Category Archives: Sanctification

“What God is in Himself shall alone be the eternal blessedness and reward of our souls” by John Owen

“The remembrance of God delighteth and refresheth the hearts of His saints, and stirs them up unto thankfulness. (Psalm 30:4) They rejoice in what God is in Himself.

Whatever is good, amiable, or desirable; whatever is holy, just, and powerful; whatever is gracious, wise, and merciful, and all that is so,—they see and apprehend in God. That God is what He is, is the matter of their chiefest joy.

Whatever befalls them in this world, whatever troubles and disquietment they are exercised withal, the remembrance of God is a satisfactory refreshment unto them; for therein they behold all that is good and excellent, the infinite centre of all perfections.

Wicked men would have God to be anything but what He is; nothing that God is really and truly pleaseth them. Wherefore, they either frame false notions of Him in their minds (Psalm 50:21), or they think not of Him at all, at least not as they ought, unless sometimes they tremble at His anger and power.

Some benefit they suppose may be had by what He can do, but how there can be any delight in what He is they know not; yea, all their trouble ariseth from hence, that He is what He is. It would be a relief unto them if they could make any abatement of His power, His holiness, His righteousness, His omnipresence.

But His saints, as the psalmist speaks, ‘give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.’ (Psalm 30:4) And when we can delight in the thoughts of what God is in Himself, of His infinite excellencies and perfections, it gives us evidence of our being spiritually minded.

In that it is such an evidence that we have a gracious interest in those excellencies and perfections, whereon we can say with rejoicing in ourselves, ‘This God, this holy, this powerful, this just, this good, and this gracious God, is our God forever and ever. He will be our guide unto death.’

The days are coming wherein what God is in Himself (that is, as manifested and exhibited in Christ), shall alone be, as we hope, the eternal blessedness and reward of our souls.

Is it possible that anything should be more necessary for us, more useful unto us, than to be exercised in such thoughts and contemplations?

One spiritual view of the divine goodness, beauty, and holiness, will have more efficacy to raise the heart unto a contempt of all earthly things than any other evidences whatever.

It is the best, I had almost said it is the only, preparation for the future full enjoyment of God. This will gradually lead us into his presence, take away all fears of death, increase our longing after eternal rest, and ever make us groan to be unclothed.

Let us not, then, cease labouring with our hearts, until, through grace, we have a spiritually-sensible delight and joy in the remembrances and thoughts of what God is in Himself.”

–John Owen, “The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded,” The Works of John Owen: Sin and Grace, Volume 7 (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1681/2009),7: 362–364.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, grace, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel

“Christ has accomplished everything” by Herman Bavinck

“To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which He is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior.

He does not accomplish His work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing His acquittal in our conscience, He has also imparted full holiness and glory to us.

By His righteousness, accordingly, He does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life.

But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed Himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate Himself to us in all his fullness for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).

The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully awaits us in Christ.

Many people still acknowledge that we must be justified by the righteousness that Christ has acquired but believe or at least act in practice as if we must be sanctified by a holiness we bring about ourselves. If that were the case, we would not—contrary to the apostolic witness (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:31; 5:1, 13)—live under grace and stand in freedom but continue always to be under the law.

Evangelical sanctification, however, is just as distinct from legalistic sanctification as the righteousness that is of faith differs from that which is obtained by works. For it consists in the reality that in Christ God grants us, along with righteousness, also complete holiness, and does not just impute it but also inwardly imparts it by the regenerating and renewing working of the Holy Spirit until we have been fully conformed to the image of His Son.

Justification and sanctification, accordingly, while distinct from each other, are not for a moment separated. They are distinct; those who mix them undermine the religious life, take away the comfort of believers, and subordinate God to humanity.

The distinction between the two consists in the fact that in Justification the religious relationship of human beings with God is restored, and in sanctification their nature is renewed and cleansed of the impurity of sin. At bottom the distinction rests on the fact that God is both righteous and holy.

As the Righteous One, He wants all his creatures to stand in the relation to Him in which he put them originally—free from guilt and punishment. As the Holy One, He demands that they will all appear before Him pure and unpolluted by sin.

The first person, therefore, was created after God’s image in righteousness and holiness and needed neither justification nor sanctification, though he had to be obedient to the law to be justified by the works of the law and to receive eternal life (legal justification).

But sin has loaded us down with guilt and rendered us impure before God’s face. In order, therefore, to be completely freed from sin, we must be freed from guilt and cleansed of its stains. And that is what happens in justification and sanctification.

Hence, the two are equally necessary and are proclaimed in Scripture with equal emphasis. Logically justification comes first in this connection (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:30), for it is an evangelical kind of justification, an acquittal on the basis of the righteousness of God granted in faith and not on the basis of the works of the law.

It is a juridical act, completed in an instant. But sanctification is ethical: it is continued throughout the whole of life and, by the renewing activity of the Holy Spirit, gradually makes the righteousness of Christ our personal ethical possession.

