'Replies from Christians'

5.  Jeremy Price

18th February, 2005

(Continued from page 246)

Subject: Savage Wolves

Oh dear!

Where is the Love? To me it looks like you've got lost somewhere along the line. Sure people stumble and fall, we're human, but God's Love is anew for us with every new day! Whatever mistakes we make knowingly or unknowingly, God forgives us and teaches us to forgive those who sin against us.

Wake up and make peace with these people. Read Corinthians in relation to Unity in His Church.

God Bless you,
Jeremy Price,
Cardiff.


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6th March, 2005 - TCE replies:

Dear Jeremy

thank you for taking the time to write and express your views.

Since you don't refer to any detail to which your comments are addressed, I will just consider the nature of your response briefly.

I am very confident that we have already supplied answers to your comments in the text of 'Savage Wolves' and elsewhere on our web-site.  Perhaps you simply haven't read all of the text relating to  the details to which you have responded: '
Where is the Love?

You write: 'To me it looks like you've got lost somewhere along the line. Sure people stumble and fall, we're human, but God's Love is anew for us with every new day! Whatever mistakes we make knowingly or unknowingly, God forgives us and teaches us to forgive those who sin against us.'

TCE:    in what way do you believe we have 'got lost'?  What is it you believe we have 'lost'?  The inability to put emotion before Scripture?  In 'Savage Wolves' we simply detail the Scriptural view of deception.  Do you really think you need to inform us that 'people stumble and fall, we're human'?  Anything we discuss on our pages is certainly not a simple matter of people 'stumbling', or making 'mistakes'.  Some sections deal with people's ignorance of Scripture, or their deliberate or ignorant support of deception, and we gave details to show the result of such behaviour.  The letters of support we have had for our site make it clear that many Christians are grateful that someone else knows what it is like to suffer at the hands of deceivers who thrive because of these factors caused by the lukewarmness of contemporary churches who fail to heed the warnings of Revelation 3:16-19:

16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  17  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  19  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 

The toll that false doctrine has taken on the church is certainly reflected in opinions that consider  that the church should turn a blind eye to error and it is no surprise to us to read talk of 'love' without mention of the other factors clearly named in Scripture, as they are here in
Revelation 3: love comes with rebuke, chastening - and zealous repentance!?  It is simply poor handling of Scripture to forget all the other factors that come before forgiveness.  This is irrevocably linked to your view that God will forgive us whatever 'mistakes' [sins!] we make and 'forgive us' whether we recognise that we are sinning or not:

'
God's Love is anew for us with every new day! Whatever mistakes we make knowingly or unknowingly, God forgives us and teaches us to forgive those who sin against us.'

This smacks of the dangers of Antinomianism, as discussed on our page:
 

93. Beware the Antinomian view which leads to lawless behaviour


And, if this were actually true, how do you propose that sanctification occurs?  And what would happen to the person who supposed they had accepted the Biblical Christ and His gospel but woke up in Hell because they had actually wasted their life following deception, praying un-Scriptural sinful prayers to an icon/false saviour?
 
It is clear from Scripture that God's love in immense, but it is coupled with His Perfect Justice which is absolutely clearly spelt out in the Bible, His Eternal Word of Truth!  Sanctification can only occur as we recognise His will through hearing the Word and having His Spirit impart it into our hearts as we sincerely pray that
His will be done (Matthew 6:10).  Sanctification will never be completed in this life, but we must exercise pastoral wisdom and caution in the way we use this truth.  Too many take this fact and use it as an excuse not to strive for holiness or grow in sanctification - which is exactly contrary to the New Testament re-emphasis of these Old Testament truths. Others make the excuse that we cannot be perfect in this life and lose the desire or aim to progress in their Christian life - an attitude contrary to the clear teaching of Romans 6 and other passages about the resurrection power of Christ in our lives enabling us to overcome sin. Although sanctification will never be completed in this life, because of the infiltration of false teaching by such as the Word Faith 'gurus' too many churches have lost the emphasis that it should never stop increasing in this life.

Even as Christians grow in maturity, the kinds of sin that remain in their lives are often not so much sins of words or deeds that are outwardly noticeable to others, but inward sins of attitudes and motives of the heart - desires such as pride and selfishness, lack of courage or faith, lack of zeal in loving God with our whole hearts and our neighbours as ourselves, and failure to fully trust God for all that he promises in every situation. These are real sins! They show how far short we fall of the moral perfection of Christ, but are invariably excused without reference to the true teaching of Scripture.

