From DGH on Knowing Jesus Submitted on 2014/09/25 at 9:58 am

Mark, since Ref21 doesn’t take comments, I’ll carry the discussion on over here at OL. I am responding to your latest post, which appears to address my (and others, not all about me this time) insufficient knowledge of Christ.

That may not be the way you meant it — to prompt me to doubt myself. But I do wonder why you don’t see how inadequate you can make a believer feel — yes, I am capable of them (or maybe I’m supposed to question whether I’m a believer):

There can be little doubt that almost all Christians are content to have won Christ, and thus receive the gift of eternal life. But how many are equally concerned to know him? How often we cut Jesus in half, wishing to know that we are saved, and all is well with our destiny, but forgetting that to be truly saved means we must truly know him.

Well, actually, I do doubt that people who have won Christ and have eternal life somehow don’t “know” Christ. Why would you separate salvation (eternal life) from knowing Christ. When Calvin writes about the verse you cite (John 17:3) in your post, he doesn’t separate faith from knowing Christ:

He [John] now describes the manner of bestowing life, namely, when he enlightens the elect in the true knowledge of God; for he does not now speak of the enjoyment of life which we hope for, but only of the manner in which men obtain life And that this verse may be fully understood, we ought first to know that we are all in death, till we are enlightened by God, who alone is life Where he has shone, we possess him by faith, and, therefore, we also enter into the possession of life; and this is the reason why the knowledge of him is truly and justly called saving, or bringing salvation. Almost every one of the words has its weight; for it is not every kind of knowledge that is here described, but that knowledge which forms us anew into the image of God from faith to faith, or rather, which is the same with faith, by which, having been engrafted into the body of Christ, we are made partakers of the Divine adoption, and heirs of heaven.

Now I am not the historical theologian that you are, but Calvin doesn’t seem to make knowledge of Christ different from faith in him. So why would you? And why don’t you see that this bears a remarkable similarity to the Wesleyan scheme of holiness — where sanctification, which is different from justification, leads us to a fuller experience of holiness?

By the way, your quotation from Rutherford, despite my (perhaps deluded) capacities for feeling, did not move me:

Put the beauty of ten thousand thousand worlds of paradises, like the garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing would that be! And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths.

That sort of thing may kindle your religious affections, but quoting a line that is unconvincing to others is not the best rhetorical strategy. Rutherford strikes me as a tad sentiment and suffocating. Sorry, but I prefer Luther’s and the Dutch Calvinists’ earthy piety.

I wonder too why in a post about knowing Christ you didn’t mention the means of grace — the word, sacraments, and prayer, especially the former two — those places where we know Christ. Without those means of grace, those witnesses to Christ that stand apart from us, you recommend a thought experiment:

All of us share guilt in our sinful refusal to know Christ better. But guilt simply cannot rectify this seemingly universal problem in the church. There must be other solutions, even apart from the significant fact that we are forgiven for our lack of love and knowledge of God and his Son.

One solution not immediately obvious to most Christians, but certainly compelling when one thinks about it, is to turn our thinking for a moment on Christ. Of all the human desires that Christ retained as he entered his glorified state in Heaven, surely few exceed his desire to know his people.

Christ, the Lord of Glory, supremely satisfied in the love of the Father, Holy Spirit, and elect angels, remains unsatisfied if he cannot know, love, and ultimately be with his people. How can a good husband enjoy life apart from being together with his wife?

As Jesus continues his high priestly prayer in John 17, he makes a most remarkable statement in verse 24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

In his heavenly glory, Christ meditates upon his people. He desires not only to know us, but also to be with us. When Christ calls one of loved ones home to be with him we must always remember that he has gained more than what we have lost.

Do you mean to suggest that if we think about the way Christ wants to be with us — which is different from the knowledge he already has of us — that then we will want to be with Christ as well? But again, wanting to be with Christ, which I pray continually, “thy kingdom come,” is not the same as knowing Christ. I can want to know Christ better and I can desire more to be with him — which might be valuable if it prevented me from blogging — but are you implying that my current knowledge and desire is inadequate? Inadequate for what? Salvation? True faith? Holiness? A higher life? And is it true that an idea (read thought experiment) can be more effectual than the means of grace?

So, tagline or not, I wonder if you have thought that what you consider to be encouraging really brings some of us down. It would help if you could tell us more about how Christ saves us from our inadequate knowledge and desire and less about how we don’t measure up to Christ or to your heroes of the faith.

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122 thoughts on “From DGH on Knowing Jesus Submitted on 2014/09/25 at 9:58 am

  1. Jones’ exhortation seems simply desire progress in holiness and in the knowledge of our Lord, rather than being satisfied with having received some ticket to heaven.

    Which is consistent with what Calvin writes on Colossian 1:10:

    “That ye may walk worthy of God.” In the first place he teaches, what
    is the end of spiritual understanding, and for what purpose we ought to
    make proficiency in God’s school — that we may walk worthy of God,
    that is, that it may be manifest in our life, that we have not in vain
    been taught by God. Whoever they may be that do not direct their
    endeavors towards this object, may possibly toil and labor much, but
    they do nothing better than wander about in endless windings, without
    making any progress. [289] Farther, he admonishes us, that if we would
    walk worthy of God, we must above all things take heed that we regulate
    our whole course of life according to the will of God, renouncing our
    own understanding, and bidding farewell to all the inclinations of our
    flesh.

    This also he again confirms by saying — unto all obedience, or, as
    they commonly say, well-pleasing. Hence if it is asked, what kind of
    life is worthy of God, let us always keep in view this definition of
    Paul — that it is such a life as, leaving the opinions of men, and
    leaving, in short, all carnal inclination, is regulated so as to be in
    subjection to God alone. From this follow good works, which are the
    fruits that God requires from us.

