Wednesday, January 22, 2020

11. Growing in Holiness

Growing in Holiness: Understanding God's Role and Yours. R.C. Sproul. 2020. Baker Books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; christian living; theology]

First sentence: Where we’re going is crucial, but so is knowing how to get there. When we embrace the Bible’s teaching that God created us so that we might praise Him through holy living, it is tempting to seek quick fixes and fast solutions.

It is January. It is perhaps too early to say that I've found my absolute favorite book of the year. Though I can say with confidence that it is absolutely my favorite read of January. I can say this book is all kinds of fabulous. It is a GREAT read.

Earlier this week I reviewed John MacArthur's Sanctification. It was a good book, a solidly good book. But this one was AMAZING. (TRUE, it was twice as long. If MacArthur's book had been equally long, close to two hundred pages, perhaps his book would be equally wonderful and gush-worthy.)

This book covers all aspects of sanctification, aka GROWING in HOLINESS. In other words, it tackles the question: how do I live a life that is pleasing to God?! do I live out the faith I profess? I believe. I've been baptized. Now what?!

Sproul urges throughout that there are no short cuts to holiness, to growth. That one doesn't just happen to grow, or accidentally becomes holy.

Sproul writes, "If we want to experience greater Christlikeness, we need to intentionally plan to grow. If we want to grow in holiness, we must begin with our Maker, Designer, and Sustainer. Knowing our destination shapes our journey along the way. To grow in holiness assumes a standard to live by. It also assumes One who requires such a standard. So we begin with God as both Creator and Redeemer."

I loved this book--every chapter, every page. It was EXCELLENT. It was OUTSTANDING. If you only read one book on holiness, read this one...

Favorite quotes:

