Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Sanctification (page 2 of 3)

How to Love More

Last night in our small group we were talking about the ever-present problem in the Christian life of not being affected enough by the truth that we know. It’s the gap between knowing the gospel of grace and feeling the grace of the gospel. We want to be humbled by the gospel. We want to love God more. But how do we do that?

This got me thinking about a post I put up here about 4 years ago and so I decided to repost it.

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Wise Words from James

Even though we’ve moved on to chapter 5 in our study on James at GFC, I’m still marvelling at many of the things my Lord has been teaching me from his word.

Preaching big passages like I’ve had to do is great for seeing the big picture and covering more of God’s word, but it necessarily means that there are lots of stones left unturned in each passage. Particularly, I’ve been thinking through James’s promise in chapter 4: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’

One thing that amazed me the other night as I sat and thought this through is the similarity between this saying and that declaration of Jesus that the one who is forgiven most loves most. On the surface, they don’t seem that connected, but I think there is a profound connection.

Our Desire is to Love

Every Christian wants to know how to love God more. The first and greatest commandment we have is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The reason why we still sin, why we become discouraged, or why we fall back into old patterns of living is because our love for God falls short of our love for ourselves.

Our Enemy Wants to Hinder Our Love

The devil is our enemy. His greatest goal is to stop us from achieving our greatest goal, which is love for God, resulting in joy in God. We want to love God, but he’ll do anything to stop that. Every Christian wants to love God more; but how do you practically increase your love for God?

James connects resisting the devil’s work with drawing near to God. In response to our drawing near to God, God draws near to us. What kind of drawing near does James have in mind? He clarifies for us in the next couple of sentences, where he describes radical repentance, open confession of sin and sinfulness, and proper humility. In other words, draw near to God in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging the greatness of your sin.

Connect the Dots

We can begin to connect the dots here a little with Jesus’ saying. We will love God more if we acknowledge more readily the reality of what we’ve been forgiven. But our enemy will have none of that–which is why we need to resist him. How do you resist Satan? By confessing your sins and drawing near to God.

It is the work of Satan to get you to think little of your sins. He desires that you not confess specific sins, that you not be heart-broken over the ways you’ve denied God. He wants you to just ignore sin in your life and not confess to brothers and sisters. The smaller you think your sin is, the less your love for God will grow, and the happier your enemy will be. ‘He who is forgiven little, loves little.’

If your love for God has grown cold, you can probably draw a straight line back to your lack of confession of sin in your own heart, to God, and to others. When you don’t realize what you’ve been forgiven, you don’t love.

How do you grow to love more? Draw near to God in repentance. Acknowledge how horrible and ugly your sin is, and be specific in your confession. What at the things you have rejected him for? What are the things you’ve loved more than him? What are the lies you’ve believed instead of his truth? Confess to him that you deserve death and hell. The more you draw near to him, the worse you’ll see your sin is, the more you’ll see how much you’ve been forgiven and the more you’ll love — which will overflow into a life of God-glorifying joy in obedience.

Are You a Man?

Someone recently recommended the ministry of Matt Chandler to me, so I decided to give him a listen. Immediately I was drawn to a series of sermons he did a few years ago on ‘The Role of Men’.

Over the past few days I’ve been listening to these three sermons, and have sensed God doing a good work in me through them, convicting me of sin and spurring me on to growth in holiness.

Let me heartily recommend these sermons to you. Here’s what I think you should do.

If you are a married man:

  1. Download the sermons
  2. Block of some time with just you and your wife
  3. Listen to these sermons
  4. Talk, think, and pray together about how God would have you grow and what God would have you change.
If you are a single guy:
  1. Download the sermons
  2. Get some good friends together
  3. Listen to these sermons
  4. Talk, think, and pray together about how God is calling each of you to prepare now to be the husband and father God is calling you to be, or about how God is refining you to serve him as a single man in his church.
In either case, I guarantee you will be blessed. Below are the links for the sermons.
  1. The Role of Men, Part 1: Defining Masculinity
  2. The Role of Men, Part 2: Men as Husbands
  3. The Role of Men, Part 3: Men as Fathers

John Piper on What Could Make the ‘Gospel-Centred’ Movement Fail

Here is an interesting and important word from John Piper on the things which could potentially become an ‘Achilles Heel’ to the gospel-centred movement that we love.

I would add a hearty ‘Amen’ to his words. May God keep us back from sins of presumption. I pray for more of the Spirit’s work connecting the ‘loose wires’ in my life.

HT: Justin Taylor

Need Help Pursuing Fellowship?

If you are like most Christians, you realize your need for true fellowship (not just surface chit-chat). You want to get to know other believers and you want friends who know you and your struggles. You want to be able to get to know other believers well so that you can serve them and speak truth to them in love.

But, if you are like me–and most Christians I know–you may have trouble figuring out how to get to those good, deep, spiritual conversations. I’d like to offer a couple of resources that we’ve found helpful here at GFC. Neither is new to us–which is probably why they’re good–but we love them both.

The first is a document listing some accountability and authenticity questions for men. This was originally created for our men’s meetings some time ago, but several of our men have taken them and used them with great success in one-on-one friendship and mentoring relationships.

The second is a document that we created to help some of our leadership team grow in our understanding of how to open up spiritual conversations with people and ‘drive to the heart’ with our questions. It’s based on David Powlison’s list of X-Ray Questions.

What’s great about lists of questions like this is that they don’t have to be all that you use. They are not a script or a formula. But they are helpful resources for learning the art of skillfully asking questions and helping people uncover issues in their hearts. As we identify with them where their hearts are tuned away from God and help point them to God we’re fulfilling both great commandments: we’re loving God and loving others.