    ” Increasing, in the knowledge of God.” He again repeats, that they have
    not arrived at such perfection as not to stand in need of farther
    increase; by which admonition he prepares them, and as it were leads
    them by the hand, to an eagerness for proficiency, that they may shew
    themselves ready to listen, and teachable. What is here said to the
    Colossians, let all believers take as said to themselves, and draw from
    this a common exhortation that we must always make progress in the
    doctrine of piety until death.

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  2. Amen, DGH. Keep exposing & opposing the negative pastoral implications of Presby-Methodism. I don’t love Jesus the way I should. Can’t brag on my religious affections. “Not what my hands have done… not what I feel or do… Thy work alone, O Christ… Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God… Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord to Thee…”

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  3. HC Question 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?

    Answer: No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.

    WLC Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
    A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

    Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
    A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men [Q/A 95], it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same [i.e. their thankfulness] in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.

    So… No one keeps the commandments even close to perfectly (far from it) which is the only kind of “keeping” the moral law recognizes and that ought to daily stop us and always lead us to an attitude of repentance, seeing our need of Christ and how, by grace, his passive and active obedience replaces our deficiency with his sufficiency… and to a greater thankfulness that it is He who first laid hold of us, even while yet enemies and dead in our sin. Then with thankfulness looking to walk in the direction of his moral law, we know he accepts our imperfect and inconsistent attempts at obedience inasmuch as they are sanctified by his blood – ” that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere [which by definition is always lacking due to “corruption in every part”], although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections” (WCF 16.6)

    In my mind this kind of levels the sinner/saint-obedience playing field a bit and causes me to think that my obedience (or yours) isn’t all that and a box of biscuits…

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  4. Matthew 7.21-23 is explaining the previous verses. Only a good tree can bring forth good fruit. So outward good fruit is unacceptable to God (I never knew you) unless you are already a good tree, in other words, one “known” by Christ – one of the his elect – one who has responded in faith to the gospel. This seems more about Christ “truly knowing” us than us “truly knowing” him.

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  5. am even more shocked at Mark Jones statement:

    “surely few exceed his desire to know his people.

    Christ, the Lord of Glory, supremely satisfied in the love of the Father, Holy Spirit, and elect angels, remains unsatisfied if he cannot know, love, and ultimately be with his people. How can a good husband enjoy life apart from being together with his wife?”

    His statement that Christ “remains unsatisfied” in some way, seems way off. The Trinity has perfect fellowship. Scott Clark, just this month, put it this way:

    “Only the biblical faith says that God was a se (of himself), that he was utterly self-sufficient and without need. Sometimes well-meaning Christians give the impression that, before creation, God was lonely or needy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God is one in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is an eternal fellowship within the Trinity.”

    John 17:23, 24 is addressing, I think, both the desire Christ had to have a people know him (not Him knowing us!) in salvation, and at the end of time when Jesus says we shall “be with me where I am” This was His high priestly which was and will be answered. No need to fuss about Christ knowing us. We have the promise, too, in I John 3:2:

    “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

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  6. But, David — there are whole sectors of the The Gospel-Industrial Complex that depend on the reckless deployment of adjectives and adverbs. In fact they have factories that turn them out by the case like plastic widgets from China.

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  7. There is always an adverb to be used — either “truly” or “falsely.” Eternity hangs, not on an adverb, but on which adverb.

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  8. Jack,

    Even more, Matt. 7:21-23 is referring to false ministers, the false prophets of v. 15. The fruit then is not only the genuine faith of the ministers, but genuinely redeemed people who know the Lord as a result of their pastor’s ministry.

    (Calvin on Matt. 7:21-23) “This doctrine embraces all hypocrites, whatever may be their rank or station, but at present he refers particularly to pretended teachers, who seem to excel others. He not only directs his discourse to them, to rouse them from the indifference, in which they lie asleep like drunk people, but also warns believers, not to estimate such masks beyond their proper value. In a word, he declares that, so soon as the doctrine of the Gospel shall have begun to bear fruit by obtaining many disciples, there will not only be very many of the common people who falsely and hypocritically submit to it, but even in the rank of pastors there will be the same treachery, so that they will deny by their actions and life what they profess with the mouth.”

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  9. Mark Jones: “To be truly saved means we must truly know him”

    At what point have I reached “truly know?” Hate to be asking that question on my deathbed.

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  10. “I reeeeealllly WANT to grow, but how do I know if I am growing?”

    “Well do you want to grow?”

    “Yes, but how do I know?”

    “Well that’s how you know, by knowing that you want to know?”

    “huh???”

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  11. One of Old Life’s best posts ever.

    To paraphrase HC 114, “even the holiest men while in this life have only a small beginning of [knowing Jesus].” Per 115, what grows is “our knowledge of our sinful nature [!] and our seeking of remission of sins and righteousness in Christ.” I.e., our FAITH is strengthened and confirmed by a growing knowledge of our sins.

    Jones has it almost precisely backwards, in relation to HC 114-115.

    By the way, the corollary to HC 115 is what I call Ursinus’s Law of Sanctification:

    “The holier you get, the more sinful you feel.”

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  12. Precisely backwards? Huh? Isnt’ Jones simply exhorting us to know our savior better?

    This is an extremely odd conversation. I doubt very much he denies all that Brian Lee has said.

    Are we not commanded to grow in the knowledge of Jesus?

    The pushback on this “snippet” from a book is worrying.

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  13. When first married each knows the other. But marriage is not simply a looking back at a contract made and being satisfied with that. The delight of marriage is getting to know each other better and better. If one partner has no desire for such a growth in oneness then he/she has not grasped what the marriage is all about. If he thinks its simply about the marriage certificate and the first night of the honeymoon then his marriage will soon be in trouble. It is this deepening of the marriage bond that is its purpose and delight. Where this desire is absent there is dysfunction.

    As in the natural so in the spiritual.

