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Gospel Counseling

April 10, 2007

I’m blaming my infrequent blogging on the class I’m taking from CCEF.  Here’s a paper I wrote for it today:

The sentence that impacted me the most from Sinclair Ferguson’s The Christian Life was a line he quoted in the chapter on justification from a hymn by Zinzendorf: “This spotless robe the same appears / When ruined nature sinks in years.”

As we get older, we mature in Christlikeness; we make progress in the mortification of sin.   As we are strengthened in our assurance by these evidences of grace in our lives, we might expect to feel less acutely our need for the imputed righteousness of Christ.  But, in fact, the opposite is the case.  The aging process makes us more aware of our weakness.  The sanctification process makes us more aware of our sinfulness.  A godly person is more, not less, aware of the indwelling sin that remains.   For this reason, the ultimate ground for our assurance lies not in the evidence of our changed lives, but in looking outside ourselves and cherishing the alien righteousness of Christ.  Mature saints do not have more assurance because they have more personal holiness.  Rather they have more personal holiness because they have learned habitually to do what David Powlison called back in lecture one, “extrospection”.   Looking outside of ourselves for help and trusting in Christ for our righteousness is the key to growing in holiness.  So Ferguson is right when he says that “the deeper truths (if there are such things) are really the old basic truths of the gospel.” 

For example (returning now to the Zinzendorf hymn), I have felt some fear and sadness in the last year over my declining athletic ability, the aggravation of my asthma, borderline high blood pressure, etc.  So it was cheering for me to think that even as my ruined nature sinks in years, the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers me never changes.  This is an application of gospel truth to everyday anxieties, and this is why we never graduate beyond basic gospel truths as we grow in the Christian life.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    April 10, 2007 3:41 pm

    Have you thought much about your ailing body/life in light of the coming resurrection of the dead? I guess I kind of had this question on my mind since your sermon on Sunday because you had spoke of being with the Lord in heaven. I thought, what about being with the Lord in resurrection? I guess my question spawns from the idea that I will go to heaven after I die, but won’t be there too awful long. Resurrection is just around the corner.

  2. April 10, 2007 10:54 pm

    When I say “going to heaven” I mean the walking in the New Jerusalem in my resurrected body. Stay tuned, I’ll post a sermon excerpt tomorrow explaining my full position on the intermediate state.

  3. Oddball permalink
    April 11, 2007 7:45 am

    I know this wasn’t the main point of your post, but I can relate to the sadness over declining athletic ability. The other day I was playing with our 3-year-old David on a playground while our 9-year-old Jimmy was having baseball practice. I tried doing a somersault while hanging from the monkey bars, and I nearly pulled both arms out of their sockets!

  4. egana permalink
    April 25, 2007 8:36 pm


    I tried to show my 10yo daughter how to do a cartwheel…


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