I hope you find these helpful!

Male Modesty?

A good friend of mine, whose opinion I respect greatly, has some different views than me on the issue of a woman’s modesty in dress. One of the objections he will bring up in conversations on this issue is that there is no male equivalent; a man’s modest or immodest dress doesn’t affect women.

What he means in this: If I wear an unbuttoned shirt, the effect will be to gross people out and drive them away, rather than cause them to stare… unless they’re staring like people stare at a car wreck on the 401. Either way, I doubt they’re sinning (unless they’re becoming angry at being forced to look on such a sight). The point, however, is this: If men are speaking about what types of guidelines women should have for dress, it is necessarily hypocritical (at least to some degree) because those are issues and standards that don’t apply to us. They are rules that are necessarily other-centred, which just about always will lead to legalism.

I concede his point that my wearing short-shorts won’t cause women to lust, but I disagree with the notion that there is no such thing as male modesty. In Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is, Joshua Harris writes:

Have you ever interacted with an immodestly dressed girl and really wished she had a clue about how much her clothing affected you? Well, as a guy you need to realize that certain things you do and say to girls are the equivalent of male cleavage–they just aren’t helpful to our sisters. We need to get a clue!

Josh argues that since a woman’s desires are generally more rooted in emotional longings, things like flirting and physical touch–anything that can make a woman feel like she is being pursued or singled out for attention–are potential stumbling blocks for them. A guy who wants to love and protect his sisters in Christ will want to watch his ‘male cleavage’ (an almost disgustingly vivid image, I must say).

Here’s a more extended quote that I think is quite good on this issue. It’s taken from I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

The Guy’s Responsibility
Guys, its time we stood up to defend the honor and righteousness of our sisters. We need to stop acting like “hunters” trying to catch girls and begin seeing ourselves as warriors standing guard over them.

How do we do this? First we must realize that girls don’t struggle with the same temptations we struggle with. We wrestle more with our sex drives while girls struggle more with their emotions. We can help guard their hearts by being sincere and honest in our communication. We need to swear off flirtatiousness and refuse to play games and lead them on. We have to go out of our way to make sure nothing we say or do stirs up inappropriate feelings or expectations.

I want to weep when I think of the many times I have neglected my responsibility to guard girls’ hearts. Instead of playing the role of a warrior, I played the thief, stealing their focus from God for myself. I’m determined to do better. I want to be the kind of friend to whom girls’ future husbands could one day say, “Thank you for standing watch over my wife’s heart. Thank you for guarding her purity.”

Amen! Men, let’s set our sights here to protect the hearts of our sisters.

This Week’s Fighter Verse

I’ve been re-impressed over the last few weeks in particular by how important it is to be memorizing Scripture. Our Fighter Verse programme at Grace Fellowship Church has been a huge help to me in my own walk. This week’s verse is one each of us would do really well to memorize as we seek to live other-worldly in a culture of materialism, that finds life, joy, peace, and security in credit cards and chequing accounts.

Here’s our Fighter Verse for this week. You should memorize it too:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’
— Hebrews 13:5-6 

I Love My God

This morning I was reading from Leviticus 19. In the midst of a long string of commands, where God’s people are told what they must either do or not do in order to be holy as their God is holy, God gives these instructions.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. 

In these books of Law we find all kinds of laws that we would expect: Don’t murder; don’t steal; don’t take someone else’s wife; if you’re a judge, don’t take a bribe; if you kill an unborn baby, you are guilty before God; all kinds of laws like that. But then there are times when we come across passages like this one that can just seem totally unexpected.

Our God’s justice is not like our justice. Intrinsic to the founding of ‘the City of God’ is this notion that the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner must find a home. They must be taken care of. Why? Because it is a reflection of God’s heart for the downtrodden. If God’s people are to be holy, as he is holy, they must reflect the same heart as him: the poor must be comforted.

So how does that translate into the new covenant? I would suggest that we see this fulfilled in no less than three ways as we live in the current ‘City of God’.

  1. Jesus’ message could be summarized this way: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt 4.17). This call to repentance is filled out a little more in this way: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5.3). In other words, the kingdom of heaven has come, and is possessed by those who are poor–in spirit. These are the ones who are broken over their sin before a holy God (Matt 5.4); the ones who realize they are not perfect as God is perfect (Matt 5.48). They are therefore quick to show mercy, as God has shown them mercy (Matt 5.7; 39-47; 6.14-15; 7.1-5). This is the exact same calling as those citizens of the City of God in the OT received (Lev 19.33-34).
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  3. Just as the thrust of the commands throughout the OT were to be kind to the poor in their midst, so in the NT, kingdom citizens are to be abundantly merciful and generous to meet the needs of other kingdom citizens. The early church did not miss this at all, but saw it quite clearly (Acts 2.44-45). The emphasis must be placed here: the first place we must give and look after the poor is in our own midst–this was so in the OT, just as it is in the NT (see also Gal 6.9-10).
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  5. The Christian must be known as one who does not withhold the wages of the labourer, but gives to each what is due. The cries of even the unbeliever, when he is oppressed, will reach the ears of the Lord and the one who has withheld good from him, will bear his guilt (Jas 5:1-6). The Christian must never be known as one who values his money more than he values people; this would not reflect the character of our God at all.

I love my God because he cares for the spiritually poor (broken) and the destitute. He is a God of mercy, compassion, and grace–this is clearly revealed in both testaments. If we are to be his ‘City’ then we must reflect his character, his person, his passions. We must show mercy to others, as he has shown mercy to us.

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