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21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)

God does not have a only one means of exhorting us in live in obedience. He is not a one string banjo which only has one cord to harp on.

You can, however, hear different people try to reduce it down to one. They will do it either in their practice or in their teachings. One will say, “Just preach the gospel of justification.” Others will say, “Work hard to follow the example of Christ.” The list can go on.

Now, such statements are true in part. That is why they can profit an individual. One person has been crushed by their guilt for most of their Christian life. When they hear about living in light of the gospel they start to live in joyous freedom and see so much sanctification in their life. Another never knew the sustaining grace of Christ until they were pushed outside their comfort zone to be obedient in a particular area. They pushed themselves and witnessed power and grace sustaining them.

Now, what these people might be tempted to do is to take their individual experience with the sanctifying work of the Spirit and make it the standard by which all must walk with God. They take the part and make it the whole. So the only thing people need is to know justification by faith alone or to be pushed hard to live out their faith.

But what this section of 1 Peter 2 reminds us is that there are multiple ways that God exhorts us in our pilgrimage as believers to live obediently.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

  • Here we see the example of Christ given. Christ lived His perfect life “so that” we could strive to walk as He walked. Believers are to be looking to the life of Christ to give instruction as to how they are to live and thus move to live it.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

  • The person of Christ is given as the One we are to look upon in our warfare. Peter does not tell them to look within themselves to find the courage to obey. To the complete contrary, he tells them, and us, to look away from ourselves and fix our eyes up the Christ who went before us. The person of Christ is who we are to look upon so that His beauty can encourage us to endure as we follow after Him.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

  • Here we are told to behold the power that is ours over sin because of Christ. His death to sin means that we are dead to sin. His resurrected life raises us up to live a life of righteousness. The wounds which killed His body bring life to both our souls and bodies making us capable to live for Him. We are, thus, given the greatest healing possible! No sin will have dominion over us! Resurrection power is at the believer’s disposal.

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

  • Finally, in this passage, we are told to remember what God has done for us. To the persecuted believers Peter is writing to he directs the attention to what God has done for them. They were straying but now have be brought back. The Lord is their Sheperd and Overseer. They are now counted as members of God’s flock who are being watched over by the Lord Himself. They are not forgotten, pointless commodities. The Shepherd will not lose one of His sheep. Look at all the Shepherd has gone through to bring them under His care (vs. 21-24)!

Thus we see that the ways the Lord brings sanctifying truth to His people are multiple. We could even find more by exploring others texts in 1 Peter (or the whole bible). We can even see the truths crisscrossing over the above texts. There is not one phrase, one truth that is the silver bullet to press believers on in their sanctification. As this text demonstrates the truths are multiple.

This means for us that we should be as multifaceted as the bible is when we exhort believers to be like Christ. We are in the dominion of grace in Christ. But that grace may take the form of gentle gospel reminding comforts or it may be the hard confrontation of warning. Truth, wisdom, and love are to guide us as we seek to apply biblical truth to individual lives and circumstances.

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What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over a half century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his scenario in his weekly sermon…Barnhouse speculated that is Satan took over Philadelphia,

all of the bars would be closed,

pornography banished,

and the pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other.

There would be no swearing.

The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,”

and the churches would be full every Sunday

where Christ is not preached

-Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 15. Emphasis his.

This is a good reminder that we do not proclaim good morals. We proclaim Christ! “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

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In the final analysis, we take up our privilege as proclaimers of the gospel, not because we are more intelligent or creative than the world, nor because our powers of rhetorical and logistical techniques are greater than those of other religious spokesmen. None of these powers will ever serve to win one person to Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the Christian Church always advances from a position of human weakness, not human strength…Instead, we step out to accomplish the greater works because the Spirit of God, on the merits of our Savior’s death, has been given to us. According to His own good pleasure He will be pleases to take our feeble and flawed presentations of the gospel and fill them with His irresistible power, consequently overcoming the hearts of sinful people that, otherwise speaking, will prove to be impenetrable.

Arturo G. Azurdia III, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving The Holy Spirit In Your Ministry (Great Britain: Mentor, 2007), 26-27.