    Phil 3:8-16 (ESV)
    Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

    Col 1:9-10 (ESV)
    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

    2Pet 3:18 (ESV)
    But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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  14. Jones refers to Phil. 3 in his post.

    Jer. 9:24; 1 Jn. 2:4; 1 Chron. 28:9.

    If you read his post sympathetically you might actually find yourself blessed that Jesus desires to be with us. Imagine that.

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  15. An idea I have always had a hard time with-knowing Jesus better.
    Does that mean:
    Memorizing all the scriptures of and about Him? ( some might say that’s just ‘head knowledge’)
    Trying to ‘feel’ more emotional whenever I think about Him? ( way too evangy for me)
    Making use, in faith, of the Word and sacraments, believing that through them that mystical union is being intensified, whether I ‘feel’ it or not? ( why you gotta go all reformed like that, yo?)

    I didn’t know that I wasnt wanting to know Him better good enough. Of course, I shouldn’t really be all that surprised. I can’t tell you how many times my prayers degenerated from “please help me stop #%#% up so often”, into “please help me WANT to stop #%#%! up all the time!”

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  16. Dr. Hart, the desire to grow in your knowledge of Christ is a sincere Christian prayer for you. That you ask whether such is a “Gypsy curse” really only solidifies the need for such prayer.

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  17. There is a false faith (Luke 8:13) and a false repentance (Matt. 27:3), just as there is a true faith and a true repentance. Distinguishing between true faith and repentance, and false faith and repentace, is the difference between heaven and hell.

    When the apostle says, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Eph. 6:24), do you turn around and blasphemously mock, “How sincere is sincere, Paul?”

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  18. Darryl, seems to has put his finger on the issue. The displacing of faith, in this case through the emergence of ‘union’, and that, existentially and mystically understood, leads to this emphasis and trajectory toward mystical and ontolgical and gives itself more readily to relationship and romantic language. Talk with a devout RC, this is boilerplate. In fact, when they’re really ‘feeling it’ they go Latin mass advocate and one hand clapping.

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  19. I recently departed a non-denom church where the Pastor seems to think he’s Reformed (YRR style) but expresses the same experiential, mystical goobly-gook as Mark Jones. This guy is in a NAPARC church? Pathetic.

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  20. Uncle Johnny went to glory today. Uncle Johnny was one of those earthy Dutchman. Uncle Johnny loved his church. Uncle Johnny took in strays. Uncle Johnny paid the Christian school tuition for immigrants. Uncle Johnny endured a nagging wife. Uncle Johnny was not a sentimental sap. Uncle Johnny knew Jesus. Uncle Johnny fought the good fight, he finished the course, he kept the faith.

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  21. Back in the bad old days we always thought our charismatic pastor had a special pipeline from God. Whatever happened in his prayer closet, it must have been heavy. When that phase started to curdle I started wondering if the pastor was sincere, lying or deluded.

    But what about “really” knowing Jesus, Reformed style? Union influence? Charismatic influence? Reading too much swooning Puritan writing? Edwards/Piper? Whatever – ask for an analytic definition of what it actually means and I expect you’ll get gobbledygook cuz there’s treacherous waters all around the idea.

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  22. Just curious: What exactly is “earthy” piety? How earthily earthy should that piety be? And where exactly does Scripture model this earthily earthy piety for us?

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  23. All here are far more knowledgeable about these theological issues than myself, but I am clinging to CHRIST truly knowing me, and clothing me in His righteousness… Like John Knox before me, way before me, had John 17 read to him on his death bed … Not as to wonder, or gander, or seek to truly know Christ, but as he called the verse, “The anchor” because of what Christ did for him, perfectly, and finally…. That’s why it’s an anchor! If I’m wrong – I stand to be corrected. Bunal this diving into how serious are we in comparsion to the demands of God’s holy law, which is only a ministry of condemnation seems pointless to me. I am soley dependent on Christ for me, and not performing personal spiritual autopsies on myself. If looking at my seriousness, or my meager efforts, I, and a whole lot of others, are doomed. Just saying.

    Great piece, Dr. Hart

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  24. Sean- If you’re all gooey about Jesus but forget to love your neighbor you may not be earthy. Check out the New Testament.

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  25. Mark Jones seems riled and frankly annoyed that folks can comment on blogs – see his piece on the ref21 site, ‘Why we don’t allow comments’ in which he basically makes those who comment as being bad, foolish and naughty to say the least. Has he a blog site in mind which allows such comments, I wonder? I suppose he then wants us to just read blog posts he and other pastors write, with no come back, no critical debate Their words stand uncontested and have therefore a false sense of authority from this position. Sorry Mark but your piece referred to makes word association in my mind come up with words like control and legalism. Having said that I heartily agree that some commentators speak harshly and there are way too many clever sounding seminarians who show their forensic knowledge in a mind numbing way. I and others are thankful that your viewpoint does get challenged (whether you like it or not) when done in a respectful way, and OL is perhaps the most engaging Reformed blog site exactly because of the fertile sense of discussion and comments So then should we, to use your words, “SHUT UP” so your blogs and others at ref21/GC/T4G continue with their quasi – authority and in house humour which can be as irritating and narcissist as anything which can pop elsewhere on the web? I sincerely hope not.

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  26. Here’s a question: if the Puritans are out, because they’re “swoony” and Rutherford (and, by extension, Scottish Presbyterianism) is out and Edwards is out, what is the Reformed tradition? Who are the “proper” Reformed writers? If the 300 years in the middle of the 450 year history since the Reformation is out, what is it?

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  27. igasx- It sounds like you were in good company in the church you just departed: you think you’re Reformed too; but not.

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  28. Paul, glad you’re still out there and checking in. BTW, the missus and I watched recently “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.” Pretty fascinating movie about a 1960s crooner (I was barely aware of him) who turned all Brian Eno. One of the producers interviewed commented on British progressive rock and started a gag reflex when he mentioned “Yes.” He never explained.