Since sanctification is primarily a work of God, it is appropriate that Paul prays, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly" (1 Thess. 5:23). One specific role of God the Father in this sanctification is his process of disciplining us as his children (see Heb. 12:5-11). Paul tells the Philippians,
"God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13), thus indicating something of the way in which God sanctifies them - both by causing them to want his will and by giving them power to do it. The author of Hebrews speaks of the role of the Father and the role of the Son in a familiar benediction: "Now may the God of peace ... equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Heb. 13:20-21).

The role of God the Son, Jesus Christ, in sanctification is, first, that he
earned our sanctification for us. Therefore Paul could say that God made Christ to be "our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). Moreover, in the process of sanctification, Jesus is also our example for we are to run the race of life "looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). Peter tells his readers, "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). And John says, "He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 John 2:6).

But it is specifically God the Holy Spirit who works within us to change us and sanctify us, giving us greater holiness of life. Peter speaks of the "sanctification of the Spirit" (1 Peter 1:2, author's translation), and Paul speaks of "sanctification by the Spirit" (2 Thess. 2:13). It is the Holy Spirit who produces in us the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23), those character traits that are part of greater and greater sanctification. If we grow in sanctification we "walk by the Spirit" and are "led by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16-18; cf. Rom. 8:14) we are more and more responsive to the desires and prompting's of the Holy Spirit in our life and character. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Holiness, and he produces holiness within us.

The role that we play in sanctification is both a
passive one in which we depend on God to sanctify us, and an active one in which we strive to obey God and take steps that will increase our sanctification. The "passive" role that we play in sanctification is seen in texts that encourage us to trust God or to pray and ask that he sanctify us. Paul tells his readers, "Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life" (Rom. 6:13; cf. v. 19), and he tells the Roman Christians, "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom. 12:1). Paul realizes that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit's work to grow in sanctification, because he says, "If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live" (Rom. 8:13).  How can we do this if we do not recognise the sins we have committed daily?  It is for good reason that Scripture tells us to 'confess our sins to one another' (James 5:16), for this is a part of all the other 'one another's' in Scripture that should be lived by Christians truly living by the Word of God.

Unfortunately today, this "passive" role in sanctification, this idea of yielding to God and trusting him to work in us "to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13), is sometimes so strongly emphasized that it is the only thing people are told about the path of sanctification. Sometimes the popular phrase "let go and let God" is given as a summary of how to live the Christian life. But this is a tragic distortion of the doctrine of sanctification, for it only speaks of one half of the part we must play, and, by itself, will lead Christians to become lazy and to neglect the active role that Scripture commands them to play in their own sanctification.

That active role which we are to play is indicated by Romans 8:13, where Paul says, "If by the Spirit
you put to death the deeds of the body you will live." Here Paul acknowledges that it is "by the Spirit" that we are able to do this. But he also says we must do it! It is not the Holy Spirit who is commanded to put to death the deeds of the flesh, but Christians!  But how can you do this if you do not recognise that you have sinned?  Similarly, Paul tells the Philippians, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13). Paul encourages them to obey even more than they did when he was present. He says that obedience is the way in which they "work out [their] own salvation," meaning that they will "work out" the further realization of the benefits of salvation in their Christian life.  The Philippians are to work at this growth in sanctification, and to do it solemnly and with reverence ("with fear and trembling"), for they are doing it in the presence of God himself.  Fear of God has largely been lost in our Churches - again through false teaching- and people treat Him more like an errand boy there to do their bidding.  But there is more: the reason why the Philippians are to work and to expect that their work will yield positive results is that "God is at work in you" - the prior and foundational work of God in sanctification means that their own work is empowered by God; therefore it will be worthwhile and will bear positive results.

There are many aspects to the active role that we are to play in sanctification. We are to "
Strive ... for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14); we are to "abstain from immorality" and so obey the will of God, which is our "sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3).  John says that those who hope to be like Christ when he appears will actively work at purification in this life: "And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:3). Paul tells the Corinthians to "shun immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18), and not to have partnership with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). He then says, "Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). This kind of striving for obedience to God and for holiness may involve great effort on our part, for Peter tells his readers to "make every effort" to grow in character traits that accord with godliness (2 Peter 1:5). Many specific passages of the New Testament encourage detailed attention to various aspects of holiness and godliness in life (see Rom. 12:1-13:14; Eph. 4:17-6:20; Phil. 4:4-9; Col. 3:5-4:6; 1 Peter 2:11-5:11; et al.). We are continually to build up patterns and habits of holiness, for one measure of maturity is that mature Christians "have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil" (Heb. 5:14).