Exp_JohnBunyanChristian

Question: How are you right with God?

Answer:

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though my conscience accuses me

of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments

and of never having kept any of them

and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,

nevertheless

without my deserving it at all,

out of sheer grace,

God grants and credits to me

that perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,

as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner,

as if I had been as perfectly obedient

as Christ was obedient

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.

Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 60

Worship

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)

I remember a few weeks back when accusations were pounding my mind. I saw my weakness and sins so clearly. The voice said to me that there was no way that one as sinful as I could every hope to minister to others. Whether it was the struggle over sins I have had for years or new sins I saw in myself the voice seemed to be speaking truth. How could one who had so many problems be presentable to a holy God for service?

Thankfully the Lord spoke Hebrews 9 to His people. I came across this section in the midst of this trial and was so encouraged. For here the Lord makes clear that the the foundational purity for our service to God does not come through us but by the sacrifice of Christ. He was sacrificed to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

According to the section Jesus came as the Great High Priest of the New Covenant. One of the roles of the priest was to purify people and things so that they could stand before a holy God. Yet, in the Old Covenant they only had the blood of goats and calves to do it. very temporal in its effect. Yet, Christ, when he came as High Priest, gave the blood of God himself. His blood gives security which last eternally! The sacrifice of Christ on the cross makes a purchase which lasts forever. And so think, if the blood of goats and calves made one pure before God, how strong, deep, and lasting is the purity which Christ’s blood gives!? Thus, the arthur of Hebrews declares that because of Christ our consciences are purified from dead works. And now we can serve the living God.

The Christian’s works are not dead before God. To be dead is to be useless. At one point our works were useless to God. Outside of Christ there is no acceptable sacrifice. But now dead works are cleansed away. We can be useful to the sovereign God of the universe!

We can serve Him. The purity for service comes from the blood of Christ. In Him and through him sinners can offer up acceptable services to God. How wonderful this is. The level of the believer’s sin can be so deep that there is no tracing. Very pure actions can still be tainted with wrong motives in the midst of good motives. But what makes these actions pleasing to God is not the perfection of the believer but the perfection of the sacrifice which has been given for him.

How does this affect us as believer’s in Jesus?

1. We are freed from guilt to serve our God. The Lord is not waiting for us to be perfect in our service. For our imperfect offerings come to the Father through the perfect mediation of Christ. You can step out and serve in the little or big ways not worrying if God will take notice or not. He does! Our works are alive to God through Christ. Serve boldly!

2. Our works are real. The small acts of talking to the unpopular or different person. The hospitality shown to believers and unbelievers. The street preaching of the gospel that does not bare any immediate fruit are not dead! They are alive! We are cleansed from dead works and by Christ our offerings are real. We serve the living God and He is pleased!

3. We are freed to worship. When we come to worship we do not tally up our obedience to see if we can stand before Him. We confess our sins and trust in the perfect atonement of Christ. Our service of worship is purified before the Lord because we offer our praises through the perfect worship of Christ. We do not have to have everything right in our lives and with our worship practices. Because the believer is clothed in the righteousness of Christ he can worship before a holy God. And it will be accepted!

4. We can be patient with the imperfection of others. The Lord is patient with His people. He has cleansed them by Christ and yet is working to conform them in person from one degree of glory to the next. If this is the Lord’s attitude it should be ours as well. We can still love the brethren when worship and service is not perfect. Just because we see problems in some areas does not mean that God is not pleased and things must change instantly. Our perfection is in Christ and not in a local body having every line perfectly straight. Imperfect sinners can serve the living God because of their trust in Christ.

Balancing Note:

In know that one can take these points in very unbiblical directions. In no way am I say that personal holiness does not matter in service and that one does not have to be qualified to be an elder. Nor am I suggesting that one cannot hurt others by unbiblical and foolish actions being called service. Neither would a say that a church can sin as much as they want and/or teach heresy and God does not care.

