Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rest and Persevere

Justin Taylor recently summarized a conversation between Kevin DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian about law and gospel, sanctification and justification, and how we describe and understand the interplay between these things in the Christian life. 

At our church we have recently begun a sermon series on prayer, and already these same questions and concerns are being raised and discussed as we digest and apply the preaching of the word. My reflections here stem from a response to and consideration of these strains of thought and conversation. This is what I think I need to remember.
. . .

Christians should make every effort toward righteous living. 

We should long to live holy lives and we should welcome godly exhortation to holiness. We should be sensitive to the conviction of sin, and we should struggle against our sin as we strive toward righteousness. 

This should not be winked at or taken lightly or swept aside. Any denial of these things would be antinomianism and would presume upon God’s grace. However, exhortation toward effort without intentional, specific grounding in the gospel can leave us, believers, confused and uncertain.

When we are awakened to and convicted by the law and in the face of our failures to measure up to the law, we must remember the gospel. We must re-orient our understanding to the bedrock security of our present identity and our glorious future in Christ.

This remembering and re-orienting is one of (if not the) primary activity of Christian soul. Without the word and sacrament to aid us in this we flounder and sink, so easily forgetting or downplaying or misappropriating our gospel security.  Exhortation to work out our sanctification without grounding it in clear gospel ventures into the quicksand of works righteousness—

Instead of adeptly recognizing and applying the gospel to our inevitable failure, we are likely left

                                                                                    anxious—about what? 

About our performance
                                                   ability to measure up, 
                                                                                       failure to grow sufficiently in sanctification.

We should be grieved by our sin, but let us not be anxious and burdened by the law. 
Let us remember that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
The necessary fulcrum of our understanding of sanctification must be 
Christ’s sufficiency 
and the security of those who are in him. 
Despite our constant failures of feeling, thought, word and deed,
it is he who works in us to justify and to sanctify. 

And so I need to remember to rest in that truth—and persevere in the struggle against sin, 

                                       against laziness, 

                                                            against disappointment, 

                                            against greed, 



Rest and persevere in the struggle. 

Rest and struggle. 

Rest because you are secure. 

Struggle because your flesh and the world are fallen. 

But don’t struggle because you are not secure. 
And don’t rest because you don’t recognize sin. 

A true understanding of the law and the gospel would lead us to be ever more clearly  
detecting and detesting our own sin (and therefore struggling all the more against it)
                                              and then ever more deeply resting in the assurance of God’s favor,
                                                       of our justification and sanctification in Christ, by his merit and God’s grace.

So let us pray with Paul, “that our God may make [us] worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [us], and [we] in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pray that God would do it, knowing he will.


  1. I am at the moment, reading Calvin On Prayer. It is a section taken from his institutes. It is amazing and I recommend it for every Christian, new or old. In fact, I can't recommend it enough.

  2. Thanks, Ginger. I'm interested to read it.

  3. yes... yes... and Amen. Very helpful and solid reflections on our living the Christian life in the light and truth of the good news found in Christ Jesus alone.



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