Now That I have Told You I Used to Be Harsh and Self-righteous, Won’t You Stop Being So Harsh and Comfort Me?

How do I know I am elect and now justified? Because I believe the gospel. Did my believing the gospel cause justification to happen? No! Did being imputed with Christ’s death cause me to believe the gospel? Yes.

Suppose the disciple Peter would say that he was operating out of legal fear when he betrayed Jesus. That doesn’t mean that Peter really was. Maybe he wasn’t. Well, you could say, he sure got bad results, since he ended up betraying the Lord three times. That’s why he messed up so bad, because of his legal fears.

But we all still sin. We are still all getting bad results. The justified elect are still habitual sinners. They are still not doing so well in morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.
They are often still harsh, judgmental, and unforgiving.

My concern at this point is not only with sinning, not only with moralistic and self-righteous pride, not only with trying to figure out if you are really sorry this time, not only if you still make repenting of your repenting the future condition of your future salvation.

My concern at this point is if a person is knowing and thinking gospel. Or is a person not understanding and explaining the gospel but still talking about her sins?

I know that the Galatians were not always being motivated by the gospel. But there is a before and after, a beginning to believing the gospel. We can’t say: I was born believing it. We can’t say we were born reconciled and justified.

Conversion is about an in and out. The sheep follow the Shepherd and not the voice of strangers. They do not stay where we they not belong. Ecclesia means: called out, gathered together (here from there), separated by doctrine.

Immediate regeneration in the order of salvation results in a separatist ecclesiology. No church has a monopoly on the “means of grace” so that conversion must come gradually after a period of sacramental preparation.

What is the gospel, and do you believe it? John 20:23–“If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven if you with-hold forgiveness from anyone, it is with-held.”

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5 Comments on “Now That I have Told You I Used to Be Harsh and Self-righteous, Won’t You Stop Being So Harsh and Comfort Me?”

  1. David Bishop Says:

    John Stott’s little book, Men Made New, was such a big help to me in this respect. His commentary on Romans 6 was especially helpful. In fact, it changed everything I understood about the gospel.

    The death that Paul speaks of in Romans 6, is not like that of a corpse, in that I do not lose all sensitivity to sin in the way a corpse has no sensitivity to sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. As Stott points out, how can 1 John 1:9 be true if at the same time I have lost all sensitivity to sin?

    As Paul says a little later in Romans 6, the wages of sin is death. This includes my sins. The wages of my sins is death. The wages of the sins I sinned this morning, that I’m sinning right now, that I will sin tomorrow, the wages of my sins is death. Becoming a Christian does not change the fact that the wages of my sins is death.

    But the death Paul speaks of in Romans 6, the death that a Christian’s sins earn, is Jesus’death. By virtue of my union with Him, I can say He has paid the wages for my sins. He has died the death my sins earned. But not just my past sins, not just my present sins, but also all the sins I haven’t even sinned yet. Hey, Jesus died 2000 years ago – all my sins were future sins, even the sins I’ve already sinned.

    Now, that is grace. That truly is grace. I fear, like you, that continual talk of my sins rather than continual talk of Jesus’ death, demonstrates no understanding of grace.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Thanks, David. Even though Stott denies sovereign grace and election in the atonement, this insight on Romans 6 gets right to the real point;Robert Haldane and even John Piper see this also about Romans 6.

    Why can’t preachers talk about getting legally joined to Christ’s righteousness, instead of
    talking about their own changed attitudes?

    1. Their attitudes have not changed as much as they think (now they judge a different group of people, now they are catholic legalists judging sectarian legalists)

    2. Their attitudes will keep changing, and we can have no assurance in emotional phases we go through.

  3. don’t being messing with a person who has other persons coming to hear him preach

    Individualism’s Not the Problem–Community’s Not the Solution, Jonathan Leeman begins by explaining the ideology

    In theology, too, the significance of relationships (the dialectic of I and Thou) reorients every category of systematic. (8) It’s observed that God’s very being is defined by three persons in community; that human persons bear a “relational analogy” to God’s trinitarian community; that sin is the breaking of community; that Christ brings reconciliation through his work and the embrace of the church community; and that the eschaton will sum up all things in our participation in the divine community.

    Some of the titles in this theological genre tell all: The Trinity and the Kingdom (1981 in English); Being As Communion(1985); After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (1998); The Social God and the Relational Self (2001); Like Father, Like Son: The Trinity Imaged in Our Humanity (2005); Trinity in Human Community: Exploring Congregational Life in the Image of the Social Trinity (2006); and so on.

    Several lessons for churches follow from the communitarian story, say its proponents. For starters, we must recover an understanding of the church as a community of people, not an impersonal institution. If relationships are what constitute the church’s essence, any structures that do exist should be organic, liquid, or natural (again, consider the titles: Organic Church, Organic Community, Liquid Church, or Natural Church Development). Also, preaching should not be a monologue but a dialogue. Congregations should be encouraged to speak and learn from a multiplicity of viewpoints. (10) Conversion should not so much be treated as a one-time event, because life within this community will lead to continual change and reformation. Better to speak of a conversation or at least a “continuing conversion,” which like a conversation implies a continual openness to new perspectives. (11)

    • markmcculley Says:

      Richard Muller—“Use of the language of personal relationship with Jesus often indicates a qualitative loss of the traditional Reformation language of being justified by grace alone through faith in Christ and being, therefore, adopted as children of God in and through our graciously given union with Christ. Personal relationships come about through mutual interaction and thrive because of common interests. They are never or virtually never grounded on a forensic act such as that indicated in the doctrine of justification by faith apart from works – in fact personal relationships rest on a reciprocity of works or acts. The problem here is not the language itself: The problem is the way in which it can lead those who emphasize it to ignore the Reformation insight into the nature of justification and the character of believer’s relationship with God in Christ.

      Such language of personal relationship all too easily lends itself to an Arminian view of salvation as something accomplished largely by the believer in cooperation with God. A personal relationship is, of its very nature, a mutual relation, dependent on the activity – the works – of both parties.

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