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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Balm for the Bruised Reed

Wednesday I read an excellent book by Richard Sibbes called The Bruised Reed and the Smoking Flax (part of my reading for school). Part of my work was to produce an outline of the book which I hope to expound upon at a later time. If you have not read any of Puritan works, let me encourage you to start, and Sibbes is a great place to begin. One of the things I commented about the book was how affirming it was of our justification and sanctification. Expecting to get a beating from the "strict" writings of Puritans, my heart melted as I read about Christ's commitment to my becoming like Him. There are many specific points I would like to point out where Sibbes' work is prescriptive for today, but in this post I would like to mention just one. It is very evident that the contemporary church struggles with a clear understanding of sanctification. One brand of Christianity is outrightly triumphalistic. Their worship songs speak of them and their testimony and corresponds little with actual dispositions. They say that they are "more than conquerors" but leave out "through him" and quote "I can do all things" but forget "through Christ." Another brand argues for sinless perfection or "entire sanctification" where a Christian comes to a state of blessedness where one no longer struggles with sin. They say that it is possible for a believer to achieve a state where they cease from sinning. On the other hand, the polar opposite to these is the brand of negligence, license, and defeatism. One may say that it is impossible to be Christ-like or perfect, so why even try? Others believe that since they have received the grace of God, then sin management is acceptable because they know that God will forgive them in the end. Further still, there are those in the chains of legalism whereby a person's sanctification is to be measured by spiritual performances. As long as you are performing well, you are becoming more like Christ. Christianity becomes a system of do's and dont's where we check off our spiritual inventory of the chores we bear in hopes of gaining acceptance. If legalism doesn't work then others will tell you that you need to re-pray the "sinner's prayer," except this time you need to be more sincere. Baptism occurs as a "been there - done that" habit while the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is slighted. Finally, there are those who are enchanted by sensationalism and existentialism whereby sanctification is measure from one experience to the next, with each needing to be more dramatic, more powerful, more outrageous. In the midst of all these views, one can understand why we have so many distressed Christians. I for one have encountered all these in some form or fashion as you may have as well. What Richard Sibbes does for the Christian is to ground our sanctification in Christ and His unfailing commitmtent towards us. He teaches us to consider our assurance on the basis of on justification (when we are declared righteous by God) and not our sanctification. He warns us not to think less of the spark than the flame, in that they are both true regardless of the degrees of heat. He exhorts to be in the fight for holiness, for where there is no struggle against sin, there is no "government of Christ." I could go on, and I hope to in the near future. Sibbes, with tenderness and truthfulness, speaks plainly and persuasively for the believer to be heartened to strive for holiness and persevere in our sanctification. If you have desire to think arightly of your sanctification, let me encourage you to read this book. However, read it slowly. Read it prayerfully. Read it thoroughly. This small book packs a big punch, so don't go away satisfied with a small jab. As I continue to feel the sweet blows of grace upon this bruised reed, I pray Christ changes me and completes a thorough work of grace to conform me into His likeness. May it ever be - and be for His glory.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kenan said...

Outstanding book.
Thank you for posting this, Timmy.

2/24/2006 09:59:00 AM

 

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