Book 3: The Christian Life
Chapter 1: How Does Christ’s Salvation Become Ours
Until we become one with Christ, everything he achieved for our salvation is of no use to us. This is gained by faith in Christ which the Spirit works in us. The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectively binds himself to us.
Chapter 2: Faith
Faith Is Based on the Word
Christ is the object of faith and we cannot find him without the guidance of the gospel where the treasures of grace are unfolded to us. There is an inseparable link between faith and the Word like that between the sun and its rays. The Word is the base on which faith rests and is strengthened. Without the Word there can be no faith. It is like a mirror in which faith can see God. So long as the mind entertains any doubts about the truth of God’s Word, its authority will be weak. One must be convinced that every word that proceeds from his mouth is absolute truth.
God’s Mercy Draws Us to Faith
We are drawn to seek God when we are told that our safety is treasured up in him. We are confirmed in this when he declares he takes a deep interest in our welfare. It would be useless to know God is true if we did not also know he is lovingly drawing us to himself. Christ is the pledge of this love.
Faith and Assurance
God wants us to have assurance that his goodness is truly offered to us. We cannot have that assurance without personally being aware of its sweetness, by experiencing it in our hearts. A true believer is one who is firmly convinced he is reconciled to God, his loving heavenly Father. But when we say that faith must be secure and certain, we don’t mean that assurance is never touched by doubt or anxiety. We know that believers have a constant struggle with doubt. But though we are disturbed and confused by distrust, we are not thrown into the abyss nor are we driven away.
Chapter 3: Repentance
Faith Is the Origin of Repentance
Repentance not only follows faith but is produced by it. No one can understand the grace of gospel without leaving the errors of his old life, but he cannot honestly say he knows about repentance until he knows he belongs to God. Some people get it wrong when they see many submitting to God because their consciences are afraid. This initial fear may be used by Christ to draw us to himself, but it is not true obedience. No one ever truly honors God if he does not believe God loves and forgives him.
A Definition of Repentance
Repentance is the whole act of turning to God. In conversion of the life to God we need a transformation of the soul as well a change of outward things. As repentance begins with hatred and dread of sin, so godly sorrow is one of its roots, for we come to realize we have displeased God.
Repentance and the Fear of God
Repentance springs from a sincere fear of God. Before the sinner’s thoughts turn to repentance, he must be challenged by the thought of divine judgment. There is a rebellious spirit within us that must be broken by God’s hammer. There is another reason repentance must begin with the fear of God. Even if men were full of earthly goodness, if this goodness were not done in honor of God, it would still be an abomination in heaven.
Repentance and the Restoration of God’s Image
It is a tremendously hard thing to renounce our self and to put our own desires to one side. By nature we are adverse to God and unless self-denial takes over, we will never lean to what is right. Also the heart and mind must be filled with desire for righteousness and mercy and then renewal will become evident by the fruits that are produced. Both mortification and quickening of the Spirit come through our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. The whole purpose of repentance then is to form in us the image of God which had been spoiled by Adam’s fall.
Repentance Is a Life Long Battle
This renewal is not achieved in moment, a day or a year but by a gradual process. God makes us long for true holiness so that we will practice repentance constantly. This spiritual warfare ends only at death. There is still a spring of evil in every born again man which gives rise to sinful desire and action. A ceaseless battle goes on within the saints causing us to understand our weakness. Sin no longer reigns over us but it is still in us.
Chapter 6: Doctrine Must Express Itself in Life
Doctrine is not a matter of talk but of life. Salvation must start with doctrine, but then it must move into the heart and on to our behavior. I do not insist that the life of the Christian should express nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this would be desirable and should be attempted. If I did insist on such perfection, there would be no one in the Church for we all fall short of the ideal. Surely we must constantly run towards the goal, aiming for perfection, even if because of our weakness we make little progress. You cannot be half-hearted with God, obeying some of his Word and rejecting some at will. No one can travel so badly that he does not make some progress each day. So let us never give up. Then we shall move forward daily in the Lord’s way. And let us never despair because of our limited success. Even though it is so much less than we would like, our labor is not wasted when today is better than yesterday.