    I will concede that the Yes boys had their pretense at times, but in a movie about Scott Walker whose last few “albums” have been harder to listen to than Schoenberg.

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  29. DGH, you forgot about Kuyper. He was anti-experiential, too. Maybe you’re just channeling him. Or is merely a case of strange bedfellows?

    Regarding Canticles, read Durham, Gill, Burrrowes, et al; or just read it alongside Psalm 45. The idea that it is about “bedroom gymnastics” fails exegetically, on a few different levels.

    You still haven’t defined earthy piety, or earthily earthy piety. If you can read through the Larger Catechism’s exposition of the Ten Commandments, and actually strive to keep it, while maintaining your earthily earthy piety, then I have no quarrel with you.

    “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (1 Pet. 2:7). Drop the nonsense about “being all gooey.” If Christ is not precious to you, then (according to Peter) you haven’t yet believed. Faith produces love — not merely external obedience to God’s commands, but actual love. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” We are not merely to believe the truth, but love the truth (2 Thess. 2:10-13).

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  30. In John’s writing union is always dynamic, relational, experiential. It is a union of olive. Abiding is not forensic but vital. The great purpose of salvation is fellowship with father and son. Fellowship with father and son is of course what eternal life is all about. What is fellowship? It is sharing in the values, aims, interests, concerns of anther. It is to delight in that in which they delight. The son has fellowship with the father because he delights in the father and the father’s concerns. He does what the father does and loves what the father loves. Equally the father delights in the son and in all that delights the son. We share life/fellowship/union when we share their delights. Their delight in each other is of course perfect and fully mature. Our delight is impeded. By sin and the world/flesh/devil. The fight of faith is to abide in him dynamically. Thus we must obey his commands (as Christ delights in the will of the father). We must love for love is the very nature of God. As we love we not only have a proof of assurance objectively by we know assurance subjectively. It is he who loves who knows love and experiences God’s love that perfect love that casts out fear. In other words as the life of God enlarges in our soul (as we live in obedience, love and truth) our sense that we are His enlarges too not by ticking off a check list but by the very deepening of the fellowship. Assurance is intrinsic to experienced fellowship like vitality is intrinsic to health, like love brings assured intimacy and relationship to a marriage. It is not only the marriage certificate that brings joy and assurance of relationship in a marriage, it is shared love, shared goals, experienced oneness in life. It is this oneness/fellowship too that brings joy – shared life.

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  31. McSean, earthy piety is what the funda-evangelicals call carnal Christianity. It’s when a believer affirms the very goodness of creation on the one hand and on the other its fleeting nature and then lives accordingly. Sentimental pietists recoil to varying degrees, mumbling something about “knowing Jesus better.”

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  32. Zrim, not sure who you’re attempting to describe (caricature) as “funda-evangelicals” or “sentimental pietists.”

    How is your positive description different from what the Puritans, Scottish divines, Nadere Reformatie, early Princeton theologians, etc. would say?

    What exceptions would it take to the (Puritan-authored and Scottish-received) Larger Catechism, particularly on the Ten Commandments?

    How would it understand things like the necessity of conversion and holiness, the real dangers of carnal security and self-deception, the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, etc.?

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  33. SeanMc, on funda-evangelicals, think Calvary (Mega) Church which I believe is in your neck of the Little Genevan woods. But I’m not aware of any substantive confessional exceptions an earthier piety would take.

    On conversion, it takes this view

    https://oldlife.org/2009/07/the-unconverted-calvin-part-one/

    https://oldlife.org/2009/07/the-unconverted-calvin-part-two/

    On holiness (a good thing), the real dangers of carnal security and self-deception (yes, they are real and to be fought against), the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, etc. (again, real and to be fought against).

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  34. Alexander- Do you have a list of the Reformed denominations and traditions that fail to meet your experiential qualifications?

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  35. Sean- Luke 17:5-10.
    From Jone’s article and some comments here I get the notion that they believe Christians enter the perichoresis of the Trinity. Say goodbye to the creator/creature distinction.

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  36. We affirm all the good in creation that God has given us to enjoy yet even hear we do not let the good get in the way of the best. The supreme delight of the believer is to rejoice and delight in God revealed in Christ. This delight is not only our best in a world not simply passing but fallen but will be our best eternally… the lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land (Rev 21).

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  37. John- sorry, but that statement is a distinction without a difference. Look at Jesus’ teaching parables in the middle of Luke. The good guys are not extolling some euphoric dynamism but rather tend to be beat down losers who accept their station.

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  38. John- are suggesting that Luke is not “simply the teaching of Scripture”? or perhaps of a different dispensation? Or that the OT saints were not Spirit led?

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  39. Iganx… I am am indeed suggesting that the experience of believers after Pentecost is different from before. Read John 13-17. Call it a dispensation or the initial realization of kingom of God or epoch of redemption or whatever it is plainly taught in Scripture.

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  40. John- I’m guessing you do not consider yourself Reformed in the formal sense and by what you just wrote certainly not doctrinally.
    I am always fascinated by the multifarious interpretations of those who claim to only follow the “plain teaching of Scripture”.

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  41. Ignax… you’re right, I’m not Reformed in the formal sense yet even Reformed theology agrees the existence of dispensations. Have you noticed the number of confessions that exist and the number of different interpretations of these that exist.

    However, we are never asked in Scripture to bow to confessions (any more than to a particular church). We are however told to listen to the apostles and the teaching of the apostles expounded by the Spirit. Again read John. Especially his first epistle. Many do profess to follow Scripture who don’t. That is no argument against Scriptures injunction to do so. The day will declare true from false.

