Do We Sin Less Now?

By Aimee Byrd

TF_Blog-2 (1)

If we are growing in our faith, does this mean we sin less? The answer is both yes and no.


 

If we really are growing in the faith, shouldn’t we be sinning less? What does it mean to be a mature Christian? After all, since we are being sanctified and transformed into Christ’s likeness, I would expect that at thirty-seven I would not be struggling with sin like I was at seventeen. Well, I have a yes and a no to this answer.

Yes.

Looking back to my seventeen-year-old self certainly makes me feel holier. Many of the sins that I committed on a regular basis back then are not even desirable to me anymore. For that I am very thankful. And in the twenty years that have passed, God has given me better desires. Compared to Aimee at seventeen, they are much deeper. I see the fruit of righteousness being cultivated in my life. And yet my barometer of holiness is not to be compared to a younger version of myself; it is to be compared to the holy God.

No.

Here I am at thirty-seven, torn up over my sin on a regular basis. If God has been faithful in my sanctification, why am I still struggling so much with my sin? As you probably know from experience yourself, in his grace God progressively reveals our sin to us as we grow in holiness. It’s not so much that we’re developing new sins as Christians; rather it’s that our sins have been developing, and now God is going to reveal them to us as he prepares us to face them. As we grow in our love for the Lord, we also hate our sin more. As we meditate on the cross, we are exposed.

With growth comes a mature awareness of our sin. I would like to think that I am sinning less as a thirty-seven-year-old, but a growing understanding of the severe depth of my sinfulness also assures me of the processes of sanctification. At seventeen, I was well aware of a list of sins that I was committing. I even knew that some of them were pretty bad. But I had the immature idea that as I grew, I would knock off those sins one by one and then be a mature Christian. I was completely deceived about the gravity of my sinfulness. Repentance has become much more dear to me as I have grown in holiness.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can know that we are no longer dead in our sins but alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1, 5). Because we are forgiven and have the work of his Spirit applying Christ’s accomplishment on our behalf, we can push forward toward holiness. Our unity in Christ gives us a growing longing and desire to know him and be like him. And because of our union with Christ, we truly are being sanctified. Only God knows the number of our sins, but every one of them was paid for by Christ’s blood.

Yes, we are saved by grace, but that grace is expensive. Therefore we abhor sin, hold fast to God’s promises in Christ, and, by his Spirit, we are now able to mortify sin and truly grow toward our assured goal of glorification with him. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6)..


 

This article is adapted from Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith by Aimee Byrd

BOOK HIGHLIGHT – Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin by Ford Lewis Battles

Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin
by Ford Lewis Battles

424 pages | Direct Price: $19.99 $15.00 | Paperback | Published: 1980

Summary: Calvin’s Institutes is one of the most important theological works of the last millennium, but even seminarians and pastors have difficulty finishing it. Battles was experienced in guiding students through this volume, teaching it for forty-five years. His detailed outline and summary are now available for everyone interested in Calvin’s great work.

About the Author:

Ford Lewis Battles (1915–1979) received his PhD from Hartford Theological Seminary. Battles was a visiting professor of church history at Calvin Theological Seminary and also taught at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Hartford Theological Seminary. He was widely recognized as one of the foremost Calvin scholars of his era. He is also the editor of The Piety of John Calvin.

What Others Say About this Book:

“Students and teachers of Calvin are [now] further indebted to Ford Lewis Battles, the noted Calvin translator and scholar . . . . Without the availability of the Analysis, perhaps more people will take up the challenge to read (and more to teach!) the Institutes.”

– David Foxgrover, Sixteenth Century Journal

“Will surely prove to be a useful guide for serious students of the Institutes, providing a comprehensive overview of the longer work.”

– Maria Bulgarella, Calvin Theological Journal

“An excellent outline of Calvin’s Institutes.”