Chapter 7: The Christian Life Is a Life of Love
When Scripture tells us to put aside our selfish interests, it not only removes undue desire for wealth, power or popularity from our minds but wipes out all ambition for worldly glory, and other more secret temptations. The Christian ought to be disciplined to think that throughout his life he is dealing with God. The one who has learned to look to God in everything he does is simultaneously distracted from all empty thoughts. By nature we are inclined to love only ourselves. But Scripture reminds us that the right use of our gifts is to warmly and generously share them with others. All the talents we possess are divine deposits entrusted to us for the purpose of benefiting others. The only right way is the way of love as we put our neighbor’s advantage above our own. The Lord reminds us to do good to everyone without exception even though the majority don’t deserve it. We are not to look at what men deserve in themselves, but to look to the image of God which is in everyone and to which we owe all honor and love. The same rule should be even more carefully observed for those in the household of faith, since that image is being restored in them by the Spirit of Christ. We are not to dwell on the evil in men but to look to the image of God in them. This image covers their faults and by its beauty and dignity draws us to love and embrace them. This must be done from a motive of pure love. It is possible to carry out every good deed as far as the external act is concerned but to do so from a bad motive. It is sad that most men dispense charity in patronizing ways, with cruel words or superior looks. But it is not enough to have cheerful looks or courteous manners. We must put ourselves in the place of the one who needs assistance and sympathize with their misfortune as if we had suffered it ourselves. When we do this we help our neighbor without ruining it with arrogance. The only end of our generosity should be the end of our resources.
Chapter 8: Fellowship with Christ in Suffering.
Those whom the Lord has honored with friendship must be prepared for a hard, strenuous and testing life full of many different troubles. He put Christ his first born through this course and has continued it with all his children. The whole life of Christ was a cross. Why should we spare ourselves what the Son endured when he did it on our behalf and to show us the perfect pattern of endurance. This is our great comfort in hard and difficult circumstances which are trying and miserable, because we realize we are sharing fellowship with Christ in his suffering. As he rose through this vale of tears to glory so we too are led through various tribulations to heaven. The bitterness of the cross for us is sweetened and our sufferings are blessed to us when we consider our fellowship with the Christ. We are so feeble by nature and so quick to think we are perfect that we need a demonstration of our weakness. Otherwise, we will think we are much better than we are. Thus he allows us to experience affliction so that feeling overwhelmed we might humbly call on him for strength. Even the holiness of men would feel secure in their own strength if they were not made to know themselves through the trial of the cross. When things go well, we flatter ourselves that we are steady and patient, but when we are humbled by hardship, we make progress in humility and throw ourselves on God’s grace and experience the reality of his power. Then by his grace we will stand firm to the end, strong in hope. How easily we shake off God’s yoke when we have a time of ease and indulgence. God’s kindness should attract us and make us aware of his goodness, but such is our sinful nature that it causes us to spiritually grow weak. By his cross the Lord acts to prevent us from being arrogant and puffed up by prosperity. In the misery of testing we ought to recognize God’s kindness because he is furthering our salvation. He afflicts us not to destroy or ruin us, but to deliver us from condemnation.
Chapter 9: We Need to Meditate on Our Future Glory
You would think the heaven and immortality would be our highest ambition in this life. We should be ashamed to have no higher goals than the animal world since our hope of life beyond the grave is the only thing that makes our position higher than theirs. Yet our hearts are occupied the lust, ambition and greed looking for happiness only in this world, held in the grip of worldly attractions. To combat this disease, the Lord makes us aware of the futility and miseries of this life. It’s so called blessings are uncertain, passing and fleeting. Only when we realize this will we long for future joy. We often forget death and our mortality, living as if this life will go on forever, convinced of our indestructibility. God disciplines us or otherwise we would gaze on this life in endless admiration thinking it contains all that would could ever need.