  • "“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Those verses were weighty to me because I began to see that spiritual growth is something that, in the ultimate sense, rests in the grace of God. He is working in us, through us, and with us. But at the same time there is an admonition for us to work out our salvation. I understood even then that spiritual growth, this progress in the Christian life, is a matter of labor, of toil."
  • "I like to be able to see the finish line and give everything I have in a short burst of energy to make it to the end. But that’s not the way the Christian life works. The Christian life is a marathon. You have to learn perseverance. You have to keep on keeping on. You have to know how to press on with the work. The Greek word translated here as “press” indicates applying force, applying pressure (if I may borrow from the word itself). So how does that apply to us? We tend to live from spiritual high to spiritual high. We hope that we will be sanctified in large doses, all at once. We want to relax and celebrate the victory in the 100-yard dash. But the Christian life is different. You run a 100-yard dash. But as soon as you break the tape, you’re exhausted. You fall to the ground, panting and gasping for breath. But then the first thing you hear is, “On your mark, get set, go!” and you have to do it again. You have to press on. We don’t finish this race quickly and that can feel discouraging. But notice why Paul perseveres: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14)."
  • "God is calling us, even now. We usually think He is calling us to do this or that task—to live in this or that city. And those realities are true. But even further, Christ is standing in heaven calling us to Himself. That’s where we have to keep our vision: on the goal line, on the end point, which is exactly where Paul’s vision was set. The reward for all the pain in our souls and for all our patient endurance is Christ Himself. He is the reason we press on toward the mark."
  • "The understanding that I encounter frequently in the church is that creation reaches its pinnacle on the sixth day. That is the day when the image-bearer of God is created and man is given dominion over all the earth. And certainly, in that ordering structure of Genesis, we do see such a rising crescendo that reaches a high point on the sixth day. But there is a great danger in looking at the sixth day as the pinnacle of creation, because the creation account does not stop at day six. There are not six days in creation. There are seven. And if we are moving in a rising crescendo, we must see that the pinnacle, the acme point, is not day six. It is day seven. The seventh day is the highest point of creation."
  • "We can’t stop on the sixth day. We must go to the seventh day and see that the goal of creation is Sabbath holiness to the glory of God."
  • "If we read the Old Testament carefully, we see that the goal of human life is to mirror and to reflect the very character of God. God is holy, and we are to reflect that holiness so that this whole work of growing in sanctification is a growing in holiness. It is a growing within us—not only of redemption, but of movement toward the fulfillment and consummation of the very purpose of our creation. We were made to glorify God and to bear witness to the whole cosmos of God’s character. He demands of His people, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16, which quotes numerous Old Testament passages, such as Lev. 11:44–45)."
  • "Make it a practice every Sabbath to think about why it exists. Ask yourself, “What is this rest toward which my heart yearns?” The Sabbath points to the day when God will remove all our restlessness and when He will welcome us into His eternal rest. We will see Him as He is. We will be holy and blameless in His sight. We will praise Him for all eternity. So again, just as God aims to glorify Himself through our lives in redemption, so also do we see that same aim in creation."
  • "But there’s a certain sense in which God is much more concerned about what we are than about what we do. He looks for greater Christian character and godliness as we are being molded and conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)."
  • "Unless I have the Word of God feeding my soul, I’m not going to make very much progress in reaching my purpose of sanctification in this world. Another vital means of grace is prayer. I know that my spiritual development will be stunted radically if my prayer life is weak, so one of my objectives is to be more fervent and active in prayer in order to grow spiritually. Similarly, I need to be involved in worship in the church on Sunday morning. These are various means of grace, and we can state them as objectives in the Christian life. But how do we translate such values into specific, concrete goals?"
  • "The greatest problem in our theology today is that God has been created in a human image. That is why we said earlier that people have been created with a unique capacity to reflect and to mirror God’s character. That means that you, as a human being, have been so constituted, so made, so endowed by your Creator with certain faculties that you therefore have a capacity in creation to reflect or to mirror the holiness of God. You are not holy in and of yourself. But God is holy in and of Himself, and He has called you as His creation to bear witness to Him—to reflect to the rest of the world His very character. Is that not what Christ does in His life of perfect obedience? Does He not fulfill the purpose and the destiny for which humanity was created?"
  • "Oh, what great glory we lost when we sinned. Will it always be this way? The best part of the gospel is that we can confidently answer, “No!” In his first epistle, John tells us, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1–2)"
  • "We shall see God as He is. Not as He is reflected. Not as He is mirrored by the glory of His creation. Not even by the image of His people whom He has made. But we will see Him as He is in Himself. We will look directly into the unveiled face of God, and in that moment the whole fullness of our human spirit will be satisfied as the whole fullness of His beauty will be glorified."
  • "The goal of our lives is to be conformed to the image of Christ. To fulfill the original purpose for which we were created; namely, to reflect the very character of God to the world around us. The first catechism question I learned as a child was from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is man’s chief end?” or “What is man’s principal purpose?” or “What is the goal of the human race?” And the answer I was taught to recite is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I was never able to put those together in my youth because I didn’t think glorifying God could be enjoyable. However, I have since learned that my greatest joy is God’s highest glory. We were made for this very purpose: to glorify the Creator of the universe. We were made for holiness. And when we reject it, we suffer a deprivation—a deep-rooted sense of lostness and restlessness because we are out of sync with the nature for which we were made. But when our souls prize the glory of God, we have the motivation we need to press on toward the goal of living holy lives. The end fuels the means."