What I am trying to do, as the arthur of Hebrews is doing, is putting the gospel as the foundation of service. As Paul said in Romans 6 if the gospel has gripped one’s heart they do not want to sin. They do not want heresy preach and they want to be truly loving and helping in their deeds of service. What the gospel does is give the building where these things can grow and flourish. So let the grace of Christ train you “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 3:12)

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Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)

One of the core distinctives of Christianity, especially in the culture of secular America, is the claim of exclusivity. The Lord has established one means for separated sinners to become reconciled to God. There is one God and only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Only by repenting of sins and putting faith in the atoning work of Jesus is one forgiven of sins and given eternal life. If one does not adhere to this singular way then they are lost.

How can such a claim be made!? Such a claim is charged with the height of arrogance. Would not this make us a mean, hateful, and boastful people? Taking our claim and lifting our heads above all those who, “don’t have what we have.” How can we believe such a thing?

Against this, I believe that when we look at the cross we can understand Christ’s call of exclusivity.

When we look at the cross we see the greatest demonstration of love towards those who did not deserve it. “But God demonstrates His love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). And this demonstration of love comes with the greatest pain. The perfect Son torn from the the most glorious and enjoyable relationship (the Son and the Father) on account of wrongs He did not do.

The absolute truth of Christ’s death, when believed rightly, makes loving people. It makes those who would still love in the face of wrongs done against them. It makes people who love in the face of opposing ideas. If Christ is so loving then the more I trust in His work and His character the more I am going to demonstrate His love. The lack of love that can come from Christians is not because of Christ but because of the lack of Christ. Thus, to magnify the cross is to dethrone pride and arrogance.

But to come around to the flip side, because Christ’s death is the great demonstration of love it would be an insult to say that it was pointless. The exclusivity of Christ’s death, that there was no other way which it could be done, is the reason that it was the greatest demonstration of love. If Jesus’s death on the cross is not the only way that sinners become right with God then Jesus was a sad fool who gave up everything for nothing. Think about it. If I could obtain God’s pleasure and eternal life by my good works or sincere worship of something else then Jesus’ death is completely pointless. For why would it be needed? And since it is not needed it is not love but ignorance (at best) which took Jesus to the cross. Why would He need to die for me if I get everything through something else besides the cross? It is to insult the act of love its self to suggest that there is another way.

Jesus is either the only way or only a fool. But since Jesus’ death was of love it is the only way.

This is what make Good Friday good,

…the whole thought of redemption and ransom rests on the awful reality of the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13; 4:5), a curse that one may not understand as an independent, blind force detached from God, but as the fulfillment of the divine threat against sin (Gal. 3:14). There is here in fact, however inadequate human words may be, a case at law between God and men, both Jews and gentiles. In this Christ makes his appearance as the Mediator, who gives the ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6). His death is the costly price in this case…

…God is the one whose holy curse is executed on Christ in their place. Justice is not thrust aside, but justice is satisfied…Salvation consists in the possibility, given by God and realized by Christ, that justice is victorious in love and love in justice.

-Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, translated by John Richard De Witt (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans, 1975), 196-197.

“When Jesus judges our imperfection, he does it with such compassion that he releases us from the fear that we must pretend to be better than we are. He assures us that if we will be honest with God, God will be gracious with us. And the moment we enter into a gracious relationship with God, we not only fall heir to the promises of the gospel, but we are also ready to accept our present duties in the kingdom of love.

With pride dethroned, we are able to accept a much more modest concept of the self. We are delivered from the error of thinking that we must prove ourselves all the time. Kindness and truth become acceptable signs of status. Destructive anxiety cannot overwhelm us, for we are content to leave the work of salvation to God.”