Chapter 10: The Proper Use of This Current Life
Before God shows us our inheritance in glory, he makes us aware of his Fatherly goodness by the blessings he showers on us each day. Therefore we must not scorn this life as if it contained nothing good. We experience here a foretaste of divine blessings , whetting our appetites for the full experience. Our present life is a gift of God’s kindness and mercy for which we must be grateful. Yet we must remember this life is a pilgrimage to our heavenly kingdom and we must only use temporal blessings in such a way that they don’t hinder our journey.
Chapters 11-16: Justification by Faith
Justification by Faith Defined
A person is said to be just in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is considered righteous and is accepted because of that righteousness. Sin is abhorrent to God. Wherever sin exists there is also the wrath of God. The person who is justified is no longer regarded as a sinner but as righteous and so stands acquitted at the judgment seat of God. A man can be said to be justified by works if there is a purity in his life and a perfection in his works that can satisfy divine justice before God’s throne. On the other hand, a man can be said to be justified by faith when apart from his own works, by faith he lays hold of the righteousness of Christ. This justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. Faith is not an intrinsic virtue by which we are justified for it is always weak and imperfect. Faith is only the instrument by which we receive the justification that only Christ can give. Faith is merely our empty hands and open heart. The power to justify is found in Christ alone.
The Foundation of Justification by Faith
Justification by faith urges us to turn away from our own works and look to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ for our salvation. God in his freely given goodness embraces us as wretched sinners even though we are completely devoid of good works. The cause of this kindness is found in the grace of God alone and is not drawn out from him by our merit. Faith is said to justify because it freely embraces the righteousness of Christ freely offered in the Gospel. The justification given to us in the Gospel is free from any terms of Law. The promises of the Gospel are entirely undeserved and are based exclusively on God’s mercy. The Christian is not righteous in and of himself, but by the righteousness of Christ communicated to him by imputation, when he really deserves punishment. We are held to be righteous only because of the obedience of Christ imputed to us as if it were our own.
Why We Need the Righteousness of Christ As a Free Gift
We must remember that the righteousness we need is not one to satisfy a human tribunal. The perfection needed must satisfy divine justice. Man never has reached and never will reach God’s standard. His righteousness is a brightness which hides the stars, a strength which melts mountains, an anger that shakes the earth, a purity which makes everything else seem impure, a righteousness beyond angels and a vengeance which reaches the deepest hell. If we are to be judged by this standard, who could feel safe? When we compare ourselves with others it is easy to pride ourselves on our virtue, but when we look to God our confidence evaporates. God’s righteousness makes us guilty of a thousand sins, and excuses none. Therefore, if we want to respond to the call of Christ, we must get rid of all arrogance and self-confidence. Pride springs from an illusion of self-righteousness, when a man thinks that there is something in himself which deserves God’s commendation, but there isn’t a single person who is not full of vice. We shall never take courage from him until we despair of ourselves. We shall never find comfort in him until we stop looking for it in ourselves. We will never have confidence in him, unless we distrust ourselves totally. Hypocrisy can plunge the mind of man unto a dark abyss, where he believes his own self-flattery instead of God’s verdict. It is as if he wants to relieve God of his office as judge. But unless Scripture is to be judged false, not an atom of good is found in us.
Justification by Faith After Conversion
God lives in the believer by the Holy Spirit by whose influence we daily put the death the lusts of the flesh. Our lives are sanctified to God and we aim at purity of life as we discipline our hearts to obey His will and in everything promote his glory. But even when we walk in the ways of the Lord, we are aware of enough failure to keep us humble. If a saint tired to choose the best act possible he would still find something rotten in it. The best he can manage is still spoilt by sin. Even the saints cannot do one thing that does not deserve God’s condemnation. This mortal life is never completely free of sin. God does not grant forgiveness of sin for our past life so that we can then justify ourselves by the Law. When we are converted, good works do follow as proof God lives in us, but confidence in these works as our righteousness has no place in the heart of the Christian. The free righteousness of Christ must be the sole ground of our confidence. Just as we appear righteous before God because of the works of Christ, so also do our works. God reckons them as righteous because they are buried in the purity of Christ. Not only we but our works are justified by faith alone.
