplines us.
    Yes?
    Hebrews 12
    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
    2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
    5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

    “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
    6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
    7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
    8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
    9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!
    10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.
    11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

    12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
    13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

    14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
    15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
    16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.
    17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

    18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;
    19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,
    20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
    21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

    22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
    23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
    24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

    25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
    26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”
    27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

    28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
    29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

    What is your understanding?
    Thanks.

  5. You are absolutely right…

    Let me draw attention to some specific passages from Hebrews 12.

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”
    who are the witnesses? If my understanding of the author is correct, he is speaking of those who were living by FAITH in the last chapter (11).

    “let us throw off everything that hinders”
    Hinders what? our faith.

    “and the sin that so easily entangles”
    He uses the singular here, what sin is he speaking of that hinders faith? The fountain of sin: unbelief. and what are we not believing? the covenant of God. And what covenant of God are we not believing? Well it would seem to be the one spoken of in Hebrew 10:16-17.

    “and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
    and how can we run this race by faith as the author is exhorting us to do? By working really hard to stop sinning? No, by

    “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,”
    Just as the saints in the last chapter looked to God (or in other words, had faith), we look to Christ.

    “who for the joy that was set before him”
    Just like we each have a race set before us, Christ had one set before Him, and what did He do?

    “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

    So in our race, as we struggle, we endure opposition from unbelievers and from internal sin (whose fountain is unbelief (2 Peter 1:9)), but…
    “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

    “In your struggle against sin,”
    the same fountain of sin from verse 1

    “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
    like Christ, whose blood was shed for sin.

    “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
    Even Christ, who was perfectly obedient.

    “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”
    So even if we are trying to obey the imperatives we still get disciplined?

    “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
    So it’s not our hard work that is producing the harvest of righteousness, it’s God’s discipline.

    “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”
    How? By responding to God’s discipline with faith in the grace of God (Isaiah 35:3-4).

    “‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
    How are we to do this? again by trusting God (Psalm 119:133, Psalm 37:23-24, Proverbs 3:5-6)

    “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
    This effort is one of faith, we can be around people we don’t agree with or ungodly people, and still be at peace with them, because we believe God’s promises. This is what makes us holy, not by avoiding sin. When we are beginning to lose our peace, it is because we are not believing in the grace of God.

    “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
    Right, because if they forget the grace of God, the become:

    “sexually immoral, or godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.”
    So it’s not as you say call it ‘grace abusers’ who are like Esau, but those who are ignorant of grace. Who would rather try to work for what they have (like Esau) and despise their freedom (like Esau).

    In response to 1 Cor 5, Paul hits them with more Gospel: “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

    “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims [that they draw their identity from the gospel], [but instead they draw their identity from being] sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” So it’s not a matter of deeds, but identity.

    The verses you quote from Galatians simply show us what the works of the flesh look like and what the works of the Spirit look like. I’m not sure what you were getting at when you quoted it. But it does do a good job of answering the question of when you know someone is trying to be good or walking by the Spirit, because even in the list, the apostle includes “selfish ambition”. And trying to be good in order to get something from God, what fall into that category.

  6. Wow, RJ.
    Thanks so much for going through Heb 12 like that.
    Very interesting to see your perspective.
    I am really trying to wrap my mind around what you are saying this passage says but I feel like I almost have to do mental gymnastics to do it.
    The firs thing you said that I don’t really understand is this:
    >
    > “let us throw off everything that hinders”
    > Hinders what? our faith.
    >
    > “and the sin that so easily entangles”
    > He uses the singular here, what sin is he speaking of that hinders faith? The fountain of sin: unbelief. and what are we not believing? the covenant of God. And what covenant of God are we not believing? Well it would seem to be the one spoken of in Hebrew 10:16-17.

    I am really trying to ‘see’ it your way but it just seems like such a stretch.
    I don’t know.
    When I went to study that word sin, I found this:
    http://biblesuite.com/greek/amartian_266.htm
    It appears that that word is used in many places to mean what I believe it means here, ‘sin’. Just plain old sin.
    >
    I have other concerns with your explanation as well, but I thought you might first clarify this part for me, if you don’t mind. I really do want to understand but I hope we can just read the passage as it is and not add or change meaning that isn’t there.
    What do you think?
    Thanks.

  7. What “plain old sin” would the writer be speaking of? He is writing to those who strove to obey the law. John Calvin is his commentary on this passage says, “He [the writer of Hebrews] speaks not of outward, or, as they say, of actual sin, but of the very fountain”, Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown call the sin spoken of in this passage as “the besetting sin of the Hebrews, UNBELIEF”.

    In addition to word studies within the whole NT, it is important to simply read a portion of scripture within the particular book that it is written (in this case the letter to the Hebrews), remembering that there were no chapter and verses in the original letters.

  8. Thanks RJ.
    So, are you saying that the ‘sin’ mentioned in Heb 12 in both places (vs 1 and 4) is Unbelief?
    And if that is true, then the disicpline is for that only?
    Hmmmmmmmm
    Could it maybe be that they were being persecuted for the faith (?) and that perhaps the discipline is not for sin at all?
    Is that what you are saying?
    Hmmmmmmmm
    Are you saying that the sin was already put off by Christ when we were saved? If so, then why does the author tell us to put it off?
    If it was already put off by Christ?
    It seems that even if the sin is ‘unbelief’ only, that we still must do something? to put it off? Or else the author wouldn’t tell us to?
    Hmmmmmmmmm
    Thanks!

    Hebrews 12
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    God Disciplines His Children

    4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

    “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
    6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

  9. “Could it maybe be that they were being persecuted for the faith (?) and that perhaps the discipline is not for sin at all?”

    Yes, Even Jesus was disciplined by God and He was sinless (Hebrews 2:10)

    “Are you saying that the sin was already put off by Christ when we were saved?”
    No, the fountain of sin continues to flow in a saved person as Satan attempts to lead us astray through unbelief. We must put off unbelief by focusing on our salvation that has been freely given to us, not on rules that attempt to “tame” the flesh. Unbelief is at the root of every act of rebellion we do against God.

    “It seems that even if the sin is ‘unbelief’ only, that we still must do something?”
    Sure, we need to focus on what has already been done through Jesus Christ. Martin Luther said, “I preach the Gospel to my self everyday”; Paul the apostle says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” and in another place, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”; Peter tells us that if you aren’t getting better, it’s not because you aren’t trying hard enough, but that you forgot the Gospel (2 Peter 1:9). There is so much in the NT about battling disbelief, not only in the unbeliever but in the believer as well (John 20:27; 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 1:9; James 1:6-8; Jude 1:5; etc). That’s why the writer of Hebrews tell us to “strive to enter His rest”, it’s hard to believe that we are holy and righteous in God’s sight, not by anything we do, but by what God has done.

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