Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Sanctification (page 1 of 3)

So Much More Than Manners

Say ‘Thank You!’

As a bratty little boy I had to be constantly reminded to say ‘Thank you’ for things. I was unthankful and presumptuous. My elders were working for my good when they laboured to teach me my manners, and I am very thankful for it.

give thanks

Sadly, my hardness of heart through my youth set some persistent patterns in my life and behaviour. My unwillingness to be thankful as a matter of courtesy continued into adulthood. It’s really only over the past few years that I’ve begun to realize just how connected thanklessness / thankfulness is to my heart’s whole disposition.

Recently, I thought it would be good for me to go back and do a little study on thankfulness in the New Testament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Not only was the study huge, it was hugely convicting.

I was expecting the apostle Paul to command us to be thankful. I wasn’t expecting the New Testament to model and expect so much about thankfulness. And I wasn’t expecting to see just how clearly thankfulness is so much more than manners; it is bound up with godliness and worship in every area of our lives.

Some Findings

I want to provide you with my compilation of New Testament texts and teaching on thankfulness. I think the best way to use it is to download the PDF, print it, go through the texts one-by-one and make notes on them.

That being said, I know that many of you (a) won’t do that, or, (b) won’t do that without convincing, so I’m going to offer a few highlights here.

Jesus Himself Modelled Thankfulness

And note the things he thanks his Father for. These are things I would complain and be bitter about, but he gives thanks.

ESV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

ESV Luke 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. …  19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

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I’m A Slow Learner

im_a_slow_learnerI’m slowly learning that my heart is too easily affected by all the wrong things, yet it remains stubbornly hard precisely where I need it to be soft.

I’m slowly learning that after 32 years, I still don’t know myself nearly as well as I should.

I’m slowly learning that I don’t have nearly the platform with people that I once thought I did; an authoritative voice is earned over the long haul.

I’m slowly learning that the louder I speak on peripheral issues, the quieter my voice becomes when calling people to the centre.

I’m slowly learning that I’m not nearly the husband, dad, friend, pastor, or Christian that I thought I would be by now.

I’m slowly learning that what I want my life & ministry to be characterized by when I’m 74 needs to be what characterizes my life & ministry now.

I’m slowly learning that it is possible to idolize good things like unity and peace; and also that joy quickly turns to rage when those idols are toppled.

I’m slowly learning that very few people in the wold are called to be ‘the voice in the wilderness.’ Probably far fewer than evangelicalism — myself included — currently recognizes.

I’m slowly learning that praying for something doesn’t mean that I’m actually believing God can and will act.
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How Could I Sin?

A prayer for growth in holiness:

Father, how could I sin?

Having seen your hatred for sin and your love for righteousness, how could I sin?

I have seen the fullness of your just anger borne by Christ for me. How could I be speak angrily to others?

I have seen your patience with me through decades of rebellion. How could I be impatient with others?

I have seen how you work the evil of others for good. How could I be bitter?

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You Are Provoking Me

There are certainly lots of curious things that happen in sections of Old Testament narrative. But one of the more curious realities of the Moses narrative, to me, is the fact that Moses is not allowed to go into the Promised Land. It’s not the fact that he’s forbidden that seems curious, but the fact that he seems repeatedly to blame his sin on the people of Israel (see Deut. 4.21-22 for example).

On this, D.A. Carson writes:

Of the many lessons that spring from this historical recital, one relatively minor point — painful to Moses and important for us — quietly emerges. Moses repeatedly reminds the people that he himself will not be permitted to enter the land. He is referring to the time he struck the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20). But now he points out, truthfully, that his sin and punishment took place, he says, “because of you” (Deut. 1:37; Deut. 3:23-27; Deut. 4:21-22). Of course, Moses was responsible for his own action. But he would not have been tempted had the people been godly. Their persistent unbelief and whining wore him down. (For the Love of God, vol. 1. Read the full entry here.)

In other words, the persistent sin of the people of Israel had finally provoked the meekest of all men on the earth (Num 12.3) to sin. And now he was paying for it, ‘because of [them].’

Do you see what happened? When they persisted in unbelief, rebellion, and sin, it discouraged and disheartened even the most faithful. Holiness and the battle against sin, for the people of Israel, was something essentially communal. However one person acted effected others.

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Why I Am Discouraged / Encouraged by Slow Growth

 

This morning I was thinking about the sin that remains in me and how stubborn it is. I was frustrated that I’m not more holy already and discouraged by the pace of my growth in holiness.

As I contemplated the gospel and how it relates to my pace of growth in holiness I was first discouraged and then encouraged. Here’s what I mean.

Slow Growth is Discouraging Because It’s Not Right

My friend Rony preached at our church this Sunday from Colossians 1 and reminded us that the gospel is effective — it bears fruit and grows in the whole world and advances in us as well. In the gospel we are ‘strengthened with all power, according to [God’s] glorious might’ for gospel-living.

Or, as Jesus said, ‘A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.’ Or, as John said, ‘By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.’ Paul rhetorically asked, ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’

In Christ I have become a new creation and that new creation ought to look different. Growth should be evident and righteousness manifest. When it’s not, that’s discouraging.
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Measuring Sin

Is it good to take stock of our sin? Should we meditate on it and measure it against God and against the sins of others? Is it right to pay that much attention to sin? I think the answer is both yes and no, depending on how you do it.

Measuring Against God

The kingdom is given to those who are poor in spirit, humble, broken, mourning, and contrite over their sin (Matt 5.3-5). This only comes from rightly evaluating yourself before the throne of a holy God. Before we find any good in the gospel, we must find the bad (Is 6.1-7; Is 66.1-2). God is holy and we are not. Our sin, measured against his purity, means we are filthy before him (Is 64.6).

Measuring against God is a good place to start. It makes us realize our need for a Saviour who will take all our sin and pay all our guilt (Is 53.4-6).
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Some Practical Tips for Fighting Temptation

 Learning from Those Who’ve Failed

The first few chapters of the Bible give us good insight into the ways that sin & temptation work. Adam and Eve fail. Their children and their grandchildren after them fail. How was it that sin worked to bring them down and what can we learn?

Here are just a couple practical suggestions for fighting temptation as gleaned from Genesis 3-4.

1. Get Outside Perspective

The power of temptation is bound up in the moment. In the rush of debate, Eve didn’t pause to consider the ramifications of questioning God’s words. She didn’t ask Adam, ‘Hey what did God actually say anyway?’ Still less did she think to herself, ‘Maybe we should ask God for some clarity on why we can’t have the fruit from this tree.’ But part of the lure of the temptation to sin is the seductive voice that says, ‘You determine right & wrong for yourself. You make your own laws.’

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