Bridges on God-Focused Sanctification

Writing in “The True Christian Life,” his chapter in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology, Jerry Bridges echoes Calvin’s insistence that justification invariably leads to sanctification, and regeneration (the new birth) invariably leads to holy living (the new life). In doing so, he argues that the bases and motivations for holy living are God-focused:

“[I]t is clear that [Calvin] regards a zealous pursuit of holiness as the normal Christian life.

Such an ardent pursuit of Christlikeness requires a strong motivation. To find it, Calvin appeals to the blessings of God:

  • God has revealed Himself as a Father; therefore, we should behave as His children.
  • Christ has purified us through His blood; therefore, we should not become defiled by fresh pollution.
  • Christ has united us to His body as His members; therefore, we should not disgrace Him by any blemish.
  • Christ ascended to heaven; therefore, we should leave our carnal desires behind and life our hearts upward to Him.
  • The Holy Spirit has dedicated us as temples of God; therefore, we should exert ourselves not to profane His sanctuary, but to display His glory.
  • Both our soul and body are destined to inherit an incorruptible and never-fading crown; therefore, we should keep them pure and undefiled.” (pp. 222-223, emphasis his)

Help for Fighting Lust: A Meditation Plan (5 of 5)

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. In part 1 of his meditation plan he suggested that we “Call to mind the deceptions of sinful sensuality.” In part 2 he suggested that we “Call to mind the destructions of sinful sensuality.” In part 3 he considered the joys of God-ordained sensuality. In part 4 he reminded us of the ever-present eyes of God. Now he concludes the meditation series.

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Even though I started a deliberate meditation plan in my teenage battles against lust, pornography, and masturbation, I’ve often failed. I’ve often fallen to sexual temptation at the very moment I’m calling to mind this Scriptural meditation plan. If nothing else, I’ve learned that I myself am a wretch (Rom 7:24), that my natural heart is incurably sick (Jer 17:9), and that my sin nature is not, and will never be, subject to the law of God (Rom 8:7).

All in all, in the last few years I’ve come to learn that even though my meditation plan is somewhat helpful (in fact, I’ve found the biblical memorization and meditation to be of inestimable value), it doesn’t really work in the end. Further, as I’ve grown in my understanding of Biblical theology, I’ve begun to understand that Proverbs 1-9, just like the law of Moses, was never intended to fix my sin problem, but rather to highlight my need for Jesus. In other words, parts 1-4 don’t provide the ultimate solution to my lust problem because they were never intended to.

So in the last 2-3 years I’ve added another point to my meditation plan—one that is not merely tacked on, but one that grows out of a truly biblical interpretation of Proverbs 1-9.

Meditation Plan (Part #5): CALL TO MIND MY UNION WITH CHRIST.

This final stage has four aspects.

First, I think about Old Testament history. If I learn anything from OT history, it is that in spite of all their knowledge of God’s commands, God’s people didn’t obey. I learn that Solomon didn’t heed his own words and that his sons didn’t heed his words, either. Despite Solomon’s wisdom, his sons—the future kings of Israel—led the nation into captivity within three hundred years of this God-breathed advice. That testimony should serve as an exclamation point on the reality that our hope for overcoming sin is not found in being better educated regarding biblical standards. I don’t find power for obedience in rules, not even Biblical rules!

I can totally identify with Solomon, his sons, and the Israelites. In spite of all that I know about the Bible and all that I know about sensuality’s deceptions and destructions, sin continues to be attractive nonetheless. I can be tempted to sin even after I’ve studied for a message or after I’ve listened to preaching. My sin nature loves sin, even when there is no logical or physical reason for it. My sin is irrational. Even when I quote specific passages of Scripture, remind myself of its consequences, and dream about my wife, I still have part of me that desires to do wrong simply to experience sin.

The whole point of the Old Testament is that I need Jesus! I don’t simply need biblical rules; I need a Savior from myself. I need to remind myself of this constantly. I’m a totally hopeless, enslaved sinner apart from the regenerating, cleansing, transforming work of Jesus Christ. Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: A Meditation Plan (4 of 5)

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. In part 1 of his meditation plan he suggested that we “Call to mind the deceptions of sinful sensuality.” In part 2 he suggested that we “Call to mind the destructions of sinful sensuality.” In part 3 he considered the joys of God-ordained sensuality. Now he moves to his fourth point.

