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Foundations Lesson 11: Concluding thoughts on the Christian life.

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Foundations Lesson 11: Concluding Thoughts on the Christian Life

As we come now to the last Sunday of the year, this will also mark the last lesson in our training course. I have loved investing in this series and have been blessed to serve. I have enjoyed walking through the rudimentary things of the faith, exploring building blocks.

I want to reiterate what I said in the beginning of this course. Our mission is to grow in the knowledge, image and ministry of Christ with our motivation being, love. This course has been about faithfulness and stewardship, learning how to be good stewards of the sound doctrine God has given us in his word. We want to steward and not invent, be faithful and not diverge from the biblical witness. And, so our mission at its heart is that by grasping more and more of our understanding of the faith, we may grow in Christ, grow in his word. Today we will conclude with what I'm going to simply call a few basic notes about being a Christian, or five basic statements on the Christian life. The text we will be focusing upon this morning is Romans Ch. 8:28-30.

I want to leave this course with a few statements about the Christian life which I think are foundational. I took these five statements largely from this text but I won't constrain us to this passage. We'll do some jumping around as well.  

Let me introduce the statements, then we will examine each of them more closely.

Statement #1: The Christian life is for the glory of God.

Statement #2: The Christian life begins by the sovereign grace of God.

Statement #3: The Christian life is progressive.

Statement #4: The Christian life is lived in community.

Statement #5: The Christian life is preserved by God.

Statement #1: The Christian life is for the Glory of God.

Have you ever asked, “Why did God save me?” “Why did he save me or anyone at all?” What is the purpose of God in his plan to redeem a particular people through Jesus Christ? Why does he go about saving sinners? There are different answers at different levels, but the ultimate and final answer that forms the backbone of the other answers is to bring God's unwavering, immutable commitment to his own glory. 

Jonathan Edwards wrote a book titled, The End for Which the World Was Made. The title alone presses you to think, what is the reason for creation? Further, what is the reason for redemption? What is this all about? The Westminster shorter catechism contemplated the question a hundred years before Edwards and both arrived at the simple answer now made famous. The Westminster shorter catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” 

Why does God do things? What is his driving force, his ultimate reason for the drama of creation and redemption? The answer is that God desires his value and intrinsic worth to go public. That's glory! If something valuable is rightly valued, its glory is simply a coming to grips with its real worth and that is what God intended for all his works to bring him, praise and glory. So, the first statement concerning the Christian life is that it is for the glory of God.

In Romans Ch.8:28, Paul gives Christians a grand picture of what suffering, hardship and trials are for the Christian. It describes “all things” as agents and tools for the good that God has planned for the believer. Paul encourages his readers with the profound truth that each experience of unpleasant, even unspeakable pains is pregnant in meaning and purpose and every tear works for our good. The life of a follower of Jesus is one in which he walks with joy and sorrow intermixed in the same heart. We must see that our circumstances are not incidental flukes that have little to do with God’s plans, but rather they work for the benefit of those “who love God”, Christians. Notice that the text first describes Christians as “those who love God.”

Then, we find the other side of the coin of what constitutes a Christian, “who are called according to his purpose.” A Christian from the human perspective is somebody who loves God. By their fruit you shall know them. You recognize Christians as being God lovers. A Christian from the divine perspective broadens this by looking at the root of what causes us to be God lovers, what brings about this newfound affection for God. Effectual calling, the fact that God has summoned us, produces love for God in us. God gives us new life by summoning us. He grants us faith, repentance and a love for him. In other words, Paul is saying what John said, “We love him because he first loved us.” An important word to grasp here is “purpose.” He calls us according to his “purpose.” The idea of purpose indicates a plan of God, a purpose or mission God sets out to complete. God has a purpose in calling certain individuals in whom he has a plan and goal to work out salvation.

We return to the question which we were considering. “Why does God make God lovers?” I think the striking answer is because God is also a God lover. What’s this salvation economy about? The answer is the glory of God. God does all for God's glory.

In the book of psalms, which was the hymnbook of the people of Israel and what their choirs would sing, we find the constant idea that God acts on behalf of his name. Here are a few texts so that you can see how central this is: 

Psalm 25:11, 79:9, 115:1

God echoes through the prophets the same idea:

Jeremiah 14:7

Ezekiel 36:22-23, 32

Isaiah 48:9,11

God is God centered. All creation is made and the redemption and regeneration of a people through Jesus Christ is for the glory of God. This can never get off balance or we will. 

