Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are we there yet?

I'm really not a navel-gazer. Honestly. But I am often acutely aware of how far the condition of my heart is from that of the New Man, Jesus, into whose likeness I am being re-created by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10). I've written about how puzzling sanctification (growth in Christlikeness) can be for any earnest disciple. After reading this article by Mark Galli I am reminded again of this issue: Why is it taking so long for us Christians to love like our Teacher and Master? Why aren't we being--gasp--transformed?

For starters, we are being transformed. To say otherwise is to call the Holy Spirit a liar when he says that "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" (2 Corinthians 3:18-19 ESV). There are two reasons, however, we don't see this transformation so clearly. First, the holier we become and the more we learn to rid ourselves of idols and instead trust in and love God, the nearer we draw to God and experience a truer vision of him. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:7-8). The difficulty lies in the fact that as we are sanctified and draw nearer to God, we see greater depths of his majesty, wisdeom, holiness, and love. In this light, we see just how much further we have yet to go before we fully bear his image--and this can lead us back to despair and repentance. But seeing our own shortcomings is really evidence that we are maturing and that the Holy Spirit is working within us, perfecting our union with Christ.

Second, it's not really about our transformation! Or at least not totally, not yet. Gazing in the mirror tends to put the focus on us, rather than on the God who saves, on the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, whose own active righteousness alone is what counts before God for our security and acceptance. And while it would be remiss to say that salvation is not also for the purpose of conforming us to Christ's image--now in holy living and worship of God, and in the future in a redeemed body (Romans 8:28-30)--it can become easy for present transformation to obscure the other gospel realities of our "spiritual blessings in the the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:3-14)--forgiveness, reconcilation, adoption, sealing, etc.--all of which are definitive, free, and present possessions of the believer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Iain Campbell on Law and Gospel

Iain Campbell writes thus on a blog post at Reformation21:

One of the marks of grace in both Old and New Testaments is a love for God's law. The church needs that; and we need wisdom to highlight this without going down the road of legalism. I love the versification of Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) who says in one of his 'gospel sonnets':

Thus gospel-grace and law-commands

Both bind and loose each other's hands;

They can't agree on any terms,

Yet hug each other in their arms.

We need to divide the truth rightly in order to show the validity of this insight. Without law we cannot define sin or righteousness, and without the imputation of these objective realities there can be no atonement. Without an objective atonement, in which the sanctions of the law are met, there can be no Gospel.