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Meditation Plan (Part #4): CALL TO MIND THE EYES OF GOD.

I have found that my practical atheism is never stronger than when I’m in the throes of sexual sin. In those moments, God’s existence matters very little to me. When Solomon reminded his son that “the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord” (Prov. 5:20), he was reminding him of the presence of God as well as the coming judgment of God. Based on this thought, I strategically plan to meditate on my relationship with God in two ways.

First, I remember that God is my Always-Present Judge. This is the primary idea behind Solomon’s reasoning in Prov. 5:20. He’s basically saying, “Son, realize that God is evaluating you and that you will give an account to Him.” Although it’s helpful to call to mind the first three concepts (i.e., deceptions, destructions, delights), this is really the only consideration that should matter: what does God want me to do? This is the fear of the Lord. This is living with a continual concern for what God is thinking about me. The fruit of remembering the eyes of God is consistent submission to His counsel (5:1-2, 7, 12-13; 6:20-23; 7:1-4, 24).

Because God has already judged Jesus for my sins, I do not motivate myself to purity by fearing potential condemnation. However, I do remind myself that one day I will stand before the judgment seat of Christ so that I might “receive what is due [me] for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). The fact that I will one day stand before the One who loved me and gave himself for me should translate into a lifelong desire to live for Him and please Him in every respect.

Second, I remember that God is my Always-Present Creator. Even though this isn’t the main idea of Prov. 5:20, it is closely connected with remembering whose eyes are evaluating me. All my thoughts and actions are continually being observed and evaluated by the Lord who made me. In the midst of sexual temptation, I have found a degree of help in recalling the implications of God as Creator. Here are some of the mental paths I have walked down, all of them quite elementary: Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: A Meditation Plan (3 of 5)

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. In part 1 of his meditation plan he suggested that we “Call to mind the deceptions of sinful sensuality.” In part 2 he suggested that we “Call to mind the destructions of sinful sensuality.” Now he moves to his third point.

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Meditation Plan (Part #3): CALL TO MIND THE DELIGHTS OF GOD-ORDAINED SENSUALITY.

Solomon does not call us to focus only on the negatives of physical intimacy. Rather, in addition to knowing the deceptions and destructions of sinful sensuality, he calls us to focus on the delights of God-ordained sensuality. Solomon not only encourages us to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality; he commands it.

When I’m come to this part of the meditation plan, I often consider four different facets.

First, I think about the specific commands of Proverbs 5. God issues five staggering commands:

  1. “Drink water from your own cistern” (5:15).
  2. “Let your fountain be blessed” (5:18).
  3. “Rejoice with your wife” (5:18).
  4. “Let her breasts satisfy you” (5:19).
  5. “Be intoxicated with her love” (5:19). Here, the term love would be better translated lovemaking. Clearly, that’s what is in view.

So five times I’m commanded by God to indulge in the pure pleasure of marital intimacy! He created it to be satisfying, refreshing, joyful, and intoxicating. Calling this to mind helps me to remember the goodness and liberality of God, something Adam and Eve failed to do. Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: A Meditation Plan (2 of 5)

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. In part 1 of his meditation plan, he suggested that believers should arm themselves with a specific plan for biblical meditation when they confront sexual temptations. The first point of his meditation plan was this: “Call to mind the deceptions of sinful sensuality.” Now he moves to the second point.

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Meditation Plan (Part #2): CALL TO MIND THE DESTRUCTIONS OF SINFUL SENSUALITY.

Two Biblical Lists of Destructions
Even if you quickly skimmed Proverbs 5-7, you would be deeply impressed with the fact that God wants us to consider the ruinous end of sinful sensuality. First, Solomon gives at least six different kinds of destructions that accompany sexual sin.