Rome’s doctrine of grace or ‘infused righteousness’ is not incorrect as such; wrong, only, is that it makes infused righteousness the ground for forgiveness and thus builds religion on the basis of morality. But believers do indeed obtain the righteousness of Christ by infusion.

Justification and sanctification, accordingly, grant the same benefits, rather, the entire Christ; they only differ in the manner in which they grant Him.

In justification Christ is granted to us juridically, in sanctification, ethically; by the former we become the righteousness of God in Him; by the latter He Himself comes to dwell in us by His Spirit and renews us after His image.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (vol. 4; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 248-249.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Glory of Christ, grace, Herman Bavinck, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Justification, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel

“Enjoy God in everything and enjoy everything in God” by Charles Simeon

“If we have much of this world, we shall have a high enjoyment of it, because we shall make it the means of benefiting our fellow-creatures, and of honouring our God.

If, on the other hand, we have little of this world, we shall still be happy, because, in having God for our portion, we can lack nothing.

There are but two lessons for the Christian to learn: the one is, to enjoy God in everything; the other is, to enjoy everything in God.

The one ennobles the rich; the other elevates the poor: and all who have learned these lessons are, and must be, happy.”

–Charles Simeon, “The Vanity of the Creature; Sermon 827: Ecclesiastes 1:2,” Horae Homileticae, Vol. 7: Proverbs to Isaiah 26 (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), 7: 325.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Charles Simeon, Christian Theology, Jesus Christ, Joy, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel

“The spring and cause of our everlasting blessedness” by John Owen

“The sight of the glory of Christ is the spring and cause of our everlasting blessedness.

‘We shall ever be with the Lord,’ (1 Thess. 4:17), or ‘be with Christ,’ which is best of all, (Phil. 1:23). For there shall we ‘behold His glory,’ (John 17:24); and by ‘seeing Him as He is, we shall be made like Him,’ (1 John 3:2);– which is our everlasting blessedness.

The enjoyment of God by sight is commonly called the BEATIFICAL VISION; and it is the sole fountain of all the actings of our souls in the state of blessedness: which the old philosophers knew nothing of; neither do we know distinctly what they are, or what is this sight of God.

Howbeit, this we know, that God in His immense essence is invisible unto our corporeal eyes, and will be so to eternity; as also incomprehensible unto our minds. For nothing can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite, but what is itself infinite.

Wherefore the blessed and blessing sight which we shall have of God will be always ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’ Therein will that manifestation of the glory of God, in His infinite perfections, and all their blessed operations, so shine into our souls, as shall immediately fill us with peace, rest, and glory.

These things we here admire, but cannot comprehend. We know not well what we say when we speak of them: yet is there in true believers a foresight and foretaste of this glorious condition.

There enters sometimes, by the Word and Spirit, into their hearts such a sense of the uncreated glory of God, shining forth in Christ, as affects and satiates their souls with ineffable joy.

Hence ariseth that ‘peace of God which passeth all understanding,’ keeping ‘our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ,’ (Phil. 4:7). ‘Christ,’ in believers, ‘the hope of glory,’ gives them to taste of the first-fruits of it; yea, sometimes to bathe their souls in the fountain of life, and to drink of the rivers of pleasure that are at His right hand.

Where any are utterly unacquainted with these things, they are carnal, yea, blind, and see nothing afar off. These enjoyments, indeed, are rare, and for the most part of short continuance. ‘Rara hora, brevis mora.’ (‘A rare hour but quickly gone.’)

But it is from our own sloth and darkness that we do not enjoy more visits of this grace, and that the dawnings of glory do not more shine on our souls.”

–John Owen, The Works of John OwenVolume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 292-293.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Glorification, Glory of Christ, God's Excellencies, Heaven, Jesus Christ, John Owen, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Gospel

“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied” by Jonathan Edwards

“Heaven is that place alone where is to be obtained our highest end, and highest good. God hath made us for Himself: ‘of God, and through God, and to God are all things’ (Rom. 11:36).

Therefore then do we attain to our highest end, when we are brought to God. But that is by being brought to heaven, for that is God’s throne; that is the place of His special presence, and of His glorious residence.

There is but a very imperfect union with God to be had in this world: a very imperfect knowledge of God in the midst of abundance of darkness, a very imperfect conformity to God, mingled with abundance of enmity and estrangement. Here we can serve and glorify God but in an exceeding imperfect manner, our service being mingled with much sin and dishonoring to God.

But when we get to heaven, if ever that be, there we shall be brought to a perfect union with God.

There we shall have the clear views of God’s glory: we shall see face to face, and know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12).

There we shall be fully conformed to God, without any remains of sin: ‘we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2).

There we shall serve God perfectly. We shall glorify Him in an exalted manner, and to the utmost of the powers and capacity of our nature.