Christianity Today

_____________________________________________________________________________

Our mis­sion is to serve Christ and his church by pro­duc­ing clear, engag­ing, fresh, and insight­ful appli­ca­tions of Reformed theology.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Teaching the Tough Stuff: God Rules the World

thinking-kid-1428260

In a time when governments and kingdoms seem to fail us. It’s important to remind our kids that God still rules the world. But how do we teach them? Sally Michael gives us some advice.


 

When you were little, did you ever sit on someone’s lap and steer the car down the driveway? When you got out of the car, did you think, “I drove the car!”? Did you really drive the car? Who really drove the car? In some ways, we are all like little children, thinking we are driving the car. We think we are in charge, controlling things, when really God is the driver—He is controlling all things. Powerful people especially, like kings and presidents, might think they can control things. But God is really still in charge. A king might be on the throne of his country, but God is on the throne of heaven! He is the King of Kings. “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:3).

God is the one writing the story of the world, not kings, rulers, or presidents. Do you know who decides who will be the next president? In the end, it is not the people who vote for him, but the God who rules over all things. God, not kings and rulers, is who makes countries great or weak.

The people of Israel had a king—the very best king. God was their Ruler. But they decided they wanted a man for a king, like all the other people had. Was that a good idea—to trust a man instead the all-knowing, all-powerful, good God? Did they understand that God is the best ruler of all?

It was a bad thing that Israel really didn’t want God’s rule. So God gave them a man as a king to teach them a lesson. This was already part of God’s plan for Israel. Even before Saul was born, God had chosen Saul as the king of Israel. So God sent the prophet Samuel to crown1 Saul as king.

But Saul wasn’t king for very long before he forgot that God is the greatest Ruler and all His laws are good and right. Instead of bowing to the King of Kings and obeying God as the greatest and wisest Ruler, Saul disobeyed God and did not follow God’s instructions. Saul thought he could disobey the King of Kings just because he was the king of Israel.

Is it okay for anyone to disobey God? No, not even a king has the right to disobey God. A king is not greater than God. A king cannot change God’s commands. A king does not know all things. Only God has the right, power, wisdom, and goodness to rule the world well. So every king and leader needs God.

But Saul did not trust God or thank God for His help. He did not have a heart that followed God. When Saul led the army of Israel to fight against the Amalekites and won, Saul set up a statue to show his own greatness. Saul did not proclaim the greatness and worth of God. He did not give God the glory for being strong and winning over the enemy.

In the end, because Saul did not have the heart to follow God and did not want God’s rule over him, God would not let him be king any longer. God was showing Israel who really is in charge and who is the Most High.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Daniel 2:20–21)

There was another king who did not recognize God as the King of Kings. He didn’t rule over Israel like Saul; he ruled over Babylon, and his name was Nebuchadnezzar. God made Babylon a great country and helped Nebuchadnezzar to build beautiful buildings. But instead of thanking and worshiping God for being the Most High, the King of all things, this is what Nebuchadnezzar said: “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).

What was wrong in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart? Why does this dishonor God? No one can take away the praise that belongs to God. God is the great King over all kings. He is the one who makes kings to be kings. He is the one who makes countries strong or weak. He is the one who gives all good things. But Nebuchadnezzar did not recognize all that God did for him. Nebuchadnezzar boasted about his own greatness instead of the greatness and worth of God.

What do you think God did about that? “While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you’ ” (Daniel 4:31). God took away all the power, money, and respect Nebuchadnezzar had. He was no longer a great king. Now he had nothing to be proud about. He was not in charge. Even kings are ruled by God. Kings and presidents rule for only a little while. But God rules forever.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35)

It is good for us all to remember that kings and presidents are just men who God rules over. He makes them rulers, and He takes their rule away. Rulers can do only what God lets them do. They can rule only as long as God lets them. They cannot do whatever they want—no one can do that but God. Every ruler, just like every person, needs God.

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. (Psalm 47:6–8)

Suggested Activity: With your family, make a list of three to five people who rule your city, state, or country. Find one or two verses you can pray for them. Make a prayer list with these names and verses. Pray together as a family.


This article is adapted from God’s Providence by Sally Michael

 

Author Interview with Clifford Foreman

This week’s author interview is with Clifford Foreman, author of Literature in the Faithful Learning series.

