Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sanctification by Grace

Last Sunday I mentioned that one of the most common errors Christians make is approaching justification (at the beginning of the Christian life) largely by faith in Jesus and His grace, while approaching sanctification largely focused on us - our effort, discipline and will-power. But, as we discovered together, unless our sanctification flows from a heart swept up by Christ's grace, our behavior modification will be for naught.

This may be a new concept for many of us 21st century, American Christians, but it was the perspective preached from Puritan pulpits Sunday after Sunday in 17th century England. And no Puritan preacher more clearly proclaimed the 'holiness by grace' nature of sanctification than Walter Marshall, expressed in his masterful book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. 300 year old books can be heavy slogging. Thankfully, Marshall's book has been put into modern English by Bruce McRae. When it comes to the doctrine of sanctification, there is no book I'd more strongly recommend. You can read the original text online for free here, or purchase McRae's update here. To whet your appetite, consider the following quote where Marshall shows that obedience must be, first and last, a matter of the heart that's been captured and changed by the grace of the gospel:

"You cannot possibly keep the commands of God if you hate them! You cannot be indifferent in your heart to what the law requires of you if you are going to keep these commandments. Remember, the greatest of all the commandments is to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength. This means that you love everything that is in him, you love his will, you love his ways, and you see him as the best thing in the world! Everything you do has to be driven by this kind of love for God. You have to delight to do the will of God. It must be sweeter than honey to you (Ps. 19:8). And, you must continually love, like, delight in, long for, thirst for and relish God for your entire life. All of your sinful lusts must be taken over by love to God and neighbor. You must fight against your sin, and hate it (Gal. 5:17, Ps. 36:4).

"This is quite different than the way people normally think of obedience. Most people think of true obedience as just a matter of pure duty. They think that obedience is like a salesman who sells his unpleasant goods in the market for money, or like a sick man loves his unpleasant medicine, or like a captive slave who works simply because he is afraid he will get something worse if he does not work. These are things you can do even if you do not want to do them, or even if you hate them. However, this is not true obedience to God. True obedience means you love to obey God!"

But how do we gain hearts which love to obey God? Marshall answers,

"You have to be totally assured that you are reconciled to God and accepted by him. You have to be absolutely sure that the chasm sin has caused between you and God has been completely filled, and that you are now totally under his love and favor."

- The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall, pp. 27 & 29

1 comment:

Nathan Pitchford said...

Thanks for the recommendation -- I have to add a strong second. Hands down the best all around book on sanctification I know of. Very much worth the read.