The Gospel Coalition

Below is an excerpt from my most recent article in Leadership Journal on our misguided understanding of Christian growth:
The way many of us think about sanctification is, well, not very sanctified. In fact, it's downright narcissistic. We thinking about how we're doing, if we're growing, whether we're doing it right or not. We spend too much time brooding over our failures and reflecting on our successes. We seem to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian.

Reflecting this common assumption, someone who was frustrated with something I had written said to me not long ago, "Don't you know that the focus of the New Testament is the personal holiness of the Christian?"

What? Seriously? To keep calm, I replayed Mr. Miyagi in my head, "Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out ..."

The truth is, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves, and we justify this spiritualized navel-gazing by reasoning that this is what God wants us to be doing.

You can read the whole thing here.


Steve Martin

July 31, 2012 at 07:20 PM

Yes indeed.

"What is it, Jesus, to do the works of the Father?"

"This is what it is to do the works of the Father, believe in the one whom the Father has sent."

- Jesus


July 31, 2012 at 02:24 PM

Jesus says to all kinds of different Christians- 'I know your works....' then he either commends or condemns, applauds or warns. You must address and allow for what Christ said, it might mess with your theology, but hey it's Jesus.


July 30, 2012 at 09:04 AM

I was listening to Tullians Eccl - Life without God series. And it came to me that Life under the sun is not life at all it is actually death (if that's all there is)but life under the sun while in the Son is true life. Another question came to mind - If our own faith is not of our own ...It is the gift of God... and to each a measure is given...according to God, and Jeremiah says...That he understands and knows Me...saith the Lord, is limited to each according to the measure given? Another words not everybody has the same ability or is given the same measure to understand and know God? Regardless of your efforts?


July 30, 2012 at 02:31 PM

I hope you may reconsider all support and any connection with Amazon. After hearing Amazon gave 2.5 million dollars in support of same sex marriage. I can only imagine your are aware of this as it made news Nation wide and on Janet Parsal radio. I personally am pulling my account. I can't amagine my money going to support such and who knows how many other anti God organizations they support we don't know about now that Amazon has showed it's true colors I hope other Christians will follow suite. Amazon founder gives $2.5 million to back same-sex marriage ...

I'm outa here!!!

Steve Martin

July 29, 2012 at 11:26 PM


None of us love our neighbors as we ought. And we quite often hate them and are angry with them.

What did Jesus say about those who are angry with their brother?


I guess we really do need a Savior.

I know I do.

Steve Martin

July 29, 2012 at 07:23 PM

We are 'declared holy'...for Jesus sake.

If I had to rely upon my holiness, I'd be up a creek without a paddle.


July 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM

Sometimes I question my salvation because I don't love people. When will this come? I understand head wise that if I truly comprehended how much I have been forgiven then I would love others. But since so many act as though people are annoying too, does this mean they don't comprehend how much they have been forgiven.
It's not like I go around being mean or pushing to the front of the line but I just feel so annoyed so much of the time. Other people tell me that they see growth in me spiritually but isn't love the measure or evidence of the Holy Spirit?

Mitchell Hammonds

July 29, 2012 at 05:12 PM

"I will boast in my weakness" - St. Paul.

Kathy Morse

July 29, 2012 at 02:54 PM

Ray Ortlund said it well for the Christian.
Personal holiness - either now or never.

John Dunn

July 27, 2012 at 10:06 AM

How idolatrous for the Bride to gaze longingly in the mirror at herself. How adulterous for the Bride to gaze with fondness upon her former husband (the Law) - Rom 7:1-6.

How glorious, liberating, and sanctifying for the Bride to gaze only upon her redeemer husband, Jesus the Annointed One.

2 Cor 3:17-18 - Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Pastor Ed

July 27, 2012 at 10:05 AM

I used to think I was humble. Then I discovered how proud I was of my humility. I'm so glad to have a sufficient Savior who did all of this perfectly in my place!

Spike Folker

July 26, 2012 at 09:53 PM

John Piper once said in effect, that to even gaze at humility (ours) turns it into something else. Pastor, when I try to explain your approach to the gospel of grace to fellow Christians, they are so mired in judging their Christian life that they think I'm nuts. I keep recommending your blog as well as TGC site, and I keep praying for a real gospel awakening in the church. I see it happening and am not discouraged! Thanks for all you do for the church. Keep writing books!

Paul ST Jean

July 26, 2012 at 07:40 PM

I remember this blog many months ago; I wonder if I have improved since then? possible, let me see, no I suppose not.

Steve Martin

July 26, 2012 at 05:04 PM

You're never going to get self-righteous, or sink into despair if you don't give up on this 'Christ has done (is doing, and will yet do) everything attitude.

Don't you realize that Christianity is an ascendency project?


August 5, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Mitchell, I think you are missing the point. Jesus did and still does confront our sins in different ways as modeled to us by Jude-

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

The church is called to both encourage and to warn, and to say that its purpose is only one of those is being unfaithful to the revealed will of God. Just because people can take the warning side to an abusive legalistic framework does not negate the great need and wisdom to be able to walk in that as the Lord leads.

Mitchell Hammonds

August 5, 2012 at 03:45 PM

No point is missed Jeremiah. I simply disagree with your approach to the problem; on a blog anyway. The confrontation of sin should be handled through the church, by those who know the individual and handled in a spirit of concern for the individual... not as a whipping post on a blog represented by so many. Just my opinion and I doubt it will change. I find it odd that we all (as Christians) understand the concept of hell and punishment and not a single one of us can cease to sin in the face of that eternal threat. Not even the hyper-sanctified reformed crowd.


August 4, 2012 at 09:54 AM

Mitchell, when Jesus spoke to groups He was speaking to individuals, was He not? Does the believer, after hearing a sermon,say 'well the pastor was not speaking specifically to me but to the church as a whole so I do not have to take what he was challenging the body towards as seriously', this would be folly, but it is your position. In fact, based upon your reasoning, one does not need to take any of the epistles personally either.
This is not a isolated verse, just read what Jesus actually says all over the place.

Mitchell Hammonds

August 4, 2012 at 01:12 PM

The Church has a specific function... Primarily one of comforting through specific means given by God. The verse you quote has its context within the functioning of the Church.... What it was to be doing that identified it as a true church. The Epistles are actually comforting when read through the lens of grace. They aren't meant to scare the hell out of an individual into belief and hold salvation out as a reward "if" they happen to be able to meet the criteria.
The theological sacred cow that Christ loved to stomp on was a works based righteousness. This doesn't mean "don't do them" but rather do them for reasons other than thinking they set us right before God. Now we can serve because it needs to be done rather than use it as a stepping stone toward Godliness. Godliness now is declared... Proclaimed.... Announced. Now actual living can begin in comfort and assurance.
That is until one reads TGC.

Mitchell Hammonds

August 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM

The verse you quote is to the "Church" at Ephesus... not individuals. The Church should continue back to what it originally was intended for... the proclamation of the Gospel through Word and Sacrament. Context is important... not isolating a verse to support your pet arguments.


August 1, 2012 at 12:09 PM

repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

- Jesus

He is not asking people to get baptized again, and it is works plural, so it means more than just believe. Jesus was always messing with people theological sacred cows.