But Doesn’t Justification by Faith Alone Promote Unrighteousness?
We do not promote a faith devoid of good works, nor a justification which can exist without them. The difference is that while we acknowledge that faith and works cannot be separated, we know that justification is based on faith, not works. Christ does not justify anyone without also making him holy. It is an inseparable bond. Justification and sanctification are inseparably bound up in Christ. Christ cannot be divided. You cannot have one without the other.
Election Gives Us Assurance
We will never be convinced that our salvation flows from God’s free mercy until we understand eternal election. There is no other ground of confidence. To deliver us from fear and make us invincible to dangers and battles of this life, he promises safety to all whom the Father has taken into his keeping. All who do not know we are God’s special people must be miserable and in constant fear.
Confine Predestination to what God’s Word Teaches
Predestination, which is a difficult subject already is made more puzzling and dangerous by human curiosity. They probe into forbidden areas and seek to discover the secret things of God. They dash ahead too boldly, and instead of satisfying their curiosity, they enter a maze with no exit. It is not right for men to pry into things the Lord has chosen to conceal in himself. We must realize the minute we go beyond the limits of Scripture we all go off course and find ourselves stumbling in the dark. Our first aim must be to know predestination as it is revealed in God’s Word only. Otherwise we delude ourselves. We must not be ashamed to be ignorant in an area where admitting ignorance means we are learned.
Why Should We Talk About Predestination At All?
Some say we should avoid discussion of predestination like the plague. While they are right to urge moderation on this topic, to hold a balanced view we must turn to God’s Word where nothing is taught that is unnecessary. It would be wrong to keep believers from predestination as it is taught in Scripture or we would deprive them of the blessing God intended to give through this doctrine. The Christian should be open to everything that God has spoken while desisting from questions in areas He has chosen not to reveal.
Chapter 22: Why Does God Choose Who He Chooses
Why does God choose those he admits to salvation? God’s decision about the elect is based on his free mercy without any reference to human deserving and is incomprehensible to us. Our good works are never taken into account. He elected us to make us holy; he did not elect us because he foresaw we would become holy. Our holiness is the fruit of election, not the cause of it. We could not praise and thank God for our election if it were not free and undeserved. We are totally indebted to God’s goodness since there is nothing in us past, present or future that merits his favor.
Dangers of Predestination
One of Satan’s most deadly weapons is to attack the believer with doubts whether he is one of the elect, and then to incite him to seek the answer in the wrong way. The wrong way is to try to infiltrate the hidden depths of divine wisdom going back to the remotest eternity to discover what God destined for him. So he falls into a deep abyss, gets entangled with endless snares, and buries himself in thick darkness. It is a deadly temptation to which we are all prone. When this thought dominates an individual, he will be permanently miserable in terrible torment or mental confusion. The fact that these thoughts deprive a man of peace in God are proof they are in error. We must avoid them lack the plague. It is fatal to pry into God’s eternal purposes apart from God’s Word. But if we keep to the account of predestination found in God’s Word, then we shall find comfort.
The Relationship Between Election and Faith in Christ
If we are elected in Christ, we cannot find assurance of election in ourselves or in the Father but only in Christ. Christ is the mirror in which we can clearly observe our election. If we are in communion with Christ, we have proof clear and strong enough to show our names were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. How futile it is to look elsewhere for what we already have found in Christ and can find no where else.
Chapter 25: Our Future Hope in Christ.
Christ rose from the dead to share with us eternal life. He is the pledge of our future resurrection. Our minds would be helpless to resist the temptations of this life and to endure its troubles unless we are freed from earthly attachments and given to heavenly ones. We cannot make real progress in the Gospel unless we have acquired the habit of meditating all the time on the hope of the resurrection. In our earthly pilgrimage we must set our hearts on the perfect happiness of the resurrection. We must strive towards it because if we become engrossed in this world, we will become spiritually lethargic.
(I need to add sections on chapters 17-20 to complete this post)