  • "If nature takes its course in a Christian’s life, that Christian’s spiritual power would atrophy in five minutes or less. Easy-believism is so destructive."
  • "The great Reformer Martin Luther said that the three principal obstacles to Christian growth are the world, the flesh, and the devil. I’m guessing you’ve heard it put that way before. But have you ever thought about how the world stands as an obstacle to your spiritual growth, how the flesh stands as an obstacle to your spiritual growth, or how the devil stands as an obstacle to your spiritual growth?"
  • "Sadly, the question in our society is not, “What does God require of me?” The question is, “What is everybody else in the culture doing?”"
  • "But the idea of contending for truth has been one of the noblest virtues of all Christian history. Yet in our day it’s considered a vice—not because God says it’s a vice but because the culture says it is."
  • "One of the tests of our sanctification is how willing we are to be hated, to be persecuted, to be led as lambs to the slaughter in order to stand for the truth of God. But if the world tells me—indeed, if my church tells me—that such stands are taboo, do you see how hard it is? It’s hard enough even when it’s considered a virtue. The world erodes our resolve to be faithful defenders of Christ and instead entices us to imitate its patterns. If we are going to get past these obstacles of the world, we have to fill our minds with the norms, the standards, and the rules of conduct that come from God."
  • "The biggest obstacle I have to my sanctification is my heart of flesh that still clings to wicked desires and evil yearnings. I am still tempted by the idea that sin will make me happy. We sin because we want to sin, and we want to sin because we believe that committing the sin will make us happy. It won’t make us happy; it will give us pleasure, but there is a difference between pleasure and happiness."
  • "If you want to grow in your spiritual life, two things have to happen according to the New Testament. The first is obvious. The old man or the flesh must be put to death. Second, the new man must be nurtured and strengthened. In simple terms, it means that the flesh has to be weakened and the spirit has to be strengthened. We must be strengthened and fortified through the grace of God. And we begin to kill the old man by dying daily."
  • "There’s a sense in which we need to read the Bible with new eyes and hear it with new ears. We must not replace the values of Christ with values that creep in from the culture in which we live."
  • "When we stand before God, we will either stand naked, trusting in our own works and our own filthy rags, or we will stand clothed in the righteousness of Christ, which is given to all who truly put their faith in Him. The worst folly you could ever commit is to assume for a moment that you can stand before a holy God on the basis of your own performance, your own merit, your own works, or your own righteousness. The only righteousness that is holy enough to satisfy the demands of God’s law is the righteousness of Christ. The only way you can have that is by genuine faith."
  • "People may be enamored by a phony Jesus, a plastic Jesus, a Jesus who doesn’t exist. There are those who say, “Yes, I love God,” and then they define God as love and mercy without any demands. I say, “Do you love the holiness of God, or do you get angry when we talk about the holiness of God? Do you love the sovereignty of God, or does that cause you to turn away? Do you love the righteousness of Jesus? Do you acknowledge the fact that He is altogether lovely? Do you want to love Him more?” You can’t truly have that desire unless the love of God is already in your heart—unless you were already made alive by God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 2:5)."
  • "The search for God begins at conversion, but it doesn’t end there. Until people are converted, they are not seeking after God. In fact, the normal image that we find in the Scriptures about our natural fallen state is not that we are searching every nook and cranny of the universe to find some clue to the existence of God. Rather, we are fugitives. We are fleeing from God, just as Adam and Eve fled from the presence of God in paradise (Gen. 3:8). Because of their sin, they went into hiding. They tried to evade the presence of God. And now, while mankind certainly desires God’s benefits—peace, security, forgiveness—we don’t desire God Himself."
  • "Do you love the biblical Christ? Or is the Christ you love merely a cultural Christ? A Christ who never exercises judgment? A Christ who doesn’t call you to commit your life to Him? A Christ who doesn’t call you to repent of your sins? Maybe your view is of a Jesus who is gentle, meek, and mild. He exists to solve all your problems, to answer all your requests, and to give you health and wealth. That’s why it is distressing to hear about the health-and-wealth prosperity gospel. Under that system people can be converted to the promise of prosperity, but they miss the living Christ. What we are called to do is come to the real Christ. Jesus is a real, historical person with a real mission, and He has performed a real act of redemption. And it is Jesus—His person and His work—that must be the object of our saving faith."
  • "The good news is that justification is not the end of the Christian life. It’s the beginning of it. Justification is the beginning of sanctification. It’s not the result of sanctification. We don’t have to wait to be sanctified in order to be justified. We don’t have to wait until we’re righteous for God to regard us as righteous. We are regarded by God as righteous once He transfers to our account the righteousness of Jesus."
  • "Why is sin so enticing? One of the most important distinctions we can grasp is the difference between pleasure and happiness. Sin is pleasurable. It does bring pleasure, but sin does not bring happiness. It brings the immediate feeling of fun or excitement or thrill. It cannot bring what the Bible means by happiness nor the fulfillment, peace, and contentment of a righteous life."
  • "God didn’t give us His Word in a mere one-page summary. Scripture’s basic message of salvation is simple. It can be understood by a child. But the depths and riches of God contained in the biblical revelation are so profound and deep that they can keep the most brilliant person occupied for a lifetime—and they still won’t have plumbed the depths of that revelation. Thus, we are called to pursue the knowledge of God with all our mind so that we can have a mature understanding of God."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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