Then we shall perfectly give up ourselves to God; then will our hearts be wholly a pure and holy offering to God, offered all in the flame of divine love.

In heaven alone is attainment of our highest good. God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of Him is our proper happiness, and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.

To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here: better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any or all earthly friends.

These are but shadows; but God is the substance.

These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun.

These are but streams; but God is the fountain.

These are but drops; but God is the ocean.

Therefore, it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end, and proper good, the whole work of our lives; and we should subordinate all the other concerns of life to it.

Why should we labor for anything else, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The True Christian’s Life a Journey Towards Heaven,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1730–1733 (ed. Mark Valeri and Harry S. Stout; vol. 17; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1999), 17: 437–438.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Theology, Glorification, God's Excellencies, grace, Heaven, Hebrews, Jesus Christ, Jonathan Edwards, Kingdom of God, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Church, The Gospel, Worldview, Worship

“This first” by Martin Luther

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.

This first.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 11: First Lectures on the Psalms II: Psalms 76-126 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 11; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 11: 245–246.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Discipleship, Ecclesiology, Humility, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, The Church, The Gospel

“To be irradiated by the light of His countenance” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“The inheritance of the saints in glory, the immediate communion with God, the life of beholding Him, to be satisfied with the Lord’s all-sufficiency, to be irradiated by the light of His countenance, to be embraced by His love, to be surrounded by His omnipotence, to be filled with His goodness, even to shine forth in pure holiness, to be aflame with love, to be incomprehensibly joyful in God, to be among the angels, to be in the company of the souls of the most perfectly righteous men, and while being in His immediate presence, together with them behold and experience the perfections of the Lord, and thus magnify and praise these perfections — that is felicity and that is glory.

To be united with one’s own and yet glorified body; to be conformed to the glorious body of Christ; to stand at the right hand of King Jesus in view of the entire world — particularly of those who have tortured and killed them; there, according to soul and body, to be glorified and crowned as conqueror; to be ushered into heaven by the Lord Jesus and there to eternally experience undiminished fulness of joy without end and without fear —all this is the great benefit which the Lord has laid away for all those who fear Him and put their trust in Him before the sons of men.

Attentively consider the following passage:

‘After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number…stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;…What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?… These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed eat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:9, 13-17).

Now compare all your suffering and all that is glorious and delightful upon earth with this eternal and felicitous glory, and you will not be able to make a mental comparison, since the difference is too great. Would this then not cause you to rejoice in your suffering? Will this not make you courageous in the warfare in which, by the power of God, the victory is sure and the crown a certainty?

View the Lord Jesus from every perspective. He is so eminently glorious that it is our greatest glory to confess Him as our Lord and King. We are therefore not to be ashamed of Him. God the Father makes confession about Him by declaring from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’

The angels bore witness to Him at His death and resurrection — yes, all angels worship Him. How boldly and joyously have all martyrs professed Him and sealed their profession with their death!

Would you then be ashamed of Him? Is He not worthy of a measure of suffering? He is worthy a thousand times to be professed by you while suffering in some measure. How much good has He done for you!

Out of love for you He left His glory, took upon Himself your human nature, doing so in the form of a servant, became poor so that He had nothing upon which He could lay His head, and took upon Himself your sins and put Himself in your stead as Surety.

How heavy a task it was for Him to deliver you from eternal damnation, to reconcile you with God, and to lead you to glory! God’s wrath upon sin caused Him to crawl over the earth as a worm and to wallow in His own blood — blood coming forth as sweat due to the hellish agony within His soul.

He was betrayed, shackled as an evildoer, and led away captive. The ecclesiastical authorities judged Him worthy of death as a blasphemer of God. He was beaten with fists, and they spat in His blessed countenance.

He was smitten in the face, and He was mocked in a most contemptuous and grievous manner. He was delivered to the Gentiles, dragged from the one court to the other, led along the streets of Jerusalem with a robe of mockery, placed on a duo with a murderer, and had His death demanded as if He were the most wicked among the people.

He was scourged in a most wretched manner and crowned with a crown of thorns, which was pounded into His head with sticks. He was led outside the city while bearing His cross, and died on the cross in the greatest distress of soul while suffering the most extreme measure of scorn and pain.

All this He suffered out of love for you in order to deliver you from sin and damnation. He made a good profession, namely, that He was the King and the Savior — a confession which cost Him His life.

Would you now be ashamed of Him and deny Him? Would you not suffer somewhat for this loving and loveable Jesus, and not show by your suffering how dear and precious He is to you?”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, “A Letter of Exhortation to Be Steadfast in the Confession of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Truth in Time of Persecution and Martyrdom,” The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 3, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 3: 370-371.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Theology, Heaven, Hope, Jesus Christ, Perseverance, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, Suffering, The Church, The Gospel, Union with Christ, Wilhelmus à Brakel, Worship