Foreman_Clifford

 

  • What was your purpose in writing this?

I hope that I can convince some people that, for a number of reasons, it is important for Christians to study literature. Certainly reading great works teaches us to use the language better ourselves. It also can help us to understand the Bible better. Beyond that, we can experience the sheer delight that comes from beautifully arranged words. That delight reflects the way God created us as human beings.

 

  • What works of literature did you concentrate on and why?

I teach American literature, so I decided to stick to American writers mainly. Of course, our tradition is rooted in the English tradition, and I have taught British novels, Romantic and Victorian poetry, Shakespeare–but particularly in the twentieth century, American writers emerged as leaders in the literature of the world. So the two works I give the most attention to are a poem by Frost and a passage from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In my mind, Fitzgerald and Frost are two of the greatest writers in our American tradition and in the twentieth century–even though neither won the Nobel Prize, and Eliot, Faulkner, and Hemingway did.

 

  • Though you defend reading works by secular writers, do you see any dangers in it?

Certainly–there is always danger in paying attention to the ideas and feelings of our unbelieving neighbors.  Spending our lives reading their works is like living on the border of the Kingdom of God, rather than moving inland. But if we are going to speak to those outside, we have to speak their language, we have to be part of that world and to learn to live in it well. Also, though, our neighbors are gifted and those gifts were given to them by our Heavenly Father. We should be able to appreciate their work and praise the one who enabled it at the same time.

 

  • What do you think about the state of reading and writing in our culture?

There certainly are threats to reading and writing. The resurgence of the visual element in communication sometimes seems to have handicapped people in their ability to argue. Many students concentrate on developing their visual abilities and ignore the importance of the language. That’s true of Christians as well. When I tell my students that I think their abuse of the language is a sin, they laugh. We should be thinking God for our language continually. But in many ways the internet, smart phones, and email have led people to write and read more. Many of our children have developed agile and eloquent thumbs.  And book clubs are springing up like dandelions; people are reading novels as well as seeing the movies made from them. It’s important that while, on the one hand, we enjoy the blessings of the new media, we hold onto the language with the other.

 

 

BOOK HIGHLIGHT – The Accidental Voyage by Doug Bond

The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries
by Douglas Bond

258 pages | Direct Price: $12.99 $10.00 | Paperback | Published: 2005

Summary: Two American teens travel in Europe with David McCallum, an English organist known in his parish as Mr. Pipes. During a series of hair-raising adventures through time, Mr. Pipes introduces Annie and Drew to sixteen hymns from the early centuries and to hymnists Ambrose of Milan, Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Patrick, and more.

Readers of The Accidental Voyage will come away with a new knowledge and appreciation of hymns from the early centuries. Homeschooling families will especially benefit from this resource.

About the Author:

Bond_DougDouglas Bond is the author of a number of books of historical fiction and biography. He and his wife have two daughters and four sons. Bond is an elder in the Presbyterian Church of America, a teacher, a conference speaker, and a leader of church history tours. Doug is the author of the Crown & Covenant trilogy, the Faith and Freedom trilogy, the Heroes & History series, and many other books. Visit his website at www.bondbooks.net.

What Others Say About This Book:

“Splendidly written stories. Douglas Bond has created compelling vignettes that deliver real hymnological information, rich in historical content and context, with insightful applications to modern Christian life. Not only worthwhile reading for kids but entertaining, truth-filled storytelling. Many adults would benefit from tagging along on Mr. Pipes’s adventures!”

—Dr. Paul S. Jones, organist and music director, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

“I’m glad I met Mr. Pipes! He’s an enriching companion for children and adults, and one of the most engaging ‘teacher’ I’ve had in a long time. A treasure trove of stories for both young and old.”

—Robert L. Morgan, pastor and author of Then Sings My Soul


Our mis­sion is to serve Christ and his church by pro­duc­ing clear, engag­ing, fresh, and insight­ful appli­ca­tions of Reformed theology.