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Posts Tagged ‘licentiousness’


A Treasure Chest of Grace

As I continue to read Letters of John Newton, I am just amazed that so few people have sought these out and fewer cherish them.  His pastoral care is a balm to my soul as he tenderly applies layer after layer of the gospel.  His letters to Rev. Barlass, in particular, focus on our on-going struggle with sin.  Rev. Barless was a minister of the Secession Church of Scotland.  Sounds to me like he was one of the Seceders or Associate Presbyterians from whom the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has come.  As such, he had defended the free offer of the gospel and tried to free the church from patronage among other things.  But this man also knew his own sin, and sought out Rev. Newton to guide him.  Young pastors, have YOU found an older man experienced in all the ways of the gospel?

First, Newton sets his heart at ease in that he is not different from us.  We are “like coins from the same mint.”  But, due to his calling, Rev. Barless had greater experiental knowledge of his own sinfulness.

“They that go down to the sea in ships, and do their business in great waters, experience hardships, and likewise see wonders, which people who live on the shore have no idea of.  Many of the Lord’s people are comparatively landsmen; others are mariners, and are called to conflict a great part of their lives with storms and raging billows.”

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I’m not sure if enjoying is the right word.  I guess the right word would be benefitting.  I am greatly benefitting from my reading of The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  He is able to expand on some ideas found in his sermons on the Parable of the Lost Sons.  He develops a better understanding of both sin and lostness.

We tend to tie sin in with rebellion- which it is.  But sin is craftier than that.  It can look like obedience!

It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.

His obedience produces a pride that keeps him apart from his father and younger brother.  Sin can work thru “obedience” to keeps us from Christ and His people.  We seek to save ourselves.  This is the work of the religious fanatic Martin Luther said lives in each of us, the default of our hearts, trying to earn merit before God.

You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have “rights.”  God owes you answered prayer, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die.  You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.

Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

Keller continues to say that these 2 conditions are not equal.  It is easier for the licentious to see his sin and seek to return home.  The legalist thinks he already is home!  He is more blind to his sin because he looks so good.

What are the signs of an elder brother (legalist, self-righteous, Pharisee)?

The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter.

Keller notes this can function in 2 ways.  If I perceive I have been obedient- I am angry with God and rage against him.  If I perceive I have not been obedient- I am angry with myself and become filled with self-loathing.  Hey, been there, done that- and still take trips there.

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