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The Importance of Assurance and the Danger of Counterfeit Holiness

October 11, 2006

There was something else I said Sunday that you’ll hear me say many times over the next several weeks.  “Assurance of your acceptance is what fuels your obedience.”  We’ve seen that the assurance that all those whom God has justified will be glorified is the main point of Romans 5-8.

Yesterday morning I was listening to a lecture by Carl Trueman on John Owen.  In an aside, he cast the entire difference between Catholic and Protestant theology in terms of certainty and uncertainty.  Before the Reformation, you received the sacraments, avoided mortal sins, did good works and hoped for the best on judgment day.   Uncertainty of how you stand before God was the engine that drove your good works.   It was revolutionary of Luther to even bring up the question, “How can I be assured of my standing before God?”  The Roman answer was always, “You can’t, but that keeps you humble and honest.”  Luther elevated the believer’s assurance to the center of the Christian life.   The reformers said that you were justified, declared righteous, by grace alone through faith alone, and then your good works were done out of gratitude for what you are assured God has already done for you.   True holiness is the fruit of your union with Christ by which you already have an unchangeable righteous status before God.

But beware the danger of a counterfeit holiness.   Yesterday I posted a quotation from Walter Marshall but I omitted a phrase, saving it for today. 

“The more you strive against your lusts without faith, the more your lust will be stirred up–even though you might be able to work hard enough to restrain yourself from fulfilling your lusts.” 

Does that last phrase scare you?  It should.  Marshall is saying that it is possible to restrain yourself from acting upon your lusts without faith.   And for some people, this is all they want.  They don’t really care about God, they’re only interested in Him if He can help them improve themselves.  Life, for them, is a self-improvement project.  Life is a quest for self-esteem and a good reputation.  If Christianity can be a means to that end, they’ll take it.  If it doesn’t seem to work, they’ll reject it.  It’s the idolatry of morality.  It’s not true holiness.

True holiness is a fruit of faith in Christ.  True obedience flows from love for Christ.   Accept no substitutes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Egana permalink
    October 11, 2006 12:04 pm

    oh ouch ouch ouch!

    I am rightly rebuked! not that I am pursuing a couterfeit holiness all the time: but when I read this:

    “even though you might be able to work hard enough to restrain yourself from fulfilling your lusts”

    I thought Wow! That woudl be great! how can I get summa that?

    Man, there ARE some days where self-improvement is all I want. And I justify it by saying that it is loving toward those I am around, to at least improve myself for their benefit…

    I think “Splenda” has been tricking me into thinking that it is just as good as sugar… it’s the same molecule, right, just reversed? and it might even taste the same in a cup of coffee…

    but its not real sugar, its a man-made counterfeit.

    ouch ouch ouch…

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