The New Testament does not suggest any short-cuts by which we can grow in sanctification, but simply encourages us repeatedly to give ourselves to the old-fashioned, time-honoured means of Bible reading and meditation (Ps. 1:2; Matt. 4:4; John 17:17), prayer (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6), worship (Eph. 5:18-20), witnessing (Matt. 28:19-20), Christian fellowship (Heb. 10:24-25), and self-discipline or self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 1:8).  Sadly, discipling in the Word of God and witnessing have also been largely lost to our churches.  How many Christians have you seen witnessing here in Cardiff?

It is important that we continue to grow both in our passive trust in God to sanctify us and in our active striving for holiness and greater obedience in our lives. If we neglect active striving to obey God, we become passive, lazy Christians. If we neglect the passive role of trusting God and yielding to him, we become proud and overly confident in ourselves. In either case, our sanctification will be greatly deficient. We must maintain faith and diligence to obey at the same time. The old hymn wisely says, "
Trust and obey for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

One more point must be added:  sanctification is usually a corporate process in the New Testament. It is something that happens in community. We are admonished, "Let us consider how to
stir up one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb. 10:24-25). Together Christians are "built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5); together they are "a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9); together they are to "encourage one another and build one another up" (1 Thess. 5:11). Paul says that "to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Eph. 4:1) is to live in a special way in community - "with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:2-3). When that happens, the body of Christ functions as a unified whole, with each part "working properly," so that corporate sanctification occurs as it "makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love" (Eph. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-26; Gal. 6:1-2). It is significant that the fruit of the Spirit includes many things that build community ("love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," Gal. 5:22-23), whereas "the works of the flesh" destroy community ("fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like," Gal. 5:19-21).  All of these played a part in every deception in 'Savage Wolves' and caused the destruction of each community!

We see that sanctification affects our
intellect and our knowledge when Paul says that we have put on the new nature "which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Col. 3:10).  Again, rebuke, chastening, zealous repentance, forgiveness and sanctification follows the knowledge that sins (not 'mistakes') have been recognised as having been committed!  If sins are not exposed and rebuked the rest will not follow!  He prays that the Philippians may see their love "abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9). And he urges the Roman Christians to be "transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). Although our knowledge of God is more than intellectual knowledge, there is certainly an intellectual component to it, and Paul says that this knowledge of God should keep increasing throughout our lives:  a life "worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him" is one that is continually "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10). The sanctification of our intellects will involve growth in wisdom and knowledge as we increasingly "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5) and find that our thoughts are more and more the thoughts that God himself imparts to us in His Word.

Moreover, growth in sanctification will affect our
emotions. We will see increasingly in our lives emotions such as "love, joy, peace, patience" (Gal. 5:22). We will be able increasingly to obey Peter's command "to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul" (1 Peter 2:11). We will find it increasingly true that we do not "love the world or things in the world" (1 John 2:15), but that we, like our Saviour, delight to do God's will. In ever-increasing measure we will become "obedient from the heart" (Rom. 6:17), and we will "put away" the negative emotions involved in "bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander" (Eph. 4:31).

Moreover, sanctification will have an effect on our
will, our decision-making faculty, because God is at work in us, "to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). As we grow in sanctification we find, more and more, our will conformed to the will of our heavenly Father.

Sanctification will also affect our
spirit, the non-physical part of our beings. We are to "cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit and make holiness perfect in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1), and Paul says that a concern about the affairs of the Lord will mean taking thought for "how to be holy in body and spirit" (1 Cor. 7:34).  Again, these things cannot happen if sins go unrecognised.

