Simil Justus et Peccator: Saints Are Still Sinners (Part 2)

Detail from Saint Peter Penitent, Gerard van Honthorst (1592 - 1656)

Read Part 1.

An Urgent Petition: “seek your servant”

Basically, this is a prayer for spiritual restoration. The psalmist has strayed from the “paths of righteousness,” and he cries out for the Great Shepherd to rescue him. He wants forgiveness, and he wants to know again the joy of his salvation. As he makes his petition he’s conscious of at two realities:

He Needs Grace

He’s pleads for God’s gracious intervention: “seek your servant.” He not only acknowledges his wayward heart, but he confesses his own inability to do anything about it (cf. 33-37). Taken together, the psalmist’s confession and petition are very similar to a prayer of Saint Augustine: “Lord, to sin I am able. But I am not able to return.” This is the prayer of a man who puts no confidence in the flesh but whose trust is in the Lord.

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Simil Justus et Peccator: Saints Are Still Sinners (Part 1)

Detail from Saint Peter Penitent, Gerard van Honthorst (1592 - 1656)

Christian biographies are a great means of edification and godliness. And yet, their benefits aren’t free from dangers. One danger that comes to mind is that of developing an unrealistic view of the Christian life. Often, Christian biographers maximize the virtues and minimize the faults of the saints. The picture they paint has too rosy a hue. We can partly understand this. Obviously, we want to view Christians in the best light. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt. We want to showcase their faithfulness to God. But we can come away with the idea that genuine Christians rarely, if ever, commit sin. This perspective begins to affect the way we view ourselves and one another.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t make that mistake. While it does extol the virtues of the saints, it also exposes their sins. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter were all great men of God. And their godly lives are worthy of imitation. However, the Bible doesn’t hesitate to present the other side of the story as well. Though it portrays these men as eminent saints, it also portrays them as sinners. Perhaps nowhere is this reality stated more concisely than in the last verse of Psalm 119, which reads,

I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments (119:176 ESV1).

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An Illustration of Repentance

"Some sins are small and easy. We stop and walk the other way. Some sins, like the bicycle, are a little more difficult. ... there is the process of coming to a stop, the process of the turn itself, and the process of getting up to speed in faithfulness. But some sins are enormous.... God works patiently with us, carefully slowing us down, as the captain does with the ship..." - Ligonier

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“The idea of faith in Free Grace theology emphasizes facts and information (the intellect) and de-emphasizes the decision and trust aspects of faith (assent, will and trust).”

" grace theology eliminates the call to repentance over sin. It wrongly teaches that salvation by faith alone means that repentance is not part of the saving response to the gospel. Yet the Scriptures are clear that true saving faith is repentant faith." - Matt Postiff

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Are Daniel and Ezra Models of Corporate Repentance for Historic Sins?

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been preparing a review of Latasha Morrison’s Be the Bridge book and Bible study materials. In so doing, I’ve been reading her recommended resources, and have been struck by how central the following claim is to this genre of “racial reconciliation” material: “members of a group have the responsibility to confess and seek reconciliation on behalf of that group for sins that those members themselves may not have even personally committed.”

I went back and forth on whether I should post this portion of my critique separate from my full review of Be the Bridge, or leave it inside the longer review (which is posted here). I decided to run it separately because while it is only a small component of Be the Bridge, this theme reoccurs in other resources. In other words, I’ve encountered a repeated argument that white people have a responsibility to confess the sin of racism that other white people have committed in the past, to repent for those sins, and then to seek reparations on behalf of those wronged by the sin.

So today I want to address that specific argument. Then, in my review of Be the Bridge, I can refer back to this post here.

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Warning & Wooing

The ignition of the Great Awakening began at Enfield, Connecticut. It was July 8, 1741, when a local congregation of well-to-do Americans went to church to hear the guest speaker, Jonathan Edwards. He is known in evangelical circles as the man who best articulated a theology of joy. It was Jonathan Edwards who wrote Religious Affections in which he insists that true religion is one that brings joy and satisfaction in Christ alone, and that every decision is made according to man’s greatest desire, and that the only way to live a life pleasing to God is to be so entranced with God’s majesty and beauty, so enraptured with his grace and mercy, that one’s life brims over with the joy of serving him alone. Nascent “Christian hedonism” if you will.

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The Humbling Nature of Sin

God uses even sin to develop us as Christians. That may sound like a bold statement, especially because God never wants us to sin (1 John 2:1); we should always seek to avoid it and not take it lightly.

God created Adam and Eve knowing they would sin. Their sin—which cast the entire human race into sin and resulted in a cursed universe—was nonetheless used by God to work a greater good. Because mankind was plunged into a lost condition, God would send His Son to redeem the world. Perhaps nothing brings glory to God like the atoning death, burial, and conquering resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ—the gospel message. Believers find themselves in a better position than Adam and Eve ever were!

There is a vast difference between God desiring sin and God using sin for spiritual purposes. Jesus said of the sinful woman who turned to Him, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Jesus is not encouraging us to sin rampantly so that we will love Him more. Instead, He calls us to come to Him now, whatever our state. But if we come to Him from an extremely sinful life, we will appreciate His forgiveness even more. But there is a downside: such persons will have more baggage and will have done more damage. I have known many folks to say, “I so wish I had come to the Lord at a younger age!” Sadly, many will never come to Him.

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The Lordship Salvation Issue

The Lordship Salvation Issue is surely one of those many topics where the less I say the better. Nevertheless, I do want to say something (with some sense of trepidation).

Most of my friends are non-Lordship Salvation. Many are far more informed than I am. In many ways I’m over my head, and would rather avoid division – if for nothing else to avoid embarrassing myself. So in the few discussions I’ve had, I’ve tended not to say much.

Let every person do their own study and come to their own conclusion.

I once posted a Cripplegate article in a group and was promptly informed it wasn’t representative of the LS teaching. It shouldn’t be surprising that there are nuances and differences among proponents of the camps. A non-LS fellow chimed in that LS is an even more dangerous doctrine than pretribulationism! I found that remark astonishing. Why am I not seeing this?

My two main references (I have others) on the LS issue are MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus and Freely By His Grace edited by Hixson, Whitmire and Zuck. The latter is 600 pages. It would be accurate to say that I haven’t plumbed it all, and likely never will.

That said I do have some concerns re the non-LS groups. First is the following statement by one of the FBHG contributors:

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