Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Battling Unbelief with the Small Group

I am posting my reflections from the small group our family attends. We are covering John Piper's series, "Battling Unbelief." Though the teaching aims at certain goals, in the providence of God, it is interesting to see where our discussion lead. God is good and it is encouraging to gather together for the purpose of encouraging one another in the faith.

  • God is ultimate.

  • God is the most self-centered being in the universe. This is not wrong, in fact, if God were not completely self-centered it would be evil. Passages are all over the Bible to support such a view.

  • My desire for pleasure and God's desire for glory are in no way conflicted. To put it another way, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." The whole idea of Battling Unbelief is to find superior satisfaction in the all surpassing worth of God. He alone is our treasure and He alone is able to satisfy the longings of every human heart.

  • God is not served by human hands. It is wrong for people to enter into "service" for the Lord as if He needed anything. Acts 17 teaches us, "And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." He lacks nothing and therefore for us to offer something to Him as though He was needy is an offense. We serve in the strength He Himself supplies, as Peter teaches us, "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." This brings humility and a lowly character is needed in the battle of unbelief.

Battling Unbelief:

  • We are called to have a passion for "practical holiness."

  • In the gospel we are saved by God's grace through Christ's merit on our behalf. Justification is by faith alone apart from works of the Law. We have peace with God apart from works of the Law. According to the Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith, "We believe that in a free act of righteous grace God justifies the ungodly by faith alone apart from works, pardoning their sins, and reckoning them as righteous and acceptable in His presence. Faith is thus the sole instrument by which we, as sinners, are united to Christ, whose perfect righteousness and satisfaction for sins is alone the ground of our acceptance with God.."

  • We are called by God not only to repent of our sins and come to Christ in faith, we are also called to holiness, without which none will see the Lord. There is an inseparable connection between faith and works. It is important to understand, we don't work for salvation-we work because we are saved. The justified child of God will produce the evidence of righteousness in his or her life. Piper states it this way, "'The great error that I am trying to explode is the error that says, "Faith in God is one thing and the fight for holiness is another thing. You get your justification by faith, and you get your sanctification by works. You start the Christian life in the power of the Spirit, you press on in the efforts of the flesh. The battle for obedience is optional because only faith is necessary for final salvation.' Faith alone is necessary for justification, but the purity that confirms faith's reality is also necessary for final salvation." Consider these passages, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14-15)," "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29)," " For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matt. 6:14-15)," "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13)," and "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:7-9)." Thus it is imperative we understand God's call to holiness accompanies faith.

  • "Faith itself is the agent of the works. They do not merely accompany faith they come through or by faith. Faith is the agent that produces the works. And it does so necessarily. Thus the works are evidence of true faith, and are not the means of our salvation the way faith is. They are the evidence faith is real and thus are necessary for final salvation, though not the ground of it, as the death and righteousness of Christ are, or the means of it as faith is."

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