Finally, sanctification affects our
physical bodies. Paul says, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23). Moreover, Paul encourages the Corinthians, "Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1; cf. 1 Cor. 7:34). As we become more sanctified in our bodies, our bodies become more and more useful servants of God, more and more responsive to the will of God and the desires of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27).  We will not let sin reign in our bodies (Rom. 6:12) nor allow our bodies to participate in any way in immorality (1 Cor. 6:13), but will treat our bodies with care and will recognize that they are the means by which the Holy Spirit works through us in this life. Therefore they are not to be recklessly abused or mistreated, but are to be made useful and able to respond to God's will: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Christians sometimes fail to recognize the wide range of motives for obedience to God that are found in the New Testament:  It is true that a desire to please God and express our love to him is a very important motive for obeying him - Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15), and, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:21; cf. 1 John 5:3). But many other motives are also given to us:  the need to keep a clear conscience before God (Rom. 13:5; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 2 Tim. 1:3; 1 Peter 3:16);  the desire to be a "vessel for noble use" and have increased effectiveness in the work of the kingdom (2 Tim. 2:20-21);  the desire to see unbelievers come to Christ through observing our lives (1 Peter 3:1-2, 15-16);  the desire to receive present blessings from God on our lives and ministries (1 Peter 3:9-12);  the desire to avoid God's displeasure and discipline on our lives (sometimes called "the fear of God") (Acts 5:11; 9:31; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1; Eph. 4:30; Phil. 2:12; 1 Tim. 5:20; Heb. 12:3-11; 1 Peter 1:17; 2:17; cf. the state of unbelievers in Rom. 3:18);   the desire to seek greater heavenly reward (Matt. 6:19-21; Luke 19:17-19; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10);   the desire for a deeper walk with God (Matt. 5:8; John 14:21; 1 John 1:6; 3:21-22; and, in the Old Testament, Ps. 66:18; Isa. 59:2);  the desire that angels would glorify God for our obedience (1 Tim. 5:21; 1 Peter 1:12);  the desire for peace (Phil. 4:9) and joy (Heb. 12:1-2) in our lives; and the desire to do what God commands, simply because his commands are right, and we delight in doing what is right (Phil. 4:8; cf. Ps. 40:8).

Finally it should be noted that true sanctification brings something that is evident every time you walk into a church Britain and talk to people - it
should bring great joy to us. The more we grow in likeness to Christ, the more we will personally experience the "joy" and "peace" that are part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and the more we will draw near to the kind of life that we will have in heaven. Paul says that as we become more and more obedient to God, "the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Rom. 6:22). He realizes that this is the source of our true joy. "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). As we grow in holiness we grow in conformity to the image of Christ, and more and more of the beauty of his character is seen in our own lives. This is the goal of perfect sanctification which we hope and long for, and which will be ours when Christ returns. "And every one who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).  Jesus told His first disciples that their obedience would result in the completion of joy in Him, and therefore also in them and in the whole fellowship. The joy he refers to is mentioned in his gospel: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11). "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything.... Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:22-24). "I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them" (John 17:13).

Clearly this joy is inseparable from the salvation that is present in the Son, but it is directly bound up with the person of the Son, who is himself present in the fellowship. Joy is a gift of the Father, even as the Son is a gift of the Father, and is present wherever the fellowship truly appears. But joy can never be perfectly known or fully complete because the fellowship itself, though real, is imperfectly realized. The present joy in the fellowship is a token of the ultimate expression of joy, which depends on the final revelation of the Son. In the Gospel, this final revelation required Jesus' "going away" so that he may "come again" (cf. John 16:16). 
Maranatha!

The loss of so much of the gospel truth reflects the lack of emphasis the contemporary church gives to the process of true discipleship and resultant sanctification.  Unfortunately, human systems which have taken hold in Britain, such as the Alpha Course and Rick Warren's ('Purpose Driven') deception, may not even couple the initial trusting in Christ and willing renunciation of sin with genuine repentance.  Any genuine gospel proclamation must include an invitation to make a conscious decision to forsake one's sins and come to Christ in faith, asking Christ for forgiveness of sins. If either the need to repent of sins or the need to trust in Christ for forgiveness is neglected, there is not a full and true proclamation of the gospel.  The primary offer of the gospel message is the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). And in Peter's preaching of the gospel he states:  "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19; cf. 2:38).  Coupled with the promise of forgiveness and eternal life should be an assurance that Christ will accept all who come to him in sincere repentance and faith seeking salvation: "Him who comes to me I will not cast out" (John 6:37).  How is it possible that so many people who have come into the church through modern 'church growth/discipline' initiatives have difficulty naming even the basics of the gospel?   How do they fit into the contemporary church so easily?  How far had the church slipped into humanism and other errors before these 'modern' heresies appeared?  What has the church lost sight of?  What does this say about the state of so many Christians in the church today?  What does Scripture tell us about the tolerance of sin that you would have us believe are just 'mistakes'?  'Savage Wolves' deals with serious heresy not ''mistakes'!  Even if you are writing about those who supported the heretics and their heresy out of ignorance, fear, or to protect their own position in the church, Scripture clearly points out the path they should take.  Since we have probably already answered every ramification of deception and its consequences in this article we will not waste time repeating ourselves, but advise you to read our answer to the accusation of 'no love' on this page:

(Continued on page 248)

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