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  42. Zrim,
    Thanks for an extension to Scott Clark’s QIRC. Going back to the wonderful mention of Yes, Brian Eno and Scott Walker, Yes were prententious but not in an academic, intellectual way. I cannot imagine Jon Anderson from Lancashire’s Accrington having much culturally in common with southern intellectual Brian Eno but actually Brian did a cracking job with Manchester’s James, notably on their album Seven and tracks like Sound. Thankfully Brian never got to produce Yes – perhaps they weren’t truly intellectual enough for him. As for Scott he should have stuck with english influences and not got into the European scene which was avant garde and way too serious like Stockhausen and other modernists. His latter stuff is painful to listen to.

    Yes had a touch of the esoteric and wimsical, but thankfully Chris Squire kept them grounded and his solo album Fish out of water proved to be the best solo effort from a Yes member and he used the orchestra in it surprisingly well.

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  43. What’s up with the English invasion of proto-Protestant/Pietist/Anabaptist/Reformed of the experiential type rather than McMark type. This stuff gets highly confusing but John Thompson will set us all straight. I miss McMark in the mix.

    McSean, I have no problems with rebukes, exhortations and corrections when I am walking in the power of my flesh and thinking more highly of myself than I ought- although I probably won’t like it much. However, as a bruised reed it just furthers my sense of my own condemnation. That’s when the Gospel should be proclaimed. Continual hounding on the Law does the bruised reeds no good and they disperse to wherever they can find some comfort.

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  44. John, I get it. You like John’s flowery prose. But I still hear “love your neighbor” in a concrete sense and not some rarefied existentialism. Too often I find those who operate only on the spiritualistic plane tend to be the least loving. James 2:16 comes to mind.

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  45. ignasx… have you read John? He’s hardly flowery. In any case we don’t have the option to choose between John and James; both are the voice of the Spirit and of the risen Christ and we must hear both. Ad hominens don’t cut it – just fig leaves.

    JY… your problem is that you are still under the law. And as long as you are the yoke of Christ will be burdensome.

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  46. So, JT, you’re now diagnosing people’s spiritual standing based on a comment? If JY believes in Christ, and he does, then he is no longer under law but under grace. Full Stop. Go reread Rom. 6. This is what is so unhelpful about this type of teaching. What has been accomplished by God in Christ for his people is only as true as one’s experiential level of sanctification? Baloney. Show me what obedience looks like for one who grew up having been sexually abused. Show me what obedience looks like for someone who has a history of drug abuse or homosexuality. Then show me what obedience looks like for the guy who grew up in a normal family secure, responsible, and loved? One looks at the struggles of the first two and thinks… “darn their obedience is so lacking and they struggle with the guilt of their sins so they obviously are still under the law and haven’t been brought into the “power” of the Spirit under grace!” Then looking at the third guy who is just living a normal life as he always had and it is assumed he is walking in the obedience and power of the Spirit in the sanctified life! Please…

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  47. John, that’s why experiential preaching is also discriminating preaching, i.e. distinguishing between believers and unbelievers in the congregation; and even there, distinguishing between backsliding believers, lively believers with assurance, believers struggling with assurance, etc. Both the experiential side and the discriminating side are touched on in the Westminster Assembly’s Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1645), under the section “Of the Preaching of the Word.”

    If you don’t like (or don’t know how) to give/receive an imperative from the pulpit, you are a functional Antinomian.

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  48. And what JY wrote, Continual hounding on the Law does the bruised reeds no good and they disperse to wherever they can find some comfort is true and was said powerfully long ago by that old Puritan John Owen:

    The law guides, directs, commands, all things that are against the interest and rule of sin. It judgeth and condemneth both the things that promote it and the persons that do them; it frightens and terrifies the consciences of those who are under its dominion. But if you shall say unto it, “What then shall we do? this tyrant, this enemy, is too hard for us. What aid and assistance against it will you afford unto us? what power will you communicate unto its destruction?” Here the law is utterly silent, or says that nothing of this nature is committed unto it of God: nay, the strength it hath it gives unto sin for the condemnation of the sinner: “The strength of sin is the law.” But the gospel, or the grace of it, is the means and instrument of God for the communication of internal spiritual strength unto believers. By it do they receive supplies of the Spirit or aids of grace for the subduing of sin and the destruction of its dominion… (John Owen, A Treatise of the Dominion of Sin and Grace)

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  49. Chortles, I’m sorry if I lost you back there. Are you from one of those evangelical churches that has a single article on “Salvation” in its doctrinal statement? Are you incapable of distinguishing out election, calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, etc.? If not, I’ll just assume that you’re making such comments out of rhetorical flourish, and that you’re perfectly capable of understanding the difference between a backslider and an unbeliever.

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  50. Chortles, I may be experiential; but I’ve rarely been accused of being winsome and/or irenic. But compared to the usuals around here…

    Anyways, it’s difficult if not impossible to discuss matters with those who don’t want discussion. So have fun, kids.

    “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Eph. 6:24).

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  51. John- first you tell me to throw out Luke for John and then tell me we have to harmonize James and John? You apparently think this is plain but I’m not on your plane.

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  52. Sean, does regeneration only apply to struggling believers? Is justification only for lively believers? How about the backslider? Adpoted? When you get the spread sheet, please work on the chart.

    BTW, you’re hurting Rutherford’s case.

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  53. One of the things that attracted me to Reformed theology out of evangelicalism was a focus on objective truth vs. a focus on my feelings about objective truth. Apparently there are a lot of people in the Reformed camp who want to take me back there. Like the Dan, however, I’m never going back to My Old School:

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  54. Revival ain’t what it used to be. In the Old days it presumably would have been accompanied by swelling church attendance, people giving up strong drink, the hungry being fed, the wayward repenting of their deeds, and orphans finding homes. Now it’s mostly evidenced by stubborn, middle-aged men arguing about it with scores of posts written on blogs while they sit at home on their (mom’s) computer…

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  55. E, the worst are those who ruined their career and marriage and think they have it right this time because they have found Reformed Jesus. They tend to cluster as mods of pointless boards.