-Edward John Carnell, The Kingdom of Love and the Pride of Life (Grand Rapids, 1960), pages 152-153.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Many Preachers have thought they were preaching Christ when, like Charles Sheldon, they pointed to him as a stellar example to be followed. It is possible to preach about Jesus, and even mention grace in the process, and yet be preaching law, calling people to reform themselves with a little help from their heavenly Friend. Such a message breeds either self-deluded complacency or self-contemptuous despair

Preaching Christ as Paul preached Christ, however, is preaching grace as the sole source and rationale of salvation and transformation from start to finish: grace that imparts life to the spiritually dead, grace that imputes Christ’s righteousness to the guilty, grace that instills the Spirit’s power in those otherwise impotent to want or to do good, grace that holds fast the feeble and fainting, securing pilgrims’ arrival at their destination in glory. Grace points hearers to the sovereign, saving initiative and intervention of God to do for guilty and paralyzed sinners what we could never do for ourselves, not even with heavenly help.

-Dennis E Johnson, His We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2007), 81.

We need men to be men!

Now the full explanation of that statement is another issue but we can say that there is always a need to think about what it means to be a man biblically. There has been a lot of thought and articulation of biblical manhood as faithful teachers seek to set the biblical portrait of what God wants of men in the face of the cultural’s ideas on this issue.

Let me say at the out set that I am for this development. I think that groups who are exploring what the meaning of manhood is through a biblical lens are right in doing so. By this exploration there is going to be a standard set (hopefully biblically) that men are suppose to meet.

But We Are Going to Fail…

Whenever we set a standard before ourselves we are going to fail it. We are fallen and sinful. No one will meet the picture of the perfect Father, Mother, Friend, etc. This is no different in the pursuit of being godly men. When we see ourselves failing or not obtaining the standard perfectly what are we suppose to do?

The way the theme of biblical manhood is framed at times it can make it hard to pursue. It is very easy to speak of manhood in terms of what one already possess and not what one is growing in it. If one does or does not do a certain action  or have a certain characteristic then their entire identity of manhood is on the line. Men do _______ or men do not do  ________. Plain and simple.

What happens, although, if a man does not do that? If we are not careful in how we frame the concept of biblical manhood then we put men who are sinners is a precarious position. No matter how central we think the characteristic or action some man is going to fail in that area.

It is at this point that our theology of manhood is revealed. Is it legalism that has more likeness of secular self-help programs or does it find it’s place if the redemptive work of the Christ?

Legalistic Manhood

It seems that we can easily revert to the former. We construct the law of manhood which we are to obtain. The drive to obtain it is out of the fear of failing short. If one does not meet the criteria then they fail at being a man. The voice is very clear, “Keep all the plates of manhood spinning or else you will fail at being a man.”

Because it is legalistic in nature there is a congruent means of responding to failure. When a system is legalistic in nature people either get depressed or created loopholes to deal with failure. We are all going to fail thus we have to have means of dealing with it. How we usually deal with it is the normal way of dealing with legalistic failings: depression or lessening. Depression is easy to understand, someone sees they are failing the standard and so they fall into the pit of despair.

Lessening, on the other hand, is the trick of defining the law around one’s self so that obtaining it is automatic. Thus, for some men, manhood is defined by what already defines them. For the guys who hunt it is hunting. For the guys who live in their lust it is lusting, etc. This is also where unbiblical definitions creep in. When manhood is something one has to obtain no one wants to discover that they do not already obtain it. Unhelpful standards are then crafted by what men perceive manhood should be and so exclude several men who do not meet it. But those men might have their own definition of what manhood is. Before you know it the standard of manhood can be several places. All of them very easy to obtain to whoever is crafting the standard.

All this will create, though, are men who miss the true meaning of manhood. Depression and false standards will never take us to a right understanding of what it means to be a man and help those who think and feel as if they are failing.

Through the Lens of the Gospel

The other means of dealing with this issue is to turn to the salvation that is offered in Christ. When we look through the lens of the gospel how are we to understand failure in godly manhood?

First, we have to understand that manhood is a good thing that God created. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). “Manhood” is not some social construction that has been forced upon us. God specifically means for His image to be reflected and represented by two genders: male and female. Thus, we are to embrace our identity as men and not desire to be women. Not because men are better than women in any way. But because we embrace God’s glory is the way He chose to display His image. A man is suppose to live as a man and a woman is suppose to live as a woman.