(During the class, I read a selection from pages 5-6 from Brothers We Are Not Professionals by John Piper.)

The center of redemption is not man. Salvation is not man centered. The Christian life isn't about us primarily, but about God, with us secondarily. God is committed to his glory. The reason we exist as Christians is for that same purpose and end that God be glorified in all things. If you’re a Christian it is because of the glory of God. God is committed to glorifying himself and as John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” In 1 Cor. 10 Paul gives the categorical statement of the aroma of the Christian life. It is lived with the agenda that something of that inherent value, that immeasurable worth that lies in the being of God, may be made public by how we conduct our lives.

Why do some Christians give up everything for the cause of Christ? Some say that approximately 70 million Christians have been martyred since the time of Christ. Why would so many millions say to death, “eat me?” Because many of them were as a man who walked upon a field and found a treasure and when they weighed what they found in Jesus compared to what they had in their possession, they said, “gain” and to their former life, “loss”. The Christian life puts public the worth of God when the Christian loves God. How do you honor the loveliness of God but by loving God?

So, the Christian life is lived God centered, and the reason you’re a Christian is because God is God centered. He's firmly committed to glorify you with his son Jesus because it brings greater glory to himself. Let’s pray like this: God act for your own name; not to us but to you be glory.

Statement #2: The Christian life begins by the sovereign grace of God.

A basic truth for the Christian is that he is not born one. He doesn’t get salvation by political persuasion; he does not buy into it with money. The scriptures have different ways of talking about it. This text for instance looks at the moment you become a Christian from the angle of God’s summons to faith. If you go to the letters of John, you will more than likely notice that he speaks about the same thing using different language like “born of God” to speak of the concept that God gives us new life by his own sovereign grace. A Christian is born by sovereign grace. Sovereign because God is free to show mercy to whom he desires. He is free in that he needs no permission to intervene into our lives. He is the highest court in the land and whatever he wants he does. Does God account to us or us to him? It is sovereign grace because it isn’t earned or given as a reward. It is pure charity not a paycheck. We are slaves to sin and for God to set us free is nothing less than his sheer mercy. God saves us not according to anything we have done but according to grace.

Notice in particular Romans 8:29. God does two things to his people before we are Christians in order for us to become Christians. He sets his love on us in eternity. That’s what foreknown here means. It isn’t the idea of God looking into the future to see what’s going to happen, but rather that God knew his people beforehand and chose to enter into a covenant with us. (See Jer. 1).

God’s knowledge of people is not just mere factual details about us, but an intimate knowledge of us. Those whom he loved beforehand, he predestined. Then, at the right time he calls us, justifies us and one day glorifies us. But, all this begins and is sourced in God’s love for us and his sovereign intervention. Just as Jesus told his disciples, “You did not choose me but I you.” We must always begin here: God showed us mercy. To be a Christian and to live the Christian life, it is breathed every day the simple words, “How I need thee every hour.” We are dependent on his grace. Every drop of spiritual vigor is a gift. No one can birth themselves into the Christian life, but God does it freely. It is founded and grounded in the sovereign work of God. And, this sovereign grace is tethered to God's commitment to his own glory that we spoke about a second ago. Why does God set his immutable love on flaky sinners? It is because he is glorified in loving the unlovely. It pleases him to love the unpleasant. If it were not for God's mercy and for his glory, we all would be lost in sin. But, he loved us for his own name's sake and saved us from our sins.

Statement #3: The Christian life is progressive.

The Christian life is not a one act show when it comes to being conformed to the image of Christ. Rather in Romans 8:30 notice that God calls; God justifies; God glorifies. There is a sequence in which these occur. Overall, one could say that the Christian life is progressive in that while a person is justified when he first believes, he now exists in the in-between-land of justification and glorification. There is a tension between what we are declared to be in full and what we are not yet in experience.

This process between justification and glorification as we progressively become conformed to the image of Christ has been called the process of sanctification. Sanctification is a big category in that it speaks to the ongoing process of becoming more and more obedient to the moral law of God in heart and deed, looking more and more like Jesus. However, as we have alluded to, there is a tension. We are not yet complete. We, as Christians, have been set free from the guilt of sin and from the power of sin, yet must war against the presence of sin until we see the Lord. We are works in progress. We have the same mind the Apostle Paul had in his epistle to the Philippians (Philippians 3).