  1. Death—Solomon teaches that the harlot’s steps lead “straight to the grave” (5:5, 23; 7:12 [predator], 22-27). The death that Solomon is envisioning is most likely caused by disease (5:11); revenge (6:34-35); or legal punishment (OT law). At one point, Solomon simply says, “He who [commits adultery] destroys himself” (6:33).
  2. Waste—Solomon warns that the person who sins sexually will waste his (or her) strength, life, work and money (5:9-10). Sexual sin will bring a person to such a degrading poverty that, in addition to financial status, he or she will lose any sense of personal worth or value (6:26).
  3. Regret—Bitter regret and deep grief follow sexual sin (5:11-14).
  4. Judgment—The point of the phrase, “The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord,” is to highlight the reality of the God’s present evaluation of our lives which will be evident in an impending day of judgment (5:21).
  5. Enslavement—Sexual sins result in habits that are ensnaring and imprisoning (5:22).
  6. Dishonor—Solomon warns that sexual sin will result in dishonor (6:33) and public disgrace (5:14).

Second, Solomon uses at least eight vivid illustrations to describe the kind of destruction that results from sexual sin. Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: A Meditation Plan (1 of 5)

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. Though the posts he and I (Chris) are making on the topic of lust will have some overlap, we’re hopeful that together they will cover the topic thoroughly.

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You’ve been tempted to lust many times in the past. Have you ever noticed that it’s really hard to think clearly when you’re in the heat of this battle?

You will be tempted to lust many times in the future. Have you spent any time developing a plan for how to think when you’re faced with sexual temptation? Do you have a series of verses that you deliberately call to mind? Or is your battle plan still pretty random?

I would urge you to create a deliberate meditation plan for battling this temptation. Through a series of posts at My Two Cents, I’m going to explain my five-part battle plan for meditation (rooted in Proverbs 1-9). I’ve used the basic components of this plan since I was a teenager. And even though I’ve failed numerous times since then (I’ve created and developed this plan because of all my failures!), God has used this to protect me from falling many times as well.

Let me try to correct one potential misunderstanding before I begin. I’ll be writing one point in each blog post. However, I’m not suggesting that any one of these points should stand alone. I’ve come to learn that every point (especially the last point) should be reviewed together. In the last few years especially, as I’ve grown in my understanding of biblical theology, I’ve begun to realize the particular importance of point #5 (“Call to mind your union with Christ.”). So, please don’t think that this one post is the “end all.” Don’t judge my plan until you’ve read all five blog posts. And, please don’t think that I’m recommending a Christ-less solution to your battle with lust. I’m not! In fact, through all of my study in Proverbs, through all of my failures, and through all of my victories, I’ve come to learn that Jesus Christ is the only solution to my lust problem!

Meditation Plan (Part #1): CALL TO MIND THE DECEPTIONS OF SINFUL SENSUALITY. Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: Recognizing Flattery

i-want-youIt is often noted that men are aroused by visible stimuli and women by emotional—that men want the act of intimacy, while women want, well, intimacy. I think both concepts are so simplistic as to be unhelpful. First, statistics indicate that women partake of visual stimuli like pornography at a much higher rate than is normally assumed. Also, it should be obvious that women have desires that are physical, not just emotional. Second, and more essential to this study, the idea that men have a caveman-like desire to merely obtain the woman they see in order to satisfy a purely physical appetite is naïve. Certainly there are men who are visually and physically enticed and “dive in.” (Samson comes to mind.) But most men—and women—are tempted by something far more complex: flattery. What tempts us to immoral fantasies and actions is often more psychological than physical. Proverbs says so.

There’s no question that the temptress in Proverbs is provocative physically. She dresses to gain a man’s attention (Prov 7:10). She touches him to arouse him physically (Prov 7:13). However, it seems that her most reliable weapon is flattery:

  • “To deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words” (Prov 2:16, NASB)
  • “To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” (Prov 6:24, NASB)
  • “That they may keep you from an adulteress, From the foreigner who flatters with her words.” (Prov 7:5, NASB)
  • “With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him.” (Prov 7:21, NASB)

What does the flattery of the temptress look like in action? Proverbs 7:15 shows us. The temptress tells her prey that he is the one she wants: “I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.” No one else will do—for now, anyway. She is appealing to his ego, not just his hormones. Her battle is for his mind and heart, not just his body. The Scriptures (and humanity’s collective experience) indicate that one of the greatest temptations to moral sin is flattery.

