Faith Never Saved Anyone (S|R)

Jon and Justin encourage the listener who has struggled with assurance and who is now being told he/she is an antinomian or a hyper-grace advocate. The guys also talk obedience under the sufficiency of Christ.

Our podcast on “Dying with Dignity”
Justin’s sermon on Genesis 12:10-14:24

Book Giveaway: “Putting Amazing Back into Grace” by Michael Horton

Semper Reformanda Transcripts

Jon Moffitt: Welcome to Semper Reformanda.

What I ended with in between our two podcasts is, I think, we needed to have the “you’re not crazy” conversation. How do we help our loved ones, our friends, and those on the internet just take one more step towards Jesus and rest in him.

Talk to us, Justin, first of all about how we’re not crazy, and how do we help that person who’s seeing what we say and saying it sounds like antinomianism, it sounds like it’s let-go-and-let-God, and it just didn’t feel right. How do we help that person?

Justin Perdue: The “you’re not crazy” part, in my own experience in what I’ve observed in the church, I do think that the things that we pointed out today on the regular episode are pretty prevalent. You see a lot of faith in faith, and that’s a result of some misunderstandings or squishy or atheological churchy stuff. People really are thinking, “I believe, therefore I will be in heaven.” That’s basically how they think it through. And if you’re a person who has a relatively tender conscience or—we all are prone to this, but maybe you’re especially prone to just doubt, wrestling, and really fighting against unbelief, you tend to live with anxiety and fear and all of these things, you question stuff. Then that answer of having faith and therefore you’re good will fall flat for you because you’re going to think, “Yeah, but my faith is so inconsistent. How in the world could something as shaky as my faith ever be the bedrock that I’m supposed to stand on before the holy God of the universe?” I totally get that and feel that too, and I don’t think you’re crazy if you’re coming from that sphere where you’ve been pointed to your faith and your thinking, “Yeah, that isn’t going to carry the day.” I agree.

Second thing: the obedience thing and being pointed to our faithfulness is very common, especially amongst the Calvinistic types in the American church or in the Western church. I’ve used this illustration before, Jon, and I feel like I can say this on SR because it’s a safe space. I think that pietism, which is effectively that faith in your faithfulness jazz, pietism is the evangelical version of gaslighting. Because what you’re going to experience in the church, from the front, the gospel being preached in that Jesus is our Savior—his death for us, his righteousness, all these things—that’s going to be communicated. But then where the rubber meets the road is you’re constantly going to be pointed back to yourself and how you’re doing your disciplines, your obedience, your performance, your affections, that stuff. We’ve talked about that a ton on Theocast.

Here’s the issue: when that’s where you’re pointed so often practically, then you’re going to be filled with all kinds of doubt if you’re the kind of person that has a tender conscience, that’s mindful of all the ways you’re blowing it and failing and not doing enough. You’re gonna think, “How could I ever have confidence before God? Because I’m not doing enough. And nobody can ever tell me what enough is anyway.” But then when you raise it like, “I have no assurance because I don’t think I’m obeying enough, I don’t love God enough, and my affections aren’t where they’re supposed to be. I’m sinning over here even though I don’t want to.” The answer to that question is, “We’re not sure why you don’t have assurance. You believe the gospel, right?” Then you just kind of leave dejected. I think that’s gaslighting in that the analogy is the husband in that movie keeps turning down the gas lamps, trying to drive his wife insane. Every time she asks him if the light is dimmer, he says, “No, the light is fine. Same as it has always been. Ain’t nothing going on here. The problem is clearly with you.” I think that kind of happens to people in the Calvinistic evangelical church because you raise the issue of assurance and you’re met with, “You believe the gospel, so you should just have assurance. Maybe what you need to do is just work harder so that you have it.” People leave beat down, confused, dejected, and discouraged. So you’re not crazy if that’s been your experience. You see that there’s something off, but then you’re told that everything is fine, and that what you need to do is figure it out on your end so you won’t struggle the way that you do.

Jon Moffitt: Modern Christianity has various forms of prosperity gospel, which we talked about last week in Dying With Dignity. Something I say every single week at our church, which I know I’ve said this before, and you have a similar statement, but basically Grace Reformed Church is not for those who have put their lives together—it’s for those who have not. It’s there for those who are broken, it’s for those who have been destroyed by Christianity, and it’s where everyone has an equal need of grace because no one has ever achieved anything in the eyes of God.

What happens in the faith in your faithfulness model of church is you are left with this upward and onward trajectory. We live in these unrealistic expectations where your life has to be at a certain level by a certain period of time. And those who have been crushed either by the world, by sin, or by other Christians—which I have seen a lot lately—holy mackerels. Do Christians have concrete boots they love to just put on the necks of other Christians? The suffocation that happens out there is just unreal. I personally have felt this recently where it’s like there is no room for frailty and failing, there is no room for frustrations and struggle, and the church should be for those. Literally, Jesus says I have come to seek and to save sinners, lost people, the weak. How does Paul describe this in 1 Corinthians? The weak, the frail, the not strong. And yet the church somehow has this projection of, “No, we’re the strong ones of the community. We’re the ones who have it all together.”

