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Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone

Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone

Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 6:03 pm

These Inward Trials
 
By RB Tolar
Special to The Messenger
We tend to think of the gospel as God’s good news to the lost. Jesus, beginning his ministry, announces, “The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Yet J. I. Packer, in Chapter 21 of Knowing God, states that “a certain type of the ministry of the gospel is cruel.”
One is prompted to ask, “How can this be?” Packer answers immediately that a misapplied teaching of the gospel has the twofold effect of “scaling down the problem of sin” and “losing touch with the purpose of God.” This he likens to drinking the iodine rather than applying it to the wound: disastrous results are sure to follow.
Dr. Packer begins by noting the emphasis, made by some ministries, upon the difference the new belief makes in the life of the believer:  forgiveness of sin, freedom from its eternal consequences, joyful fellowship with God. These are all part of the blessedness of our faith, yes, but the biblical principles addressing the need for testing and growing our faith are ignored.
Sooner or later, the more demanding aspects of the Christian walk are encountered:  continued struggle with the flesh, opposition from Satan’s kingdom, times of spiritual dryness and seeming apartness from God. The result for the new Christian who experienced a one-sided presentation of the gospel can be bitter disappointment and discouragement. Any counsel proffered by this misapplied gospel can only point out that the afflicted one is not trying hard enough or perhaps entertains some unrepented sin. With such erroneous notions did the friends of Job seek to counsel him.
In a ministry which misapplies the gospel, Packer goes on to observe, the psychology of Christian obedience is misconceived as Spirit-prompted passivity (“Let go and let God”), rather than Spirit-prompted activity. He sets forth as his basic criticism of this errant teaching that it “loses sight of the method and purpose of Grace.”
The grace of God has in view not our salvation alone, but also our sanctification, the ongoing lifelong process of becoming more like Christ. The indwelling Holy Spirit takes the lead in this process, but our participation is required (1 Peter 1:14-16, Ephesians 5:1-2, Matthew 5:48).
God, through his grace, “draws us sinners closer and closer to Himself,” Packer reminds us in his conclusion to this chapter. We must learn to lean on Him to enable us to respond to His call to holiness.
Unreality in religion “is an accursed thing,” Dr. Packer concludes. “We need God to make us realists about ourselves and Him.” He closes with words from the John Newton hymn, These Inward Trials:  
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”
Consider also James’s instruction in James 1:2-4:  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Editor’s note: RB Tolar, a member of Grace Community Church in Troy, is humbly grateful to be able to participate in this writing ministry.

Published in The Messenger 10.13.11

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