Highlights of Sanctification: Overcoming Modern Challenges
On Friday and Saturday I spent a wonderful time in Indianapolis with over 300 other believers being fed by Tim Challies and David Murray as they addressed the topic of growing as believers in the midst of the unique challenges of the modern world. The Second Reformed Presbyterian Church hosted the time well by providing a warm welcome to all, making available room for the huge layout of books by Reformation Heritage Books with tasty refreshments nearby, and offering special times of question and answer sessions with David and Tim, be it for youth around pizza or pastors around a tasty lunch. Certainly the time was a taste of the eternal fellowship we will fully enjoy one day.
As I believe it would be well worth the investment of time to listen to their messages, here are four paragraphs highlighting each one. To listen to the particular talk, just click the title’s hyperlink.
Passive Sanctification (David Murray) – With precision yet politeness, David pointed out a current approach of sanctification being offered by certain teachers that puts an unhealthy overemphasis on justification. The idea promoted by these seemingly well-meaning teachers is that the goal of sanctification consists of simply resting in your justification by faith. Though there is an attractiveness to this teaching which was highlighted, believing there is one silver bullet for sanctification is an oversimplification that leads to seven dangers that David pointed out. Not only are there theological dangers in confusing and conflating the doctrines of justification and sanctification with this approach, but also experiential ones such as a loss of the motivations that God has given us to grow and the pleasure that he personally has in seeing us do so.
Radical Sanctification (Tim Challies) – Speaking from I Thessalonians 4, Tim showed from Scripture how the call to be radical does not mean we need to go overseas or to live like a monk as some would emphasize. Rather, the radical nature of the Biblical life is in how rather ordinary it should be. In instructing the church on Christian growth, Paul made it clear that what is truly radical are people who are sexually pure, showing sacrificial love for one another, and who work hard. So we were urged with useful applications to be decent, be devoted, and be diligent by making it our ambition not to be ambitious, but instead to live intentionally quiet lives that honor Christ and promote his kingdom.
Positive Sanctification (David Murray) – From Philippians 4:7-8, David stressed that as we live in this negative culture, with technology giving it a myriad of ways to influence us, that we must meet it with a deliberate mindset. The link between our growth in godliness and the need for rigorous, systematic mental thought was stressed. In a way that reminded me of Bunyan’s Holy War, David told us that if we do not marshal our thoughts to garrison our minds and protect our souls, we will let down drawbridges through which enemy thoughts can come in that discourage and depress us. Using the six categories of thought that Paul highlights in this passage, we were shown how to use media in practical ways that stress truth more than falsehood, beauty more than baseness, etc. As we “receive good news like Teflon and bad news like Velcro,” we need to work hard at protecting our hearts and minds. If we do so, we will shine with the peace of God the Scriptures promise here.
Quiet Sanctification (Tim Challies) – In the concluding message, Tim addressed two major hindrances to our holiness brought on by this age of new technology in which we live, as we move from a print culture to a digital one. The first hindrance is distraction, which Tim humorously yet effectively illustrated with the unnatural sound of the “beep” which interrupts our days, be it the microwave, email, cell phone, dishwasher, etc. As these constant interruptions make us shallow because we cannot think deeply or wisely about matters, he urged us to remember that we have been created and redeemed to have directed lives that take every thought captive to Christ through the Biblical practice of meditation. The other hindrance was busyness, as technology and its purveyors try to convince us that we can multitask ourselves through our days. Tim explained effectively how multitasking is really just giving “continual, partial time” to a variety of things rather than having focused thinking, making us skimmers rather than true readers. He concluded by reminding us of how we need to make technology serve us rather than the other way around. Finding times to “fast” from it and holding up Jesus as one who showed us how to live a directed life were applications given to that end.
These messages will definitely encourage you in the goal of “pursuing sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Using the technology that makes them available to you to listen to them is a means of fulfilling the very things they taught this weekend.