As we live the Christian life, we can be tempted to defeatism leading to some powerless antinomianism where we say, “I can’t ever get rid of this temper.” Then a certain remaining sin starts being given a hall pass. We stop giving this or that particular sin the same heated response because it just feels useless. If we live according to the flesh, we will live defeated, but if we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live victoriously. Sin is to be mortified, put to death, and we must realize that we have this power. We have been united with Christ by faith and have been set free, not only from the guilt of sin, but also its power. Christian, we are no longer in bondage to sin. Sin is no longer our King. Our old man has been crucified. Who we were in Adam has been effectively put off. Sin will have no dominion over us. The land of defeat can press us to either staunch legalism or to abuse grace to justify sin. I think it does both, but this land must be crossed by the wings of the gospel which as the old poet says, "The gospel bids me fly and gives me wings." 

Then, there is the triumphalism of a second grace theology which sees sanctification as being all at once. This teaches that at some point in the Christian life God can perfect a person where they no longer battle sin but are totally perfect. In Philippians 3, Paul displays true Christian maturity as avoiding both pitfalls. While he says that he has not attained perfection which denies triumphalism, he also denies defeatism by saying, "…one thing I do, I press on toward the goal." He knows he will reach it when he sees his Savior. Paul is honest about the reality of the ongoing presence of sin in the life of a believer, but he is also honest about the final end of sin that is coming for the believer. Christians will at last be set free from the presence of sin just as we have been freed from its power and guilt. 

The bottom line is this: true Christians grow in the ways of Christ, looking more and more like Jesus. The more satisfied we are with Christ and the more we grow in our love for God, the more he is glorified in us.

Statement #4: The Christian life is lived in community.

I won't spend too much time here, but I don't want to miss out on noting the plurality of persons present in the text: "Those he predestined, he called; those he justified, those he glorified" etc. Even when the scripture tells us what predestination is, it says that Christ might be the firstborn among many brothers. The Christian life is a life lived among brothers and sisters. We are born again into a family of born again people. The Bible is replete with the necessity of having others walk the walk with us. You may be a pilgrim, but you’re not by yourself and it will not work well if you try to live the Christian life alone.

First, God has made it clear that the born again believer loves other born again people; he's drawn to them (1 John 5:1-2). Second, God requires our service to his people (Ephesians 4:12-16). We are given gifts to benefit the body. God says that you’re a hand, or an eye (etc.) and each of us is needed for the success of the other. We need each other to be able to press on toward maturity. The local church is an expression of the universal church. We cannot claim to love the universal church if we do not love the local one where he places us and knits us together.

Finally, fellowship, being in community with other believers, is one way in which God meets us with his grace. The two primary ways God makes us look like Jesus is by immersing ourselves in his word and through prayer, but the third is by being in community with other Christians. We need people to pray for us! I remember being kind of shocked at the end of one of Paul's epistles where he asked that they pray that he may have boldness. I suddenly thought, he's asking them to intercede for him before God that he may display Godly boldness. He's asking them to pray for his sanctification, and he expects their prayers to do something. Let us ask our fellow Christians for prayer with boldness that God will answer. He is pleased to bring change and renewal through the intercession of saints for us.

Statement #5: The Christian life is preserved by God.

If not for the grace of God I would lose my salvation. If I could lose it, I already have. If you notice in verse 30 though, each verb is done by God and the recipient of one verb is the same recipient of the next. That’s a complicated way of saying if you’re justified with God now, God will glorify you later. Assurance is rooted in the grace of our God and his commitment to save us for his glory through Jesus and it is not rooted in our own capacities. God saves and must continue to save. The only reason we're still walking the narrow way this afternoon or tomorrow is God. He is the anchor who will not let us drift outside the scope of his vision. He holds us fast. The Christian life is lived with humble dependence on God where we say, “Wash me savior or I die.” To close, I want to emphasize these basic truths: God is for God; he saves us by sovereign grace and transforms us day by day after the likeness of his son, doing this work amongst a community of believers by various means of grace, preserving us by his grace for his glory. So, I will close with this passage of scripture, and then I'll give some book recommendations:

Romans 8:28-39

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