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  56. I’m feeling the love at oldlife- thanks to those who are on the same Gospel plane as I am on. It is a good thing to be able to rest in the work of Christ and not appeal to the book of James, I John, 2Peter chapter 2 and Jude wrongly before knowing, understanding and believing what the Gospel is as explained clearly in Romans, Galatians, Phillippians chapter 3, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. If I am trusting and looking to anything worked internally in me I am not trusting in the work Christ got done in his life, death and resurrection. I am one of those who thinks abiding in the vine means that I am forensically united to Christ by a legal imputation of Christ’s righteousness, ie., God the Father placed me into the death of his Son. This is my only hope and comfort in this life. My internal righteousness will never measure up to the demands of a Holy, Just and thankfully Merciful God that is revealed to us in the Gospel McSean and John T. have not been hanging around long enough to have wrestled with what has been going on at oldlife for the past 4 to 5 years. However, they are determined to set everyone straight here.

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  57. Yes were prententious but not in an academic, intellectual way.

    Yes is really interesting because the music is really tight, but the lyrics are … well, their mushrooms had mushrooms, or something.

    “Tell the Moon Dog, Tell the March Hare …”

    (footsteps)

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  58. Now it’s mostly evidenced by stubborn, middle-aged men arguing about it with scores of posts written on blogs while they sit at home on their (mom’s) computer…

    I somewhat resemble that remark. The computer’s mine.

    But why not allow for diversity of form? We’ve stayed sequestered in threads on Republication …

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  59. Good stuff, John.

    Yes on Yes. This is as good now as it was when it came out when I was in Junior High.

    Last night I did bar trivia with my dad. They played Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” during the ‘name that tune” round. My dad was too old to get it and everyone else on my team was apparently too young. That’s one of those songs I would like to forget, but of course knew what it was.

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  60. My point about revivalism and semi-revivalism would be to tell these guys to forget about their formulas and treating the Christian life like plant taxonomy. You’re excited about Christ and the gospel? Good. Spend your time doing good deeds and supporting your church instead of always having your head on a swivel looking for anyone whose balls you can bust for not having what you consider to be the requisite level of zeal for the Lord. Not helpful to anyone.

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  61. Didn’t they (the experimental lot) also practice slavery with ‘clear’ consciences and the most ‘assured’ piety?

    I am… Just sayin’.

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  62. Back at you, Jack- unity in the Gospel is a beautiful thing. It is the only way God’s elect in Christ are bonded together. And they come from all different sorts of backrounds, races, shapes, sizes, degrees of internally worked righteousness, etc., etc. Only the Gospel can cause such a motely crew to submit to the standard of teaching that the Scriptures expound upon and then, amazingly, actually love each other. It is because of the liberty that the elect have in Christ, and in the context of their still remaining sin, that the exhortations against antinomianism come in 1John, James, 2 Peter and Jude. And if you read carefully, and notice the context of those books, they are aimed at exhorting and rebuking the self-sufficient, self-satisfied and self-righteous, ie., believers in the false Gospels that they are being tempted to trust in. The book of James was aimed at the well to do and well off Jewish Christians who were thinking they were pretty holy. James just expounded on the Law a bit to show them their lack and how they were not measuring up to God’s holy Law. Its aim was to turn them to the work of Christ as the concluding verses in the last chapter reveal.

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  63. Jack M says: ” where’s mcmark when we need him?”

    John Y: I am beginning to be concerned about McMark- his father has been very sick and he had to go to Virginia to be with him. I have not heard from him in over a week now. That is highly unusual. Lots of family issues always surface during times like that. I hope he is coping with the situation well

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  64. Whenever we go back to the law and make ourselves obligated to it in any way we have functionally and psychologically placed ourselves under law. Whenever we feel the law’s condemnation as those who believe they still have some sort of relationship to it inevitably do feel then we have fallen away from grace. We should not allow ourselves to be killed again and again by law rather faith recognised we have already died to it once for all in the death of Christ. Faith lives as those already dead. It puts to death our members but that is different for we do not do so through the law but by the Spirit. Justification has taken us out of the world in death and raised us with Christ to a new world where law and its accusations have no place. But justification itself is only the foothills. Justification is ‘unto life’. Life in its fullness, divine life, is what God intends us to enjoy. We rejoice in the standing we have in Grace, and in sufferings for they produce hope and concentration on the glory of God to come. And we rejoice in God himself. John in his epistle describes this life not so much to challenge the false teachers who had mainly left the church but to reassure the Christians whose faith had been shaken by the false teachers. On a personal note I find.the older I get the more I enjoy communion with God in the sense of just sitting or lying praising him for all he is, has done and is doing. With the eye of faith I see Christ in heaven and rejoice that he is glorified and that he wishes to share his glory with me. I find this fills my heart with joy in a way that nothing else does. I find too that this very experience of God’s presence draws my heart away from the world and frames my heart to obey in a way that no ‘law’ ever can. If you have known this delighting in God then you know what I’m talking about. If not I commend it to you. PSalms are full of this ‘delighting’ according to the revelation they had. How much more we who live in the age of consummation have to delight in and wonder about what previous eyes have not seen nor hearts imagined the Spirit has revealed to us. We enter God’s holy presence and can live their without conscience of sin or fear of rejection k owing we are loved and are the righteousness of God in Christ.

