"I've lost many arguments, I've never lost a re-run…"
Last night was the CU’s Easter Celebration Service. It marked the final event of the One.Hope
Today’s been a real encouragement. This morning we had the monthly church student prayer meeting, a great way to begin the day, being reminded from Hebrews 4.14-16 that we can approach the throne of grace, and bring our prayers to a High Priest who sympathizes with our day-to-day weaknesses. Also, been trying to nail my final essay of term, looking at the use of the Psalms in the NT to interpret the passion of the Lord Jesus. main event. I’ll blog about that later this week.
Walking here and there I’ve been listening over some Carson on Ezekiel 37 & Romans 8. Great to go over some of the truths we’ve been sinking our minds into at Focus, and see the OT groundings for the desperate need for the Spirit to bring life from death. Carson’s a joy to listen to and really hammered home the fact that for Paul it’s absolutely nonsensical for a Christian to still be living according to the flesh, i.e. always wanting to be number one. ‘Thinking apart from God. Goals and ambitions apart from God. Desires apart from God. Desperately sad and utterly hopeless.‘
Instead we’re called to set our minds on the things of the Spirit. To have the mindset of Christ, as Carson said, ‘someone so touched by the Spirit of God that you can’t deny the effects.’ He had some really practical applications for how we view conversion, sanctification and revival…
Firstly, Biblical conversion has to be life-transforming. It is. Yes, there is a decision. Yes, there is growth by grace. But, from a biblical point of view conversion without life-transformation is a contradiction of terms. The Spirit makes us ashamed and fearful in the presence of a holy God. It makes us love what was previosuly unattractive. It is God’s work. Not pressing a cheap-decision, where one things one has done God a favour. It is the work of the Spirit of God.
Secondly, Biblical ethics turns on keeping in step with the Spirit. God changes your mindset, now work it out. You can’t wander away! It’s unthinkable to strive to be number one – that’s fleshly thinking. It’s theologically ridiculous. It’s biblically ridiculous.
And thirdly, revival is nothing other than a fresh out-pouring of Spirit. Every conversion is the work of the Spirit. Every step in sanctification is the work of the Spirit. When God’s Spirit comes on his people by powerful display, the cheap and the dirty is percieved for what it really is, i.e. it is viewed from God’s perspective. From the Spirit’s perspective, and so we’ll be ashamed. ‘Stop asking stupid questions betraying our desire to know what we can get away with‘. Real guilt. God have mercy on me, as a sinner. There is revival. You cannot organise it, you cannot ape it or whip it up. And biblical revival is achieved by the transforming power of proclamation of the Word empowered by the Spirit.
What about people who seem to ‘grow into’ Christianity? There may not be a specific time for them when they made a decision, but just kept learning more about by God e.g. by continually going along to church or reading the Bible.
Thanks for your comment – really perceptive question. One of things I didn’t express very clearly that Carson was trying to show, was that often in evangelicalism we push conversion into something that resembles us almost doing God a favour, and make it a kind of ‘if only they can just get tipped over the fence’ sort of forced moment. But this isn’t how Paul views conversion. He says it is life-transforming. His point is that the Christian cannot live according to the flesh any longer, it’s not an option! I, for one, can’t point to a time when I when I moved from unrighteous to justified, so I totally identify with your question. At the same time however we must surely be careful to distinguish between learning about God, that continual coming along to Christian things, and actually being counted as his. In John’s language, it’s believing in his name, and for sure that’s a a continual thing too. Similarly in Paul’s words there’s the continual considering oneself a slave to righteousness, growing in grace, yet he definitely considers there to be a time of being called, and being justified. Thoughts?
I became a Christian gradually and I cannot remember a particular conversion moment. As I started going to church and reading the Bible more, it started to make sense and I started to believe. It was all so gradual that it may have seemed like I was growing into Christianity.But the way we perceive events are often different to the way God perceives them. To me, what looked like a gradual increase in understanding was actually God working in my life, transforming me. In hindsight, I can look back and see the change. So gradual or instant, there will always be a radical change as we move from darkness into light, as we bow the knee and acknowledge Jesus as king.Also, because salvation is God’s work, we can trust in his effective calling. Therefore, there must be a definite time of being called and being justified. We don’t grow into Christianity, God draws us to Himself. Instananeous or not, this effective work will always be life-changing. Hope that makes sense 🙂
Yeah, that’s very true. We were looking at the back end of Romans 8 at Focus last week and it really is incredible the way Paul just so clearly and unashamedly declares how it is God’s work from start to finish, and that’s a real source of assurance for us!In my Augustine module we’ve looked at his heated debate with Pelagius over precisely this issue. P thought that it was possible for us to bring stuff to our salvation, and that, though God was helping us in giving us wills able to choose, and the law to direct us, we ultimately could effort ourselves to do good. Augustine refuted him pretty sharply, which we’d also be quick to do I’m sure. Interestingly though, Augustine didn’t stop there. He went on to say that BECAUSE it is ALL grace, because we are useless, then not only are we to realise our salvation is God’s work, but we are to massively REJOICE in it! We’re good at refuting heresy, and knowing what is ‘sound’ and what isn’t, but I think we need to get better at rejoicing in our ‘sound doctrine’ and finding great joy in it.
That is so true…often I just stop at the sound doctrine part, and become pleased with myself for being ‘sound’. Which is so arrogant…if my knowledge of what is sound doesn’t lead to rejoicing in God and His truths, then it can all to easily become about us and the truths we hold.How can we become more joyful? How do you personally find joy in your sound truths?
Robin, thanks for your comment on Goldsworthy. If you drop me an e-mail to dlh (at) uccf.org.uk, I’ll rpely with my thoughts.Peace,Dan
How on earth do you find time to write all this? Do you not sleep? Would you like some more things to do?
thanks for your replys to my quesiton robin and westie, both of you have been helpful.