Thursday, March 30, 2006
Blogging Live from Encounter ’06- Charlotte, NC !!
Session 1- Thursday, March 30, 2006- Carolyn Mahaney
Ground Rules: What We Dare Not Forget
What happens when we hear teaching at conferences? Sometimes we are apprehensive because we can’t live up to the truth of the teaching that we hear. Sometimes we are downright fearful of attending because we may come under condemnation. Because of this, we want to use the first session to “prep” you for this conference. So here are some ground rules for this conference, some things we dare not forget!
I. The Source of Our Justification
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
When I am reminded of past sins, I come under condemnation. I start to focus more on my sin than God’s grace. I retreat from the Savior instead of drawing closer to Him. If I don’t struggle with condemnation, then I might stray toward legalism- trying to please God and gain acceptance from Him through obedience to Him. This plays out something like this: If I pray longer during my devotional time, then I can approach Him with more confidence!! But if I neglect to pray for a certain amount of time, I might try to avoid time with God until I “get my act together.”
Here is the danger: the presence of legalism isn’t always obvious. It can go undetected for a long time. This is why we need to be challenged to resist the temptation of legalism. Why? It is an expression of arrogance and unbelief. We are, in essence, declaring that Christ’s death is unneccessary and insufficient. We would never say such a thing aloud, but that is the attitude of legalism. Our acceptance by God is NEVER dependant upon our performance, but by His grace! We don’t earn or forfeit our justification based on performance. Praying longer doesn’t earn forgiveness from God. Cultivating a meek and quiet spirit will not justify us before God. Our obedience in these areas will not earn God’s favor or forgiveness. We are declared forgiven and righteous ONLY because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. The things mentioned above are important to pursue in sanctification. But don’t confuse the two: our continuing sanctification never makes us acceptable before God.
“There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable ot God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live…It is always on His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that we can rest.” B.B. Warfield, Works 7:113
So, as we learn these things this weekend, let us not stumble under the weight of condemnation. Be assured there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us! (Richard Sibbes) We are already accepted by God because of His Son’s death on the cross. Let’s resolve to pursue obedience that is anchored in the justifying grace of God.
II. The Source of Our Ability
In all yor ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6
The purpose of this conference is not to cultivate self-effort, but to draw your attention to the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you and exhort you to draw upon strength of the Spirit. Growth in godliness is not solely dependent upon us; we need God’s power to obey his commands. Paul says in Colossians 1:29, “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” Notice that Paul did struggle, but he did so depending upon the power of God. Jesus was clear when He said, “without Me, you can do nothing.” We must walk in constant and genuine dependence on God.
So, how do I constantly depend upon God in the daily busy-ness of life? Proverbs 3:6 gives us the answer for us!
“Take one step at a time, every step under Divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without His counsel. He loves to be consulted...consider no circumstances too clear to need His direction. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let Him be supreme. Who of us has not found the unspeakable 'peace' of bringing to God matters too minute or individual to be entrusted to the most confidential ear? If in true poverty of spirit we go every morning to our Lord, as knowing not how to guide ourselves for this day; our eye constantly looking upward for direction, the light will come down. He shall direct thy paths...Let the will be kept in quiet, subdued, cheerful, readiness, to move, stay, retreat, turn to the right hand or the left, at the Lord's bidding; always remembering that is best which is least our own doing, and that a pliable spirit ever secures the needful guidance....No step well prayed over will bring ultimate regret.” Charles Bridges, Proverbs (Geneva Series of Commentaries)
It is easy to trust God for the BIG decisions, but do we do this for every day? For simple dependence? We need to plan for this. If we don’t, we will be susceptible to the sin of self-sufficiency. So here’s a two-part plan:
1. Acknowledge our need for God and ask for His help. God loves to be consulted about the ordinary matters of our days! He loves to reveal Himself in the ordinary “stuff” of daily life.
2. If there is any area of growth we are made aware of, let’s resist the temptation of thinking that change depends entirely upon us. Let’s be quick to acknowledge our need for, dependence upon, and trust in Him. We can be encouraged that God will work in our lives!
III. The Source of Our Motivation
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31
There is an implication here that we can actually do something to glorify God. What a stunning thought! Not only stunning, but also motivating. The God who made the universe had personally called us to serve and glorify Himself. Think of that in the light of our sinfulness. Why would we be called to do that? Astounding! Let’s dare not miss the amazing fact of this privelege we’ve been given!
**In closing, if we neglect these ground rules, we may revert to self-sufficient effort and fail to recognize the privelege of glorifying God.
Here’s a thought for you: don’t even try to remember everything we will hear this weekend! WHAT?! Listen here: God has justified us; He has given us his Spirit to sanctify us; and He has given us the privelege of gloryfying Him. But we just aren’t capable of remembering everything.
“Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing…you’d be different.” David Powlison, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ
In light of the above counsel, take a sip of truth, instead of huge gulps. This is an expression of humility; an acknowledgment of ourselves as finite creatures. This doesn’t mean your growth in godliness will be confined to one area. Not so. Change in one area very often affects every area of our lives.
“Connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life…Apply one relevant thing from our Redeemer to one significant scene on our story. Bring one bit of the Bible to one bit of our life…You can’t deal with it all at once. Scripture never does…Life goes one step at a time.” David Powlison, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 22, Number 1 (Fall 2003)
What one bit of Scripture are you connecting to one part of your life? Then follow with one step of obedience at a time.