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  65. I’ll play McMark while he is gone:

    from Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth
    p182, “If by ‘an awakened sinner’ it is taught that no one is
    commanded to depend on Christ for pardon and peace unless possessed of a more holy disposition, he must necessarily be more solicitous to
    find evidence of that prerequisite existing in his own heart, than to
    understand and believe what the gospel says concerning Christ.”
    p223, “The Scriptures will not permit our concluding that any pious
    affections are possessed by sinners before they receive the truth and
    believe in Christ. If we really love and revere God, it is because He
    first loved us, because there is forgiveness with him, because that
    love for the elect has been revealed in the glad tidings of
    reconciliation.”
    p228–”For sensible sinners to think that they dare not and ought not
    to believe and embrace Christ, till they be more deeply humbled, and
    do more thoroughly repent of their sins, and be “more fit’ to receive
    him; this is but a gilded deceit and a trick of a false heart.”
    p238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in the work or regeneration, the salutary and important
    change being produced entirely without it…To imagine that a
    preparation of the mind, merely to receive the truth, is a change so
    great as to describe the expressions ‘born again’ or ‘born of the
    Spirit’ or ‘born of God’ is unwarrantable”
    p247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that
    the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an
    immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the
    gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of
    sin. When the commandment came, sin revived and I died.”

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  66. Not secure that there is anything I disagree with in cited quotes. Typewriter speaks of law’s impact pre- conversation. But JY it’s Scripture that convinces me. Cite Scripture to me. Enjoy the Lord’s day.

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  67. John,

    Enjoyed that. I would suggest a single change:

    “But justification itself is only the foothills.”

    How about, Justification is the foundation upon which all else rests.

    In mountain-climbing, we leave the foothills behind and get to the real hard climbing. But in the spiritual life, we never leave our justification behind to get to “the real stuff.” (Namely, sanctification)

    Agree?

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  68. Tom,

    Paul saw you coming.

    1 Corinthians 1:18 New International Version (NIV)

    Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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  69. Erik Charter
    Posted September 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    Paul saw you coming.

    1 Corinthians 1:18 New International Version (NIV)

    Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    Not talking about the Good News, EC. I take that seriously, my man.

    Talking about The Elect sitting around arguing about why and how saved they are, with all the boring details. How many angels fit on the head of a pin was a joke, you know, not an actual fact. It fits the hair-splitting on the details of their already-decided salvation much better.

    It’s like putting on the post-game show at halftime.

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  70. That’s why you talk about election- it makes those who think salvation is up to man angry or bored. God is sovereign in salvation, not man. Those who want to make salvation conditional on man in any way like to boast of their own righteousness and set themselves apart because of their decisions, choices and will. Many Reformed refuse to talk about election due to pressure and reaction from TVD types. Talking about the ordo puts the working out of salvation in God’s corner, not man’s. The preaching and teaching of the Law and Gospel, rightly separated and distinguished is what the elect look to bring God’s redemptive purposes to pass- if you call that boring and blahblahblah than so be it.

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  71. When you talk about election you also then have to talk about definitive atonement, when the imputation of Christ’s righteousness occurs and the cause of faith. I dare anyone to say out loud, when gathering with a bunch of people who still want to condition salvation on man in any way, that Jesus did not die for everybody. They won’t want you around to keep telling them that. In fact, they get extremely angry about it. You better have a way of escape planned after bringing the subject up. I believe that is the reason Cain murdered Abel. And for more than 20 years I was believing that it was because of Abel’s better insides and progress in holiness that Cain murdered him.

    You don’t want to bring this subject up in AA meetings either. There is a lot of spiritual and doctrinal confusion in AA and it is the willful and those who have made a decision, and now by implication make good choices, who dominate the conversation at the meetings. I am required to go to 3 a week and it is hard to sit through them without saying anything. However, I do because if I say what I want to say it will challenge the whole “spiritual” program of AA. I also will be thrown out back on the street again. So, I keep my mouth shut and get my paper signed each meeting I go to. I am still hoping to meet someone who gets where I am coming from but it has not happened it.

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  72. Puritans are not sure if you are married to Jesus yet. And IF they are consistent and not simply self-righteous,thus (correlating the efficacy of their preaching with their visible holiness) these puritans are also not sure if THEY are married to Jesus yet. ( I suspect that Mark Jones trusts too much in water as a means of grace to think it could be a means of damnation, and thus he may not be puritan in the Al Martin sense.) The more they talk against carnal security and the more they insist on the inevitability of mandatory fruit, the more puritans need to ask themselves— am I the fourth dirt in the parable, or one of the other three?

    I am not an Arminian, so I don’t believe that the justified elect lose their salvation. I deny that the new covenant is merely one “administration” in a flat “the covenant” and therefore I don’t think that Christians have to do stuff to stay in the new covenant. But my point right now is that I am not a puritan, and I don’t believe that the justified elect have to do stuff to prove to themselves or to God that they are real Christians.

    Puritans tend to let you in the front door by faith alone, but then after they allow you a little time, they will let you out the back door if your faith is still alone and you still “don’t know God” like they think they do. In addition to faith, they ask— what have you done to prove your faith lately?

    But if you have to work to prove faith, does that mean you have lost your faith or does it mean that you never had enough of it (like Jesus did)? It would be like my wife saying to me: sure, I married you for love, but now I want to see the big house with the bird nests in the big back yard. Prove your love for me, and then you can be sure of my love for you..

    Romans 3:27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28 For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law

    Romans 4: 4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation.

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  73. Mark Jones—-we contribute to his mediatorial glory and his delight in Heaven. So, when the merits of Christ’s work are applied to us, so that our sins are forgiven and our hearts are sanctified, Christ sees the fruit of his labor and he is “more” glorified. He is glorified in us (John. 17:10), and thus seeks to bless us so that his mediatorial glory may reach its promised fulfillment .

    Mark Jones—If you hear the well-known dictum, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does”, you might consider that while this is true, it is not the whole truth. Christ personally rejoices in Heaven as his people are justified and sanctified (Matt. 25:31-46). He is more interested, happy, and satisfied in our salvation than we are. His sending of the Spirit is the guarantee that his labor was not and will not be in vain. In this sense, Christ “needs” our good works!

    Mark Jones—-So praise… the Spirit who produces Christ’s resurrection life in you. And as you do, consider that Christ is more glorified. Indeed, to (sort of) turn a phrase by John Piper on its head, Christ is most satisfied when you most glorify.