This also means that we locate manhood in the image of God displayed in us. Once again, manhood is not a social construction but created identity. God created man and women to be His representatives and ambassadors on this earth in their structure and function. Each gender is to be that image in the way their gender has been fitted. If God wanted His image in one gender  He would have done so but instead He knew it would bring Him more glory to display His image in two. Manhood is not something that Adam was to obtain, it was something that he was based on how God created Him. This means that there is a two stage but related aspect of manhood. We are males that are suppose to live as men. Thus, we are men because God created us to be. Adam could stop being a man when he stopped being the image of God. And we are suppose to live out that image which means we are to fulfill biblical manhood.

Thus, we are men because we are created in God’s image and we are to live out that image in biblical manhood.

Second, The bible makes it clear that manhood has been marred and depraved by the fall. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). When the human race fell in Adam the image, the glorious display of God’s glory through humanity, became ruined. And since manhood is in the image it fell with it. What we should be as men is now ruined and marred by our selfish rebellion against God’s good, just, and righteous rule.

Thus, while we are men, the fullness of what God intended to be lived out as men has been depraved by the fall.

Third, manhood is redeemed by Christ.  “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The restoration of what was lost by sin was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Christ. The cursed placed upon us for rebelling against the image God intended us to have was placed upon Christ as He hung on the cross (Gal 3:13). The new life of displaying the image, once again, was secured by Christ as He rose again (Rom 6:4). What we failed to accomplish was won by Christ. Our salvation is found in Him. By faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection the merits won by Him are counted as ours (Rom 4:24-25). And the Spirit’s work in a believer is creating him after the likeness of God (Eph 4:24) by one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18)

Thus, the restoration of manhood is found in salvation in Christ.

Fourth, the restoration of manhood is located in the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The life that has been ransom by Christ and been given new birth to treasure Christ and rest in Him for salvation is not working to re-obtain the image in a moment. The life of sanctification is not doing an action or not doing an action and so ultimately gaining perfection. It is a life long process where by the Spirit transforms the believer more and more into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). Part of that work of sanctification is the reclamation of manhood since it is part of the image. Manhood is not something, as believers, is to be obtained in a moment. It is part of the lifetime work of the Spirit in our lives. It includes God’s mercy and grace in all the times we do not live up to our Master’s teaching. It includes the times that I quiver inside and and not take leadership over a situation out of fear. Just like any other areas of our sanctification there will be sin and failure.

Thus, The restoration of manhood is progressive, not instantaneous.

Fifth, our identity does not rest upon the law of what the perfect man should be but instead in the One who was and is the perfect image of God and so what is true manhood–Jesus Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15a). I know for myself that this God came to me when I had completely twisted and transgressed what a true man was and saved me! He has made me His child and started the work of reclaiming and restoring that image and promised that no power of this world or of me can stop that work of restoration. My heavenly Father does not look upon me as a failed attempt at being a man. No, instead, by looking upon His beloved Son in whom I am hidden He sees the image as already restored! My manhood has already been reclaimed in Christ. I can amass all the failures of being a man I could and then bring them to God to only hear, “but I am not looking upon those, I am looking upon the perfect spotless image of my Son and your Savior.”

Because that is my identity the Spirit is working into me, day by day, the perfect image of Christ through my fight of obedience. I get get to become more and more like the image of the One I already am hidden in. This is where the daily fight of manhood comes into play. My manhood is not something that is obtained but something that is reclaimed by the salfivic work of Christ in our lives. And so to for the all of us fighting.

This, I believe, is the gospel response to failing as a man. We are created as men but because of sin fail at living out manhood as we should. But God has sent Christ to fulfill the commands of God where we have failed. And Christ was given as the perfect sacrifice for the sins we committed—bearing the shame and condemnation we should bear. He rose from the dead to seal the victory and ascended to the right hand of God. Now, by faith in Jesus, His works and victory is accounted as ours so that our identity becomes one of a loved, adopted son and not a slave. By the work of the Spirit we are being renewed in the image of our creator. So failure is not a fall from being a man. It is a sin from which the condemnation has been removed in Christ and we can press on against by the power of the Spirit.

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