So men fantasize not merely of having their desires fulfilled, but of being desired. They think to themselves “I could have her, if I would.” And temptation capitalizes on this—models pose with looks of longing; emails and pop-up ads shout “I’m lonely, please talk to me”; women in their twenties are somehow irresistibly drawn to men in their forties and fifties. Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: Applying the Gospel to Sexuality

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio.

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One of the great errors within modern biblical Christianity is a minimization of the Gospel. This often takes two correlating forms. First, the Gospel message focuses only on the sinner’s initial response to Christ; the Gospel is equated with, “Repent and believe.” (which is the biblical response to the Gospel). Second, Christians often think that the Gospel is intended only for non-Christians. They think that once a person believes in the Gospel, he/she is ready to move on to more meaty things.

However, according to Paul (and every other NT writer), the gospel message centers on the death and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4), and also encompasses the broader scope of His person and work: His eternal preexistence, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His substitutionary death, His actual burial, His bodily resurrection, and His certain coming to judge and reign. The good news also includes the Father’s sovereign election as well as the Spirit’s gracious application. All of these are facets of the gospel which Paul preached.

A very basic reading of the NT reveals that the Gospel is as critical for Christians as it is for non-Christians. When Christians were proud, Paul applied the Gospel more deeply to them (1 Cor. 1-4); when Christians were legalistic, Paul preached the Gospel to them again (Gal.); when Christians are tempted to live licentiously, Paul explored the Gospel implications in greater detail (Rom. 6). The Gospel should transform every aspect of a believer’s life, including his or her approach to sexuality. Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: The Pious Prostitute

mousetrapProverbs spends a good deal of space revealing sensuality’s deception. The temptress (both real and fantastic,  live and pornographic) is “wily of heart” (Prov 7:10). She is a trickster. Indeed, she is a hunter (Prov 7:22-23)! She promises pleasure and safety, but ultimately delivers sorrow and death. Studying the nature of her deceptions as they are depicted in Proverbs will arm us against her—and against ourselves. I plan to invest several posts on this topic.

One of the more intriguing statements of Proverbs’ temptress is found in Proverbs 7:14. In the middle of her sensual and aggressive seduction, she suddenly turns the conversation to religion, of all things:

I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows.”

What’s that about. I’ve wondered about it for a long time, and I think it provides a number of lessons, both about the temptress and about us, the tempted. I suggest four (and I’d be glad to consider more): Continue reading

Help for Fighting Lust: Transparency

covenant-eyesI’ve been doing a lot of studying on the topic of lust lately—as a pastor who wants to help the people in the church I pastor, as a father who wants to protect his family, and (especially) as a sinner who knows too well the power of his own flesh. Over the next several weeks, Joe Tyrpak and I hope to share some of what we’re finding to be helpful in our own battles with lust.

One of the first steps to fighting lust, I believe, is to drag it out of dark secrecy and into the light of honest transparency. I believe this with all my heart: especially in the day of internet pornography, anonymity is the enemy of your soul. It seems it has always been so, whether the battle has been against a private liaison or a private fantasy. Part of the lure of sensuality in Proverbs is its promise that “no one will know”:

“For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.” (Prov 7:19-20; cp. 7:9; 9:17)

Unlike life-giving plants, lust grows best in the dark. Thus, Richard Baxter counsels you to drag it into the light:

“If less means prevail not open thy case to some able faithful friend, and engage them to watch over thee; and tell them when thou art most endangered by temptation.”

“Concealment is Satan’s great advantage. It would be hard for thee to sin thus if it were but opened.” (Both quoted by Mark Dever in Sex and the Supremacy of God, 260).

First, we must be honest enough to admit that we struggle with lust. All of us. As one comically accurate statistic puts it, 95% of all men struggle with lust, and the other 5% are lying. So admit it. Men in conservative churches have denied the reality of our struggles for far too long, in part to keep up appearances and in part because we’ve feared (rightly in many cases) that our appeal for help would be met with church discipline rather than compassionate instruction. The  result of our timidity and silence is that the same “unspeakable” pornography and infidelity that runs rampant “out there” runs rampant in our churches and homes, as well. It’s painfully obvious that any sin anyone has ever committed—including pornography, adultery, and even pedophilia—is one that can visit churches and homes like ours. It’s time to stop hiding in the dark and admit that you struggle with lust. Continue reading

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