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/06/christ-is-most-satisfied-when.php

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  74. We have a long tradition of some folks accusing other folks of loving Christ’s benefits more than they know and love His person.

    But if you don’t agree about what Christ’s work did and about its benefits, then how could it be said that we know the same Christ?. Some of these accusing disturbers of our peace say that the solution is to put “union” with the person before the receiving of the blessings. But even in their solution, they themselves put faith in Christ before “union” with the person. The presence of faith in us, we are assured, is the indwelling of Christ in us. Thus they lecture us not to divide having eternal life from knowing Christ. And then they divide things—so that knowing Christ is different and more important than having eternal life.

    Richard Gaffin— In the matter of sanctification, it seems to me, we must confront a tendency, within churches of the Reformation to view the gospel and salvation in its outcome almost exclusively in terms of justification. The effect of this outlook, whether or not intended, is that sanctification tends to be seen as the response of the believer to salvation. Sanctification is viewed as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins, usually with the accent on the imperfection and inadequacy of such expressions of gratitude.

    Gaffin–I hope not to be misunderstood here. Surely our gratitude is important. How could we be anything but grateful for the free forgiveness of our sins? That note of gratitude, whether or not explicit, is pervasive and unmistakable in Paul . No doubt, too, all of our efforts as believers are, at best, imperfect and flawed by our continuing to sin. BUT Paul sounds a different, much more radical note about sanctification and the good works of Christians.

    mark: Step one—Accuse others of being “Galatianists” who teach sanctification by works instead of by faith. Step two–define faith as our doing the works Christ did, since Christ lived by faith. Step three–redefining “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) into a definitive infused ontological breach so that the personal presence of Christi within us gives us such power over sin so that we can do more than merely look back in gratitude at the past to what Christ got down outside us..

    It is not denied that the justified now have “eternal life”. But the future aspect of the justification benefit also depends on us not commenting on blogs so that we can have the time necessary to know the resurrected Christ more and more and better and better (unless of course failure in this future aspect shows us that we lost the benefit)

    Gaffin puts “union” before both justification and sanctification, but then explain that the Holy Spirit’s work in us (our knowing Him) has priority over Christ’s atonement and the benefit of eternal life,. The assumption is that the Holy Spirit gives us Christ, instead of Christ giving us the Spirit.

    Those of us who still know ourselves as sinners are usually so unimpressed by our faith and our prayers and our knowing Christ than we pre-emptively keep rushing back to Christ’s satisfaction of the law by His past death. We do not hope for a righteousness, but because of the righteousness already imputed to us, we hope for the end of this present absence. Even so come, Lord Jesus.

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  75. I do not know a single person who claims that it is enough to only know about or benefit from Christ. Every professing Christian says that we must “believe in” the person identified by the doctrines .We all agree that doctrine is not sufficient.

    Why then do so many hirelings presume to give the rest of us information about a difference between doctrine and person, even though they cannot explain the difference. Their distinction can be deconstructed quikcly by pointing out that their difference is itself “information”.

    So they have is a cheap rhetorical trick—-if they say FIRST they have the person and not only the doctrine, then you don’t get to say that what they have is just as much doctrine as anybody else (or that their doctrine is wrong).

    I do not hope to cure clergy of indulging in cheap rhetorical tricks. It is not sufficient to know about (and agree with) the deity of Christ to know Christ. But that does not change the fact that it is necessary to know something about the deity of Christ to know the person Christ.

    The good news is not simply who Christ is but also what Christ’s satisfaction of law did for the elect sinners for whom died so as to to obtain a righteousness for Himself. This righteousness is not simply Himself, as Christ always was. Christ came to do something, and He got it done. Christ died because of the sins of the elect.

    I am not saying that it is sufficient to know about this. We know that a person who knows that Christ died only for the elect may not be elect. But it is necessary for the elect to know information about Christ’s death for the elect alone. This is not a condition of election. God elected the elect before they knew the information in the gospel or believed the information in the gospel..

    Christ obtained a righteousness for the elect, not conditioned on the elect’s knowledge of that obtaining of righteousness. But the elect will learn that they need the righteousness which Christ obtained. Before Christ obtained that righteousness, Abraham knew about that righteousness, and believed unto that righteousness. Romans 4 does not say that Abraham’s faith was a condition for the obtaining of righteousness, but it does teach that Abraham gave evidence of his justification when he has faith unto that righteousness.

    Faith in the gospel has as its object the person who obtained a righteousness which is not faith but which is Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s love for His foreknown sheep is election, and Christ’s righteousness is the reason those so loved are given faith in the gospel.

    The word of Christ gives information about what CHRIST has ACCOMPLISHED by His sacrifice and His resurrection from the dead. Those who see faith as a contribution which sinners make as a condition in order to make Christ’s work “real” and “effective” and “sufficient” are teaching a very different gospel..

    “Faith in the person without faith in the righteousness” is a religion that flatters humans in their ignorance of the gospel. It does not demand that the sinner know and submit to the gospel. It does not demand that the sinner repent of all false gospels. It lets every man say for himself if he “knows the person”.

    To be seeking justification by our acts of faith while claiming to “know the person” is to be under God’s curse. Escape from the curse comes only by the righteousness Christ obtained. There is no good news apart from the proclamation of what Christ Jesus DID as the God-man mediator.

    Instead of pointing our consciences to the righteousness obtained by Christ which satisfies God’s law, the “personal presence focus” POINTS US AWAY FROM THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS. We are even told by certain preachers to stop emphasizing the past activity of Christ so that we can “know the person”.

    When the doctrine vs person doctrine says that a person does not need to know about righteousness obtained in order to know that she is saved, the doctrine being taught is that Christ did not obtain for the elect a knowledge of the righteousness obtained.

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