When I golf sometimes with people who are burned by Christianity, or have a jaded perspective of it, and they describe church or Christianity to me, they’re surprised when I say, “I couldn’t agree with you more. I wouldn’t want to go to church like that either.” They kind of chuckle. I don’t have my life all together. Do you? I don’t. I’m not doing well. Are you? Why would you want to go and be in a room with a bunch of people who are? They’re just going to judge you. I’d probably go be in a room with a bunch of people who know they’re messed up, they know they can’t do enough, and they know that there’s nothing that can fix this. That’s my people. I want to sit at the table with those people because Jesus becomes the only source of food that sustains us.

Justin Perdue: I completely agree; 100 emoji, complete stamp endorsement on everything you just said. I’m thinking about it and I, too, want to go to church with people that know they don’t have it together, that know that they have no hope in and of themselves, but can yet offer me hope for the life to come in the form of Jesus for me. That’s where there’s a difference between the church and the world. It’s not that the church has it all together in the world—it’s the church that knows we don’t have it together.

Some people in the world know that too, but all they have to offer is, “We need to love and accept everybody. I really don’t know what to tell you about the life after this one, because I don’t even know.” That right there is also a hopeless message. Those people are easy to kick it with. What we want in the church are people who also understand that we don’t have it all together and that we struggle, and that there needs to be compassion and room for wrestling, but then can also point us beyond all that fray to say God remains, truth remains, and Christ is for us—he is our hope. That’s the difference between the church and the world that I’m looking for. I know you are too.

Basically, circling back to where we began, if you’re listening to this and you’ve been struggling, you’ve been burned, and you’re thinking, “My whole life I’ve either been pointed to my faith, my faith is shaky, and I have no assurance.” Or if you’re thinking, “My Christian life has been pointed to my faithfulness and my obedience and I don’t do as well as I should. I have no assurance,” then welcome because all of us are in the same boat as you. We are all looking to the one who is our righteousness, advocate, and mediator. He is the ground of our peace. That I know, for me as a pastor, colors and flavors and tints everything that I mean to do as an elder of our church. I know it does for you too, Jon. But it’s really what drives this podcast—it is that heralding of Christ for us because his work in our place as our substitute, like we said earlier, and as our representative is really what we’re banking on. His word stands, his life is unshakeable, and we’re safe.

Jon Moffitt: Jesus didn’t say, “The world will know that you’re my disciples by the dedication that you have, by the self-sacrifice that you make, by the disciplines you have,” which are necessary. But he said, “The world will know that you are my disciples by the love that you have for one another.” And what is the evidence of love? You think about what Jesus is for us. I would say Jesus is the embodiment of compassion and patience because without those two things, we have no hope. I think the thing the church has failed in is compassion for those who have struggled, for those who have ongoing ailments, for those who seem to be just doing the same stupid sin over and over. There’s no compassion there and there’s no patience for those people. The more that our churches grow, Justin, the more I beg the Holy Spirit, “Lord, I need compassion for these people.” And they need patience because they bite me, they kick me, they’re smelly, they bring in all kinds of junk with them. If I do not have the compassion and the patience of Christ, why am I a pastor? What am I even doing? And remove being a pastor, why am I a claimer of Christ? If I can not have compassion and I cannot have patience, then what am I doing?

What is so frustrating to me sometimes is even when I go in the Facebook group—which I hope SR never becomes this; I always want SR to be a haven of Christians who evidenced the love of God as disciples, who demonstrate compassion and patience. And listen—not acceptance of sin, not winking our eye at disobedience. That is not what compassion and patience is. These are obedience: to be compassionate is obedience. If you want to be disciplined in something, how about you be disciplined in compassion and gentleness? There’s a thing. Discipline yourself in compassion and patience. Let’s start there.

Justin Perdue: I agree. We’ve talked about this in recent episodes. I’ve been saying this for a long time: people make all these lists about what characterizes a Christian but beyond resting, receiving, trusting, and hoping in Christ in terms of what our lives look like, if you don’t have love for the brethren as the number one thing, I don’t think you’re reading the same book I’m reading. Because that’s just the obvious testimony of the New Testament.

Along these same lines, I’m going to make a few comments here. If you’re newer in this stream and people are looking at you and are saying, “You’re just an antinomian. You’re a hyper-grace person,” I have a couple of thoughts on that. Antinomianism, “against the law” or anti nomos, has existed through church history, but that is not what we are advocating. People who are legitimately antinomian would say things like what we were talking about earlier—about that kind of faith in your faith trash, Zane Hodges, and this whole make a decision once and then it doesn’t matter what you do after that—that’s legitimate antinomianism. Or people through history who have denied the third use of the law as the guide for the Christian’s life—that’s antinomianism. But we are not denying any of that. We are upholding the law as the guide for our lives now, though the law no longer condemns or threatens us. So that’s a piece on antinomianism.

The hyper-grace label is a terrible label. It’s a misnomer. You cannot overemphasize grace biblically. But what people sometimes do is they misdefine grace. Grace is something that we use to call things that are wrong as right because that’s what people think, or something we use to overlook wrong and act like it doesn’t exist. Grace is the thing that we employ because God is gracious to us. In the face of real wrong, we are gracious. We are not faithful yet God remains graciously inclined and disposed towards us. So grace is a way of dealing with real wrong, not calling something wrong right, or not saying that something that is wrong is okay. So we need to just be very clear about that.

We actually are heralding grace and Christ because if anything, we want to make a bigger deal out of sin than most churches want to make. Because it runs deeper than we ever think, it is a part of our nature, it has corrupted every part of us, and none of us have ever kept a single command that God has given. None of us have ever done it for one second of our lives: we have not loved him with our hearts or loved our neighbor as ourselves. So we just need to stop acting like we can do this because we can’t.

Here’s a few reasons why Jon and I care a ton about disobedience in our churches and why we encourage obedience. Obedience is good. Obedience to God’s law is always good. We encourage people to pursue righteousness and obedience for a number of reasons: it’s good for their neighbor, it will be good for their own lives, and God is pleased and honored in that whole thing. Now, when it comes to disobedience, why is it so bad? One, it confuses the gospel. It’s terrible. We do not commend Christ in the gospel when we act like fools. We need to have that in mind. Secondly, it makes us ineffective, to use the language of 2 Peter 1. We are not effective in loving others and supporting and ministering to others. We are not effective in those things when we are just running headlong into sin. Third thing that I would say, disobedience, without doubt, destroys lives—your own and the lives of anybody who’s ever close to you. Why in the world would you ever want to pursue it? The only reason we disobey as Christians is because our flesh is real. In our inner man, we don’t want to do these things. The power of the flesh and the cravings of the flesh are the reasons why people run off into disobedience.

Last comment on this. This is related to disobedience, our need for the church, and a number of the things that we’ve just been talking about. I am very aware of this because—I’m sure it exists in your church, Jon—in any church that is of any size, you’re always going to have people that are running into sin and are distancing themselves from the church. This is just evidence that I care about disobedience, and so does Jon. I would just say this: if you could point out for me one saint who willingly, of his own volition, distances himself from the church for a season of time. Give me one example of that going well for their lives.

Jon Moffitt: Apostle Paul in prison?

Justin Perdue: Jon, I said volitionally. I’m not talking about the person that’s imprisoned. I’m not talking about the person that’s deathly ill and is in the hospital who chooses to distance themselves from the church of their own volition like, “I’m going to cut myself off from the church.” Give me one example of that going well—it doesn’t. And why do I say that? Because disobedience and sin ruins lives.

Jon Moffitt: Consider how to build one another up so you are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Justin Perdue: Exactly for that reason. What you just said. Basically what I’m saying to you, saints, dear ones who are listening to this podcast, when people throw antinomianism at you and they tell you you’re crazy, and they tell you you’re hyper-grace, respond with these things: obedience is always good and we uphold it for these reasons, and disobedience is terrible and we discourage that, and aim to keep ourselves and protect ourselves from it. That’s why we need the church. Ultimately, we’re still hoping we’re hoping in Christ because he is our only righteousness.

Jon Moffitt: Your obedience isn’t what keeps you in your justification; that’s Christ who keeps you in your justification. But your obedience is what helps keep your brother’s faith strong while he waits for his final glorification. So my obedience is designed to help my brother’s faith. Consider how to build one another up that you may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So it’s not for your justification; it’s for the justification of your brother. Their faith needs to be encouraged.

Justin Perdue: And I’m not saying that I couldn’t be of any help to you, Jon. If I’m mired in sin, there may be some ways that I can be helpful to you because God is gracious and works miracles through us. But in a general sense, if I am mired in sin myself and my life is just in absolute shambles because of dumb decisions I made, how helpful can I be to you in propping up your faith and in encouraging you in the faith? Not as effective, right? Yes, I’m a sinner-saint. I’m struggling, but here I am. There is such a thing as faithfulness that we want to concern ourselves with—we just don’t hope in it.

Jon Moffitt: That’s right. I want every single listener to be faithfully trusting and obeying Christ faithfully while we await our final salvation.

Justin Perdue: Parting shot. I absolutely want to beat the drum of faithfulness. Trust Christ, love each other, show up to church, flee from sin, pursue righteousness. Those are good things that we all should give ourselves to.

Jon Moffitt: That’s right. Amen. Well, we gotta wrap it up. We’ve got much to do today.

We’re so thankful you guys joined us. We look forward to seeing you in the app. Justin and I are gonna figure out ways to hop in that app once in a while. We’re roaming in there once in a while so shoot us a message or say hi to us. We look forward to doing that. We’ll hop in there once in a while.

All right, guys, we’ll see you next week.

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